Passing the intersection of the Cal-Sag we continue on down the Sanitary Canal. Industry is still fairly heavy along this section of river and the air continues to be fragrant. While at the marina on Saturday I noted a lot of debris floating down the river. I had assumed that the almost 2" of rain had washed out all the ditches and dumped their bounty in the water. I hate dodging stuff with the boat all day long and was somewhat dismayed at the thought. But I had been pleasantly surprised to find little flotsam on Sunday. But suddenly we located it. It started sparsely at first but gradually got worse. Finally, it was heavy enough that I decided to drop off plane and slowly plow through it.
At first, I really wasn't paying much attention to the nature of the debris but traveling slow in a fairly unscenic area I began to look around for any entertainment. Predictability there was the normal sticks and scrap lumber. Plastic soda bottles, foam cups and glass jars were also in attendance. But then I noticed something odd. I discounted the first sighting as it was at some distance but a few moments later a second specimen floated by and rolled over in our wake. No mistake this time.
Right now I am questioning whether I should mention this entire episode as is somewhat offensive. But I have decided I must defend my journalistic integrity by accurately reporting of the facts as they presented themselves to me (at least that's what the real press says when they want to run something totally tasteless!) Awe heck, just say it - there were condoms floating in the water. And not just one. It became kind of a "count the condom" game as we pushed about quarter mile through the debris. In all we had eight confirmed and 3 unconfirmed sightings of what we called Chicago jellyfish in just a few minutes time.
Now about their source - I would like to think that the previous Saturday night a bunch of boaters got lucky. Perhaps, as we are all very appealing men but honestly I doubt this alone accounts for the numerous pieces of evidence. More likely the heavy rains caused a sewage treatment plant (or plants) to overflow and deposit this floating software. If we accept this logic as correct, it is also reasonable to assume that condoms were not the only item to escape the facilities. This might explain why we saw only one person in the water within 100 miles of the city!
At the 291 mile marker we approach Lockport Lock and Dam. It has a 600 x 110 single chamber and normally drops about 35 feet. As with all the locks along this route there are no float pins and boaters are dropped ropes to hold heir position on the lock wall. We contact the lockmaster and he tells us we will have about an hour wait before we can enter. We pass the time by reading and talking. In just about an hour the gates open and we proceed with the process.
Exiting Lockport we travel about a mile to a point where the canal ends as the Des Plaines River joins it on the starboard side. From here the next lock is only four miles down stream.
Brandon Lock & Dam at the 286 MM is the same size as Lockport. Contacting the lockmaster again finds us with another hour wait as he completes moving a tow through. But by now the sun is starting to hang low on the horizon. We really would like to get through the lock and run another 12 miles downstream to Harborside Marina where there is a restaurant and lounge. A hot meal for dinner was much more appealing than another cold cut sandwich out of the cooler.
There is already a bass boat waiting to enter when we arrive and while we are sitting there another one pulls in and joins in the wait.. The tow finally exits the other side and the chamber is filled and we are allowed to enter. The three of us are secure to the side but find ourselves just sitting there. After a while the lockmaster comes by and explains that another boat has radioed that he is approaching and ask them to hold the lock. I understand this as others have waited for me before but still the sun has set and the stars were starting to appear.
Once the 35’ cruiser arrived we were delayed even longer as the captain called the lockmaster over and quiz him for several minutes on marinas and slips available downstream. By the time we left the lock it was dark and we had to decide what to do. Running down an unfamiliar river in dark is not one of my favorite activities (and not one of the smartest either). But we had some moonlight to work with and there were channel markers to help follow the correct path. One concern was that there was some good size debris floating here and there. We decided to take it slow running on minimum planning speed. In 35 minutes or so we should have reached the marina.
All went well for the next six or seven miles but then development and lights along the shore made it difficult to see any debris in the water ahead. I dropped off plane and continued on slowly while we dug out my spotlight. As I was fumbling in the dark to plug it in I unknowingly allowed Therapy to stray out of the channel. Suddenly the sound of the aluminum prop hitting the gravel bottom gets my attention. I can’t believe I have done this again. Like the Green River trip if I had just taken a moment to set the bottom alarm on the depth finder this could of easily been prevented.
I trim up for clearance and we make our way back into the channel. Once there I shut it down to take a look. The damage is really quite minimal and mostly confined to just roughening the leading edge. I now set the alarm to10 feet and we continued on using the light to help pick up the Channel markers and watch the water for floating junk. A minute or two later the outboard suddenly over rev’d and I knew I had hung something on the lower unit. We stopped again and raised the engine to find a plastic wiffleball bat wrapped around it. This is really getting tough on the nerves!
The rest of the ride is uneventful and soon we idle into the Marina and tie up at the dock. It’s a short walk to the restaurant/lounge and we go in finding what I am sure is the normal local crowd sitting at the bar. Unfortunately, the waitress tells us that the kitchen is closed for the evening. After explainng our circumstances and mentioning that we aren’t picky they agree to fry us up some chicken tenderloins and fries. Not exactly a five star menu but still we’re pleased as they were quite tasty.
With our stomachs satisfied we return to the boat and pull away from the marina and idle over about 1/8 mile into a shallow area off the channel. Here we drop anchor for the night. We tried to set outside for a while and enjoy the evening but the mosquitoes were also hungry and forced in after about 15 minutes. We both sleep well.
The next morning the sky is clear with no wind. As we pull out of our anchorage we pass the mouth of the Kankakee River at the 273 mile marker. This marks the official beginning of the Illinois River. We continue on south only about 2 miles where we encounter the next lock – Dresden Island. Again it is the same size and configuration as the others and has about a 22 ft drop. The lockmaster informs we will have about a 20 minute wait so we take the time to have a simple breakfast.
With Dresden behind us we finally get a little distance between locks.
Marseilles Lock & Dam is next but there is about 27 miles of river
before we reach it. The terrain is now completely rural and the banks are
gently sloping and tree lined in most places. The farm fields of
central Illinois are apparent in the background. The water is smooth
but interrupted by a barge or two and a few fishing boats from time to