Today’s plan is 45 miles to Hoppies marina. First stop-8am at the fuel dock- and pump out. 2nd stop will be the Mel Price Lock and Dam. We toured it a few days ago so should be no surprises.
Muddy Mississippi – 44 miles to Hoppies Marina
Staying 6 days in one marina allowed a bit of complacency to set in. We planned to get fuel and a pump out over the weekend, but time got away and we ended up waiting til the morning of our departure. The fuel dock opens at 8am; we were there by 7:45 ready for service. Who would have guessed the fuel pump would malfunction- the diesel would just drip out!! After almost an hour we decided to buy it at the next marina. Good thing we still have half a tank. Serves us right for leaving it to the last minute. This gave us a later start than expected, but by 9:30 we were moving toward the Mel Price Lock and Dam.
Mel Price Lock and Dam
During the Lock and Dam museum tour we had noticed that the small lock chamber for pleasure craft was closed due to extreme tree debris floating in the chamber. We were surprised to be directed to this lock chamber on Monday along with 2 other boats as well as a towboat pushing one tow. The lock usually drops 23 feet. Due to the low water conditions, it only needed to drop about 6 feet! The lockmaster instructed us to float in the middle rather than tie up. This was fine, but there was still debris floating about- the boat ahead of us got a branch stuck in his bow thruster, then the boat behind us got a log stuck between his propeller and shaft. Luckily they were both able to dislodge in time to head out of the lock. At the exit, we passed by a log the size of a tree almost blocking the exit of the lock. What a way to start the day!!
We exited the lock and looked back- not a good sign to see a boat sideways in the lock. They hit a log and feared it was stuck in the prop. reverse, it spit out and they were able to follow us out.
As the day progressed, the debris in the water became increasingly larger.
The pictures show better than words;
Chain of Rocks Canal
Happy to on our way, the next point of interest is the Chain Of Rocks Canal. The guidebooks say CAUTION follow signs pointing the Left to enter the Chain Of Rocks Canal. if you go to the right, it is all shallow rock ledges. You might expect this to be marked by large colorful signs or flashing do not enter signs. You would be partially correct:
One sign partially behind trees directed us to the canal!
The channel was a welcome respite from the debris- calm water and no logs. For 20 miles we are in a manmade canal that leads to the Chain of Rocks Canal.
Before leaving the canal, we entered one more lock, and shared it with a single tow and our friends on Enterprise. Instructions were to float in the middle, don’t need to tie up! Uneventful drop of 12 feet and out the other side.
St Louis Arch
Once we re-joined the main channel, it is a few more miles to float by the St Louis Arch. It helped that we had toured it last week and have an idea what to expect.
We tried to maneuver into a photo op position so the crew of Enterprise could take our photo by the arch, then we did a U-turn and took their photo. A little tricky with the size of the arch and the current, but we each got a memento photo!
Past St Louis is where the water is once again turbulent, caused by the Missouri joining the Mississippi. Combined with barge traffic and debris it is a white knuckle steering for several miles.
Thankfully it is a relatively short day- just 45 miles to Hoppies barge tie up, and we approach it by 3pm. Fern is on the radio instructing us to go past, turn upstream and hand the lines to the dockhands (her daughter and son in law).
Dave skillfully pulls in at the fuel dock and in no time we are moved up in line and tied off with a spring line, a stern line cross tied and the bow line secured to a barge bollard cleat.
We were invited to the 4:30 Mississippi captains class for the loopers to get familiar with the current down- river conditions (Fern’s daily talk is a must see for looper)
Following the meeting , Fern’s daughter Debbie offered to call the local smokehouse restaurant and ask them to stay open long enough for the four of us to walk over for dinner. They obliged, and we walked .25 miles to enjoy a most excellent rib dinner combined with good conversation with the owners and waitresses at Smoky Robinsons Cajun Smokehouse. The special was half baby back ribs for $15.00. meal for a couple days!
Hoppies is an iconic stop for loopers, and a great send off for several days on the river with no marina stops!
One night stay, then plan to head on down the river!