Building A Better World

Hello virtual crew members and fellow adventurers!

The American Queen, the largest steamboat ever built, or so they claim

17 American Queen

Met this beauty on Tuesday headed towards Peoria.


Summary of week:


The crew completed their cruise down the Illinois River this past week where they made the following stops:

1 – Peoria, mile 161, where they visited the Caterpillar Visitor Center

2 – Bar Island, mile 85

3 – Hurricane Island, mile 25

4 – Grafton, mile 0





Click here to read the day-to-day travel log. This includes weather report, sea conditions, captain’s log, a summary of the day’s experience, and a few pics of the route.

The voyage of discovery did answer the following questions this week:

  1. What is the largest steamboat ever built?
  2. Who won the Olympic Gold Medal in basketball in 1952?
  3. What is flood level at Grafton?

At the Box Office

This week’s video shows highlights as Still Waters II completes her voyage down the Illinois River.  Enjoy!


To see past videos, click on the link to the Still Waters II Vimeo site.  The library contains videos of Still Waters II cruising America’s Great Loop.

Sunday & Monday, Sept 2nd & 3rd

With the Labor Day Weekend in full swing, the crew decided to stay put and enjoy the amenities of the Heritage Harbor Marina rather than take their chances on the water with the local drinking and boating crowd.

A nice surprise was a visit from Bill H., the captain of Perfect Day.  Bill swung by to say hello.  He has returned to his boat from California and is prepping to go down to Green Turtle Bay where his wife will then join him the rest of the way down to Florida.  It was great to catch up with him.  The crew last saw Bill and Lori back in late summer 2016 in the North Channel of Lake Huron.

Bill, Thanks for making time in your schedule to visit


On Monday morning, the crew enjoyed a free breakfast provided by the marina staff.  The staff made to order omelets, pancakes, biscuits, and orange juice.  The locals said they do this every Labor Day.  What a deal.

Monday afternoon, the skipper attended a captain’s brief given by the Dock Master about river conditions all the way down to mile zero on the Illinois River.  The big take away from the brief was that the water level is currently 3-4 feet lower than normal and many anchorages are therefore unavailable.  For example, all three anchor spots that the skipper had planned to use are too shallow to enter.

Back to the boat to recalculate the stops south.

Tuesday, Sept 4th

After taking on some fuel to ensure the crew can make Grafton, the crew headed to the Staved Rock Lock, eleven miles downstream.  The skipper checked the Lock Report to learn that there were two upbound tows at the Lock.  When they were two miles from the Lock, the crew met one of the upbound tows.

3 Meeting a Tow

The skipper called the Lock Master to announce the arrival of Still Waters II.  The Lock Master had already started the procedure to drain the Lock to get the other upbound tow.  However, the Lock Master said he would reopen the gate and let Still Waters II down.  The crew arrived at the Lock and waited a few minutes before the gates swung open.  When the gates opened, the crew noticed two other motor boats already in the Lock.  Well our crews good fortune was the other boaters 30 minute delay.  Our crew thanked the Lock Master for holding the Lock.  If they had not made the Lock, they would have had to wait three hours to get down.

Leaving the Starved Rock Lock, with up bound tow ready to enter

6 Leaving Starved Rock Lock

With the good fortune of the Starved Rock Lock timing and the low water levels in the Illinois River, the crew decided to travel all the way to Peoria and try to snag a spot on the free dock.  They arrived at the dock at 1830 and found one spot that they could land.  But some other boaters warned them that there were no cleats to tie off on at the dock.

Buffalo Rock along Right Descending Bank

5 Buffalo Rock

The skipper went ahead and landed on the dock anyway and then set about trying to figure out how to secure the boat to the dock.  With a little bit of ingenuity and the help of Scott from Last Call, they got the boat safely secured.

The boat may have been secured, but at 0100 in the morning the Admiral was awakened by some people talking just outside the boat on the dock.  She got up and looked out the window to notice them climb aboard Still Waters II.  She woke up the skipper and informed him that somebody was on the sundeck.  The skipper hopped out of bed and went to the salon doors to look through the glass doors.  Three people, one man and two females, standing on the sundeck looking around.  The skipper threw the salon doors open, yelled as loud as he could and directed the folks off the boat.

