Headin’ down the river

First of All -

  • Transiting our first lock
  • First collision with floating debris
  • First radio conversation with tow boat regarding passing instructions
  • First time the depth sounder acts up

Namely Speaking-

  • Cicero
  • Calumet-Saginaw
  • Des Plaines
  • Joliet

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 43; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 206
  • Hours Underway: 8
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: NA
  • Wind Speed: 5; Wind Direction: SW
  • Daily High Temperature: 90
  • Water Temperature: 73

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Today we say farewell to Chicago and begin our journey downstream, with the Gulf of Mexico as our eventual destination. Its a warm, humid day which promises to get uncomfortably hot by afternoon, unless we keep the breeze. After breakfast we tend to last minute chores, in preparation for departure. I rig up the Go Pro camera on a starbard stanchion, so I can video our passage beneath Chicago’s downtown towers. I meet up with Tim and pay for our 4 nights of moorage. In a final act of hospitality he gives us a sack of ice for our cooler. At 10 minutes to 9 we leave the Columbia Yacht Club dock and head for the Chicago Lock, which separates Lake Michigan from the Chicago River. We lock through with 3 other recreational boats, all trawlers and flying the Great Loop burgee. I expect that we’ll DSCF7715all meet up more than once as we proceed down the river. They travel faster than we do, and soon we’re making our way through Chicago’s downtown, industrial area, and outer industrial area on our own. As we cruise down the channel, we see homeless living in tents along the bank. They toss their trash right into the river, so there is a lot of floating garbage along the way. Floating woody debris too, as we notice after hearing a loud “Clunk”. I hope I haven’t bent a prop, but it seems ok. What isn’t ok is my depth finder. Not long after hitting the branch, I notice my depth finder reading a steady 2.5 feet. I’ve had this problem before, and thought it was fixed. I mull over options for dealing with this for several hours, b but by mid afternoon it’s reading again. I’ll keep a close eye on it. After we pass the junction with the Calumet-Saginaw Waterway we start encountering serious barge and tow boat traffic. It gets dicey when we have barges tied up along the channel wall, and meet up with a tow boat heading upriver, pushing a train of 6 barges. I radio the captain and get his ok before proceeding to squeeze through. In one instance we have to hold up while a tow boat maneuvers his barges over to the side of the channel. DSCF7729We pass by the electric fish barrier, which is designed to keep the Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes. We see a few dead fish floating downriver, so it’s working for some fish, anyway. We encounter oneDSCF7718 bridge which is dramaticly lower than all the others, which are typically 17 feet of clearance in the down position. I measured my mast tip in the reclined position before leaving home, and got just under 10 feet. This bridge looks really low, and I’ve lost track on where we are on the paper chart, so I don’t know the rated clearance for this railroad bridge. We ease up to it, not wanting to request an opening if it can be avoided. It looks really close, but I think we can clear. We make it, but with only about 10 inches to spare. I later learn that this is the ConRail bridge with a closed clearance of 10.5 feet. Around 3 in the afternoon we approach our second lock, the Lockport Lock. The lockmaster tells us to wait off to the side while he prepares to lift a barge heading north. We loiter for an hour, slowly circling in the hot, humid and rather still air, waiting to pass DSCF7721the lock. Shortly before the upstream barge gets raised, another pleasure craft, a large trawler, joins us in our wait. They’re having trouble receiving with their radio, so I tell the lockmaster they’re also waiting to lock downstream. Finally, the lock doors open and a 6 barge tow slowly leaves the chamber. We enter, and go all the way to the front of the chamber. There’s a bit of a breeze swirling inside, and we have trouble looping our line over the large, floating bollard in the side wall of the lock. Finally we get secured and begin our descent. I’m surprised at how far we descend. The Chicago lock only dropped 2 feet, but this one drops around 30 feet. Finally the lock doors swing open, the horn blasts, and we depart the lock. It’s only a short 3 mile run down to Joliet, our destination for the day. We tie up along the channel wall, adjacent to a city park. The 3 trawlers we passed Chicago lock with are here, and shortly after we’re joined by 2 other loop boats. We make quite a flotilla. We’re greeted by some local folks who’re hanging out along the river, where it’s a little cooler than further up into town. One offers me a cold beer, which I gladly accept, and we have a good time chatting. Later, while we’re getting our pizza dinner going on the barbque, 3local 8th grade kids stop by, full of questions about the boat. After dinner we visit briefly with our fellow cruisers, before heading out for an evening walk up into town.

