We arrived in Dubuque, and looked forward to our second visit to the restaurant, Brazen. It was enjoyable, but not as good as the first visit, and certainly not worth the 45-minute walk. The other problem was crossing the railway tracks. Dubuque’s downtown is divided from the new waterfront area by the Interstate highway (elevated), and railway tracks with level crossings. Trains get held up, often enough and long enough to require special signage suggesting alternate routes for drivers. We had been lucky before, but this time, on our return from the restaurant, we were held up by a train. After waiting for a while, we had to walk back into town, and then make our way to the elevated bridge that allows passage over the tracks. This added quite a bit of time to the walk, on a hot and humid night, and it was dark by the time we got back to the boat. Even then, we could see that the train was still across the tracks and blocking the road.
The next morning, Dick picked up the rental car, and we made a grocery shopping trip. We had dinner at the Copper Kettle. It is a long-established neighbourhood restaurant, in what is quite an unsalubrious part of town. However, the pub was packed, and it is rated as one of the top restaurants in Dubuque. It was incredibly noisy, but the pub food was excellent.
Dubuque is an odd mix. There are some areas with major urban renewal projects, but a lot of areas show neglected turn of the century buildings and homes. The downtown particularly is very spread out, and the division caused by the Interstate and railway through the centre makes access difficult. The roads are in poor condition, except for the new ones in the redeveloped waterfront.
One of the interesting sights in Dubuque is the restored Shot Tower, built in 1856. A shot tower is a structure that uses gravity to create lead shot. Molten lead is poured through a copper grate at the top of the 120-foot tower, that ensures that all the shot is roughly the same size. It then falls to the bottom, landing in a trough of water. As the lead falls, it assumes a spherical shape, and begins to cool, and the water finishes the cooling process and fixes the shape. The story of the shot tower is an unpleasant indictment of common business practice. The tower was built at a time when it should have been a viable business venture, particularly as there were lead mines in the local area, but there was significant competition from a competing shot tower in St Louis. An economic downturn, plus cutthroat pricing on the part of the St Louis business, ensured that the Dubuque tower was never a success. The St Louis company eventually purchased the tower with the sole purpose of shutting down the competing tower. It was never used for its built purpose again. It is the only remaining shot tower west of the Mississippi, and one of the last still standing in the United States.
Dick set off for the 780-mile drive to Brighton Ontario, where he, his sister, and several members of the local church gathered to help move his Mum to a very nice assisted-living complex in another town. The move was successfully completed, and it was also an enjoyable family reunion with sister Betty, brother Ed, and other friends and family.
I remained in Dubuque on the boat. Fellow Endeavourcat owners Erika and Holger stopped for a visit as they were passing through the area on a road trip. Holger was able to solve a mystery for us. We have a connector on one of the side steps that has developed a very slow leak of dirty water. Holger immediately knew that it is caused by a stuck and rusted pressure reducing valve in the connector that allows you to hook up the boat’s water system to town water on the dock. Since we never use this, preferring the safer method of filling our own (clean) tanks as required, we were entirely unaware of the purpose of the connector. It is a relief to know that this is not a big enough problem to be concerned about, and it can wait until we are back in our winter marina to have the problem addressed. Erika and Holger and I went over to the Stone Cliff Winery for lunch.
I visited the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, which surrounds the marina. Although I was told that there were several exhibit areas that were under renovation, it was still a most enjoyable visit. There are displays both indoors and outside, with several raptor aviaries and a few indoor tanks with Mississippi fish and other aquatic species. There is also a lot of information and equipment from the days when Dubuque was a major shipbuilding port. I find it interesting that in both of the museums we have visited on the Mississippi the aviaries house raptors that have been injured and, although healed, cannot be returned to the wild. Other places we have visited house captive bred raptors, and are able to offer flying demonstrations.
There is a calliope on display, and most days around noon it is set to serenade the surrounding area. Calliopes are driven by steam, and were situated at the top of cruise boats near to the steam escape pipe.
Some of the boats built in Dubuque during its heyday included towboats, submarine chasers, steamboats, and even a pleasure cruiser for the King of Siam. One of the biggest was the Herbert Hoover, the largest diesel towboat in the inland waters when it was launched in 1931. One of the 100-ton engines arrived on the train backwards, and had to be sent to a turntable 100 miles away before it could be repositioned for loading onto the boat.
