July 1, 2013
When The Water Calls ... We Follow

June 20, 2013
New Adventures

May 31, 2013
Storing Our Shiny Red Tug

May 13, 2013
Viva La Difference

May 6, 2013
Swinging Free & Easy

April 15, 2013
In The Middle

March 29, 2013
On The Hook

March 18, 2013
Tinker Time

February 28, 2013
Jumping Into the Mix

February 15, 2013
Time Travel

February 6, 2013
Charlevoix - A Small Town With A World-Class Reputation

January 15, 2013
The Perfect Ending

January 1, 2013
Magical Weather & Mysterious Ports

December 15, 2012
Collins Inlet, Killarney, & Little Current

December 1, 2012
New Neighbors

November 16, 2012
What Makes a Perfect Anchorage?

November 1, 2012
Are We There Yet?

October 15, 2012

October 1, 2012
Womens Roundtable

September 15, 2012
Freedom to Discover a Southern Gem

September 1, 2012

August 15, 2012
Nice to Have Options

August 1, 2012
Go West!

July 15, 2012
The Perfect Boating Vacation Destination

July 1, 2012

June 15, 2012
Flagler’s Folly

June 1, 2012
Everglades Detour

May 15, 2012
Making New Friends

May 1, 2012
Something Old and Something New

April 15, 2012
Florida’s Wide Open West Coast

April 1, 2012
Life On the Water in a Trailerable Trawler

March 15, 2012
Becoming Second Nature

March 1, 2012
Last Dance

February 15, 2012
Call it Romance or Mystique

February 1, 2012
Natural Wonders Abound

January 15, 2012
Hardly a Care in the World

January 1, 2012
Wide-Eyed Anticipation

December 15, 2011
Winding Our Way to Lake Powell

December 1, 2011
On to New Cruising Grounds

November 15, 2011
Sharing the Love

November 1, 2011
On the Water Again

October 14, 2011
First Impressions

October 3, 2011
Possession is Nine-Tenths of the Fun

September 15, 2011
Getting the Show on the Road

September 1, 2011
Lets Dance!

August 15, 2011
Getting Our Ducks in a Row

August 1, 2011
Summer Without a Boat

July 15, 2011
The Water and The Boater Home

July 1, 2011
One Step Closer

June 15, 2011
Time Keeps on slippin’ Into the Future

June 1, 2011
Made in the USA

May 15, 2011
Making the Right Truck Choice

May 1, 2011
Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

April 15, 2011
What Goes Around Comes Around

April 1, 2011
Wishing Star Interlude

March 15, 2011
Helping Hands

March 1, 2011

February 15, 2011
Weighing the Options

February 1, 2011
Making a List, Checking it Twice!

January 14, 2011
The Science of Towing

December 30, 2010
The Upside of Downsizing

December 15, 2010
The New Plan!

December 1, 2010
Homeward Bound-The Final Leg

November 15, 2010
Somethings In The Water

November 1, 2010
Our Turn to Relax & Smile

October 15, 2010
Gem in the Rough

October 1, 2010
Whats Your Favorite Place on the Loop?

September 15, 2010
Reflecting Pool

September 1, 2010
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

August 15, 2010
Canadian Wonderland

August 1, 2010
"Low Bridge, Everybody Down"

July 15, 2010
One Day At A Time

July 1, 2010
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

June 15, 2010
Lets All Do the Rendezvous

June 1, 2010
On the Hard

May 15, 2010
Falling in Love With Key West

May 1, 2010
Helping Women Get On Board

April 15, 2010
Key West - A Repeat Performance

April 1, 2010
Unexpected Pleasures

March 15, 2010
Mom Cruise

March 1, 2010
Okeechobee Bound

February 15, 2010
Chance Encounters

February 1, 2010
Three Nights in Paradise

January 15, 2010
New Frontiers

January 1, 2010
First Time Experiences

December 15, 2009
A Friend In Every Port

December 1, 2009
Dealing With A Temperamental Lady

November 18, 2009
You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

November 13, 2009
A Cult Following

October 15, 2009
Somewhere in Time

October 1, 2009
Unlocking Our Minds Eye

September 18, 2009
Its In My Nature

August 15, 2009
The RBS Antidote

August 1, 2009
Crab Crazy

July 15, 2009
Sights And Sounds Of The Bay

July 15, 2009
Sights And Sounds Of The Bay

June 15, 2009
Our Last Leg North

June 1, 2009
Northern Migration

May 15, 2009

May 1, 2009
Hello Goodbye

April 15, 2009
Let The Sun Shine In!

April 1, 2009
Dont Worry, Be Happy

March 15, 2009
Bahama Bound

March 1, 2009
What Do You Do All Day?