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Hurry up and wait for the locks

First of All -

  • First dead head hit
  • First time rafting with another boat
  • First duck blinds seen
  • First cornfield seen from the boat

Namely Speaking-

  • Peacock Slough
  • Sugar Island
  • Rat Run
  • Kickapoo Creek
  • Sangamon

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 46; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 252
  • Hours Underway: 8.5
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: NA
  • Wind Speed: 5 ; Wind Direction: SW
  • Daily High Temperature: 91
  • Water Temperature: 82

DSCF7733Besides us, 4 other Loop boats are tied up overnight at the Joliet mooring wall. They include I Think I Can, Marquesa, Firebird, and Ren De Vous. We’re all up and ready to go by 7am. Cindy, from I Think I Can, phones up the Joliet Lock to see when they can let us through. They initially say 8am, which then changes to 8:30 and eventually 8:45. Just before we leave for the 2 mile run down to the lock, the big railroad bridge lowers for some reason, and everyone, including us, are to tall to clear the lowered bridge. Fortunately it raises in time for us to run down to the lock. The lockmaster tells Cindy on the phone that 2 boats will tie up to starbard and 2 to port. I decide to fender on the port side. When we near the lock, the guy on the radio instructs the two bigger boats to tie up on the starbard side, and the two smaller boats, including us, are to raft up to the big boats. So I quickly shift all my fenders to the starbard side and ease up to Joe on Firebird. It’s an easy process, and the descent goes DSCF7730smoothly. Soon we’re on our way downriver again. It’s turning into a very warm day, and muggy too. The breeze we create with our forward speed is welcome. The shoreline we pass is heavily wooded, with occasional wide, shallow places alongside the main channel. Bright green duckweed covers large expanses of shallow water, and we see numerous duckblinds in the middle of the shallows. After a 12 mile or so run, we approach Dresden Lock. I’m cruising a mile or 2 per hour slower than the rest of the boats, so I’m last to arrive at the lock. Everyone is in a holding pattern, and I join in circling at idle speed, waiting for our chance to lock through. We’re held up for well over an hour, before the light turns green and we can enter. We’ve transited each lock with a Coast Guard buoy tender tow boat, the Sangamon, who gets the privilege of entering and leaving first. The next leg, down to Marseilles Lock, is 24 miles long, and I know that I’ll be well behind our little flotilla. I run a bit faster, around 8 mph, but they still travel a mile or so per hour faster than we do. I figure there’s a good chance they’ll catch a lock opening before we arrive. We begin to see more recreational boats, everything from high speed bass boats, motor cruisers, water ski boats, cigarette boats and jet skis. We reach the point where the Kanakee River joins with the Des Plaines River, and we’re finally on the Illinois River. The river widens, and I’m able to run the auto pilot for lengthy stretches. I stray to the edge of the marked channel and something goes “clunk” on the forward part of the hull. I actually feel it lift a bit. It doesn’t seem to be a damaging collision, and nothing hits the prop, so we cruise on. Must have been a deadhead, since nothing shows above the rather cloudy water. About 6 miles above the Marseilles Lock I give them a phone call to tell them we’re coming, and should get there around 4:30. The lockmaster says he’ll be able to lock us down with the Sangamon. I’m relieved to hear that, since that means we’re unlikely to have a seriously long wait. I cruise down the side channel toward the lock, and finally the lock comes into view. I give Joe a radio call, and he says they’ve just opened the lock doors. We motor into the chamber, and as we’re securing the boat to the wall, the lock doors begin to close. It was close, but we made it. After locking down, Cindy gets on the phone with Heritage Harbor Marina in Ottawa, and finds that they have space for all of us. It’s been an extremely hot, humid afternoon, and the marina’s prospect of showers and swimming pool sound extremely attractive. The place is quite new looking, very protected, and reasonably priced at $1/foot, with the Looper discount. Sandy and I decide to have dinner at their restaurant, and we’re joined by Joe and his brother Mick. We have a great time together, and end up being seated next to Ron, who we met up with back on Lake Michigan. That’s the way things work on the Loop.

