Columbus, MS

31 October 2014

I had met the Captain of the Mara Beel the night before. He was going to leave at first light and head down. Our goal was to make Columbus, MS so we agreed to go together.

We were up at first light (7AM) and ready to go. We watched 4 other boats pull out of the marina, as we backed out and headed for the lock. The lock master had said if we were in by 7:30 AM he would lock us down ahead of an up bound tow, so we did a little hustle to get in and tied off. Success, I was on the wall ready to go at 7:25!

At 7:40 we had dropped 28′ and were leaving the Fulton lock. One down and three to go.

About 9 AM we entered an Eagle sanctuary, one of the many the ACoE has been building. I saw what I thought was a nesting pair in a tree. Before I could get to Susan to get a picture, they had flown off.

We had about a 45 minute wait at the Wilkins lock for a tow to come up. I was pretty good with the wait, it’s one of the shortest we’ve had since leaving Chicago. There were two boats that were much faster than us, they had zoomed to the lock and had to wait 1 ½ hours.

We cleared the Wilkins lock a little after 10 and headed the five miles to the next lock. Lock karma was with us again, the doors were open and we were in and out in under 20 minutes. Yay!!!

I was watching the weather. The forecast was for winds to increase through the day getting up to 20 MPH with gusts to 30. So far it was pretty calm, so we made the decision to pass through the Aberdeen Lock if it was pretty calm and try to make Columbus.

About 3 miles from Aberdeen the wind started to pick up, but we were pretty confident that we would be able to manage it. Our little group of Kindred Spirit, Mara Beel , Quo Vadimus and Miss Ginger entered into the lock. We all got tied off and we noticed that Kindred Spirit was having a little problem with their starboard tie. They made two passes and then the wind kicked up pushing them from behind. The Captain quickly spun the boat around and did a quick tie to the port wall. He was facing us, but was securely on the wall.

With everyone safe, the lock-master lowered us and we were soon out. Because of the way the canal was built, we were pretty shielded from the wind for the next 20 miles.

The canal empties out into a small lake just above Columbus. The wind had been building while we were traveling, so making the trip across the lake was interesting. We got into the dock with some effort. The wind was at our stern so it was fast work to get lines out and get our movement stopped.

The others arrived soon after and we all got settled in. We were just in time, the winds really started to kick up, my little wind gauge got gusts of 25MP+ (as fast as it reads).

We had Docktails with the crew of Mara Beel they have an Ocean Alexander, it was very nice. They have a full recliner, something that both Susan and I covet. We had a great time talking to them and sharing our adventures.

While we were talking the Captain of Onward (the second Camano 31 we’ve seen on the loop) doing a “reverse trick or treat”. He was going from boat to boat passing out candy for Halloween. I had not remembered it was Halloween until then. Time does fly!

Dinner was sausages, kraut and boiled potatoes, just the thing for a blustery day. We did learn that southern kraut has some extra sugar in it, but I thought it was pretty good.

As we got ready for bed the wind was still blowing pretty hard. I did one last check of the extra lines we had out to make sure we would be secure for the evening.

Happy Halloween!!


Midway Marina

30 October 2014

This morning it was cold, which means fog. Lots and lots of fog. We waited until the fog had burned off on our side of the lock and then I called the lock-master to ask how it was. He said he couldn’t see the RT 4 bridge, which is less than ¼ mile downstream. So we waited.

At 9 AM I called again, he said the fog had cleared and he was ready for us. So we pushed off the dock and headed to the lock. When we got close, we saw Willow and Half Moon starting to pull up anchors and also head toward the lock.

(We had met Half Moon at the Pickwick Landing Marina, he was one of the boat crews that caught us that evening. Charlie is a solo sailor going down the river to South America. We passed Willow yesterday on our way to Bay Spring Maria. You should check out their blog at )

Witten lock is the highest with an 84′ lift, one of the highest on the East coast. Willow and Quo Vadimus cruised into the lock.

While in Bay Spring, we were told about one of the lock-master’s at Witten Lock. He was on duty and we chatted while waiting for Willow to get tied off. Once they were set the lock doors closed.

A few moments later the doors re-opened to let Half Moon in. Nice work by the lock-master, we’ve met others that wouldn’t have bothered and made the boat wait. So it looks like the guys on the Tenn-Tom are much nicer than we met on the Illinois. Doors closed again and we dropped down. At 10AM we headed down river. Since it was going to be a short day for us of three locks and 18 miles we cruised down the river at sailboat speed, about 5 knots.

It was a beautiful day, very calm and pretty nice. We saw lots of Heron’s again and an eagle. They have been setting up eagles here for the last 10 years, they are finally catching on, and we see them on a more regular basis.

About 11 AM we made it to the Montgomery lock and our locking karma held. The chamber doors were open and we settled into the lock. A quick drop of 28 feet and we were on our way.

At 1 PM we cleared the third and final lock, Rankin Lock. We said bye to our sailboat friends and headed to Midway Marina in Fulton, MS

We got docked and were in the loaner car by 2PM. Goals were simple, some food shopping, pick up some fabric notions for the quilt that Susan is making and then CHINESE FOOD!! Good Chinese food has been elusive on the trip, our last successful meal was in Milwaukee.

Because there were a large number of boaters coming in we were asked to return the car as soon as possible. So we got our food to-go and had it for dinner. House special lo-mien, orange chicken, shrimp rolls and boneless spare ribs. It was very good and if you are in Fulton, MS it’s a good choice for dinner.

Ithaka had landed while we were out, so I went down and talked to them for awhile. We have met lots of interesting boaters and I’ve enjoyed talking to them.

Entertainment for the evening was getting caught up on Nurse Jackie. We are behind a few season, but with the Netflix DVD’s we can watch episodes now and again.

While we were watching, another 5 boats came into the marina. It was a very busy place!!!

We bundled up for the evening, since the temperature was going to drop. Hoping that the fog wasn’t going to be bad in the morning.


Bay Springs,MS

29 October 2014

Overnight we had gotten a pretty good rainstorm. The upper helm door has a small leak that we put a tub and a towel under to catch the rain. I had remembered to do that, but what I had missed was the door was not fully locked. So in the morning I had a sopping wet towel and a ½ full tub. Sigh

We waited for the wispy fog to rise off the river and then shoved off about 8:40AM. There is very little current and we are running with it.

We went through Pickwick lake which looks like Canada with all the cottages and boat docks surrounding it. There is an island to one side that we could see fishermen on the back corner trying their luck.

We passed the tow “Sportster” pushing two barges. Couldn’t raise the Captain, but the mate gave us a friendly wave as we drove by.

Next was the “Divide Cut”. It is a 25 mile long canal that took 6 years to dig by 7 different contractors. It is one of the Army Core of Engineer’s largest projects. It has a number of straight sections, but also has a number of turns in it to help slow the water flow during storms. Streams that come in from the side come down sluices that have concrete blocks in them. Picture a giant Pachinko machine with water bouncing from brick to brick slowing the passage rate and smoothing the flow out.

We only saw one other boat, a sail boat from Hawaii. He had it shipped to the upper part of the Mississippi and was heading down to Florida.

The Divide Cut enters into Bay Springs, what had been a small lake in the 50′s became a pretty big lake in the 60′s when the Bay Springs Lock (now called the Jamie Whitten Lock) had dammed up the river.

Just about 1 PM we docked at Bay Springs marina and had lunch.

After lunch Susan started cutting out the rest of the fabric for the quilt that she is making. I headed off to wash the towels from last night and to see the Bay Springs Visitor Center.

The center showcase is a 25′ long diorama of the Tenn-Tom waterway from Yellow Creek to Demopilis. It shows how the watershed now looks and talks about the dams that were created. It’s primary purpose was to reduce the amount of time to move goods into the Gulf of Mexico. For goods coming from Chattanooga, it reduces the trip from over 1000 miles going down the Mississippi by 400 miles. There are a number of companies that have barge facilities along the path, but the biggest winner was the residents of the area, they picked up 16 million acres of lakes and lots of shoreline for water based recreation.

The government when it bought the land also purchased land on both sides so there are a number of large state parks for hunting and camping.

The nearest town is Tupelo MS, about 35 miles away. While I had the marina van, I felt guilty about driving that far. But I did take a short detour to Natchez Trace. The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile trip through exceptional scenery and is the route that the Indians and early settlers took to get from Northern Tennessee to Tupelo MS. It’s now mostly paved and restricted to car traffic only. I took it for about 8 miles and marveled at the deep wilderness it was cutting through.

