12 October 2011 | Seneca, IL
Day 9 Wednesday October 12 Up with the sun for an early start. We get to the Calumet and right away we’re stopped, hovering, waiting for a bridge to open. Not too long though and we in the river. This is no place for a pleasure cruise, I’ll tell you that. The area is incredibly industrialized. Although that seems to have happened a long time ago. Nothing looks new or fresh. A half mile or so, and several drawbridges in, we have to wait for the freighter Arthur Anderson, as she backs up the river, and clears a couple bridges. By the time we get to go by, she’s dockedand unloading; and we pass close enough to have a conversation with one of the crewmembers. It’s the beginning of many close passes in what turns out to be a busy waterway.
We pass by (sort of, a story to be told in person) Lake Calumet, and hit our first lock since the Wellend. It’s a down bound lock for us, and does not even pump water out. They simply, and very slowly, open the gates at the ‘low end’ and let the water drain out. We pass by some really sad looking marinas, and then we’re right back into industrial stuff. We pass lots of barges and loading docks, through some tight quarters.
And speaking of tight quarters, the bridges, and there are lots of them, are really low. We get to the lowest one, at just over 19 feet and we pass under it with maybe a foot or so to spare. Had the radar and dooms not been taken down the day before, we clearly would not have made it.
We get to another lock and are told it will be about an hour until we are let in. We put the radar and domes back up while we are tied to a wall waiting. We are 37 feet above the river pond below. We come out of that lock and haul stern to the next lock, six miles away.
No real wait here, and we exit the lock at Joleit, IL. We come upon a low draw bridge and decide to try it without having it raised. Again, it’s a poor plan that can’t be changed. We get about half way through before realizing we’re not going to make it. The steaming light gets to within four or five inches of the bridge, before we actually start going backwards. We were a foot short (or tall, as it were) of clearing. Probably could have made it if we had left the radar and dooms down. We request the bridge be raised and we’re on our way again.
Things get a little less stressful and we start making some good time. We go through about a three mile stretch in which there are duck blinds everywhere. I would not want to make the trip during hunting season.
We get to our last lock of the day, thinking we have about an hour to our day’s destination. Again, ‘it’s a poor plan tha…..’, as we arrive just ahead of a four barge raft that is given priority over us. We hover for a couple hours while he gets in to the lock breaks down the raft in the lock, gets lowered, and rebuilds and exits. The lock is refilled and we get to enter. This time we’re with a USCG tug and barge. Our first lock shared with commercial vessel.
When we come out the sun is setting and a fabulous full harvest moon is rising. We have 15 or so miles to go to a marina that can handle us. It will be closed by then, but they tell use to come ahead and tie up to the fuel dock. We follow a guy who makes the marina his home and we finally get tied up around 8:30. It has been a big day, and we’ll all sleep in tomorrow morning. The marina, Spring Brook Marina, in Seneca, IL, is bringing a tanker truck into fuel us up in the morning. Then we will continue south to the Mississippi. Only 1800 miles to Mobile Bay.