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Hanging out in Ottawa

First of All -

  • First time using fender boards
  • First time bicycling to the laundromat
  • First time enjoying drinks on another Looper’s boat (air conditioned to boot)
  • First time seeing jumping carp

Namely Speaking-

  • Reddik Mansion
  • Ottawa

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 4; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 256
  • Hours Underway: 1/2
  • Fuel: x gallons
  • Morning House Battery Reading:
  • Wind Speed: ; Wind Direction:
  • Daily High Temperature: 94
  • Water Temperature: 82

DSCF7740Since they have a bunch of boats coming in today, we have to move. I try to buy gas at the fuel dock, but their gas pump is out of order, so I transfer 5 gallons into the port side tank and we head out onto the Illinois River. We’ll try and find space at the town dock, just a couple of miles downstream. I think I can has the same idea, and leaves just behind us. They run a little faster than we do, which is just fine with us. I’ll let them figure out the tie up situation, and then help us with our lines when we arrive. This works according to plan. The town dock is limited in length, with just enough room for 3 boats. One Loop boat is already moored at the front end of the wall. Our friends tie up at the back of the wall, and wave us to come on in, between the two boats. It’s a nice fit, and soon we’re securely tied up. I am concerned about a nasty looking iron bracket sticking out from the mooring wall, so I deploy a fender board to help protect our hull. Once we’re organized, we go for a walk up into town, before it gets too hot. We walk up Columbus Street in the direction of the Visitor Center. We come upon Washington Park, a lovely green square, landscaped with flowers, shaded with mature trees, and in the center, graced with a refreshing fountain and two statues. One is Abraham Lincoln and the other is Stephen Douglas. DSCF7743These statues, slightly larger than life, commemorate the first Lincoln-Douglas debate, which took place in 1858 right here in this public square. They couldn’t use the courthouse, just east of the square, because it was still under construction. Thousands of spectators were in attendance, and those further from the podium heard the arguments relayed to them by a series of speakers who loudly repeated what Lincoln and Douglas had said. It is very peaceful, refreshing place. We then walk across the street, to the imposing Reddik Mansion, where the visitor center is located. We stop in and obtain critical information, like where the laundry is, where the Verizon store is located, and where we can get a good lunch. At 11am the docent for the Reddik Mansion arrives, and we go on a tour of this imposing pre Civil War home. It belonged to a self made Irish immigrant who made his fortune in real estate development. He was a civic minded man, without heirs, and he willed his home to the City, to serve as a community DSCF7741 library. It served in this capacity until 1976, and then was handed over to an historic association which has managed it ever since, offering public tours and working to preserve this great historic treasure. The agreement was for the association to take care of the interior, and the City the exterior. This plan has had a difficult history, with the City apparently trying to transfer more and more responsibility to the association. At least that’s the version we heard from our tour guide. At any rate, the tour was informative, and the house quite remarkable.

After our tour, we walk back toward the boat, stopping at JJ’s for a great lunch, and then heading a few blocks over to pick up some groceries at the local market. They offer rides back to the town dock for visiting boaters, and we thankfully take advantage of that service. After putting the groceries away, I haul the bikes out of the king berth, and we pedal back up town with our laundry bag strapped onto my bike rack. I leave Sandy at the laundromat and pedal on, to theVerizon store, several blocks up into town. We’ve been advised to not try checking any of our banking information on an unsecured wifi network. Our friends on I think I can use a Verizon jetpack hot spot, and it sounds like a good idea. The lady at the store is very helpful, and sets me up with one of these devices. I will now be able to log onto the internet anywhere with cell service, so I won’t be restricted to wifi connections for uploading these posts.

