Where Rivers Meet (Grafton, Day 47-48)

Illinois meets Mississippi

We aren’t quite there yet, but we’re close.

“There” is another milestone on The Great Loop: The Mighty Mississippi. You hear about it for months in advance. You worry about it a bit (at least I do) … the giant barges and the big currents.

We got a glimpse of it when we arrived at Grafton, Ill., where the Mississippi meets the Illinois. As we entered the intersection of the two rivers, we exclaimed “That’s it!”… but didn’t have much chance to absorb it, because our arrival at Grafton Harbor Marina right after that was, um, “eventful.”

We couldn’t reach the marina by either phone or radio in the 10 miles before. There are some “dead zones” for Verizon users on The Loop, and this was one. We had a reservation but didn’t know our slip number and couldn’t reach the marina to ask for dock hands to help handle lines. Our 43-mile trip had been smooth (if very hot), so we were pretty relaxed as we sidled up to the marina. That didn’t last long. A dock hand in a red shirt gestured and shouted at us. We couldn’t hear him. The winds had stiffened and pushed us in the wrong direction. The slip that he gestured us to was quite narrow. Then he changed his mind and gestured us to a different slip at the last minute.

A single-screw boat is not very maneuverable. Suffice to say, it was pretty tense and not pretty. With the help of the Das Boot skipper who had preceded us, we ended up pulling Many Moons by her lines, stern-first, into the designated slip. (Jeff said later that he probably could have pulled into it using the motor, even though we haven’t done a stern-first approach yet. Well, maybe. But I voted for the easier option because, well, why not?)

And here we sit, our bow hanging out into the fairway. So be it. Breathe!

This is a major stop for Loopers on the Illinois River, and we were soon comparing notes with other Loopers and exploring the quirky marina and town. Ray and Shelly on Shellerina hosted docktails (social hour) on their fly bridge, and we learned of Shelly’s challanges — multiple sclerosis and blindness in one eye — and how they have teamed up to tackle The Loop in spite of those challenges. I took a long jog/walk through town and up the ski hill to an overlook, then a dip in the marina pool, then joined “the guys” for a bourbon tasting in the marina bar….and enjoyed two whole nights in port!

The passing landscape on the lower end of the Illinois River is mostly green.
Houses on the banks of the Illinois are on stilts, reminding us how the river level changes.
As we approached Grafton Marina, we noticed that many slips are covered, the first time we’ve encountered this on this trip.
Many Moons hangs well past the end of her pier. Well, that’s where the dock workers sent us!
The view from our slip. This restaurant is very popular with both locals and tourists, and for good reason. The dishes are somewhat pricey but delicious!!
The store/bar/winery/restaurant at the Grafton Marina is colorful and quirky!
Clever sign. Some were tempted to steal it — but didn’t, of course.
The town of Grafton has an assortment of quirky bars. We hear it’s packed here on weekends.
Das Boot (on left) keeps his TV going for the dog. Shellerina (on right) hosted docktails on their fly bridge.
The crews of Sakato, Wind Shift, Irrational Exuberance, Das Boot, and Many Moons join at the Grafton Harbor Marina restaurant. (The savory cheesecake is superb!) At least two other Looper boats were here too.
The moon is waxing and should be full soon.

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