Blog

08/21/2012 00:00

Departed on 8/21/2012 at 7AM.

Beautiful morning!  We are very excited to begin our journey south to Orange Beach Alabama and Barber Marina.

About ½ hour into our trip, the v-drive indicator light tells us we may have problems.  We stop at Prescott, WI where we learn our starboard v-drive pump has no pressure.  After several phone calls, we decide to head up the St Croix river to the Windmill Marina where there is an experienced v-drive mechanic. The Windmill Marina mechanics confirm the need for a v-drive pump.  Now…where to locate one?  The only dealer for the Walter brand that we need has closed shop for the whole week.  Looks like we’ll be here for awhile.  It’s a beautiful spot, so no complaints, just disappointment at the delay.

08/22/2012 07:00

8/22 – 9/6, 2012

After a few days, Rob decides to get back to the house to finish packing for our move.  I’m staying on the boat with the dogs.  It’s lonely without Rob.  I spend the time plotting out various routes for our trip, long walks, and organizing/reorganizing the boat .  There’s always interesting sights on the river.  I am getting into a daily routine and passing time while we wait for parts. 

Bill, Stu, and Tracy from River Heights Marina surprised me with a visit and some snacks for our trip!  So thoughtful!!

The weather is very warm and I’m happy to be on the water where I’m catching a nice breeze.

As there are  no slips available to us at Windmill Marina, we are slipped out at the public dock.  City employee, Gordie, has been very accommodating to our need and has discounted the regular fee for overnight docking.

We decide to replace both v-drive pumps to avoid trouble.

We are moved to a slip at Windmill Marina.  Lost the great view, but it is wonderful to have electric power again!

09/03/2012 07:01

Monday, 9/3

All systems are go!  We decide to take a test drive only to find after 30 minutes out that our battery power is failing.  Rob thinks it could be the alternator.  Oh no…maybe we’re not supposed to take this trip?!  Sure enough, we lose power!  Ann's quick thinking to the rescue!  We throw anchor and use the generator to power the battery and putt back to the marina.  Good news!  Only the groundwire became dislodged when the $70/hour mechanics replaced the v-drive pumps...grrrr!  Departure date re-set to Thursday, 9/6!!

Surprise visit from Chris, Becky and the girls on Monday, 9/3!

Surprise visit from Dave & Helen on Tuesday, 9/4!

 

09/06/2012 10:02

DEP 9/6/12 @7:45AM

Absolutely beautiful day!  But wait…the depth finder isn’t working????  Seriously?!!!    After a couple of tweaks, the boat is running perfectly AND the depth finder is working fine.  Another loose wire…We took it pretty slow today (7-8 MPH).  Tomorrow we will kick it up a bit.  Entertainment today was spotting a couple having sex on the beach…and I don’t mean the cocktail – LOL!  No waiting on LD#3.  First day completed.  Traveled 65 miles.  Staying the night at the Alma Marina, Alma, WI.  10 hours travel time.

 

 

09/07/2012 08:30

DEP 9/7/12@8:30AM

Traveling today at 9 MPH.  Light rain is keeping us wet, but visibility is good.  T-Mobile phone service is very spotty – internet nonexistent.  Dogs are doing great.  Lily is curled up on the couch and Retzer isn’t panting J 

There are a lot of bluffs in this area along with many small side channels that are tempting to explore and throw out a hook, but no time for fishing.  We’ve seen a total of 7 Bald Eagles and I think I spotted 3 Golden Eagles!    

LD#4 – 7, we locked right through, “floating” which means we didn’t have to stay on the wall and hold a rope.  LD#8, only gave us a 30 minute wait.  We arrived in Lansing IA @ 7:30PM after 5 locks and 75 miles and were met at the Lansing Municipal Harbor by 3 guys who helped us tie our lines.  The wind was blowing pretty strong so we were happy for their help. 

Lansing Municipal Harbor is a family owned marina and owners Bob and Linda Loomis are more than helpful.  They’ve invited us to stay for their annual BBQ cook off contest on Saturday, that will include live music and an outdoor movie about all the events they’ve hosted in the last year.  We’d love to stay, but we’re feeling the tug of the river and the need to get further south.  The nights have been wonderfully cool for sleeping, but it is a reminder that we are in our Fall season and gas docks on the Upper Mississippi will not be open much longer. 

 

 

09/08/2012 10:45

DEP 9/8/12@10:45AM

We’re getting a late start today.  Each morning before we take off, Rob does light maintenance checks .  He checks the engine oil, transmission fluid, looks at all the hoses for leaks, and for any loose wires or bolts.  Today he replaced a leaky deck drain hose.  Not a big issue – one of those “stitch in time” fixes. 

After a shower, we putted over to the gas dock, filled the tanks and pumped out the head.  77 gallons each tank = $637.29.  Cha Ching!

It’s 75® and sunny – perfect traveling weather!

We met our first northbound tow at LD#9 and had to wait 1 ½ hours to lock through.  We decided to try something new and to tie the “tender” parallel to the swim platform instead of 20 feet behind us to make more room for the 10 fishing boats that are also waiting anxiously to lock through.  There’s a fishing contest going on in this area and these guys are working on time limits!  We’ve been cautioned by the lockmaster that these guys will leave the lock at full speed, leaving a lot of very big wakes.  We appreciated her warning. 

We'll Call Her PITA (Pain In The Ass)

After we locked through and just as we cleared the lock, the tender (PITA) was swamped.  We almost lost her.  I took the helm and Rob threw on a life jacket with a 2 gallon bucket, got into PITA and started bailing water.  We estimate he threw 200 gallons!  Rob says there’s an old saying that goes something like, “there is no more motivated sailor than one up to his knees in water holding a 2 gallon bucket!”

Underway once more, we enjoyed incident free boating for about 25 miles when suddenly PITA broke loose from the boat!  The pulley simply wasn’t strong/big enough for the amount of pull.  Fortunately, we retrieved her easily and went on to lock through LD#10 with no problems. 

Just south of LD#10 is “Landing 615,” a quaint marina in Gutenberg, IA.  We docked to give the dogs a potty break before we spent our first night “on the hook” which means to anchor out of the river channel and not stay at a marina.

Landing 615 was already closed for the day, so we phoned the manager to let him know that we were only going to tie up for less than an hour and then be on our way.  Out of curiosity, Rob asked what it would cost to stay the night and decided at $20/night, we’d stay.  It proved to be a fortunate decision.

When we docked, the wind was coming from the South, so we pointed PITA into the wind and tied her up.  We met some boaters who were coming in for the night and staying at the “Riverfront Hotel,” which is a part of Landing 615.  I made a light supper of cheese Quesadias,  cheese and crackers and brought a tray up to the fly bridge for Rob and I to enjoy with a cocktail.  Out of nowhere, and I mean nowhere as it wasn’t expected or forecasted, wind blew in at 50+ MPH from the North!  The crackers were blowing away, the cushions on the fly bridge were getting lifted…it was crazy! 

I remembered that PITA had been secured facing south and I looked at Rob and saw he was thinking the same thing.  Sure enough, PITA was swamped again!  On went the life jacket and into the tender Rob went with his 2 gallon bucket.  He bailed another 150 gallons of water out of the boat…I held the flashlight.

Image result for holding flashlight clip art

Secured PITA once again, (facing North this time) and saw that the boater's boat who were staying at the Riverfront Hotel had loosed in the wind and was barely hanging onto the dock by one line.  We pulled it in, secured it, had 2 cocktails, decided to name our tender PITA (Pain In The Ass) and called it a night!

09/09/2012 08:30

DEP 9/9/12@8:30AM

Up at 6AM.  We had coffee and I made cheese omelets for breakfast.  Lily wasn’t ready so Rob took Retzer up to potty and for a walk.  I did the dishes and checked the weather forecast.  When Rob and Retzer got back, I took Lily up while Rob did some maintenance on the Port transmission hose. 

Gutenberg is a quaint little town with a lot of  historical buildings and friendly people.  We learned that there used to be a button factory that manufactured their buttons out of the clam shells that are abundant in the area.  We were given a few of the used shells as souvenirs.  Each has two very precise holes cut out of them! 

I met a nice gentleman, Gary, who was also walking his dog.  He and his ex-fiancé had moved to Gutenberg 2 years prior and bought one of the historic homes on main street.  It was currently being renovated and Gary had been concerned that the wind would take away the cedar shakes that had been delivered earlier in the day and placed on the roof.  I shared our “PITA” story. 

Weather today should be a good 75® and sunny with winds N@12MPH. 

We met a northbound tow that didn’t offer us any room in the channel.  Rob steered just a bit off channel to avoid a collision and dinged a prop an underground tree.  Boat now has a slight vibration when running over 1900 RPM.  We’ll check this out when we find a marina with a boat lift.