By the time I ride back to the laundromat, Sandy is finishing up with the clothes, so we return to the boat and start dinner. Thankfully, the boat is in shade. We cook up chicken tenders and Sandy prepares tasty chicken wraps, with fried onions and sour cream. After dinner we are invited over to our friends’ boat, to enjoy their companionship and their air conditioning. We swap stories until well past dark. Back on board, we call son David to discuss computer problems. He guides us through several issues, and we end up deciding to sever our brief association with the new, improved Windows 10, and revert back to tried and true Windows 7. Hopefully this will solve some of our problems in using programs and editting photos.

Getting lonier on the Illinois

First of All -

  • First time seeing goose hunters in their blinds
  • First time seeing white pelicans on the cruise
  • First active dredge operations
  • First river bank levee
  • First hint of fall colors

Namely Speaking-

  • Vermillion River
  • Peru
  • Tree Top Bar

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 43; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 299
  • Hours Underway: 6.5
  • Fuel: 30 gallons (just under 6 mpg)
  • Morning House Battery Reading: NA
  • Wind Speed: 5; Wind Direction: variable
  • Daily High Temperature: 92
  • Water Temperature:

We wave goodbye to our friends Randy and Cindy at 7am, as they pull away from Ottawa dock. We’re 20 minutes behind them, going slower and planning to stop sooner. Hopefully we’ll cross paths with them again along the way, so we can compare stories and renew the friendship. We run for an hour or so down to the Starved Rock Lock, where we wait an hour to be locked through. We’re the only boat in the chamber. The river is getting progressively lonlier, with fewer towns (we pass Peru, Spring Valley, and Hennepin before arriving at Henry), fewer but larger tows, and DSCF7744 only the occasional fishing boat working up or down the river. One boat we see stirs up the Asian carp, which start jumping out of the water. They guys in the boat are armed with bows, and they try shooting carp in mid jump, without luck. Also apparently without luck are the goose hunters. We see a couple groups of hunters, lounging around in their blinds, with several dozen goose decoys artfully arranged in the water and sand bars in front of them. Apparently the hunters and geese have a peaceful arrangement worked out. The hunters stake their space out on one sand bar, and the geese congregate on other bars, well away from the hunters. The geese don’t fly (it’s too hot for that), and no one gets bothered. The geese aren’t disturbed and the hunters don’t have to bother with cleaning guns or plucking geese at the end of the day. Peace and calm reigns. We push on, round bend after bend, until we arrive at Henry’s Marina. It’s located at the site of the first lock and dam on the Illinois River. I fill the tanks with gas and take a slip for the night. The office is in the bar, a classic country bar with country music throbbing from the loudspeakers and an impressive collection of bras draped on the beams above the bar. Makes one wonder about the circumstances of their getting up there.

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Playin’ in Peoria

First of All -

  • First shotgun shots heard from the boat
  • First sailboats with sails up since leaving Chicago
  • First music festival encountered on the cruise

Namely Speaking-

  • Chillicote
  • Rome
  • Peoria

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 34; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 333
  • Hours Underway: 5
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: NA
  • Wind Speed: 5mph or less ; Wind Direction: variable
  • Daily High Temperature: 95
  • Water Temperature: 82

