Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Letting Go

  The definition of "unmoor" is to release the moorings of a vessel. I didn't know that until today, but it's what we have been in the process of doing over the last few months.
  My last blog mentioned hanging some of our pictures on the walls of Swing Set. We only have room for a hundred of them or so, but I found out that in our files there are nearly 10,000 of them. Obviously, we don't have room for all of them, and naturally, we wouldn't want to have room for all of them. They are not all pictures we'd want to keep anyway.
  I have scanned all of our photos and will begin scanning all of our documents to file on the computer. So what if the boat sinks or burns and we lose the computer? The solution has come in the way of a program called Mozy. We chose to install MozyHome on our desktop. I'm not giving a tutorial here, or a recommendation, but just some simple facts. For 50GB of memory on one computer, with a two year sign up, it amounts to about $5 per month. We'll not need that much memory, but we can add 20GB for another $2 per month if we do.
  This way, we can access our account from any computer with our password and restore our photos and documents should we have a failure. We do have a backup hard drive, but should we have a catastrophic event, the external hard drive would be ruined along with the computer. This has provided some peace of mind for us.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Making Swing Set a Home

  I took this shot of the Mississippi River at dawn on the morning we left the harbor for a trip up the Illinois River to Peoria back in 1999. It's one of our favorite pictures and until last week, it hung in a hallway of our condo, an area we called "the gallery". That's sort of a snobby way of saying "picture wall", but the fact that the "gallery" consisted of over 100 photos in an odd collection of frames gives away the joke.
  As we are getting closer to the time to move onto the boat, last week I bit the bullet and removed all the pictures from our home and hauled them up to Swing Set.

  The sunrise picture got laminated and placed in a frame and I mounted it on a wall near the dinette, but in order to get more pictures on the boat, I laminated the small ones and eliminated the frames and began sticking them to a bulkhead in our office as you can see in the above picture. You might be able to see the laminating machine on the desk, we bought it last winter just for this purpose, but we also intend to laminate any charts that we print off of the web if we want to keep them.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Questions? We Got Answers.

  We drove up to check on Swing Set last Sunday, something we try to do regularly during the winter months. We keep some space heaters on low to keep the chill off, so we turned them up a little to make it more comfortable. A mild winter has kept the ice eater from running too much, but a couple of space heaters running even on low has run up the electric bill some. We spent time hanging some photos and stowing some supplies before we relaxed and discussed our "plans".
  Rosie and I have taken our puppy Holly up to the boat several times this winter. She's getting used to her new digs on the boat. Stairs were foreign to her when we first took her on the boat, but she is getting better at negotiating the steps with each visit. Going up them is definitely an easier task than going down. She seems to be right at home with her new "potty place" in the shower stall of the day head; it's outfitted with a smaller version of a potty pad holder that she has at home. Next month she goes in for her surgery to make her an equal in the "spay and neuter" department with the rest of her crew members. (We can all set together and stare into space for hours at a time.) She should be healed up and accustomed to life aboard her new home by the time we cast off.
  We have a friend in Florida who has just been introduced to our blog and who had a whole list of questions for us in a recent email. Some of the answers to her questions will be found in the contents of the blog as she reads them, but because I found one or two of them fairly interesting myself, I thought I'd address them here, even though I'm not real fond of a lot of questions.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Herd Mentality