Found a nice Courtsy dock right after LD#12.  It’s Bellevue Courtesy Dock, which had a nice beach for the dogs to run off leash.  Saw a LOT of clams in their shell floating up near the shore. 

Decided to travel another 25 miles to Sabula, IA where there is a travelift and we can get a look at the props. 

Sabula offers a nice courtesy dock where you can stay for up to 24 hours at no charge.  We found our port for the night!  We no sooner got our lines tied when we were met by John, a fellow boater and soon to be “Looper!”  He was surprised to see our AGLCA burgee and excited to talk to other “Loopers.”  He asked if we needed a ride for provisions or if we needed any help.  We explained about the prop and our plan to have it looked at.  John went to get his wife, Denni, to meet us and talk about the trip.  We swapped stories over a cocktail.  They recommended breakfast at a local café  within walking distance and promised to check in with us before they left in the morning for Iowa City to pick up their dinghy.

Up at 6AM and had coffee on the boat.

Image result for Sebulla IA cafe

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

 

 

 

Then walked the dogs and decided to try out the recommended café.  John and Denni were right – most excellent home cooked food.  After breakfast, we walked to “Island City Harbor Marina” and met with Jerry, the head mechanic, owner, and operator.  We agreed to pull the boat and get a good look at the props.  There was a couple of pretty good dings that Jerry pounded out.  Bearings and shafts look ok!

Image result for island city harbor sabula ia

While there, we met Mark, who has completed the loop, and shared stories and information.  It was awesome talking to him and encouraging that he is anxious to do the trip again someday!  SIDE NOTE...Mark and his wife visited us at Barber Marina about a year later when they traveled to Orange Beach, AL. Fun to see them and share stories!

09/10/2012 01:00

DEP 9/10/2012@100PM

Beautiful weather, albeit windy.  Arrived with no further incidents at Port Byron Courtesy Dock where we spent the night.

Image result for Port Byron IL Courtesy Dock

 

 

09/11/2012 08:15

DEP 9/11/2012@8:15AM

Sunny, windy day. 

LD#13 is only challenging because of wind coming from the south at 15-20MPH.  PITA is difficult to adjust the lines for locking so we’ll reconfigure at our next stop. 

We locked right through LD#14-15A.  Our Starboard tank was out of gas and with the Port tank at half full, we decided to stop at “Fairport Landing” to fuel up.  We met a nice guy who’s made the trip to the Gulf several times.  He recommended we stay the night at Muscatine Municipal Boat Harbor – just on the other side of LD#16.

We found the water level at the Muscatine Boat Harbor a shallow 4 feet, but not a problem as we draw 27” which gives us plenty of room.  It was quite warm, so after our lines were secured, I started the reverse cycle air.  Since we had PITA tied along the Port side, I thought I’d better check to make sure that the discharge water from our reverse cycle air wasn’t pouring into her; Rob’s had enough bailing exercise!  Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that no water was discharging.  Off went the reverse cycle air and down in the hole went Rob.  Rob checked the hoses for any blockage and took the unit apart; could find nothing wrong.  Put everything back together, it works fine.   We figured that because we hadn’t used the reverse cycle air for quite a while (the weathers been plenty cool for sleeping) that there was a magnetic lock in the pump (similar to an aquarium’s pump that hasn’t been worked for awhile). 

We walked the dogs and then grilled hot dogs for dinner.  We were able to get TV reception, so we caught the local news and a couple of lame TV sitcoms!  The highway bridge in Muscatine lights up at night with changing color patterns – kind of like Christmas Tree lights! 

 

Early start tomorrow - hope to make Burlington – we have a long 51 mile stretch of river with no marinas and 2 locks before we get to our next destination, Bluff Harbor Marina.

09/12/2012 07:00

DEP 9/12/2012@7:00AM

I can’t believe we’re already into day 6 of travel!  Today is sunny and a forecasted warm of 88®.  Wind is from the south@10-12MPH. 

I’ve been reflecting to Rob on our river journey.  It’s like life, in that at the beginning, everything is so exciting and new, full of possibilities and opportunity.  Then the excitement levels off as routine takes over and the days run together, with only an occasional bump.  The journey is still enjoyable and memories are made.  The end of the journey comes all too soon and we’re never quite ready with wishes that we’d done something a little different, stayed a little longer, traveled a little slower.

“THUNK”…Starboard engine is running, but transmission is not working.  We’re at MM463 (Mile Marker #463) and the bolts on our starboard v-drive have sheered off….seriously?!!!  I am not loving those Windmill Marina mechanics even a little bit at this point!

Well, we’ll just have to motor to Burlington on one engine.  That is AFTER Rob checks the bolts on the Port  engine…and good thing he checked…they were also loose. 

Phoned ahead and reserved a slip at Bluff Harbor Marina.  They have internet, so I can finally post some photos of our trip! 

Around MM388, we came upon a Southbound tow having trouble navigating the gusty wind.  We hung out with him a bit until he was able to navigate a corner.  Quite interesting to watch and an excellent time for a lunch break!

Safely reached Bluff Harbor Marina.  The water level here is really low…maybe 30 inches deep.  With our 27” draft, we’re churning mud!

This is a nice marina with friendly staff.  Rob is going to meet with their mechanic tomorrow to discuss v-drive bolt replacement.  In the meanwhile, we are walking over to “Big Muddy,”  a converted freight station turned restaurant for dinner.

09/14/2012 10:12

Friday, 9/14/12

Took the Rump out for a test drive; all bolts have been tightened and we should have been ready to go.  BUT Rob is feeling a vibration that has him thinking we may have an issue with either a drive shaft or transmission…why not, I ask?

We ask the mechanic at Bluff Harbor to take a ride with us and he is certain we need a new transmission.  What???  We need a 2nd opinion.  Rob spoke with one of his most knowledgeable mechanics out of Chicago who advised us not to run out and do a transmission replacement.  He said, check these things first…

  1.  Did the noise quit at a higher RPM
  2. Have the carburetors been tuned after the v-drive replacement
  3. Is the damper plate working properly

Rob tuned the carburetors and the Rump sounds great again.  Good to get 2nd opinions.

09/15/2012 10:12

Saturday, 9/15/2012

Okay, we’re still here.  We decided to walk up to “Loads of Fun”, a local Laundromat to wash 2 loads of clothes.  It was a 3 mile hike, mostly uphill, but hey – it’s downhill all the way back, right?

 

 

When we got back to the boat, we took the dogs for a nice long walk and then had dinner. 

Should we go see Johnny Winter?  We want to, but tickets are most likely sold out.  Maybe our new friend, Bob Saars, put a couple away for us.  Only one way to find out.  Ralph, a fellow boater, saw us walking up to the theater and gave us a ride.  Once there, we found that Bob did not have any tickets waiting for us at “will call” and there were just 2 tickets left – single tickets – not together.

We asked if someone would go find Bob so we could let him know that we decided to come and on the off chance he might have something for us.

Bob was happy to see us.  Yes, he has tickets for us, but we need to be patient for a bit as he also has something else cooked up for us.  He left us only to return shortly afterward with front row seat tickets AND an invitation to visit with Johnny  in his trailer before the show.  WHAT!  Shut the front door!  Seriously????!!!!

It was an amazing evening!  Meeting this humble talented man was a once in a life time experience and Johnny Winter’s performance was phenomenal!   

Bob is definitely one of those people who we feel fortunate to have met.  Not just because of the JW tickets but because he is a very interesting person to talk to and he is a genuine soul. 

Side note.  Bob Saar is a published writer.  His book, “In Memory of David’s Buick” can be purchased on Amazon. 

09/16/2012 12:18

Sunday, 9/16/2012

We say goodbye to Bluff Harbor after 4 days with a late 1:00 PM start.  We had hoped to see Bob Saar once more to thank him for the Johnny Winter experience. 

ARR Keokuk 5PM.  6 hours, 37.6 miles, No LDs. Beautiful sunny day and incident free!  Finally!  YAY!

At Keokuk, we meet a very nice couple, Mike & Cindy Gilbertson, from Mound, MN who are doing the Loop with their sailboat, Aurora. 

09/17/2012 12:20

Monday, 9/17/2012

We are up at 6AM and excited to be on our way.  There is a dense fog giving very limited disability, but we are confident the fog will lift so we can leave at 7AM.

At 7AM, the fog has lifted enough for us to see but we don’t like what is revealed.  It’s a tow with 15 barges and it’s headed for LD#19 at a pretty slow pace.  We are ready to go, so we phone the lockmaster to see if we can lock through before the tow, but the tow has made their bid for the spot, so we will just have to wait the 2 ½ hours for it to lock through. 

