Barkley Lock and Dam

It was a three-hour wait to get into the Barkley Lock, a fifty-seven foot lift between the Cumberland River and Lake Barkley, Kentucky, one of the many TVA Lakes.

The Barkley Lock and Dam named for Alben Barkley, Vice President of the United States in the Truman administration, created, along with hydro power, a one-hundred and thirty-four mile scenic lake with one-thousand miles of shore, a boater’s paradise.

Daylight was dwindling while twelve trawlers idled their engines waiting for a decree by the lockmaster to come on through.  We are waiting for a tug with its huge barges filled with coal, sand and rocks to go through the lock.

Our marina and docktails are just a few feet on the other side of this lock. It seems like an eternity away. There was a suggestion of Locktails but denied by the law-abiding captains.

The bright day faded into darkness as we finally came through the lock and inched our way into the marina looking for our assigned slips. The marina is closed for the night and we have to find our own way.

Shine that flashlight I can’t see anything!  It doesn’t light! It just needs a shake! Its not working! Bang it a little!  Jiggle it! Here take this flashlight!  The strobe like effect of the second flashlight shows we are on the wrong dock.

Out of the blackness comes a voice, over here, I am waving a light! Do you see me! In complete darkness and with the help of the owner of the marina, Denny, using the braille method, felt his way into the narrow covered slip.

Another crisis averted!

Still on the Mississippi

It is raining steadily, the waters are churning and we are spending our last day on the Mississippi River weaving our way past floating debris and enormous barges.

The mighty Mississippi or sometimes called the Muddy Mississippi, or even Old Man River, all apt names, is one of the greatest water highways on earth. The river is huge, the currents are strong and the turbulence ever present. Barges and their tows move approximately 175 million tons of freight down the river each year through a system of twenty-nine locks and dams and we are trying to avoid all of it.

We left Grafton and sailed down the mighty river past the lovely skyline of St Louis and past the gleaming Arch, the Gateway to the west.   Waving at Hoppies, a longtime Looper stop, we sailed by. It is now a shadow of its former self due to flooding and only big enough for three boats.

Dream Seeker cruised through two large locks bypassing a chain of rapids and continued on to Kaskaskia Locks, having traveled over 100 miles that day. Finding refuge late that evening by rafting onto Passages, another Looper.

Leaving early the next morning we anchored at 1pm in Diversion Channel to spend the rest of the day recouping.

Down the Mississippi

Just past the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, Dream Seeker is sailing within a fleet of Looper boats going south. We spent three days at Grafton Harbor Marina, with covered slips, where Denny bought and replaced the anchor and chain and we borrowed the marina’s car twice for provisioning.

Fifteen looper boats congregated at Grafton, and we reunited with Golden Daze and many others with whom we had lost track. The Marina found a place for us all to get together and we relieved our stress with laughter.

Monarch Butterflies are everywhere, from the Canadian waterways to the Mississippi. Some in flocks, some a few together and some alone, the black, brown orange and white butterflies are continually floating by us. They never hitch a ride  but they do ride the waves. We are both migrating south but the butterflies migrate to Mexico and we get off in Florida.

I treasure all your comments in response to my Blog.  I love opening my emails and reading you responses. Thank you all for your concern but we are enjoying the adventure. I am never frightened by these experiences but often frustrated by them. Denny is a good captain and the boat is sound. I enjoy writing about our exploits but also living them. As my daughter (a fellow adventurer) said to me, you can never have these things happen to you by sitting at home mom!





An Intense Incident

7AM: We literally, rolled out of bed, and found that Dream Seeker was listing five degrees to port and we were hard aground. The night before we comfortably and confidently anchored in a sanctioned anchorage just north of the Hardin lift Bridge on the Illinois River.

Call Boat US! Sorry we are 80 miles away we cannot come. A lifetime member! It is still too far. We will call the Department of Natural resources and call you back. They never did.

10:00 AM: Tired of waiting, Denny launched the dinghy and attempted to pull the sixty thousand pound boat into deeper water. Along came one of those enormous barges calling on his radio. Move that PC (Pleasure Craft), that’s what they call you when they are annoyed. Get out of the way PC you are in the channel! We weren’t in the channel but the barge needed to make a wide turn and wanted us to move.  Chasing Eighty, another Looper boat, saw our distress, rafted up with Dream Seeker, using his engines to maneuver both boats, he kept us safe. Thank God for other Loopers.

The barge is still calling, you are in the way! You must get out of the channel! Cut your anchor! Cut it! Cut it!  Get out of the way. Denny cut it! The result: the anchor dropped, the line wrapped around two props, the engines could not be started, Chasing Eighty’s engine was sputtering and we were still hard aground.  The barge went merrily on his way.

11:30 AM: A seventeen-foot boat came slowly into view, it wasn’t the cavalry but it felt like it. Uniformed officers of the Illinois State Coastal patrol.  They had no equipment and said they were totally unaware of the actual situation. The Patrol helped us launch another anchor onto the trees on the riverbank and secure Dream Seeker just in time for Chasing Eighty to be able to limp away with a vibrating prop and looking for fuel.