February 15, 2009
Slow Motion

February 1, 2009
On The Hook With A Million-Dollar View

January 15, 2009
High Anxiety

January 1, 2009
A String Of One-Night Stands

December 15, 2008
Pushing Into New Tennessee River, Upstream To Adventure

December 1, 2008
All Together Now

November 15, 2008
Kismet in the Aftermath of Hurricane Ike

October 31, 2008
Our Love Affair With The River

October 16, 2008
Big City Lights

October 1, 2008
The Adventure Begins

September 15, 2008
Prepping For The Loop

September 1, 2008
The Space Ship

August 15, 2008
Jumping Aboard In Seattle

August 1, 2008
If We Knew Then What We Know Now!

July 10, 2008
The Second Time Around

July 1, 2008
Our Turn For The Great American Loop


Kismet in the Aftermath of Hurricane Ike
By Kismet, Saturday, November 15, 2008

One of the unwritten rules of safe-boat travel is: Never keep a hard-and-fast schedule. If you do, invariably you’ll come to be disappointed, or worse. You could put yourself, the ones you love, and your boat in harm’s way. Lisa and I are very conservative as it relates to boat travel. We don’t like high wind, big waves, or night travel, like most boaters. Therefore, when we make boat-travel plans we try to be as flexible as possible, just in case Mother Nature isn’t as gracious as we’d like her to be. Even with this said, after we’ve left port in favorable conditions, we’ve still been caught in fog, rough water, and storms. The method we use to help improve our boating experience is to stay in port when forecasts aren’t favorable. We don’t take unnecessary risks.

As we started our second Great Loop, Hurricane Ike was making news as it was heading into the Gulf Coast with an expected target of the Galveston area. Although the Texas Gulf area is 1,000 miles away from the Great Lakes, the aftermath of the storm’s path headed directly northeast. Its path included the states of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan.

Lisa and I didn’t realize the impact of the rains the storm brought until our second day in Chicago. It was then we heard that the lock to the Chicago River had been closed due to high waters. Subsequently we learned from our NOAA weather channel, the United States Coast Guard, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that not only was the Chicago lock closed but that the entire Illinois and Upper Mississippi Rivers were closed to both commercial and recreational traffic.

This area falls into the Corps of Engineers Rock Island District and the area received up to 12 inches of rain in less then two days. The extreme amount of rain caused flooding that crested levels not seen since 1947. Through no fault of our own, we found ourselves and 73 other Loopers stranded at different stages in the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. We couldn’t travel even if we wanted to. This is when, as a boater, you need to be flexible and go with the flow. You can’t get your undies balled up in a knot; it just doesn’t do any good.

Peoria Lock and Dam were still not in use because of high water. This photo was taken as we glided over the wicket.

Lisa and I consider ourselves lucky. We were in Chicago with all the conveniences of a big city. Unfortunately some boaters we know were tied up to the Kaskaskia Lock wall on the Mississippi River for 10 days. They had no power, no water, or any access to the conveniences of a small town or city.

Before the water receded enough in Chicago for us to resume our travels, my daily ritual was to check to see of the lock in Chicago had recommenced operation. I’d visit www.rivergages.com to review the different sections of the Illinois River to ascertain if the water levels had crested, were still rising, or if they were in the recovering stages. I’d then Googled “sector upper Mississippi River press release” to obtain the web page for the U.S. Coast Guard to learn about any updated closings or openings on either river system.

After our seventh day in Chicago (we’d planned only three) the Chicago Lock opened, as well as the Illinois River, up to the Brandon Road Lock and Dam just this side of Joliet. Excited to be able to move once again, we left the marina and entered the Chicago River at 7 a.m., cut our way through Chicago’s downtown skyline, and passed under the Michigan, Wabash, State, Clark, LaSalle and Wells Street Bridges -- only clearing by inches in some cases.

We went past the iconic Wrigley Building and all the people making their way to work, most being oblivious to our river navigation. The uniqueness of being able to navigate through the third largest city in the United States on our boat is something we’ve always wanted to do. Now we have. If you’re a boater, I hope you get the opportunity as well.

When we read this sign I’m sure they never thought its message would be ironic

Joliet was a short 44-mile trip down the Chicago River, Sanitary Channel, and into the Illinois River. Once we were out of the downtown area, the banks of the river became very industrial. There was a lot of tug and barge traffic that needed to be negotiated. We had to re-familiarize ourselves with the tugboat captain’s lingo. “This is down-bound pleasure craft Kismet calling the up-bound Tug and Barge.”

“ Go ahead, captain.”

“Would you like me to pass you on the one or two whistle?” I’d say.

“Take me on the one.”

