Sea Dream - Mirage Great Harbour N47

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Our First Covered Slip

August 15, 2014

FRIDAY: We’ve decided to keep SeaDream here until the end of September or maybe even October, so we moved from transient docks to longer term dockage and our first covered slip! Being out of the hot sun is a joy and Mike can do some washing and waxing without heat prostration. We’ll have fun using the dinghy going back & forth across this large marina.
Being here awhile will be a welcome opportunity to have friends and family visit SeaDream and make daysail excursions to picturesque nearby anchorages  in both Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake.
Tonight was a simple dinner and movie aboard and tomorrow we’ll make plans to retrieve our car from Nashville.

SeaDream in covered slip.

A "selfie" of us .

Last Day to Green Turtle Bay

August 14, 2014

THURSDAY : Letting some fog burn off, we didn’t haul anchor until about 8:00 and immediately entered the Cumberland River, toward Lake Barkley Lock & Dam. A few tows preceded us headed for the local quarries and one, the Rick Harnack, was headed for Nashville! Over the radio we got to know the friendly tow captain, another Mike, and may have lunch with him in Nashville to learn more about river “lingo & protocols”.

Barkley Lock wasn’t busy, so SeaDream and Rosalee entered right away. A short mile to Green Turtle Bay Marina and we were docked once again. Louie was glad for familiar haunts and enjoyed his deck bath. Of course then he reverted to “wild dog”, drying his coat, anywhere and everywhere. At least he was clean. A great dinner at the yacht club was an unexpected treat from Sandy & George, then off to bed.

Passing the "Rick Harnack" barge on Cumberland River.

Louis gets a bath on back deck.

Into the Ohio River

August 13, 2014

WEDNESDAY: Hauling anchor at sunrise, again, two-miles’ run got us heading upriver into the Ohio River. We navigated mile after mile of “fleeting area”, where tows from the Tennessee, Ohio, and the upper & lower Mississippi Rivers meet to reorganize their barges and move on.

There were 30 to 60 AIS signals on the chart all day long, and those indicated only the large tugboats (50 to 215 feet long), not the even-more-numerous small ones.

 Note:  “Tows” usually have at least nine barges and we’ve seen up to 35. Each barge is 35’ wide by 200’ long. A typical tow is 1200 feet long (five barges plus tugboat) and 3 to 5 barges wide. But, we’ve seen 6 wide.

We had only two locks today, one of which we could bypass because its dam’s “wickets” were down, allowing us to drive right over the damn. That’s fast and cool but just the thought is a little scary. Our last lock was Lock 52. Unbelievably, Lock 52 passes more cargo tonnage each year than the Panama Canal !!

We anchored easily about 4:30 behind Cumberland Towhead Island, near the mouth of the Cumberland River. It’s been a 62 mile day, a respectable distance since we’ve had the Ohio River’s current against us all day. Naps, dinner and a movie finished the day. And, we saw deer and turkeys as the sunset on the island shoreline.

Our Last Mississippi River Run

August 12, 2014

TUESDAY: Departing again before sunrise, we had many miles to cover, and we did. With 3-5 knots of current, depending on the stretch, we hit speeds over 12 knots (13.7 mph) and actually averaged around 10 (11.4 mph).  We ran 115 miles today in 10 hours!

But, it was exhausting. Much of this stretch winds like spaghetti, continuously. The channel is often narrow, with wing, weir and chevron dams (visible and hidden) everywhere. Most are charted but not all. Hit or scrape one and your cruising is definitely over.

And, the North bound tows seemed never ending. We met three head-to-tail in one particularly tight and turbulent channel and five in another, even more convoluted section! They kick up enormous wakes, bouncing back and forth across these narrow, twisting stretches, making passing very tricky. Mike was worn out by the shear concentration required to keep us off the wing dams, under control and out of the tows’ way. Louie was tolerant but less than thrilled with the wild ride.