When I got back the Day-Lea-”G” II was docked in front of us. We had seen and chatted with them a few times. The Admiral had helped us dock at night at the Pickwick State Park.

Later on the crew of Elbrenda came over in their dink. They are residents of the marina. We chatted for awhile and they gave us the tip that it would be foggy in the morning and that it would be foggy for longer going down so be careful when leaving. A great tip! We were also told to ask for Cecil the lock master and pass on their regards.

Dinner was chicken and zucchini noodles and the baked potato left over from last nights dinner. It was very good, Susan makes some great dinners on the boat. The chicken had been cooked in a mushroom gravy that gave it lots of richness.

Tomorrow hopefully will be an easy day with three locks and 20 miles. Hope we get our lock karma back.


Grand Harbor,MS day 2

28 October 2014

Today was our second rest day. We did a tour of the Shilo Battlefield with the Captain of the Ithaka (It has it’s own post under Shilo Battlefield). On the way back we stopped at a store to get some more food supplies.

The rest of the day was taken up by me visiting other Looper boats that had arrived. I also got us pumped out and fuel loaded so we would be set for our next set of travels. We both got short naps in to help with the relaxing part of the day.

Dinner was at “Freddy T’s”. With Grand Harbor being a resort area and not a lot of places to eat, two local guys have set up a shuttle service. We got picked up at the end of the Grand Harbor dock and delivered 10 mins later. Our driver explained that we were on the corner of Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi, “the center of the Tri-State area”)

Part of the restaurant is the upstairs, we had burgers at the “Rooftop” for lunch the day before. Tonight would be the more formal dining area.

First thing you come to is a glass enclosed room that is the wine cellar. There are over a thousand bottles on display in neat, ordered racks. It was a suprise, the last thing I expected to see in such a small place was a comprehensive wine selection.

The main dining area is full of sea memorabilia, there are antique powerboats and jetskis, mounted fish, etc. They even had a giant Sponge Bob for the kids.

I had the “Bang’n Shrimp”, they were lightly dipped in flour and then fried. Very good, with just the right level of spice. Susan had the salmon, I had a taste it was very good. The menu is pretty extensive, so if you are there for a few days there is lots to try.

We are set to leave in the morning to head down river, our Tenn-Tom adventure is about to start.


Shilo Battlefield

28 October 2014

Today’s field trip was to the Shilo Battlefield. We got the marina van and with the Captain of Ithaka at the wheel drove out to the site.

The battle of Shilo was early in the Civil war and took place across two days, April 6 and 7th 1862. There were almost 100,000 men involved and at the end of the two days there were over 23,000 casualties, 2500 of them were men that were killed. The entire battle takes place in an area about a 9 square mile area, and it is the bloodiest to that date in the war.

We got to the visitors center which is closed for renovations. They do have a tent set up so you can watch a movie that has the main details of the battle. The movie was good in outlining the troop movements and very good in describing the casualties. It also gave a sense what it was like to be a soldier then. Many of the troops had come from Ohio, Tennessee and Illinois, most of the way on foot. Living conditions were not what you called great.

Outside the theater is the cemetery where the Union soldiers are buried. They are in neat rows organized by the states and battalions they were part of. Many of the graves just have a number on them.

There is a driving tour that winds around the park and the 100′s of monuments that are in it. One of the first stops is one of the three mass graves that contain the remains of the Confederate soldiers. There is just a simple marker, no names, just identifying it as a mass grave. Since the battle was a Union “victory”, there was no need to do anything special with the defeated army’s bodies.

On the tour are markers that show the troop movements on both sides during the two days. If you are a battle buff, you can see exactly where troops were deployed and what they were fighting in.

There are also cannons from the war shown in place. At one point the Confederate Army set up a line of 50+ cannons to lob into the Union front lines. They fired into an area called the “Hornets Nest” for over 7 hours before the Union soldiers in the field surrendered. Replicas have been installed along that line so you can visualize the barrage. The cannon crews were able to reload and fire on fairly fast basis, overall they were able to fire 2-3 shots a second.

Lots and lots of CSA statues and an equal number of USA statues. There is pretty much one for each regiment that participated in the war.

The Parks department did a great job on the site, it’s easy to visualize how horrific the entire event was. Overall it’s very depressing when you look at the number of men and boys killed. The really sad part that even after such a debacle, the war continued on for 3 more years.

The ride home was pretty somber, the three of us were kind of lost in though about what we had seen. For Susan and I, we will pass on the other Civil war sites, they are not scenes of great battles, but more monuments to how stupid humans are.


Grand Harbor, MS

27 October 2014

We got up very late today, with the high stress levels from yesterday we both needed the extra rest. We were excited according to the info on line there was a little restaurant at the Marina Lodge.

Not true. Sigh.

So we packed our lines and headed out at 9:45 to go to Grand Harbor. We picked our way out of Pickwick Landing, it looks much different and prettier in the daylight.

The trip down the Tennessee and the turn into the Tenn-Tom went pretty quickly. Getting into our slip was a little tricky, so it’s good that we didn’t try it last night.

By 11:30 we were in the loaner van and headed to the nearest place to eat, the Rooftop. On the way we were passed by a number of trucks carrying pulp logs to a nearby pulp/cardboard mill. And passed by more empty trucks going the other way.

As advertised the Rooftop was over Freddy T’s restaurant. Two of the sides are garage doors that roll up to let the air and the sunshine in. It’s primary menu is burgers and dogs with fries. We both had double cheeseburgers with the works. The fries were great, they were seasoned with white and black pepper along with salt. Very good.

We went about 2 miles further down the road to see if there was a town. There was not, just an unending stream of pulp wood. We turned around, got back into the wood convoy and went back to the marina.

Grand Harbor is a huge marina with two condo towers near by. Most of the residents are summer only. A large number travel three hours each way to get here. It is an ideal boating area, they have the Tennessee River and the lake that is formed by Pickwick Dam. Lots of fishing, coves to hang out in.

The marina also has a pool, tennis courts, a salon, etc. So it’s pretty much everything you need for the summer. There are a few places to eat nearby and there is a shuttle company with two vans that moves everyone around.

Along the dock that runs along the Tenn-Tom is a series of gliders. Think of a picnic table that had facing seats and a canvas roof that swings very slowly back and forth. Very nice, we spent part of the afternoon that was not filled with a nap sitting and watching the boats go by. I think that the South has it right, there is nothing like an afternoon on a porch swing or a glider.

There were a large number of Looper boats there. Our friends on Seas the Day had come in the night before and had left first thing in the morning. They wanted to get 40 miles down the river to Midway Marina in Fulton.

I spent lots of time talking to a number of boats, hearing their stories and their adventures. One boat Sage is crewed by 4 friends of the owner. He needed to move the boat down for a few days and they said “Sure, pick us!!” They were having a great time.

Dinner was rib-eye steaks from Clinton. We ate on the dock in our little glider watching the last of the sunset. A nice way to relax on the loop!


180 day status report

27 October 2014

Hard to think we’ve been on the water for 180 days. It seems like yesterday that we were having dinner in Delaware City. We have covered 2564 nautical miles or 2949 statute miles, so from a distance standpoint we are at the ½ way point. Unlike our poky progress through Canada we’ve made some huge jumps. In the last three weeks four days were over 50 miles long, one was 96 nautical miles (110 statute miles) So we are getting close to being back on plan. There are some long days coming up, but we are also planning a three day trip to New Orleans.

So far we’ve been in 11 states (Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi)

We took a long break in Green Turtle Bay to go back to Pennsylvania for a funeral and a few extra days to rest up. We were able to see the most amazing grand daughter in the world. She is in that pre-walk stage, I’m going to guess as I post this she is now walking / running. She is also working on saying “Capt Pop-Pop”, she should have that down by Christmas :-)

Susan and I are both doing fine. We will both be happy to get off the river system. It’s intense driving, needing to watch every minute for trash floating in the water. Our locking skills are pretty good, but the long waits for locks still aggravate me.

We continue to meet really nice people, both on the water and off. The week of travel down the Mississippi, Ohio, and Cumberland to Green Turtle Bay showed how much fun traveling in a group could be. At the marinas we’ve met some very nice people who work there and boat there. We get quick smiles, offers for beer and a few places where there wasn’t a loaner car, local people have offered to take us places.

Quo Vadimus continues to operate well. I’ve been doing the maintenance cycles of oil changes, fuel filter changes, checking fluids, etc. The time between fuel filter changes has gone up, so it looks like I’m getting most of the sludge out of the tank. Mostly the water has been calm, it will be interesting to see if the waves in Florida stir things back up again.