Another visitor to Nine Lives was Sid and co-captain Nana (a beautiful Goldendoodle) from the sailing catamaran Tranquility. Dick had met and chatted with Sid in Bayport. Sid is doing the Loop single-handed, with a progression of friends and relatives to help out and enjoy various sections of the Loop. I enjoyed his conversation, and we hoped for another meeting further down the River after Dick’s return.
I mostly ate on board, but one day I walked over to the Stone Cliff Winery for an excellent lunch, accompanied by a flight of 5 of their wines. The winery is located in a lovely restored historic building, the former Star Brewery. The chicken bacon ranch wrap was very tasty, and the chocolate lover’s cheesecake was delicious. I bought two bottles of their fruit wines, which I really liked. They were described as sweet, but I found them intensely fruity (raspberry), not sweet at all.
As I walked along the levee, I enjoyed reading the various plaques and looking at the interesting modern art installations. One of the information tidbits was a comparison of cargo capacities for various modes of transportation. One river barge carries 1500 tons of cargo. A 15-barge tow carries 22,500 tons. A jumbo hopper car on a train carries 100 tons, while a 100-car train will hold 15,000 tons. A large semi-trailer (articulated lorry for our UK friends) carries just 26 tons. 90 million tons of cargo moves each year on the Mississippi River between St Paul and St Louis.
One evening, Twilight arrived at her regular berth. Twilight is a pretty river cruise ship that brings passengers back and forth from Le Clare, just north of Quad Cities. The passengers stay overnight at a Dubuque hotel and return the next day to their starting point. Immediately behind Twilight, a much larger cruise ship, Celebration Belle, moved into the harbour. The ship turned around, passing just about 15 feet from Nine Lives. She then took up a position across the harbour, with her gangway extended to the T-head dock next to ours. She was bringing her passengers on a one day, 100-mile cruise from Moline. The passengers got off and were returned to Moline by bus. I was not concerned, not at all… I wasn’t sure whether to brandish a boathook, or put on a life jacket! Celebration Belle was still in place when I got up the next morning.
The next morning began a day of juggling cruise ships and their respective passengers. Twilight set off on her return journey, having embarked her passengers after their night in a hotel and breakfast, with time to visit the museum. Two large cruise ships arrived during the morning at the main dock outside the harbour, one of them our old friend Viking Mississippi. Both ships stayed for several hours, and offered sightseeing bus trips for their passengers. Celebration Belle ran 3 sightseeing trips on the River, 2 from the dock next to us in the harbour. Their 3rd trip was a dinner dance, and I would have liked to watch the passengers arriving, (presumably) all dressed up, but by then the main cruise dock was available, so they were outside the harbour and I couldn’t see them. A friend tells me that Dubuque is the largest city in Iowa that is on the Mississippi, and it is clearly doing well at attracting tourism from the River in the form of cruise ships. Such a pity that they can’t quite get their act together for individual boaters with their outstanding marina.
Laundry uses quite a lot of water, so it was necessary for me to fill the tanks. Normally this is one of Dick’s jobs. He had conveniently left the hose hooked up to the water connection on the dock, and the hose was ready on the deck. I got off the boat, and gave the connector the half turn required to start the water flowing. Well, city water tends to be under quite a lot of pressure, so immediately I opened the valve, the hose on the deck started dancing around, ultimately directing a stream of cold water underneath my bike and showering me. Dick shakes his head, but I braved the still dancing hose to seize it and wash down the decks before inserting it into the fill on the front deck. The high pressure meant that the tank seemed to be full when it wasn’t, so water gushed up from the tank and more sprayed all over. At this point my brain engaged, and I got off the boat again and reduced the flow by half. The fill then completed properly.
The day of Dick’s expected return, some more Loopers arrived in the harbour. Asea and Bob were just one week into their Loop. They joined me on board for a glass of wine in the evening, with the plan for proper docktails once Dick was back the next day. I really enjoyed their company, lovely people, with a great sense of humour. The next morning, Bob came by to tell me that their forward compartment was full of water. They were able to get an immediate haul out at a marina just up the river, and once the extent of the damage was revealed, they realized just how fortunate they were, as they could very easily have been sunk at the dock. Their story continues, but they have repairs already underway, and the insurance company, and the boatyard, could not have been more helpful. We hope to see them again, if not on the rivers, perhaps in Hilton Head in the spring.
Dick returned a little later than he expected, mainly due to a lot of traffic from construction in the Chicago area. On arrival at the marina, he discovered that our gate code no longer worked. Our keycard was also disabled. It is a very good thing that I didn’t go out before we found out! It turned out that the wrong dates had been entered in our record, so our card and code were automatically disabled. The helpful dockmaster reinstated our card as soon as he found out, having picked up my phone message even before his 11am arrival for work.
