Saturday, December 29, 2012

Blind Willie Waypoint

Looping ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for blues recording artist Blind Willie Waypoint!

(using the standard blues riff of five eighth notes in ¾ time)
Wa wa wa wa wa
Woke up this morning,
Wa wa wa wa wa
Wanna go to Carrabelle
Wa wa wa wa wa
But its really kinda blowin’
Wa wa wa wa wa
Is this looper hell?

Wa wa wa wa wa
Boat’s pinned against the dock
Wa wa wa wa wa
So wada we gotta lose
Wa wa wa wa wa
Stuck here one more day
Wa wa wa wa wa
I got the Apalachicola marina blues!!!

At this point the band goes into a hard core blues chorus and Blind Willie rips some nasty blues riffs.

Like I said, I have way too much free time on my hands.

Today is December, 29th and we are still in Apalachicola. As predicted a storm system blew through here overnight. Supposedly today was going to be a good cruising day for us to go to Carrabelle, but alas it turns out to be rather windy and blowing from the NW, N or NE which means, as our boats are on a facing dock pointing slightly to the southeast and the current on Scipio Creek is moving pretty smartly, all three of us are pretty much pinned to the docks or are in precarious positions to get off of the dock without the current being a real pain. Tomorrow’s conditions are supposed to be much better. Besides there is very little hustle to get to Carrabelle to set up for a gulf crossing window of opportunity. All weather predictions are pretty much the same. There won’t be one for awhile. Wave heights seem to be stuck in the four to six foot range and that ain’t no place for us.

The choice to wait out the time here in Apalachicola or in Carrabelle is a toss up. Both marinas are $1.50 a foot. The marina here in Apalachicola is a bit rugged but the town is nice. The marina in Carrabelle is reported to be uber-nice but the town of Carrabelle is pretty much a big nothing. Technically we could do the crossing from here. That would add about fifteen miles to it. We’ll see.

The town of Apalachicola is actually pretty nice. There are numerous shops and restaurants. One of particularly high fun quotient is a genuine soda fountain with a counter and milks shakes and the whole bit. Quaint and fun! Of note to any loopers out there who know what all of these little tourist towns are like, there are no fudge stores.

So we wait.

I gotta get back to channeling Blind Willie Waypoint and lay down some groovy hard blues riffs.

Friday, December 28, 2012


Ok. I have way too much free time on my hands sometimes. That is how I came up with a new name for that wonderful happy feeling of accomplishing something “loopy”. “Apalachafragilisticexpialicola”! Come on…you have to admit that it works well. The cadence is spot-on and works great in a song.

Oh, Apalachafragilisticexpialicola
Getting there from Panama is sixty miles or so-la,
But be careful on the route ‘cause you may hit a shoal-a

THANK YOU! I’m here until Thursday. Try the veal and don’t forget to tip your waitress. Good night, everybody!

As I said, way too much free time.

We did make it to Apalachicola. There were three of us: Why Knot, The Zone and Proud Lady. Everything was going well until Proud Lady developed some kind of problem that looked like overheating. There could also be a problem with his prop or shaft. Tough break. There does not appear to be any kind of repair facility here. Bill and Joy are going to check around, either here or in Carrabelle to see what their options are.

Wherever we are, Apalachicola or Carrabelle, we will be there for a week or at least until after New Year’s Day. The weather forecast isn't very good. There aren't any windows for the crossing on the horizon, so we shall sit and wait.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Panama City (part 2) – Merry Christmas, Ya'll!

Recipe below

Ah, the memories of Christmas’ past: snow, sleet, paper cuts, too much turkey, Grandma falling asleep face down in her dressing from drinking less than one glass of wine and me crying because I didn't get what I wanted. And I’m sure you have memories like that too. Isn't that sweet?

2012 has been an interesting year for holidays for us. Let’s take a look at the biggies. We spent Memorial Day at the beautiful, waterfront home of Rick and Margi Decatur, located on Aquia Creek which is about half way up the Potomac River towards Washington DC, along with Rusty and Jan of Cbay. The weather was incredibly beautiful and we had a wonderful time. The 4th of July saw us at a marina in Oswego, NY waiting for a window on the 5th to cross Lake Ontario into Canada. It was stormy and rainy, the very opposite of the kind of weather you would want for the 4th of July. Labor Day was unique. We were at a rundown marina along the Tombigbee River in Mississippi. The highlight was Lisa making a very suitable feast out of Turkey Spam.

It is Christmas Day 2012. We are sitting in the galley of Why Knot as we are wont to do every morning taking in the yuletide joy. Actually we’re listening to the raindrops fall on the fiberglass because, as the old holiday song says, “the weather outside is frightful.” Our Christmas day will be a laid back affair. But it is neat to see decorated palm trees instead of Douglas Firs. There are a couple of chores to be done but that’s all. But Christmas Eve was very memorable indeed.

Ross and Laura opened the cavernous salon of their boat The Zone for a Christmas Eve party. There was us and them (obviously) along with Bob and Ivy from Karma, Bill and Joy from Proud Lady, Kurt and Pat of Krazy Kru and Jeff from Knot So Fast. 
Pat (Krazy Kru), Bob and Ivy (Karma)

Bill and Joy (Proud Lady)

Bob and Ivy

Yours truly

There was lots of food and way too many laughs for one evening. Did you ever have one of the times where so much happened, so many things said and you laughed so hard that you can’t remember any of it? Well, for me last night was one of those nights. Hilarious.  It was awesome.

Now, by popular demand, here is the recipe handed down to Lisa from her mother –
Dee’s Sinnamon Rolls.

