Wednesday, November 7, 2012

“Go Boat!”

Pictures will be posted as soon as we have a greater slice of bandwidth somewhere down the line.

“Go Boat” is our new catchphrase. It is used to indicate the time to get going. At first we would say “Lets get on the boat and get going”. Then, due to either laziness on my part our my lack of imagination, I would simply say, “Let go get on the boat”, with the idea that getting on the boat would include going on the boat. Eventually it got whittled down to just “go boat”, like some Neanderthal grunt. But it worked for me! So Tuesday November 6th was “go boat” day. Nationally it was election day. (Yes, we voted absentee.) But for us it was the day to resume our Great Loop adventure.

A few days earlier the weather forecast was for some pretty nice weather. A storm system was to come and go over the most recent Saturday and Sunday. That soon stretched into Monday, our original go boat day, which is just as well as we needed that one additional day to finish getting the boat and ourselves ready to go boat. All went well with all of that.

On Monday Tuesday’s forecast was for reasonably clear and dry weather but by Monday evening the forecast deteriorated a tad so that it was going to be cloudy with a 30% chance of rain and a bit of a wind. But when we awoke on Tuesday we determined that this forecast was, for river travel, going to be acceptable. A bit cool but ok. Our destination was Hoppie’s Marina on the Mississippi River at Kimmswick, Missouri. It would be a journey of sixty miles starting in the far north side of the St. Louis metro area, going through two locks, past downtown St. Louis and the Arch, to the far south end of the St. Louis metro area.

We untied from the dock of Port Charles Harbor Marina shortly before 7:00 am and set out. The sun was trying to peek through every now and then but after two hours it was a solid cloud cover and with a stiff breeze quite cold. Our first waypoint of sorts was lock and dam 26 in Alton, IL. There was no waiting or traffic so we pulled right into the lock for a quick twenty-one foot drop to the next leg of the river. After a short while we turned down the Chain of Rocks Canal which would end up at lock and dam 27, the last lock on the Mississippi. Unfortunately there was lots of traffic as the lock was closed overnight for some quick dredging. This meant that tow and barge traffic was backed up in both directions which could have meant waiting a long time to get through the lock as recreational boat traffic is in dead last place as a locking priority. We were surprised though when the lock master told us to come on down the canal, weaving in and out and around all of the barge traffic waiting to lock down. After a short wait of only about twenty minutes he told us to come on in and down we went. The next part of the river took us through the heart of the busy Port of St. Louis. There were lots of tows waiting to lock up and plenty of traffic all around. By this time it started raining so we moved down to the lower helm in the salon.

As I am an unabashed St. Louis homer I was thrilled to cruise the Mississippi past downtown St. Louis and the Gateway Arch. Seriously, I have been down on that riverfront many many times looking at the river and wondering what it would be like to be out on the water. It was terrific. It was certainly one of the highlights of the trip for me. Too bad the weather was so lousy.

We continued on down the river, past the south side of the City of St. Louis, south St. Louis County and northern Jefferson County until we got to our destination, Hoppies Marina, which is nothing more than some barges lashed together secured to shore with electricity and fuel for sale. But it is a crucial link for loopers as it is the only marina between St. Charles County, where we started, and Green Turtle Bay in Barkley Lake in Kentucky, a total distance of something like 240 miles. So while it is certainly rough around the edges it is a welcome port. “Hoppie” and Fern run the place and they are legends on the river. Every evening Fern has a small meeting where she holds court dolling out information on the journey on south. There was only one other boat in the marina and since the weather was very cold by then the meeting was short and succinct. (I had already gotten all of the info from a phone call to her a few days earlier.

So, the electricity is on, the cabin heater is working great and we are comfortable in Why Knot on our Go Boat day.