The Good, The Bad and The Ugly...Marseilles Lock, Starved Rock Lock and La Grange Lock, IL

We wake up to a rainy day at Joliet and depart the wall at 8:00AM with five other Loopers heading to the Brandon Road Lock and Dam and the Dresden Lock and Dam. We end-up being a bit early, by an hour or so, but we eventually lock through and actually raft a boat (tie a boat to our boat) in the lock for the first time. The push to get going early is stemmed by the fact that we need to make a lock time at Marseilles Lock 26 miles down river. This lock is under construction and has restricted hours when ‘pleasure crafts’ (P.C.’s) can lock through. We arrive early as the lock tender has instructed and then have to wait at one of the large bollards. Unfortunately, the wall near the lock is not available for P.C.’s as we had been led to believe. An hour and a half later we lock through and are on our way to Ottawa (37NM) Heritage Harbor for the night. Our second ‘problem lock’ is Starved Rock Lock. It has the same construction/restricted lock openings for P.C.’s. So, thinking strategically, we move a few miles downstream to a fuel dock at Starved Rock (7NM). This location is only two miles from the lock so we figure that this will be better for our 05:00 transit. By the way, this is our first, and as it turns out, very eventful, dark transit. We have a high-power spot mounted on the brow of the boat and a hand held spot as well. The captain has the radar and nav screens active, but let me tell you, nothing prepares you for the hundred plus foot tug and tow coming your way in the black of night. Larry, once again, cool as a cucumber, lets the tug ‘n tow slip smoothly by. Waiting for the tow to pass cost us time and we miss the early bird lock and have to tie up to another large bollard and wait until 06:30. We have the lock to ourselves and then a long but uneventful transit down the Illinois River to Peoria (59NM). We leave the municipal docks at Peoria and lock through the Peoria Lock and Dam without any issues. The lock is only an 8 foot drop, no bollards or lines, Larry holds us in the middle and we exit about 20 minutes later. A long day down the Illinois River checking depths, and double checking river markers as there are many that have been dragged out of position by the massive tug and tows or are missing all together. In addition there are plenty of snags (trees wedged into the bottom of the river) so we have to be diligent about looking for these, not to mention Larry having to maneuver around the goliath tugs and tows in these narrow channels. Eight hours later we arrive at Beardstown (61NM) where there are barges you can tie up to for the night and then climb up a steep stairway to get over their breakwater and into town. Rereading what I have just written, I am thinking how lucky we were to make all these locks with just an hour or two’s wait....our lock- luck is about to change. Out of Beardstown we head to the La Grange Lock, just an hour down river. Thinking that it is smooth sailing after our two problem locks we are absolutely gobsmacked to learn that they have started post-flood maintenance and there will be a three hour wait. Well, we use our time wisely, we ride the exercise bike, read, practice spanish and play cards. One o’clock rolls around and we find out that a tug with fifteen tows has to lock through...cut to the chase it is nearly a six hour wait to clear this lock. This was not good for so many reasons, but mainly because our tie-up this evening is six hours away and it is four o’clock. You do the math and yes, that means two hours of dark transit and arrival far after cocktail hour! I am sure by now, you all have guessed I have not grown accustomed to running at night. Well, practice makes perfect I guess and we will just chalk it up to experience. We have a great captain and a great crew. All hands were on deck to look for logs and snags and use the hand-held spot to shine on the reflective river markers. Learning how to effectively use the spot-light mounted on the boat increases my confidence in running the river at night, however, the car ferry zipping across the river every five minutes and the massive tug and tow (however nice on the VHF) rounding a blind corner was just unnerving. Ultimately, it comes down to the captain and his capabilities. I will shout from the mountaintop (if there were any in this flat land) my affirmations on how accomplished a captain Larry is at this time. He was calm and sure and got us to Hardin (67NM) safe and sound. Thank you Cap!