Used the time to shower at KYC, give the dogs a longer walk, and have a big breakfast.  And visited more with Mike & Cindy.  They shared some good stories and are blogging on their website,  www.inventurer.com.  Next time we have internet access, I will look it up. 

We get to LD#19 and lock through in 20 minutes.  19.8 miles to LD#20.  The weather is a sunny 73° with a 20% chance of showers later in the day.  We hope to be somewhere in port by then. 

We are making good time.  We had discussed stopping at “Art Keller Marina” to potty the dogs and gas up, but we decide to get through LD#21 and to Hannibal, MO where we will stay the night.

About 3 miles out of Hannibal, the rain and wind hits us.  It’s not too bad driving.  I’m on the radio with a tug captain that we are passing to make sure we are on his preferred side.  The wind gets stronger and Rob starts moving cushions out of the weather and takes our phones and Quimby down below. 

As we approach Hannibal Boat Harbor, the wind has really picked up and the harbor entrance is rock pilings on each side.  Rob does a great job maneuvering us in.  We’re almost through when “THUNK” – what was that?

Rob thought he’d backed PITA into the rocks.  I knew that hadn’t happened because I was down on the cockpit keeping PITA off the rocks and getting ready to jump off and get the Rump tied off.  I got the midship line secured and as I was tying the bow line, Rob starts laughing and calls me over to see that the “THUNK” we’d heard was a very large Asian Carp that had launched itself into PITA.  After I got a picture, Rob gutted the carp and threw it in the river. 

We had dinner and settled in for the night.

57 miles, 7 hours, 3 LDs, a storm, and an Asian Carp.  Not a bad day!

 

 

09/23/2012 19:45

 

Tuesday, 9/18                                                                                                                                                                        

2 locks, 1 RR Swing Bridge and 52 Miles.

Hannibal Missouri is the home of Mark Twain and there is a main street in downtown Hannibal dedicated to his work with a lot of small shops to browse for memorabilia.  My mission this morning is to walk to the grocery store which is only 8 blocks away for those staples that don’t keep long, i.e. bread and eggs.  Rob is going to wait at the gas dock for the municipal employee to come and unlock the gas pump so we can fill up. 

There is a nice woman, Teri, who offers to give me a ride to the store.  I accept as the whole walk is uphill and it’s starting to get hot.  She points out various landmarks of the downtown area.  It is becoming quite depressed though as many of the small businesses have closed since Wal-Mart opened a store north of the downtown area and is taking a lot of the downtown business away from the locals. 

After I finish shopping, I head back to the boat…downhill all the way – whoo hoo!  I am approached by a man at a nearby park for any spare change I might have.  I’m sure he was harmless and a very nice person, but he was kind of scary with all of the small crosses tattooed across his forehead.

The boat is full again, 121 gallons = $480.  We estimate we are getting 1.3 MPG.  The groceries are unloaded an put away and here comes Mike & Cindy in their sailboat!  We get a chance to visit again before Rob and I are off.  Mike & Cindy are going to stay the night in Hannibal.

LDs 22 & 24 are easy peasy and we are making good time today.  Lock and Dam number 23 at Louisiana, Missouri, was never built.  Army engineers decided that they could build Lock and Dam 24 with a lift that was 15 feet instead of the planned 10 foot lift.  This plan needed a lot of dredging and diking, and by doing this they could get rid of Lock and Dam number 23 that was in the original plans.

 We also pass by the Louisiana Railroad Swing bridge which at a 16’ clearance has to swing open for us.

I phoned ahead and made a reservation at Timberlake Marina.  LD25 is closed for routine maintenance and not expected to lock through until midnight. 

We left Hannibal a bit later than we like, so it was twilight when we reached MM257.7 and Timberlake Marina.  Hmmm…is this a marina?  It looks like someone’s back yard.  There is no sign and our only clue that this is the place is that there is a disassembled gas pump on a dock and what looks like cleats on the dock.  Well, this is where we are going to stay, because it’s gotten too dark to do anything else.

We get the boat tied down and take the dogs up to shore.  We find the owner, Randy, working on a tractor.  He is surprised to see us come around from the back of his house.  His son had forgotten to tell him that we’d  called and “reserved a spot.”   Randy is a very nice guy and gives us instructions on how to hook up the electric and asks if we need anything.  We agree to meet up with him and settle up on the payment  after we’ve had time to get settled in. 

Okay, so Randy and his son are very nice and I don’t want to say bad things about their marina, but for those of you who may be traveling behind us the description of this marina in Quimby’s is outdated. 

There is NO gas available at this marina.  The pump has been disassembled.  There is only a gas dock to tie up on and it is only about 50 feet long.  The electric worked, but was a bit scary in its installation with no “on/off” switches or covers on the electrical plate. The dock itself needs repair as half of it is wood and half of it is metal and it’s kind of pushed together. 

It’s definitely nice to have a “place” to stop before LD25, but fill up your gas tanks before you get there!

Wednesday, 9/19

1 lock and 26.2 miles.

We are up and ready to leave at 7AM.  Hope to get some good mileage today.  The upper tack is giving us problems.  We thought maybe a loose wire, but wiring is good.  Starboard reading is good.  Port reading is jacked.  After trying to fix for an hour, with no success, we are underway. 

Sunny 75° day.  Wind is strong – 18-20MPH gusting to 30MPH from the South.

After 16 miles and 2 hours of travel, we reach LD25 only to find that it is under maintenance and won’t  be locking anyone through until 6PM.  What?!!  Well, we are going to find out how well the boat holds in deep water with strong winds. 

We get the boat anchored and settle in for the 7 hour wait.  It’s really a nice day and I get my book out.  We have phone service and are able to talk with Becky.  She tells us that Rylee asks to have our blog read to her every day.  HI RYLEE!!! 

While we are waiting to lock through, three men in a boat, “The Boat” from Elk River MN approach the lock and talked to us for a bit while we were waiting.  They had put in at Iowa City with no destination planned. 

At 3:30PM, we get a call from the lockmaster.  They’ve finished their maintenance early and we can lock through!

I phone ahead to “Riverbend Marina” in St Charles MO and make a reservation for the night.  They are at very low water level but felt that our 27” draft would just make it.  Well that’s a bit unsettling news, but we’ve had low water before (Burlington) so we know we can manage it.

We get to Riverbend Marina and navigate the narrow low water level channel only to find that “Tha Boat” has taken our slip.  Nice………………….

We motored to the next marina and tried to phone to see if we could spend the night.  No one answered the phone so we went ahead and entered the channel.  As we were going through the entrance more Asian Carp started to jump and bang themselves into the rock pilings at the channel entrance, but none of them jumped into PITA – thank God! 

No one was around or answering the phone, so we went ahead and slipped at their gas dock. 

We took the dogs up and discovered the most cement at a marina we’ve ever seen.  The whole marina area was covered with it!

There was a group of men having a beer in the picnic area and they told us that the cement was overage from the highway department and had been installed piece meal.  They couldn’t tell us any other way to reach the marine owners, but felt it would be okay for us to slip there for the night.

We spent a nice quite protected night at “John’s aka Riverbend Marina.”

Thursday, 9/20

No LD and 19.1 Miles

Another beautiful day.  Forecast is for sunny and 78°.  The river is “mirror” calm.  We don’t have far to travel today.  There are several available marinas for us to chose from and we can’t go further than LD26 because LD27 is still under repair.

Here’s part of the story:

Workers closed Lock 27 just north of St. Louis last Saturday after discovering that a protection cell - a vertical, rock-filled steel cylinder against which barges rub to help align them for proper entry into the lock - had split open, spilling into the channel tons of the rock that ultimately obstructed passage.

That damage was on an unarmored section of the protection cell that the barges don't typically make contact with because that portion often is 15 to 20 feet under water. But that part of the structure stands exposed because the river's level has been lowered dramatically by the nation's worst drought in decades, officials said.

The lingering drought also has narrowed the Mississippi - the nation's chief highway for barge traffic, leaving towboat pilots struggling to find a safe place to park their barges river as they wait out repairs. The repairs could be completed as early as Thursday, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Mike Petersen said.

As of Wednesday morning, the stranded vessels were carrying enough cargo to fill 2,400 railcars or 23,600 large tractor-trailers

We decided to put along at 6MPH and enjoy the day.  On our way south, we came upon “Fruitland Ferry” and watched it transport autos from Illinois to Missouri – very cool. 

Rob went to check the v-drives and found that the Port side packing around the bearings is running a bit hotter than the Starboard side, so he loosened the bolts so water runs more freely and cools them; just maintenance – no real issue.

