Heart of Gold
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- 10/16/2009 - Friday - 11:00 pm. - I left the boat this evening after bringing up a load of stuff for our trip. It is exciting that we are heading south with the boat again. It is also strange because on the 7th at 3:01 am my dad died. It is still hard to believe and I don't think I will ever get used to the idea that he is gone. Everything is different and I can't get the fog to lift in my head.
I suppose this isn't really part of our trip and more as something for myself so if anyone is reading this you can skip this part.
- It sounds funny to say that he died suddenly at the age of 81, but that is exactly what happened. He had survived and recovered from two strokes and just couldn't survive this. Even when the surgeon told me it wasn't likely he would survive I could not believe it. He was so strong and had so much left to do. He loved the United States. I once asked him when he was able to go back and visit Ukraine if he would ever want to go back and live. He said, "hell no, I am an American," in his broken english. He was a good husband and a loving father and we all loved him. Each one of us had our own special relationship with him. He made everyone feel that way. He was an entrepeneour in the purest sence of the word. Several years ago I wished him good luck with something and he laughed and then told me a story about something he remembered a long time ago. I was probably 11 or 12 years old and he picked me up from school and he took me with him when he was going on a call to a customer. He said it was an important call and that he might be a while. As he was getting out of the car and looking back at me I told him good luck. He said he always remembered that. I remembered that day too and I remember wishing as hard as I could that he would have good luck. I will miss him every day. Good Luck Tato, I love you. Stefan "Steve" Dwojak.
- 10/18/2009 - Sunday - 9:00 pm - Greg and I got the truck loaded and headed back to the boat. We went to Holland, MI to get the last few supplies and met Sue and Larry for supper. We had some great steaks and even better conversation. When we got back to the boat we stowed away the last of the supplies and got the boat ready to head across the lake. We waved good-bye to Sue and Larry around midnight, discovered that our decks were covered in a thin layer of ice, and headed for the lake for a long night across. It was cold and dark but you could see every star. It was beautiful. That is one good thing about no moon. The lake was 1' to 3' rollers that we were taking on the side. One of the 3' rollers hit us just right and Greg noticed that we were loosing our dingy. The cold weather had deflated the dinghy and it came loose from the chocks and started swinging out over the water. Greg turned into the waves and I jumped up and just by luck grabbed a line on the dinghy when it swung back to the boat. Greg jumped out on the roof and managed to wrestle the dinghy back onto the chocks and tied it down. I just prayed he would not slip off because of the ice. It was very exciting and it took all I had to keep the delicious steak I had for supper from coming back up. After a while we did have a good laugh. Fortunately the rest of the ride across was uneventful and we took turns napping. Sunrise was beautiful and always seems especially so over Gary, IN. Chicago in the morning is always an awesome sight, so is Greg after an all nighter.We got to the Calumet Sag Harbor after sunrise and I couldn't believe that there was a sailboat out there in 30 degree weather. It was hazy and cold but we were glad to be there. We were met by a cargo ship and I always find them interesting, they are just so huge. Also not really sure but I think I know where all the cash for clunkers cars went. I think the railroad bridges are fascinating and it was good to see the last independent American car maker still in business. Got past the dreaded 19' 1" bridge just barely again. We even made it thought the fish barrier without getting electrocuted. The Coast Guard was there to make sure we followed all the rules. It is also good to see that we can still use coal to make power. I love going through the Joliet bridges. They are so great to time the openings for us. Bridge 1, bridge 2, bridge 3, bridge 4, and bridge 5. Just watching them open and close is something.We did not want to stay at Harborside Marina as we have never had a good experience there so we decided to stay at Three Rivers Marina and Yacht Club. The accommodations were sparse but it was perfect. We used the generator for power and also plugged into a 30 amp outlet for a little power through the night. It was wonderful and the view was spectacular. I made supper on the boat and we relaxed and hit the hay early. A great day.
- 10/19/2009 - Monday - 10:00 pm - Slept in until daylight which was wonderful, had a leisurely breakfast. Greg got some computer work done and talked to the office. We did a little housekeeping and got underway. Made it to the O'Brian lock where we locked down with four other boats and ended up traveling with them the rest of the day. Saw our first Asian carp. Two years ago the first sign of them came at the end of the Illinois River, so they are moving up stream. Still did not spot the pelicans yet. Maybe they will be here in the morning like last time we were in Henry. Three of us ended up at Henry Harbor for the night. We ended up knowing one of the other boats, the Baron. We met Neil and his wife in Clifton several years ago. Neil's wife was not traveling with him this time so we got to meet his friend Andy who is a sail boater. We had supper together up at the restaurants and called it a night. The boat ran great and we had no trouble at all. Another great day.
