As far as we know, we’re the last sailboat on the river. The only other watercraft are tows with barges, a couple motorboats being delivered for winter storage, and bunch of duck hunters. It’s a bit desolate, but beautiful. It feels like we have the river all to ourselves.

At the city marina in Peoria, Illinois, the docks are completely empty. Shortly after we arrive, an employee walked to the farthest dock and hung a metal sign: MARINA CLOSED. We wondered if they might shut the power off on us, but thankfully it stayed on all night, and so did our electric heater.

Because the temperatures regularly dipped to freezing, and we don’t have a way to heat our boat without shore power, we stayed at free docks and marinas every chance we could get. But, the southern half of the Illinois River is much less developed, and there’s no way around anchoring — unless you travel at night, which is risky business — and we were not about to do that.

We ended up anchoring for a night at Big Blue Island. It took us three times to feel good about our bow and stern anchor setup, as it was our first time ever using two anchors, and our first time anchoring in a current. The night was periodically rolly due to barge traffic, but in the morning we woke to perfect calm water and lovely bird songs. The fall colors were really firing up. This video, featuring music by Common Jack, is a tribute to the beauty of the river.

Hope you enjoy!

Lauren & Kirk

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Episode Dialogue

[Lauren] Last time on Sailing Soulianis, we finally started making some mile south down the inland river system. We got the hang of transiting locks, and saw the much needed raw water pump and even woke up to frost on our deck. We made it about halfway on the Illinois River to the Mississippi. Now we’re going to take on the second half.

[Kirk] Let’s do dis. ♪ Please excuse my style today ♪ ♪ It’s not that I don’t care ♪ ♪ It’s just a phase ♪ ♪ The restless dog is at my heels ♪ ♪ Nipping, biting, no matter how I pray ♪ ♪ The more I try to use my eyes ♪ ♪ The more I see the picture start to fray ♪ ♪ The moon becomes the sun becomes the moon again ♪ ♪ The pendulum will sway ♪ ♪ It swings swings swings ♪ ♪ Swings so hard ♪ ♪ It hits hits hits ♪ ♪ It hits so hard ♪ We found a gym that has yoga classes and showers and a pool for 11 dollars. So we’re trying to make it there before the yoga class starts and they’ve closed the marina on us. There goes Lauren.

[Lauren] What we do for a yoga class!

[Kirk] I am weak. Lauren saved herself. I would be eaten by the bear. ♪ It swings swings swings ♪ ♪ It swings so hard ♪ ♪ It hits hits hits ♪ ♪ It hits so hard ♪ Spirit Peoria, we’ll host you down.

[Lauren] So the rivers so high right now that they actually dropped the dam below the water level and we’re driving right over it. It’s called a wicket dam.

[Kirk] You’ll see something right here in a moment. Right there. That’s the dam that gets raised. ♪ Tell me something I don’t know ♪ ♪ Before I get dumber ♪ ♪ Show me something new ♪ ♪ Cause I’m already kind of bored ♪ ♪ Yeah, maybe I stole your fire ♪ ♪ But can you really blame me? ♪ ♪ What’s the good in fire ♪ ♪ if you’re just going to sit and stare? ♪ ♪ Just don’t sit and stare ♪ Longest day yet.

[Lauren] Sure.

[Kirk] Especially since it may rain.

[Lauren] Oh, it’s not going to rain.

[Kirk] Alright. I’m going to prepare for it though.

[Lauren] May need to change your shoes.

[Kirk] Yes, but for right now they’re the warmest. Right now I’m wearing long johns, two pairs of pants, a tee shirt, three long sleeve shirts, a puffy jacket, two other jackets, a hat, two hoods, a pair of gloves. This is sailing! All aboard who wants to go south.

[Lauren] Me!

[Kirk] Ready?

[Lauren] Ready.

[Kirk] Okay good luck.

[Lauren] Bye. We so came here a month too late.

[Kirk] Well he said that closes down on Labor Day.

[Lauren] Oh, like two months too late?

[Kirk] Yeah.

[Lauren] Aww.

[Kirk] It would have been fun to use the grill.

[Lauren] Yeah. Probably our tightest squeeze yet.

[Kirk] There is nobody coming.

[Lauren] This winter hair. So Bob, you got his voicemail right?

[Kirk] No I talked to Bob.

[Lauren] Oh okay. Well on his voicemail it says, “Thanks for calling Tall Timbers. If you draft more than three feet just pass us by.” So, thank goodness the river’s so high right now or else we wouldn’t have gotten in there.