1 can Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
1/2 stick of butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 T cinnamon
8 marshmallows

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet, pie/cake pan, or muffin pan with aluminum foil and spray with Pam. Place another sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom rack of the oven to catch any overflow.

Stir brown sugar and cinnamon into the melted butter.
Pull apart the crescent roll pieces and lay them flat. For each roll, place 1 marshmallow on the wider end, drizzle about 1 T of brown sugar mixture over the marshmallow. Start wrapping the crescent roll dough around the marshmallow and sugar like a diaper then just keep rolling up toward the long edge so the bottom especially is fully encased. The top will probably be open. Place each roll in the pan and cover with any leftover butter/brown sugar, then sprinkle with dry cinnamon sugar over the top. Bake for about 10 - 15 minutes or until the dough is brown. The marshmallows will swell and likely run over long before the dough is cooked so be vigilant to poke the goo back in and line your oven.

Serve warm or make them up to a day ahead. They are easier to remove from the pan if they are a little warm. 

 And so, faithful followers we wish you a very Merry Christmas! Remember the reason for the season.

We get out of here on Thursday. Next post will be from Apalachicola. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sandestin and Panama City (part 1)

We left Pensacola under close to ideal conditions. It was a beautiful cruising day. Our course took us through large pools between the quays and mainland which where bordered by white sandy beaches. Our original destination was a marina in Fort Walton called Boat Marina but when we arrived there we were disappointed to see that it was not in good shape at all. The docks looked very rugged and there were even a few partially sunken boats in slips. Not good. So we moved onward to our alternate destination, a world class marina at the Sandestin resort.

The area we were in was comprised of Fort Walton and Destin, Florida which are very built up and very resort-y. Sandestin is very hoighty-toighty and expensive but the facilities are tremendous. One funny thing that happened is that the dockmaster, a fellow named Dick, saw that our home port was St. Louis. He asked us what part of St. Louis we were from. I told him that we lived in Brentwood (a central suburb) and asked him if he was familiar with St. Louis. He said that he was from there to which I asked “The St. Louis Question” which is, “What high school did you go to?” He replied that he went to Ladue HS, which amazingly is where I went to high school.  We laughed and shook hands. I came all the way to Sandestin Florida to run in to a fellow alum of Ladue Horton Watkins High School. (Note: We St. Louisans don’t care where you went to college or what you do for a living. We want to know what high school you went to. We can tell a lot about a person by that. It’s weird but that’s how we roll.)

Nearby Destin is a major shopping mecca and Lisa was beginning to have withdrawals from not being able to do any power shopping since back in St. Louis. This was going to be her stop to shop. But reality was getting in the way. First, Ross and Laura from the Zone were going to move on to Panama City and they are major buds of ours and we wanted to stay with them. Second, this beautiful marina is very expensive to stay at. Third, the cruising weather gods were being difficult as there would be one more good cruising day (Wednesday, Dec. 19th) before things close down for a few more days. Furthermore, there looked like a good window to cross the Gulf of Mexico was appearing shortly and we wanted to be in Carrabelle, FL to be able to make the jump. So we decided to cut our time here short and move on to Panama City after only one night in Sandestin. Lisa was disappointed and I was sorry to see that. There was one other complication. For some reason my right knee was killing me and I need to get off of it for a day or two to see if that helps it at all. Panama City would be a better place to do that.  So we would cruise on Wednesday, let the storms roll on through on Thursday, probably stay put on Friday to let the conditions settle down and continue onto Apalachicola and Carrabelle on Saturday and Sunday and be ready to make the crossing. (Fyi – Lisa has found the perfect solution to her shopping dilemma. She would rent a car in Panama City and drive the relatively short distance back to Destin, which would also be cheaper than staying in Sandestin and having to rent a golf cart to get around town. Perfect!) 

Our destination in Panama City was a beautiful marina called Bay Pointe Marina – first class all the way at a reasonable price. Most marina’s staffs are nice and friendly but the people here are a step above the rest. The Zone and Why Knot were tied up safe and sound on a nice big wall and that’s a good thing. The weather deteriorated for a couple of days with high winds, rain and even a reported water spout just off shore on Thursday.

Another reason this was a good stop was that we caught up with some other loopers. Bill Bob (oops) and Ivie on Karma, Mike and Gay on Irish Attitude, Bill and Joyce on Carried Away, Bill and Joy on Proud Lady, and several other loopers (whose names escape me as I write this) and non-looper boating buddies. They have been at Bay Point kind of hanging out either waiting for an opportunity to head to Carrabelle to get ready to do the crossing, taking care of some repairs or both. From Bay Pointe the next stop is Apalachicola then Carrabelle, a total distance of about 100 miles. Carrabelle is the unofficial jumping-off point across the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico to Tarpon Springs or Clearwater on the peninsula of Florida.

On Thursday Lisa rented a car and she and Laura hopped out to do a bit of provisioning. I stayed behind and did the laundry. As already mentioned the weather was harsh. This was the same storm system and lashed across the rest of the US on Wednesday dumping snow much of the way. The bay we were in was well protected so the boats didn’t rock around too much at all.

Things began to change weather-wise on Friday and Saturday. The weather here was beautiful. Carried Away and Irish Attitude took off for Apalachicola, then Carrabelle. Nothing wrong with that, but I (and Ross) were looking at the weather for the next week to make the crossing and it was not a pretty picture. Wave heights and winds would put the kibosh on making the crossing any time during the week of Christmas. So we all decided to stay put. We had a car a nice town and decent weather, at least for the weekend before Christmas. Like, why push ahead to get nowhere.

