Log # 6b – Mississippi to Ohio River

November 25, 1998 in Log Series 02 - 07, Series 06 Mississippi - Ten Tom to Mobile Bay, The Logs

Log # 6b РMississippi  to Ohio River

Nov. 25,1998

Pensacola Naval Airstation

We left Sioux Harbour, Missouri about 1515 on Oct. 17 after enjoying the hospitality of the St. Louis Power Squadron at a Chili Cook-off they held at the pavilion in the marina and exchanging Toronto and St. Louis Power Squadron pennants. Several of them came down to see Veleda and to see us off. However, we weren’t going very far, only down and across the river to Alton, Illinois, about 10 miles.

Alton has a beautiful full service marina with the best showers we have seen. (Complimentary soaps, shampoos, conditioners and towels in private shower rooms). We didn’t use the jacuzzi or outdoor pool, but we did have a chance to use a telephone line to receive and send out some E-mail. There was also another chili pot luck supper which we declined. We planned to fuel up, and pump out so we could hook up our Y-valve for overboard discharge (if necessary) and leave the next day.

We heard that many marinas were closed or had no pump out facilities or would not have enough water for us to enter. However, when we attempted to open our through hull for the holding tank, we discovered a crack in it, and had to close it off again immediately. As this was the first time we had opened that through hull since we have had Veleda, we think that there was probably water trapped in it since it had last been opened by the previous owner, and that this water froze during winter layup, cracking the valve, but because it remained closed for so many years it was never noticed. So we had to find out if a mechanic could replace it for us,and we had to get a through hull valve the next day.

Jim White, a member of the St. Louis Power Squadron whom we met over at Sioux Harbour the day before, kept his boat at Alton and gave us a ride to the local West Marine which happened to be back across the river up in St Charles, a delightful historic town outside of St. Louis. He was a Viet Nam vet who was the navigating officer on a USN ship over there. We exchanged “war ” stories about the U.S and Canadian Navies. When we were complaining about the lack of depths and other navigational details on the river charts, he said it was because they were done by the Army Corps of Engineers. His feelings were, “never let the army near the water” with which we concurred. After picking up the valve and a few other items (after all,it is fun shopping in a ships’ chandlery like West Marine), we went back only to find the mechanic could not install it without doing a full haul out that could not be easily scheduled. We considered doing it ourselves, but the thought of going over the side in that repulsive water to place an external patch was not appealing, so we put it off until down in the Caribbean, and would try the river and pray for pump-out facilities. Incidently, as it happened there were good fuel and pump-out facilities all the way down to Mobile, some of the pump-outs being free of charge.

So we took off the next day, Oct.19, wanting to get an early start before 0700. However, it was too foggy until 1045 when we finally slipped.We went under the bridge but had to wait another hour before we were able to get into the Alton Lock, our first on the Mississippi and cleared it at 1207. So much for our early start.

The current was strong at about 3 knots as we motored past the stainless steel arch at St. Louis and down to the junction of the Missouri River just below St. Louis. The currents there were even stronger and more confused with considerable turbulence. Here the river was about a half mile wide with more mud, debris, and logs and trees floating down. It was noticeable, but easily navigable. Also here there was an interesting and potentially dangerous inconsistency between the charts which indicated the sailing channel followed the river to the right, but a large sign pointing to the channel to the left. We took the channel to the left as we did not feel like shooting the rapids over the Chain of Rocks. Remember, “never let the army near the water.”

We were able to enter the Chain of Rocks Lock directly at 1350 and were through at 1407. Because our timing was off, we could not make it down to Hoppies Marina which was the first mooring south of St. Louis, and had to find an anchorage before dark, and so anchored at Mile 149 LBD ( Left Bank Descending) on the inside of a wide bend in the river outside of the sailing channel at 1750, about 10 minutes before sunset. It was a good anchorage, with good holding, and the current keeping us lined up parallel to the bank. There was little wake from the few barge tows that went by during the night. We still covered 45 nautical miles that day even though we got a late start and went through two locks, thanks to the current. Our normal cruising speed is 5.5 to 6 knots, but we were doing 9+ knots over the ground.

The next day, Oct. 20, we got off at 0800 and then anchored at Picayune Chute at mile 54 at 1730! We covered 95 statue miles or 82.2 nautical miles in 9.5 hours, again thanks to the current. The tows on the Mississippi River were really no greater problem than on the Illinois River as the Mississippi was wider most of the time. This chute was an offshoot of the river at the downriver side, so that we had to go downstream of it and then come upstream, feeling our way in towards shore out of the main channel. Again the holding was good. We snagged a few times, but could power upstream to pull the anchor free. We used an anchor buoy a few times but never had to rely on it to free the anchor.

As we were getting low on fuel in our tank, we topped up from our spare jerry can before setting out the next day.for the Ohio River at mile zero at 0900. We arrived at Angelo Towhead at Mile 2, just above the Ohio at 1410. During the day we hit a few submerged deadheads which caused some concern, but no damage. We had to keep a good lookout to avoid logs and debris, otherwise our self steering system did a good job, with course corrections made as necessary.

In Angelo Towhead we caught up with a trawler, Odyssey, who passed us earlier in the day. We launched the dinghy to go ashore to a fort that was supposed to be at the junction of the Mississippi and the Ohio Rivers, but gave up on walking across the mud banks leading to it, and went to visit Odyssey. While there another power boat came up and anchored upstream of both of us. They waved us over for a drink, which we did not decline. So Judy and I took Barry and Chris from Odyssey over to the Christine II to have a drink with the four people on board. Then we were joined by a small power boat of locals who were very friendly, and offered to take us into Cairo around the bend for groceries and liquor. So Judy and I went with our own shopping list and a liquor list for Odyssey and Christine .

The locals were very cooperative.and sped us around the bend to Cairo, which did not have a dock, but only a launch ramp at which we hopped off with Ed Doss, who took us up into the town, through the levy wall to a grocery store and a liquor store. Cairo (pronouced kayrow) was a sleepy town with many stores boarded up as technology and malls passed it by. However, we saw an illuminated sign on the seawall surrounding the town saying 21. We learned that the water level was 21 feet above pool level. We subsequently also saw such signs indicating the water level at Paducah up the Ohio River. The towns on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers did not have established town docks as the rivers flood so often that they are surrounded by levy walls making them look like medieval walled fortified towns. That is why there are few locations to go into marinas on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. It was not that bad on the Illinois River. Anyways we appreciated the assistance of these people to get supplies.  More of the Ohio later.