We look through the Quimby’s and decide on “My River Home Harbor” as our next port.  We phone and reserve a spot and before long we are there!  This is a very nice marina.  It is family owned and well maintained.  We will have a covered slip, which is nice and the depth of the marina is a very comfortable 9 feet.

After we’ve walked and fed the dogs, we head over to Longshot Saloon for their Thursday 79 cent Taco night and a few beers.  On the way, we check out the restroom/showers and they are very nice. 

As we are relaxing over a beer, in walks Mike Gilbertson!  He and Cindy had just arrived and are planning to spend the night.  We had tacos, hot wings, and beers with them and they invited us down to their sailboat for sliced apples with caramel dip.

Very fun evening with Mike and Cindy. 

LD27 has opened up, but we think we will both stay one more night at My River Home Harbor to allow the barge traffic to thin out a bit before we try to lock through.

Friday, 9/21

Day 2 at My River Home Harbor.

We invite Mike & Cindy to our boat for a pancake breakfast.  After breakfast, we look through our Quimby’s to determine how we might navigate the longest stretch of the Loop with no gas docks between Kimmswick Mo and the Tennessee/Cumberland rivers.  We determine that we will definitely be stopping at Hoppie’s Marina in Kimmswick MO to gas up and visit with Fern Hopkins who has up to date information on river levels and the best way to navigate the 250 mile stretch.

Mike & Cindy have determined they will motor down tonight to Alton Marina to shave an additional 10 miles off their trip before entering LD26.  Rob and I like My River Home and will stay here one more night.  We say our goodbyes, knowing we may run into each other again.

We’ve met Cookie, a resident of the marina, who has traveled to the Tennessee/Cumberland river area many times and he has given us some insight on what to expect.

Rob and I pack a cooler and walk with the dogs up to the pavilion to watch the barge traffic and enjoy the late afternoon.  There is hardly a soul here so we pretty much have the place to ourselves. 

There is a boat on display that apparently was used by Cuban refugees to cross the Atlantic to Florida.  On each side of the boat there are 2 handles, one fore and one aft, where refugees would hang on while they took turns swimming, their kicks helping the old Russian diesel motor to power the boat.  Sobering to imagine the price they were willing to pay for the promise of freedom America offers.

Tonight is miserable with swarms of mosquitos so bad that it is like walking through spider webs when we take the dogs up.  I think we should have followed Mike & Cindy to Alton, but too late now.

Saturday, 9/22

We are up early and determine to make Hoppie’s Marine Service – a 2 lock and dam trip and 54 miles.  It is another beautiful day – how are we getting so lucky with the weather?

As we approach Alton and LD26, we phone Hoppie’s to reserve a spot for the night.  What?  They are full, but will have a spot for us tomorrow night.  We call Alton Marina, which has room for us and make a reservation.  It is the last marina before LDs 26 and 27 and Hoppie’s.  We phone Mike & Cindy to see if they are still there.  They are!  So we plan to meet up once we’ve settled ourselves into Pier H, Slip 20.

Alton Marina advertises itself as a “Five-Anchor Marina” and they are not exaggerating.  This place rocks!  They have:

Concierge level dock service, swimming pool, spa, private bathroom suites, deli, a courtesy shuttle to a gambling boat, shopping, restaurant, and amphitheater.  Best of all – NO MOSQUITOS!!!!!!

We are here early in the day and meet up with Mike & Cindy.  They tell us all about the amenities, show us around and we are encouraged to contact Patty and Robert Mitchell, the AGLCA Harbor Hosts. 

We check everything out – SUPER NICE – and we meet with Patty and Robert at the marina’s deli.  Robert and Patty own a ranch in Montana.  Robert is a consultant and Patty is a former commercial airline pilot for United Airlines.  They share some of their “Looper” experiences and offer good information on where to anchor out in the 250 mile stretch with no marinas.  They invite us to a memorial ceremony honoring the MIA, POW, and KIA soldiers.  Patty is going to play taps on her bugle as part of the ceremony.

The ceremony is very nice and we are happy to have attended.  Patty and Robert invite us and 5 additional “Looper” couples out to “Mac’s” for dinner.  They round up 3 vehicles to transport us all.

 Mac’s is a nice place!  It is HUGE and the food is excellent.  Well, most of the food.  Mike’s fries were stone cold and Rob’s medium rare steak was cold and raw.  We asked the waitress to warm up the fries and get Rob’s steak cooked, which she happily and apologetically did.  My Steak Mondigo was amazing!

Much to our surprise, the owner of Mac’s deferred charging for any of the meals that were served at our table because our “Mac’s experience” had been compromised.  Seriously?  We are not going to pay for 12 meals – 10 of which were perfectly fine the first time and 2 that were absolutely perfect the 2nd time served?  WOW. Well, the waitress got a fantastic tip!

When we got back to Alton Marina, several of us decided we’d like to have a nice soak in the hot tub.   Rob and I brought wine in one of our empty water jugs (no glass allowed in the pool area) and our plastic wine goblets.  Not very classy but we are so resourceful! 

Sunday, 9/23

We have reserved a spot at Hoppie’s and plan to leave Alton Marina by noon!  Excited to get back on the water!

Before we leave, we need to solve our internet dilemma.  There is so much available in the way of charts, lock and dam status, etc. if we only had service when we are on the water.  Everyone is recommending Verizon’s MiFi.  We are sold. 

Alton’s WiFi is not working properly – of course – and it takes me a LONG time to get connected and to Verizon’s website to order the MiFi service.  I discover that Verizon will not ship to an address different from the billing address.  Well, shipping the MiFi to Minnesota isn’t going to help now, is it? 

This takes me so long that it is 1PM before I am finished frustrating myself and Rob decides we will stay another night at Alton – hmmm – well, guess I’ll have to force myself into that hot tub one more time…LOL!!!

We phone Hoppie’s to change our reservation and discover they may not have room for us Monday night.  Two days at Alton may turn into three.  We will phone in the morning to see if Hoppie’s can accommodate us.

In the meanwhile, I’m cooking up some venison and will mix it up with BBQ for sandwiches.

No travel time again.  At this rate, we’ll be lucky to make Alabama by Christmas!

09/26/2012 10:33

 

Monday, 9/24

Said goodbye to luxurious Alton Marina, a true five Anchor Marina!  Destination, Hoppies where we will learn how to navigate the most difficult 250 miles of the trip. 

The wind has really picked up and we’re happy to not have to wait long at LD26.  We lock through and travel 15.3 miles to LD27. 

But first…the “Chain of Rocks Canal.”  All mariners must use this canal to bypass a rock dam across the old main channel which has a 4’ drop about 300’ below a castle or rook-like water intake for the city of St. Louis.  It’s a narrow channel and we were relieved we didn’t meet a north bound tow. 

We locked through LD27 with a Ferry Paddlewheel boat.  We got to “float” through and did not have any “wait” time.  Coming out of the lock was a bit different than what we’ve experienced in that only half the door would open at first and once out, the water was very turbulent and difficult to navigate.

Around the corner is St Louis!  How many trips south did I wonder as driving over the Mississippi if we’d ever actually be traveling ON the Mississippi heading south and – here we are!  It was pretty cool to see the “Arch” from the river!

Unfortunately, we couldn’t “gawk” for too long because the river traffic is the busiest we’ve ever seen.  This whole stretch is full of tows – some with just a few barges, most with 15 or more.   So we navigate this stretch carefully – staying in contact with the tow captains and keeping clear of the “parked” barges that are everywhere!

We are happy to finally be south of St. Louis and all of the mayhem!   We are navigating through “confused seas” with the current flowing to the south and the wind blowing north.  We are hoping to make Hoppies before the forecasted rain.  This leg of the trip  has been different in that it’s been so industrial.  In spite of the wind, the current is helping us along – much faster – and in no time we have traveled the 27 miles from LD27 and have arrived at Hoppie’s!

Wow…they are full – everything from a kayak, to houseboats to a 60 foot brand new Carver Motor yacht - but they’ve saved a spot for us and we dock up.  After we tie down, we take the dogs for a walk on the beach where they run and jump crazily – happy to be free for the moment!

Then we go meet the famous “Fern Hopkins.”  She knows everything there is to know about navigating this next 250 mile stretch and has 100% success rate of getting everyone through for the past 39 years.  I didn’t want to tell her that the Swanson’s are here and that record may change – LOL!

We also found “Kayak Dude” aka Paul!  It was fun to see him again and he thanked me for the muffins and brownies we left him in Burlington. 

I made noodles with garlic, onion, and crushed reds with Kielbasa – YUMMY!  Time for some R&R.  I’m a little nervous about this part of the journey….stay tuned!!