About 4:15 PM, we set the hook in the only reliable anchorage since leaving Hoppie’s…. Angelo’s Towhead, just off the main channel, 2 miles north of Cairo, IL. where the Ohio joins the Mississippi.  A welcome nap, dinner and movie meant bedtime because we leave early again tomorrow.

Sunrise at Angelo's Towhead Island.

Misty morning picture of "Rosalee".

How About Kaskaskia Again?

August 11, 2014

MONDAY : The predicted thunderstorms fizzled so we pulled away from Hoppie’s about 11:00 AM, heading for the Kaskaskia River, only 42 miles away. With no locks to delay us and 3 knots of current pushing, we arrived about 3:00 PM. This lockmaster often lets cruisers tie overnight to the lock wall, a generous and extremely rare opportunity. It’s safely out of the river and generally very calm, with lots of room. We napped and walked Louie along the top of the wall, and in the evening Sandy and George joined us for dinner . We enjoyed learning more about their boating experiences and sharing a few of our own. And of course Louie loves having visitors aboard. Then…. to bed for an early departure.

We passed Big George barge. Who knows what it was?

Making for Hoppie's

August 10, 2014

SUNDAY: After saying goodbyes about 6:30 AM, we departed, with Sandy & George (Rosalee) following. The river has fallen even more here, leaving water at the narrow marina entrance channel so shallow that SeaDream’s two depth finders both went blank after displaying less than 2 feet of water underneath us. We experienced the “barge effect”, where a boat pushes water ahead in a narrow channel, lowering the water level astern.

The “lock gods” smiled, letting us enter the day’s first lock immediately and the second lock with little delay. The downstream current was welcome, pushing us at 9-11 knots through St. Louis quickly, toward legendary Hoppie’s Marina, operated by….. Hoppie and Fern with daughter Debbie! Docking in the three knot current was exciting but went smoothly. Founded by Hoppie’s father in the 1940’s, this “oldest on the river” marina is several very old barges anchored along the river. Fern and Debbie give sage advice on navigating the river and its few anchoring spots. All are wonderful folks, long-experienced and treasured by every Great Looper. Note: barge traffic at St. Louis totally dominates the river…. recreational boats there are rare.

This evening, Sandy and George treated us to a fun and tasty Italian dinner by way of a short taxi ride.. their thanks for us leading the way. Oh, and Louie liked walking Hoppie’s barge and ramping up to real land! We slept well, knowing the barge was unlikely to move, at least not sideways.

Passing Saint Louis again.

Fern and daughter Debbie at Hoppie's.

SeaDream at Hoppie's Marina.

Evening at Hoppie's Marina.

A Welcome Lazy Day

August 9, 2014

SATURDAY: Today began lazily, included a group Costco run in the marina courtesy van and ended with us six having a story-filled dinner aboard SeaDream. During the day, we met new friends, Sandy and George (aboard Rosalee, a Bertram 42 cruiser) who want to follow us back to Green Turtle Bay. Hmmm…. will the blind be leading the blind? We’re a little apprehensive to have anyone follow us but they’re really nice folks and at least we’ve done the trip once…. them not at all.

Even weak cellphone service has been spotty and even poor internet service very rare since entering the Mississippi last week (except in downtown St. Louis). St. Charles Port Marina is a black hole, with neither ATT nor Verizon, frustrating everyone endlessly. The marina’s wifi doesn’t usually work, for which they apologize. But… big surprise…. Julie called this morning and the call worked for 15 minutes !! Mike quickly called American Airlines to change my flight reservation to leave from Nashville instead of Minneapolis. Shortly thereafter, all service disappeared again and remained out.