  We all wonder about ourselves some times, but who doesn't wonder about other people more than they wonder about themselves? What I wonder about is my capabilities to be able to accomplish what I set out to do. The other thing I wonder about more is how other people ever accomplish anything, and certainly there are others that wonder that same thing about us.
  Since starting this blog, I've had countless people remark that they had no idea that we were capable of some of the things we've done. I guess that question is legitimate. Most of our friends only see us lounging on the boat or at a party with a Bud Light in our mitts. We tend to keep our work time and play time separated by a large degree.
  Which brings us to our preparation and past experience in regard to our present endeavor.    Experience is the best teacher, but you have to start somewhere. A friend and I embarked on a canoe trip on the Meramec River back in 1972. My dad drove us out to Meramec State Park, 105 miles or so up river from our destination of Fenton, MO. Our canoe was loaded to the gills with enough camping gear and Vienna sausages to last us for a week or so; we had little idea how long the trip was going to take. We had no phone, or any other form of communication, but we did have a map, so identifying nearby towns and roads was possible. I was positioned in the stern of the canoe and my buddy sat at the bow as my dad shoved us off the bank into the swift spring waters of the upper Meramec River. I'll never forget the look on my dad's face as the canoe spun in circles in the swift current as we were engaged in our first lesson in piloting a double ended canoe.
  Three long days later we arrived at our destination with some experience under our belts. Some lessons I learned on that trip was: most importantly, how to steer a canoe; don't pitch a tent in a low lying area when it's raining; keep an eye on your travel partner that they don't eat all the sausages when you aren't looking; don't man the front of the canoe, as this person is always paddling and can't see the person behind them, (see previous item); wear gloves when paddling for long periods; and don't pick an idiot for a travel companion, (not sure even now which one of us this lesson applied to).
  Two of the books I've read in preparation for cruising full time aboard Swing Set involved people with little, or no experience for the mission that had chosen. One couple embarked on the Great Loop with little more than some basic instruction from the broker they had purchased their vessel from. They learned fast and were also lucky, but they accomplished the trip and were able to keep their marriage in tact.
  Another couple, with only some inland lake sailing experience, bought a sail boat and circumnavigated the globe, a remarkable accomplishment for even the most experienced sailor.
  There is a term for what these types of people who have done what they did with little experience and some might say they were foolhardy. One trait I think they possessed was the trait of self-confidence, and the ability to think on their feet under less than perfect circumstances. As Rosie and I meet people along our way, it's these self-confident, independent types that we will most value advice from.

Friday, February 17, 2012

More On House Cleaning

  I took a bunch of supplies up to the boat yesterday; the load consisted of all the freeze dried packs of towels and stuff that we had vacuum packed into plastic bags, and some other various odds and ends that may have some real use someday on the boat.
 Included in the vacuum bagged "stuff" was some vinyl and zippers that I had cut out of our bow pad. The bow pad was used very little as we soon found out that underway at any speed, the pad would sail up and threaten to jump ship. In fact, the first time we took Swing Set to any speed, the pad flew up and overboard in a split second. A buddy on board who is 6'3" and about 240 pounds had all he could do to salvage the pad from the river after it had soaked up several pounds of Mississippi into the foam.
  Soon after, the pad got carted back home and remained under the bed for years. The vinyl on the pad has a seam pattern that matched the bench seat in the cockpit, so last year when we decided to re-upholster the cockpit seat, we were able to use some of the vinyl from the bow pad for a perfect match. We are saving the rest for some other repairs as they are needed. The lounge on the bridge has the same pattern and we have learned that it is no longer available.
  The zippers are the big white YKK ones that can serve as replacements for zippers on the bimini as they are needed. Most of the zippers on the bimini have already been replaced, but I'm sure the canvas will outlast some of the other zippers.
  Rosie had also packed some bedding, in the form of sheets and pillow cases, that we can use as the others wear out. We probably have more bedding that we can take on board than we will need for years, but it's inevitable that stuff like towels and bedding will need to be replaced, and we'll treat an overabundance of supplies like these as perishables. We'll continue to pack Swing Set to the gills with things that will certainly be of some use someday, but finding room has already become a challenge.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cleaning House

  If you've read this blog from the start, you know about our history of living on the Meramec River and our experiences with floods. Because floods tend to "clean out your basement" occasionally, we never did acquire the amount of junk over the years like most people do. We've been able to keep things rather stream lined.
  When we moved off of the river in 1999, we packed up some boxes that didn't get opened when we moved into the city, and they stayed sealed shut when we moved to our current home over ten years ago. We changed that last night, or at least made a start.
  Our condo doesn't have much storage space. We have a storage closet in a community storage area on our floor, and we have a "utility closet" just off the kitchen that houses our furnace and has become the official kingdom of Holly, our puppy. We have a small refrigerator in there, a two drawer file cabinet, all of Holly's necessities, and two wire shelves full of boxes and bags that haven't been opened in ten years.
  Swing Set only has so much room. I feel like we have plans for every nook and cranny on board, but last night I found things that I need to make room for, and other things that just had to be thrown away. A lot of cruisers I've read about usually keep their homes intact, along with all of their "stuff", or they rent a storage unit, or leave things with family. Our intention is to get rid of everything except what can fit into a hope chest that Rosie has had since she owned her first bra. The hope chest will stay at her brother's house, and probably won't get opened again until we are dead.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


