Friday, September 27, 2019

Alton to Kimmswick (Hoppies)

The subtitle to today's leg was going to be "Adventures in Docking." Russ pointed out that if we only had to deal with struggling against a 5 knots current, that would have been a fine title. Add onto that a 20 mph wind, and you've got EXTREME DOCKING!!!

Today's trip was planned with three other boats that left Grafton around 6:30 this morning. We had it easy. We only had to join them around 8 am. The locking gods were with us, and we got into the first lock with only a short delay. Then we headed down the mighty Mississippi to the canal that diverts you from some falls. Once we made that turn our 10.5 knot travel with the current turned into 6.5 knot. No one could understand why -- we were still on the river heading the same way. But the wind had come up, so we all passed that off as "river weirdness."

Again we had great luck with Lock 27 (yep, officially it's name) and were underway to our next destination, St. Louis. Of course we weren't going to stop there, largely because it has absolutely no marina or wall or anything for rec boats to stop onto. But we all wanted that picture: Your boat, Mississippi River, big shiny arch in the background.

This is a screen grab from the live arch feed.
Russ watched us float by, while on the phone with
Citi -- one of our cards had been hacked and they
called JUST as we got here. Timing is everything.
After we managed that the next stop was Hoppies, the last place we'd be able to get power before we get to Paducah. Stops get thin now. Only lock walls and anchorages for the next few nights. Oh, and there's a heat wave (of course there is -- we just installed the canvases to keep us warm!).

Hoppies has been kind of a looper tradition. In the past it was 3 barges long. Tie up, walk across the bridge provided, and it was only a 10 minute walk to town and lunch at The Blue Owl. You'll have to google that, since I devoured my pie before I took any pictures. 

The last two year haven't been kind to Hoppies. It lost one barge in one flood, and a second just last spring. We're with a boat who'd stopped here two years ago. They hardly recognized the place.

From One Eye Dog
Docking here was a challenge (hence the EXTREME DOCKING subtitle). They don't use radios here so on a phone call with Russ they asked the boats just come in largest to smallest. That meant One Eye Dog docked first. We'd dock second. Also the strategy was go beyond it, then turn back so you're moving up river. That would give you the most control, typically. The EXTREME part was the wind, which was blowing in the opposite direction.

I was relieved to go second. One Eye Dog are gold loopers (this is their second time around) so I could watch their handling and have a better idea of what to expect. Of course, it looked tough. It took them a while to line up right, then get their stern in. As we slowly approached I was having a hard time just keeping Cat-n-Dogs on a straight line, having to really goose the engines now and again.

Then came our turn. And I realize the wanted to dock us beyond the first boat. So I had to pass them then swing her towards the barge. Larry from One Eye Dog was on the radio talking me through it, about watch out for that eddy up front 'cause it will spin your stern away, so best to back into the space. I did, pulling up almost to the end of the barge, then forcing the back end toward the dock. Nudge forward, spin back, nudge forward, spin back -- all of which is typical, except this time I was gunning engines to fight both the current and wind. Bang! I screamed in panic, "What did I hit?" Russ hollered back, "You're doing great! Just keep going!" It didn't feel great. I bumped the pier on just a little but once connected I could bring the nose around. No harm was done to either the barge or our boat.

The Blue Owl's pie selection. The tall one is called
Levy High Apple Pie.
Things weren't easier for the other two boats, who were waiting patiently for their turn. But one by one we got everyone docked without any damage.

To celebrate another day on the loop, we all went out for pie.

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