Summary of Three River Travels
22 September 2017 | Paducah landing
Unbelievably Beautifull, three weeks of cloudless, windless days
Here we are in Paducah, KY. The town recently built a waterfront floating dock and as our luck, aka Lucky Bird, would have it, we arrived on opening day, go figure. The place is packed mostly with Loopers, boaters looping down the river system to Florida and then north up the US coast and back to the Lakes. When asked where are going we get quite a few raised eyebrows. We are but one of only two sail boats in the pack with power boats ranging is size from 25 feet, Nellie Mae, to 50 footers, quite a hodge pod of sizes, makes and models. One couple trucked their boat from Vancouver, several others from Nebraska, South Dakota, and Canada. All experiencing the Looping journey.
Alice and I are not much for marinas so we've been anchoring where ever we could find a spot out of the channel and with at least seven feet of water. Sounds simple right, nope, the rivers system is very low. Picture a large reservoir that is half full showing the dry banks from water to the tree line. That's what we see especially in the mighty Miss. So where our books say 10 -12 feet for anchoring there may be 5 to 8 and finding the 8 and missing the 5 creates more than a few anxious moments.
I recall a conversation back on the dock in Kenosha answering questions about worrying and being anxious. My answer was anchoring along the river. Each night, once settled, Ali and I plan the next days travel focusing on where it will be safe to stop. Plan A usually 50 or so miles down the track, Plan B if A fails, Plan C if B doesn't work and then it becomes worry time. After passing up on Plan C it is by now late in the day and we don't want to be out on the river in the dark, perish the thought. So with no place to stop and getting dark, we start checking out every white spot on the chart "deeper water", behind any wing dam or just outside a red or green channel marker. Now remember there is a 2 - 3 knot flow of the river so if we chose the wrong spot and run aground we could be in serious dodo. There comes the anxiety.
One such night sticks clearly in my mind. Plan A was to tie up to the wall at the lock into the KasKasKia River, a 5 star spot in Active Captain. We arrived on schedule around 1530 only to find the river entrance blocked by a dredge and all it's piping. Plan A - No go!.
Plan B was a 4 star spot between a wing dam and an island. 10 - 12 feet, ah, no problemo. We arrive around 1700 to find a huge sand bar extending from the island. We weren't desperate yet so we decided to try it. The turbulence off the end of the wing dam was considerable, so much so that anchoring anywhere near it would require a constant night watch, so we went in further....... very quickly it shoaled to 6.5 feet and it was time for Lucky Bird to retreat as quickly as possible or spend the night on the hard. Wow, this isn't easy as I poured on the coal encouraging LB to fight the turbulence.
Okay, no Plan B and onward. The chart showed two possibilities, one behind another wing dam, probably not so good, and another in an open area behind Tower Rock. Now it is getting late and one of these simply has to work. We passed Tower Rock, there's the open area, Oh crap there's a rock pile and sand bar right in the middle. If we drop the hook here are we far enough out of the channel, YES!!, this is the spot. Down with the hook, set it and put out 125 feet of chain in 8 feet of water. The speedo was reading 2.9 knots as we set taking bearings over two glasses of wine. All is good, we were bushed.
The only incident that might have been really serious happened exiting the lock at Alton, IL. All of a sudden everything went dark. No chart plotter, no speedo, no radio, no power to the distribution panel, we were essentially blind right where the Mississippi meets the Missouri, another one of the Oh S**t moments. We needed time and a place to shut down and find the problem, so with no depth readout we turned off the Mississippi toward an island. Dropped the hook in 4 knots of current, checked bearings, all's good, now what the heck happened? Making this story short after checking voltages and continuity from the batteries to the panel I discovered the negative return wire had separated from the lug attaching it to the neg. common bus bar. An easy fix, up with the anchor and off we go.