Down Bound on Illinois River

10 Down Bound

He startled them pretty badly, and they all jumped off the boat and ran down the dock.  One lady, using the term lady loosely of course, ran right out of her shoes.  After they got about fifty yards down the dock they stopped running.  The lady asked the guy to go back and get her shoes.  He slowly started back to the boat with one hand up saying he did not want any trouble, just wanted to get the shoes.  After the shoes were retrieved, they all disappeared into the night.  The skipper wonders how many of them needed an underwear change after he scared the daylights out of them.

Wednesday, Sept 5th

The crew decided to spend the day in Peoria and visit the Caterpillar Visitor Center.  Cat has a large presence in the area.  The Visitor Center was run with both current and retired employees.

The tour starts with a short film.  The theater for the film was built into the truck bed of a very large dirt hauler, a 797F Mining Truck.  The truck was three stories tall.  The film talked about the history of Cat and their relationship with their customers, especially focusing on how they are building a better world together.  After the film the crew explored several other floor displays of heavy equipment.  In the corner of this floor the crew found one of the best curations ever, simulators for Cat equipment.

797F Mining Truck

34 (2)

The crew took turns trying to master an excavator.  Seemed like an easy task, just move a few buckets of dirt to cover a pipe.  This was much harder than it looked.  After about 5 different attempts, the skipper was finally successful in covering the pipe in less than the three minutes allotted.

The crew then spent another couple of hours exploring the history of Caterpillar.  The biggest discovery though turned out to be the Peoria Cats.  Before the modern NBA became successful, there was an industrial basketball league sponsored by companies.  The players actually worked for the company sponsor.

Coach Womble and the 5 Peoria Cats that made the US Olympic Team


The Peoria Cats, sponsored by Caterpillar, were one of the more successful teams.  So successful that in 1952, the team won the championship game which gave them a birth in the US Olympic basketball team playoffs at Madison Square Gardens.  The Cats beat the University of Kansas 62-60.  The win resulted in their coach being named as the US Basketball team head coach.  He was then allowed to pick the seven member US Team.  He picked 5 of his Cats players, one player from the Phillips 66 squad, and one player from Kansas.  The US Team went on to win the Gold Medal in Helsinki, Finland by defeating the Russians 36-25.

Next door to the Caterpillar Visitor Center is this interesting statue of Lincoln with a Common Man, and no our skipper is anything but common


Thursday, Sept 6th

The crew shoved off the dock in Peoria and continued down the Illinois River.  The Peoria Lock was only three miles down stream and the Lock Master had the gate open when the crew arrived.  They got secured in the lock and were lowered 10 feet down to the next pool level.

Bald Eagles along the route

16 Bald Eagle

The day’s cruise was mostly uneventful with dodging large tows (3×5 barge arrays) and spotting Bald Eagles.  The crew anchored out beside Bar Island with another boat named Last Harvest.

Had to get on wrong side of the red marker to let this tow get by, at one point the barges were actually rubbing the red marker

15 Close Call

It has started to rain, and with rain in the forecast for the next several days.  The river level is down several feet, so the run off may raise the river to normal pool levels.  The down side of that is that more debris will be swept down stream.

Shoreline with beached debris waiting to float down river

22 Current and Future Debris

Friday, Sept 7th

The skipper woke early to try and size up the possibility of getting through the next Lock which is only a few miles down stream.  The Lock Report website showed an upbound tow with 3 barges currently in the lock.  The skipper calculated that the upbound tow would probably push out of the lock around 0830.  There was also a down bound tow waiting to enter the lock with 15 barges.  This tow would take about 3 hours to lock through.

The Lock Master would not answer the phone, so the skipper decided to raise the anchor and go to the lock and see if they could get through before the 15 barge tow.  Late Harvest also pulled anchor and headed down.

