We needed to make good time with Mum and Dad aboard as our plan was to get to Nashville for the weekend where they would fly out early next week. This meant we had some 200 miles to go on the Mississippi River before we would then turn upstream into the Ohio River and travel upstream against the current until we could join the Tennessee River. Our first leg from Alton would include two locks. The locks on the inland rivers are primarily for commercial traffic, and give precedence to the HUGE barges that travel up and down the rivers each day. Some of the barges are so big that they have to be separated and sent up/down in pieces before being re-connected at the top/bottom. This means that as pleasure craft boats, we may get extremely lucky and sail right through the lock, or we may end up stuck waiting for 3 or more hours before a gap where pleasure cruisers are let through. We woke up before dawn to call the lock and find out the situation. He told us he was just finishing up bringing up a barge, so we quickly untied and started making our way to the lock (1nm from the marina). We had a short wait for some accompanying loopers in the Marina to join us and then we were on our way.
The next lock is apparently the busiest lock in the entire United States at Chain of Rocks. As you are cruising along the river, you come to a fork, and there is a gigantic arrow pointing you towards the left. Jeremy made sure to warn us to turn left! If you do not go left, you end up in rapids that are so dangerous, a sailboat who missed those directions about a week ago got stuck on the rocks, and after two failed extraction missions eventually sunk.
There were a couple of barges in the queue at the locks, so we dropped anchor to wait our turn. The current was extremely weird here and we had to re-set our anchor multiple times. We eventually got through, and then after a little bit longer, we cruised past down town St. Louis. We went outside for a quick selfie, and David tried to fly the drone to get a shot of the boat with the arch, but unfortunately there was an issue with its calibration and it tried to fly itself into the water, so we gave up on that!
We pulled in to Hoppies, which is a well known marina and the only place to stay for a long stretch of the Mississippi. It is a collection of 3 barges tied together that you tie up to. David and I set up for working and Mum and Dad headed into the nearby village to do some exploring. Since I had a short gap in my schedule, I joined Mum and Dad for a quick afternoon dessert break!
The next morning, we again woke up at dawn with the aim to get as far as we could before David and I needed to get working. However, Mum and Dad volunteered to keep driving the boat while we worked. It’s very useful to have boat-owners as crew!! We arrived at the next safe anchor spot right around sunset and dropped the hook. It was a pretty narrow spot and we were the only boat there.
The next day, we again had an early wake up, and a long cruise completed by Mum and Dad and we arrived in the late afternoon at Paducah on Thursday. When we arrived at the dock, we were greeted with the most amazing complete rainbow across the river.
We decided that we would not be able to make it by boat any closer to Nashville so instead we would extend our stay through the weekend and rent a car to drive to Nashville. On Friday, Mum and Dad explored Paducah – they visited the National Quilt Museum, which sounded amazing, and the wall of murals that depict the town’s history. David and I spent the day working on the boat :). After I was finished working, I went to pick up the rental car and we planned to head out after David’s afternoon meetings were complete. We were all very excited as none of us had visited Nashville before!