Saturday, August 31, 2013

Ottawa to Peoria and the IVY Club

Let's begin with a follow-up to my carp comments on the previous blog.  In all fairness to the underwater electrical barrier issue, I do believe it is doing some good because we are seeing lots of jumping carp on the Illinois River downstream of the barrier and we did not see them north of the barrier.  My real issue was with the $600 charge imposed on boaters just out enjoying their cruise and the frequent inefficiencies of the federal government.

It's hard to time a picture of the jumping carp since you never know when the carp will decide to take a leap. Also, there's a short delay in snapping the shot and the actual picture, but I did manage to get a couple.  You can see one of the carp in the lower left.  At times there would be 15  or more jumping out of the water. They jump much higher than this, and we have heard them hitting the aluminum side panels around our aft deck which is about 5 to 6 feet above the water!

Here's how bad it can get.

Apparently the carp are startled by the sound and activity of boats and their response is to jump out of the water, frequently into open boats like pontoons and fishing boats.  This is obviously a messy occurrence and can be dangerous for anyone exposed to the fish. I read one account where a woman's jaw was broken. 

In order to lessen that possibility, this guy just decided to get out of the boat and ski among them!  But he's smarter than you may think - note that he's wearing a helmet, gloves, shin guards, and is armed with a pitchfork.  The family gene pool must certainly be a "closed one where the branches don't get far away from the trunk."

But what are the odds of one of these ending up in the aft cabin of Mooring Dove?  Well, the odds must be pretty good and here's the evidence.

Folks, we are not making this up!  Becky went downstairs and found this dead carp which had flopped around making a mess of everything in their aft cabin before finally coming to rest (literally, as in dead rest) on the floor.  No telling how long it had been there but it sure made a big mess. She said there was fish slime all over the comforter, carpet, walls, and everything. Of course, the fish smell was not that pleasant either. And take another look at Mooring Dove from the side.  The carp entered the boat through one of the two small porthole windows at the rear side corner - hit it just right and knocked out the screen on entry!!!!  Oh, the excitement of traveling the Great Loop Cruise.

Anyhow, we really enjoyed Heritage Harbor in Ottawa and were glad to see Becky and Mark aboard "Mara Beel" again since they began their Great Loop Cruise and we met them at Frankfort, MI on their first day out.  They arrived just before sunset and we departed the next morning.

Heritage Harbor is definitely "Looper friendly" and we encourage anyone behind us to give them a try - you will not be disappointed. 

Mooring Dove had docked at the free Ottawa city docks and then at Starved Rock (skinny water for their 39-inch draft, as in hit bottom twice) downstream from Heritage, so they joined back up with us as we passed by and we had no delay at our only lock of the day. There's not much after that except lots of river, a few bridges, and a few factories. The Illinois River level was very low so our choices for marinas and anchorages were few, so we decided to make 74 miles to Peoria and cover some territory.  The heat was also a significant factor - a heat wave forecast to last about a week with 95 to 100+ temps every day.  It wasn't too bad as long as we were moving and thanks to our hardtop on the flybridge that reflects a lot of the sun's rays and keeps us in the shade all of the time. Rhonda decided to take some "metal" pictures, you know, bridges, factories, and such since that's all you see on these stretches of the river.  I won't show you all of them but this crane operation was interesting - working from above the bridge, over the side, and then underneath.

Several of the bridges were this green color.  Note the nice reflection in the water.

And a few factories along the way.

After a while, all of this begins to get a little boring (especially in the heat) so you start taking pictures of tree roots!  

Regardless, the river is pretty and quite peaceful.

Meet Jonathan and Brooke aboard "Salty," a C-Dory 22 Cruiser.  We first met them in Fenelon Falls, Ontario and they are having a great time on the Loop as well.  Their boat is a good example of the many types of boats doing the Loop.  Each style boat has its advantages and disadvantages.  "Salty" is smaller but has the advantage of being faster and able to access many more locations than larger boats. Consequently, Jonathan and Brooke cover more territory faster and stop at about every town and fruit stand along the way, take about an hour to get a feel for the location or town and then move on again.  

Here's a good example - they stopped at this abandoned cruise boat, went aboard with a flashlight to investigate, and said it was pretty cool. Fortunately, we did not have to bail them out of jail. Now Rhonda is wondering if they might have been our intruders at Joliet! There's no way our deeper draft would allow us to get close without anchoring out and launching the dinghy.

There were more abandoned boats on the shoreline - I assume due to a struggling economy.  I Googled the name of the one in the middle, "The Effie Afton Restaurant."  The boat, which was built in the 1940's and originally named the "Mateur," (you can still barely read the name on the stern in the second picture below) was retired in 1978 and was used as a training facility for deckhands in the state of Mississippi. After the acquisition and renovation by Mr. D. James Jumer, the boat was renamed the "Effie Afton" after the original "Effie Afton," a wooden steamer that caught fire causing the destruction of the the boat on her maiden voyage. In the heydays of the early steamers, there was a government prohibition against building any bridges across the river so as not to hinder the steamboat trade and operation.  As railroads became more popular and efficient, the ban was eventually lifted and the first bridge (wooden also) was built across the river and there was a significant battle between the two modes of transportation.  One night the Effie Afton ran into the bridge, caught fire, and the fire destroyed both the steamer and the bridge.  After a long court battle, the ruling was that the bridge was built with due consideration for the movement and safety of the steamers, effectively determining the futures of the railroad bridges and the steamers from that point.  It's a fascinating bit of history to read and all prompted by one of three boats abandoned along the shoreline of our trip this particular day.

On the other hand, the casino boats just downstream seem to be doing just fine!

Just before arriving in Peoria, there was a huge flock of white pelicans - and this is just a small portion of them.

In Peoria you have a couple of choices for dockage.  Rhonda and I were very tired and a bit drained from the heat all day, and we wanted a sure thing for electricity so we could have air conditioning for the night. The Illinois Valley Yacht Club (IVY for short) was our first available stop and had electricity and a swimming pool.  The river level was way down but the dockmaster assured me we would have enough water for our 4-foot draft. The other choice was the Peoria City Docks which are 5 miles further downstream, they have a questionable reputation like Joliet, and no guarantee of electricity.  So we chose IVY.  Here's the view from the river with the back of the club on the other side of the marina and flood walls.

The depths were not as forecast and we ran aground two times on the way in, as in stopped in our tracks. Thankfully it was all mud and we were able to work our way in.  The club was quite nice.  Here's the view from the front.  Unfortunately for the club and the surrounding area, the river level a few months ago was eighteen feet above current levels and everything was flooded - three feet of water inside the clubhouse.  This is the stuff you hear about on the news when it happens.  It's part of living along the river banks and the primary reason you don't see many towns or homes along the banks. 

This will give you an idea of how the flood levels translate to those right along the shoreline.

Galen and Becky decided to try out the Peoria City Docks.  About 2 hours later, they called and were heading back upstream to IVY also.  The docks seemed abandoned, there were questionable folks hanging around, and they just did not feel safe.  It's fascinating how these cities go to the expense and effort to build nice parks and waterfront docks, we assume with the intention for their citizens and guests to enjoy, and then let them be overtaken by troublemakers.  We would have probably stayed a couple of days and contributed some money to the local businesses and economy, but it appeared not to be worth the stop.

Next stops - Bar Island Anchorage, Grafton, and Alton.

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