Ah, Peoria … Main Street America! It’s 2200 (10 p.m.) on Saturday night, still about 80 degrees. I’m writing this from the free city dock alongside the waterfront park, where an outdoor band is playing. It’s a pretty bad band. This amuses rather than irritates me. On any typical warm Saturday night in any typical American city, you might hear a good band or a bad one. Either way, tomorrow comes.
It’s the 20th anniversary of 9/11. The realization hit me mid-day. (I was more directly connected to that day than most Americans because of my work in the Pentagon, but less connected than many of my colleagues and friends there.) When you’re living on a boat and moving somewhere new almost every day, it’s easy to forget about the wider world. I felt a need to reflect, so attended a 9/11 retrospective at the nearby Riverfront Museum. It reminded me of that phrase, “Will it play in Peoria?” — meaning “How will Main Street (or mainstream) America respond to this?” Remembering our solidarity after 9/11, I think mainstream America is still capable of great things in the face of bad.
At least I hope so.
Our 35 miles on the Illinois River today reminded me of the good things about this trip too. Jeff and I are finding our stride more every day. We’ve established a routine, so I feel much more relaxed about the inevitable unknowns. And we got one of those as soon as we left our rough-and-tumble wall this morning! We pulled out around the old lock wall that was “home” for the night … and right into the stern wash of a tug pushing a 3×5 barge, which was invisible to us behind that wall. We were approaching the nearby bridge, so needed to decide quickly how to maneuver. I was still a bit groggy — retirement has made me a slow riser — but this woke me up quickly. Jeff milled about some while I grabbed the radio and asked the captain which side we should pass on. “On the 2,” he answered. It was the first time we’ve heard that phrase, though we knew we would. It’s one of the more confusing aspects of river travel–the proper way to overtake a tug, using the right language. (Meeting head-on is more straightforward.) As we skee-daddled across his stern, the prop wash thrust our boat around and Jeff had to “put the hammer down” and steer aggressively to stay clear of the lock wall we had just left.
Whew. After that incident, the day’s sail went smoothly. The channel (safe place to sail) meandered all over the wide river, requiring close attention to both charts and buoys. Jeff found it rather fun.
Our arrival at the city dock was a bit exciting. The maneuvering room was limited and the wind was stiff. I had to push off with the boat hook a few times, moving from port to starboard as quickly as I could, while Jeff did his maneuvering magic. Remember, we have one engine and no thrusters, meaning this is a much trickier boat to steer than most that are doing The Loop.
No heart-thumping. No swearing. We’re getting better at this.
We’re making other adjustments too. Navigating on the river is easier than on the lakes in some ways and harder in others. Since rivers bend and turn, we often lose track of which compass direction the wind is from or which compass direction we’re headed. (Fortunately, this isn’t usually critical information here.) We encounter a lot more boat traffic on the river, and we’re glad this is September instead of mid-summer. We miss the blue water; the river water we take into the boat for some basic chores is brownish, so we’re using our tank water more quickly.
The hardest adjustment has been the early nightfall. It’s full-dark by 8 p.m. I’ll have to rearrange my body clock somehow. Early to bed, early to rise, makes a woman a better first mate!
Photos and captions below.