Day 1

I’m tied to the wall in Joliet, where the community has made an effort to accommodate transient boaters. It’s free and has power, which is almost essential given the temperature. If I wasn’t plugged in I’d be running the generator to keep the heat on. I’m planning to venture out soon to walk around town and eat out as long as it’s not raining.

Weather today was at times quite windy, 20 – 30 knots, light rain at times, and high 40s (f). Pretty raw outside. I mostly stayed inside and had the heat on for much of the day.

Good news: I tried a docking technique that I was sort of mentally rehearsing, and it went amazingly well. There was a 90 minute wait at the top of the Lockport Lock, and a strong wind blowing perpendicular to the channel. The dock master suggested I secure on the windward wall. That’s a tricky maneuver because the bow gets easily blown off. Today I used a 40 foot dockline as a bow spring, swung the stern in and dropped it on a bollard then powered up to it. Slick. First time I’ve actually done that.

Bad news: I collided violently with a barge. Obviously I’m alive to tell the story, and the boat came through it surprisingly well.

Some background. I’ve noticed that my autopilot behaves strangely around large steel structures like bridges. It’s been particularly noticable around Chicago. Lotta steel here.

There is a particularly congested and busy section of the Waterway at the bottom end of the Sanitary Canal. One section has barges rafted three deep on the shore and there’s not a lot of width left. I was meeting an oncoming tow with parked barges on my right, talking with him on the radio. He was directing me to a gap ahead that I could pull into. I was maybe 10-15 feet from a parked barge traveling parallel to it, and suddenly the boat turned towards the barge and we hit it hard with the starboard bow, bounced, then hit again before I disengaged the autopilot and throttled back. We were going about 6 knots.

Lesson learned. Don’t use the autopilot in very close proximity to large steel barges. The boat has a robust aluminum rub rail that fortunately took the hit, but there is a bit of gelcoat damage on deck too. Nothing major.

Oh, I went through the famous electric fish barrier. No drama.

And went through the Lockport Lock with one other PC (that’s what we’re called in these parts) after waiting more than an hour for an upbound tow.

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