Still lamenting the loss of Belle. For a few days after we would catch glimpses of her and occasionally hear her. I’ve decided that we’ll keep flying the “Cat On Board” flag until we get back home.

We have also heard from many of you either by email or your comments on the blog. It’s always nice to hear from you. We are planning to be home in December, we will work on catching up with you then. Until that happens we will continue to toast “Family, old friends and new” at Docktails.


Pickwick Landing State Park

26 October 2014

We left Clifton Marina first thing in the morning. The early fog had lifted and we could see out into the river and the far shore. So we would be good to go. We checked with our dock mate Seas the Day and they seemed to think we would also be good to go. So we headed out of the lagoon through the wall and into the river.

We traveled south about a mile and the fog came rolling back in. Both boats had RADAR running and our eyes open as we slid along in the fog bank at 7kts. We went almost an hour before the sun heated the fog enough to got it to dissipate. We were then back up to 8.5 kts about 10 miles an hour.

It was pretty uneventful, lots of pretty scenery, lots of birds, tons of herons, a few eagles. Susan got a number of good shots of the eagles in the air. Very impressive. This section of the river is pretty, still having a tough battle passing the beauty of the Canadian North Channel.

The current coming up river was very strong, about a 3 knot current against us. We passed a fully loaded tow Lisa Marie that was running wide open and going about a foot per minute. We heard the Captain ask a number of times about when they would turn the flow rate down. “Soon” was always the answer.

We got to Pickwick lock and were told that they had one tow to lift and we would be next. The tow was a double, so it would take two lifts to get both ½s of the tow processed. We tied off to the lock wall at 3PM and figured with an hour per cycle, we should get in the lock about 5, plenty of time to get out before sunset.

Seas the Day and Quo Vadimus were joined by two other boats, one was a trawler, the other was a catamaran. After another hour a small 18′ foot fishing boat joined us on the wall.

At 5:50 PM we were told to get into position along the lock wall, we were next.

We still had some hope, there is about 30 mins of twilight we could still make it to the marina.

At 6:08 the sun sets.

6:25 the siren that signifies the start of dumping the lock goes off. We know that dumping the lock takes at least 25 minutes. We no have no hope of getting through in daylight and are sort of stuck. Our new plan B is to go to the Pickwick Landing State Park and either find a slip in the dark or just anchor out.

Lock doors open at 6:50 and we all go in to get settled. By 7:05 we are in and set. Doors close and the fill process takes place. At 7:25 PM in total darkness we slowly file out of the lock.

In our case both GPS displays are on and the radars is doing the best it can. Susan is out on the bow doing sweeps with her flashlights looking for markers or snags. I had to move to the flybridge since the glare on the glass in the pilot house made it almost impossible to see.

Using the GPS as directions, with glances at the RADAR looking for boats / land masses. We came around the corner safely and into the channel for Pickwick Landing Park. Susan was on the bow and sent commands back up to me. Lucky for me the most recent chart had a pretty good drawing on the park layout.

We were able to turn the corner and go along the sail boat docks to make it to an empty slip. The two boats that were following me also were able to get into slips.

We had some help, there was a sailboat Half Moon on the dock, and the crew from another boat helped us get tied off. So by 9PM all the boats were safe for the evening.

We heard again from the Lisa Marie she had made it up only a mile in the last 10 hours. So she was going to anchor and wait for the flow to drop so she could make progress. I looked the next day, she locked up at 1 AM. Another good reason to NOT be a tow operator.

Dinner was scrambled eggs and toast. We were both pretty fried for the day, so an easy quick meal was the way to go.

Short trip for tomorrow, Grand Harbor Marina



25 October 2017

Cold, cold night so there was lots of wet deck today. Plus a ton of moisture on the inside of the windows. Neither one of us slept well. Susan’s shoulder has been bothering her. We had been taking so much about anchoring out that I went into anchor mode getting up every hour.

We had been told about cinnamon buns for breakfast, so we headed up for free coffee and buns. The buns were great, we ate them on the way out of the basin. Had it not been for needing to get some distance done today, I’d gone back and gotten another.

There was a tow going up river just as we came out of the entrance to the marina. We set up a passing situation and we eased around Lisa Michelle and we were off. With about 120 miles to the lock, and Lisa Michelle doing about 5 knots, and driving all night, we should meet up again at the lock Sunday morning. I’m hoping with lighter currents at night, they will beat us there and have already locked through.

More great scenery along the way. Lots of tiny shore camps and houses like we saw in Canada. Lots and lots of Mc Mansions perched up on the rock walls. There were lots of little coves that would be great to spend a night in. Coming out of one of them was Onward a looper I had briefly talked to at Green Turtle Bay. They had spent 2 days in a cove with friends that had a pontoon boat.

Like yesterday there were a ton of fish boats out zooming across the water. Since it was Saturday there was a big uptick in pleasure boats with pontoons leading the way.

It was cold in the morning with no wind, then the wind came up and made the river choppy and reduced our speed. Then the wind dropped and it became really nice out. Clothing went from long pants / heavy shirts to shorts and tees for the evening. Final high for the day was 74, way up from the 54 on Friday.

On one section of the river there were new houses that had been built at the top of the river bank. They had 2 story concrete garages. At the top of the garage was a platform that held the outside air conditioning units. The house was then built on top of the garage. So what they had was a sturdy garage that could withstand all the flood water loads. The house in theory would be high and dry. All of the house systems (Hot water, AC , heating, electrical, etc) was high enough up so it wouldn’t get flooded. Not sure I’d buy a lot and build a house there, still risking a lot.

The barge traffic was light, most of it was coming down river, so we passed going our own directions. We got to Clifton where there are some back to back curves in the water. We had about 4 miles to go and there was a tow about ½ into them. I asked how fast he was going and he said just under 5 knots. So we backed down the speed and tailed him along to Clifton. It added some to the trip, but the engines got a chance to cool some. We got some better looks at the scenery and at one point there was an eagle in a tree watching all the festivities.

We got checked in at the desk and taped our Looper card into their guest book. We looked back to see the boats we had met on the trip. Pretty cool and good to know that some of them made it this far.

Outside the marina we saw that power came to the marina to a large power board mounted 20′ in the air above the levy wall. There was flight of stairs up to it so someone could climb up and disconnect the power before it was all flooded out. All in all they would be looking at a 50′ flood depth, a little more that what they got in 2009 and 2010.

Getting the marina car we headed into the downtown are. The restaurant wasn’t open until six so we walked down to the general store. A real find, Susan got great rib-eyes to cook, and ½ lb of the olive-loaf that I love for sandwiches. I also picked up for only $2 a garden hose valve, so I can replace the one that is leaking. Yay retail therapy!

One thing that tickled me walking downtown and signs that said “Danger – uneven historic sidewalks” at every corner. I’m thinking our neighborhood should invest in a stack of them, much cheaper that pulling everything up and replacing them.

Dinner was at the Pirate’s Lair, a Cajun food place. I’m hoping that if I eat enough Cajun food in the next few days it will help me understand the tow operators. I went with the Jambalaya, it had a heat that slowly built to the point that sweat was coming from my forehead. Susan went with fried oysters that were good but they gave her a huge plate that she couldn’t finish. The people next to us had recommended the crab and shrimp combo, but it looked like more food that either one of us could eat.

We got back to the boat and tried “Boiled Custard”. It was in the milk section next to Egg Nog (hard to believe that Egg Nog Season is here!), the clerk said it tasted like melted ice cream and it did. (She also tried to sell us “Pork Souse”, but we were clever enough to pass on that.

Off to our only lock on the Tennessee River, it’s about 4 hours away. Hoping to get through easily and then be into our next marina for a few well earned rest days while we wait for a good weather window to do the 400 miles to Mobile.


Pebble Isle,TN

24 October 2014

Last night at the Paris Landing State Park Marina was a tower that showed the water depth. As I posted before, the water depth is at the winter pool level, about 5 feet below the summer level. We really started to notice it as we went farther down the river.

We saw houses with docks that ended about the summer pool level, about 5′ above the water level. I’m not sure when the level drops, but it looks like it ends lots of people’s summer boating.

Because we had gone a little farther yesterday, we were taking it easy today. Susan suggested pulling into one of the coves that we can see, anchor and have lunch. Great idea.

Dug into the Tennessee River charts and the Skipper Bob’s guide. Little Crooked Creek seemed to be ideal. So we setup and approached. When the water got to be under 5′ deep and we were still pretty far from shore we backed out. Looks like a combination of more shoaling and the winter pool were going to keep us out.

We headed a little farther to Harmon Creek. We had seen a fish boat zoom in, plus there were markers. We followed the channel in about a mile and anchored in a deep corner. We had 10 feet of water below the keel, a good place to go.