  It's mid February and the weather here today in St. Louis is about as bleak as it gets. The sky is grey and soupy, and I can barely see the Mississippi from our living room window. But still, in the haze I can see an occasional towboat making their way up river, or down, out there in the narrow channel of the St. Louis Port.
  A day does not go by when I don't think about our plan on leaving the area aboard Swing Set, and our view of the Mississippi from the windows of our condo never fail to remind us as to how near the time is coming.
  Not only did we run into most of our river friends at the St. Louis Boat and Sports Show, we attended a couple of birthday parties in the last two weeks also. The question everyone had was, "So when are you guys leaving?"
  Another one was, "Are you getting excited?"

Thursday, February 9, 2012

St. Louis Boat and Sports Show

  We are currently living in downtown St. Louis and the Boat Show opened here yesterday, just a short walk from our condo. A friend with a booth (Northwest Tire and Auto) at the show had offered to walk me in if I came down, so I had no excuse not to go.
   I shot the breeze with Mark Foppe until the show was officially open. We talked about how his tire and auto business became connected to a boat show. Not too long ago, a lot more boats were being sold, and most of those came on trailers. Mark became associated with dealers, providing hitches for vehicles, and trailer tires, and general trailer maintenance. There was also some discussion as to how the size of the show had grown smaller over the years, which is fairly understandable if not regrettable, but also how the managers at the show have changed along with how the vendors are treated.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Back Home on the Alton Pool

   The sun set at our anchorage in Quincy, Illinois and after a long day we snuggled in for a much needed night's sleep. We were keeping our options open for the long run back to the Alton Pool; our home port was over 100 miles down river, so we got up before the sun did on August 27th.
  I hailed the Quincy Lock, which was located about two miles from our anchorage. I was told that no one was locking through and that gates would be open upon our approach. I wanted to make the most of our day, so even before morning coffee, I pulled anchor and we headed toward lock 21 in the dark.
  By the time we were exiting the lock and saying our goodbyes on the radio, Rosie was already making coffee and breakfast, to eat at the helm while underway.
  The sun began warming the day up nicely as we passed the Jerry Jarrett again; while we were asleep, he was making way downriver the whole time, but had to lay along a lock wall to take on a new crew. Shift changes on the tow boats can take several hours and it's an opportunity for pleasure craft to catch up, or pass them. We gave them a shout on the radio and wished them happy travels and were met with a similar pleasant response.
  We also passed Hannibal again on our way to Lock and Dam 22. As we chugged along, the town was getting a sleepy start on it's Saturday morning.
  A little over 3 hours from pulling up our hook in Quincy, we approached the next lock and made it through without incident. Our next stop was to be Two Rivers Marina, another 2 and a half hours away.
  It was "Hog Back" weekend up on this part of the river. The event has been primarily held for years on an Island just upstream from Quincy, but as fuel prices have risen, less boats make the trip, especially from the Alton Pool.
  Two Rivers Marina was holding a "Mini Hog Back" party. As we pulled Swing Set into the harbor, we saw boaters gathering for a cruise aboard a barge like vessel powered by a mini tug boat. We took on another supply of beer and filled our water tank before deciding upon our course of action.
  It was enticing to stay for the party at Two Rivers; we had friends there and knew it would be a good party. However, the central party was to commence on the barge like vessel, and we weren't sure if a slow cruise on the Mississippi was going to "turn our crank": after all; we were already on a slow cruise of the Mississippi.
  The prospect of making our way back home and to a sure fire party that night rallied us to attempt the next two locks and 60 mile run to the Alton Pool. So, it was before noon when we pulled back out of Two Rivers and set course for home.
  We adhered to our established speed, even with the anticipation of getting "home" before 6 P.M. We entered the Alton Pool after exiting Lock and Dam 25 at Winfield and since it was late on a Saturday afternoon, the boat traffic was heavy, but a welcome sight to us.