Our Own Log Jam

August 8, 2014

FRIDAY: Just after daybreak, I heard thumping at the bow and saw a huge floating debris field moving fast past SeaDream. Alerted, Mike found branches, boards and tree trunks of every size floating against us, rapidly forming their own dinghy-sized dam against our bow and anchor chain! Quickly raising the chain ten feet caused much of the debris to loosen and pass but one large trunk, about 10” diameter and nine feet long, with a fork, stuck fast at the bow. It then skipped under the bow just a few feet, held firm by the 3 knot current.

We quickly started the engines and hauled anchor but the tree trunk wouldn’t budge. SO, we cautiously powered out into the main channel, headed downstream with the current, then slowly reversed the engines. The fast current, combined with SeaDream’s subtle backward movement, released the unwelcome passenger from under the bow and we began picking our way down river through the debris. We’d gotten an unexpectedly early start and learned from the next lockmaster that a dam in Iowa had released huge amounts of water overnight that sloshed into the Mississippi, gathering the ever-present debris from its shores.

Had a nice breakfast underway while Louie returned to snoozing and we headed for St. Charles Port Marina to spend time with Fred & Linda and Joe & Punk before heading back south.

St. Charles Port Marina was full but Katy there graciously found us a spot. Entering the harbor was tight and rain was pouring but, once docked, hugs with our friends went all around. Louie was thrilled to land and see his old friends. That evening the six of us had a great dinner at the friendly Duck Club Yacht Club. Nothing beats seeing cruising buddies.

Once again, cell phone and internet service are non-existent. Darn!

Large log that was trapped under bow! Notice bow thruster splashing us away!

Dinner with Joe, Punk, Linda, and Fred.

BIG Change in Plans

August 7,2014

THURSDAY: While planning this trip, we knew to expect delays and unforeseeable circumstances, and so we have. Joining two retired couples’ for several months cruising was ambitious, to say the least. Now it’s become more clear that our own, more-constrained schedule simply cannot continue to mesh with their very flexible ones.

As its happened, Joe & Punk (Carolyn Ann) are stuck in St. Charles Port, fixing their autopilot and Fred & Linda (Young America) have stopped so she can fly home for a grandson’s medical emergency. Both are now a day behind us and neither can continue for at least 5-7 days. If we’re to reach Minneapolis in time for my Seattle trip on Aug. 22, we must continue on now, without the fun of traveling together. As importantly, they’re talking now about not leaving Minneapolis before mid-October, but we need to leave by mid September. SO, group cruising is over for us, for now. If we were fully retired, like them, there’d be no problem….. but we’re not. Unpredictable events, cruising and schedules just don’t mix well. And, there are numerous & frequent river-related factors (weather, lock closures, river closures, etc.) to come.

Tomorrow we’ll head back down river. We’re a little disappointed but grateful for this great adventure, cruising with Fred & Linda and learning so much on one of the world’s mightiest rivers. We’ll miss more cruising with Joe & Punk, who were just joining us, but now we’ll have this Fall to run the Tennessee River toward Knoxville (from Huntsville), possibly with friends or family aboard. It’s been great and there’s much more to come just returning south.
Passing a barge.

Handling lines.

On Our Own

August 5, 2014

TUESDAY: Another early morning start after a quick rainstorm. We left the Mississippi’s strongest currents (4-5 knots) by passing through a lock & dam. There are 27 locks in the Upper Mississippi up to St. Paul. The Lower Mississippi has none, letting the river run free. Locks rise going up stream and fall going down stream. We had two locks today. Chain of Rocks Lock rose 12’ and Melvin Price Lock rose 23’. Locking through Mel Price took 3.5 hours because of repairs to the main lock. The current now has slowed to 2-3 knots. Fred & Linda stopped back at Alton Marina so she could fly to her daughter’s home in Washington for three days and we continued on our own18 miles to the mouth of the Illinois River, to a small marina in Grafton, Illinois. After fueling for the first time since Spring 2012 in Demopolis, MS, (about 500 gallons) we docked for a quiet evening. Louie was thrilled with land after almost a week. There’s a little town ashore but the marina’s nice with a well-kept ship’s store, restaurant, and pool.