Tuesday, 9/25

Weather forecast is for rain.  Oh well, we’ve done rain before so no big deal, right?  We take the dogs for their morning walk and hear from other boaters that we are in for 60MPH wind and hail.  Oh.  Now that is something we haven’t done before and on this leg of the trip, we will be “on the hook” instead of snug in a marina.  We may stay another day.

Kayak Dude, aka Paul comes over and visits for a bit and Ben phones. 

Ben is in a LOT of pain with the peritoneal dialysis. He describes it like having a vacuum hose inside your stomach and every once in a while, the hose sucks up the stomach wall causing excruciating pain.  He’s been sick in the morning and because of the pain is not sleeping well at night.  Some good news is that he’s finally getting that molar pulled.  I know that will be such a relief for him.  One more week of peritoneal training and he will only have to make the trip down the mountain once a month for checkups.

The weather forecast is not good and we hope that Fern will have room for us one more night.  She does and so we decide to walk the mile or so to Kimmswick, a small town of little shops that open at 9:00AM and close between 3-5PM.  They have a restaurant called “The Blue Owl” that is famous for their pies.  Kayak Dude, aka Paul comes with us and we have lunch together.  Then he heads back to the marina while I force Rob to check out some of the little shops. 

There was a “stamping” shop where I was able to buy some cardstock so now I can make some proper cards to exchange with other Loopers.  We also bought some pretzel bread to use for sandwiches since there isn’t a grocery store in the  town.

Once back at Hoppie’s, we joined the other boaters that are here for Fern’s briefing of how to navigate the next 270 miles.  We took copious notes and now have the best places to anchor out, instructions on the best way to approach tows on the windy river portions and to broadcast our position when we anchor at night so the tow captains know where we are.  We know where we can tie up to walk and get more gas which we WILL need. 

Once through the Ohio river portion of the trip, we are going to motor on to the Cumberland River rather than take a right on to the Tennessee River right away.  This will mean less barge traffic for us and it’s only an additional 20 miles added to the trip with plenty of marinas and gas docks along the way. 

Here’s some of Fern’s advice:

1.        Stay in the channel.  Water levels are so low that it is unwise not to.

2.       MMs 130, 84, and 4 are very turbulent, so be aware and motor accordingly.

3.       When you meet or pass a tow on a turn, ALWAYS take the inside.  Otherwise, we may get pushed up to shore by their wake.

4.       When we get close to Kaskaskia River, phone the lockmaster – CHANNEL 13 – and ask if it’s okay to tie up on the Federal Lock wall.  This is a safe place to tie up with permission.

5.       We can try to phone ahead to “Kid River City Fuel” at MM 52 and we may be able to have some gas delivered or at least get permission to tie up the boat while we walk up and fill our gas containers.

6.       DO NOT anchor at Little River entrance because it’s not safe.

7.       Can maybe get gas at MM1, “Angelo’s Towhead”.  We can also anchor there.  Go under the bridge, LDB and stay on the tip to avoid deadheads and sandbar.

8.       On the Ohio River, and behind the yet to be completed Ohmstead LD, there is a deep hole to anchor.  Do NOT tie up to white mooring cells unless it’s an emergency.  The Corp will ask you to move, even if in the middle of the night.

9.       When at anchor at Ohmstead, phone LD53 before pulling anchor.  LD53 is not a Federal Dam and does not have to follow their rules, so you may wait a long time to lock through if the lockmaster has decided to wait for a northbound tow – even if that tow is 10 miles away.  One couple reported having to wait 24 hours – so best to call.

10.   All LDs on Ohio use channel 13

11.   Once through LD53, look for 50’ dock on LDB.  This is Paducah and we should be able to walk and get gas there.

12.   Next go up the Ohio 20 miles to the Cumberland River.  On the LDB are 2 safe anchoring choices.  The 1st choice is Cumberland Tow Head Island and the 2nd choice is Cumberland River.

13.   The next stretch is 30 miles and ONLY should be done in the daylight.

14.   After Barclay LD, it is only 1 mile to Green Turtle Bay and paradise – the 270 mile stretch from hell is over!

Great advice and much appreciated.  Still  nervous, but more confident.

It’s 7PM and the promised storm rolls in.  We are SO glad we decided to stay.  We are getting tossed pretty good and can only imagine how much water PITA is taking on.  We are surprised we have TV reception, because we have to phone service or internet (not really surprised about that) and so we pop some corn and watch Dancing With The Stars.

Kayak Dude, aka Paul is planning to head out early in the morning – maybe he’ll catch up with the two cute Kayak girls that are about 1-2 days ahead of him – LOL!

09/30/2012 12:35

 

Tuesday, 9/25

Weather forecast is for rain.  Oh well, we’ve done rain before so no big deal, right?  We take the dogs for their morning walk and hear from other boaters that we are in for 60MPH wind and hail.  Oh.  Now that is something we haven’t done before and on this leg of the trip, we will be “on the hook” instead of snug in a marina.  We may stay another day.

Kayak Dude, aka Paul comes over and visits for a bit and Ben phones. 

Ben is in a LOT of pain with the peritoneal dialysis. He describes it like having a vacuum hose inside your stomach and every once in a while, the hose sucks up the stomach wall causing excruciating pain.  He’s been sick in the morning and because of the pain is not sleeping well at night.  Some good news is that he’s finally getting that molar pulled.  I know that will be such a relief for him.  One more week of peritoneal training and he will only have to make the trip down the mountain once a month for checkups.

The weather forecast is not good and we hope that Fern will have room for us one more night.  She does and so we decide to walk the mile or so to Kimmswick, a small town of little shops that open at 9:00AM and close between 3-5PM.  They have a restaurant called “The Blue Owl” that is famous for their pies.  Kayak Dude, aka Paul comes with us and we have lunch together.  Then he heads back to the marina while I force Rob to check out some of the little shops. 

There was a “stamping” shop where I was able to buy some cardstock so now I can make some proper cards to exchange with other Loopers.  We also bought some pretzel bread to use for sandwiches since there isn’t a grocery store in the  town.

Once back at Hoppie’s, we joined the other boaters that are here for Fern’s briefing of how to navigate the next 270 miles.  We took copious notes and now have the best places to anchor out, instructions on the best way to approach tows on the curvy river portions and to broadcast our position when we anchor at night so the tow captains know where we are.  We know where we can tie up to walk and get more gas which we WILL need. 

Once through the Ohio river portion of the trip, we are going to motor on to the Cumberland River rather than take a right on to the Tennessee River right away.  This will mean less barge traffic for us and it’s only an additional 20 miles added to the trip with plenty of marinas and gas docks along the way. 

Here’s some of Fern’s advice:

1.        Stay in the channel.  Water levels are so low that it is unwise not to.

2.       MMs 130, 84, and 4 are very turbulent, so be aware and motor accordingly.

3.       When you meet or pass a tow on a turn, ALWAYS take the inside.  Otherwise, we may get pushed up to shore by their wake.

4.       When we get close to Kaskaskia River, phone the lockmaster – CHANNEL 13 – and ask if it’s okay to tie up on the Federal Lock wall.  This is a safe place to tie up with permission.

5.       We can try to phone ahead to “Kid River City Fuel” at MM 52 and we may be able to have some gas delivered or at least get permission to tie up the boat while we walk up and fill our gas containers.

6.       DO NOT anchor at Little River entrance because it’s not safe.

7.       Can maybe get gas at MM1, “Angelo’s Towhead”.  We can also anchor there.  Go under the bridge, LDB and stay on the tip to avoid deadheads and sandbar.

8.       On the Ohio River, and behind the yet to be completed Ohmstead LD, there is a deep hole to anchor.  Do NOT tie up to white mooring cells unless it’s an emergency.  The Corp will ask you to move, even if in the middle of the night.

9.       When at anchor at Ohmstead, phone LD53 before pulling anchor.  LD53 is not a Federal Dam and does not have to follow their rules, so you may wait a long time to lock through if the lockmaster has decided to wait for a northbound tow – even if that tow is 10 miles away.  One couple reported having to wait 24 hours – so best to call.

10.   All LDs on Ohio use channel 13

11.   Once through LD53, look for 50’ dock on LDB.  This is Paducah and we should be able to walk and get gas there.

12.   Next go up the Ohio 20 miles to the Cumberland River.  On the LDB are 2 safe anchoring choices.  The 1st choice is Cumberland Tow Head Island and the 2nd choice is Cumberland River.

13.   The next stretch is 30 miles and ONLY should be done in the daylight.

14.   After Barclay LD, it is only 1 mile to Green Turtle Bay and paradise – the 270 mile stretch from hell is over!

Great advice and much appreciated.  Still  nervous, but more confident.

