Another Sleepless Night at Anchor

11/25/11, Friday

It’s another one of those nights in which we go to bed preparing to wake up.

Map from my journal outlining our anchoring predicament.

I’m sleeping with both pairs of long underwear and my bra and t-shirt, though not my socks any longer as it’s warmed up considerably and last night I was warm just sleeping in a t-shirt and shorts.

We’re at anchor at mile marker 55 on the Illinois River, just south of Naples (our European get-away for the day, the night before it was in Havana in the Caribbean). Out of everything, anchoring is the most stressful event for me by far. In fact, I believe the reason we’re able to fall asleep at 8pm each night is due to the stress involved in anchoring.

Unlike nearly every other scenario I’d find myself in looking for a place to sleep, finding a spot for the night aboard this sailboat is unique. We’re in the Illinois River so there’s shoreline on either side of us, most of the time surrounded by a levy on one side and trees on the other. The river’s relatively narrow and so our predicament tonight of finding a spot outside of the channel where triple-wide and five-deep barges frequent, is difficult. Add to that the fact that we draw 5 feet and it makes it worrisome to come up with a spot to stay for the night.

Like I said, anywhere else one could find a tree to sleep under, a forgotten about building to sidle up again or at least take twelve steps out of the roadway and rest assured of not getting plowed down by a large automobile.

One of the many barges that could crush us without even realizing it. About this time is when we started seeing bigger and bigger barges, 5 across by 5 deep–25 barges in total!

Yet tonight we contend with the downward push of the current from the north, the 15 – 20 knot winds unyielding from the south, a shallow bank 50 feet to the east and the super-highway of barges to our west. And while all of us agree that this was our very best option for the night and feel confident our anchors are holding, all of us will undoubtedly drift somewhere between sleep and awake, rocked by waves, listening to the water lap in the bilge, wondering if we’re still held by our anchors or drifting silently in some troublesome direction.

Surely what will come of it is an easy morning of getting up at first morning light to coffee and an open river without the hassle of needing to first pull on all our layers.

11/26/11, Saturday

It’s only a little after 9am and already it feels like we’ve made a big dent into the day. Waking before dawn on the bank of a sleepless, worrisome night, we got a cup of coffee in us and listened to the forecast as the black night changed into a world washed in shades of blue.

But soon it was time to get down to business. There are few better ways to warm you up and build an appetite than hauling in hundreds of pounds of anchor chain at 7am.

Standing watch in the cold, misty morning, watching the Illinois River ban drift slowly by.

Now with stomachs full and warm with boat soup, it’ll be a day of reading and writing interspursed with a turn at the helm in the grey, misty, rainy weather. It seems like one of those days where it’s best to have a pot of warm soup at the ready to keep you warm. Perhaps another pot of chili is in order.

After what seemed like hours, my watch in the cold drizzle ended when we reached Hardin, IL.

Noah made the wise decision to take advantage of the dock here in front of the Illinois Riverdock Restaurant instead of pressing on to Grafton, another twenty miles down the line which would have put us there a couple hours after dark. (Read: a few miserably stressful hours of trying to stay within the channel, avoiding ramming into unmarked wing dams hidden beneath the water and escaping being run down by barges.)

So we’re here in Hardin, drinking whiskey in the afternoon, safely tied up and about to go shock the townies at the bar with our un-showered, un-shaven but high-spirited selves.

Feeling more round than tall, bundled in all of our layers.

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One response to “Another Sleepless Night at Anchor

  1. Wish I’d known you were going to be going by Grafton that day. We have a friend who lives there. Wishing you all well and a continued grand adventure.

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