Day 151, September 25, 2012 (City of Chicago, Peoria Heights to Alton, IL, and St. Louis, MO):

  • Chicago
  • Peoria
  • Havana
  • Hardin
  • Alton
  • St. Louis, MO

Miss us, yet? You haven’t heard or seen much of us in almost two weeks. We have been tied up with the High Holidays, friends, and almost family in Chicago. Today, on the eve of the Day of Atonement we are with more friends in St. Louis. Let’s see some highlights of where we have been. We are cherry-picking photos because we have so many. We are saving a selection for publication after we return to Charleston. At the left is the Japanese Garden in the Chicago Botanic Garden, a must see!


We calculated that leaving the boat in Chicago for two weeks to be outrageously expensive and not very secure. We moved on down to the Illinois Valley Yacht and Canoe Club, left Sequel at the dock, and drove back to Chicago, 160 miles. Including  the rental car the adventure was about a third of the cost of the Chicago Harbors marinas and very secure.

After a week of schmoozing with old friends, Susie and Juda (left), and friends of friends we were anxious to get back aboard.

A word about IVY Club: it is shallow getting in but then in Charleston we just call it thick water. The water is low with perhaps a foot under the keel at the entrance, which is well marked. Inside the north harbor the water is a little deeper but heavily populated with attack carp. IVY Club is an excellent facility. They have a good restaurant; the only competition is a bar across  the road that has a limited menu. There is no shopping nearby. Rides are available into the village of Peoria Heights, a pleasant place with restaurants, a market, shops, and a mom-and-pop hardware store. Paul, the club manager, is very helpful.

Below is a sunrise on the Illinois River after we picked our way out of IVY  Club, no doubt plowing new ground. The mist rising from the river gives the scene a surreal appearance that cannot be truly represented in a small web image.

The shore line of the the Illinois even where it is most picturesque is dotted with abandonned, decaying, and derelict property. This is an example.  On our way to Havana, we were treated to a variety of bird sightings: white pelican, heron of several varieties, and American bald eagles. Another interesting bird was Bill in  a canoe (below, right). Yes, Bill is doing the loop in a canoe and will cross his wake in Grafton.

Havana reminded me of Dead River, ON—dead! When you can walk down the center line of Main Street shooting pics, ain’t nuttin’ much happ’nin’. The town centers around a huge farm  equipment sales and service place. There is a Dollar General that sells some food items but the real market is out of town on another planet. Getting  into the Tall Timbers Marina is a bit of a chore. The pass is about 17 feet wide and filled with thick water. Killer carp guard the entrance. To enter you need to ease on downstream in the river and line yourself up between a stick and the north bank of the pass pointing northeast. You don’t get a second chance and do miss the pontoon boat on the right as the pass doglegs to the left without much swing room for the starboard quarter. Thruster, throttles, shifters, and holding your mouth the right way and you are in. Don’t even try to steer unless you have only one wheel. Once in, you are fine—plenty of space to swing and rumba. Your first mate can take batting practice on the fantail  with your favorite ginpole to keep the carp out of the boat as there must be a million of them on the bottom of the little harbor. At the left, Edie perches in the wheel of a harvester. Below right, I am walking down the middle of the street shooting pics.

Hardin, about 20 miles north of the confluence of the Illinois and Big  Muddy, is a waypoint if you take the long day’s run from Havana destined for Grafton or Alton, good holding points for visiting St. Louis. Grafton is 20 miles from Hardin, Alton 14 miles further. Locals say the wing dams at the end of the Illinois are just below the surface because of the low water. We wanted good daylight to negotiate that part of the Illinois and the  Mississippi. Port Charles in St. Charles is another harbor choice but it is 10 miles up the Mississippi, through a slough, and into a back water. The end of the Illinois and the confluence of rivers offer breathtaking views. Weather worn limestone cliffs flank the left descending bank.

Grafton turned out to be a wide spot on the Great River Road. The town of few people boasts a good marina and joints with bar food up and down Main Street, the commercial hub. We learned the hard way that the Grafton Ferry Service folded some time ago as we went searching for it on an outing to St. Charles in our rental car.

The Alton Marina is a good one with lots of amenities and $1 per foot for BoatUS members and a fuel discount, too. Alton is much bigger than Grafton and offers choices for restaurants and a market that will fetch you at the marina and take you back with your bundles. Henry Street is arrayed with fine homes that are well kept, dating from the Civil War period. Enterprise  Car Rental is located in Alton. We have put several hundred miles on ours traveling in and out of St. Louis visiting old friends and some new ones, too. WARNING—you need a GPS to navigate the highways around St. Louis. There is a maze of highways, flyways, and spaghetti junctions. You can easily be on your way to Memphis or Denver if you miss your turn.

Above is Wanda with Edie, our friend of many years who lost her husband, John, almost a year ago. John and I were colleagues and quite close when we worked together in Augusta, Georgia. Although we hadn’t seen much of each other in several years we reamined close. He is and will be me.