The May 25, 2011, edition of The North Fort Myers Neighbor reported that a local resident had launched a 6,000-mile voyage to raise funds for veterans and set a Guinness World Record for his trip in a 26-foot pontoon boat circumnavigating eastern North America via the Intracoastal Waterway.
An update on the journey was published June 1.
Here is the latest update sent from sea by George Sinko, who is the captain of the vessel, through friend Mike Matera, co-owner of the Palms Restaurant at Sabal Springs, where many ideas for the journey were hatched:
Great Loop Boat Log
Week #9 August 6- August 12, 2011
- 8/06/2011; After a great night's sleep, Chase and I shoved off from Big Basin at 0630 to a perfectly calm river that looked like glass. We are going to try and make Ottawa, IL for a Veterans Celebration. I also noted that when heading down river the markers change and Red is on the left!
We are now into 53 days of nice cruising weather and today is partly sunny and humid. What a difference a day makes from Lake Michigan! Yesterday we only burned 21.5 gal of fuel mostly because I am headed down river.
Five miles down the river I came to the Dresden Lock. This is another huge hole in the water and I was the only boat in the tub! The lock master, Jay, an ex Marine gave me a cup of coffee and we chatted about the foundation and other Loopers.
After I left the lock a large tug pushing 15 barges came at me. Wow what a passage between us. I also noticed that the barges make less a wake than do the speed boats going passed. Shortly after this group of barges passed I came upon another Tug pushing 9 barges. As I approached the Marseilles Lock, I came upon another large Tug pushing 12 barges. Here comes the wait! The Tug put 6 barges into the Tub, backed up and waited for the 6 barges to be lowered. The water came back up and the Tug with the other 6 barges entered the Tub to repeat the process. The whole turn around took just under 3.5 hours and I am told to expect this process as I proceed down river.
As we waited for our turn, another Tug pulled up with 6 barges full of crushed stone, like the kind that go into cinder blocks. By rule of passage, this barge should be allowed to pass ahead of the eight pleasure craft but I believe the Lock Master is allowing us to go through 1st.
We finely made it through the lock at 1300 and cruised down river to Ottawa, IL to a city dock and festival. However the festival wasn't to start until 1700 and I moved on to Starved Rock Marina another 10 miles down river. I am tied up and waiting for a thunder storm to pass through. We had another beautiful cruising day even with the delay at the lock.
The rain storm came through but no thunder or lighting and the rain came straight down with no wind and lasted 10 minutes. Wow, did it get muggy after the rain shower! I took two showers before I went to bed and during the early morning hours, 0400, another thunder storm came through. Once again, very little wind and the storm blew through in 15 minutes.
- 8/07/2011; At 0630 we had a nice sunrise but somewhere rain showers started falling but only lasted 5 minutes. Chase and I shoved off at 0700 and made it to the Starved Rock Lock at 0730. There was a large Tug entering the lock and the lock master said I could come on the starboard side of the Tug. What great luck for if I had had to wait I may have been there 2.5 hours plus for the complete turn around of the lock. I took a lot of video and I hope it comes out. Wow is this baby big when your are along side.!
After we locked in, it took another half hour to drop us 20 feet. The horn sounded signaling the Tug he could move out and when the started to move the turbulence from his props caused me to do a 360 inside the lock. You should have been there and watch me hold onto the rope as I swung around! What an experience! We locked in at 0730 and were coming out at 0830.
As I headed into Peru, IL, the river widened and I ran into a head wind that caused a mild chop on the river with white caps for about two miles. The cruise down the river was beautiful and uneventful. I passed to barges coming north but had plenty of room to pass. As I came into North Peoria, IL, we crossed Goose Lake and it was full of snow geese! Too many to count! Shortly there after, I heard a loud bang on the side of my boat? What could have I hit? I slowed down and experienced two more bangs on the port side. As I went over to examine what I hit, two large fish jumped out of the water and hit the side of the boat with a bang! All of a sudden I remembered the story I was told up river about the Chinese Carp that will jump at your boat and sometimes into your boat. Several more times as I was passing though Lake Peoria, more Carp jumped into the side of my boat and before I got to the marina, I had two large Carp jump into my boat. Chase went ballistic and the Carp flip flop all over the deck. When I tied up at the So Illinois Yacht Club I had my picture taken with the two Carp. I was also told that I should expect even more and larger Carp the strike my boat or even jump in as we go down river.
Hard to believe, but at the Yacht Club I met several people from N Ft Myers and Cape Coral. They are good friends of Tom Hullahan and they know Don Devaney. These good folks got me a slip for the evening and we are invited to a chicken BBQ this evening.