- 10/20/2009 - Tuesday - 9:30 pm - Left Henry Harbor around 7:30 am. and traveled with The Baron and Grande Finale. Saw my first flock of pelicans and that is always exciting. It started out cold and warmed up some as the day progressed. Got to Peoria and caught up with Wet Kit and White Pearl at the lock. I start feeling very Twainy once we get to this point. Somehow Neil from the Baron got ahold of a pair of my underwear. He is either holding them ransom or just as a memento or he might be holding them just in case he needs a sail. We all locked down together, the Grande Finale, The Baron, Wet Kit, White Pearl and us, and traveled together until we got to Beardstown. Everyone tied up at Logsdon except White Pearl and I have no idea where they sleep. I found out that they were from Bulgaria and they don't like using the radio. Very uneventful day. It was so boring that I took a nap...several times. It was nice. I wonder if we will see the White Pearl again somewhere down the river.
- 10/21/2009 - Wednesday - 9:00 pm - Well we left Beardstown and got to the lock and locked down in no time. Today so far has been slightly more eventful than the past few days. We got to see Neil's "harvest" moon over the Illinois River. What a sight, and if that wasn't enough we spotted some rare wild bovine on the river's edge. I can hardly wait to see what the rest of the day holds.We got near Wet Kit and got a great shot of them also a good shot of The Baron. What a day. The rest of the day was uneventful. I figured out how to do the web site again and got things going. The weather wasn't as warm as they said it would be but still a good day all in all. We stopped for the night in Grafton and Wet Kit also stopped there. The Baron and Grand Finale went on to Alton. We introduced ourselves to the couple of Wet Kit and went out to dinner with them to the Rotten Apple. We had great conversation and went out for ice cream. I love cruising down the river.
- 10/22/2009 - Thursday - 7:30 pm - Could not be happier to finally make it to Hoppies. This morning Greg discovered that our throttle cable was broken. He ended up ordering another cable and had it overnighted to Hoppies. We got underway around noon and said good-bye to Grafton. By the time we left it started to drizzle and by the time we got to the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi it became a steady rain. Once on the Mississippi we saw our first fall color even though it was so gray the brilliance of the color was unmistakable. We passed Greg's favorite natural carving and it was in beautiful color. We got into the Mel Price lock without any trouble even though we were without a throttle. Once the lock opened we were greeted by a barge full of Brazilian waterway people on the Corp of Engineers tug Pathfinder. We waved and they waved, they took pictures of us and we took pictures of them. It was a friendly international event on a rainy day on the Mississippi. Once in a while you see something strange and not quit sure what it is. But came across the Casino Queen with a bunch of tows next to it. Not sure if it is still a casino or someplace for tows to rest. It was an uneventful ride to lock 27 where we had a little trouble catching a ballard but finally got ahold of one. Coming in behind us was the Pathfinder and their guests and we both locked down together. We got into Hoppies and we were really happy to be here. Hoppy and Fern looked great and we got caught up. Today is there 49th wedding anniversary. Congratulations to them both. They still behave like newlyweds. We love them both. Nice to be here.
- 10/23/2009 - Friday - 11:30 pm - It is nice to be at Hoppies. Greg and I got up, borrowed the van and went into Arnold to have some breakfast and run errands. We were driving back to the marina when it occurred to me that I had missed St. Louis. I missed it completely. It was so gloomy and rainy and I was in the salon in charge of the throttle that I totally missed seeing the arch! What I couldn't believe even more is the fact that Greg didn't even once say, "there's the arch," or "hey Jane, we're in St. Louis," or "take a picture of the arch," nothing! So this year there will be no pictures of the arch or St. Louis. Still can't get over missing St. Louis. Got back to the boat and the throttle cable came in and Greg got it fixed good as new. A bunch of boats came in late afternoon and Greg ended up helping them tie up and then of course one beer led to another and Fern and Debbie talked Greg into staying for Saturday's festivities. Potato soup and chili are on the menu. I stayed on the boat and set up my sock knitting machine and cranked out a pair of socks. Fern and Debbie came down and saw the machine and thought it was interesting. It has been a while since I did that. It felt good to do something creative again. It was a nice cozy night.
