Day 2, Lock 9 to Dubuque, Iowa

Previous Day 1

Miles Covered:  67 river miles, um 647- to um 580

Closest towns or landmark (chart): Outside of Lock 9 to Dubuque, Ia Yacht Club

Original Post date: May 29

In passing through lock 9 last evening a tow had priority (private vessels wait).  The process for a tow to ‘lock-through’ probably takes an hour-and-a-half.  Pushing 12 barges they move into the lock (which will only hold part of the barge-set), the deckhands disconnect the front group of barges and the tow backs out.  The first barges are lowered (or raised) then mechanically pulled clear of the other side of the lock before the tow and remaining barges “lock-through” and reattach….

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While awaiting this process we tied up to a buoy in the ‘pool’ prior to the lock – laid around and watched the eagles around us.  Anchoring to buoys is not recommended but in our case it allowed us to rest the little motor while still sitting upon the river’s mighty current.  It was nice watching the eagles soar – in the past days we have noticed 23 eagles treating us as if we were not even there.  There are also numerous white pelicans and blue heron present along the Mississippi flyway.  All of the river’s natural and unnatural entertainment are mixed together; all just ‘a part of’ this adventure.

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Through the night there was the rumble and horns of passing trains plus we had the beaver (I’m pretty sure) slapping their tails when things became too quiet.  There was also the occasional sound similar to coconuts falling into the water, ker-plunk! – and then …..silence.

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The day began with sprinkles and figuring out the coffee pot – our first pot was a wash.  The rig looks like a Mr. Coffee,’ but it sits on a Coleman grill – fix the ‘trigger,’ and turn the heat way up, fixing the ‘trigger’ was important and the tricky part – success after chewing on a few grinds.

Another overcast day early with light rain and wind in our face, neat weather.

We ‘idled’  along in the current to McGregor, Ia. and took a walk through the town.  There was a small restaurant near the river so we had breakfast – simple place, great folks, and a simple pace.  Biscuits and gravy here, Carl was real happy with his eggs/bacon/hashbrowns too, but for some reason his coffee wasn’t as well appreciated – even after our morning flub.  At the same time the locals enjoyed their normal morning conversation and it was nice to just ‘fit-in’ within the tone of things – and that’s what we did.

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Early Fire Triangle (alarm)

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The little motor has been doing fine after a couple early concerns – it ‘stumbled’ coming into town once again so once docked I checked the rear of the boat as Carl started his walk.  I found our 12-gallon fuel tank resembled a red 5-gallon raisin, it needed venting – simple fix (open the vent).

Feeling the contentment of land-food we eased back out on the river, absorbing the moments – no hurry at all.  Fuel consumption while at idle speed has been low leaving me surprised at the positive mileage (6 to 10 mph) – in it all we are still getting a ‘feel’ of this river and enjoying the comfort, I wonder if this will change on the ‘lower’ part of the river.

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In planning this trip I had allotted for 57 days and nights on the Mississippi, an average of 30 miles per day – weather was a factor too.  With flooding conditions the Corps of Engineers open the locks to control the water flow, closing passage to vessels.  That would mean finding a marina or harbor and waiting for things to settle down – a week’s wait could happen.  Poor weather could hold us back (the doldrums) so the 57 day outlook seemed reasonable.  So far we have hit the ‘mother-glitch’ of good weather and we are ‘riding the wave’ casually southward…..

Lock 10 came with sunshine, but another hour awaiting a towboat to ‘lock-through.’  Waiting is really alright, just a bit tougher with the south wind, drawing current, and whitecaps of the ‘pool.’  This area immediately before the locks can be a challenge while trying to stay off and/or out of the dam.

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We learned to radio earlier while pacing our raft better as we neared the lock (depending on their time-table for you), or to head on in and tie-off nearby – for us, it just took some boat tricks (large, slow circles) and patience…..

Just after lock 10 we decided to stop and ‘top-off’ our fuel, again – if for nothing else to enjoy some wonderful conversation with the locals..

Really, the fuel attendants

Really, the fuel attendants

OK, so we really needed the three gallons of fuel,….. the conversation was great and the scenery – well, you decide.  We slowly climbed back into the ‘bird’ and reluctantly proceeded southward through the sunshine with a little more ‘flavoring’ to our conversation – it took a while before the beauty of the bluffs, long trains, and tows returned to the top of our thoughts – well, maybe a little longer……

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The view of the Freebird Pilot-house……

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There seems to be plenty of camping and recreational boats along the sandy shores here,  picturesque – all of it.

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The wait at lock 11 took the longest so far (2.5 hours) so we tied up to a maintenance skiff between the lock and shore, and walked up to watch the process from the handrail – this lock was not opened to the public.  After advising us of that point the attendants still allowed us to ‘hang out’ while the Phillip M Pfeffer worked through the lock.

We arrived in Dubuque as it was getting dark, after nine o’clock – another late ‘tie-down.  So we followed the right shoreline around and through small channel to the Dubuque Yacht Club where we tied-off to their transient dock…..  The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium is nearby, we will visit it before leaving town.

I was pooped from the day and still adjusting to sleep on the boat, which finally came (Sunday morning). Instead of some island we find ourselves tied-off between all these large nice vessels and bathing under a garden hose soaping down – new kid on the block…..

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The next morning we found a beautiful Yacht Club, with plenty of amenities (an available shower) and fine food (Catfish Charlie’s)…...

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Dubuque Yacht Club


Noted ‘Towboats’ spotted for the day;

The Ed Renshaw

The Gold Cup

The James F Neal

The Louisville

The Phillip M Pfeffer

The LJ Sullivan

Next post, Day 3 – to @ Savanna, Il

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stan
    May 06, 2012 @ 11:59:02

    found your website , my brother and I are planning a similiar trep for summer of 2013. bellevue, Iowa, to Ohio river, then up ohio, to tennesse river, and up tennesse river to florence, al. would enjoy picking your brain for tips and warnings. as well as general questions. ,

  2. Tom Haynie
    May 06, 2012 @ 18:43:09

    That should be a nice feel of the river Stan – Bellevue was a neat little town. Up the Ohio shouldn’t be too bad, river charts would be a factor there. Now, or as at your fist opportunity are the best times to do it – and do it your way.

    tomhaynie@yahoo.

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