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Old 11-26-2018, 03:26 PM   #1
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Illinois Waterway 2020 Closure

For those of you planning to do the Great Loop in 2020, the Illinois Waterway (only way to get from Lake Michigan to the Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, etc rivers) will be closed the months of July through October.

https://www.mvr.usace.army.mil/Missi...gation-Status/

Ted
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Old 11-26-2018, 04:21 PM   #2
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Yep, that has thrown a monkey wrench into our plans, but it will work out. Plan is to have it open by end of Oct. Most Loop boats would have been through the Ill. River during Sep and early Oct. Option is to just wait for the opening and do the rivers a bit later, and cooler. Or take our time in 2020 and leave the boat in heated storage in Canada, and pick up the next spring/summer.

But how many Gov project have you seen that come in on time The only possible saving grace is the pressure that midwest farmers will put on Congress/Corp of Eng., as the river is how they ship their fall crops to market. May even finish early.
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Old 11-26-2018, 04:34 PM   #3
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For those of you planning to do the Great Loop in 2020, the Illinois Waterway (only way to get from Lake Michigan to the Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, etc rivers) will be closed the months of July through October.

https://www.mvr.usace.army.mil/Missi...gation-Status/

Ted
Wifey B: Holy batf..... or as Robin might have said, Holy Hole in a Doughnut.

Most marinas stop offering services in Chicago on October 15. A couple are to October 31 but then what if the work isn't finished in time. And coming down in November would be colder than a brass toilet seat in the Yukon.

I understand it has to be done and the real suffering is commercial shippers. However, there will be some marinas hurt badly that year, Marinas who get the loop traffic. I don't see many people doing the loop in 2020. Could this be the move that puts Hoppies out of business?

We hadn't decided when to do the loop again. 2020 was a consideration. Need to think carefully with this new information. Thanks for informing me and totally messing up my brain on a nice south Florida day as we plan to head to the Bahamas tomorrow.
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Old 11-26-2018, 04:37 PM   #4
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Yep, that has thrown a monkey wrench into our plans, but it will work out. Plan is to have it open by end of Oct. Most Loop boats would have been through the Ill. River during Sep and early Oct. Option is to just wait for the opening and do the rivers a bit later, and cooler. Or take our time in 2020 and leave the boat in heated storage in Canada, and pick up the next spring/summer.

.
Wifey B: Will be interesting to see how many still loop and are sitting waiting to head down all at the same time. My guess is very few but if a lot did so, things could get a bit crowded, especially with all the shipping. Brings another thought of getting through all the locks with commercial vessels all lined up and waiting and them the priority. Instead of an hour or two, could recreational vessels find themselves waiting a day or more?
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Old 11-26-2018, 04:43 PM   #5
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Wifey B: This November in that area. Nov 1-6, highs low 50's and lows in the 30's and 40's. Nov 7-21, highs from 29 to 42 and lows from 16 to 33. Now this year was below normal temps by 10 to 15 degrees.
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Old 11-26-2018, 05:35 PM   #6
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Oh Wifey B, don't be a weenie - those temps are not too bad We are flexible, but had planned to start next Oct 2019 from Columbus, MS and leave the boat in deep south Florida for the winter, and pick up in late Mar heading North in 2020. We are leaning toward taking our time, side trips, and leaving the boat up North over the winter, and picking up spring/summer 2021 and finishing up the Loop in the fall in Columbus. But if weather looks ok in Fall 2020 we might push on and finish in fall 2020 in the cool fall weather Never have a fixed schedule on a boat, or on a small plane
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Old 11-26-2018, 07:57 PM   #7
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A point that is often overlooked by recreational boaters is that commercial traffic has 1st priority. After a 4 month closure, there will be a substantial backlog of tugs and barges positioned to transit the waterway. While the captains and crews are some of the most courteous and professional mariners I've ever experienced, there is going to be an incredible amount of traffic through a waterway that can be quite narrow during low water periods. This has all the makings of a traffic jam in an area with limited services and poor cellphone coverage.

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Old 11-27-2018, 01:20 AM   #8
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A point that is often overlooked by recreational boaters is that commercial traffic has 1st priority. After a 4 month closure, there will be a substantial backlog of tugs and barges positioned to transit the waterway. While the captains and crews are some of the most courteous and professional mariners I've ever experienced, there is going to be an incredible amount of traffic through a waterway that can be quite narrow during low water periods. This has all the makings of a traffic jam in an area with limited services and poor cellphone coverage.