We had a nice lunch and Susan gave a try at fishing. She could see fish jumping about 40 feet away so she knew fish were there. There were also about 5 fishing boats that came in, made a few casts and gave up.

About this time we saw our friends on Toba glide by on the river. They are pretty distinctive with the blue boat and the orange dink on the stern. I tried hailing them on the radio, but wasn’t able to connect. Maybe we would see them down the river.

After an hour Susan gave up. She had been through her collection of lures with only one nibble. So we picked up the anchor and picked our way slowly out of the channel.

About 3 PM we saw the sign for Pebble Isle Marina and started in. I had targeted what I thought were the entrance markers and slowly headed towards them. Watching the depth gauge undwind from 45′ to 3′, I knew I had turned too early. Backing out slowly to deeper water. There, farther down the channel was another marker. Carefully rounding it, I found 12′ of water and headed up to the fuel dock.

We purchased 190 gallons of fuel, we had used it to come the 335 miles from Grafton to here. Not bad 1.7 miles to the gallon. The currents on the Mississippi had helped along with taking it slow.

Waiting at the dock were our friends from Toba. We set up to meet them for Docktails later on.

I’ve been battling a dirty fuel problem since we crossed into Canada (I’m blaming it on the fuel we got at the Port of Rochester). The filters have these cool little gauges on them that tell when they need to be changed. The starboard side has needed to be changed more often. When I checked, the port one was ready the starboard side was about ¾ clogged. I decided to change both since I was down there. I’m getting much better at changing them and I’m down to where I’m not spilling fuel all over the bilge and myself.

Docktails with the crew of Toba was fun. We’ve been crossing their path lots on the trip. They had gone the Saturday we were in Pennsylvania to Nashville. We had cheated and gone by car, but had seen the city docks that they used. We swapped stories about what each crew had seen in Nashville.

With the sun down, the temperature dropped pretty quickly and after about an hour of chatting we headed inside. Susan had made zucchini noodles with sauce for dinner, it was great!

A strange day, we started off wearing long pants and coats, switched to shorts and ran the AC when we got to the dock, back to long pants and coats for Docktails and as we climbed into bed made sure both heaters were running. It’s supposed to go into the 70′s on Sunday and even warmer on Monday.


Paris Landing, TN

23 October 2014

We got off to a slow start this morning, I had some paperwork that I wanted to get done while we had a good Wifi signal. The day was a little chilly but clear we we finally pushed off the dock around 10 AM.

We did just a few miles down Barkley Lake. It has lots of little cranny and coves, its a place that looks like you could easily spend a few summers exploring. It’s connected to Kentucky Lake via a 2 mile canal. Like Barkley, the Kentucky Lake has lots and lots of places to go and hang out.

We headed “upriver” in a “South” direction on the Tennessee river. The Tennessee is a very long river starting well east of Chattanooga. It flows north (one of the few rivers that does) and ends up flowing into the Ohio River and then down to the Mississippi River. Our next few days will be upriver, we will be fighting a slight current until we get past Pickwick Lake.

I’ve taken other Loopers to task about blowing by Canada, I expect to take some about our trip on the Tennessee. There was a ton to do on the “Land Between the Lakes” that we missed out on. We should have kept the car for an extra few days and gone exploring. The nice thing is it really not that far from home, we can get set up with a cottage rental and a small fish boat to go exploring.

While the temperatures have dropped, but the color of the trees has just started to change. While we were rewarded with brilliant colors in West Virginia, western Maryland and parts of Pennsylvania the show here won’t be for another few weeks.

There were lots of fishing boats out for a Thursday, we made an effort to not swamp them as we went by. Not sure if there was lots of catching going on, we saw them sit for about 15 minutes and then it was up hook and off to the next location.

As the day went on the clouds started coming in. The forecast was for nice weather, and our plan was to anchor out. With the change in the weather and me not feeling 100% I opted to go slightly farther than our planned cove and spend the night a marina.

The trip down the river was pretty uneventful, and we got to the Paris Landing State Park marina without issue. The marina is part of a Tennessee State Park and it once we saw it, it’s more of a resort than what you would consider a state park. The marina looked like it had space for about 500 boats. There is a great little store that stocks parts, snacks, etc. Services at the dock were great, the Wi-fi was super fast which was a bonus.

The overall level of this river section and the Kentucky Lake is being controlled by combination of the rain water that falls and the water from Pickwick Dam (water in) and the Barkley / Kentucky Dam (water out). At the base of the dock is a tower that has three crosses on it (there is a picture as the cover shot). The upper cross is the height of the dam at Pickwick Landing. About 55 feet below that is a cross. This is the “summer pool height. This is the level that they attempt to keep the water at all summer after the spring rains. The cross below that is about 5 feet down and that is the winter pool. We asked and got told that the worst it had been was in 2009 and 2010 when the water level rose 20′ above the summer pool depth. The water was up over the retaining wall and well into the parking lot.

Across the highway is a three story hotel with a conference center and restaurant attached to it. It had been recommended to us when we docked. If you call the rangers they will take you back and forth. It’s about 1.5 miles, but it’s across a major highway, they would rather take you than scrape you up later on.

The restaurant had a buffet gong and we made it in the door as early birds, so we got it for $7,95, a deal! The buffet had yellow squash casserole with carrots, onions and cheese covered with canned onion rings; white beans and ham, mashed potatoes, pork chops in gravy, fried catfish, corn bread, hush puppies, a nice salad bar along with cobblers and pies for dessert. As they say good Southern Cooking!

At the gift shop Susan picked up some cookbooks as presents. Quick trip with the Ranger across to our boat slip and we were settled in by 7:30 PM.

We’ve both noticed how early it’s getting to be dark, the days are noticeably shorter. I’m hoping as we head south and into Florida that we will keep some sunlight. Once we get into the Florida part of the trip we will be doing 4 hour days so that will be easy to manage in the daylight.

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Rest days at Green Turtle Bay

21-22 October 2014

Our last two days at Green Turtle Bay marina. They were rest / recovery days from the last 6 days of running back and forth to Pennsylvania. Susan got the backlog of pictures and videos posted which made her very happy. We both did mundane things like return the car, laundry, sleep, surf the internet, etc.

On Tuesday night we went back to Patti’s 1880 Settlement for dinner. We both went for the Beef Oscar a grilled filet tenderloin with grilled shrimp and a very nice Bearnaise sauce on it. We had seen them at the first night at Patti’s, and wanted to make sure that we had them before we left. We took desserts home for a later evening treat.



Belle passed peacefully today. She was 16 and we had been treating her for ongoing kidney failure for the last year. We were feeding her special food and in August needed to start supplementing that with medications.

Up until the end she had a great quality of life. Starting in March she had most of our attention and once we started on the Loop she didn’t have any need to share us with anyone else. Because we couldn’t really get grooming done to get her the Lion trim she loved, she got weekly brushing and we found another way to bond.

Belle had acclimated well to the boating life.  She had places to sleep while under way. She was sometimes confused about the locks: when we had to stop the engines, she thought the day’s trip was over. But once we started up, she would go and lay at the side of our bed and nap some more.

She knew our regular schedule, so days when we were still moving at 3PM she would come up and meow that it was time to find a place to stay. Belle loved to nap in the pilot house; with all the glass, there was always a sunny spot. But she never forgot her duties of making sure we got up on time. She would wait for Foster at the top of the salon stairs to receive her morning snuggles. When you come up a set of stairs and are eye to eye, it’s easy to stop for a few seconds for a quick ear scritch.

The trip made her much more adventuresome and a little more assertive. She spent more time outside in the last six months than she had in her entire life prior to the trip. While docked she would explore the bow and cockpit areas. She would join us on the fly-bridge when we had cocktails or dinner.

Belle got lots of kitty snuggles during the evening, sitting between the two of us on the settee on her blanket. Actually she had three blankets to help carve out spots that were hers. And she let us know if somehow we had left something in her spot. If there was something blocking her from jumping up she would bat at us with a paw to let us know she was ready to join us, or that something needed to be fixed.

Belle will be greatly missed because of her sweet disposition and because of the unreserved affection and love she gave us. 20 October 2014



20 October 2014

We left on Wednesday 15 October to go back to Pennsylvania for Hazel’s funeral. It was a sad occasion, but at another level it was nice to see their family and mine again. The grandbaby is just as cute as she can be.

Since we were focused on getting there, we really didn’t see anything on the way out. The one highlight was in West Virginia, there is a chain called “Tudor’s Biscuit World” They have great biscuits and will put pretty much anything you want in them. Highly recommended!