Monday, February 6, 2012

We Head Back Down River

  Once we decided to stay put across from Fairport Landing on the previous day, we knew that we had reached the half way point of our trip. Rosie had to be back to work on Monday morning which gave us the three days equal to our up river trip, plus one extra day for unexpected incidents, to get home. So on Thursday, the 25th of August, when we woke to another gorgeous day, we pointed Swing Set south and started making our way back.

  This day also was Rosie's birthday, with her turning a young 53. I took this picture with Rosie at the helm as we started back downriver. As you can see in the picture, Rosie has resisted wearing a granny-kini, more typical for women of her age, and goes with something that has a little less material to mess with. Works for me, and apparently with some of the lock attendants.
  We really couldn't believe our good fortune as to the weather we were experiencing so far during our trip. The only clouds we had were as we entered Lock and Dam 25 as we started out, and there had been no rain at all. We can stay dry from our helm on the flybridge, and there is no helm below, but cruising is always more enjoyable when the weather cooperates.
  To maintain our 8 miles per hour speed during the upstream portion of our trip, we ran our Cats at 1200 R.P.M. I backed off that a little coming back downstream, decreasing our fuel consumption, but increasing our speed a bit with the help of the current.
  We took turns at the helm throughout the day and we breezed through 3 locks. As stated earlier, the lockmasters will allow "floating free" when locking down, so we took advantage of the privilege, saving us some time locking through. We still deploy fenders on one side of the boat, typically the "lock side" (the side of the lock away from the dam) just in case the wind catches us and we need to snuggle up against the lock wall.
  It might have been natural for us to have stayed in the same anchorages going downstream as we had used coming upstream, but time in locks and a faster speed changed all of that.
  We were making very good time, and Burlington, Iowa became our goal for the day. Burlington was only 58 miles from Fairport, but with the three locks in between, was a fairly optimistic target for a day's cruise at our speed. Burlington came into view as the better part of the afternoon had passed.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

We Make Way To Muscatine Iowa

  I'm writing today's post after just returning from spending the night on Swing Set. We attended a birthday party for a friend and the party was held closer to the boat than to our home, so it made sense to stay on the boat. We went up in the afternoon and did a few minor chores after storing a few more things from our home onto the boat, in preparation for our move in a couple of months.
  A lot of our "river" friends were at the party, and everyone was getting excited about the upcoming boating season. The predictions for flooding this year have been issued and the forecast is for very little flooding, if any, due to a low amount of snowfall up north so far.
  If you follow my blog via the RiverBills website, you know that the St. Louis Boat and Sports Show is coming up this week and nearly everyone was talking about attending the show on RiverBill's Night at the Boat Show on the 9th of February.
  Another thing worth mentioning is that today is Superbowl Sunday! But we are happily back at home after going to a birthday party on Friday night, driving up to the boat and going to the party last night, then driving home this morning. Typically, another party would be on our agenda for today, but we are taking a pass. I actually was looking forward to writing this post as I drove home from the boat; so here we go...
  On August 24th, we were up early after a peaceful night. The previous day was a long one, we traveled about 90 miles and transited two locks and one railroad swing bridge. We wanted a jump on this day as we had two locks to go through before we would arrive nearly 40 miles upriver at Fairport Landing, where we had planned on getting fuel.
  There was nothing remarkable about our lock through at Lock and Dam 17, or the next one at the town of Muscatine, Iowa, Lock and Dam 16. That's my recollection anyway.
  We had made very good time, still chugging along at 8 miles per hour, and it was still before noon as we exited Lock and Dam 16 and made way to Fairport Landing. I started regretting our plan to fuel up at Fairport, because no one would be there to sell us fuel until after noon, so we had to wait. I called the next marina that had diesel. That marina was in Rock Island, Illinois, and it would take us the rest of the afternoon to get there, as it was several miles upstream, plus there were two more locks to transit.
  A young girl answered the phone and I inquired as to the availability of diesel. She said that they had some, and I asked the price and it was acceptable, but then I asked how fresh the diesel was. Now, some of my readers here might wonder why I asked that question, but my readers with diesel engines in their boats would know that bad diesel fuel is common if it sits for a long time. I've clogged up our Racors before from taking on old fuel as algae grows in it if moisture is present. The very nice girl looked in her records, and even she was surprised to learn that they had last taken a diesel fuel delivery on the previous September, nearly a year ago.
 We weighed our options: We had had three travel days and gone through 9 locks so far. Adding two more locks up and then two more coming back from Rock Island to get stale fuel did not seem appealing to us at all. We made our decision to wait for the fuel at Fairport, and then spend the rest of what was a beautiful day on the hook, catching sun and swimming, and possibly having a beer or two.
  I pulled off of the channel and motored over to the fuel dock at Fairport Landing. The seediness of the place was not apparent from the channel, but up close, the place was definitely no beauty. In the interest of brevity, let's just say that Fairport Landing had seen better days. But, I was thoughtful of the pleasant conversation I had had with the owner on the previous day, and I was confident that the fuel was as fresh as he had promised.
  We waited at the fuel dock and I took some trash up to the dumpster. There was a restaurant on the property, but it being a Wednesday, I had doubts if they would even be open later in the evening, but I made a mental note. The owner showed up and we took on 252 gallons. Swing Set ran a total of 37 hours upstream burning 6.73 gallons per hour. At our speed, but running against the current, we only got a little better than one mile per gallon for our 244 mile trip. Not really bad, but I expected better fuel mileage.
  I followed the owner into the restaurant to settle up the bill and get some beer and ice. The interior of the restaurant had some real character and the looks of the outside were deceiving; it was nice and neat inside, there was the largest beer can collection I had ever seen lining the walls in glass cases. There was a big corner bar and lots of tables and a game room with pool tables. I got a history lesson about the place and was told they'd be open that evening for sure and Wednesday nights were one of their busiest. I was sold.