WEDNESDAY Aug 6: Early morning at Grafton Marina went quickly, with topping the water tank, laundry, and other boat chores. After another morning rain shower, we re-entered the Mississippi from the Illinois River about 10:30 A.M. A few miles north, the river had been closed for dredging a silted stretch but, luckily, it just reopened. We moved slowly past the giant dredge, seeing nice 12’ depths. The “tows” (a tugboat with barges) had more worries because they’re so wide (usually 105 feet) and have 10-12 foot drafts.

At 5:30 P.M., after 50 miles, we turned behind an island listed as a possible anchoring spot (by one reviewer on Active Captain). While scoping the depths, a submerged dam appeared much closer than expected, with the current pushing us on it, but Captain Mike quickly applied power, leaving fast. It’s not really fit for anchoring so now we’ll write our own review! Across the river a small cluster of tiny, flood-worn homes called Hamburg just beyond the channel looked okay so we anchored there for a comfortable quiet evening. Standing on SeaDream’s deck in the late cool air, surveying our surroundings, we heard many large fish splashing loudly. Too bad we don’t fish!
Mike's Inc. dry dock for repairing tows.

Grafton Marina on Illinois River.

"High living" on the Mississippi.

Charting desk using computer, IPad, and paper charts.


August 4, 2014
MONDAY: Slowly progressing against the current, we made St. Louis in 12 hours. Intense barge “fleeting” operations south of St. Louis left no stopping places and St. Louis has no marinas. However, in the “heart of the city”, very near the arch, Jim Stevens of Material Services, Inc., let us tie to his very sturdy salvage barge. Several barges formed a pier of sorts, including an “H” shaped enclosure where we could tie, nearly underneath a huge railroad bridge. To reach it, we had to make sure the current didn’t push us against a bridge piling, or nearby barges. There was just enough space for Young America and us to tie, exactly at sunset, one behind the other. Jim was jovial and happy to help us out…. we felt secure and exhausted. After a 10:00 PM dinner aboard Young America we fell asleep hearing the city’s industrial heartbeat. 

3knot current on red buoy.

A few of the many AIS signals of tows in St. Louis on helm computer.

Tie on barge in downtown St. Louis.

Jim Stevens who runs barge tie in St. Louis.

Large cleat on barge we tied to.

St. Louis in morning as we left.

Casino river boats that are really just buildings on the water.

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Short Day

August 4, 2014

SUNDAY: Another slow-go day, against the current, with barges passing. We even passed two paddle boarders going down river with their gear. Who knows what they do when meeting barges? There are few towns on this stretch of river, as flooding is common. The only town of note was Chester, Illinois, home of the creator of “Popeye” the sailorman. “Popeye’s” statue stands in town but we just cruised on by to reach our destination as early as possible.

As we neared Kaskaskia Lock & Dam, we couldn’t resist stopping for the night at this calm safe spot at the tail end of the Kaskaskia River, on the Illinois side. The lockmaster graciously allows recreational boaters to tie on the outer lock wall for a night. The cement outer wall floats and is in great shape, with good cleats and railing. After our 3:00 pm tie-up, Louis and I walked the lock wall, stretching our legs and feeling the “sort of solid” ground. We’ didn’t go ashore at the little public park because there was no place to tie the dinghy and the boat ramp was buried in thick wet mud.

At 7:00 pm, Mike fired up the grill to cook hamburgers and Linda & Fred joining us aboard SeaDream for dinner. Linda brought a complete list of locks and bridges for the remainder of the northbound trip, making it easier to see what’s coming next. We also discussed a very tentative timetable that would put us in St. Paul-Minneapolis on August 21, just in time for my Seattle flight to visit Rachel.

Our evening was calm and quiet, with no current or barges, only an occasional pleasure boat at day’s end, locking through the 12’ rise to the lake.