On the way home today we passed through Kentucky Bourbon country. There is pretty much a distillery at every exit on the Kentucky Parkway. Being unable to resist temptation on the way back we stopped for a tour at Makers Mark.

We got the spiel about the water, it’s fresh spring water with no iron in it so it won’t have a harsh taste. They then use “soft red winter wheat” instead of rye like most other whiskey’s in the area. We got shown the entire process from grinding and cooking the grains to the dipping the neck of the bottle (by hand!) into red wax to seal it.

We also got to taste the products at the end. First we sampled the “wine” that is put into the cask to age. I could taste some of the grain flavor, but it really isn’t any more than moonshine at this point. Next was the “Makers Mark” that I know and love.

Third was their new brand called #46. After the 6 year age process, the open the barrels and put in some staves made of French Oak that have been “toasted” and reseal the barrel. It ages another 6 to 9 moths to get the additional flavors from the Oak. It was OK, but not my favorite. It has lots of wine like fruit flavors that didn’t do anything for me.

Last was “Maker’s Cask”. They just filter and bottle the contents of the barrel. It’s not blended with any other casks and is about 114 proof, about 57% vs the regular Maker’s at 40% or 80%. They cut the regular with water to get the proof down. It has lots of flavor and it really didn’t have a harsh taste.

The highlight for Susan was the glass ceiling on the way into the giftshop. It’s a sculpture by the glass artist Dale Chihuly. We had seen his work before at the St. Louis Botanical Gardens and the Art Museum in Milwaukee.



13 October 2014

We had planned to sightsee in Nashville on Sunday. The combination of being exhausted and rain turned it into a boat day with a short side trip to the local market to stock up on food for the next few days.

Monday didn’t start well with the notification that my favorite Aunt, Aunt Hazel had passed away. Her entire life she was full of adventure, she was up to try almost anything. So it that spirit we hopped into the car and headed south east into Tennessee to Nashville. As with most of the side trips we could have taken the boat, but it would be 4 days each way along with 200 gallons of fuel.

About 11 AM we rolled into downtown Nashville, first stop is the Country Music Hall of Fame. The Hall is a block sized three story building with artifacts from the first days of Country Music through 2014. We were both impressed over the number of people that were inducted to the Hall of Fame and how many of them we recognized. We were also impressed on how small and thin the early stars were. They had lots of decoration on their costumes, ornate piping, trim, sequins, etc. Most of them performed before the days of elaborate stage shows. It was also B/W TV for most of them, so costumes were key. Oh yea, lots of live radio and TV, lip synching hadn’t become mainstream.

The second floor is mostly about the move of Country Music to the West Coast. Lots of people had moved to the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas along with the areas in Kansas from the south east to start new lives and they brought country music with them. In the 30′s the droughts caused the land to turn to a “dust bowl” and people were forced to move west into California. They took the music with them; it had slightly changed during the years and had a newer fresher sound. It was amazing the hardships the families in the dust bowl went through.

From the Hall of Fame we went to lunch. The cool thing about Nashville is that there is a lot of live music. All of the places we looked at for lunch had small bands playing. It made lunch a little more special.

From lunch we walked to the Johnny Cash Museum. We are both fans, and wanted to see more about him. It is a very extensive collection, he and his estate have given lots of artifacts. I was impressed with the collection of albums and singles he put out across his career. It turns out the gift shop have most of them on CD. They do mailorder so I’ll be able to fill out my collection.

Next to the Cash Museum is a bridge that goes across the river and ends up at the stadium. It was converted to a pedestrian bridge so we walked ½ way to get pictures of the river and the town. I had heard stories how fans raft up across the river for the games. I could see how that would really work. We could also see boats tied up at the city docks, had we come by boat it would have been a great location.

From there it was a short walk to the Nashville Walk of Fame. Not as many artists as the Hall of Fame but lots of people that we knew. Some of the plaques are missing and have temporary ones that say “Out on tour”. Except for Dolly Parton’s that said “Out for Hair and Makeup”.

I wanted to see the “Grand Ole Opry”. I thought it was downtown, but it turns out it was 10 miles away. Short car ride and we are at the Opryland Mall, and next door is the Opry. I signed us up for the back stage tour.

It turned out that the Grand Ole Opry outgrew the facility downtown – Ryman Auditorium – and had a new theater that opened in 1974. It consists of two theaters, one that hosts the radio show and a TV studio that was home to shows like “Hee Haw”. Parts of the show “Nashville” were also filmed there.

In the center of the front edge of the stage is a 12′ circle made of the oak floor from the original theater that was home to the Opry. So performers today can stand and perform in the “same spot” as other country legends across the decades.

I also learned that there are many country music artists that are members of the Opry, it’s the highest award an artist can receive. Most of them will play12-20 shows a year at the Grand Ole Opry show. Most shows will have between 4-7 performers during the 2 hour show.

After the 90 minute tour we were pretty beat, the two hour ride in the car was long. We were so tired that we * gasp * got take out pizza * gasp * for dinner.



My favorite Aunt, Aunt Hazel died this morning.

She and her husband Ron, were best friends with my parents, so I’ve known her forever.

She was loving, kind, funny, smart, generous, a great cook and baker, artistic, caring, patient and made time for me.

I will miss her greatly as will her family and friends.


She always had a coffee can full of chocolate chip cookies.  I was able to get the recipe from her, make a batch and think of her.

Aunt Hazel’s cookies are chewy, so don’t worry about them being soft

This is a list of items you will need


  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar (you can do 1/2 cup for sweeter cookies)
  • 2 tablespoon light corn syrup (makes them spread)
  • 1 stick of ‘melted’ butter (not hot but melted)
  • 2 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 cups flour (sifted)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda (helps browning)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups of chips (not the entire bag)

Follow these steps to make Chocolate Chip Cookie:


  • mix sugars with butter for 1 min (we want air!)
  • add milk, vanilla, egg yolk and mix for 2 mins (more air!!)
  • sift all the remaining dry ingredients (flour, salt, soda) and then add to mix, about 1 min
  • add chips by hand (you don’t want to break the chips)

Put 1 tablespoon of dough on the cookie sheet. Smaller is better, you don’t need to measure exactly.

Makes 40 cookies, 14 per tray, they spread so don’t crowd. Bake one tray at a time at 375 degrees for 12-15 mins. Spin them 1/2 way if your oven is not even. (Mine isn’t, my guess is that yours is not either, so spin at 7 mins.)



11 October 2014

Yesterday was a quiet day doing some odds and ends around the boat, a few loads of laundry and doing some nap therapy. Susan did a spa day and I was able to get my beard trimmed. This is one of the nicest marina’s we’ve been to.

The high point of the day was Docktails with all the loopers, some from the flotilla, some of them new arrivals. We met a new boat crew that will be starting out next summer from their home in Alabama. They were in the process of taking their boat home, so had to go to the Ohio and then down the Mississippi. They were in a good timing window, weather should be good and the stuff in the water is down.

We were on the dock in front of Seaveyor, they made burgers for everyone. Other loopers brought things to eat, we had a ton of food. Susan made her cornbread that uses a can of creamed corn as the liquid part of the recipe. It makes it moist and delicious.

Saturday we went to Enterprise and got a car for the weekend to explore Paducah and later on Nashville.

Our first stop was the National Quilt Museum. They have over 500 quilts in their collection and have two wings that hold traveling collections. I grew up with quilts being used for warmth and having very simple designs on them. Living in Dover, most of the Amish quilts were also of that style. The quilts here were eye opening.

First was the level of stitching in the piece assembly and in the quilting. Thousands of tiny, even, perfect stitches, no puckers, no uneven seams. Wow. Second was the huge variety of designs and colors. Yes, some were the simple designs that I was familiar with, but there were hundreds of different patterns. Pretty much anything you could think of doing with fabric was represented.

I’d love to be able to show pictures, but since the quilters own the copyright on their designs, the museum does not allow photographs. The best I can do is the museum URL “” they do have some pictures. Presently on their front page is the “Beatles Quilt”, a homage to the band. There is something from every album and squares for each of the band members.

My favorite quilt was of a moose in the woods. When she finished assembling the top, she quilted it with the selvage side out. This added lots of texture to the finished quilt. From a distance it looked as if there was real fur on the moose.

Next was the Riverfron Maritime museum. Paducah had a tremendous flood in 1937 and the Maritime museum has a great set of displays showing the downtown area under 10 feet of water. All of the residents of the town were displaced for three weeks in February before the water receded enough for them to return.