The officers assessed the situation and realized we needed more help than they could give. Somehow they were able to encourage Boat US to take the eighty-mile journey. Calls from other Looper boats along the river.  Help is on the way just saw the tow go by.

2Pm: Boat US arrived, the diver promptly jumped into the Muddy waters and spent two hours cutting lines off the props. They pulled Dream Seeker into deeper waters and we were floating again.

4:30 PM Dream Seeker is ready for action minus an anchor and 200 feet of chain but no worse for wear. As we started out for Alton our reserved Marina for the night the marina called and said sorry the river lost too much water and Dream Seeker cannot get into their docks.  Homeless again!

The Riverboat restaurant about four hours down the river said they had a dock we could tie up at for the night if we had dinner there. Considering we had no food or water left on the boat and no choice at all of a berth for the night we started out.

9PM found one of us in the bow, flashlight in hand searching for floating debris and green and red markers, and one on the fly bridge driving and avoiding barges.

In the dark, we stumbled upon the restaurant and the docks were full. Out of the night came “are you Loopers “ what are you doing out so late? Come and raft up with us. A big sigh of relief we are safe for the night.



Southern Illinois River

The best thing about this title is we are going south. The sun is out and it is shorts weather again. Halleluiah!  The barges are still here but they are fewer and far between.

Stopped at Peoria but there was no room at the Inn. The marinas were full and those that weren’t full were not deep enough for Dream Seeker.  Many of our Looper friends rested up in these marinas but we had to press on. The town wall was available but the current so fierce that Denny didn’t want to try the difficult maneuvering with one engine. The starboard engine died again en route.

With the blessing of the Lockmaster, we anchored just below the Peoria Dam and Locks, in an Eddy that caused the boat to rotate on the anchor, even with the bridle in place. But, it was a safe harbor and we needed to regroup.  It was late, the flying insects were at their height, so we closed the doors and windows, turned on the generator and the air conditioner wouldn’t work.

Denny had his dinner at midnight that night. The engine problem was electrical so he replaced a few wires and somehow worked his magic and we slept in air-conditioned comfort. My experience has been that every time we have a problem Denny goes to the engine room, which he calls “the Holy Place” and the problem is solved.  I think he goes there to pray.

There is good and bad with pressing on. The bad is that after four days of anchoring we were running out of fresh food, water and clean clothes. Dream Seeker holds four hundred gallons of water but there was a lot of laundry to do, and Denny needed water to flush out the air conditioning system. The good is that we can get to Alton faster to meet our Looper friends, Ken and Celeste, on God’s Grace.

Racing Down the Illinois River

The Illinois River is a principle tributary of the Mississippi River and as such is clogged with commercial barges, tugboats and itinerant pleasure boats; the least of which is the pleasure boater.

The Marseilles and Starved Rock Locks on the Illinois River will close for repairs on September 20 this year; when they reopen is questionable. The result is a mad dash by all to get through the two locks before they close.  Commercial barges get priority to enter the lock and they just fit the rest of us in if and when they can. These barges are at least 300 – 500 feet long and almost the width of the lock.

Between Chicago and these infamous locks there are a series of low bridges that need to be opened for us and three other locks to traverse. Last night we waited four hours for one of these locks to open. Progress is slow. There is a strange beauty in going through the locks by moonlight.

Fortunately, four other Looper boats are making this part of the journey with us.           My engine is overheating! My lights aren’t working. My generator quit. All cries from the Looper boats forced to idle and wait in murky waters for a long period of time. Dream Seeker was aground.  Goleen to the rescue!

Very late in the day: A message from the lockmaster “if you hurry you can make the last lock opening”. Only Dream Seeker heeded the call.  Everyone else called it quits for the night. We went through the lock by ourselves and anchored in Starved Rock State Park.   We did it!   The next morning, thinking we were home free, we slept late. Left our anchorage at a leisurely pace and found ourselves in the middle of the first flotilla out of Starved Rock Lock. Not sure who had the better night.



Leaving Chicago

Al and Janet, two long time friends of Denny’s, joined us on Saturday morning for a cruise out of Chicago and down the River. The route encompasses the Calumet River to Cal-Sag Channel and the Sanitary Ship Canal. It is a slightly longer route than going through downtown Chicago but Dream Seeker is too tall to go under two of the fixed bridges in downtown.

Heavy commercial traffic and banks laden with steel, coal, sand and salt greeted us all along the waterway. Besides moving freight, this canal and river system takes Chicago’s entire sanitary waste south. Put another way, Chicago’s waste does not pollute Lake Michigan it flows south contributing to pollution on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers ending up in the Gulf of Mexico.

Karen, Al and Janet’s daughter, with her dog Kelly joined us to drive her parents back to Chicago.