MONDAY: Thick fog delayed our departure until 8:00 A.M. We don’t know where we’ll end up but will try for St. Louis.

Note: When I monitor radio communications between towboat captains, their “southern” accents are starting to wane. We must be headed North!  

SeaDream leaving in morning mist.
SeaDream cruising behind Young America.
Paddle boarder going down Mississippi.
Large Barge and little SeaDream, the speck on left.
Kaskaskia lock wall.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

“You have to know when to hold them. Know when to fold them. Know when to anchor. Know when to not.”

August 3, 2014

SATURDAY - Do you know that song??
All was smooth and predictable as we cruised slowly upstream on the Mighty Mississippi, waving to passing tows with their many barges. Active Captain (a cruiser’s web site) had listed two possible day’s end anchorages. Both were behind rock pile wing dams where there’s usually little current. One even had a 4 star rating as of last Fall. But. . . as you can guess, the river is ever-changing. The current is faster now and the water much deeper, over-running many of the normally exposed close-to-shore wing dams. We approached our first choice carefully but, before even entering the smallish area, we saw very turbulent, dangerous currents. “We knew when not to anchor.” To reassess, we anchored temporarily just off a sandy bank across from the wing dam to hold while another huge tow of barges passed. Some locals camping on shore suggested a place just a half mile back in a huge “chute”. This is an alternate water flow area, often on the backside of a small island, that’s often a sand bar but in high water deep enough to anchor. We hauled anchor and scoped it out, carefully, but the depth quickly turned from 10 to 3 feet. We knew when not to anchor once again.

A little farther South, the river was a little wider, with a sliver of space just outside the channel so Mike anchored there, in 12 feet, and Fred brought “Young America” in and rafted to us for the night. We knew when to anchor!!! All this maneuvering took a couple of hours but we felt safe at last, in two knots of current, 300 feet outside the barge channel with 115,000 pounds of boats hanging on our Rocna anchor. A passing tow confirmed by radio that we should be safe from barge traffic in that spot.

Linda had us over for a wonderful salmon and rice dinner and all shared the day’s experience. Nice to have neighbors so close. We just step over on their boat from ours when rafted that way. We saw 1500 foot long tows moving in pitch darkness up and down the river, navigating the turns and obstructions and around each other in total darkness. How do they do that ??

All remained stable for the night and we awoke to the sound of whippoorwills on the shore and sunlight twinkling through the trees.
Today is a 40-mile run, traveling an average of 4 knots. We’ll tie to a barge near a lock tonight and maybe go ashore? Have not been on land for three days. 

Good book about this Mighty River.

Sandy shore with Cottonwood trees and a deer at center on shore.

Anchors up at dawn.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Into the Mighty Mississippi River

Aug. 2, 2014

Pushed by the current, we quickly (at 8.8 knots) made it to Cairo, Illinois where the Ohio River enters the Mighty Mississippi. Cairo (pronounced K-row) is a bustling barge-staging arena. Tows from the Gulf, the upper Mississippi and the Ohio meet to swap loads and reassemble barge rafts at this seemingly industrial city. Actually, the population is only a little over 2000 down from 15,000 in the early 1800’s steamboat “heyday.” It’s surrounded by a levee and often floods, keeping new industry away. However, the large amount of busy barge traffic on the river at Cairo is amazing.

At 11:00 am, we rounded the corner turning north into the “Big River.” To our surprise, the Ohio at this junction is three times bigger than the Mississippi. The downstream flow of the Mississippi also dropped our speed dramatically, to 3 or 4 knots, occasionally even less. Seadream would now be pushing against the current until after St. Louis, three full days.

By 7:00 P.M., anchoring off Bumgard Island, our 8 hour run up the Mississippi had covered only 29 miles! Adding to the slow slog is the river’s continuously loopy shape. As the crow flies, walking would have been faster. I must keep reminding myself, it’s the adventure we are enjoying. Another river feature is wing dams. They’re large rocks piled in slightly slanting rows, reaching out from the banks to help channel the water flow to the center. The river is plenty wide so they ‘re not a problem but are everywhere. Just don’t run over a partially submerged one.