Also at the museum is a large, multiple screen boat simulator. I had a chance to try driving a tow boat, and of course I managed to crash into a pleasure craft that was coming up the river. They also have a small Coast Guard Cutter that is much much easier to drive.

We had an early dinner with new boat friends Todd and Debbie from Seaveyor (they had been our hosts for Docktails the night before). We had “southern style tamales” which means rather than being cooked in corn husks, they are steamed in waxed paper. A new low for food on our trip. But the company was great, they are very nice people.

Since the marina is in a dry county, we stocked up on wine and beer on the way home. I thought Canada had been expensive, but when you are one of the few beverage stores on the county line it looked like some price gouging was in action. But, like the stores in Canada, they had a pretty decent selection so we were good to go.

We missed out on the Civil War and train museums. Both were highly recommended by other loopers and people in the town. Maybe on our next loop we will get a chance to see them.


Grand Rivers,KY

9 October 2014

Before the “Looper Flotilla” splits off we did one last group event, dinner at Patti’s 1880′s Settlement Restaurant. Like Hoppies’, this is a place that all the Loopers rave about.

Fun fact, the town of Grand Rivers is in a dry (no alcohol sales) county. Kentucky is known for all of the fine bourbons and there are still are dry counties. (Fun fact two, the county that Jack Daniels is made in is also a dry county). Anyway that means BYOB to dinner. We had to do that last night, and we packed a cooler bag with wine and beer for the evening.

We all met at the gazebo at the top of the dock for a short Docktails and to make sure we were all gathered into the group. Once we were all there, Sonny (captain of Corkscrew) got Patti’s to send a van and we were off.

The place is huge, it must seat over 400 people. They say they do 350,000 meals a year and I can believe that. On a rainy Thursday in October the place was packed. They put us at a table for 16 there were two smaller tables in the room. One was a couple that was celebrating their wedding anniversary. A Patti’s tradition is to sing “Let me call you Sweetheart”, so of course we joined in to help out.

With wine glasses full (and wine bottles hidden under the table) we toasted the Looper Flotilla on a successful trip. We then toasted the Captain of Diablo for sticking out the adventure on his houseboat and being the most courageous. Roxanne‘s crew was toasted for their towing of Hotei out of the last lock and to the docks. The final toast was to the crew of Moondance for leading us through the trip, even though they were running on only one engine.

Patti’s claim to fame is their grilled items, both Susan and I had the 2” thick double pork chops. They came with a stuffed baked potato. Each of the potatoes are of those ½ lb monsters, full of butter and bacon and topped with ¾ cup of sour cream. Eating the pork chop was interesting, we would cut a slice, pick it up and notice that it was 2”, so we needed to then re-cut each piece to make it a mouthful. The pork was good, very tender and moist.

They have about 30 different desserts, the ones with meringue have about 8” of meringue on top. The others come with multiple layers of sauces and whipped cream and a “cherry on top”. Susan went for the chess pie with coffee ice cream, caramel sauce, whipped cream and of course the signature “cherry on top”.

We had a great time and were pretty loud, I felt bad for the other tables (singing not withstanding) with all of our noise. But lots of good conversations.

I did apologize to the crew of Roxanne for repeatedly cutting them off and running in front of them the entire trip. Susan had noticed their cool one person dink system and there was no way I was going to run 15 hours with her staring at it going “I really like that dink system”.

I also toasted the Captain of Moondance on his ability to speak flawless “Tow Captain”. He would get on the radio and all I’d hear was a long sequence of long vowels and missing consonants. The Captain would answer back with a longer string with a “One” or a “Two” in it, that was my key on what side to pass on. Most of the table then copped to also not understanding what was being said. He accepted our acknowledgment of his skills with the graciousness of a true southern gentleman. But did point out as we got farther south it would get harder as the Cajun dialects got more pronounced. I can’t wait.
We got back to the boat very late, well after looper midnight and approaching looper dawn. Which is fine since Friday is an off day and Susan has spa things planned.


Looper Flotilla, Green Turtle Bay,KY

8 October 2014

We spent the night in the shadow of the I-24 bridge north of Paducah, KY. We had a full moon so it was nice we could see the six other boats in our Looper Flotilla: Moondance, R&R, Corkscrew, Roxanne, Diablo.

I was up to check a few times and was rewarded on seeing sheet lightning flash across the Paducah sky about 5 miles away. It was very pretty and it was reassuring that the storm was moving away from us and would be gone by morning. I was hoping to see the lunar eclipse in the morning, but there was some obscuring cloud cover. The Captain of Moondance had said he heard some tow captains talk about it, but he only caught the tail end.

Up at 6:30 AM, showered and ready for a new day. Captain of Moondance called the lock at 6:30, and got a response we would be in the first upbound tows of the day. Yay!!! We are on our way!!

When my father lived in St. Thomas he talked about the local time concept of “soon”. “Soon” means sometime, maybe an hour, maybe 2, maybe 3, but soon. “Soon” has crept to the lock system of the Central US. Soon turned out to be 9:15AM.

Actually, we pulled anchor at 9:15 AM. We displayed our vastly increasing station keeping capabilities for the next 30 minutes as we drifted down towards the lock. At 10AM we were tied to the lock wall.

Well that is the next thing, the term “Lock Wall” is misleading. The wall is made for commercial barges, so it’s a series of “cell”s stacked side by side. Think of 15′ diameter toilet paper tubes stood on their ends. Fill them and coat them with rough concrete and make a wall out of them. Tada! You have Lock 52. Through skillful bumper placement by Susan (love those red balls!) we were able to fend off the “wall” for the 10′ lift.

At 10:30 AM the all clear horn sounded and we were on our way! With a light wind from the South West the chop and waves were not as bad as the day before. (There were points yesterday where I thought we were back on Lake Michigan and Diablo took a few over the bow). With Moondance leading the way on one engine, we did 8 kts up river.

We only had a few up bound barges to go around, they were mostly empty and were not tossing off big wakes. We reached the Cumberland River around 12:15 PM, much to the relief of all of us and the tow crews around us. At the turn we met up with My Therapy, they were coming down the Ohio. Our flotilla of 8 sailed up the Cumberland.

We met two up bound tows, both loaded with stone. We passed both of their quarries, they are huge!! One had a spiderwork of conveyer belts and lifts to move the stone around. We watched a giant digger lift stone out of a barge and into an even larger Tonka Truck dump truck.

The Cumberland river is very pretty, but there is almost nothing along side. A few houses, a few very! steep boat ramps and a few bridges, but mostly trees. Not any place to stop and anchor, all of the side streams were about 5′ wide.

Around 4:15 we pulled into the Barkley Lock area. The lock master wanted us out of the channel, so we went and hung out near the dam.

There were people fishing near the dam for catfish while the Asian Carp jumped off and on around them. At 4:30PM the horn blew that they were emptying the lock chamber. We watched in amazement as the fish started leaping out of the water near the lock wall. Wow. The churn of the water and the 100′s of fish that were jumping. The seagulls soon were wheeling overhead and snatching the fish as they leaped out of the water. Dinner on the fly!! This went on for about 15 mins as the lock emptied it’s vast quantities of water.

The lock doors opened and the Mr David, pushed his tow out and the Looper Flotilla filed in. We waited for Diablo to limp in, on of the transmissions was dying. A ninth boat needed space so we hung extra fenders and the crew of A-(Ford)-It was soon tied along our side. The 57′ doors swung shut at 5:45 PM and we were on our way UP!!

Arriving at the top we all filed out and headed for Green Turtle Bay, except for Hotei. Their engines wouldn’t start. Only 2 miles to go to home and disaster strikes. But wait, Roxanne has bow and stern thrusters, so she ties up to the side of Hotei and ties off. Then the two of them glide serenely out of the lock and off to the marina.

The staff of Green Turtle Maria stayed late to see the 9 of us safely into the docks, they rock! We dock at 6:30 PM, two minutes after local sunset. Susan grabbed flashlights and the flotilla met Hotei and the plucky Roxanne heading into the basin. Smooth as silk, Roxanne pulled to the fuel dock and the flotilla crew got Hotei tied off. They then did the same for Roxanne minutes later at her slip. We were all home safe!

Dinner was late, after 8PM and there were toasts to the Looper Flotilla; to Moondance for leading, even while on one engine; to Roxanne for being the little tug that could; and to Diablo for making the 255 mile journey in a houseboat in adverse conditions.

We had a great time at dinner. Lots of stories, lots and lots of laughter. It was after 10:30 before the weary crew of Quo Vadimus stumbled into our berth and collapsed.

