Beauty and barges on the Illinois

Trip Start Oct 17, 2009
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Trip End Nov 15, 2009


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Flag of United States  , Illinois
Friday, October 23, 2009

Yesterday we made 73 miles, from our anchorage behind Sheehan Island at Buffalo Rock State Park to Peoria! 

We awoke hoping to leave at first light when we watched a large tow pass along the main channel towards the Starved Rock Lock and Dam four miles from us. We called the lock and there was also a northbound tow locking through so we were already at least an hour behind schedule. 

But somehow, moving at Hawkswood's cruising speed of ~9 miles/hr we made up time and arrived at the Peoria docks at 5:15pm in driving wind and rain. We pulled up behind another sailboat that we saw passing by the day prior. This Canadian couple, Bob and Martha, started from Ontario in July and after the Caribbean, plan to cross the Atlantic to explore the waterways of Europe.

Yesterday's route in the morning hours took us through the most barge traffic that we've dealt with thus far. As an aside, I've learned through the years that Tom does not appreciate me grabbing his arm or verbally freaking out during tense moments when he is focused on keeping us out of danger's way, and have instead during these moments, taken to whistling nervously. I definitely did a fair amount of whistling and shuffling yesterday, especially as we we shot through a narrow gap between a concrete quay and an enormous tow (3 barges wide and at least six barges long).  We of course had communicated with the tow before overtaking them, but it is very intense to be within a hundred feet of something that large... 42 foot Hawkswood suddenly feels very very small.

The afternoon, however, was an entirely different experience. We didn't see any river traffic whatsoever for hours (except for our first paddlewheel boat) as the river opened up into gorgeous country full of lakes, woodlands and wetlands. We saw bald eagles, giant jumping fish, and more white pelicans on their southerly migration. Again, this trip has been more picturesque than we could have imagined. 

The rain and wind picked up significantly towards the latter part of the day, just in time for our crossing along Peoria Lake. The wind and waves made us feel like we were in a (very mild) storm at sea! It felt great to pull into a dock, tie up, take a hot shower, enjoy a tasty home-cooked meal and crawl into bed for a movie. 

We are deciding whether to stay here for the day or to make a short jaunt south.
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