  We took Swing Set across the river out of the channel where the fella at Fairport told us was some good anchoring, set a hook, and popped a few cold ones and took some sun. The picture above shows the best way to drink a beer while sunning your back side, even if the theory of drinking beer through a straw gets the alcohol to your brain quicker is true or not.
  There was a nice breeze spinning our wind generators and we had all the windows and hatches open, it was a perfect day to lounge around and think about starting our return downriver on the next morning. As the afternoon wore on, I kept watch on the parking lot at the restaurant across the river with my binoculars, and sure enough, by 5 o'clock, quite a few cars had already arrived.

Friday, February 3, 2012

We Enter Iowa On Our Mississippi River Cruise

  We didn't get such an early start on Tuesday morning as we had the previous day. I mopped down the decks, using the heavy morning dew, as Rosie made us breakfast and we ate it on the hook.
  It's only fair for me to tell you that at the time of this trip, I had no intention of writing a blog; so the only notes I have is the ones on our fuel log. I'm using charts of the Mississippi and my scant memory to reconstruct our itinerary, along with some of the few photos I took. Details may be sketchy. I'm not one to enter every turn, or engine room check, into a logbook; seems too much like work to me. Recreational boating should not be a chore.
  That heavy morning dew indicated an upcoming bright sunny day, and weren't disappointed. One hour after pulling up anchor we motored into Lock and Dam 20 at Canton, Missouri, mile marker 343. As far as I remember, it was uneventful. The Mississippi became a bit twisty and curvy after the Canton Lock, with lots of islands and sloughs. The Des Moines River came into view on our left at mile 361, marking our entry into Iowa territory.

  As we neared Keokuk, Iowa, commercial traffic was heavy as there was a lot of industry along the river bank. The picture above shows Rosie on the bow as we approach Lock and Dam 19 at Keokuk. This dam is a hydro-electric outfit; supplying electricity for the city of Keokuk and surrounding areas.
  Our Quimby's guide told us that we would be rising quite a bit in this lock, some 18 feet or so. Compared to some locks on the Tennessee River down south, this elevation rise isn't much, but was considerably more that the 6-8 feet rises we had experienced on our trip so far.
  Rosie got the fenders ready after we called the lockmaster and was directed into the chamber. We were instructed to utilize the floating bollards, so Rosie wrapped a line from a midships cleat, and held the other end in case the bollard hung up. I stayed at the helm with engines running "just in case". As we floated up inside the lock, the attendant was close by and very chatty. It may have been the fact that Rosie may have been the first woman in a bikini he had seen all day. May have been the first one he had seen all summer.