- 10/24/2009 - Saturday - 12:00 pm - We got up and had breakfast. Greg started working on the boat and took down the canvas on the boat. He wanted to wash it and treat it with Thompsons waterseal. I ended up going to the Kimmswick Apple Butter Festival. It was a nice festival with all kinds of booths and lots of music. I picked up a few things as Christmas gifts and then went back to the boat. Greg was finishing up the canvas and picking on the guys on the dock who of course were picking on him. I sat down and cranked out another pair of socks. It feels good to start knitting again. Everyone was getting ready for the barge party tonight. I helped a little but mostly sat and visited with Fern. The new party barge at Hoppies is wonderful. They had a huge turnout at the party and Greg really enjoyed the food. Hoppie was taking a break and getting something to eat and Fern was tasting the fruits of her labor. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Pete was one of my favorite new people I met that night. He kept an eye on Greg and gave him a good hard time. They even had a great band. The singer, Rosie, actually sang for the pope when he came to St. Louis. Fern and her daughter Debbie did a great job putting on one heck of a party. I know it was a lot of work but well worth it. One of the best parts of the new barge is the wonderful bathroom. The toilet is fantastic. The party was wonderful and we met so many of Fern and Hoppies good friends. We were so glad to be a part of that and appreciate them asking us to stay. Hoppies is always the high light of my trip. A fantastic night.
- 10/25/2009 -Sunday - 9:00 pm - Got up before sunrise and got ready to leave. Fern and Debbie came down and we said our last good byes. I will miss them. Dave and Greg said their good byes too. It is always hard leaving Hoppies, its my favorite place. The Mississippi was still rising and there was a ton of debris in the water but the fall colors were glowing. It never ceases to amaze me how so much work is done on the Mississippi. It is so beautiful and yet so industrious. Greg loves the carving by nature the most and the fall colors are spectacular. It was a rough day on the river with timber coming at us all day and Greg had to work on missing it so we wouldn't damage our props. We saw whole groves of trees coming at us. It was a mess. We stopped for the night at Boston bar at mile 7 and got anchored, had supper and are relaxing. It is a beautiful place off the river with little current. I will probably try and knit some socks tonight. A nice restful evening.
- 10/26/2009 - Monday - 8:15 pm - Started out early today to do battle with the logs we passed yesterday. They seemed to have all caught up with us today. It was a bumpy ride and dodging the trees was no fun. Luckily we didn't have much to go before we reached the Ohio river. After the swift ride on the Mississippi where the boat reached speeds of up to 16.8 mph, which is record breaking for us, it seemed like we were crawling at 9 mph., but it was calm and no trees to dodge. We came upon the tow Mary Ann and the captain called us on the radio. Clint remembered us from several years ago and asked for out web site address again. It was so cool to run into someone on the river like that. When we met him last time he was working on another boat but it was nice to see him again on the Mary Ann. I hope he drops us a line on the e-mail. The rest of the afternoon was uneventful. It was a warm and somewhat overcast day. Greg helped me get my knitting machine topside and I ended up cranking out socks. I wonder if anyone else has ever cranked socks going down the river? We went right over both Ohio locks and got right into Kentucky Lock and Dam. Decided to stay at Kentucky Dam Marina. For some reason we both thought we had stayed there before but when we got here we couldn't remember any of it. We decided that we have never been here before. It is nice and I don't know why we haven't stayed before. Oh well. No problems with the boat, it was a good day.
- 10/27/2009 - Tuesday - 9:30 pm - Left Kentucky Dam Marina after breakfast in the lodge. It was raining when we woke up and it was raining when we left. It rained all day, sometimes harder than other times. It would have been a beautiful ride if not for the rain. What we could see of the fall color was nice if the sun were out. Did not get many photographs today, just tried staying warm. I tried taking photographs today but they all looked gray. The trip was uneventful which isn't bad but it was really nice to get into Pebble Isle. We saw Grande Finale was there and so was Wet Kit. Did see on of the crew from Grand Finale and said hello but Wet Kit had rented a car and gone back to Wisconsin so we didn't see them. We met up with Lee and Deanne at the restaurant and then the four of us met up with Tammy and Randy for supper. It was so nice to see them all again. We got caught up with what was happening with all of us and had a wonderful visit. Got back to the boat and had a relaxing night.
