Having pried ourselves away from the cozy beach beneath the Old Wagon Bridge of Winona, and the loving hospitality of our Latsch Island Cousins, we embarked downstream toward our next destination: a marina on the charts nestled alongside the quaint town of Trempeleau Wisconsin.
We would take in the airs, refuel, for we were running a bit low, further coordinate the replacement of Wes’ personal digital assistant which had been a primary communication device, an unequivocally integral tool for documenting the project, coordinating with contacts and had been damaged irreparably upon leaving Winona, and of course scout around for more of our beloved River Rats that we could ingratiate ourselves with, and hope to record.
Sadly, no such presence was found, and instead we were greeted by an ornery old man who mistook our docking near his fishing rod as a direct assault against all decency. It’s a trap I fall into myself from time to time, that is mistaking ones inexperience for animosity, and this man had made a lifestyle it seemed of chastising rather than understanding.
We refueled, decided that it was too late for us to make way again for the day, as we had been delayed in our embarking earlier, and as much fun as navigating the river by night would be, it was obviously not a wise decision at this time.
I must digress. Our fueling station, at the marina proper, and the public docks we were to moor overnight at were separated by Lock 6. It was to be my first lock, and I was excited to experience this event. Funny enough, to add to any other stresses that we might have been feeling at the time, we had to make haste for the lock as barges were coming up and down the river, and the lock was just open now, for a moment longer to pleasure craft like us. We had to fill the fuel tanks, pay for them of course, and set off again as fast as possible if we were to make it through!
Wes took the tiller, and I shoved off from the fuel pumps. Mr. Johnson had been giving us a little trouble on the way down, so between the occasional break in fuel siphoning, and the inexplicable loss of torque from the propeller, we crossed our fingers in hopes that we would make it, without hurting Dottie or ourselves in the process.
At a certain point however, like hard winter storms, you take what the river gives you, and adapt accordingly. Dottie was designed to elicit memories of bygone times, and the maximum speed of travel is evidence of this.
The Lock Master was understanding, and we pulled up alongside the other craft. I held onto the ropes handed to me by the Lock Personnel. The waters receded and our craft lowered. It was an interesting experience.
Many thoughts were on my mind, the most stentorian of which was the obvious impact this system of Lock and Dams must have on the ecology of the river. Damn the dams I thought, at what cost were we improving commercial access?
Just below Lock 6 we found the dock that would be our home for the evening, only a five minute walk from downtown Trempeleau, a cute vacation town, but no boathouse community. We’d be moving on first thing in the morning, after gathering a bit more drinking water for the trip to La Crosse, Wisconsin.
We embarked early and were greeted by high cold winds, a slightly stinging rain, and a barge bearing down on us from upstream. Weather reports were a bit sketchy, so we decided to attempt an anchoring to weather the storm, and review safety precautions (drink some bourbon).
The anchoring was exceptionally well handled as was reported by Wes in a blog entry posted that day, for fear we may not survive the oncoming storm. I am happy to say we survived, that our journey could continue.
Onward to La Crosse and the Black River where we would find our next houseboat community, bump into some of our most adored friends from Winona, and await the supply drop from Friends of the Project.