Ted
Wifey B: We were on the TN river with short closures and the commercial vessels would be just lined up. Often you could go in beside one. But still it turned 2 hours into 20. I can't imagine the mess after being closed for 4 months.

Then let's assume you finally get through. Not the greatest place in the world to be meeting or passing commercial vessels and for those who are slower than commercial, you might just get run over. Think about every hour a full lock of vessels released. Down a winding and curvy boat road.

It would be interesting to see if the loop group is aware and the reaction over there.
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Old 11-27-2018, 02:10 AM   #9
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Chicago harbors close October 31st, not October 15. Except for burnam park which closes November 15. Both Columbia yacht club and Chicago yacht club take transients late season after 10/31 as well. Some just tie up in a closed harbor.... if the demand is high enough westec, the operator, might try to earn some extra revenue by taking late transients as well
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Old 11-27-2018, 06:52 AM   #10
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Leave the boat midway and enjoy Canada for longer. It's a reminder not to rush.
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Old 11-27-2018, 08:38 AM   #11
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Wifey B: We were on the TN river with short closures and the commercial vessels would be just lined up. Often you could go in beside one.
That almost never happens on the Illinois waterway. There is far more commercial traffic on the Illinois with many of the barge tows being pushed by one tug, requiring the whole lock and sometimes 2 cycles of the lock. It's also extremely rare that they allow recreational traffic to lock with tugs and barges. It's my recollection that the Illinois locks are smaller and it would be much tougher to keep recreational traffic safely separated from the commercial traffic.

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Old 11-27-2018, 09:18 AM   #12
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Wifey B:
It would be interesting to see if the loop group is aware and the reaction over there.
It’s being actively discussed on the ALGCA forum. Reaction is mostly resignation, storing boats for the winter at or north of Chicago or running the Illinois later in the year than ideal and dealing with whatever comes.

Glad we did the river system this fall. The Illinois was exceptionally low and falling noticeably from one day to the next—tow pilots were complaining of sand bars where they’d never seen them before. A 65-foot looper we had been traveling with—with draft similar to ours—hit bottom in the channel leaving Heritage Harbor—the day after we passed through it—to the tune of $25K for new props.
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Old 11-27-2018, 10:48 AM   #13
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[QUOTE=O C Diver;718063]
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Wifey B: We were on the TN river with short closures and the commercial vessels would be just lined up. Often you could go in beside one. QUOTE]

That almost never happens on the Illinois waterway. There is far more commercial traffic on the Illinois with many of the barge tows being pushed by one tug, requiring the whole lock and sometimes 2 cycles of the lock. It's also extremely rare that they allow recreational traffic to lock with tugs and barges. It's my recollection that the Illinois locks are smaller and it would be much tougher to keep recreational traffic safely separated from the commercial traffic.

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Wifey B: When you lock through with one, you don't keep separated, you tie to the side of the tow. Easiest ride through a lock you can have. However, always at the discretion of the Captain. We did it through one lock on the Illinois but through all of them is unlikely.

Another problem is the shortage of marinas and anchorages to wait things out if there's a major delay at a lock. Perhaps only the first lock where you'd have a delay that could be many days. Then I could see vessels locking through others much in the same order and timing. Can't be a huge group waiting at the 2nd and subsequent because the only ones there are the ones that have come through the first. However, I can picture one huge clusterf... at the Joliet Wall. I think I'd just wait it out in Chicago until given some indication you'd actually be able to lock. Illinois River locks are 110' x 600' so 1200' barges require two or three lockings. I would think the shippers are going to need to get together to do some amount of scheduling too. I can't see that they can afford to just get all stacked up at the first lock. I'd think the lockmaster is going to have to allocate spaces per day well in advance.

Someone mentioned them finishing early and I see that as possible for one or more locks but unless all of them finish early, it doesn't help you.

I think I'd fly home for a bit then back to the boat mid October and then just enjoy Chicago until the timing improved, likely into mid November.

Ftbinc, you say Burnham is open until Nov 15. Not what their website says. It says Oct 31. All Chicago Harbors now showing Oct 31. Perhaps with enough demand one would stay longer. I see one chance of that as 31st or Montrose as they're still hauling boats out for winter storage in November.

I'm sure by then, the ALGCA will have worked out something with some marina or marinas.

