Sunday —- Hoppie’s to Diversion Cut

September 12th, 2010 john Posted in The Loop Part II | No Comments »

Day: 453   Miles Today: 110   Locks Today:  00  Total Miles:  5246   Total Locks: 143

Yesterday afternoon while at Hoppie’s Marina, it was suggested by Fern that we visit the town restaurant for dinner.  Then we found out that the restaurant closed at 5:00 p.m.

So at 4:00 p.m. Gary, Maggie and I hiked it a quarter of a mile into the town of Kimmswick, MO.  There were some cute little shops around a four block area with a famous restaurant in the middle called The Blue Owl.  In fact the restaurant was not so little when we turned the corner and saw all of the parked cars.  It was all homemade food with a complete bakery attached to the restaurant.  Mary the proprietor has become very famous and even receives visits from Paula Dean.  

I had chicken fried steak and it was superb.   Afterwards we walked around the little town looking at shops.  As I walked out of my fourth shop, a golf cart pulled up along side of me.  It was Fern from the marina.  I had left my Great Loop hat and my camera on a chair in the restaurant and knowing that they close at 5:00 Fern went up to retrieve it for me.  Now that is what I call service. (Notice I skipped the part about how stupid I was in forgetting it in the first place.)

Back at the marina, I sat down with Fern and a few others and just chatted while sitting there on the banks of the Mississippi River.  She soon told me some of the history of the area, how the town got its name.  The town was a little thriving river town specializing in trading goods and a re-supply point for the old wood fired paddlewheels that came up and down the river.  Of special interest was the fact that just in front of where Hoppie’s barge docks are tied is the spot where right under the water on the same bank is a 140 foot wooden Union gunboat.  The gunboat had gotten stranded there in the ice and had been crushed and sunk.  Fern and her husband have been running this “marina” for over 37 years, and she knows the rivers.

Well, back to the saga.

We were up at predawn and on our way.  This was going to be the most miles we have traveled in one day.  We were going to try for 110 miles, no stops, no marinas, nothing but river until the Little Diversion cutoff, whatever that is.

It was a sunny clear day.  And looking down the river was amazing.  The Mississippi is truly a “mighty” river.  Again we were traveling at 12 plus mph which is fast for a trawler.  The Corp of Engineers have built many wing dams that stick out from the side of the river, just below the water.  But if you are religious and stay in the channel you are fine.  They have also built the bend-weir dams deep into the river banks on the big turns (bends) of the river.  These help erosion, etc.  However, their effect is to create large whirlpools of water.

We went around a bend and mile mark 130 that Fern had warned us about.  She said: “stay to the red buoy side of the channel and don’t let yourself meet a towboat while in that channel.”  She was right.  The bend was all whirlpools and bubbling water.  The Emery El has a full keel below the boat (bow to stern) and she reacts to the currents.

We twisted left, then right.  It was a fulltime steering job.  Then we hit one big whirlpool and the Emery El turned with the swirl so abruptly that she suddenly leaned over about 30 degrees.  The boat was fine but we completely unloaded the refrigerator onto the floor.  Broke two bottles of beer and one can of beer.  Well, the boat does not smell like a cigar anymore.

We came down the river and met towboat after towboat.  We are fortunate to have our AIS computer system that shows them coming on the chart.  It also shows us their name so each time I call them and ask how they would like to pass.  They will respond with “Ill take you on the 2’s (or 1’s).  That is old river talk left over from the days when they used ships whistles to communicate.  On the 1’s means on my port side of my boat; on the 2’s is starboard.

As we were coming down the river it was a constant steering challenge.  The river is full of debris, limbs, logs, full trees, rubber tires, etc.  You need to steer around them and you are moving so fast it is hard at times.  We thought we were doing a good job when all of a sudden THUMP-THUMP, we hit something.  Darn, after 5000 miles and almost home, we hit something and I think that it damaged my starboard prop.  I now have a vibration.

We did a thorough boat check and all is well except for the vibration.  It is only at high rpm’s, so it will probably be ok until we get back home.  I will have to pull the boat and get the props retuned.

When doing our engine check, we noticed that we had dropped some liquid from the starboard engine.  It just never stops.  Gary and I spent some time looking at it and determined that it was antifreeze from the internal cooling system on the engine.  We wiped it all up, tightened hose-clamps, etc and filled it back up.  We will have to monitor it as we travel.

At 5:00 we approached our designated anchorage at Diversion Channel.  It is a little channel that connects to the Mississippi, big enough to anchor about eight boats.  The challenge was to get into the cut.  It just so happened that there was a dead tree lying right in the middle of the opening.  Also our instructions were to pass the opening and then come back into it from the downstream side.  I swung the boat around and approached slowly.   “Slowly” is a funny word.  I was almost at full throttle but barely moving upstream.  Then when I tipped the bow toward the inlet the boat would start to slide to shore.  I had to point the boat one way and let it slide into the cut.  Once in the cut it was dead calm and a great anchorage.

We all anchored in a row with both bow and stern anchors.  The stern anchor stopped us from swinging and getting close to the bank.  That night all the boaters got in their dinghies and came over to the Emery El to celebrate a good day and to plan for tomorrow.  We had nine people and it was fun.

We were unsure of where we would go the next day.  Fern at Hoppie’s said for us to wait until we got near the first lock on the Ohio and then to call the lock master.  He would be a good source for where to anchor.  The group designated me to call the lock when we got close to the Mississippi and Ohio juncture. 

We slept well in the comfortable anchorage.

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