DSCF7762We’re up at dawn, as usual, and eager to get away from Henry’s Marina. Last evening I learned that some boaters have had trouble with gas bought at Henry’s fuel dock. I understand the tank was just recently filled, but I still worry about water in the gas. We’ll soon see how the engine runs. I hand line the boat out of the slip, not wanting to risk getting the centerboard stuck in the mud. The departure goes smoothly, and soon we’re back out on the river, headed south. The air seems encouragingly cooler this morning, with a thin overcast providing some welcome shade. We pass the town of Chillicote, but the run is mostly past forested shoreline, with large lakes hiding behind the bands of trees. Fishermen are out, but very little barge traffic. I see a guy in camo, with his boat loaded with goose decoys, heading into one of the side lakes, and finally hear a few muffled pops, some distance off the main channel. Apparently the undeclared truce between geese and hunters has broken down. Boating traffic increases as we near Peoria, and we even see a small fleet of sailboats in the big lake just north of Peoria. I phone a marina about space, and the helpful dockmaster suggests that we consider heading for the downtown docks, which are free and have electric power. I thank him for the tip and do just that. We put in on the north end, just above the big sternwheeler which is tied up to the main dock. I get a phone call from our friend Cindy on I think I can, who has seen us comeDSCF7765 in. They are tied up, along with our other friends Joe and Marty, down on the south end of the town dock, downstream of the paddlewheeler. They say it’s a bit quieter there, so after lunch we move down and join them. It’s good to be near some Loop boats again. After getting squared away, we walk up into the waterfront downtown area. It’s beastly hot outside, so we head for the big air conditioned museum. We enjoy their planetarium program, walk through some interesting exhibits on the history of Peoria, and then see a 3d film on dinosaurs in the big screen theater. It’s around 5pm when we leave the museum and we’re starting to get hungry, so we walk across the street to Joe’s Crab Shack for a great seafood dinner. We follow that up with ice cream sundaes at a nearby ice cream shop. We enjoy our dessert at an outside seating area where we have an excellent view of the center stage performance venue, which features a major Blues festival. After listening for a while, we walk back to the boat. On the way we meet up with Cindy, who says she’s been able to reserve a slip for tomorrow at Havana, the next logical stop down river. We can call them in the morning and reserve a slip as well. This sounds like a good plan. We’ve gotten a nice taste of Peoria, and feel ready to resume our cruise down the Illinois River.

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Hot day in Havana

First of All -

  • First barge loaded with scrap aluminum
  • First nap while Sandy drives the boat
  • First time overtaking a barge train from behind (and a 15 barge tow at that)
  • First dock party with loop cruisers, including a movie

Namely Speaking-

  • Creve Couer
  • Lick Creek
  • Pekin
  • Coon Hollow Island
  • Chautauqua
  • Havana

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 43; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 376
  • Hours Underway: 6
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: NA
  • Wind Speed: 10 ; Wind Direction: SW
  • Daily High Temperature: 98
  • Water Temperature: 83

DSCF7768We decide to get a nice early start, so we can make our miles before it gets too hot. We’re off the dock by 6:30am, shortly after sunrise. I call Peoria Lock and let them know we’re heading his way. He tells us the lock is open and waiting for us. Cindy and Randy pull out shortly after we do, and they pass us up on the way to the lock. The light is green as we approach, so we slide on into the chamber, where we take lines on our port side, a short distance behind I think I can. It’s an easy 7 foot ride down to the next river level. The gates open,DSCF7769 the horn sounds, we cast off lines and shove off. Only one more lock to go on the Illinois River. The run down to Tall Timbers Marina at Havana is mostly uneventful. The river is wide, with lazy “S” bends. The channel is well marked. The flood level is clearly visible by the line of vegetation on the shoreline trees, since the leaves were unable to grow below flood level for around 2 months. I manage a morning nap down below, with Sandy manning the helm. We pass a relatively new power plant with bright red and white striped stacks. I run up behind a tow boat, who is traveling slower than we are. The reason becomes apparent when I’m able to see how many barges he’s pushing. His train is 3 wide and 5 long, equalling the biggest barge train we’ve encountered thus far. It takes me a good while to complete my pass, on the “twos” which means my port side, his starbard side. As I pull ahead I look back and see a large trawler charging up behind me. He holds back long enough for me to get clear of the barge before he passes us. We near Havana shortly after noon. I phone the marina and they’re waiting for us as we idle in. We’re parked right behind our friends Randy and Cindy. After lunch I put my swimsuit on and give the boat a good cleaning. Showers are also on the agenda, most refreshing. We’ll eat at the shaded tables on the dock, which feature cooling misters. Joe on Firebird and also Marty on Marquesa have come in here as well. Joe promises to haul out his tv screen and show a movie on the dock this evening. Should be a fun time.

