Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 10th, Feathers and Fur

We did indeed have two bumps in the night—both from logs or something big enough to startle us awake and hit all 5 boats while we were tied up against the wall in Joliet. (No damage to any boats thankfully.) The river, so far, is narrow—and to tie up beside a wall at night is at each boater’s peril. The “walls” ( in a town/near a town) are usually free of charge, so a lot of Loopers decide to overnight against them—however, we feel in this river (because it is so narrow) it is more comfortable/safe to stay off the main channel and in a marina, if possible. The Illinois, Mississippi, and Ohio are commercial waterways first and foremost—we “pleasure crafts” are mighty small in comparison. You only need to go past one of these long barges to realize how "small" we are! We certainly do not need any more prop/hull damage to “Bella Luna”—hello, no one does! Not a single boat on this trip has escaped some sort of prop/hull damage that we know of--to date.

We traveled on a bright and sunny, but cool (47 degrees!), Tuesday morning down the Illinois River to Ottawa, Illinois—getting there by mid afternoon. There were five us now: “C-Life”, “Sunshine”, “Southern Comfort”, “Phantom…”, and "Bella" (as our friends are calling us now!). We’re taking advantage of the beautiful weather and trying to move as far south as we can while the weather holds. To think that we have several hundred miles to travel to make Joe Wheeler by October 20th is daunting—weather can keep us at bay for untold days. It's tough traveling distances several days in a row, but our Captains keep us moving. “Rolling, rolling, rolling, keep those doggies rolling…rawhide!!”

So, after a quick-but-late (we were doing laundry at 10 pm!)) Tuesday night in Ottawa after a too long mexican dinner, a trip to the local Laundromat, Henry’s (local ABC), and IGA supermarket, we left the newly refurbished Heritage Harbor Marina in Ottawa, Illinois early Wednesday morning and hated to say good-by to Captain Moe, a former Looper and Harbor Master Supreme. He made our brief stay in his marina truly memorable—from the wonderful gift bag for everyone to enjoy, to the use of his personal car, to securing a van for all of us to go to dinner, and for hosting a cocktail/briefing party on his fabulous party boat right after our arrival. His marina is the kind of place we would all be happy to be “stuck” in for several days because of weather! We’re all looking forward to seeing him again for the fall rendezvous at Joe Wheeler in October. He’ll be there promoting his “new” marina, of course!

It was a beautiful Wednesday morning as we got back on the water, and as we started south we saw (surprisingly) numerous waterfowl hunters out on floating blinds, setting up decoys, brushing up blinds, and other hunters sitting quietly in their freshly completed blinds—little did we know that a short goose season was in right now. There were duck blinds to our port, and others to our starboard—we had never seen so many in one place ever--and for miles too!! We even heard a few gun shots. Color Louis happy. He said this had to be his favorite day in the whole trip so far--imagine that!

With nice weather, we have traveled now about 120 miles down the Illinois River, coming through several large commercial locks, and making our way this afternoon to Hamm’s Marina--just about 20 miles north of Peoria, Illinois. There are five of us boats, who have all been traveling together now for three days, and we’re just “rolling down the river” as Tina Turner would sing in “Proud Mary”! No one has the song with them, so “Brother Jay” is sending it along to Louis’s computer, and we’ll probably get it tonight or whenever he can get high speed wireless. We’ll be playing it for everyone for several days to come, I'm sure! Bud on "Sunshine" sings to us everyday--so we're hoping to get something else to listen to. We love you, Bud!

We have not had a “nature day” like today in our whole trip—boy has it been exciting! To start off with, Louis was below and I was at the helm with 2 boats behind us (two in front of us) when I noticed off to my port—a doe swimming across the river! Poor thing, she was wide-eyed and scared, seeing us come into her path—and not even realizing that there were two more big boats behind us too. I quickly slowed down, alerted the boats behind me, and we all swerved to make her crossing easier. Thank goodness she made it across, we lengthened her swim by several long minutes—and it’s not easy swimming against this current! Wouldn't that have been a great headline: "Woman Boater Runs Over Deer In Middle Of Illinois River!"

About an hour later, we had about a 30 minute wait for the federal Marseilles Lock to open for us, and while idling we saw such waterfowl as we’ve not seen before. We saw beautiful white pelicans, hundreds of them, so they must be migrating. We’d never seen the white ones before, and they were so big, so white, with their black tipped wings and long yellow beaks. We were told that these pelicans are the largest web-footed birds in the world—with wing spans up to 8 feet. We hope to see most of them in Florida—they may just get there before us! We also saw a huge white-headed eagle sitting on a nearby log eating a freshly caught fish—so much fun seeing him so close! We had, sadly, not seen eagles for weeks, and were thinking that we wouldn’t see them again for a long while. Not so. Color all us Loopers happy when we saw him! Also, in the water there we saw geese, mallards, grey and white herons, ospreys, and cormorants. We had not seen that much waterfowl concentrated in one spot the whole time we had been on the Loop—amazing! Thank goodness too, because if we had not had to wait for the lock to open, we would have missed the view of all those feathers—we had several special minutes to just idle and enjoy our surroundings. It makes me wonder though why all that waterfowl was congregated there—right at the dam and lock opening. I’m especially glad we didn’t miss that opportunity. A day of feathers, fur, and feathers—wow—we’ve traveled for months now all through the Chesapeake, New England, Canada, the Georgian Bay, and the North Channel and haven’t had a "nature" day like today! It was a beautiful day indeed. TYJ.

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