Saturday, September 21, 2019

Beardstown to Grafton

Frustrating start, and frustrating finish... and a little dicey in the middle. Otherwise a great ride.

While we thought we were done with "trouble locks" turns out that's just a false sense of security. They are all trouble. The lock we had to go through today was LaGrange. It's under construction, well, renovation. As a result (we found out last night) they will be closed from 9 am to 1 pm. No problem, since we're only a few miles away, that's a short ride from the tug service center. However, due to the construction, they only have one wall available for locking boats through. They want only 9. There were 18 of us who wanted to go. So the plan was 2 lock-throughs for us, one at 7:30, one at 8:30. Dandy.

First thing in the morning we had a radio chat with the 18 boats wanting to go. 5 were on anchor below us, so they requested 4 join them for the 7:30 lock. Two boats volunteered right away, then As You Wish wanted to go (they had an 88 mile day ahead of them and were a pretty slow goin' vessel). Leaving one slot, which we happily took. Done.

Loopers, loopers, everywhere!
6:30 am we casted off our lines and peeled off the barge, leading the other 4 boats. Wait, how many? Yep -- someone decided they, too, wanted to go and so they just did. Loopers! We know how to raft but we can't count!

We slowly made our way to LaGrange, rolling our eyes at our inability to follow simple instructions, when we chatted with the lockmaster. A tug showed up before us and, since we have no clout or priority, it locked through first. The lockmaster told us he would lock us all through at 8:30. By that time, of course the other 8 boats caught up with us. We looked like an armada hanging out below the lock.

Russ piloting. Is it live or is it Memorex?
Thankfully, by 8:45 he opened the lock doors and let us ALL come in. We tightened up and rafted, 3 to 4 vessels per row. All 18 of us got in and through.

It does seem like we're always the first to get to a lock then punished with some crazy long wait. River life, I guess.

The toodle down the Illinois River went fine for most of the day, as faster boats made their way forward and slower boats shuffled behind. Right up until our Navionics made an interested "short cut" suggestion. We almost took it until we saw all the flotsam and debris in the water way. Russ, piloting at the time, stopped the boat and backed out hard. I say follow the channel!

My biggest frustration of the day came when we docked in Grafton. The marina has a floating wall to separate it from the river, but it still gets some current. And the wind had kicked up in the afternoon. AND we have this new canvas cover that acts like a giant wind sail.

The left side was where our navigation wanted to go.
The right side is the actual channel.
Needless to say, it was like starting over. I hadn't had so much trouble docking in a long time. It took me 5 tries to get Cat-n-Dogs backed into a slip, and I banged one of the sides doing so. Totally wrecked my confidence. 

I didn't give up. It did get done. It wasn't, however, a pretty sight.

Btw, if you look at the map, right around where the 11:00 mark is a bridge. It marks the WESTERN most point on the loop. We are truly on our way home.

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