We made it! 580 nautical miles (667 land miles), 82 hours driving and waiting for locks from Chicago to Green Turtle Bay. Lots of cool places (well except for you Lock 52) and nice people (except for you towboat at Rockdale). It was a great adventure, but we are both happy to have the bulk of the barge traffic and river trash behind us.

Here is to the Looper Flotilla! May you all have calm waters, short lock times and beautiful sunsets.


Lock 52,Kentucky side

7 October 2014

Take two on learning patience.

After spending a quiet night in Little Diversion River we were up and ready to go at 7AM.

Well, not a quiet night. We had a log hit and get tangled in our anchor line. It rained twice, but not hard, but hard enough to wake us. We had two Asian Carp smack the boat and wake us up. We were both up and down and up and down. But Belle got with the program, when she figured up that we had not been up (or down) in the last 90 minutes, she came and meowed at us.

The Little Diversion was calm and we got rounded up and out into the Muddy Mississippi. Current ripping at 4kts and more than a little trash. Our “flotilla” of Moondance, R&R, Corkscrew, Roxanne, Diablo, Hotei and Quo Vadimus churned our way through the mud and the floating wood. Only one injury, our lead boat Moondance clipped a log and a prop. They will pull him when he gets to Green Turtle Bay and do a hopefully quick repair.

I was pleased, with the current lift I got 14.9 knots on my regular 9 knot speed (RPM)

But there was much rejoicing at 10:55 AM, 38 nautical miles, 48 statute miles from Little Diversion and two days from Hoppies we made the wide sweeping turn from brown water to the bright green of the Ohio.

To immediately run into a tow that wanted the channel and us to come up on the 2′s and have ½ the group go to the wrong side. Oh well, he seemed to recover from it.

It was very windy on the Ohio, with 2-3 foot waves and whitecaps. Good that there was no trash, and we were able to plug along at 8.5 knots. We past the new Olmstead lock, a pretty major engineering feat. Wonder if they give talks about how it’s being designed and built. It’s to open in 4 years, only 9 years behind schedule.

We passed Lock 53, which they had torn down in anticipation of the new lock being built. Next stop, our second and final lock on the Ohio. Got there at 3:30 PM. Got told at 6:00 PM, once another boat locked through we were next, about an hour wait. Problem is that local sunset is at 6:35. So we moved off to the side of the channel and anchored out in the river.

Susan made grilled Chicken breasts and inspired by the “Blue Owl” Cheesy Corn, she came up with a much better version. She added green beans and it was all wonderful.

Great sunset tonight, and it’s a full moon. So we all look pretty here basking under the Interstate 24 lights.

We will call the lock at 6:30 to get back in line, with a four hour wait, we should be through by noon ad waiting at the next lock by 4PM. Hope the wait is less, there is no place to anchor out in the Cumberland, so it becomes hard.

2.5 hour wait today, ?? on Wednesday. Starting to learn that patience is important. But would like to learn how to put the nose of the Quo Vadimus into a mudbank and pull it off like the tows do.

Happy with fuel mileage. With the big current push was doing over 3 MPG, when we turned up river we worked it down to 2 MPG. Very happy. Sitting on 300 gallons to go 40 miles. 80.6 miles today with the 96.5 miles yesterday makes our two day total 177.1 miles, better than most fortnight periods in the trip. If we get to Green Turtle on Wednesday it will make over 200 miles.

If we can just get through the locks….


Little Diversion,Cape Giradeau,MO

6 October 2014

We pushed off of Hoppies at 7:10 headed down river. Our “flotilla” of Moondance, R&R, Corkscrew, Roxanne, Diablo, Hotei and Quo Vadimus churned our way through the mud and the floating wood.

It was a long day in time (8.5 hours) and a long distance (96 nautical miles) trip. The current helped push us along at a pretty quick pace of 11.5 – 12.5 knots (about 14 regular miles). Much faster it would be harder to dodge the stuff.

We passed four “up bound” tows. Two of them were fully loaded and they were really working hard to battle the current. Out the back there was a 4′ wave of water. It was very hard to get through. One of the boats is a smaller houseboat, they needed to be careful they didn’t get swamped.

The two that we passed “down bound” were nice enough to slow some so we could scoot by.

It was a tough day, it was paying attention and driving around the debris. Susan and I traded driving, even though we were pretty pleased to get to the anchorage.

The “flotillia” anchored in Little Diversion River. The river is the drainage system for storm water runoff for Cape Giradeau,MO. It normally is a good place to stay, and for us it works for tonight. It would not have worked a few days ago since it would have been spewing trash from the town down river.

Moondance went in first to scope out the space. Lots of deep water because of the river being high, but not a lot of current. They anchored and R&R moved into place next to them. We went next and anchored a little farther up river, closer to the rail bridge. Roxanne came up and tied along side of us after deploying their anchor. The others soon followed and we were anchored. The crews of Roxanne, Moondance, R&R helped get lines tied to the shore to keep us from swinging in the wind.

They also grabbed a large log that was heading downriver towards us and were able to shove it into the mud along the bank. It was a good thing they had caught it, if it had gotten hooked into our anchor chains, we would still be there.

It is great to have other people around, traveling in the “flotilla” has made everyone feel safer and more secure. This is one of the few times we’ve rafted up on the trip (last was in Canada) and I know that I was happy to have the crew of Roxanne next to us watching for issues. (Plus they are really nice people, lots of fun to talk to!)

For dinner we had Susan’s Noodle Casserole, she calls “Train Wreck”. It’s one of our favorite meals and it was nice to have a filling hot meal after such a long day. The 96 miles is our longest single day ride to date.

We were both exhausted and were in bed about 9PM.

Goal in the morning is to get up past lock 52 on the Ohio River so we can do the Cumberland in full daylight.



1 October through 4 October

We left Alton early in the morning on Wednesday, our second day on the mighty Mississippi. At Alton Marina we had met the crew from Corkscrew they also wanted to leave first thing. So we talked about 7AM and were on the water at 7:30. The first lock was only a mile from the marina and we got right in. This was the second lock on our trip (the other was on the Erie) where we didn’t tie up, we just floated in the middle. There was a ton of trash outside the down gate in a swirling mess, so it took time for both boats to pick our way through it.

From that lock to the next is a no wake zone, so it was slow going through the industrial areas. Seeing all the barges and company docks really drives home how busy the river is and how much commerce is still done by water. The next lock was empty and we were quickly into it. Inside we found that two of the floating pins were missing so that made tying up to the wall a small issue. Eventually both boats found working pins and were ready for the 20′ drop. .

The Missouri river enters into the Mississippi just below the second lock. We were able to feel the current pick up and push us along the river. Our average speed on the river was about 10 knts, but we use only about 3.5 gallons for an amazing 11 MPG. We should get that again when we leave for the next 158 miles. So my calculated fuel burn of 140 gallons will be far less. As we turn up the Ohio we will be battling a 3 knot curren, so it wull be higher. I still feel comfortable about being able to do the entire leg on 400 gallons.

We got to Hoppies Marina in Kimmswick about 2 PM. All of the Loopers stop here, it’s the last fuel, food, etc for the next 250 miles. The marina is five long flat top barges that are tied end to end. We get smacked around some by the barge traffic that comes up and down the river. Hoppies is important to the Looper world, if they close then Loopers will need to go from Alton Marina to Grand River KY marina. Depending on your speed 4-7 days without a marina does not make it fun.

Since it was early in the day we walked to the “Blue Owl Restaurant and Bakery” with the crew of Corkscrew. The “Blue Owl” has been shown a number of times on the Food Channel, it’s a popular place for people to come. They are known for their baked goods. They are only open for a late breakfast and lunch until 3PM. After a great lunch (and why yes, we did have strawberry-rubarb and Snickers pie!) we headed to sightsee. We walked around the town of Kimmswick to look at all the little shops and stuff.

At 4:30 there is a daily briefing on what the river is doing and how to navigate it. Fern has lived on the river and she gives a great briefing on what we can expect. You can read the entire Fern Briefing here.

There was a small Docktails with the crews from Toba, Midas Touch,Corkscrew and Quo Vadimus and of course Fern. Corkscrew brought some salted snacks that had Wasabi on them, I have not breathed this well in years …

For dinner Susan reheated the ribs we had purchased in St. Louis at “Pappy’s Smokehouse”. They wonderful, there is enough for another meal. When they wrapped them, the used foil and plastic wraps so the juices were still in the meat.