(Ed. note: Carried Away and Irish Attitude did make the crossing in a window that opened up from the morning of 12/23 on into 12/24. Conditions looked good from here but as of this writing on 12/24 we are still waiting for a report from them on the other end.)

On Friday Lisa and I drove to Destin, Florida, about 50 miles west of Panama City. It is very much a tourist town with lots of shops, restaurants, major stores and a very large outlet mall. That was our destination. I dropped Lisa off at one end  to do her shopping things and I set out with a small list of items to pick up as well as giving me the opportunity to toodle around the area. We enjoyed it so much we went back on Saturday with Ross and Laura.

12/24/12 - We are getting to know the route to Destin by heart as we have gone there three days in a row. Great place. Lots of fun. 

It looks like we will be here until Thursday the 27th.  There is a slight chance of a crossing window over the weekend.

Monday, December 17, 2012

There Were REAL Apollo Astronauts in Pensacola

We arrived at Palafox Marina in downtown Pensacola, Florida on Friday the 14th of December. It was a short cruise day from Holiday Harbor and we were tucked in nicely into our slip a tad before noon. We knew we were going to stay here a few days while we waited for a storm system to pass through. Also The Zone needed a bit of attention from a marine technician. Ross was saying that he found a very small leak in a steering fluid system hose. But we were excited to be in Pensacola.

Palafox Marina is at one of the wharfs right on the waterfront of downtown Pensacola. It is very nice with a good restaurant called Jacos where we had lunch after our arrival. But downtown Pensacola was kind of let down. It is very nice and clean but there isn’t much going on. Lots of lawyer, insurance and architect offices seem to be around as well as the city and government centers. Other than that not much to see or do.

On Saturday, our first full day there, Lisa and I decided that we were going to go to the Naval Air Museum at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, the largest US Navy air base. We got all of our bus information and hopped onto the number 57 line that took us directly to the base and to the museum. Pensacola is obviously a military town with all of the requisite tattoo parlors, bars and shops all featuring military discounts on their signage. We saw a lot of sailors who were easy to spot with their crew cuts and polite manners. Pensacola NAS is the central Navy flight training base in the country and taking the bus through the base was interesting seeing all of the teaching facilities with everything from aircraft maintenance to flight training. The base is pretty new as there was a lot of damage to it by a hurricane back in 2003. So there are a lot of brand spanking new buildings. Eventually we made it to the museum which is quite large with great displays of every aspect of navy flying.

Ok, I need to warn you now that the following story is true. It happened just as I say it did. It’s a little gross at first but it is what it is. I went to the men’s room and as I was standing, uh, doing my duty I started reading an advertisement that was placed strategically on the wall in front of my face. (You ladies don’t have this happen to you. Do you?) It talked about a weekend symposium to be held at the museum discussing the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs as this month celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 17 mission, the last mission to the moon. There would be several public panels featuring genuine astronauts from the program. Way cool! I read the entire thing fully expecting to see that it was either past or sometime shortly in the future. But no! It was that day! Very cool indeed. After a quick lunch we found out where that afternoon’s panel discussion would be and claimed our chairs. The astronauts featured were David Scott, Tom Stafford, Eugene Cernan, Walter Cunningham, Charles Duke, and Richard Gordon. We also caught some of John Glenn’s lunch time presentation. They all spent 90 minutes talking about aspects of the program and their individual missions. One thing that they were unanimous about was that the success of the space program back then was really due to the teamwork of the entire program, not only the astronauts and engineers but also the management and administrative functions. They also spoke about the culture of the program, that it was open and interactive where no one was afraid to speak up. One interesting side story was about the proposal to create the Gemini program. NASA’s entire proposal request for the Gemini space craft was one page long. That’s all. They left it up imagination of the people of the aerospace industry to come up with the solutions. One of the astronauts commented that the entire lunar space program from President Kennedy’s challenge to successful accomplishment took only eight years and few months. He further said that in the corporate and governmental climate of today it would take that long just to write the proposal. He’s right.

I grew up engrossed in the space program. While some interest in the program began to wane in the later flights my interest only grew. These were the heroes of my youth and young adulthood.  I was not able to get close to any of them, to shake their hands, but I wanted to. In their youth they were the best pilots in the entire world. They did things that were spectacular with courage and skill. The Apollo program and these men barely get mentioned in history classes anymore. What a shame. Their accomplishments should still be shouted from the roof tops as a guide for all of the generations to come to act boldly with determination and accomplishment. I fear that the younger generations look at them as just old men. But they aren’t ordinary old men, not by a long shot.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Solving a notification challenge

Hi all
I have been receiving comments from some of this blog's followers that they have not always been getting the latest posts. I am trying to solve this. What I am trying to do is to start sending notifications through my email rather than a google+ notification which seems to limit how many of you find out about a post.

So lets give this a try, shall we?


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Stuck in Mobile

When we arrived at Dog River Marina in Mobile, Alabama we knew that we would be waiting here for a few days. Ross and Laura of The Zone had been here for about a month as they had some repairs that needed to be done as well as going to Florida for Thanksgiving. We wanted to catch up with them so we could cruise with them to Florida. At the time of our arrival their boat was up on the hard (now back in the water). We also had a few repairs to be done. On the day we cruised down from the Alabama River Cutoff to Dog River Marina we noticed that our house batteries were not being recharged either by the generator nor the main engine. We also wanted to get the autopilot diagnosed. We got it checked out twice before but were always leery of what we heard. Dog River has a first class service department here so we committed to having them do the work.  Dog River is a nice enough marina. It is highly rated by the looper community with a very large boatyard that can tackle just about any marine maintenance need. Indeed there were boats of all kinds being worked on either in the water or up on land.