Dinner at the nearby Woodfire Grill, located in the casino, started well but rather tailed off. The waitress was very rushed, running about like a chicken, and forgetting to deliver bread until we asked for it. I started with very tasty, crisp avocado rolls, and Dick said his calamari was some of the best. For main courses, Dick had prime rib, and I ordered their filet steak. Dessert was an overly sweet cheesecake with fruit topping. The food was good, but after the excellent appetizers, it was not very memorable.
An 8am start the next morning, and we were at last embarked on our final push to return to Pickwick Lake. At the first lock there was entirely unexpected rain, and when the lockmaster offered to allow us to float free, we accepted the opportunity to stay dry. We figured the lockmaster probably didn’t want to get wet coming out to give us the lines either! Fortunately, our rain jackets fit over our life jackets, so when the time came for me to retrieve the fenders, only legs and feet got wet, along with my gloves. The gloves are definitely in need of replacement, or at least a good wash. As I returned to the cockpit, Dick, who, like most husbands, usually has no sense of smell, commented on the strong eau de wet dog, that seemed to be emanating from his lovely wife.
The rain continued on and off during the day. As we passed a southbound tow just a few miles north of lock 13, Dick heard the chatter on the radio, and it was clear that a lock down was scheduled for 2:15 pm. He made contact, and was told to come ahead. A bass boat fishing tournament was scheduled to lock down at exactly 2:15. There were more than 40 bass boats in the lock, with fishermen holding onto the lines along the sides, and a few needing to raft up. The timing was set precisely, so we had about 20 minutes to wait after we took our own lines. Strong winds meant that I was unable to hold Nine Lives in place using the engine, certainly not for that length of time, so I took the stern line, and had to cleat it until the gates finally closed. Meanwhile, it continued to rain, and all those poor fishermen, two per boat, had to stand there getting wet while waiting for the rest of the contestants. At 2:15 exactly the gates began to close, and then to everyone’s great disappointment, they opened again for two stragglers. Finally, they closed for good, and the lock down started, to everyone’s relief, I am sure. We were advised to let the tournament leave first, a decision we had already made! It was a surprisingly orderly exit. As the last boat left the lock, a buzzer sounded, presumably to resume the tournament timing.
We arrived at Clinton Marina. It was raining hard and very windy. This will be another marina with a poor review from us. The marina was built with the piers perpendicular to the current, resulting in awful swirls and great difficulty getting into the slips. Dick had to make 3 tries at getting Nine Lives into the 20-foot wide well. The other disappointment was that nobody cleans the docks. The finger piers were covered with droppings from the local ducks and geese. Walking on them required a curious dancing step as one tried to avoid the worst messes. As it was, we had to remove shoes outside the cockpit, not fun on a wet day. The marina is bouncy, subject to wakes from passing tows and pleasure boats, plus wind and the strong currents.
The onsite Candlelight Restaurant is very good, and we enjoyed our meal. Dick tried sticky pork belly pieces in a ginger sauce to start, while I took advantage of possibly the last chance to order cheese curds. I ordered their specialty Chicken George, battered chicken tenders, served with an onion and brie sauce, and Dick had whitefish. Chocolate mousse cake was an excellent finish.
Getting out of the slip the next morning was almost as difficult as the entry. More black rubber marks on Nine Lives. In hindsight, it may be just as well that we didn’t get the new gelcoat that was planned for last winter!
Just before the lock at Quad Cities, we passed the kayaker we had seen earlier. In 12 days, he had made about 150 miles. Quite an adventure. We were sorry we have never been anywhere to speak to him, we would love to know where he started and his ultimate destination. A little further south we passed Twilight on her northbound journey to Dubuque.
We are seeing a lot of Great Egrets in this stretch of the River. I read that in the Upper Mississippi they are migratory, so they must be starting their journey south. You don’t usually see so many except in a rookery at night, as they tend, like all members of the heron family, to be both solitary and territorial. The pelicans are also migrating, and we see large rafts of them resting.
Our next stop was Muscatine. I had not been looking forward to the difficult docking on their floating dock at the former boat launch. This dock has only two cleats, one at each end, and we had previously had problems docking as we tried with a bow line. On this occasion, Dick had a plan, and it executed perfectly. He used the boathook to put a loop from the midship over the upstream cleat on the dock, and then I was able to back Nine Lives toward the downstream cleat and Dick could easily jump off and make everything secure.