Starting Thursday night it rained off and on, we got about ½ inch over night. It was clear in the morning, with the storms to the north of us. Our friends on Toba took advantage of storms moving NE and headed down the river. I’ll need to find out later if that worked out well for them at the anchorage that night, since there was another band of storms heading toward Cario, IL

About noon a Riverboat landed and disgorged 150 people. They were part of a package to ride the boat then eat at the “Blue Owl”, shop in Kimmswick and then take a bus home. The companion trip was to take a bus here, eat, shop and then take the boat home. If you want to do this trip, pick “down on the boat” since that takes 2 hours. Up on the boat in the current takes 3-4 hours.

The rains continued on and off all day long. It’s a concern since they got lots of rain in the north (in Grafton, about 7”) so the water levels are rapidly rising and will rise across the next few days as the water moves down the river.

Side note: I’ve never really cared much for hydrology, the study of water on the planet. Before the trip I was pretty much limited to tides and watching water pushed by storms. I’m now on the government sites watching the rise and fall of water levels, current flows, rain fall and what it’s doing to the water levels, etc. I can now follow the lumps of water as they head down stream and what their effects will be on my plans. For example, we plan to anchor out in a river that will have a 5′ rise in a 24 hour period. That means I need to remember that I’ll move up at least 2′ while I’m anchored and need to compensate for it.

Once the riverboat left we walked into town to get a mid-afternoon pie snack. There was pie left, but the 300 person lunch crowd had left their mark. Susan had pecan pie while I had cheesecake. On the way back we mailed postcards, getting back to the dock moments before it started raining again.

The briefing at 4:30 was brief, since it was all repeat boaters. The big concern of rising high water and trash had us decide to stick to our plan to stay over one more night.

On Friday Susan and I slept in some, since sleeping through the barge traffic had been fitful. About mid-morning we got a taxi/van and with the crew of Corkscrew did some shopping. The nearest town was about 6 miles away, all in all we went to four different places. The taxi bill was only $30 ($2 a mile) , pretty decent for all the running around we did.

We napped in the afternoon. Just before the 4:30 briefing, the Roxanne arrived from Alton. Two more boats are scheduled for later.

Around 6:30 PM we had potluck dinner with the crews of Diablo, Hotei, Roxanne, Midas Touch, Corkscrew and us on the Quo Vadimus. It was good conversation and we broke up about Looper midnight for bed.

Sleeping was rough, lots more tows were on the water moving up and downstream. The downstream tows pretty much go with the flow, but the upstream ones really struggle to make headway. For that reason the wakes behind them are very very large. Not looking forward to passing these guys in the next few days.


Fern Briefing

1 October 2014

Below is the note that I took during the briefing at Hoppie’s Daily Boater Meeting. It’s run by Fern, she goes through a long list of items of importance to boaters going the next 250 miles. It’s a Looper tradition to attend the meetings. Fern is a very nice person, she’s been on the river all of her life and offers up some interesting comments.

Hoppie’s Daily Briefing – 4:40 PM CST

Admiral from the “Toba”, Fern , Admiral from the“Corkscrew”, Susan, Captain of the “Corkscrew”, Foster

When leaving in the morning – look below swim platform for large debris. Remove if needed. Start engines and tap into reverse to blow debris forward of the propellers out of the way. Wait a minute for debris to move and do it again.

To leave Hoppie’s dock – keeping a midship line, remove all other lines. Right Rudder, release midship, apply forward to port only. Bow will swing into the river. Drive directly across the river into the channel THEN move downriver.

When in the channel STAY in the channel. There are wing dams and dikes, sometimes they are below the surface and you can’t see them. STAY in the channel.

Tow operators want use VHF13, the navigation channel, on their radios. They do not use mile markers as a location, they use the info in the yellow boxes on the charts. (For example on chart 132, coming up river Hoppie’s is between Foster Light and Foster Upper light, Glen Park Light is down river 2 miles) Use that information when you contact them.

A diving buoy is one that comes up to the surface and then dives below the surface. This is caused by debris on the anchor line. At some point the debris will clear and the buoy will come shooting to the surface. Stay away. Note it’s location, since it may not surface again for awhile and steer around / away from it.

Critical turn list (these are the three most dangerous turns on the next section, but look at all the turns and take appropriate action) For each of these call on VHF13 to tows below (using the yellow box info) to see if anyone is down there.
– Chart 136/135 Mile 132-130 Crook Light, mile below is Establishment Bar Light. Run the RED buoy line
– Chart 144 Mile 85-83 Fountain Bluff, mile below is Wittenburg. Run the RED buoy line
– Chart 156 Mile 5-2 Birds Point / Greenfield Bend. Run the GREEN buoy line

Tows sometimes come apart. When they do the barges are silent, dark and don’t stay in the channel. When anchoring out, get out of the river or put something big and solid between you and the barge.

At night at anchor leave radios on VHF 16. If other Loopers need your attention / need your help, they will use VHF 16 to call.


Chart 138 Mile 118 – Kaskaskia Lock – (41 statute miles 36 nautical miles from Hoppies) Call Lock master on VHF14 for permission. Tie up on the wall on the South (Dam side), or anchor into the area below the dam. There are cleats. Do not tie to the fence. Call the Lock Master to get permission to leave the boat to walk your puppy. This is a popular place to tie up, and it’s because the Lockmaster allows it. Don’t mess it up for other boaters.

Chart 145 Mile 78-74 – Emergency anchorage behind the dike. It’s the third one coming down river. Go down and come back up into it. (My chart does not show it as a “L” shape. Fern verified it’s an L shape now. )

Chart 149 Mile 48.8 – Little Diversion Channel – (111 statute miles, 96 nautical miles from Hoppie’s) Good anchorage, but do not use in case of a flash flood. (Rain is predicted for tonight and Thursday, look at the weather reports). Room for a number of boats, depth is good. – When leaving this anchorage, call in both directions. It’s a long sweeping curve with turbulence. Stay in the channel.

Chart 156 Mile 3-2 – Angelo Towhead – ( 45 statute miles, 42 nautical miles from Little Diversion Channel) Do not stay here, trash and debris comes down the inside slough and will smack into your boat. Instead use the next place

Ohio River Chart 4 Mile 966 – Right Descending Bank (65 statute miles, 55 nautical miles from Little Diversion, 112 nautical miles from Kaskaskia Wall) – Remember we are going upstream, so the RED markers are on the RIGHT. The RDB is on the left side going up. Olmstead Public Access, Anchor in the little cove off of the ramp.

Ohio River Chart 14 Mile 923 – Left Descending Bank ( 108 statute miles, 91 Nautical miles from Little Diversion) – Go up into the chute and anchor. Come back out the same way to continue up the Ohio river. Do not cut the corner, go down around the marker. This anchorage will shield you from the tow wakes.


No locks from Hoppie’s to the Ohio River. Two working locks on the Ohio. The Olmstead Lock is not open yet /still. Both have wickets and it’s possible the wickets are down and we can sail over them. Call ahead on VHF13 to ask. Note that the anchorage at Mile 966 ( The Olmstead Public Access) is before the two locks, it is a good place to make a decision on how far to go.

(Crew of Midas Touch arrive at 5:00 PM)

Lock 52 at mile 939 is having repairs done on the chambers, it may be slow going through it.

For a variety of reason Fern does not recommend going through the Kentucky Lock. She recommends taking the longer but will end up being a much faster route farther up the Ohio and then down the Cumberland. She recommends doing the Cumberland route in daylight. It’s narrow and twisty.

Once we clear the Barkley lock, Green Turtle Bay Marina is about two miles away. Stay in the channel, do not cut the corner. It’s shallow and rocky.

In case of trouble call Gordon, Tow Boat US (270-994-9177 and 270-362-1043) for help. He comes from Green Turtle, so it may take some time for him go get to you, but he WILL get there. Check that you have full Tow Boat US coverage.

River is presently dropping 1.5 feet per day. (Wed / Thursday rain may change the rate). When anchoring, make sure you factor in the 1.5 foot drop to make sure you can get back out.

/end 5:20 PM

After meeting discussion:

From Olmstead to Green Turtle is 75 statute miles 65 Nautical miles
From Anchorage at Mile 923 to Green Turtle is 32 statute Miles, 29 nautical miles

It sounds like the best plan is to do:
Hoppies to Little Diversion – 96 nautical miles, about a 10.5 hour day (depending on barges)
Little Diversion to Olmstead – 55 nautical miles, about a 6.5 hour day
Olmstead to Start of Cumberland – 43 nautical miles, two locks 5 hours plus locks
Cumberland River to Green Turtle – 29 nautical miles, about 3.5 hours

Olmstead to Green Turtle – 65 nautical miles, but has two locks, could be long day. Choice if both wickets are down. Cuts a day off the trip.