Stretching the Fuel Budget

Today was a 78 mile (statute) hop from The Kaskaskia River lock to the Little River Diversion Canal south of Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

A foggy morning greeted us and made for a spooky first few miles.

We met many tows on the way and they are definitely getting larger.  This one, the Twyla Ruhr, seemed to be moving most of Missouri’s rocks downstream in one load.  It took him several hours to catch and pass us… We were doing about 7 knots and he was doing 9.

Tom, on our buddy boat, and I decided to see how much we could stretch our fuel, so we set throttles above idle.  This kept our boats moving enough faster than the current so our rudders could steer the boats.  I let our autopilot do the grunt work of steering and Tom tended his helm.  We averaged 7 knots (8 mph) and at the end of 78 miles Endeavor had used slightly over 2 gallons of gas, for about 37 miles per gallon!

We have video of some other cool stuff, but will have to wait… cell service is limited here.  One thing I can get to upload is this graceful pipeline bridge.

Tonight we are anchored in the aptly named Little River, a few hundred feet up from the Mississippi.  Tows continually pass by the mouth of the river.  We’ve been warned to look both ways electronically when we leave in the morning lest we get run down.  The current passing the mouth is so strong once we get into it there is no backing up, so we have to be committed to leaving.  The anchorage is cluttered with lots of floating wood.

There are two large cruisers anchored with GH3 and Endeavor: Hydrophyllic, a trawler, and Nantucket Sleighride, a power catamaran.  They are also doing the loop, having started this Spring in South Carolina and New Jersey.  They move much faster than we do, covering 110 miles today to our 68.

Hot Dam!

It’s hot here.  Hot and sticky.  Every pore on Endeavor’s crew is sweating. Clothing is annoying.  Peg said her nose has melted off.  So please, nobody scream “Voldemort” and run away the next time you see her.

Expecting storms tonight and then finally a  break in the hot weather.

We are tied up to the lock on the small Kaskaskia river which feeds into the Mississippi.  This lock gets little traffic and the lockmaster allows pleasure boats to tie up to the dam side of the lock wall.  At most dams this would be impossible because so much water is flowing over the dam, causing rapids and whirlpools.  This dam passes little water so the current is only 1 knot or so.

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The crane parked on the barge behind us was in the lock chamber all day making repairs.  At quitting time the tugboat pulled it out of the lock and then pushed it up along this wall.  The vibrations from their propellers excited Asian Carp and we were treated to the spectacle of hundreds leaping in the air.  Once the tug parked, a crew member went along the deck with a shovel and scooped off all fish on board.

The carp are gross.  They are slimy and bleed when they hit something.  Our buddy boat got one in their dinghy and the blood stained the bottom.

Stopping at this lock is a safe, but no-frills tie-up.  No power, Water, Wifi, anything…

Except tows passing by not 50 feet from our boat!

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The tow crew members were especially friendly, waving wildly.  Then I found out Peg was behind me doing her best “Hey Sailor!” routine.  Can’t take the woman anywhere.

We started the day chatting with the crew of the Nina and Pinta.  It is a full time gig for them and truly includes some hardship:  they sleep below decks and there is no air conditioning.  Mostly young, they seem to enjoy the job.

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We buddy boated with Tom and Tracy on GH3 today and ended up leaving at the same time as the Pinta.  The two large cruisers left about an hour earlier, planning to skip our planned  next stop.

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The Nina caught up an easily passed us.  Funny having your ass kicked by a 14th century boat.  (Even if they cheat!)

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Along the way we kept looking for one of our white fenders (inflatable bumper), AWOL since yesterday.  We assume it yearned to be free and is fulfilling its destiny on the way to New Orleans.

The Gauntlet

We left Alton Marina on a high note:  breakfast and BS with Kirby, Annette, Henry, Peg and myself (Left to Right).  Both Annette and Henry were career military and the stories they tell!  They made our visit wonderful and we hope to meet again.

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Downstream of the marina we passed through Lock 27.  This lock was different from previous locks because the upstream gate slid straight up from below, lifted by enormous chains.

This lock also sang to us.  The sliding bollards, which I described in a previous post, each made a sort of whistling sound as it slid up the slot.  With 10 or so all contributing its own note the place sounded like a convention of sea sirens.

A few miles down from the lock the main channel is shallow and full of rocks.  All manner of hazard lay over there.  The section is called “Chain of Rocks” and the corp of engineers built the “Chain of Rocks Canal” to allow all boat traffic to bypass the section.  Not turning left at this sign is a BIG mistake.

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The canal itself, being man made, is boring.  A rock lined ditch mostly…

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…with the occasional egret to mix things up.

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It’s when you exit the bottom of the channel all hell breaks loose:

  • The current speeds up to about  6.5 mph
  • The water boils and whirlpools like you are sailing in a Jacuzzi
  • You pass under 7 bridges in front of St. Louis while dodging an incredible number of parked and moving barges, tour boats and work boats.
  • The Missouri River dumps in hundreds of floating logs to avoid.

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The scenery in this section is mostly industrial.