- 10/28/2009 - Wednesday - 11:00 pm - Went over to the marina this morning and had some wonderful cinnamon rolls. Lee baked them fresh this morning. Greg and I both got caught up on computer stuff over there because we got better internet connections over there. Did a little housekeeping today went back to the marina, had a little lunch, then borrowed the van and went to town and got what we needed, stopped at the post office and mailed off some things. Hung around the marina and visited with Randy and Tammy. Went back to the boat and relaxed for a while. I was lucky enough to spot a grey heron that just caught a fish. The grey heron are so big and beautiful. Lee, Deanne, Greg and I went out to supper and Tammy and Randy joined us. It was great to has supper with everyone again before we left here. After supper Lee, Deanne, Greg, and I went to pick up Button from the groomer. It is stunning how a dog and his owner end up looking alike as in the example of Lee and Button. It was great seeing the three of them again. We have had a wonderful time here and it will be sad leaving in the morning. I look forward do seeing them all again in the spring.
- 10/29/2009 - Thursday - 10:30 pm - Tonight we have no signal of any kind. No television, no phone, no internet. We are at the Clifton Marina in Clifton, TN. Nothing here, but it is a beautiful night and just what we need. We left Pebble Isle this morning and saying good-bye to this place is not easy. Greg and Lee had an especially difficult time. We really enjoyed the time we spent with Lee and Deanne ,they are such a cute couple. We met Sam on his boat the River Rat and he was there to see us off. It is just hard saying good-bye to the great people at Pebble Isle. The up side is that I spotted my first eagle. I suppose it is the first eagle sighting because I actually stayed awake for most of this ride. It is amazing to see an eagle in real life. We did have our first bloody mary lunch of the trip. Just have not felt like it up till now. We were moving along quite nicely and Greg even got to nap for a while. Moments after I took that photo the engine alarm went off and he made a mad dash down to the engine room. He had to shut down the engine and we were limping along on one engine. He checked the oil and there wasn't any so he added some. He had checked it before we left Pebble Isle and it was fine then. He restarted the engine and it began racing and he shut it down again. After considerable thought he started the engine again and everything was fine. He checked the air filters and they had oil in them so he took them off. The engine ran fine all the way to Clifton. The TN River is the most beautiful river we have been on. Spotted an eagle's nest in the area where there is a protected nesting area. It was empty at this time of the year. It is a beautiful river with lots of wildlife. We made it to Clifton with no further engine trouble. We got tied up and borrowed the car to go to town. Stopped at a Tractor Supply store in Savannah and picked up more oil and some other diesel stuff, then had a nice supper in a Mexican restaurant. Tomorrow Greg is going to check out the engine again and then decide if we will move on.
- 10/30/2009 - Friday - 11:00 pm - Rough day. Don't think it was a coincidence that this was the anniversary of the actual "perfect storm." We checked the weather and they were predicting some bad weather, but of course we didn't think we would run into it. We did some chores and then headed out of Clifton. We had only gone several miles when Greg heard a terrible banging in the engine room. He knew it was trouble. He came up from the engine room and said that it was big trouble and we should head back to Pebble Isle. Greg called Randy and told him our story and he said come on back. A few minutes later Randy called us back and told us to not run the other engine so we shut it down and limped on back to Pebble Isle on one engine. We were feeling bad about not getting to Joe Wheeler and spending the winter there but we love Pebble Isle so we started getting excited about spending the winter there. We enjoyed last time we were there for the winter. So we headed back to Pebble Isle and were thinking about what we had to do to make all the arrangements. Were lucky enough to spot a curious wild baby bovine on the river bank. I am starting to think these aren't really wild cows, but it does sound more interesting. We pasted the eagle's nest again and I saw they had a few small visitors this time. As we moved past the nest I spotted and eagle with a large twig in its talon and as we watched we saw it heading for the nest. We quickly (if that is what you call it) turned around and went back to the nest, and low and behold they were home this time! It was so exciting and I couldn't believe I actually got the photo. After that we decided it was all worth it. The starboard engine blew and because of that we got to see the eagle's at home. Everything happens for a reason. Continuing down the river we were feeling all warm and fuzzy about the whole situation and a flood warning came over the marine radio for Decatur county which is right where we were. We had passed one of the creeks that they mentioned that