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Making our own breeze

First of All -

  • First abrupt change in plans
  • First turtles seen along the river bank
  • First hills seen along the Illinois River
  • First professional fishing guide boat (with bass on as we go by)
  • First good old boys out muddin’ in 4 wheelers down on the river bank
  • First day cruised more than 60 miles

Namely Speaking-

  • Matanzas Island
  • Friddle Branch
  • Beardstown
  • Meredosia
  • Malavais Terre

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power 64; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 440
  • Hours Underway: 8 3/4
  • Fuel: 5 gallons – $18
  • Morning House Battery Reading: NA
  • Wind Speed: light ; Wind Direction: variable
  • Daily High Temperature: 89
  • Water Temperature: 82

DSCF7785We’re expecting another hot day today, and last night we decided to just hang out at Tall Timbers Marina for another day, trying to keepDSCF7786 cool somewhere indoors. Sandy gets up early and walks up into town for a look see. Meanwhile, our friends on the big trawlers pull out, one by one to continue their journeys down river, all except for I think I can and us. Sandy didn’t see much of interest in town, and we discuss pulling out today. It’s going to be hot and uncomfortable either way, and if we’re running down the river, at least we can make our own breeze. As it turns out, the breeze of our 7.5 mph forward motion is the only breeze we get all day.

We go by two Corps of Engineers dredge operation sites, but no one is working due to the fact that this is the Labor Day holiday. Tow boats apparently don’t get holidahys, however, and we pass several oncoming barge trains, and overtake another. The country is starting to change, and we see occasional hills a short distance back from the river. We pass through the last lock on the Illinois in mid afternoon. The light is green on approach, and we get locked through, all by ourselves, without delay. As we near our intended anchorage around 6pm we approach a railroad lift bridge, in the down position. Once again I’m glad I didn’t raise our mast at an upstream marina. As we pass under the lowered bridge a freight train pass right overhead. When I swing into our anchorage, the mouth of a narrow channel between Big Blue Island and the shore of the river, I find the water shallowing quickly. We end up anchoring in only 3 feet of water, but we are protected somewhat by the downstream tip of the island. We grill sausages for dinner, and enjoy a remarkably bug free evening in the cockpit. Just before retiring, however, an abrupt and brisk wind kicks up, creating some uncertainty as to tonight’s weather.

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Unsettling developments

First of All -

  • First car ferry encountered
  • First whitecaps while cruising on a river
  • First serious equipment concern
  • First miles cruised on the Mississippi

Namely Speaking-

  • Florence
  • Kampsville Hollow
  • Dark Chute
  • Hurricane Island

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 64; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 504
  • Hours Underway: 11
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.10
  • Wind Speed: up to 15mph; Wind Direction: S
  • Daily High Temperature: 82
  • Water Temperature: 80

DSCF7795DSCF7797We rise at dawn, looking forward to the promised break in hot weather. The cockpit is dripping with dew, and dozens of mayflies are plastered to the deck. I pick one up and give it a toss. Surprisingly, it flies off. I proceed to remove as many as I can find, and also toss overboard the little green frog who has crawled onto the boat. Before we raise anchor, I check the house battery and am surprised at how low it is. I start the engine, expecting to see the voltage rise, but get no such result. Both the house batteries and the ignition battery are low, and I’m not certain if it’s a problem with the engine’s charging system, or simply a bogus reading from my aging digital voltmeter. We must get underway, though, and I’ll learn what I can in the course of the day.DSCF7802