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With some creepy old fortress-factories.

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Beautiful bridges.

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And, of course, the Gateway Arch, complete with two other river icons: a paddle boat an a tugboat.

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Unfortunately St. Louis does not provide a place to stop, and we had both visited the arch in our youth, so we took pictures and passed by.

Once past St. Louis we went on negotiating our way around many more barges. At their captain’s direction we sometimes even passed between two opposing tows.  How to feel seriously small!

Around 5pm we finally arrived at Hoppie’s Marina.  The marina is little more than 3 barges tied end to end, but it provides a place to tie up, fuel and stay the night.  Most importantly, it proves Fern.

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Fern and her husband Charles “Hoppy” Hopkins took over the marina from Hoppie’s dad in 1973.  His dad started the marina in the 1930’s.  The Hopkins men have worked the river for generations.  Every evening Fern gathers the visiting boaters and gives advice on how best to get down or up the river.  The Mississippi changes so quickly and current knowledge is needed to safely transit.  Many of the stopping spots in our guidebooks have been wiped out in recent floods.  We visited here in our RV during our Carolinas trip and it was good to see Fern again.  She is a gem.

The marina has a sort of junkyard charm, having been weathered by decades of abuse by the river.  Barges go by about once per hour and their wake rocks the whole place.  Going to be interesting to sleep tonight.

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There are 3 looping boats here in addition to Endeavor.  Two are large power cruisers from California.  One of those sailed all the way from San Diego, through the Panama Canal.  The other was put on a ship and brought to Florida.  Both started the loop in Florida last year and are thus close to finishing.

The other boat started near Mackinac Island. Tom and Tracy Grass towed their Hunter 260 from their home in Missouri up to the Great Lakes to start the loop.  Prior to this they have towed it around the country to interesting sailing spots.  The 260 is the same model Peg and I had as our first “big” sailboat.  She was the first boat we took up to the Apostle Islands.

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Then, as we were were visiting aboard Endeavor, some new boats arrived:  the replica Nina and Pinta Columbus boats.  They were expected but were delayed until well after dark.  Will try to get some photos before we leave in the morning.

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Slowdown Sunday

Today was a day of visiting other boats, naps, and hot tubbing.

We visited Steve and Terri Schreiter, on TwoLynne.  Steve built this 58′ all-steel sailboat from scratch!  The hull, the mast, interior… everything.  Excellent craftsmanship and an incredibly solid boat.  49,000 pounds, with a 7′ deep keel.  They recently launched this many-year project and Steve hopes to be on the way to the Gulf of Mexico within a month.

He seriously needs a cannon, torpedoes or both.

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We hitched a ride with a dockmate’s daughter and bought provisions for the next week or so.  We leave in the morning for Hoppie’s; the last stop before a 238 mile no-fuel/no-marina hop to Kentucky Lake.  We will be scooting by the Gateway Arch in St. Louis on the way.

This evening it was BBQ chicken, corn on the cob and grilled zucchini on HMS Destiny with Henry and his merry band.  Their crew sure livened up our week!  We will miss them.

The day hit 96 here with high humidity, so napping was felt good.  Peg snapped this pic and insisted I use it, since I show so many of her in repose.

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Finally, here is a shot of one span of the interstate bridge overshadowing the marina.  The bright white light/beam at the bottom is the spotlight of a barge making its way upriver.

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The Alton Triangle

Not much happened today, we only rescued two boats from the Alton Triangle.

Sitting on board HMS Destiny, working on an antique lamp with Henry, Kirby and John, when the speedboat below lost power in the channel.  The owner tossed a line across and the guys were able to pull it around the end of the dock an into the empty slip opposite Endeavor.  Problem turned out to be a plugged fuel filter.  No sooner had the boat been tied up than the houseboat’s engines died in the same spot.  He drifted farther away so I lowered the dinghy and played tugboat, pushing and pulling it into the same slip.  Problem turned out to be failed batteries.

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This has inspired me to start a new career when we return:  Tugboat Captain.


In a separate, unrelated story, Peg climbed over the take-home-in-October stuff to get something and got stuck.  It was far more fun to take a picture than to help.

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More Alton


Being in the mid-south, we do have to be careful what we say,  The docks are full of people with strong opinions on sensitive, divisive topics:

  • Motorboat or sailboat?
  • Speedboat or houseboat?
  • Inboard or Outboard?
  • Diesel or gas?
  • and so on


The Kindness of Strangers

Once again local boaters have been generous to us.  We wanted to get uptown, about 5 miles, to a Home Depot and buy a small Ryobi pressure washer.  The folk on our dock immediately offered both rides or the loan of their vehicles.  We hitched a ride with Ralph and Cherie Ford, since they were headed our way.  Thanks you two!  BTW, they are heading to Kentucky and back mid-September via the same route we will follow.

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After Home Depot Ralph and Sherry took us to Goodwill and we found a bigger bike for Peg.  Our pedal fleet is now both 26″ mountain bikes.  Another $30 well spent.  We are going to donate the 24″ she was using.