Bryson, one of the lead technicians at Dog River came on board Why Knot and got to work. First was the battery situation. When we bought Why Knot we were pretty much warned that the batteries were going to be a problem shortly as they were kind of old. The boat has four very large and expensive 8D batteries in her: one for starting and three for house needs. We had to replace the starter battery back in January at Vero Beach. A house battery was replaced back in Charlevoix, Michigan. Now the last two remaining house batteries both crapped out together. They needed to be replaced. But instead of replacing just the two batteries we went ahead and replaced all three house batteries so that they would be the same age and make. So now we have a good starter battery, three brand new house batteries and an extra perfectly good 8D battery that we’ll keep as a spare.

Bryson then turned his attention to the autopilot. As I said we had it diagnosed twice before but each time it seemed that the technicians pulled their diagnosis’ out of their…hats. Bryson, however was very thorough. We tore the boat apart so that he could get to all of the components until he found the problem. A servo electrical motor that actually does the work of sending pressure to the rudder control had failed. A replacement was flown in overnight and he got it all together and operating successfully. That was on Friday. On Sunday we took Why Knot out for a sea trial and everything worked perfectly. (We also had the sea water impeller on the generator replaced.)

So, our work was completed and The Zone was now in the water docked right behind us all ready to go. But unfortunately the weather has turned to poo. Starting on Sunday afternoon the winds and waves have kicked up. Monday was worse with tornado warnings in the area. Today (Tuesday) was originally supposed to be good go-boat day but it stinks too. Wednesday is a possibility but we’re going to have to rely on the solid local knowledge of the marina staff to be sure. Thursday and Friday would be ok if the forecasts hold up. According to weather maps there are going to be a few cold fronts rolling through one right after another for a while. We’ll see.

So here we sit tied up to the transient dock waiting for a weather window so we can cast off and head on down to the Gulf Coast ICW to head east into Florida.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Final Push to Mobile

Sorry for no photos or map not being updated. Adequate bandwidth is an elusive commodity.

We finally left Demopolis to make our final push to get out of the western rivers, which if you remember started way back in Calumet, IL at the mouth of the Calumet River just south of Chicago. On the first day out of Demopolis we made our way to an anchorage at the mouth of a big-ish creek called Bashi Creek. It was a pleasant stay-over being completely calm and not as cold as it has been in recent nights.

“Damn Beautiful!”

Sometimes its small things that make your day. The morning that we pulled out of Bashi Creek was one of them. Bashi Creek is exactly as it says it is - a creek. But a big creek. It’s maybe fifty feet wide and about ten feet deep. To anchor we just pulled straight in, positioned ourselves smack dab in the middle and dropped our bow anchor, and for there setting a stern anchor as well so we wouldn’t swing. In the morning when we decided to get under way it was dead calm which was helpful in that as we pulled straight in bow first it seemed that the best way to get out would to reverse straight out to the river. But for those of you who know Why Knot and as mentioned previously in this blog going in reverse can be an adventure. But that was the course of action to take. I manned the stern anchor and Lisa the bow. I first pulled up the stern anchor and scampered to the fly bridge helm. Lisa then pulled up the bow anchor. The stern was not pointing exactly in the direction that it needed to be. I did a quick starboard bow pivot which swung the stern around nicely to port into the correct direction. I straightened the rudder out and put it into reverse. She moved out very smartly and quite predictably the stern started swinging to the port side. On the one hand this was good as it pulled the boat out and away from the starboard side shore which had some snags in the water that I needed to avoid. On the other hand the entrance of the creek kind of went in the opposite direction. I did a hard right rudder and she straightened out very nicely directly into the main river channel. (That doesn’t always work. Sweet.) Upon seeing how all of this was going Lisa, now on the rear deck, yelled up to me, “That was damn beautiful!” Yes it was.

Our cruise was a short one, only twenty-eight miles down to a rugged little marina called Bobby’s Fish Camp. We had the dock to ourselves and went to their little diner and had a great lunch of fried catfish, grilled shrimp, fries and really tasty hush puppies. Better yet we made some new friends: Jeff and Lolli of the boat “Knot So Fast” showed up later in the afternoon. They are new boaters from Florence, AL and were on their way to the Gulf of Mexico themselves. We went to dinner with them and chatted incessantly about all things boat-ey.  It was a good day.

However the next morning, our planned get-away day, we woke up to very dense fog which just would not clear! So much so that by the time we figured it was ok to go, about 10:30ish, with the time delay and a backup of commercial vessels at the lock, the numbers did not look good to make our next anchorage some 66 miles downriver before sundown. So we stayed an extra day. We were joined by two other boats. The diner wasn’t open but we managed to squeeze in some good dock talk.

We woke up on Tuesday to more fog. Dang the fog! Even though it was not as dense we still had to delay our start. We finally pulled away from Bobby’s at 8:30 am, through the lock by 9:30 am and we started screaming down the river. By “screaming” I mean 9.8 to 9.9 statute miles per hour. We had 66 miles to cover with rain and possible thunderstorm forecasts. Plus we were racing the clock to get to our anchorage, the Alabama River Cutoff, before dusk. (Early dusk + cloudy skies = CHALLENGE!) Fortunately, and let me emphasize VERY fortunately, all of the factors effecting our cruise lined up perfectly for us. The lock was open and waiting for us, we were able to get up to speed and keep it there for the entire day (we even had a bit of a following current which nudged us up to 10 mph for awhile) and the rains never came. The clouds even conveniently broke up for a short while as we arrived at our anchorage so we still had some daylight to drop and set the anchor. All in all it was a successful cruising day.