  You can see here in this picture of how scarred the lock walls were in this lock, but that's typical of many of the locks we had encountered. The bollard sits in a channel within the lock wall, so proper fendering, and not allowing the vessel to drift too much forward or backward is critical for keeping the boat from getting damaged.
  We gave our customary thank you and goodbye as we left the Keokuk Lock. Our lock attendant gave us instructions for our return in a couple of days. I felt confident that announcing the approach of pleasure craft Swing Set on our way back through would be met with courtesy and consideration.
  The Keokuk Boat Club is on the left going upstream as you depart the Keokuk lock. We were given a recommendation from a friend in our area as the the quality of the restaurant there, but it wasn't time to eat and we otherwise didn't see any activity going on, so we kept going.
  The pool above the Keokuk lock is very broad. It may be the widest part of the Mississippi River we had ever encountered. I could see where a good wind would make for some treacherous boating, but we were to have none of that as we enjoyed the change of scenery.
  All of our dealings with lockmasters had been as pleasant as could be, but our next encounter with someone that had "authority" didn't go so well.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cruising Up the Mississippi Into Mark Twain Country

  I awoke on the morning of 8/22 just as daybreak came. I had been up a couple of times during the night. Not because I couldn't sleep, but the few beers I had meant at least one extra nature call, but more importantly was to confirm that we were still held fast with the anchor. It's just something I do when on the hook.
  I started the coffee and checked the weather forecast, along with my email. I knew that our next lock was 16 miles upstream, so what lay ahead was at least a two hour early morning cruise before we had to deal with another lock.
  Although we were not on a schedule, we only had three or four days to make our way upstream; I had a desire to at least get past the Iowa border, and the uncertainty of lock delays motivated me to get underway earlier rather than later. I checked the vitals in the engine room and climbed to the flybridge to prepare for our departure.
  Once I got the anchor up, Rosie had finished the coffee, made the bed, and joined me at the helm. After enjoying a cup of coffee and watching the sunrise, Rosie made us breakfast sandwiches in the galley to eat at the helm.
  After breakfast, Rosie utilized the morning dew to mop down the deck while I manned the wheel. No point in wasting a good water source.
  My recollection was that we slipped through Lock and Dam 22 quite easily at mile marker 301. Note that there is no Lock and Dam 23; I don't know why. Five miles upstream from Lock 22 is the town of Hannibal, MO, boyhood home of Mark Twain. There is a marina there, and a dock for transients, but we had visited Hannibal several times by motorcycle, so we waved at some onlookers and pushed on at our break neck speed of eight per.
  It was past mid-day when we arrived at the Quincy Lock at mile marker 325, due to our early start. We had visited Quincy by boat two times before; an annual event called Hog Back is always held the weekend before Labor Day, and we had made the trip there twice but not with Swing Set. We pulled into the slough where the Art Keller Marina and the Quincy Boat Club are located, just to say "Hi" to no one in particular, and to see if things still looked the same since our last visit in 2005. Once we left the Quincy area, we were in new territory for us, as we hadn't traveled this far upriver by boat before this.
  When we had gotten to LaGrange, MO, it was early, around 3 P.M., but we had transited two locks already and if we had attempted the next lock- through, we may have found ourselves looking for a suitable anchorage too late in the day. As it was, across from LaGrange was an island, aptly named LaGrange Island; my Navionics app on the iPhone showed good depth on the downriver approach if we slipped behind the island just between the bottom of it and a wing dike jutting from the Illinois shore. I nosed Swing Set into a long, deep slough and set a good hook.
  Considering the early hour, I dropped the dinghy into the water and we went exploring. There were some beaches back downstream where some boats were enjoying a quiet Monday, but when we backtracked with the dinghy to share a beer or two with them, they had already made for home. Word gets out, I guess.
  We turned the dinghy back around and traveled back upstream to check out the town. There was a municipal dock where we could have tied up the dinghy and went for a couple of beers and had dinner in town, but we came on this trip to enjoy the boat, not sit in a town, so after some sight seeing, we motored back to Swing Set and fired up the grill.
  As Rosie enjoyed some late afternoon rays, I did some scrubbing on the stern of Swing Set and wiped the dinghy down and put it back on the davits. By the time we had finished our nightly river bath, dinner was ready and we relaxed at the dinette with our "home cooked" meal.
  As the sun set, I tried to catch some fish but didn't even get a bite. We might have scared the fish with the river baths; the nerve of them fishes!

