Grafton, IL to Hoppie’s Marina on the Mississippi

We arrived at the Grafton Harbor Marina on 9/21. We decided to stay here for a month in order to drive (Enterprise picks you up but they didn’t, too far) to Connecticut for a high school reunion, to visit with family there, then down to Maryland to visit folks there, then back to Grafton, IL. It’s a two-day drive, both ways. Our route on the return drive took us through western Maryland on the very scenic and lightly traveled I-68 rather than the Pennsylvania Turnpike and I-70. After I-68 we dropped southwest down through West Virginia on I-55, then took U.S. Route 50 and then Ohio Route 32 to Cincinnati. Both were four-lane highways, lightly traveled, and with a 65 MPH speed limit. It was a low-stress drive, much better than using I-70 all the way to Cincinnati.

We choose Cincinnati, a good roughly half-way stopping point, in order to have dinner to eat at the Hofbrauhaus biergarten across the river. Yes, this is the same as the biergarten in Munich where the famous Oktoberfest is held. See the pictures. Great fun. Great beer, the best, not the overly-hopped, mouth-puckering craft beers that American brewers insist on brewing ad nauseum. The Germans know how to balance their beer recipes to produce fine-tasting beers.

We got back to Grafton on 10/15 and found it in full flood. The Mississippi had risen about 25 feet since we had departed for Connecticut. There was little ill effect on the marina. The entire place floats – the office, restaurant, pool, tiki bar and all of the covered docks. See the pictures of the flooding. The only ill effect was on our dock, the further dock out where the water supply needed to be shut off. Since we carry over 300 gallons of water, this was not a problem for us although we were almost out by the time we left for Hoppie’s Marina 58 miles down the Mississippi on 10/19. We spent the three in-between days cleaning the boat and installing a new fresh-water pump was installed. Now we have plenty of water pressure and no surging in pump pressure which makes for very nice showers on board.

Eighteen miles downriver we stopped at the Alton Marina for fuel, water, and a pump-out of our black water holding tank. The Mel Price lock can be seen about a mile away from the Alton fuel dock. We could see two pleasure craft waiting for an opportunity to lock down the river. Wait times at locks can sometimes be many hours. Well, after having endured a nine-hour wait and a five-hour wait at other locks, we finally got lucky with the lock opening just as we arrived. Three boats entered and floated free in the lock as the drop was only twelve inches.

Sixteen miles downriver is the Chain of Rocks Lock (Lock 27). It was mentioned earlier that the Mississippi is at flood stage. With that comes a very swift-running river. We got a 5 MPH speed boost which is huge for a boat that normally travels at 9 MPH. Lock 27 turned out to be quite an experience. Again, we got lucky and were allowed into the small chamber lock with no wait. The excitement started as we approached the entrance which has a long wall on the right and no wall on the left until just before the lock gates. The current did not dissipate until we reached the chamber itself with the approach being about one-quarter mile, one-quarter miles of 5 MPH current. The current creates an eddy (whirlpool) at the entrance. That eddy drew us in, turning the boat to a 45-degree angle with the stern perilously close to the lock wall on the right threatening to smash the dinghy hanging on the stern. We were swept along with draw of the eddy keeping us from crashing into the lock wall.

This all happened very quickly, then more fun, in the eddy. That eddy turned us 90-degrees perpendicular to the right lock wall and heading toward it for what seemed to be a certain collision. I reversed engines, applied power, and was able to stop our forward motion. Then it was starboard reverse and port forward to get the boat pointed into lock. Next problem – directly in front of us was a collection of logs locked into the whirlpool eddy, logs just waiting to bend our propellers. However, we gently pushed through the mess and got into the lock. An earlier boat got so turned around that he actually backed into the lock. The lock master told us about it, said he had never seen anything like it before.

Then it was 23 more miles past St. Louis to Hoppie’s Marina, where we met the backwards boater, constantly dodging floating logs and trees and passing so may barges above and below St. Louis. The pictures of the river debris are what is floating by Hoppie’s continuously. Now Hoppie’s is famous among pleasure boaters on the Mississippi. It is the last fuel stop for the next 250 miles and is a convenient stopping point there being very few places along the way to stop overnight. It’s not really a marina. It’s just several barges anchored against the right-descending bank (Kimmswick, MO), just a place to stop. Right now, anchoring on the river itself is impossible. We are staying two nights because we are tired even though it was only 58 miles traveled. Constantly on close watch, no chance to relax for a moment, and dodging all of those logs and trees was hard work. So, we prepared a meatloaf dinner it will be home-made pizza for the second night’s dinner.

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