On Wednesday morning we of course woke up to see ourselves in fog once again. But it wasn’t very thick and it was obviously going to break up early. We pulled up our anchor at 7:30 and with Lisa at the helm we pulled out into the Tombigbee Waterway for our last day on the western river system. The forecast was a continuation of Tuesday’s: warm, low to no winds and an ever present chance of rain and thunderstorms. But the cruising was good. The downward current was pushing us along. And as we were at sea level and with no more locks the tides were now a factor. Fortunately there was only one tide for the day and it was heading out pulling us along with it.

So we cruised on down the waterway on what was now called the Mobile River into the upper commercial harbor of Mobile and on past downtown. Several looper friends told us to keep on our toes during this stretch as the harbor was a bustling and busy place. We found that not to be the case. The only other boat on the waterway was a tow boat sans barges heading down the same direction as us. We quickly overtook it and headed out into the open water of Mobile Bay to our final destination, Dog River Marina on the western shore of the bay. As we approached we saw our good friends Ross and Laura of The Zone waiting for us dockside. Laura even made a little “Welcome Why Knot” sign to great us in to the transient dock. It was great to see them again. Later we all went out to dinner and we couldn’t talk fast enough to catch up on all the skinny with them.

We will be staying here at Dog River with them until the shipyard at the marina finishes some repairs to their boat. Then we will all set off together to Florida and the ends of our respective Great Loop adventures; theirs in Hollywood, Florida, ours in Pompano Beach.

So here is the final river tally: The total miles traveled from the marina in Hammond, IN down the Calumet, Chicago, Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland rivers, Kentucky Lake, The Tombigbee Waterway (Yellow Creek, Tombigbee River and canals, Black Warrior River and Mobile River) to Dog River Marina in Mobile, Alabama – 1315.26 statute miles. 168.0 hours underway (including idle speed time for waiting for locks). 25 cruising days. (For any number gronks out there – 7.82 mph average, 52 miles traveled per day. Whew.) But we made it.

And our opinion of this long leg of the Great Loop? We loved every mile of it, but with a caveat. As I said in a previous blog entry, this part of the loop is a wonderful and exciting part of the entire Great Loop experience, but the waterways on their own are pretty much un-scenic with limited facilities and opportunities to explore this part of the country. There were some wonderful spots to be sure namely Kentucky Lake. But all in all this western reach of the Great Loop is just a big watery road to get from Lake Michigan down to the Gulf of Mexico. On the positive side it was very challenging with the large locks and on making plans to safely and successfully navigate the route, especially where to stop each night.

We are once again at the Gulf of Mexico and Alabama was our last new state to transit into. We’ve been to Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, The District of Columbia (sort of, but we're claiming it.), Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Ontario Canada, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama (a couple of times between the last two). That’s eighteen states (counting DC) and one Canadian Province. We will cross back into Florida during our first day out from Mobile. 4762 total statute miles so far.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Yay! We're Getting Outta Here!

Don't get me wrong. Kingfisher Marina is lovely, Demopolis is lovely (sort of) but it is time to GO!

The technicians have finished their work. The oil leak, which was a bad gasket on the cover covering the oil cooler, has been replaced. They also found a neck joint for the coolant that was leaking. That needed to be sealed. But all is done now and we are getting things ship shape to head out tomorrow. We still need to go and pay our bills and make one more quick run to Walmart for milk. Otherwise, tomorrow, Saturday, we are on our way. Yay!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Rainey Day in Demopolis…A Least Today (Tuesday, 11/27/2012)

Our stay in Demopolis has been a pleasant one so far. We arrived on Saturday. Sunday was a beautiful day devoted to chilling out on the boat. Sunday was a work day. We both had short lists to tackle. Mine included replacing the anchor we lost in the Tombigbee Oxbow. Fortunately we have two extra anchors and after buying a couple of shackles at the marina chandlery I got the job done in about an hour. While at the marina’s service department I arranged for a technician to come by the boat and take a look at a short list of what I thought would be easy service issues. Most were small and taken care of quickly. There was one item though that I kind of thought would be a bit more of a problem. Beneath the engine is an area between the two long length-wise stringers that lead to the bilge. On the floor of this area I lay large absorbent pads to absorb any drippings from the engine. After cruising with the most recent clean pads I noticed that there was blotch of oil about the size of a football on the port side of the engine near the front. The rest of the pad was clean. Hmm. There is a leak somewhere but it didn’t seem to be a big leak. But, as with the sea water pump a week or two ago, leaks never get smaller so I had the technician trouble shoot this for me.

After a few minutes he called me down to the engine compartment when the engine was running. Sure enough there was a leak that was only leaking under power directly over the aforementioned oily blotch. This has to get fixed. On the down side the parts, most likely just the gaskets, have to be ordered and will not be here until Wednesday, Nov. 28, our original departure day. The service will most likely be done on Thursday which will push our departure to Friday. That’s a bummer but it could be a lot worse. Fortunately the engine component that needs the new gaskets is smack dab on the side of the engine, easily accessible for the technician to do the work. So it could be a lot worse.

Weather wise as per the forecast from the NWS it started raining yesterday afternoon, over the night and it continues today. Its suppose to stop right around sunset and tomorrow is suppose to usher in another week or so of good cruising weather. Hopefully the service work will get done as planned and we will scoot out of here on Friday. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Anchors Away! Literally

The photo album and map have been updated.