On the wall at Joliet with the bimini and arch back in place. Louis Joliet was an early French explorer and fur trader who first dreamed of the idea of connecting the Illinois River to Lake Michigan

On the wall at Joliet with the bimini and arch back in place. Louis Joliet was an early French explorer and fur trader who first dreamed of the idea of connecting the Illinois River to Lake Michigan

Rainy morning at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam

Rainy morning at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam

A little traffic on the river heading to the next lock

A little traffic on the river heading to the next lock

We raft sailboat Breathe (stepped down mast for bridge clearance) with us in the Dresden Lock and Dam

We raft sailboat Breathe (stepped down mast for bridge clearance) with us in the Dresden Lock and Dam

Owen takes watch on the bollard tie while we wait for our lock opening at the Marseilles Lock

Owen takes watch on the bollard tie while we wait for our lock opening at the Marseilles Lock

Ottawa’s Washington Square was the site of the first of seven debates between Lincoln and Douglas for U.S. Senator in 1858. It is estimated that 14,000 people showed up to hear the debate and, the then little know Abraham Lincoln (just a young lawyer) gained political traction as he spoke about abolishing slavery and state’s rights.

Ottawa’s Washington Square was the site of the first of seven debates between Lincoln and Douglas for U.S. Senator in 1858. It is estimated that 14,000 people showed up to hear the debate and, the then little know Abraham Lincoln (just a young lawyer) gained political traction as he spoke about abolishing slavery and state’s rights.

Waiting for the Starved Rock Lock at five o’clock in the morning

Waiting for the Starved Rock Lock at five o’clock in the morning

Happy to put Starved Rock in the ‘rear view mirror’

Happy to put Starved Rock in the ‘rear view mirror’

The Municipal Marina at Peoria

The Municipal Marina at Peoria

Abe came through Ottawa on the debate tour. The stature is dedicated to fallen soldiers and sailors built in 1899

Abe came through Ottawa on the debate tour. The stature is dedicated to fallen soldiers and sailors built in 1899

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The Ottawa courthouse

The Ottawa courthouse

The ‘8 Bit Arcade Bar’ has a fantastic Venice Carnival mural at the side of the building

The ‘8 Bit Arcade Bar’ has a fantastic Venice Carnival mural at the side of the building

At 8 Bit, buy a beer and play all your favorite games from decades past

At 8 Bit, buy a beer and play all your favorite games from decades past

Larry found his favorite - ‘Galaxian’!

Larry found his favorite - ‘Galaxian’!

Peoria Lock and Dam is a breeze

Peoria Lock and Dam is a breeze

Something is wrong with this picture….river markers are often scooped up by barges or moved by high water…keep sharp!

Something is wrong with this picture….river markers are often scooped up by barges or moved by high water…keep sharp!

The ‘Barge Dock’ at Beardstown, IL. The water crested this wall this past spring and did not recede until July

The ‘Barge Dock’ at Beardstown, IL. The water crested this wall this past spring and did not recede until July

Main Street Beardstown, IL

Main Street Beardstown, IL

Awesome bar ‘The Nook’ with a fantastic bartender ‘Brittany’ is conveniently located next to the recovery center…

Awesome bar ‘The Nook’ with a fantastic bartender ‘Brittany’ is conveniently located next to the recovery center…

Lincoln spent time in this town as well at the courthouse on the left

Lincoln spent time in this town as well at the courthouse on the left

The steep steps back to the Independence

The steep steps back to the Independence

Sunset on the Illinois River

Sunset on the Illinois River

Waiting for our opening at the La Grange Lock and Dam…this tug and his fifteen tows took almost two hours to lock up river

Waiting for our opening at the La Grange Lock and Dam…this tug and his fifteen tows took almost two hours to lock up river

This dredger is amazing but just one more obstacle between us and our destination

This dredger is amazing but just one more obstacle between us and our destination

Sunrise on the Illinois River at Hardin, IL

Sunrise on the Illinois River at Hardin, IL

The barge dock at Hardin, IL. You can dock for free if you have a meal at the Riverdock Restaurant. We intended to have dinner but did not arrive until 10:00PM, so we had breakfast and it was fantastic. You can see the high water mark from this last year’s’ flood on their sign at the word ‘Riverdock’.

The barge dock at Hardin, IL. You can dock for free if you have a meal at the Riverdock Restaurant. We intended to have dinner but did not arrive until 10:00PM, so we had breakfast and it was fantastic. You can see the high water mark from this last year’s’ flood on their sign at the word ‘Riverdock’.