was going to flood with the impending heavy rain that was coming. Needless to say we just laughed it off and figured they didn't know what they were talking about. It wasn't raining. Greg decided to crank up the radar and just for fun see if anything was coming. Guess what...they do know what they are talking about. We just happened to be in a little hole where the storm wasn't. We watched the hole close in on us and when it looked like it was almost on us we looked out the back of the boat and there it was, a huge wall of water. Seconds after I took that photo our boat was being spun around like a top and we were heeled over like some kind of sail boat. Greg had no idea which way was up if it hadn't been for the radar. Having only one engine, control of the boat was nearly impossible, but somehow Greg kept us away from the shore. Water was blowing in under where the canvas snaps to the boat on the flybridge. Electronics were getting flooded with water. It was so strange to see so much water on the flybridge. In the midst of all this mess our beautiful flag broke off, staff and all and went into the river. I kept my eye on it as long as I could, hoping that it would stop and we could go get the flag. It didn't stop for a while and it was all Greg could do to keep us in the center of the river.When the wind died down it continued to pour. I told him I would hook it with a pole if he could just get close to it but it was impossible and I lost sight of the flag. When things settled down and we got the flybridge mopped up we felt like we had beat the storm. For some reason I could not get past loosing the flag. Next thing I knew I was crying and could not stop. I just hated seeing our flag in the water and not being able to get it. We limped into Pebble Isle on one engine and flagless. It had stopped raining long enough for us to get tied up in a covered slip. We love the people of Pebble Isle. We all had supper together and licked our wounds.
- 10/30/2009 - Saturday - 11:00 pm - Happy Halloween. Ray came down to look at the engine and it isn't fatal but it is serious. Not sure how serious until he gets into it. Nothing that money can't fix. At least we are here at Pebble Isle and are confident that they will be fair. Didn't do much else. Did a little housekeeping and mostly hung out at the marina. A few trick or treaters came by the marina and they were cute. Holly and her husband came in with thier two boys and it was good to see them again. They sure have grown and Holly looks great. Ater supper came back to the boat and cranked out more socks. All in all a lazy day.
- 11/01/2009 - Sunday - 9:30 pm - Went for breakfast at the marina. Greg made a template for a swim platform for Randy's boat. Since we are going to be here for the winter Greg is going to help him out with his boat and they are going to help us with ours. Watched the Colts beat the 49er's and then watched Titans beat Jackson. It was fun. Had a great supper. Amanda made shrimp steamers and it was delicious. We had supper with Lee, Deanne, Randy, Tammy, Sam, Chuck and Barbara from Gold Watch. Had some great conversation and lots of laughs. Went back to the boat and am going to work on finishing socks. Good day all around.
- 11/02/2009 - Monday - 10:30 pm - Lazy morning. Went to the marina for cinnimon rolls came back to the boat and worked on finishing socks. Around noon went back to the marina because Tammy and Randy were going to take us to Mayfield, KY to pick up a rental truck for us to drive home. Did get an opportunity to see a River Rat in his natural habitat. Sam, who is captain of the River Rat, has been a blast to get to know. He and his dog River have traveled from Michigan and headed for Florida. We have had lots of laughs and we hope to see him back here at Pebble Isle in the spring. Got off to a late start because Tammy and Randy had work to do before we left. It took us longer than we thought to get there but finally got there and picked up the truck. It was a great time getting there. Lots of laughs. We stopped to have sushi in Murrey, KY and then headed back to the boat. Will work on socks again tonight and then head for bed.
- 11/03/2009 - Tuesday - 11:00 pm - Got up early today because we went golfing for the first and only time this trip. Greg was really looking forward to this. Hey, why did the turkeys cross the road? Who knows but it was cool seeing them do it. I was thrilled to get a photo of them. There were probably about 10 of them but by the time I got my camera I only caught the last two. It was great. Greg was in hog heaven when we finally got to Paris Landing and could play 18 holes. It is a beautiful golf course and a perfect day for it too. Got back to the boat and hauled some stuff to the truck. We had supper at Tequila John's with Deanne, Lee, and Sam. It was nice to have supper with them one more time before we head for home and Sam heads south. Left them each with socks. I hope they like them. It is sad that our trip is coming to an end but it was fun and refreshing for us. It was good to spend time with Greg and to be able to regroup after all that is happening in our lives. I really look forward to spring when we bring back the boat. Greg is a great captain!