Lock 1 and the other two final locks on the Mississippi are all small chambers measuring 56’ X 400’. It is also interesting that they are all within 6 miles of each other. Also, St Anthony’s Lower Lock and St Anthony’s Upper Lock in such close proximity the lockmasters operate them in unison. When I enter the chamber of the lower lock the lockmaster contacts the upper lock to let them know to prepare for an arrival. There is only about a 1000’ between the locks and I doubt it is wide enough for two single barges to pass. There is a small courtesy dock I assume a pleasure boat could access and delay the passage from one lock to the other but other than that travel is usually from one directly to the other.
The lift in the lower lock is about 25’ but the Upper is double that at 50’. This is the highest lifting lock on the Mississippi. Again both of the St Anthony’s Locks have floating pins. When approaching the top of the lift in the Upper Lock I talked with one of the lockmasters. He commented that the lockmaster from the lower lock had called him and told him to watch how I locked through. He said I needed to stay around and offer lessons to other pleasure boaters. At first I didn’t understand what I was doing that caught their interest. He went on to explain that most small boater enter the chamber and secure the boat by attaching a bowline to the pin. Then they struggle throughout the lockage trying to keep the boat off the lock wall as the filling water swirls and moves the boat about.
When I build Therapy I had already had a fair amount of experience with locks. And yes, many boaters do attempt to negotiate a lock in this fashion. I long ago decided this was futile. On all of my boats I have installed an easy to reach center cleat for the main purpose of locking. On Therapy (and my Bayliner 2452) it is located on the inboard side of the cockpit directly behind the helm and passenger seats. The cleat has one end of a 12’ line more or less permanently attached. Before entering the lock I deploy a fender forward of the cleat and one aft near the transom. I then ease up along side and quickly and easily toss a loop of the rope around the pin, pull out the slack to bring her against the lock wall and secure the bitter end back on the same cleat. I then sit back and enjoy the ride – no work – no fuss. I was amazed that the lockmaster found this so novel and few other boaters have not adopted a similar method. It is by far the easiest way to manage a lock with floating bollards.
With the Upper St Anthony’s lock behind me I now have completed lockage on all 29 locks of the Mississippi River.
Departing the lock to the starboard is St Anthony’s Falls. It has warning signs and cables stretched the channel to dissuade any foolish boaters that might wander too close. From here I make my way up stream for a couple miles but quickly begin to run out of water. When the sounder is showing 4’ and rising I decide it is time to declare it as the apex of my trip. The chart places me at the 851 MM. I shut down the Honda and make myself a sandwich. I enjoy it as I slowly begin to drift towards the lock and officially begin my return trip to the trailer 332 miles downstream.
The remainder to the trip is fairly uneventful with the exception of my little out of channel experience mentioned in the opening. My final lockage back at Lock 13 is shared with a riverboat paddlewheel – the target="_blank">Celebration Belle. As we departed the lock the shrill notes of the calliope whistled a tune. It seems fitting that I end the trip along with others whom have boarded a boat and decided to explore the Upper Mississippi. Yes, their accommodations were different than mine but we both shared a common experience that will not soon be forgotten.
Indeed, the northern section Upper Mississippi was far more picturesque than I had ever imagined. The towering bluffs, lush islands and sand beaches reflect little of the views found farther south. In fact, this trip may well have changed my mind about the direction of my future boating. I have long held the goal of someday completing the Great Circle. And although I may still do that it is no longer the main focus of my plans when I am able to retire and spend longer periods of time on the water.
I have decided that there is much to see and explore on the rivers of the Midwest. And even though I have plied many of these waters, my trips have all been made in haste with little time taken to view much past the shoreline. I think I could spend an entire summer on just the Upper Mississippi and still not see all there is to see. There are so many towns, both large and small, that I would like to just stroll through taking in the local flavor and history.
Plus one major factor that has been missing with almost all my trips is my wife of 35 years. I want her to share the experience with me. To discover what’s around the next river’s bend. To sleep where sounds are few and stars seem close enough to touch. We can do that on the rivers. And maybe someday while wandering afar we will find what drives me to be out there. I still can’t explain it. Perhaps never will. But searching for it is, and will continue to be a joy.