Looking back towards Prescott WI, St croix River
Based on the weather forecast, I set my alarm for 7 instead of 6 today. I was planning a long day but even with a leisurely breakfast and casually getting ready to leave I could make Afton MN by sun down about 7 P.M. Really didn’t have to worry about waking in time as I was awake about 4 times throughout the night. New sounds, different dockage, no one else around made for a restless night. Even heard two huge barges heading past me in the middle of the night. Not sure how those captains do it even with great navigation gear, radar, etc. They deserve major kudos for being able to negotiate the narrow twisty channels. My clothes for the day were mostly all dry after using my little heater and strategically hanging items. The weather channel said mostly overcast, some light rain, still windy but I’ll be in the narrow sections of the Mississippi traveling from Red Wing north. Even so, multiple wool layers, socks with plastic bags over them to keep my feet dry, a bike rain jacket on under the failed foul weather gear jacket, my legs would just have to survive with the leaky foul weather pants.
I cast off finally about 9 A.M. wind in my face still but waves are minimal. The little 7.5 horse Yanmar diesel is pushing the boat at about hull speed against the current which means 4.5 to 5 knots or about 5 mph, tedious traveling for 20 plus miles. About an hour or so later I am at Lock and Dam #3, came up sooner than I thought it would. I slowed up, set dock lines, fenders, got my life jacket on and called the lock master on the marine radio. About 15 to 20 minute wait. As I’m waiting I hear another boater call the lock asking to get through with me. As it turns out, it is a barge tugboat. A little unnerving. I called the lock and told them the tug could lock through first but no, I guess it’s first come first served. The lower gates open, in I go all the way to the front with the tug turning 90 degrees and pushing his bow against the lock wall to stay in place, kind of interesting. Up the water goes as the lock fills and the upper gates open. Out I go but I steer to the far right and slow to allow the tug by as long as there is plenty of river channel right here. The captain comes out of his cabin and gives me a wave as he passes. I wave back, nice.
This lock is just south of the Treasure Island Casino area and as I pass the inlet to the casino marina, it’s a bit confusing with all the marker boys, hard to know which way to go but the tug passes by them so I do as well until I finally see a black can showing me the channel and crap I am outside of the channel! Quick right turn to get back in the channel to stay safe. Ever vigilant is the call for the day and all days to come. Twists and turns and sightseeing, there is a bald eagle just lazing about in the tree branches to my left, he seems to have little interest in me as he is looking for lunch I suspect.
I get to Prescott WI about 1:30 so I’m on track to get to Afton in the daylight. I call the railroad lift bridge and highway opening bridge to get a time when they can open and let me pass. Mast up I need about 32 feet so I can’t go under without them being open. The highway bridge is good to go but the railroad has workers on the tracks and he says it will be about 1.5 hours before he can open, dang! There is an open space at a fuel dock that I tie up to and wait, good time for lunch. Finally about 3:40 the bridge opens to let me pass into the St Criox River. This will be close. I really don’t want to be in an unknown river area in the dark. Full throttle and I’m up to almost 5 knots until I get to an extremely narrow and shallow section that gets to about 10 feet compared to 40 to 60 feet in the rest of the St Criox. Shallow water and tree stumps sticking out of the surface are disconcerting. Just passed this narrow area there are two big bays and Afton should be at the north end of the second bay and yes I see it with about an hour or so to spare before dark. I haven’ been here for almost two years and viewing a town from the water is always quite different but as I get closer the docks come into view and things become more clear. Into a dock, tie up, hang fenders and time for a real sit down dinner and a beer. Day well done. Tomorrow the mast comes down.
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