Monday, November 5, 2012

Mississippi: Nauvoo to Louisiana, MO

Paddling in the folg
Although Brian who is still constantly complaining about the weather will see it differently, I think we have been very lucky with the weather since our skipping forward to Davenport. After we had sat out a stormy day there we have not had any wind issues expect on our approach to Nauvoo - and that was an extremely wide spot in the river with no side channels to hide behind. Other than that the wind has been minimal and the day time temperatures quite nice. Still no T-shirt paddling weather, but pleasant enough. We have encountered an interesting phenomenom: When the sun is shining and the winds low it is much warmer out on the river than on land because of the sun reflecting in the water. Some days I would be lost without sun glasses  - so intense is the sun. Unfortunately it cools down rather quickly once the sun sets but luckily we have had no more sub freezing temperatures at night. One night we even indulged in a nice camp fire in the evening and I can read in my tent at night without freezing my fingers off - at least for half an hour.... Only one day so far we have encountered a new serious weather problem: fog! One morning the fog was so thick that we did not know if we should actually paddle. Luckily we were in a side channel were no barge can go but we were still afraid of motor boats. It felt very eerie to paddle in the thick coat of fog that took till almost noon to lift completely.

Waiting outside the lock
Our main issue right now are the locks. Everything is fine when they are empty. We now know the routine on how to approach and what to do in the lock. But when there is a barge there already then things get complicated. Single (or small barges) take about as long as we to get locked through: about 20 to 30 minutes. But the huge double barges have to be taken apart for the lockage process and that takes about 2 hours! And of course barges always have priority over pleasure boats like us! There is one lock on the Mississippi River that can actually accommodate a double barge: The lock is 1,200 feet (about 400 metres long) and the drop is 36 feet (12 metres). Being locked through there I felt like a dwarf! Luckily the lockmasters are usually very friendly (as long as you obey the rules and do not pass between a barge and a levy wall!) and try to help kayakers. The most important trick is to have their phone numbers so that you can call them in case you do not know what to do. And we two amateurs usually don't.

In the lock
 So one day we approached a lock with two double barges already waiting outside. That translates into 4 hours waiting time for us! Brian quickly called the lockmaster and we were very lucky. He quickly radioed the barges and we were allowed to be locked through first. On the other side we another pleasant surprise was waiting for me. We had entered the state of Missouri and I had finally T-mobile cell phone reception again! (I have not had any T-mobile reception in the whole state of Iowa and having no internet on my smartphone for almost 2 weeks has been a torture for an internet junkie like me!)

In the showerhouse
We have less than a week and only 4 locks now to get to St. Louis, another big mile stone for us. The weather forecast today was horrible and we awoke to constant rain and a day high temperature of 8 Celsius. Luckily the town of Louisiana (not the state) was nearby and the local Two Lakes Marina offered camping. We paddled there in the morning through cold rain and hit gold: The marina was practically empty, camping was only 15$ per site and that included use of a nice warm shower house (where we we ended end up sleeping at night) and free use of a courtesy van with which we have been driving around all day long. So for once grocery shopping, going to the library and finding cheap AYCE buffets is not a problem. A horrible day has now turned into a great town stay!

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