First of All –
- First time backtracking (from Polestar Marina to Illinois River confluence)
- First time with a sail out on the river
- First time receiving an American Great Loop Cruisers Association discount (gas and moorage at Alton Marina)
Portage des Sioux
- Miles Cruised today: Power: 20; Sail: (motor sailed with the jib for an hour)
- Total Miles Cruised to date: 524
- Hours Underway: 3
- Fuel: 26.1 gallons – $81
- Morning House Battery Reading: 13.1
- Wind Speed: 5 to 8 ; Wind Direction: ENE
- Daily High Temperature: 75
- Water Temperature: 82
It’s moving day, time to shove off on our way down the great Mississippi River. Batteries are all topped off, thanks to the new charger. Our goal is modest, just 20 miles downriver to Alton, IL where we’ll put in at the marina and stock up on groceries. The day starts out rainy, a continuation of the periodic downpours we experienced throughout the night. It’s supposed to clear off as the day progresses, so I don’t bother putting up the cockpit surround. This decision pays off, as the rain quits shortly after we leave Polestar Marina. The air feels fresh and cool, and the scenery is in contrast with the flat, rural country we’ve traversed on the Illinois River. Steep rocky bluffs line the river’s east bank, and some of the trees on top and bottom are tinged with fall color. As soon as the breeze gives us enough of an angle, I roll out the genoa and we are motorsailing down the Mississippi. We maintain 7.5mph with ease, at under 2500rpm, thanks to the boost from the Mississippi’s steady current, and the push of the wind. The sailing is a bit erratic, because of the bluffs, but it’s still fun having the sail out.
Shortly past noon we near Alton, an attractive town situated on a hilly site along the river. Huge grain elevators give evidence to agriculture’s contribution to the local economy. A big riverboat casino adds to the story. We pull into the marina right at the Alton highway bridge, an imposing cable stay bridge which spans the river at this point. I fill all the gas tanks on board at their fuel dock, and then get a slip assignment and we moor the boat. After checking in, we head out on foot. The marina staff tell us that the local grocery will pick us up in their car, and bring us back with our groceries. This is a very nice service for boaters such as us. I give them a call, and shortly after the butcher pulls up to give us a ride to the store. It’s a modest mom and pop type of store, but they have all the essentials, and the folks there are very friendly. After we check out, the owner drives us back to the marina. He refuses the offer of a tip, saying they really appreciate serving the boaters. We load groceries in the dock cart and wheel them down to the boat, and then go through the major project of stowing them all on board. It’s a lot of work, trimming fat off the meat, washing the apples, cleaning out the refrigerator before repacking it, and repackaging many items. Amazingly, it all finds a place, and we’re now well stocked in anticipation of continued cruising downriver. Handling all this food generates a considerable appetite, so we walk up into town in search of a restaurant. It’s Friday night and the first place we try has an hour wait, so we go further and end up at Tony’s, where we enjoy great service and excellent food. We’re thankful that it’s a bit of a walk back to the boat. After our big meals, the walk does us good. It feels so good to actually sense a chill in the air after all the heat and humidity we’ve had since leaving Chicago. One item that has helped us put up with these conditions is bath talc powder. When it’s hot here, we really powder up, and combined with our fans, we manage to stay reasonably comfortable. Lower temperatures, however, are definitely the preferred solution.
I should mention our little stowaway. This country is rife with spiders, both big and little, and as soon as we arrive at a dock, they launch their invasions. We find them and their webs everywhere. Most of the time we do our best to usher them off the boat, however, we’ve made an exception for one enterprising little spider. Our upright paper towel holder is decorated with a little ceramic lighthouse, and yesterday Sandy noticed that this little spider had spun a web between the lighthouse and the hull of the boat. He’s taken up residence near the top of the lighthouse, and from time to time actually perches atop the lighthouse. We call him our little lighthouse keeper. He’s causing no trouble, and might even do us a service if he ever manages to snag a bug in his web. We were also boarded by a green tree frog the night we anchored out, and by little toads while at Polestar Marina. As long as the invaders remain so small, they shouldn’t pose a problem.
Tomorrow should be a big day. We will cruise past the mouth of the Missouri River, and along the St. Louis waterfront. We should have great views of the famous St. Louis arch, with the rising sun. Our destination will be Hoppe’s Marina, which is a true institution among loop cruisers. It’s the last source of fuel and local knowledge along the river until we reach the Cumberland. We’re looking forward to meeting Fern Hoppe, who at 84 years old still runs the place.