Leaving Pirates Cover Marina our first waypoint was to, of course, lock down at the Bevill Lock and Dam. There was zippo traffic on the waterway and as we communicated with the lock by radio in advance the lock was up, the gates were open, we had a green light. We idled right in, tied up and locked down. We then spent the next forty miles motoring down the same river conditions that we have become used to. The only difference with this leg is that unlike some of the pools that we went through back up the river this leg was a continual canal-ish kind of thing. What I mean is that in the previous sections of the waterway between locks there would be places where the surrounding land bottomed out and the water would expand into a lake, some of them pretty large. Not so with this leg. It was a ribbon of water all the way down to our second and last lock for the day, Heflin Lock. Pretty boring.

There was one interesting bit on the route. We were cruising down (South) a straight two mile long stretch that ended with a ninety degree turn to our left. While we were still up a ways from the turn we saw a tow coming at us up (North) the river and make the ninety degree turn to what would be his right. We were towards the right side of the channel so we had a direct view of the outside of his turn. I guess this was the first time we saw a tow maneuver like this from this vantage point. It was fascinating. The tow did not make the turn like a ‘turn’, so to speak. The maneuver, from the tow’s captain’s perspective, was actually to make a hard right rudder at the apex (car jargon – “hitting the apex”) of the turn to get the bow started up into the right direction and let the rest of the tow including the boat itself drift waaaay out to the outside of the turn. The entire barge is now at about a twenty to twenty-five degree angle to the straightaway. Then when he was in position add a bunch of power to the boat and, as he said by radio, dig his way out of the turn bringing the drifting aft portion of the tow back into line with the bow in the right direction. This was almost exactly like drifting a high performance car around a turn. There were even some smoking tires of a nature - the engine dumped a bunch of smoke into the air as the captain gave it the gun. Very cool.

Now, let’s talk about our anchorage for that night. I had picked a location called the Tombigbee Oxbow which is a part of the original channel of the Tombigbee River that cuts into the waterway just at the bottom of the Heflin Lock. It didn’t get the best of reviews but it was convenient. There was a better anchorage called Sumter Recreational Area a few miles up from the lock but I thought it better to anchor below the lock so we could get a jump on the next day. This turned out to be a bad decision on my part. The anchorage was pretty marginal. We dropped our anchor the first time and could not get it set at all. We could feel it dragging the bottom as if the bottom were made up of smooth rocks. We pulled it up and moved a short distance a bit further into the oxbow and dropped it again. We did get it set that time but unfortunately it undoubtedly got set under a rock and I was pretty darn sure there were going to be some challenges the next morning. There were. 

Lisa was at the helm and I was working the bow. I pressed the deck button to raise the anchor and when it got to the where the anchor chain was straight up and down…the end of the line so to speak…it would stop dead cold. It would not come up anymore. We did all of the standard maneuvers to try to extricate a stuck anchor but nothing worked. We sat around for a few minutes so we could collect ourselves. This sucked! We contacted TowBoatUS to see if they could help. They could not though they did try. After a short while we realized that there was only one thing left to do: cut the chain and sacrifice the anchor. I got the RotoZip (EVERY ONE SHOULD HAVE ONE OF THESE ON BOARD THEIR BOAT!) from the engine compartment and with the metal cutting blade sliced through the chain like a hot knife through butter. I let the chain go, dropping it  into the water and on down the river we went. We did not have a ceremony but I did flip it the bird as we cruised off. If there were any positives to take from this experience is that we had the right tool to get us out of this situation ourselves, we do have two extra anchors and we are going to a five-star marina where I can install it. Oh well.  

We arrived at Kingfisher Bay Marina, sister facility of Demopolis Yacht Center in Demopolis, Alabama. It is a brand spanking new expanded marina that just opened this season. New docks, new everything. Wow! What a difference a few miles make. Our last marina, Pirates Cove, would be at the polar opposite of this being run down and a pretty rugged experience. Kingfisher is amazing. We are going to stay here for a few days, do some work and some laundry, as well as sit out a foul weather front coming through the area.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Diamond In Mississippi and Heading Towards Thanksgiving

More photos yet to come when we find adequate bandwidth. (I'm lucky to get this posted.)

Sunday, November 18th, 2012 - This is a bit of an odd entry as there is, as far as the actual cruising goes, not much to talk about. It was a short day, only 37 miles down mostly cut canals which were mostly straight and boring. Our final destination was a lovely anchorage called Jugfish Branch just two miles up from the first of three locks to be traversed on the next day.

So what is this diamond in Mississippi?

I have often said that on this Great Loop adventure even though there have been many exciting challenges, tests, locations and beautiful vistas the most wonderful part has been all of the great people we’ve met along the way: loopers and locals alike. On Sunday the 18th after we pulled out of Aqua Marina we cruised a short bit over to Grand Harbor Marina where we took on 400 gallons of diesel fuel. Their price was cheaper. As we came in we were helped by a young lady at the fuel dock. Her name is Kacie Sherman and she expertly tied us up and started our fueling. She had a very chipper personality and a broad smile. It takes about fourty-five minutes to put this much fuel into the tanks so as we always do with dockhands we struck up a conversation with her. Because of her obvious maturity I pegged her for a sophomore or junior in college. It turns out she is a seventeen year old high school senior.

Whenever I meet a young person in a small town one of my questions that I ask is what their plans are after high school or college. I’m particularly interested to find out if they are going to stay in their small town or blow the joint and head off to a bigger city, like around there, Pickwick MS/TN, it would be Memphis or Nashville. Turns out Kacie has some pretty ambitious plans. She would like to attend Vanderbilt University or another large university in the area and get into pre-med and become a doctor. Her particular interests are in infectious diseases and that she wants to return to the Pickwick, MS/TN area to work at the local hospital. As we politely asked more probing questions she briefly unwrapped her visions about where she is in her life, a few of her dreams, her faith, her love for her mother and a few of her concerns. (I think she slightly slowed down the fuel flow to perhaps prolong our conversation a bit. That was ok with us.)