So we had to re-educate ourselves on which radio channels the tug captains, bridges, and locks use. Just for a reference, it’s 13 for the tugs, 14 for the locks, and 16 or 14 for the lift bridges.

Lisa and I were glad to make our way to the free docking wall in Joliet, right next to the city, where we were greeted by a flotilla of fellow Loopers. Some had been stranded there for a week. We heard that before our arrival the river water had come to within a foot of overflowing the river wall. While we were there, the debris floating down the river continued to be extreme. The water downstream from Joliet was receding, but in most cases it was still 15 to 20 feet above normal pool stages. So at a one-foot reduction per day, one can see why it would take so long for the rivers to get to a safe level and once again be opened to pleasure craft.

This photo gives you an indication of the debris that built up in the Kaskaskia Lock. (Photo by Robert and Kay Creech)

Joliet is typically a one-day stop as Loopers make their way down river. Not this time. We had to wait seven days before the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would open up another section of the river and nearby locks. Stranded again!

We took advantage of the added flex time by cleaning the boat, and having pot-luck dinners with our new friends on the wall. We walked all over town, read, napped. Again, we were thankful to be safe. But after a week, we were also more than ready to be on the move again.

The area from Joliet to the Mississippi River was hit hardest with flooding, therefore it was closed the longest -- two weeks in some places. Once the section from Joliet to Ottawa was opened, we left and we were able to witness first-hand the flooding aftermath. Water lines on houses, some still partly submerged by river water, as well as water up and over the banks of the river. The water was high enough that the first lock we came to was mostly underwater and not in operation.

When the water is this high, the lock dam has wickets that are lowered to the riverbed. This procedure then allows all vessel traffic to traverse over the dam, right over the wickets, and continue down stream. We did this three separate times over the next several days, as we worked our way through the still-receding waters of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers.

Chuck and Fabin Miller took this flood shot at Grafton Harbor Marina in Grafton, Illinois. Notice the water level between the dock and sidewalk, compared to the photo below

While traveling down river, Lisa and I were constantly on the lookout for debris to dodge. We came across the typical logs and branches. However it was the trees, occasional house doors, roofing, and appliances we also had to be vigilant about. They all can cause severe damage to a boat’s driving gear. Added to the high water and debris were the dramatically displaced channel buoys. In some cases they’d completely disappeared, washed away by the force of flooding water. We learned early on not to trust the buoys’ placement, and instead rely solely on our GPS chart plotter and paper charts.

Leaving Joliet on Wednesday, September 26th, brought us to Heritage Harbor, in Ottawa, Illinois. Heritage Harbor had been home for many of the stranded Loopers, some for up to two weeks, as they watched the rivers rise, close, and eventually recede. The river at Heritage rose to within a foot of the floating docks’ support-pole tops. As bad as it was, it could’ve been much worse if the water had risen enough to separate the docks from their support system.

The ramps from the docks to shore were completely submerged at one point, so boaters had to use their dinghies to get to shore until the water subsided. By the time Lisa and I arrived, the water had gone back down, and all that remained where the high-water marks on shore and stories of the flooding from the Loopers stranded there. Despite the delay and inconvenience, everyone seemed in good spirits. They had plenty of time to get boat chores done, catch up on organizing, and they all got to know each other quite well during this forced, extended stay at Heritage Harbor. Most were more than ready to resume their traveling adventures when the rivers finally opened.

Chuck and Fabin Miller took this flood shot at Grafton Harbor Marina in Grafton, Illinois. Notice the water level between the dock and sidewalk, compared to the photo below.

We only spent two days at Heritage Harbor and left when the U.S. Coast Guard opened up more of the river downstream. Our destination and plan was to anchor at Bath Chute, four miles this side of the last closed section of the river. If you travel into a closed section of a river, you risk not only potential hazardous travel conditions but also getting a $1,000 fine from the U.S. Coast Guard and confiscation of your boat. None of these were risks we were willing to take.

We thought the balance of the river would open up the next day so we decided that patience was in order. To our surprise this last section remained closed to pleasure craft for another day-and-a-half beyond our expectations. Again, nowhere to go, lots of time to read, and write. The Coast Guard opened the final section of the Illinois River on Monday, September 29, at 1:30 p.m., so we pulled anchor and headed out.

As we came through the last 125 miles of the Illinois River we still saw flooded shore-side house and farmlands, the water hadn’t receded completely, even two weeks after the storm had come through. We experienced a little bit of uncertainty, distress, and some inconvenience, and so we can only imagine how the local towns, businesses, and homeowners -- the real victims of the floods -- were able to cope with Mother Nature’s wrath and aftermath.

This house, on the Illinois River, is surrounded by water twelve days after the rains stopped and the rivers opened back up.