Log #5e Into the Mississippi River

October 31, 1998 in Log Series 02 - 07, Series 05 Chicago - Illinois River, The Logs

Log #5e Into the Mississippi River
Oct. 31,1998

Midway Marine

Ten Tom Waterway
( This is the date and location at which I completed this part.)

As we neared the end of the Illinois River, we stopped at the Illinois River Dock Restaurant for lunch. It was recommended to us by a couple of other boaters we met in one of the locks. It had a small barge along the shore with a walkway to a parking lot and the restaurant. The food was quite economical and tasty. The owner came over at least three times with a plate of his specialty for us to taste  We enjoyed the food so much we ordered a brisket and a spicy chicken to take with us and to heat up for supper.

We planned to stop at Pere Marquette Park just before the Illinois River empties into the Mississippi at a town called Grafton. There was a camber with docks inside it. However when we tried to enter we got stuck on a mud bar. We were told there was sufficient depth to enter, so we backed off and tried again a few feet farther downstream from our first attempt. No go! We grounded again. This time we had a harder time backing off. Finally, we launched our dinghy, but kept it hooked on to our dinghy tow arms. I started up the dinghy and put it in full ahead while Judy had Veleda’s engine hard astern. The combination of the two engines got us off.

It was now 4:30 and it got dark by 6:15 or so, and here we were at the junction of the Mississippi and the Illinois river with no anchorage in sight. We motored down to Grafton which is just on the Mississippi and refueled at a small barge dock there. The river mouth was very wide with a stronger dirtier current, and one which carried down a lot of debris, including logs and entire trees. We wanted to find an economical place to leave Veleda for a week as I wanted to fly out to Salt Lake City to visit a Mormon friend I met in Japan, and Judy wanted to visit her family in Toronto. However, dusk at the juncture of these two rivers was no time to start shopping for marina storage. So we asked at the fuel dock where there was an anchorage, and were directed a mile downstream on the Missouri side off the main channel between some islands.

So off we went down the Mississippi and over to a set of islands in the growing dusk. The current was something else. Rather than the gentler one to one and a half knots of the Illinois we now had a three or four knot current pushing us down. We crossed over to the Missouri side and went below one island into the recommended anchorage area. We grounded! In a four knot current just after sunset! Again we couldn’t get off until I lowered the dinghy and did the tow and reverse routine again. That dinghy tow system was a very good investment for us. We can tow the dinghy astern of us, with the motor on and the gas tank and life jackets strapped into it for rapid deployment and use. But ‑ now I found myself in a dinghy attached to Veleda and having to climb out of it back into Veleda in a four knot current! I made it O.K. and then we had to decide if we would try again to get into the island group to anchor. We saw another sailboat over by the islands, but we were not sure if it was under way or at anchor.

We tried again, but leaving more distance from the island upstream in case there was a long sandbar down stream of it. We felt our way through, not relying on our depth sounder, and a couple of times feeling our keel plow a furrow in the bottom mud, and hoping that we would not ground ourselves deeper in it. We finally got between the islands and started heading upstream We lowered our heavy 35 pound plow anchor with 50 feet of chain and twenty feet of rode in what we thought was about five or six feet of water. We draw four and a half feet. It held firmly in the muddy bottom. Anchored at last!

It is a strange feeling to be anchored and see a four knot current flowing past you boat. Then the thumps! We were startled. The debris floating downstream was hitting the boat and we could do nothing about it. A few branches would catch on the anchor rode. We would hear a thump, then a series of clunks as a log bumped down the side of the boat. The other sail boat weighed anchor and left shortly after we anchored. Did they know something we did not? Was there going to be a downrush of water as they opened some of the dams further up, or would the water level drop as they closed the dams to reduce the water flow below the Missouri River which entered the Mississippi just six miles below us? Would we ground? We spent a night filled with uncertainty and clunks all night long.

We survived and will set forth our journey down the Mississippi in Logs # 6.