It’s 7PM and the promised storm rolls in.  We are SO glad we decided to stay.  We are getting tossed pretty good and can only imagine how much water PITA is taking on.  We are surprised we have TV reception, because we have no phone service or internet (not really surprised about that) and so we pop some corn and watch Dancing With The Stars.

Kayak Dude, aka Paul is planning to head out early in the morning – maybe he’ll catch up with the two cute Kayak girls that are about 1-2 days ahead of him – LOL!

Wednesday, 9/26

We’ve decided to hang out at Hoppie’s for another day.  The severe storms have dumped a LOT of debris into the river and it’s not worth the risk of hitting something.  There is also more severe weather forecasted for tonight. So we’ll let it float on past us and venture out on Thursday.

Today, we are in “wait” mode, so we are reading, watching movies, visiting with other boaters, and performing general maintenance on the boat.   These are the times that I really miss having phone service and internet.  I’m having technology withdrawals!  LOL

Thursday, 9/27                                                                                                                                                           DEP Hoppie’s @ 9:30AM                                                                                                                                                                                      Cloudy.  High 75° Winds S @ 5MPH                                                                                                                                     ARR Mouth of Kaskaskia River @3:00PM                                                                                                                                            41.2 Miles 5 ½ Hours

We wake up to heavy thick fog.  We are leaving as soon as it lifts.   Hopefully that won’t be too long.  We have a short 44 mile trip today to the Kaskaskia River where we will anchor for the night. It will be important to remain patient and do this leg safely – even if it’s tempting to go further.

It is a nice trip down river.   I phone ahead to the Kaskaskia River LD, where we are hoping to get permission to tie up to their Federal wall for the night.  It is the only safe place on the river recommended by Fern.  The lockmaster tells me they are not allowing tie ups because they are under construction.  We can lock through, but have to travel the additional 10.5 miles to Evansville Marina to tie up for the night.  I phone Evansville Marina to find they  are closed for the season, but we can tie up on their dock.  With the prospect of traveling 21 miles out of our way and going through a lock twice to do it on our limited fuel supply, we decide to try and find a safe place to throw anchor and spend the night on the hook instead.  We find that spot at MM116.  We are still in the current, but we are behind a rock wall that should protect us from any errant barges – yes they do break free from the tows on occasion!  Once secure, we begin the process of getting the dogs to shore so they can potty and stretch out a bit.  We tried to retrain them to potty on the cockpit of the boat, but they will not do it. 

Process for getting dogs to shore:

1.        We pull PITA up to the swim platform and secure as tightly as possible.

2.       Rob gets into PITA and starts the motor.

3.       Ann puts the lifejacket on one of the dogs

4.       Ann and Rob lift the dog over the transom and onto PITA

5.       Rob motors in to shore with the dog

6.       Repeat steps 1-5 for second dog – LOL

We spend a rocky night as tows with 15-18 barges go past us frequently.  Even though we are safely well outside the channel and have thrown a fore and aft anchor, the thought of an anchor letting go because of the swift current and the wakes that are tossing us around neither one of us sleep very well. 

 Friday, 9/28                                                                                                                                                                DEP MM116 @ 8:30AM                                                                                                                                                                                      Sunny.  High 75° Winds S @ 10-12MPH                                                                                                                                     ARR Angelo Towhead/Ohio River Mouth at Cairo, IL @9:00PM                                                                                                                                            116 Miles - 12 1/2 Hours

In the morning, we are surprised to see a tow with 15 barges coming out of the channel down river from us and heading straight in our direction!  We pulled anchor and got out of the way.  He probably was pulling over to wait for another tow and most certainly saw us and would not have hit us, but it was creepy to say the least anyway.

This stretch of our trip was both uneventful and interesting at the same time if that can possibly make any sense?  There is a LOT of tow traffic pushing an average of 15 barges.  Seems like we meet one or two around every turn and this stretch of the river has a lot of twists and turns!  The current is funny here too with what we are calling “swirlies” in the water that pull us off our course, so we are constantly correcting. 

Fellow Loopers, one on the sailboat, “Tango” and one in an 18 foot runabout, “MudDuck” are running this stretch of the river with us.  We are only about a mile ahead of them.  We can’t imagine how Tango is handling this crazy water AND all of the Tow traffic.  We figure that since he’s traveled over 3,000 miles already, this is not a big deal for him.  We wonder how Mike and Cindy on Aurora did.

Coming into Cape Girardo and Kidd River City Fuel Dock at 2:00PM seemed too early to stop and not a place we’d like to spend the night.  The dock is small and we can’t get fuel there anymore.  We’ve been averaging 2.5 MPG with the fast current, and have barely used ¼ tank of gas, so we feel confident we may be fine for fuel until we get to Green Turtle Bay Marina – even when we are boating against the Ohio River current.

About 2 hours out of Angelo Towhead, we lose daylight and we are in heavy barge traffic.  Our GPS showing the “sail” line, the depth finder, and our spot light are great tools that get us to Angelo Towhead safely.  We motor under the bridge up channel enough to get into a gentle current out of the eddie.  Wow – full moon – well out of the channel – and only a gentle current, so no tossing in the wake of the tow traffic…Woo Hoo!!! 

I go out and throw anchor.  What was that?  Did one of the dogs jump in the river?  Oh no..it’s more Asian Carp.  They are attracted to our anchor light.  When Rob would turn on the anchor light for about 5 minutes and then shut it off, the water would boil with fish all around the boat.  They actually jump 4 feet out of the water – straight up and they are BIG! 

Two cocktails and 1 Unisom later, I am out for the night. 

Saturday, 9/29                                                                                                                                                           DEP Angelo Towhead @ 8:30AM                                                                                                                                                                                      Sunny.  High 75° Winds NE @ 5MPH                                                                                                                                     ARR Paducah, KY @7:00PM                                                                                                                                            2 LDs – 46.5 Miles 10 ½ Hours

OMG – what a difference going against the current makes.   Traveling down the Mississippi with the current at 1600 RPMs, we were traveling about 10 MPH.  Traveling up the Ohio against the current at 1600 RPMs, we are traveling about 5 MPH. 

I can’t believe the number of barges and tows at the mouth of the Ohio River!  It’s like rush hour on the river! 

We pass by Olmstead LD.  It is under construction, replacing locks 52 & 53 when completed.  I took plenty of photos, but I don’t think the photos will do justice to the magnitude of this project.

We are instructed to go right through LD53 – so no waiting – YAY!  BUT the river current is so strong here that we have to put the throttles down to get past this spot.  At 1600 RPMs, we were actually going “0” on the GPS readings – crazy!

LD 52 bounces us around quite a bit as we wait 45 minutes to lock through.  The lockmaster is a nice young guy and he tells us we will have no problem staying overnight in Paducah at their courtesy dock.  He tells us that Paducah is celebrating BBQ Cookoff days with live music and plenty of cold beer.  Sounds like a winner anchorage spot to us!

We get to the Paducah courtesy dock and tie up no problems.  We take the dogs up and get them fed and then head up to enjoy the festive atmosphere. We meet James Brewer on the courtesy dock and he gives us some of the history of Paducah and offers us a ride in the morning to refill our “just in case” 14 gallon gas container.

The food is great, the beer is cold, and the music is good too!  Paducah is a very historic town and it is obvious that the city planners have worked hard to keep it that way.  It would be nice to spend a couple of days here to really enjoy all this town has to offer, but we need to keep moving.  Will only be able to make 22 miles tomorrow and then another 30+ miles on Tuesday to make Green Turtle Bay safely.

In the meanwhile, having a cold beverage on the flybridge while listening to the last strains of the band as the festival comes to an end under a full moon makes for another memorable experience on our RumpShaker Adventure!

10/09/2012 08:55

DEP: Paducah KY Sunday 9/30 @1:00PM * Sunny* High 74 Winds NNW@5MPH

ARR: Green Turtle Bay Marina @ 7:00PM * 1 LD * 58 Miles * 6 hours

Our gas gauge is still showing 1/2 full - plenty of fuel to get to our next destination, Green Turtle Bay Resort and Marina if we go up the Tennessee River instead of the longer more scenic Cumberland River.  We will save ourselves a little over 20 miles and avoid most of that distance on the very fast Ohio River.  

As promised, Jim - local resident - shows up to take Rob to the nearest gas station to fill our 14 gallon "insurance" gas tank.  Since we have shaved 20 miles off our trip, we take advantage of a late start by taking the dogs for a long walk around downtown Paducah.  At 1:00, we shove off.  