When the two boats arrived at the lock, they could see that the upbound tow was being raised in the lock.  When the gates opened the tow pushed out a ways then stopped to attach back to all his barges.  While this evolution was in progress, the Lock Master hailed the skipper and told them that once the up bound tow cleared the lock to come on inside.  He would lock the two pleasure craft down while the up bound tow passed the down bound tow and the down bound tow maneuvered into position to enter the lock.  Score another one for more Lock FOG.

Just for a little perspective, 10 loopers left the Joliet Wall yesterday to travel to Ottawa and stay at Heritage Harbor.  Last week when our crew made this trip, they left the Wall at noon, made the three locks down stream and pulled into Heritage Harbor about 1920, for a 7.5 hour day.  These 10 boats did not have the same good fortune.  They left the Wall at 0830, had to wait 1 1/2 hours to get through the first lock.  Then waited another 1 1/2 hours at the second lock.  They arrived at the third lock at 1730, but did not exit the lock until after 2100.  By then it was pitch dark for the last few miles to the marina.  Total time for the same trip, 14 hours and 44 minutes. This is a more normal locking experience while in the Illinois River.  The crew has had very good fortune all the way down the Illinois River.  This is why the crew gets very excited when they breeze right through a lock with little delay.

Late Harvest floating in the La Grange Lock

20 Late Harvest

As it turned out, the drop in the La Grange Lock was only 2 feet, so the Lock Master also let the two boats just hover in the lock without tying up.  What a deal.

Kampsville Ferry Crossing

25 Kampsville Ferry

After exiting the lock it was 0900, so the crew decided to go six more hours down to about mile 26 where they anchored behind Hurricane Island.  The rain followed the crew all day, and it looks as though the river has risen about a foot since yesterday.

Another Bald Eagle

28 Bald Eagle

Saturday, Sept 8th

The rain continued all night long and finally stopped around 0900.  By the skipper’s estimate, it looks as though the water is up another 2 feet.  When the rain stopped, the crew raised the anchor and headed down towards Grafton.

Another Ferry Crossing

31 Ferry Crossing

About 5 miles from Grafton, the weather took a strange twist.  The forecast was for winds out of the north east at 5-10 mph.  The first clue that something was changing was when the skipper noticed that 1 foot swells were starting to form on the river.  Then he noticed that the wind had changed direction and was mostly out of the south east.  Then the wind picked up to 15-20 mph.  Funny how this seems to happen just about the time to dock the boat.

Bald Eagle in the Land of Lincoln

30 Bald Eagle

The rain is supposed to continue through the weekend so the crew will monitor the changing river levels and determine the best time to make their next move.

Boat name of the week

In honor of all the spiders in these fresh waters.


Next Week –

With all of the rain that has been dumped on Wisconsin and Illinois, the upper Mississippi River has reached flood levels in several areas.  The crew had planned to run up the upper Mississippi River to Minneapolis, but that might be in jeopardy because of the river levels and flooding.  Time will tell.

Grafton is mile 0 of the Illinois River and mile 218 of the upper Mississippi.  The crew will monitor the river levels and determine the best course of action.  If it is safe and the marinas are open, they will continue north on the upper Mississippi.

If not, they will start the run south on the upper Mississippi and head towards Hoppies Marina.

The projected river level for Grafton, 18 feet is flood level


Loop On – Where the road ends, the water begins. The water goes on forever, and the adventure never ends.

Eric the Red

2 Comments on “Building A Better World

  1. Sharon, you are so correct, you KNOW how loud the skipper can be, it was beyond his “down in front” or harassing the umpires voice. 😂


  2. I’m must say I had to chuckle at the uninvited guests you had, with the Skipper yelling as loud as he could, safe to say they did indeed need a change of underwear but surprised you didn’t have to clean up the deck!

    Sure hope you are able to make the turn up the upper Mississippi, we haven’t had rain for 4 days – been so nice. So hoping this trend continues for at least another week, longer would be better.

    Will keep track of ya. Stay safe

    Liked by 1 person

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