[Kirk] So I think we have only seen four other pleasure boats, boats that are not barges, on our entire two and a half week trip so far. Two of those boats are being delivered. One of them was going the other way. The last one was anchored and we’re not even sure that it was a looper boat. So, it’s been a pretty desolate trip so far. But it’s made the anchorages and docks completely our own, which is kinda nice! I guess that’s one plus to coming down the river a month too late. But it’d be kinda cool to meet some other people doing the same thing.

[Lauren] That’s Kirk way over there, dropping our stern anchor for our first night on the hook in the river. So far we’ve stayed at free docks. We’ve paid for a couple marinas, but we haven’t had an anchor yet and we’ve been, it’s gotta be like ten, 12 nights on the river? I don’t know I’m forgetting the days. But tonight was the first night we didn’t really have a choice. So, yeah, anchoring and couple knot current. Fortunately it’s going to be a lot warmer tonight than it has been over the last week. It’s been almost down to freezing every single night and tonight it’s going to be like 55 over night cause there’s some sort of storm coming tomorrow. So, yeah, I’ll be nice and toasty. Okay I gotta move the boat before we run into the sandbar.

[Kirk] No trough.

[Lauren] Neutral.

[Kirk] Okay forward. We have about 100 feet of line on our stern anchor so we attached a few extra dock lines to give us just a little bit more working room.

[Lauren] We tight?

[Kirk] Are we tight? I think what we wanna do is drop the anchor here. Can you keep us roughly right there?

[Lauren] Yeah.

[Kirk] We wanted to be as far out of the main channel as possible which meant sneaking into a pretty tight channel between a sandbar and the bank of the river. The stern anchor was insurance against any wind that would be stronger than the current that would carry us up river, putting us in danger of being blown into the bank or onto the sandbar.

[Lauren] What did we just do?

[Kirk] Spent the last hour and a half doing our first bow and stern anchor on the river. Third time was a charm.

[Lauren] Yeah.

[Kirk] We tried three different times.

[Lauren] Yeah.

[Kirk] It worked out. We’re good now.

[Lauren] Seems, we seem good right now.

[Kirk] I think we’re good.

[Lauren] I can’t really say it’s successful until we pull it up and leave tomorrow right?

[Kirk] Correct. As long as the river doesn’t drop more than a few inches we’re okay. Cause we’re not in very deep water. Here’s our depth chart.

[Lauren] Yeah.

[Kirk] Here’s our depth.

[Lauren] It’s not bad right here.

[Kirk] That is our depth right there.

[Lauren] So that’s what? Seven feet?

[Kirk] It’s to here.

[Lauren] Nope.

[Kirk] Just over six.

[Lauren] It’s six feet.

[Kirk] Yikes.

[Lauren] Hey good thing we only draw for three?

[Kirk] No, no that was when we weighed 15 thousand pounds. Now we weigh 20. So probably four and a half.

[Lauren] Alright, are you going on an adventure?

[Kirk] Yes. Oh, there’s another barge coming.

[Lauren] Where you going to go?

[Kirk] Right to there.

[Lauren] Are you going to climb up there?

[Kirk] Sit on that log and look at the boat.

[Lauren] Oh, fun.

[Kirk] I should have a beer.

[Lauren] Do we have any?

[Kirk] I think so.

[Lauren] Alright.

[Kirk] First anchorage on the river. Going on my first Huck Finn adventure. Oh, shit. It’s a little slippery. It’s a little slippery! I thought it was solid! Alright we’re going to give this a go number two. That’s where we be. It’s birds of summer again, bird. Come on dude take off. Oh, he almost did. He moved his wings. Oh there he goes. It’s so peaceful and calm out here. I felt like we were tied to the dock all night except for when the tows went through and sent us like three or four foot waves. This is crazy. We’ve got woodpeckers. We’ve got morning doves. We’ve got all the little sing song birds. It’s like we’re back in summer, except for we have fall colors all around us. It’s pretty cool. ♪ As I lay in bed again ♪ ♪ Searching the shadows of a stolen line ♪ ♪ You’re gone once more to roam ♪ ♪ Carving a message on the concrete sky ♪ ♪ Swallow your doubt, come back to me ♪ ♪ East of the lantern lies a lonely mess ♪ ♪ We’ll go there anyway ♪ ♪ To sing the praises of our loneliness ♪

[Lauren] Look at that!

[Kirk] The Mississippi.

[Lauren] Look at you no hat.

[Kirk] No hat. Only one jacket. Only one pair of pants. No gloves.

[Lauren] Look at that! Barefoot!

[Kirk] Barefoot. ♪ I fall away ♪ ♪ I fall away ♪