- 8/8/2011: We shoved off into the jumping Chinese Carp ally at 0700 and headed for the Peoria L&D Lock. Several carp jumped at the boat before we even left the harbor but none got into the boat!
As I approached the Lock, I noticed the doors were open and the green light was on. At 0730 I entered the Lock and 0800 I departed and during that half hour they dropped me 6 feet. Now that was service.
My goal today is the Tall Timbers Marina some 50 miles down river and if I have time left I will try and make the Beardstown Dock. I had two thunder storms come at me from the west but they passed by to the north as I went south. We pulled into the Havana Town Dock so Chase could get a run and some DO Do s.
The Tall Timbers Marina is at this location and we decided to make Beardstown.
At 1530 we tied up at the dock and covered 80 miles today. The current helps move us down river at an additional 3 knots.
The Beardstown Dock is a barge that belongs to the Logsdon Tug Service. It is not designed for a long term stay and there are no other active marinas in the area. The work crew is 5 Star and they offered much assistance. John even took me to Wally World for another gas can and then over to the gas station for a fill up. I was advised to walk two blocks into town and go to Annie's for their Steak and Ribs night. Great food!
When we went to bed the river was quite choppy and during the night we had several Tugs pass by but the evening was quite peaceful.
- 8/09/2011; 0600 we were up getting ready to shove off and head out for Grafton Marina, the last marina on the Illinois River or the Port Charles Harbor in St Charles, MO, just north of St Lewis. We have one more lock to pass through, the La Grange L&D, the last of eight locks on this Illinois River.
As we left the morning, more Chinese Carp jumped at the boat. I am told it is the sound of the engine that causes this action. Luck be with me, none jumped in the boat.
We made it to the La Grange Lock at 0745 and passed through at 0750. The doors were open when we got there and we only had a 6 foot drop. The cruise down the river is very scenic and reminds me of the Hudson and Chemung rivers. We even passed through Schuyler Co. which was similar to the same county name up by us in NY. I was surprised to see that there wasn't any barge traffic the rest of the way down the river to Grafton Harbor. We pulled into Harden, Il so that Chase could have a swim and do his do-doo's.
We arrived at Grafton Harbor, where the Illinois and the Mississippi Rivers come together and will be tied up here for the rest of the day. They checked me out to be sure I was representing the SOWF and then charged me half the slip fee!
- 8/10/2011: Well, the fuel truck arrived at 0600 but the Marina doesn't open until 1000. I spent the morning walking around this old town and cleaning up the boat. I am headed down river some 60 miles to Hoppies Marine Service and Marina to top off and stay the night.
Believe it or not but there are only three fuel stops on the 218 mile run down the Mississippi to the Ohio River and none on the 60 mile run up the Ohio. I have 40 gal on board and with the favorable current I can do around 240 miles. So, go figure, I have to refuel somewhere along the way!
I made it to and through the Mel Price Lock in 15 minutes. This is the 1st of two locks I have to pass through before coming to St Lewis. Shortly after passing through the lock I came to the Chain of Rocks Canal. Without looking at my chart and travel guide, I started down the river instead of going into the canal! About 100 yards down the river it didn't look right and I reviewed my charts and found that I am suppose to be in the Canal and not the river because there are rapids via the river route. This is what they call navigation 101 by the seat of your pants.
I passed through the Chain of Rocks Canal and at 1300 came to my 2nd lock, the Chain of Rocks Lock, and passed through this lock in just 15 minutes. Wouldn't it be nice if all the locks were as accommodating?
At the end of the canal I was back into the main part of the river and headed to St. Lewis. I was cruising at 10 knots but my speed indicated 14-15 knots. I cut back my throttle to save on fuel and at 8 knots my speed read 12-13 knots.
As I passed through St. Lewis, where I took several great video shots and some still pics, I ran into two T-Storms. One passed behind me and the other just in front of me and I received maybe 5 minutes of gentle rain. Wow, my 1st real rain on the whole trip while I am cruising.
Passing through St Lewis was not a comfortable situation! The big Tow Tugs, why do they call them Tow Tugs when they push the barges, created much turbulence and it was like passing through NYC harbor once again with all the Ferry traffic you encounter there? At one point I crossed to the left side of the river and tucked in behind a whole bunch of barges that were anchored to get out of the main flow of the river and turbulence. It worked and after two miles, we passed through this very rough section of the river and continued down river at 14 knots. I made it to Hoppies Marina at 1530 hrs. and tied up for the evening. We topped off with fuel and I only used 10 gal on this 62 mile leg because of the fast current pushing me down river.
I met a couple of guys from Augustine College, Rubin and Miles, doing Mississippi River sediment research last night, at the Grafton Marina and we followed each other down river. They pulled into Hoppies 45 minutes after I did and we will travel together tomorrow down river to the Big Muddy River where we will tie up at a friends place on the river.
