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!

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