Day 374: Friday, September 13, 2013
Port to Port: Joliet to Ottawa, Illinois
Underway: 6:28 am Motor Off: 0:00 pm Miles Traveled: 48 Stayed At: Free Dock
First Things First: Saw our first asian carp on the Illinois; locked through with a tug/tow for the first (and last) time; listened to our first high school football game just across the river from our dock.
We started “early, early, early” today just as the sun was giving us a nice glow on the horizon. Our first lock was only a couple miles downstream and we waited for a tow to pass our dock (after coming up through the lock) and headed down and through the lock without issue. We were joined by Tahoma – a Looper boater who docked after dark last night and that we haven’t had the chance to meet yet. One down, two more to go. Will the lock gods be with us?
No, they won’t. We had the same challenges as the other Loopers before us – long delays waiting for tows to go through the locks. Yesterday, a bunch of Loopers had to wallow above one of the locks while a large tow locked through in two pieces and reassembled itself before they could enter – it took almost 4 hours. We had a similar experience with the Dresden Lock. A huge tow had priority even though we got to lock well before them. They unhooked and loaded half their load, backed out, let out the water, towed the barges out with a huge winch system, brought the water back up and loaded the last half with tug for another ride down. We luckily spent all this time chatting with a Looper boat we had not met yet – Jim and Margaret on Tahoma – and the time flew by. They are doing the Loop in one month/year increments on a 27’ boat. They are from the Portland area in Washington.
The excitement started when the lockmaster asked us if we wanted to lock through with the tow. Even though we had been warned by Spiritus that they would never do this again we had to learn the hard way why. All went well getting tied up and going down. It was actually an interesting experience up to this point. The learning curve started ramping up when the tug started slowly moving forward to reconnect the first load. The current swirling around in this small space at the back of the lock was wild. This was manageable but tiring and went on for at least 15 minutes when he really hit the throttle to push the load downstream. Keep in mind, we are both hanging onto two long ropes 20+ feet down in the lock basically at the whims of the current. It was not for the faint of heart. One strong eddy caught us both and our bows swung out so far and hard that both bow lines had to be dropped. That is not good. I dropped the stern line and luckily Boris started on the first pull and I kept Aurora planted straight back in the prop wash behind the tug. I was able to slowly crab sideways back to the wall where we miraculously picked up the guidelines again and held on till the tow was out of the lock and we were safe to leave. Tohoma sat sideways against the back wall with only one line until an eddy swung their bow back around and they were okay again. We just keep learning every day. Moral of the story: Listen to your elders!
After our adventures the rest of the day went smoothly. We locked through the last lock with Sun Gypsy and Bucket List (somehow they were behind us again), and we continued on a little less than an hour to the free dock in Ottawa. We enjoyed a nice spaghetti dinner before doing a couple boat projects (get gas and clean up a little) and planning our day for tomorrow. Only one lock tomorrow – will we get lucky this time?