Having found previously that the local restaurants were mostly indifferent, and also we were told that there would be an evening event at the facility right beside the dock, we had decided to eat on board that night. We had a lovely evening. First, we watched two men launch their boat with several remote control boats on board. These are not the pond yachts we have seen in the past, instead they were racing speedboats. It was great fun to see them buzzing around. They go really fast, and throw quite a big spray for their diminutive size.
Dick chatted with a young man on the dock, who came down and asked if we were the same boat he had seen earlier in the summer. Nine Lives bobbed appreciatively at being recognized. The young man chatted with Dick about his ambitions to be an inventor. He showed Dick a book he carries around with all sorts of engineering and mathematical calculations and tables. Unfortunately, he doesn’t plan to get an education before starting on his inventing career. Dick did his best to encourage a rethink on that, without being too negative about his ambitions.
Later in the evening there was an incredible lightning storm. It was to the north of us, so the show was above the colourful lighted bridge. There was both sheet and fork lightning, but no thunder. Apparently when the lightning bounces between clouds, there may be no sound. Either that or the distance was too great. It was quite something to watch, and while I did get a couple of pictures, I found it impossible to catch the most spectacular moments.
The next day we had an easy, but long, run to Ft Madison. The Mississippi was like a millpond. We were lucky with timing for the locks and barge traffic, as well as having no wait for the Ft Madison railroad bridge to open. The marina has been under reconstruction since 2019, and although they celebrated a Grand Opening in July, it is not even close to being finished. There is no power or water available. Also, it is in a very unfortunate position, right where the railway tracks curve to enter the bridge. There are almost continuous trains running in both directions, and the wheels squeal horribly on the tracks. It would be an awful place to stay even if the marina was completed. We had planned to stay two nights, and had hoped to visit the reconstructed Fort Madison, but after reading that the fort was only open on weekends, and expecting temperatures over 90 the next day, we decided to leave early and look forward to power and water at Quincy.
Sid and Nana from Tranquility arrived in the harbour, and joined us on board for a steak dinner. All was going well until Dick tried to start the stove to pan-fry the mushrooms, and discovered that our propane tank was empty. Why the propane has to run out during dinner preparations instead of tea making is down to Murphy’s Law, I am sure. I read a comment today from someone who said that Murphy had left their boat, but kept getting back on! Clearly, Murphy likes Nine Lives as well. Anyway, with the grill out of commission just after searing the steaks, Dick handled the dinner emergency with great aplomb. He got out our induction burner, and finished the steaks and the mushrooms in the new frying pan. A good purchase earlier this trip, as our old frying pan did not work on the induction burner. Dinner was excellent, in spite of the challenges, and we enjoyed the company very much. Sid has some great stories. When he was 16, he and a friend bought a pontoon boat and a 25hp motor and travelled down the Mississippi from La Crosse to St Louis. He is now enjoying revisiting the various towns and cities he saw on that trip when he was a teenager.
We arrived in Quincy mid-afternoon, after what is a quite boring run south from Ft Madison. It was very hot, temperatures up to 96 and the weather app telling me “feels like 100”. It did. We docked without problems, and one of the members made a point of coming down to ask if everything was fine. We enjoyed our stay in Quincy last time, and are looking forward to visiting two of the local restaurants. Later another member dropped by with an information pack for the town, and also offered to help out if we needed a ride to a grocery store or any other assistance. Very friendly people in this boat club, who really enjoy meeting other boaters, and especially Loopers.
Dick set off the next morning on his bike with the trailer attached to get the empty propane tank refilled. He arrived at the hardware store, whose website said they refill propane tanks, to discover that the website is wrong, and they only replace, no refilling. Since ours is a non-standard tank, it must be filled. The next suggestion was to go to the local propane supplier for the area. Back on the bike, but Dick was not quite sure of the location, so he returned to the boat after a brief exploration, and looked it up online. Armed with the address, he set off again, and duly arrived, only to be told that they would not fill his tank since he was on a bicycle. They suggested another company, and this time Dick called me to get the address and phone number before heading out. After confirmation that they would in fact fill the tank, Dick rode there and was greatly relieved to get it filled. Now with a 30-pound load on the trailer, he returned to the boat, more than a little disappointed that while the trip was mostly downhill, he didn’t get much benefit as it was also into the wind. So, after a total of 20.2 miles riding up and down the Quincy hills (instead of the planned 3-mile journey), we are again able to grill and to use the stove.