Shake Down Cruise Continues

  We headed upriver to Lock and Dam 25, the first lock of our trip, which is about 10 miles upstream from our anchorage behind Two Branch Island. The only plans we had for our week long cruise was to just travel upstream, and to travel at an economical speed.
  The only other "long range" cruise we had taken with Swing Set was during the first summer we had her. It was a trip to Peoria, Illinois, on the Illinois River; roughly a 320 mile round trip, and we only took a long weekend for it. We traveled at cruising speed, for the most part, which on Swing Set, is around 26 M.P.H. At this speed, fuel burn is substantial, and the size of the boat wake is unfavorable. We wanted to find a reasonable speed to travel at with a favorable fuel burn.
  This time we had a whole week, so traveling slow was not objectionable. The hull speed of Swing Set is around 9 M.P.H. Exceeding that speed would necessitate us getting on plane, increasing fuel burn, and greatly increasing the boat wake. I had set a ballpark figure of 8 M.P.H. for our speed; fast enough so that we wouldn't get too bored with the views, yet slow enough for some economy. There is a most "efficient" speed for our boat, but this is not necessarily the most economical. Once you put the transmissions in gear, fuel usage is always an upward curve, it's only the curve that fluctuates, but it always increases. You always want to get where you are going eventually, so some throttle is required, and overcoming a 2-3 M.P.H. current is also something to consider. I had no idea how much range Swing Set had at 8 M.P.H., but I knew where fuel was available; I also knew that in the simplest scenario, if we traveled upriver against the current, if we just turned around once we were at 1/2 fuel, it would just be a matter of turning around to get us home without running empty.

  I don't get too bogged down with planning for a cruise like we were on. Being very comfortable with overnight anchoring, we were just seeing how far upstream we could travel in 3-4 days at an economical speed, to determine a reasonable range for our vessel for future travel.
  In the picture above, Rosie is consulting our Quimby's Inland Waterway Guide as we approached Lock 25 at Winfield. There are no charts in the Quimby's Guide, but the Locks are described, along with listing of towns and marinas along the route. Our Guide is at least ten years old, but the locks don't move, and the towns don't move, and marinas generally stay in business. For river travel, a guide like Quimby's, a good pair of binoculars, and a marine radio is really the only essential equipment needed.
  Our routine for approaching obstacles like locks and low bridges on the river is to call them on the appropriate channel with our marine radio once we have established visual contact; which on a straight section of the river is about 4 miles away. With our binoculars, we could determine if the gates on the lock were open or not, giving us an idea on how long a wait might be.
  Once we contacted the lockmaster at lock 25, we were told that a "southbound tow" was just hooking up and we would be able to lock through in about an hour. Since leaving our anchorage at Two Branch, the sky had become overcast and the wind had kicked up some. We approached the lock, but stayed out of the way behind the dam, and dropped the anchor to wait.
  Waiting for our turn to lock through is a good time to consult charts or guides and find out how far away the next lock is; even with no established plan, it's a good idea to have some concept of where our location may be toward the end of the day.
  In addition to our two pairs of binoculars, two permanent VHF radios, one handheld VHF radio, onboard GPS, radar, and depthfinder, I had installed a Navionics application on my iPhone for inland rivers. I have a holder for the iPhone at the helm with a plug and charger, and the phone is hard wired with a plug to our stereo system, so I can consult the charts on the iPhone while playing our favorite music and also get phone calls and check email from the bridge.
  As the southbound tow exited the lock I pulled up the anchor and watched for the light to signal permission to approach the chamber. Usually an accommodating lockmaster will also call on the radio to give permission. Some contact is usually made while entering the chamber to receive any special instructions from the lockmaster. Although there are specific rules published by the Corps of Engineers, each lockmaster is different and has different policies on how they run things; it's always important to remember that they are king of the realm, and what they say goes.