Back in the Habit

Old habits don’t die hard… they fade away.  Don’t do something complex for a while and well-oiled machines in our minds grow rusty.

During our Great Loop trip we passed through 116 locks.  By the time we reached the 43 locks on the Trent-Severn Waterway, the Endeavor crew had our chops down.  We drew compliments from lockmasters for our technique both as duo and solo acts.

We also slyly smirked at those amateur boaters who made a mess of lockage.

And then, during our recent trip up through the Twin Cities, we did our first lockage after a year of minimal boating.

And deserved every smirk we got.

And every gentle suggestion from the lockmaster.

Suffice to say we were not a lubricated machine.  Our north-bound lockage was not one for the history books.  At least our chaos was entertaining for people in the viewing stand.  No harm or damage, but not exactly a ballet.

We did re-group and looked much more professional coming back south-bound.

The reason we were again playing in locks was a 3-day trip down the St. Croix River and up through the Twin Cities on the Mississippi.  Spring and Summer has been a blur of welcoming our first grandchild, air travel to visit said grandkid, home maintenance, a new 580′ asphalt driveway, and exceptionally hot, rainy weather.  Thus, this August trip was the first time we had Options in the water this year.

We intended to launch Options at Bayport Marina but the St. Croix had an 11 foot drop from high water this season and the launch ramp is unusable.  Instead, we launched at Afton Marina and puttered down to the confluence of the two rivers.

Adapting to a powerboat, our first in 25 years, is interesting.  On the plus side: she fits under lowered bridges, is agile around docks, putters at 8 MPH, cruises at 28 MPH and has a comfortable helm.  The main minus is needing to run the engine to get anywhere.  Our Fall project is to mount a Honda 15 hp outboard kicker that should give about 10 MPG at puttering speed.

We anchored the first night near the Prescott city beach.  Very peaceful, other than the odd freight train rumbling by.

Just beyond the highway and rail bridges is the Mighty Mississippi.  Without a sailboat mast, we no longer need to coordinate with the two bridges for passage.  I do miss the interaction.

We’ve made this trek before on two different sailboats and a couple of times on Sea-Doos.  Peg declares Options to be the most comfortable yet.

After turning up the Mississippi you first encounter Hastings and Lock #2.

North of the lock the river widens and snakes considerably (See Spring Lake on map above). It is important to stay in the dredged channel: on previous trips we have seen boats hard aground on the shallow mud flats after missing a turn.

Nearing St. Paul the shores are filled with commercial activity.

The cliffs of Dayton’s Bluff, just south of downtown St. Paul.

Downtown St. Paul bridges.

The Science Museum of Minnesota.

Large river tows stop at St. Paul, but smaller tugs shuttle individual barges up to Minneapolis and southwest on the Minnesota river.

The scenery alternates between industrial, urban, and wild.

Historic Fort Snelling can be seen above the Mississippi/Minnesota river junction.

River boats roam from St. Paul up to the fort, serving dinner and such.  We were amused by a paddleboat going by with dozens of passengers aboard doing yoga poses.

We cruised up as far as Lock 1 and decided to turn around.  Because commercial traffic up that far is limited, the locks operate on a restricted time schedule, unlike the 24×7 schedule on the lower river.  We risked getting stuck above the locks and having to anchor out in a very urban setting.

The main bugaboo on this trip was an intermittent fuel gauge.  Not reassuring to have the gauge showing empty on a busy river with only one source of power.  I was 95% sure we had plenty of fuel, but we don’t have a good idea of this boat’s fuel consumption.  A self-serve gas pump at the yacht club in St. Paul topped us off and added confidence.

On the way back we again anchored at Prescott.

In the morning, the marina was, in contradiction of their signage, closed.

The free Prescott city  docks, located between the highway and railroad lift bridges, provide access to town.  So we made multiple trips up to the gas station with our 3 gallon portable can.

We later found the loose connection causing the fuel gauge to misbehave.  I’ve also added an auxiliary fuel hose so we can simply plug in our portable tank if the main tank runs dry.

As we get more time in Options we will adapt to her ways.  She is already showing herself to be well suited to the trailer-launch-explore-retrieve style of trips we have planned.