We’re planning on stopping at Illinois Riverdock Restaurant, which gets rave reviews in my Waterways Guide. Along the way, however, the skies darken, and by the time we reach Hurricane Island, we’re hit with a deluge. With the mast down, I can only open the bimini part way. The mast support crutch prevents a full opening. Consequently, the driving rain slants in and soaks me thoroughly. Nothing to do but motor on, through the rain. Periodically I check the voltmeter. The readings are consistently low, but occasionally the ignition battery reading jumps up to a charging level. This doesn’t last however, and soon it falls back to the level of the house batteries. During a brief sun break I check once again, and see both batteries receiving charge, so long as the sun shines. Unfortunately, the sun break is brief, and the rains soon return. At around 2:30pm we dock at the Riverdock Restaurant dock, in a steady rain. I walk up to DSCF7800the restaurant to let them know I’m at their dock. I find the windows boarded up, and the char of smoke above a locked door. A sign says “Restaurant closed”. Our plans for a nice dinner are on hold. On the way back to the boat I talk with a guy who says the place burned on June 6, and it will be another month before they can reopen. I climb back onto the boat, still hoping that the problem is with the meter and not the charging system. I get out my low tech battery tester (the kind with the squeeze bulb) and I check a couple cells in one of the house batteries. They all read very low, confirming the reading on the digital voltmeter. Now I’m certain the problem is with the charging system. I give my boat dealer Todd at Blue Water Yachts a call, and discuss the problem with him. He concurs that the problem is most likely with the charging system, and agrees with my plan to make a 24 mile run down to the MississippiDSCF7813 and upriver to St. Charles, where there are marinas with repair capabilities. I have an engine manual, and with Todd’s input over the phone, we figure the mechanic can solve the problem. Todd assures me he can get any needed parts shipped very quickly. I next call Polestar Marina and confirm that they have repair expertise on hand, although it might take a day or two for the mechanic to get to our boat. I run down the final miles of the Illinois River and make the turn up the Mississippi. We only have to go 4 miles up the Mississippi, but the great river’s strong current slows us considerable. We finally tie up at the Polestar Marina guest dock a little after 7pm. I plug in to shore power, and the ignition battery reading quickly climbs back to the normal range. The house battery begins its recovery as well, although it rises at a slower rate. This is to be expected, and I now know that both the shore power charger and digital voltmeter are working properly. The finger points squarely at the engine’s charging system. Hopefully, with Todd’s help, we can quickly identify the source of the trouble and get necessary repairs expeditiously completed.

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Small victories

First of All -

  • First troubleshooting/repair

Namely Speaking-

  • Polestar Marina

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 0; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 504
  • Hours Underway: Layover day
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.14
  • Wind Speed: 5; Wind Direction: SW
  • Daily High Temperature: 80
  • Water Temperature: 80

DSCF7827We get up at our usual 6am, have breakfast, and get ready to trouble shoot the engine. I get my Suzuki manual out and look over the charging section. Around 7:30am I notice activity up at the shop area, so wander up to chat with the mechanic. He knows of our trouble and says he’ll get down to look things over once the manager arrives. Meanwhile I go up to the office and check in. Around 9am the mechanic walks down to the boat and starts doing some diagnostic checks on the engine. I call Todd up and st his input. The mechanic determines that the engine is putting out voltage properly, but it isn’t registering with the batteries. He checks out the batteries, and they are ok. The culprit ends up being some connections to the battery which aren’t making good contact. They didn’t appear corroded, and the nut wasn’t loose but nonetheless, when he twists the ring connectors, the voltmeter shows a jump in its reading. He thoroughly cleans the contacts and tightens the nut, and everything checks out. Simple solution to a problem which could have caused considerable delay. In the course of discussions I also conclude that my old shore power battery charger isn’t charging quickly enough, and so order a replacement, which should arrive tomorrow morning. It will be a bugger to install. I’ll have to pull the house batteries, and the space for it is really tight. However, once it’s installed, we should be able to recharge the batteries much more quickly when we plug in.

