Log #5c Illinois River

October 27, 1998 in Log Series 02 - 07, Series 05 Chicago - Illinois River, The Logs

Oct. 27, 1998
Tennesee River
on board Veleda IV

Hi again folks,

This may be the second E‑mail you may get from me today as I have not sent out the last one yet, and will probably be able to send both of these at the same time. I had a problem with Log #5b as I saved it on a disc. However, I could not use a cut and paste command to place it on the bottom of the message. I must have poked around this computer for three or more hours, frustrating myself at my incompetence with it. I think I have it now as an attached file, but I will not be sure until I have sent it out and one of you reply that you received Log#5b which talked about watching barges go by my anchorage at night. When I call up the save later message, it does not actually show the attachment’s content, but just the attachment file number. I liked the slogan on the Missouri licence plates which said it was the “Show Me State”. I would like to visually see what is being sent out, not just a number of a file.

 “Dumb computers!”

Oh well, I will save these logs on my hard drive and use the old cut and paste method for this and will stick to it until I learn how to confidently use the disc commands. It will clog up my hard drive, but so be it. I would gladly give any of you a free week on board in the Bahamas if you could teach me how to use this infernal contraption properly.

Here goes for Log #5c

Take care,


Log #5c

Illinois River

Oct. 27,1998

The last log entry #5b left off at our first river anchorage on the downstream side of Sugar Island. In addition to the barge traffic while at anchor, another concern was anchoring in a river current. The current of the Illinois was only one to one and a half knots. The river bottom was mud and therefore good holding ground. The current kept us from swinging much. The only wave action was a bit from the barges about 100 feet out in the main channel. It was still a bit disconcerting to be anchored and to see water flowing past the boat.

The weather continued grey and cloudy. The river was calm and there was little wind. In the mornings a mist came off the water until about 0900. It created a very tranquil atmosphere. As we motored down the river the next day, we saw more and more great blue herons and white egrets on the shoreline. We saw bald eagles and hawks as well. Then we noticed some large ugly birds with long necks, red colouring around their heads and hooked beaks. They were VULTURES, Turkey Vultures to be exact, as we looked them up in our bird book. However we still enjoyed watching all the bird life along the river shores.

We went through two more locks, Marseilles Lock and Starved Rock Lock before anchoring again just below a small island called Clark Island. Above Starved Rock Lock, we wanted to anchor and dinghy over to the lock where there was a Corps of Engineers museum. There was no place to tie up at the lock, and our two attempts to anchor above it resulted in dragging an anchor and a grounding. We went a mile up to a marina, had lunch, and asked if we could leave the boat there for an hour or so while we went to the lock museum. We called a cab from the local town, but when it came a half hour later we were informed that it would be $10.00 for the trip from town to the marina, plus the cost to the lock, and of course another $10.00 plus the return fare to get back to the boat. We did not feel like paying $25.00 to $30.00 to see a museum for a half hour, so we paid the cabbie $10.00 for his trip out and sent him back. From now on we will always ask what the cost will be for a cab to come out to whatever marina we are at before sending for it, as marinas are often well outside of local communities.

We were going to launch the dinghy and motor down to the lock, but it was raining and we didn’t need the hassle. However as we were leaving, I told our waitress of our frustration and she responded by asking us to take her car, as it was only two miles down the road. We did, and were very appreciative of her consideration. Thank you Starved Rock Marina Restaurant.

When we came to weigh anchor from Clark Island, we found we were aground, and had to do some swivelling of the boat to free us of the suction. However we had chosen a good location as any current was taking us off the mud, not pushing us on. We were in too close or the water level may have dropped over night. The authorities can raise or lower the water as required for navigation or drainage. In the lakes we refer to chart datum for the reference to depths. In the river they refer to “Pool Level”, and variations are above or below “Pool Level”. The river charts do not indicate depths. They indicate the sailing channel in which a minimum of 9 feet is maintained for the barge traffic. They indicate no depths outside of the channel, so when venturing beyond the buoyed channel we have to feel our way. The river is a muddy brown and does not permit any visibility through the water to see rocks, shoals, or sand bars.

In addition to these restrictions, our depth sounder is not fully operational, as when the water starts to become shallower in 10 to 15 feet, the sounder goes crazy, cycling all over the place for several seconds then briefly indicating the true depth, then recycles again, and so on. It is very frustrating. We have had it checked before we departed and had the same problem. We replaced the transducer in Chicago, but still have the same problem. We will contact the SR Mariner company once more and if not fixed, we will have to buy another depth sounder, as this is a crucial piece of equipment.

At the lock museum, we had a chance to get a bird’s eye view of locking through a large tow. They can accommodate a maximum of nine barges i.e. three wide and three long. With a large fifteen barge tow, the tow is broken and the first nine are manouevred into the lock by pulleys on the lock wall, and when the locks open upstream or downstream, they are again pulled out to a waiting wall by pulleys.

                                                  (First batch of nine barges pulled through)

The locks are closed again and lowered or raised to then accept the last six barges plus the tow boat.

                                                 (Last six barges pushed through by the tow boat)

When this last part of the tow is raised or lowered and and the locks opened, the tow is reconnected and proceeds on its way. A couple of times, when going the opposite direction to the tow, we have been able to get into the lock between these two sections being lifted or lowered. We have to manoeuvre between the barges at the waiting wall, and around large concrete cells to get into the lock. It is tight, but manageable.

On Oct 3 we arrived at the IVY Club (IVY stands for Illinois Valley Yacht), and a much needed rest and “pitstop,” hooked up to shore power, with showers and laundry facilities. More about this lovely yacht club and the friendly people there in my next log.