Tuesday, January 24, 2012

First Boat Watch of 2012

  Dock space availability here on the Alton pool is cyclical. In 1998, when we brought our 28' Formula up from Lake of the Ozarks, it seemed that there were no slips available to lease or rent. We asked around, inquiring at the marinas we knew about, and also asked some friends we knew that boated in the area, and found out that after the mass exodus after the 1993 flood, people had been returning to the river in large numbers and slips were hard to get. We stopped by My River Home, a nice harbor in Portage Des Sioux, where we had known the owner for about eight years. Mike Dalwitz was full up like everyone else, but he made accommodations for us by moving a boat out of one of his slips he used for boats that were for sale. We stayed at My River Home until we bought Swing Set in 2005, along with the dock-o-minium where it was berthed. What I mean by dock availability being cyclical, is that flooding on the Mississippi is only natural, and when the farm fields get flooded every so often, so do the roads leading to all the harbors; people can't use their boats, or get to them, so they move to one of the nearby lakes. We have moved our boat to the Lake of the Ozarks twice for similar reasons, only to tire of the weekly drive, or the boat traffic, and then move operations back to a closer location. Once we bought Swing Set, we remained committed to the Alton Pool, and if we were to stay employed, would always keep our boat there, and the Duck Club Yacht Club is a fine place to keep a boat.

  A friend took this picture last Saturday at the Duck Club. The view is of the lighthouse at the entrance of the harbor, which is just at the downriver end of the Dardenne Slough as it flows into the main channel, around mile 222RDB on the Mississippi.
  The Dardenne Slough is home to many fine harbors and marinas on this area of the Alton Pool, some with service departments and fuel, but the Duck Club has neither. What the Duck Club does have is dock slips that you can purchase, and an on sight Harbormaster to keep an eye on things, along with the finest restaurant on this area of the Mississippi. The club is private, and memberships are required, but transient boaters aren't turned away; there is a transient dock just inside the harbor entrance. More can be learned about the Duck Club on its Facebook page or Website. Just search Duck Club Yacht Club.

  This is a picture of the clubhouse at the Duck Club in warmer weather. The pool is out front next to a very nice deck to have dinner and catch the sunsets. There is the Starboard Room for private parties just off of the pool area, a fine dining room, and the bar area with plenty of T.V.s and a fine bar staff. The menu and food is phenomenal.
  We visit our boat all through the winter, at least weekly, but the Duck Club Condo Owners Association hosts two "Boat Watches" during the winter where the clubhouse is open to members to BYOB and a dish, to share for a potluck meal, and to have an afternoon of catching up from the holidays with friends you only see on the river.
  We arrived at the harbor early last Saturday and were the first to arrive. There are a few live aboards at the Duck Club, but they were tucked away snug in their boats, and the quiet was only broken by the sound of all the ice eaters churning away as the temperature was in the 20's when we creeped down the icy ramp to our dock.
  Again, the cyclical nature of dock slip availability is evident in the number of empty slips at the Duck Club; one reason being the time of year, but more importantly is the economy, plus high water for the last two years has chased some boaters back to the various lakes in our region. I mention this because I think owning a dock is the way to go, long term, and if we were staying here in Missouri, we would have kept our dock-o-minium at the Duck Club, but as it is, we were fortunate to have sold it last spring and are now leasing so we can skedaddle when we are ready.
  We boarded Swing Set with our new pet bundled in our arms, and was met by much warmer temperatures inside the boat. We keep a couple of space heaters going throughout the winter months not only because we like to visit the boat occasionally, but I think a more constant temperature in the boat is better for the materials inside the boat.
  After spending some time setting up Holly's "room" in our day head, and getting the temperature up to a warmer level, we left her to guard the boat and walked up to the clubhouse. (We brought her up later for a "viewing"; take note fellas, women can't see a bank account, but they can readily see a puppy.)
  There were a few early birds already in attendance, and it wasn't too long before the food table was overflowing and the place was packed with "boat watchers". We had invited some friends that were not members, but had boats in the area, and they had checked on their vessels and came by for a snack and a beer or two. We try not to miss a chance to show off our club; it's good for attracting new members and potential dock owners.
  Our conversations these days always are centered around our future plans for cruising and living aboard Swing Set full time, and most of the people we meet know that the time for making the jump is getting closer. As I have mentioned here on the blog, it is still assumed by a few that doing the Great Loop is the only reason for our departure; so it was only natural for the topic of doing "The Loop" came up.
  It was one of our more elder statesmen at the Duck Club that remarked that when he and his wife had first purchased their vessel years ago, the intention was to do the Great Loop, but shortly afterwards, one of the other members of the club returned from his trip around the circle and gave a presentation of his travels. Our boater friend stated that the presentation was so thorough, and so professionally done, that he no longer felt the need to do the Loop, since he felt that he had experienced it by virtue of the fine presentation that he had witnessed. I thought about that for a couple of seconds before I said, "I have to admit to seeing more than one X-rated film in my years, but that doesn't mean that I am ready to abandon my carnal pursuits".
  A good laugh was had by that statement, and I noticed more than one gleam in the eye of a couple of the older boaters gathered around, but I don't know if it was from a renewed interest in doing the Loop, or if it was from something else entirely.
  We are in no way ready to make the permanent move to Swing Set, but we are making plans to do so. We've picked a date and are planning a Bon Voyage party. We are tying up loose ends economically and we see a way to realistically make it happen soon. Swing Set may not ever be entirely ready, but with a couple more projects to do when the weather breaks, she will be as ready as she needs to be. I don't mind winging it.
  I know this: I do not want to advance into older age, or have our health fail, and not have taken the chance to fulfill our dream. We want no regrets, and we hope that this telling of our experience in the planning, and the ongoing tale of our travels, will only inspire others to do the same.
  I want to thank all those who have offered kind comments regarding my efforts here. I'll try to find something interesting to say until our departure time approaches, but until then, please be patient.

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