SATURDAY – Another “first light” departure into the channel just as a large tow passed by. The morning is fresh and cool and I just saw a white pelican flying up the river! Morning sun lights the cottonwood fluffs as they float through the air and land on the water. Only an occasional tow with barges pass so I’m not too busy. Yesterday two canoes “zoomed” by as the current carried them down stream. Brave souls!
Today we hope to go 50 miles in 10 to 12 hours! Watch our Spot to see where we end up. 

Olmsted Lock and Dam under construction on Ohio and millions over budget.

Buoy feeling the "Mighty Mississippi" current.

Saturday's sunrise at Bumgard Island, Illinois today.

Tow and barge today.

Wing-dams are the piled rows of rocks on shore that extend out to the channel.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Three major rivers in a single day….. the Cumberland, the Tennessee and the Ohio!

July 31, 2014

Green Turtle Bay is beautiful and aptly named. We even found nests, eggshells and cute little hatchlings! How mother turtles climb the rocky banks to nest and the babies find the water is a mystery.

Our stay was much extended, waiting for the Mississippi’s flood waters to recede. Also, boat time seems to flow between our fingers. Anyway, Green Turtle Bay is a wonderful place but it was finally time to go.

This morning we pumped the holding tank then left about 9:30am. Within a mile we entered Lake Barkley Lock and radioed the lock master, who has a reputation for never replying….. and he didn’t. So, with the green light showing, we entered and tied to the wall. Controlled by his phantom hands, the horn blew and the gates closed for a slow 55 foot water level drop. The exit gates opened and the horn blew, so we exited, with nary a word from the lockmaster!

Paducah was a 40 mile run down the remaining Cumberland River. It’s more narrow than the Tennessee, but still had several large shore-side industrial sites. We enjoyed the sparse traffic for 32 miles, then finally entered the Ohio River.

On the busy Ohio, AIS signals from tugs lit up our nav screens. They were everywhere! At one point 37 large tugs were showing, not even including the many smaller ones without AIS transmitters. What will the Mississippi be like?

Eight miles down the Ohio, at Paducah, the Tennessee River also joined the Ohio. We found a quiet anchorage behind a small island two miles east of Paducah. Mike took dinghied to town to retrieve Linda’s I-Pad she’d left at Green Turtle being returned by the kindly owner, Bill ???? at the Paducah city water front. We then shared another fun dinner aboard Young America and watched deer grazing ashore as sunset glistened on the water.

We’re leaving at first light Friday morning for the mighty Mississippi River! Yikes!

Found a baby turtle in hatching nest. Wood bark stuck to him.

This one had the yolk sake still attached.
Louis posing on Green Turtle at Marina.

Large gravel plant on Cumberland River.

Sunrise August 1, 2014 near Paducah, Ky.

Anchored July 31, 2014 near Paducah, Ky.

Paducah from the Ohio River as we passed this morning.


Monday, July 28, 2014

A week at Green Turtle Bay Marina, KY

July 26, 2014

We’ve really relaxed and enjoyed our stay. With lovely grounds, we get resort member privileges, including the spa & exercise facility, pools, and a very nice yacht club with dinning. Louie even has places to run!
Two courtesy cars are available for sightseeing and grocery runs and the ships store is amazingly complete with supplies, parts and cute gifts. While here, we’re making final plans for the Mississippi River leap, waiting and watching for its water level to fall from the recent flood‑stage highs.
We expect to leave here tomorrow or Wednesday. 

Green Turtles everywhere!!

Large flowers that bloom on the shores.

Louis getting shaved.

Giant "yard art" place near by.

Paducah, Ky main street.

The TN and Ohio rivers coming together.

Mural on flood wall in Paducah depicting history of area.