I devote the afternoon to raising the mast and turning Chinook back into a sailboat. It is quite warm outside, and the job is complicated by the fact that I have completely disconnected the shrouds for the run down the Illinois Waterway. This results in a real tangle of rigging, but I eventually prevail, tidy up all lines, and get her ready for sailing down the Mississippi. While I am doing all this, Sandy is up at the office working on the computer. She succeeds in getting Norton 360 reinstalled on the laptop (it had disappeared during our brief flirtation with Windows 10 and our return to Windows 7. She also manages to download a book on her Kindle. This process had also become tangled, but with some decent internet time, all is now well.

All charged up (boat that is- I’m exhausted)

First of All -

  • First piece of equipment installed while on the cruise
  • First redheaded woodpecker spotted

Namely Speaking-NA

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 0; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 504
  • Hours Underway: Layover day
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.6
  • Wind Speed: light and variable; Wind Direction: east
  • Daily High Temperature: 90 – evening thunderstorm
  • Water Temperature: 82

Today’s task will be to unstall my new 20 amp charger, provided that UPS comes through with their delivery. It’s a chore I approach with considerable trepidation. I had considered replacing the old charger before we took off, but upon considering the likely pain and suffering associated with the project, I persuaded myself that the old one was working ok and would see us through. I now realize the folly of that thinking, and thus must pay the price here, in the heat and humidity. In order to install the new charger I must first of all disconnect all wires from the two 6 volt golf cart house batteries, then unbolt the securing battery bracket, lift the batteries out of their compartment, and all this just to gain access to the old charger. Then I have to remove the autopilot computer, unscrew the fasteners which hold the old charger, and then figure out what to do with the wires connected to the old charger. I will have to fish a wire across from the port side, where the charger and house batteries live, over to the starbard side where the ignition battery lives. And to gain access to the ignition battery I will have to disconnect the refrigerator and lift it out of its place under the aft table seat. I’ve done battle with this wire run before and I dread going there again. There is just a small space where wires can run, and I’ve stuffed it tightly with wires and a large water line. I’ll also have to fit the new charger, which is 2 1/2 times larger than the old one, into a space which my measurements indicate will just barely fit.

DSCF7828After breakfast I begin a major boat explosion, removing tool and electrical kits from their storage place under the table floor, and extracting such things as ice chest, tool chest, folding bicycle, fishing tackle box, and numerous other items from the king berth. I roll the carpet up and remove the floor access covers. I’m now ready for action. UPS does its part by delivering on time, at 10:25am. I borrow a drill and bit and march my new charger down to the boat. It’s already getting hot outside, so I spread a reflective tarp over the boom for shade, peal down to my undershorts, and get to work. I’m a bit confused by 2 extra red wires which are spliced onto the red wire going from the old charger to the ignition battery. I clarify the situation with a call to Todd. They connect the battery combiner and the digitalDSCF7829 voltmeter to the ignition battery. The wire pull across the cabin floor is a pain, as I expected. I end up spraying some McLube Sail Kote lubricant on the taped splice and manage to get the wires past a tight spot.. Of course, the two wires Pro Mariner provides with their charger are about a foot too short to reach my ignition battery, so I have to splice extra wire and attach new ring connectors to the two leads. Thankfully Polestar’s shop has the necessary connectors. The last hard part is drilling the mounting holes and bolting the new unit into place. Space is so limited that getting nuts started is an exercise in braille. Almost forgot, reinstalling the batteries and getting the restraining bracket bolted up posed additional difficulties. After 5 hours of effort, everything is hooked back up and working like a charm. I’m delighted, however, my satisfaction is tempered somewhat by the disaster area which the boat has become. Another 2 hours and things are finally back where they belong. The batteries are all sitting above 13 volts, where they should be, and I have every expectation that they will perform properly going forward.

As we’re finishing dinner we hear rumbling off to the northeast. An ominous cloud is creeping our way. I hope it will miss us. We grab our shower stuff and take much needed showers (almost forgot to mention, Sandy spent a good part of her day catching up with laundry). I get back to the boat as the rain just begins to fall. I quickly take down the bug netting and close the hatches. Thus ends another lengthy and tiring work day. We’re hoping that we can relax a bit and maybe have a little fun tomorrow.

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