Day 4 UM 546 to Island near Hampton, Il

Previous Day

Miles Covered:  um 546- to um 491 (57 miles)

Closest towns or landmark (chart): Savanna, Il riverside to Island near Hampton, Il

Original Post date: June 2



Sleep was good; the morning arrives and the atmosphere is damp and heavy – this fog lays its sullen mood over our vessel.  We stir, linger – and then a semblance of order rises from the ashes.

The tarps that divide us from the elements are rolled up and the outside is exposed; the coffee begins to brew as the gear is being stowed – basic organization. 

With the coffee ‘perking’ and without cranking the motor we shove out into the current and drift…. This particular morning the windward breeze held strong against the current – slowing our drift – still, the current wins as the vessel floats downriver.  Simple and small, just another of many muses along the way; noticing stuff – What else was there to do?

Carl Denning, Eric Velez, Dennis Ball, & me – Rescue-33, Asheville Fire Department

The point to our mornings is that Carl and I seem to work fairly well ‘in the same boat.’  We have spent several years as part of the first dedicated Rescue Company for the City of Asheville, in NC; Rescue 33. 

When working as a team you pretty much learn how to move forward in a positive direction – ‘filling in the blanks’ as you go – to say.  Everybody understands each task and you do what you are closest to – with the least amount of conversation. Morning ‘clean-up’ is a part of firefighter life, now a few years and many miles away from that setting we fall into a similar starting pattern with our days. 

Most firefighters like Coffee, and for us – it seemed a necessary staple for the trip.


All morning we watched as the Illinois shoreline passed, there were trucks lined at local silo’s unloading crop (likely corn, grain, or soybean) into the large elevators – which would eventually be loaded into one of the many barges of the Mississippi.

We stop in the town of Savanna, Ill. and found breakfast at the small marina, even a shower and a stool for ‘the bird.’.  The shower was unexpected in the restaurant – didn’t take but a second for me to figure out what to do while waiting for my order to come up.  I showered and felt like a kid again; getting away with putting on the same clothes – doesn’t really matter while you’re on the river.  As for the breakfast, the ‘land-food’ (ballast) was just as special..

Clothes needed for this trip have been minimal – a couple bathing suits and t-shirts seemed to go the whole trip – if the colors were different you could alternate schemes (like different drink combination’s), no rules – it really didn’t matter – I liked that.


As for the stool – we have found that time on the river is spent standing or leaning (like in a bar) rather than in the lower sitting position; a normal seat just wasn’t right for piloting either (too low).  A stool sits higher and feels better during the day as you look at the chart and continually check the waters around the vessel .  The standard pontoon seat did come back into play in the evenings as a stable clothes or towel perch – for a while we switched them around and used what felt right; that is until Carl told me that I ‘could NOT’ make a change to the seat (I’m a rebel at heart).  We picked up a bar stool in the Dollar-store next to the restaurant and the original seat is now a dock ornament along the lower Mississippi river.



Later Carl took ‘traveller‘ through a slough for a few miles  – around an island chain while I stayed in the main channel – a nice morning with plenty of wildlife and a gentle breeze to our backs.

The pontoon runs at just over an idle, along with the current (and a pocket full of ‘peace’) this rate feels just fine as we easily cover our 30-mile benchmark per day – still, plenty of river ahead.


Above the lock in Pool 13 we passed an ‘rookery-island that was just inundated with birds – white pelicans mostly, but totally a squawking delegation of feathered foul.

They seemed to be ogling our featherless mascot on the bow and we considered a walk-explore….. but as the breeze changed – so to did our minds about walking the island (pu) – we moved on.


Near Clinton, Iowa we took a ‘chute’ channel  passing an industrial section before coming back to the main channel (a slough) a few miles later – I’m sure everyone has become more conscious of what they put back into the river in the past few years – but the discharges still run.  The industry here appeared to be ‘trying.’


With the river’s gentle pace and pools of the Upper Mississippi, Carl and I have talked several times about those that  ‘float’ down the river – the comparison from us seems tedious and slow.  A motor for us seems a must for negotiating the locks and pools – our admiration has grown for those that canoe or kayak the distance – awesome resilience and determination from those folks.

Later on the lower Mississippi after Greenville, Ms. I find just how awesome an accomplishment it is for those that canoe or kayak the distance.

Of course a trip like this takes great family and friend support – some of which you may not expect and comes along the way – which we found to be true.  Little things matter, this is not to say the next picture is in any way similar – but it was a little room along the way that provided some comfort too.


So other than the wildlife, the neat homes, the bluffs, the trains, ‘pools’ and tows along the way, yesterday had a streak of mundane to it, not a bad mundane – but an aura of just riding the current, easy conversation, and finding more and more things to look at.  All of these things as we move along the same current of water which has flowed here for thousands of years.




It was a rainy and overcast start to this morning, but the day turned out just fine – I will check the weather again tomorrow, which could hold us to a low mileage day – as we exited lock 14 we found an island to the left called it a day..


Noted ‘Towboats’ for the Day;

The Dell Butcher

The Wanda Isabell

Next post, Day 5 – to Muscatine

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