For Dick, the fun was not quite finished for the day. Upon realizing that the wind was blowing, and he needed to secure his bike to a post in case it blew over, he got off the boat, detached the trailer, and began to secure the bike. At that moment, the trailer decided to go for a swim and casually rolled off the dock into the water. Dick dropped to the deck and made a successful snatch, just as the trailer proved that useful as it is, it does not float.
Later in the afternoon as I sat in the cockpit reading, I saw a fishing boat with several good old boys pass by. To my surprise, one of them was sitting in the back with a strung bow and an arrow nocked. Not sure whether he was planning to fish with that, or hunt from the boat. Most likely he planned to shoot Asian Carp or another invasive species, since the season for bow hunting does not begin until October, and bow fishing requires only a sport fishing licence.
We tried a different restaurant in the evening. This was an Italian restaurant called Tiramisu. It certainly appeared to be a well established and popular family run restaurant. White tablecloths and plenty of wait staff, all smartly dressed in black. Our server was different, an older lady, somewhat casually dressed, and it was very much like being served by your mother-in-law! Dick started with a portobello mushroom topped with spinach, in a delicious sauce. I liked my shrimp with mushrooms and artichokes in a scampi sauce. For main courses Dick had Guazzetto di Pesce, a Roman style seafood stew, and I tried Rolli, pasta sheets stuffed with spinach, ham, and ricotta, rolled up, baked, and served with a four-cheese sauce. Desserts were the signature tiramisu for Dick, and I had a heated flourless chocolate cake. The meal was excellent, as were the wine options, and surprisingly inexpensive.
Rain had unexpectedly appeared in the forecast, so we closed up the cockpit before we went out and made sure to take our umbrellas to dinner. That definitely did the trick, as the rain held off until after we returned to the boat.
Quincy is an interesting town. I wrote about the history earlier in the summer. We were given a bag full of interesting leaflets and brochures by a Boat Club member. There are still some buildings in the town of historical interest. They are very proud of their record as a stop on the Underground Railroad, and also that they welcomed persecuted Mormons. There are some famous actors and actresses from Quincy, including Mary Astor (Maltese Falcon), John Mahoney (Frasier), and John Anderson (Gunsmoke and Twilight Zone). Other more notorious former residents include Albert Cashier, born Jennie Irene Hodgers, who enlisted in the Union Army in the Civil War, fought in many battles, and continued to live as a man, without discovery, until shortly before death. James Earl Ray was well known to Quincy law enforcement before he escaped from the Missouri State Penitentiary and shot and killed Dr. Martin Luther King. Michael Swango is thought to be the most prolific serial killer in American history, and is serving a life sentence in Florence, Colorado. Jonathan Browning invented a sliding breech repeating rifle while living in Quincy, and one of his sons was John Moses Browning, one of the most important figures in the development of modern automatic and semi-automatic firearms.
This is a good place for my annual review of interesting boat names. We always enjoy the clever ones. As we passed a tow on the River, he hailed us and asked if we were called Nine Lives because we are a catamaran. When told, indeed yes, he told us that he always enjoys working out the reasons for clever boat names, and he was glad to have his conclusions confirmed. Some of the interesting names we have seen this year include DahlHouse for a houseboat, as well as Hadtohaveit. Next Chapter is nice. One boat was expediently called Social Distancing. Another was Boat Ox (hmmm), and another was Blood Money (not sure about that one either). Soggy Dollars evoked the memory of one of Dick’s more spectacular exits from a dinghy some years ago in the Caribbean. Second Wind is rather a nice name for a retirement lifestyle. Noah Genda is very clever, and we enjoyed chatting with them (fellow Loopers on their way home) on the radio as they passed us. One of the names that, in my opinion, is not going to work well is Miss Is Tipsi. It’s clever, but one needs to remember that when you hail a tow, a lock, a marina, or a fellow boater, the correct procedure is to call the name you are hailing three times, followed by your name three times. While common usage reduces this to twice for each name, it is still going to be an incredible tongue twister, not to mention coming out as “Mississippi” to the listener, and causing confusion. We continue to watch for interesting names, and enjoy the clever ones.
We will stay one more night in Quincy before resuming our southbound voyage, hoping to be back in Pickwick Lake by the first week in October. We are looking forward to catching up with the rest of this year’s Looper pack, and perhaps enjoying some docktails and shared adventure stories.