Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Mighty Mississippi

Thursday, September 25th.

We left our “home” of the past 12 days, Grafton Marina, with owner Jan waving us off her dock. We felt so fortunate to have had our “sequestered” time there with Jan and Joe—what wonderful hosts they both were! We were only leaving to venture down to Alton (@ 20 miles), but we were on the water again and moving south—and it felt really good. We were in the “Day 2” spreadsheet that AGLCA had set up to keep all 60+ of our Looper boats from exiting at the same time and getting bottlenecked further on down the river. With no marinas, spaces to overnight are precious and few on the Mississippi, Ohio, and Cumberland.

So we went only to the city of Alton—giving us one more chance to spend a few hours with Janet and Steve Godwin. Have I not mentioned before how tan, buff, slim, and cute Steve still is after all these years?!! Amazingly, he still has a head full of hair and all his teeth! (Are you happy now, Steve?!) We have sooo much enjoyed our time with this precious couple, and appreciate greatly the time it took for them to drive to and fro to get to us (over an hour each way!). Janet, I found out last night, likes anchovies as much as I do---love that girl even more!

Friday, we left Alton Marina and went through two debris filled locks—we had hoped by the third day of being open, most of the mess would have been flushed out—not so. We passed St. Louis—saw again the famous arch—took pictures from this side—and were so happy to see that the water had receded there and all was back to normal. The flagpoles that were previously well under water were now all safely perched high above the water on their concrete bases—it looked to us as if at that particular part of the Mississippi, the water must have risen a good 20 feet—but it’s hard to judge heights from our vantage point. On down the mighty river we went—with a good 4 knot push—making Louis and all the other Captains happy—good fuel economy. Just south of St. Louis, all we saw were hundreds of barges and several large rock quarries—so many that we lost count. With all the beautiful, high stone, white cliffs, it’s no wonder there were so many of these quarries—I just hope there’s some kind of very strict regulations on the aftermath of all that much stone stripping—reclamation of some good sorts. Surely there is.

We were headed for “Hoppies”—an institution on the Mississippi—just ask any Looper. “Fern” and Hoppie have owned a “marina of sorts” since 1973 along the river—and the two of them have seen it all! They’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly—the river rising and falling substantially each/twice this year—good drivers and bad ones that weekly crash into their barges. The “marina” is actually just a series of barges linked together alongside the river—but complete with fuel, water, and a lounge—what a hoot!—but rare on this stretch of the Mississippi. There were six of us Looper boats there—“Sunshine”, “Southern Comfort”, “My Cin”, “Whichaway”, and “Illusions”. Fern (a great old salt if there ever was one!) sat us all down in her outdoor on-barge lounge at the cocktail hour and went through our charts with us—answering all our questions—giving us such valuable information for our trip south. We will have 217 miles on the Mississippi, 60 miles on the Ohio, 30 miles on the Cumberland, and then we get to Green Turtle Marina on the Tennessee. Fern warned all us “Admirals” that we would be on the water non-stop for 4 days, possibly 5—either at anchorages or on a wall—but we would not be able to get off the boat for that entire period. What??!! Needless to say, we all (Captains & Admirals) were anxious for one more dinner off boat! Alas, no car and “town” was a couple of miles away. “No problem”, Fern said, as she gave the keys to her brown 1984 Lincoln Town car over to Louis—how did she know he (among the 15 of us) would want to be the driver?! Must have been his smile! Anyway, after 3 roundtrip shuttles to the restaurant, Louis finally got to sit down and eat his pizza! In our car (both ways), we had 9 people, counting our driver. People were laughing and giving us the “thumbs up” as we drove up to the restaurant—and we all felt like circus clowns getting out of her rear-end-heavy car. This is what we’ve all told our children--over and over--not to do!

Saturday, (Happy 40th Birthday, Travis!), laden with tee-shirts and confidence, we left the unforgettable “Hoppies” early in the morning with clear skies. All six of us were headed for an anchorage—Little Diversion—just a small finger off the river, but off the still-falling current of the Mississippi and safe from debris. We had talked with “C-Life, who had spent the night at Little Diversion the night before, and we were told there would be plenty of room for all six boats—plus the other 2 non-Looper boats that would also anchor there—they had come from Hoppies with us. “Huck Finn” (don’t you love it?!) and another one, I didn’t get the name of his boat—but a smaller pretty blue-hulled boat like ours.

Little Diversion was quiet and pleasant—we rafted in two large rafts—Louis made ice cream for our raft, and promised the other “Texas” raft they would get theirs tomorrow night on the wall/bollard down on the Ohio River. Lots of stars were out that night as the sky was clear with no moon and there were no city lights around us. We were on the Missouri side of the river, so we spent the night in another state! It was a beautiful evening, snuggled back up in our cozy creek for the night! A good anchorage.

We waited for about an hour Sunday morning in Little Diversion for the fog to lift. With all the barge traffic and diving buoys around us, no one wanted to venture out of our safe spot! Around 9am, we got back out on the Mississippi—and rode for about 48 more miles to the turn-off for the Ohio River. As much as I’ve heard all my life about the Mississippi River—the sweet songs and the mysteries of the river, I can honestly say I wasn’t impressed with these 217 miles we’ve traveled one bit. There were no areas to enjoy the water—it’s just a brown, muddy, vast wasteland of “waterfront”. There are wing-dams all along the river, mostly in the bends, to keep the banks from eroding—making our navigating cross from one side to the other continuously. With the waters flooding as often as they do, building a home near the water is truly foolish. We saw not one person swimming or skiing or enjoying the water the way we do, albeit the flooding might have kept people off the river—but still, no pleasure crafts at all, only us Loopers and the occasional boater ( maybe 3?) traveling south. The Mississippi is just a long commercial waterway/highway, pure and simple. Barges, barges, and more barges—and tugboats, large and small, scampering back and forth from one to another.

As we made our wide left turn into the Ohio River, the waters suddenly changed from a muddy brown to a pretty green—finally, halleluiah—back into nice waters! (Ever since we left Lake Michigan, we have been in nasty waters—how many weeks has that been?) The line separating the two bodies of water was visually amazing—it was as if there had been a knife cutting through the water—brown on one side, green on the other! Color us all happy! Swim anyone?!

1 comment:

Jan said...

Hi Diane,

So sorry you didn't get to dock in Paducah and enjoy the town. Kim told me you called to say you were just passing through. Maybe we will meet up with you somewhere else along the way! Be safe.