The Tennessee River between Paducah and Grand Rivers KY is deep and wide.  It takes about 3 hours to travel this 22.4 mile stretch and we don't encounter one single tow traveling in either direction as we putt along.  About 2 miles before we reach the Kentucky LD, we are joined by three powerboats that will lock through with us.  We find out that they will also stay at Green Turtle Bay so we are excited to get to know them better.  One of the boaters, "Our Bubble" has radioed ahead and got word from the lock master that we will be able to lock through at 4:30PM. He is locking through an upbound tow and will get us in as soon as possible.  The Kentucky Lock lifts 57 feet so we drop anchor to wait.  We get the whistle to lock through at 5:15PM - not a bad wait - especially since the water is so calm - so we throw in an anchor, have a cocktail, and listen to some tunes.

This lock is so interesting and different from what we've seen.

What a surprize we have waiting for us when the doors open to let us out - we've never had this experience before!  Fortunately, the tow has left a large enough passage on his Starboard side for us all to pass by!

Once though...what a view!!  Kentucky Lake is HUGE and deep and amazingly beautiful!  We would love to boat around, but it's getting toward twilight and we still have about 5 miles (40 minutes) to Green Turtle Bay.  

So...we travel 3 miles down Kentucky Lake to the Barclay Canal and head east on this 1.5 mile long flowing canal that connects the Tennessee River (Kentucky Lake) with the Cumberland River (Barclay Lake).  Then we head one mile north to Green Turtle Bay, home of Commonwealth yacht Club.  It is the first fuel stop on the Cumberland and is the northern entrance to "Land between the Lakes."  It's dark when we rach our slip (Dock B) right next to the gas dock, convenience store, restrooms, showers, and laundry.  This will do!!  

We are happy to see that our friends, Mike & Cindy Gilbertson (Aurora) are here!  We meet up with them and discover they will be here for a week.  Green Turtle Bay has a "pay for 5 and stay for 7" deal.  Too good to resist, so we decide to do the same and take this time to change the motor oil, transmission fluids, and general maintenance for the rest of the trip.  

10/10/2012 20:40

Maintenance Week and we were busy!  Rob was able to get all of the following maintenance items completed on the Rump so we are confident that all systems are now a GO!

  • Oil and Filter Change
  • V-Drive Oil Change
  • Transmission Fluid Change
  • Installed 12-Volt Outlet on Upper Helm
  • Repaired the Controller for PITA's outboard motor

It's been a fun week too.  We hosted an abelskeever breakfast for 12 on our boat.  Cindy GIlbertson (Aurora) is an expert abelskeever maker and these were amazing!  

We attended two "docktail" nights (where boaters bring their own beverage and a munchie to share), a FREE chili cookoff at the Commonwealth Yacht Club, a 2" pork chop dinner at Patti's 1800 Restaurant (which Rob and I shared becasue it's WAY too much food for just one person), a 30 minute sauna, two laundry days, and three trips to Walmart with the courtesy van. (We bought a Verizon "Jetpack" so we should have internet now for the rest of the trip - YAY!)

Side Note:

        Our vintage sears cannister vac that we carry on board needed a part - the one that holds the bag in place - after many online searches, the part was not to be found.  It will now RIP in a Grand River landfill and has been replaced with a Dirt Devil Upright.

We have met several wonderful couples and singles at Green Turtle Bay who are doing this trip in every type of boat.  Listening to their stories and experiences has been delightful.  We have always found fellow boaters on the upper mississippi and MN area to be friendly and helpful and that experience has carried through on this trip.  It will be sad to say goodbye to thesenew friends.

Green Turtle Bay Marina has been fun and although it will be hard to leave all of this luxury, we are getting antsy to be back on our river journey.  

 

Side Note – from a fellow “Loopers” Jeff and Susie (Idyll Time) who left Hoppies just a few days after we were there.

 We had just finished the daily briefing with Fern at Hoppies and had settled into a nice quiet evening. A 15 barge tow was going upstream at full throttle. Just past Hoppies, we heard his engines go to neutral. We immediately went up on deck to see why and soon saw Hoppie and his family running down the hill towards the docks yelling at us to untie the boats. The tow had run aground and two fully loaded coal barges had broken away and were headed for the docks. We were all off the docks within minutes and hovering out in mid channel. Hoppie, in a small John boat began to push the loose barges away from the docks. Luckily both barges missed the marina by 100 yards. After the barges had drifted downstream we were given the all clear to came back into the marina. Earlier in the day a downbound tow had taken out the red channel marker and now tows are running aground just upstream from Hoppies.Hoppies did an excellent job of preventing a potentially tragic collision. We spent the rest of the night monitoring channel 13 and 16 in case another tow broke apart. We would suggest everyone to keep your radios on and be alert while here as the low water is creating problem.

So while this trip can sometimes be noneventful, it can also be frightening.

Our last evening was spent aboard "Water Music" with owners Joel and Debby VanderWaal and Mike and Cindy Gilbertson for some fresh apple pie.  Debby wanted to thank us for letting her tag along on one of the Walmart trips - totally unnecessary gesture, but much appreciated.  It was fun to spend time with these folks who are all fellow Minnesotans.  Joel tuned us in to "Active Captain," a website that shows good spots to anchor out and we got a tour of their beautiful boat.  We sure hope we meet up with them again.

10/10/2012 21:14

We said good bye to Green Turtle Bay Marina at 8:00AM.  It's partly cloudy and high temps are forecasted in the high 60's.  Brrr - it's a cool 35 degrees this morning - definately time to head south!

This should be a good cruising day as we will not have to lock through any LDs.  

The Kentucky Lake is beautiful and once the sun peeks out from behind the clouds, we can actually enjoy this!

We have seen a lot of fishermen on this stretch and even watched as one landed a large catfish.  No photo because we were too busy navigting and trying to watch the fishermen through binoculars.

We find a nice spot to anchor out at MM94.  It was difficult to navigate through the weed mats, kind of like a skills test, but definately worth it as we were well protected from the channel.  

After a good meal of grilled hamburgers, we settled in with crossword puzzles and checking "active Captain" for an anchorage tomorrow night.

 

10/10/2012 23:06

Happy Birthday wishes to Kimi and Julie R.!!!

We were all set to get up and underway at 7:00AM, but the fog was so thick, we had to wait until 9AM for it to burn off.  Then with a nice, but cool, sunny day, we set off.  Rob did not encounter any Asian Carp when he motored the dogs to shore in PITA - good thing!

We are trying to find a good spot to anchor out again tonight, but prospective sights near Clifton Marina where we plan to top off our gas is not looking good.  The channel is wide and deep and there are no little bays to get off channel to anchor out of the way of tows.  It is pretty and we are amazed at the number of really nice homes on this stretch of the river.  

 

 

We encounter 4 tows today - 3 traveling north and we pass one heading our southerly direction.  The current is still strong and at 1900 RPMs, we are only averaging 7 MPH.

 

We get to Clifton Marina before we can find a good spot to anchor out, so we decide to transient here.  We are really glad we did, because this is a nice marina.  Very clean and like new!  We meet Gene, the owner/operator who invites us in the ships store/restaurant and buys us a beer and we swap stories.  Then we head back to our boat for a movie and much needed R&R!

 

10/11/2012 00:06

Tuesday, 10/9 - Depart for Grand Harbor Marina.  Heavy fog again so we hung out at Clifton until about 9:30AM.  Then off we went!

The Tennessee current is extremely strong and we are running 2020 RPMs to keep our speed at 7MPH.  Rob is getting a bit frustrated with this upcurrent battle and I remind him of the beautiful day and the fact that we are almost through to the Tenn-Tom where we won't be fighting current.

Soon, we approach Pickwick Landing Lock and we lock through right away with 2 other cruisers.  One is headed for Pickwick Landing Park and the other to Grand Harbor as we are.  Once through, our breath is taken away with the beauty of Pickwick Lake.  It is so vast, we are sure that Mike & Cindy will want to spread Aurora's sails when they get here!

Grand Harbor is super nice and we are greeted by three boaters who help us get tied up.  Then it's cocktails time!  We meet a nice couple from Green Turtle Bay on their way home.  We tell them to be sure and watch for Aurora and Tango and to hail our greetings to them when they pass by!  

 

 

 

10/11/2012 00:47

Pretty nondescript day.  We used this day to catch up with our laundry and to trek over to the bank via courtesy car to transfer some funds into our account.  I used this time to update our blog - I know, finally, right?!!  I even got a nap in today!  Tomorrow is Rob's birthday and we'll spend it traveling down the Tenn-Tom Waterway.  13 more LDs before we reach Mobile Bay!  We've heard that there are a lot of great places to anchor out and are excited to take this opportunity to do more of this.  