As we cruised on down the route for the day Lisa and I conversed about our encounter with Kacie and we agreed that this young lady is someone to be reckoned with. She’s attractive, charming, mature beyond her years, ambitious, responsible, and intelligent; and just about as sweet a person as we’ve met. Lisa and I both have experience in running businesses and building successful teams. We think we have a pretty keen eye about people. We agreed that if we were still in those positions we would find a place for her. She’s that good.

So as you cruise your Great Loop adventure stop by Grand Harbor Marina in Pickwick, MS/TN for fuel or a few days mooring. Look for Kacie, sit down and talk with her and try to tell us that she’s not everything we say she is.

Diamonds are everywhere…even in Mississippi. You just have to see them.

And So On…

Down the Tombigbee we went. Mile after mile we headed south cruising past the wooded shores only occasionally dodging towboats and their barges. The days went like this…
lock through
lock through
…and wash, rinse, repeat.

We did have some very nice anchorages especially at a place called Jugfish Branch. It was isolated, serene and very anchorage friendly.

lock through
lock through

Do you get the pattern here?

I wish I could tell you about spectacular scenery along the way, or beautiful sport fish jumping out of the water in majestic arches splashing back down into the surface of the water with force and grandeur or even about beautiful homes lining the shore…but the truth is that the waterway has none of those things. This could be due to the time of year that we are here. Its November and the trees are in mid-loss of their leaves. The colors are not spectacular. Now, one of the fortunate aspects of my character is that I can usually find something positive in just about anything but even that has been somewhat hard to muster. Getting through the locks has not been all that bad, not really. There has been some waiting at a few of the locks but it has been tolerable. I would actually have to say that the majority of the time we would approach a lock and were ushered straight in and down.

In the end, and at the point of which this is being written, we have made our way down to just inside the border of the State of Alabama at a marina called Pirate’s Cover Marina. Arrrrr! This is where we will be spending Thanksgiving.

Many years ago I had a dream of being a river rat. I wanted a houseboat and I wanted to cruise the rivers: Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and all of the others. In the Mississippi River watershed there are thousands and thousands of miles of navigable waterways. So what do I think of that idea now? Actually I don’t think so much about it. My personality type is not right for it.  I know that there are people that are more experienced and capable than I that love cruising the rivers. And I like it too as part of the greater Great Loop as it adds immeasurably to the diversity of everything that the Great Loop has to offer, which is one of its greatest appeals of the Great Loop – Lots of different kinds of boating experiences. But as a sole and singular boating experience I can’t see myself only going up and down the rivers anymore. I’m glad I’ve done this but its time to move on. And that will happen in 307.4 miles when we reach Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Addendum: Thanksgiving at Pirates Cove Marina was a low key and relaxing day. The weather was unbelievably mild: sunny and seventy degrees. Perfect. For our Thanksgiving feast we had potato salad, corn and turkey Spam. Yep, that canned taste-treat sensation Spam – Turkey flavor. Lisa is a very good cook and her talents were put to the test in a big way. Could she transform canned meat into an all-American holiday feast? No problem! So what does Turkey Spam taste like? Turkey. As our friend Laura said in a text, "Spamilicious!" Plus eating rectangular shaped food was kind of cool. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Down the Tennessee River

Our first day out of Green Turtle Bay on down the Tennessee River and Kentucky Lake was aok except for a few small surprises. First of all we awoke to a thick dense fog that prevented our leaving the marina until about 8:30 am. This was not so bad as our float plan would allow us to pull into our intended anchorage well before sunset. Otherwise the weather was very clear, sunny and crisp. We were able to muster about 9 miles per hour which was better than the plan.

About two thirds down the way things began to unravel for the good boat Why Knot. Lisa went down into the galley to make some cool aid. She reported that the water was not working at all. Bummer. We were resolved that we had enough bottled water to get us to our marina destination in two more days – inconvenient but ok. I decided that I would go down into the engine compartment and gently tap on the water pump with a small mallet and see if something had lodged in the pump. A few small taps did the trick and the pump started working again albeit with less pressure.

While down in the compartment I noticed some water accumulating on the sole. This was not recently unusual as I had to replace a washer that went on the turn key closure on the sea water strainer which had been allowing water to lightly drip out. But that was several days ago and I thought I had fixed that. Then something, I’m not sure what, caught my attention and I shined my flashlight onto the sea water pump on the engine. There was a pin hole leak in the gasket of the back plate that fastened onto the back of the pump. It was not enough of a leak that it effected engine cooling but a leak is a leak and they never get smaller, they only get bigger. So we had to scramble into action to figure out what to do.

We went past a marina at Parris Landing State Park and gave them a call. They gave us the names of a couple of marina service technicians in the area. We called them and they told us that all the parts would have to be ordered and would take several days, or wrap a bunch of duct tape around it. That was unsatisfactory, but they both assured us it would be ok short term as is.  As we approached our anchorage at a bay called Richland Creek we saw on the charts a marina called Pebble Isle Marina a bit further down river. Calling them we learned that they had a full service department at the marina with, coincidence of coincidences, all the parts for two Caterpillar sea water pumps on hand. That was a deal-maker right there. The only challenge getting there was that we were going to be pushed right up to sundown and that was a concern as their entrance channel, though well marked and deep, was narrow and twisty. We came in and tied up. The marina owner, a rather dry Tennessean named Randy told us that his service department was alerted and ready.