I was going to try to make Cairo, IL to fuel up but have been advised against leaving my boat unattended at their docks. Therefore, my new friends will allow me to top off with fuel at their friend's place and I then can make it all the way up the Ohio River to Paducah, KY.
I was also advised that one of the locks on the Cumberland River went down two days ago and all traffic is going down the Tennessee. This will save me some travel miles but the back up on the Tennessee River locks can be expected. Oh well, we will cross that lock when we come to it!
Tonight we were sitting on the river bank at Hoppies and were watching the Tugs push barges down the river. This one Tug was pushing 30 barges, 6 long and 5 wide, and went past us doing at least 12 knots. Ever wonder how they stop that mass when ever they get to where they are going? Tomorrow will be another challenging day of adventure to report on and we will get through our 58th day of nice cruising weather on the water for the Creator is my 1st mate!
- 8/11/2011; We all shoved off at 0900 and headed down the mighty Mississippi. I took the lead for they would stop along the way to take sediment samples. I set my throttle at 2800 rpm which is about 9 mph and my speed indicated 13-14 mph because of the current. The river is in the lower flood stage and the current is fast!
I past my 1st large pack of barges, 30 of them at 0800. The swells coming from the back of the Tug combined with the fast moving current can reach 3-4 feet. I stay well to the left or right and only get the lesser of the heavy water. However, the rough water last at least .5 miles or more after the Tug passes.
Along the side of the river, the Army Corps of Engineers has placed Wing Dams that come out into the river about 30-50 yards but remain below the water, which help control the movement of the river. Yeah, if you say so! But the water near the Wing Dams can become very turbulent and choppy. A must to watch out for and pass well to the left or right of because they create Worrall polls and rough current when you pass over them.
At 0900 and 0930 two more big packs of barges passed me by. I wondered what I would if I had to pass one of them. Thank God for me they all came at me! At 1000 I passed by the Kidd River City Fuel dock and thanks for my friends helping me get gas last night I didn't have to stop. Oh yes, stop, where? There is a large river barrier wall all along the city and much barges tied up as you pass under the Cape Girardeau Bridge. I did not see a place to pull in and get fuel! Furthermore, the channel is narrow with a lot of turbulence coming from the Wing Dams.
At 1100, 1115, and 1130 three large barges came at me around the curve at Browns Chute, a wonderful place to get off the river and camp on the large sandy beaches. I was pleased that each group of barges passed by my starboard side because the river current kept there large wake and swells away from me.
At 1230 I turned left off the Mississippi and started up the Ohio River. There is actually a physical line in the water where the two rivers meet. The Ohio is greenish brown and the Mighty Mississippi is just dirty brown. When I left the Mississippi I was cruising along at 14 knots and when I turned up the Ohio I went to 8.5 knots. What a big difference going with a 5 mph current verses going against a 1.5 mph current.
The waters on the Ohio were very calm and the weather quite pleasant. The Ohio reminded me much of going up the Hudson River. There were too many to count barges parked in the middle of the river off from the city of Cairo, IL. However, there was very little barge traffic like I was seeing on the Mississippi. As I cruised up the Ohio, both lock and dams I had to pass through were down due to low water and I passed over the dams. This saved me at least 1.5 hours and I reached the city of Metropolis, IL it seems like in no time and found out that they don't have a floating dock anymore. Therefore with Paducah, KY only 7 more miles away, I kept going. I reached the City Dock at 1730 and tied up. I had gone 130 miles today in 11 hours much to do with the fast-moving currents on the Mississippi.
At the dock, there wasn't any sign stating short term or no overnight docking like the cruising guide tells you. The people at the dock were very interested in my boat and trip and one man, a veteran, and his daughter took my gas cans to refill them. I had a nice walk around this historic city and was in bed by 2030 hrs.. My sleep was interrupted by waves from the barge traffic but only two or three times during the evening.
- 8/13/2011; Chase and I were up at 0530 to the sound of boats being launched and engines being started. Outside I was greeted by about 20 Bass Boats getting ready for a Bass Tournament. We watched them take off and Chase and I went for his morning walk. Off in the distance was a vary large T-shower and lighting but it was moving off. At 0700 I called the Barkley lock and dam on the Cumberland river and they confirmed that the lock was down for repair. I then called the Kentucky lock and dam and was advised that they were busy as normal and putting barges through the lock. However, if I got there by 0900 the traffic may have calmed down. I reached the lock at 0930 and with a five minute wait I was in and through by 1030. I had had visions of 3-6 hours of waiting time but the Creator has been watching out for me.
I arrived at the Kentucky Lake Marina at 1030, fueled up and now I am waiting for my oil to be changed.