September 24, 2012

September 24, 2012  Day 136    Kimmswick, MO     Total miles to date:  2873.9

Leaving the Grafton Harbor shortly after sunrise
We left Grafton Harbor at 7:15 under a sunny sky and with steam coming off the water, leaving the Illinois River behind as we entered the Mississippi River.  There were rocky cliffs to our port side between Grafton and Alton that commanded photos!
Rocky cliffs line the Illinois shoreline
The Spirit of Peoria was in Grafton!
We thought we were in the wrong place
 for a minute!
Our trip today took us through two locks, both with dual chambers.  The smaller chamber is used primarily for pleasure craft, and the larger for the tows and barges. We called the Mel Price Lockmaster and the lock was ready for us when we arrived, so we drove right in. Strangely enough, he did not close the gates for 30 minutes, then he did not lower the water for another 30 minutes! So what we thought was a quick lock through was not so quick!
Our 2nd lock was the Chain of Rocks Lock (the one that had been closed for six days last week and created the huge backup of all types of boats). We waited about 15 minutes and then we were put in the smaller chamber with a working tug boat that had barges three wide.  All in all not a bad “locking” day!

The Gateway Arch
towers over the river
By 1:30, we passed the city of St. Louis with its famous Gateway Arch, completed in 1965 as a monument to the westward expansion of the US.  It overlooks the Mississippi River and attracts millions of visitors each year.  We did not make a stop in St. Louis this time. Many Loopers will go to a marina in Alton or St. Charles and drive into the city from there since there is no marina in St. Louis. 
The tows with their barges were everywhere today and we had to be vigilant. Bill was on the radio frequently asking them which side to pass. One tow captain he said he didn't care which side, just so we didn't run into him!  This is one busy river!
Carried Away at Hoppies
We arrived at Hoppies Marina at 3:30, our destination for the night. Hoppies is a must stopover for Loopers, partly because of location and partly because – well it is Hoppies. Fern and husband Hoppie have been there for 39 years, have taken over the work from his parents, and their children will do the same one day for them.  The marina is comprised of three barges that boaters tie up to.  They also have power and water available.  Each day Fern holds a training session on what to expect as we head down the Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee, and Tombigbee Rivers to Mobile. She gave us advice on anchoring, passing tows on the winding river, locks, warning us of dangers etc.  While there we met a young man who had arrived by kayak – he was going all the way to New Orleans!  We invited him to join us for dinner, but he need to go farther than Hoppies today.

We had dinner on board (the well known Blue Owl Restaurant, along with every store in Kimmswick, is closed on Mondays).  Joyce finished the laundry and Bill imported Fern’s notes in his chart planning. 
We will depart in the morning for the Kaskaskia Lock which is a 42 mile trip.