I'm thinking 2021 sounds like a very good year to loop right now.
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Old 11-27-2018, 01:21 PM   #14
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Couldn't help but chuckle when the latest version of Trawler Times mentioned the closure and then stated Ken Fickett suggested loopers should "get a TT35 and trailer your boat past the locks."
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Old 11-27-2018, 02:04 PM   #15
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Couldn't help but chuckle when the latest version of Trawler Times mentioned the closure and then stated Ken Fickett suggested loopers should "get a TT35 and trailer your boat past the locks."
Following that philosophy, others should get shippers to transport theirs around the locks.

I guess Ken missed the part about the boat being in Chicago and the trailer still home in Florida but you could fly home, pull the trailer to Chicago, trailer to St. Louis, pull the trailer back to your home and fly back to the boat in St. Louis.

I think with a TT35 even, a shipper would be cheaper and easier than going for your trailer.
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Old 11-27-2018, 04:58 PM   #16
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I previously contacted them for clarification and got the below reply. I’m keeping in this guy from the Army Corps contact info if anyone has additional questions for him. He responded pretty readily- but this was just as the news hit:

The closures will begin at Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Joliet, Illinois (river mile 286) and continue down to LaGrange Lock and Dam outside of Versailles, Illinois (river mile 80) for a total distance of just over 200 miles.

Please be sure to take a look at the website if you have any other questions: http://www.mvr.usace.army.mil/Missio...gation-Status/

Thank You,

Jim Finn
Public Affairs Specialist
US Army Corps of Engineers
Rock Island District
Phone: (309) 794-5638
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Old 11-27-2018, 05:10 PM   #17
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Wifey B:
Don't believe every thing you read on the web. Burnam Park is the "Late Leaver" marina this year. They were operational until 11/15/2018. that is subject to change every year, but there is always one open until 11/15 - if take advantage of the last 15 days, we do pay extra for it.

You could be like some late loopers and just dock. There may not be power or water, but it's better than anchoring out.

Also, you are correct - the easiest way through a lock is attached to the tow boat. I worked the Mississippi and Illinois as a deck had a few decades ago. PCs, if they made the request politely, were rarely refused the side of the towboat to make the lock. As a deck hand we caught lines and made them secure. Met a lot of nice people.

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Wifey B: When you lock through with one, you don't keep separated, you tie to the side of the tow. Easiest ride through a lock you can have. However, always at the discretion of the Captain. We did it through one lock on the Illinois but through all of them is unlikely.

Another problem is the shortage of marinas and anchorages to wait things out if there's a major delay at a lock. Perhaps only the first lock where you'd have a delay that could be many days. Then I could see vessels locking through others much in the same order and timing. Can't be a huge group waiting at the 2nd and subsequent because the only ones there are the ones that have come through the first. However, I can picture one huge clusterf... at the Joliet Wall. I think I'd just wait it out in Chicago until given some indication you'd actually be able to lock. Illinois River locks are 110' x 600' so 1200' barges require two or three lockings. I would think the shippers are going to need to get together to do some amount of scheduling too. I can't see that they can afford to just get all stacked up at the first lock. I'd think the lockmaster is going to have to allocate spaces per day well in advance.

Someone mentioned them finishing early and I see that as possible for one or more locks but unless all of them finish early, it doesn't help you.

I think I'd fly home for a bit then back to the boat mid October and then just enjoy Chicago until the timing improved, likely into mid November.

Ftbinc, you say Burnham is open until Nov 15. Not what their website says. It says Oct 31. All Chicago Harbors now showing Oct 31. Perhaps with enough demand one would stay longer. I see one chance of that as 31st or Montrose as they're still hauling boats out for winter storage in November.

I'm sure by then, the ALGCA will have worked out something with some marina or marinas.

I'm thinking 2021 sounds like a very good year to loop right now.
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Old 11-27-2018, 09:55 PM   #18
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You could be like some late loopers and just dock. There may not be power or water, but it's better than anchoring out.

Also, you are correct - the easiest way through a lock is attached to the tow boat. I worked the Mississippi and Illinois as a deck had a few decades ago. PCs, if they made the request politely, were rarely refused the side of the towboat to make the lock. As a deck hand we caught lines and made them secure. Met a lot of nice people.
Wifey B: Have no issue docking without power, now pump outs an issue.

We've never been refused by a tow. Obviously we don't ask red flags. Might help that there's typically a female asking but I don't think that's it. We generally have some dessert to offer them too. Amazing the benefits of giving a customs officer in a foreign country, a lockmaster, or a tug crew a little chocolate cake or cheesecake. We have given breakfast biscuits or croissant sandwiches or even hamburgers when we were grilling or had just finished. So many friendly and pleasant people out there.
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