Side Note:  For some reason, I thought this was a pretty straight stretch of river.  It is not.  It is VERY curvy!  Stay tuned for photos.  For some reason, photos are not cooperating the transfer from camera to laptop to website.  It's always something... 

10/11/2012 08:54

Happy Birthday, Rob!  For your birthday, I've got a special surprise...we are going to travel down the Tenn-Tom Waterway!!!  LOL

Kind of cloudy this morning.  We are almost ready to go.  Just checking and rechecking systems.  Still looking good!!  Two days at this marina is enough.  Don't get me wrong - it is very nice, but the wanderlust has taken over and we need to get moving!

 

A couple "Loopers" have already left.  We are right behind you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tenn-Tom is the flyway used almost exclusively by "snow birds" migrating from the northern climates in autumn and going back north in the spring.  By using this route, mariners do nothave to fight the Mississippi current on the upbound trip, nor will they have to go "outside" in the Gulf of Mexico between New Orleans and Mobile. 

 

 

The first thing about the Tenn-Tom that we noticed and actually thought the whole waterway would be like is the "canal-like" appearance.  It is like this for about 22 miles, and is called the "Divide Cut."  This is a man-made gash through the natural divide between the Tennessee River and the Tombigbee River that made the waterway possible.  

The shorelines are rock covered up fairly high between the 250 to 300 feet wide channel.  Also we are noticeably lower in the canal than the surrounding landscape.  I was at first surprised by the lack of floating debris.  The water is a little muddy but no junk floating. After a few miles I realized why this was happening.  Because the surrounding land was higher by about 30 feet special care had been taken to allow runoff to enter the canal without causing erosion to the banks.  The two methods used are called "slots" and "weir" type spillways.  The slots were used for smaller creeks and were concrete troughs about two feet wide and eight feet deep following the slope of the banks.  The larger streams were fitted with spillways divided by weirs.  They are somewhat hard to describe but the photos should clear that up. What appears to be happening is not only do they control erosion but serve to "strain" the inflow of all larger debris.  Although large volumes of water were still entering the canal through some of these passageways it was still relatively clear of flotsam. 

We are certain that this area is where all of the Great Blue Herons migrate, because they are everywhere!

Along the way, we see the Corp working hard to clear a path with a very large wood chopper.

We finally reach our destination, MM415.2, a place on the Tenn-Tom known as "Five Fingers," so named because there are five bays that resemble 5 fingers of a hand that are all safe anchorage and every single one beautiful.  I know we agree and I think you will too.

We set the anchor and settle in for the night.  It is so quiet here.  We would love to stay and plan to return - maybe with friends or family.  The bass are plentiful and the water is so clear.  There is a swimming beach close by and a marina where we can replenish fuel and supplies as needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10/12/2012 20:05

Hard to believe that yesterday, we had a high of 61 and today's forecast is for 84 degrees and 60% humidity...welcome to the south!

It's hard to leave this beautiful spot, but we still have 450 miles to go - so we must!  But first a few snapshots!

And then we start our day by passing through Whitten Lock & Dam.  It is an 85 foot drop - that's 10 stories high, folks!  It will be the first in a total drop of 414 feet between here and the Gulf of Mexico!  The lockmaster tells us that we will be able to lock through in 20 minutes, but it actually ends up taking 2 hours.  We are finding that this is a "norm" so we don't count on the time given us by the lockmaster.

We catch up with fellow loopers, Seraphim and Voyager, and hang with them through the Whitten and the next two locks, G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery Lock and John Rankin Lock.  These two locks are only a 30 foot drop each and we lock right through.  The John Rankin lockmaster was the steriotypical southern boy and we chuckled at his comment when we called him about locking through which was: "Y'all C'mon down and I'll be ready fer ya."  

After John Rankin Lock, we passed by a mulch outfit and other various sights including water moccasins swimming across the channel.

We'd really hoped to make it to MM377 and anchor out, but with the long wait at Whitten, we decided to be smart and stay at Midway Marina along with Seraphim and Voyager.  

After taking the dogs up and getting them fed, we decide to eat at their restaurant and have some great fish and hush puppies - after all, we ARE in the South!!  

Then it's back to the boat to shower.  All clean and relaxed, I sip on a glass of wine while I catch up our Blog!

Oh..BTW...Rob came up with an ingenius(?) way of keeping track of reds and greens to make sure we stay in the channel - LOL!!

  Quite a change of scenery than we enjoyed yesterday - very south-like.  Tomorrow is another day - more later!

10/13/2012 20:32

    We say goodbye to Midway Marina after topping off our gas tanks.  Destination - Columbus Marina, 4 locks and 60 miles away.  Fulton Lock

is a mere 3 miles from the marina and we try to hail the lockmaster to find out how long the wait will be.  After several unsuccessful attemps, we try a radio check to make sure we are broadcasting.  Midway Marina responds.  So, why isn't Fulton Lock responding?  Of course we have no telephone coverage to phone the lock, so all we can do is keep trying.  We tie up to the wall and after three more unsuccessful attemps, our hail is answered.  The lock master was not receiving our hail...hmmm.  After locking through, we enter a long channel on our way to GLover Wilkins Lock 14.7 miles away.  

I had Rob take a photo of the floating bollard inside of the lock to show ;you what these look like as this is different than locking through in Minnesota.  It was real nice of one of the people we met to share with us that we need to watch out for snakes that sometimes make their home there.

The remaining locks are open and ready for us to lock through so we make good time today and will have no problem reaching Columbus Marina before twilight.  IN the meanwhile, we enjoy the southern scenery. 

We even spot and successfully photograph a watersnake...anyone recognize the species?

At MM338.7 we pass the Tom Soya grain handling complex

We saw quite a number of fishermen today and absolutely no tows, except for the one we locked through with at Amory Lock.

It was also fun to see active campers this late in the season...

As we approached Stennis Lock we spotted Columbus Marina - our port for tonight!  From the time the waterway was built, the Corps of Engineers had planned for a marina to be at this location.  There were several false starts over almost 15 years.  Then in 1999 it really happened and what you see is the result.  In short, this is a well equipped full service marina where everything is almost new.  

We have phone service tonight, so, we will catch up with our kids and our friends, Erik and Stacey, who are planning to come and visit us the middle of November!

10/14/2012 10:24

 

Sunday Oct 14
Chance of T-Storm Day: Mostly cloudy with a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the lower 80s. South winds 10 to 15 mph.

Not a good night to be on the hook as the forecasted thunderstorms are right over the area we planned to be, so we will stay at Columbus Marina one more night.  

This first wave of the storm came through before we left with lots of lightening and wind. We helped a large houseboat come in off the channel to get out of the storm.  Then we left to tour Waverly Mansion.

Except for Mobile, Columbus is the largest city on the Waterway.  Columbus was founded in 1821.  Luckily, there were so many wounded, both Union and Confederate, being cared for here that it escaped being ravaged during the Civil War.  As a result, the city still has many of its antebellum homes.  In fact, there are more than 200 of them which are open on a rotating basis.  We've reserved the courtesy car and are going to tour Waverly Mansion.  I took some photos (below) but photos of the interior were not allowed, so to get the full effect, just click on this link to see more.  http://www.newsouthernview.com/pages/nsv_ie_waverley.html

 

This Magnolia tree on the property is estimated to be 250 - 300 years old - the oldest in the state.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got back to the marina and had docktails with six other couples.  Rob got some great information on anchorages between here and the Gulf.  The next wave of the storm was coming in, so we battened down the hatches and hunkered in for the night.  Good decision to stay at the marina and not be "on the hook!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10/17/2012 12:00

We say goodbye to Cojumbus Marina with fair skys and no storms in the near forecast.  Both the Stennis and Bevill LDs are good to us and have the doors open and waiting for us to lock through!  This means we will have no problem making our anchorage at MM270.6 before dusk - which is coming earlier and earlier... 

But first things first.  After the Stennis LD, the Tenn-Tom changes character.  It looks much more like a river.  There are a lot of water marks and downed trees on the banks.  Could be a int of things to come...

Along the way, we have to motor through pods of water hyacinth, sometimes so thick it looks like the water ends.  Apparently, there was a time not too long ago that this water hyacinth thretened to take over many of the small bays along the Tenn-Tom.  It's really pretty, often with small pink flowers and the roots are only a few inches long so to drive through a thin patch isn't a danger to the props.

We reach our anchorage at MM270.6 around 3:30PM.  Plenty of time to get the dogs up to shore and settle in for the night.  There are 2 other boats here with us and some campers on shore.  It is a great anchorage, well out of the channel and with a boat ramp within 250 feet of us to get the dogs up with PITA.  

 

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