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They Beat Google to the Idea

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Sure a Swell Bike Ya Got There, Skippy (Love the Graphic)

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Up the Hill Again

Went for a bike ride this evening.  Nicer temperature/humidity today.  Have not ridden cobblestone streets in a long time.

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Another famous Alton native, Miles Davis.  Not as tall as Robert Wadlow but a giant in Jazz music.

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Quaint downtown area.  We will explore more tomorrow.

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Good Lord Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise

The entire Alton Marina complex floats up and down on these poles (pilings).  Shows how far the river goes up during flooding.  We are told it was far up the poles a couple of years ago.  A tremendous, tremendous amount of water.

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Paint Job

I finally got our anchor line (rode), out of the locker, laid it out on the dock in 10′ sections and painted red markers.  This will make it easier to count off the correct length when anchoring.  We have 90′ of chain connected to the anchor.  The other end of the chain is spliced to 125′ of rope. Such a length allows us to anchor safely in up to almost 30′ of water.  We have an additional 125′ of line to add in a pinch.

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Alton, a farce in two acts

Act One

Scene:  Exterior, Mississippi River marina.  Hot, sultry August afternoon.  Temperature 90, feels like 98.

Our intrepid explorers, Peg and Heathcliff, set off on bicycles in search of world records and cheap food.

Note: some names have been changed to protect the cheerful.

Heathcliff (cheerfully):  Google maps says the statue is only 3.2 miles away, up this nearly vertical cliff!

Peg (sullenly):  It’s too hot out here.

Heathcliff:  But the statue is of Robert Pershing Wadlow, the world’s tallest man as recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records!

Peg:  Annnnnd… it’s too. hot. out. here.

Heathcliff: Did you know Mr. Wadlow grew to 8 feet 11.1 inches and he was born and died here in Alton.

Peg (muttering): We better get up this hill soon or you’ll die in Alton.

(Several minutes and gallons of evaporated sweat later.)

Peg: Okay, you win, he was one tall dude.

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Our intrepid explorers race back down the hill, allowing gravity to make short shrift of the miles.

Heathcliff: Wee!

Peg (grumbling): It’s still too hot out here.

Heathcliff: Wee!

Peg (grumbling): You’re an idiot!

Heathcliff: Wee!

Act Two

Scene: Interior, Fast Eddie’s Bon Air.  A local institution, built by the Anheuser Busch brewing company almost 100 years ago and now a popular bar serving food at old time prices.  Like most bars, loud music pounds away in the background.

Fast Eddies

Heathcliff: How’s your $3 half-pound cheeseburger and 99 cent basket of fries?

Peg: What?

Heathcliff: Never mind.

Peg: The burger and fries are pretty good!  But the margarita is way too weak and watered down.

Heathcliff:  Yeah, I’m glad we spent a week in this water town.

Peg:  It’s too loud in here!

Heathcliff:  What?

Peg:  It’s too loud in here!

Heathcliff:  What?

Peg:  Never mind!  I’m taking my hearing aids out.

Heathcliff:  What?

Peg (muttering): At least we got to see this local “institution”.

Heathcliff (muttering):  Maybe you should be in an institution.

Peg:  What?

The End

Authors Note:  No egos were bruised in the writing of this work.

Odd Socks

Like the mismatched sock in the drawer, we come up with odd bits not fitting in other posts.

‘Egrets, we’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention (Sorry Frank)

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Duck Blinds along the river look like prehistoric huts

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Potted Plants: Look close and you’ll see the trees growing out of an old barge.

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River Casinos can look like some evil supervillan’s vehicle

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Caves are cool, regardless.

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American Queen dwarfs the towns it visits.

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And lastly, Peg made me grilled cheese, tomato soup and bacon for lunch!

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Its a Small(ish) World After All

Thanks Chris, for the title.

At Port Charles Marina, in St. Charles Missouri, we were tied up next to Dave and Vicki Howell.  They are proud owners of the  Lord Nelson Victory Tug Nellie D.

They are going upriver to Hudson, Wisconsin, having started in Naples, Florida.  We’ve seen a tug like theirs before: the day we departed on the Loop.  Al and Rie Peterson were fueling their Tug, Kedge, at the Bayport Marina when Chris saw us off. An article about Al and Rie is found here.

Dave and Vicki are pushing way upriver to join in a rendezvous of 5 identical tugs at Hudson.  These boats are absolutely cute and get attention wherever they go.

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Dave and Vicki were interested in our experience coming down and we wanted to know what lay ahead from here down.  They came over and we shared up bound and down bound tips.  I told them about Dolly Parton Pass and the stops we had made.  They told us how the river below St. Louis is high and most of the anchorages listed in our guide book are now so deep as to be unusable!  We’ve revised out float plan for the remaining portion of the Mississippi, limiting stops to places we can tie up to lock walls, etc.

Cue the favorite quote…

I met another coming along the road.  We each had a dollar.  We traded Dollars.  We each went away none the richer.

I met another coming along the road.  We each had an idea.  We traded ideas.  We each went away one the richer.

Fair Winds, Dave and Vicki.

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