Pebble Isle Marina was a very nice stop where everyone exhibited stereotypical Tennessean charm and friendliness. Barrett, the on staff technician, came around the boat about 8:30 am and had our problem fixed with the sea water pump in no time. We decided to put off the replacement of the fresh water pump until our marina stop two days down the line as the part would have to be ordered and waiting for us.

The next day was routine. We left Pebble Isle and cruised on down to our next overnight stop at Clifton, Tennessee which has a nice little marina.

After Clifton our next stop would be Aqua (pronounced “ah-kwee’-ah” for some odd reason) Yacht Center located in Pickwick Lake which is off of Yellow Creek which is after turning off of the Tennessee River. The only obstacle of the day was locking up at Pickwick Lock and Dam, a very large dam notorious for delays. But we thought we were in good shape as we arrived at the lock by 2:30 pm (after another fog delay at the beginning of the day) and we could get through using the smaller auxiliary lock. Well, those thoughts were dashed asunder as when we hailed the lock we were told that there was only one lock master on duty and the auxiliary lock was closed for the day. We would have to wait for a double tow to lock down in our direction first, then we would be able to lock up using the main chamber. TWO HOURS LATER we finally entered the chamber and locked up. (Man, that main chamber was BIG). This meant that we would have to navigate the last 10 miles to the marina IN THE DARK…USING ONLY OUR CHARTPLOTTER AND RADAR TO GUIDE US…WITH ONLY A SLIVER OF A CRESCENT MOON. In an airplane this would be, I think, called IFR, Instrument Flight Rules.

Holy guacamole! Not only is night navigation, especially in rivers like this, not recommended, it is generally thought of as a darn bad idea anytime for a lot of other reasons. But we had no choice. There was no place to anchor below the lock and we were totally unfamiliar with anything around the impounded lake above the pool. The only thing we knew was that there was a marina ten miles down and we had to get to it. The chart plotter did have a sailing line on the course that took us down to Yellow Creek so that actually was not too hard but I did have to quickly set a course that would take us to the marina. Once we made the turn onto Yellow Creek Lisa sat on the bow of the boat with a new strong handheld search light (1000 lumen) we picked up back in St. Louis sweeping the water for buoys and markers of which there were some. Once we left the channel and slowly passed an island that created another channel into Pickwick Lake which is where the marina is located I knew that getting to the marina was not a problem as the lake was wide open. Also the transient dock was this very long facing dock directly in front of us. So once I saw the lights of the marina getting to the dock was fine. We tied up (rather smartly I think) at 7:00 pm. So our first night navigation was successful, especially in light of the kind of waterways we were in. Also we were fortunate that the weather conditions were calm and clear. But it is not something I want to repeat anytime soon. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cumberland Towhead and on to Green Turtle Bay

The photo album (link above) has been updated.

Slow, slow, slow, slow and slow. Those are the only words to describe how the trip up the Ohio River was. There was a ton of current coming downriver, mostly from Hurricane Sandy. Remember on the Mississippi where we were cruising at 11.5 mph and even peaking at 14.6 mph? Not so on the Ohio. We were lucky if we hit 7.7 mph, most of the time hovering around the 6.5 to 7.0 mark.

The day started out beautifully. Our anchorage at Angelo Towhead was delightful. The weather was clear and it was going to be a warm and sunny day. There would be a bit of a breeze from the south but otherwise a grand day to cruise. We had 59 miles to cover upbound on the Ohio River but we knew that we would be slowed down by the aforementioned current. We weighed anchor at sunrise and finished the one mile on the Mississippi and turned up into the Ohio…and our speed immediately dropped down to 6.5 miles per hours. We passed Cairo, IL and started the reach up.

The first landmark was Lock and Dam 53. It is a wicket dam which is a kind of dam where the dam itself is completely lowered into the river and can be cruised over avoiding the lock. That was the case here so it was no big deal. Our speed crept up a bit into the sevens but that was as fast we would travel all day. The miles slowly passed by with not much to see until we got to Metropolis, IL. Just upriver from there was Lock and Dam 52, also a wicket dam, but they were in the process of pulling their wickets back up. The lock was closed during this process so we had to wait for about an hour. This apparently is not so bad as we have heard from other loopers that the wait time could be two hours or more. But we did get through the lock, but due the gusting winds and the general decrepit condition of the lock it was a bummer. (Locks 52 and 53 are being replaced soon by a super-lock being built in Olmstead, IL. Hurry!) We crept by Paducah, KY and the mouth of the Tennessee River into a very wide pool area that eventually led to our anchorage at the Cumberland Towhead, a wide slip of water between and island and the mainland at the mouth of the Cumberland River. It’s a very pretty area and a great anchorage. Like Angelo Towhead there is a gentle current that keeps the boat exactly where we put it.

Saturday morning saw us with a bit of a relaxed atmosphere as we did not have a great distance to travel to Green Turtle Bay in Barkley Lake. To get there we would cruise up the Cumberland River some thirty miles, go through Barley Lock and Dam into Barkley Lake with the marina just one mile past the lock doors. The river was a nice cruise. We were both surprised at the amount of tow and barge traffic that would be on the river if this were a work day. There were several very large quarries along the way and quite a few barges both empty and full in staging areas on the shore side. There was some tow and barge traffic but only a few boats. For most of the trip we travelled alone.

The wind had been picking up during the morning and when we reached the bottom of Barkley Lock the southern winds were in the ten to fifteen mph range with higher gusts. There was a tow coming down in the lock so we had to tread water in a large pool at the bottom near the lock entrance. But treading per se was difficult with the wind and a heightened current coming from the dam. So much so that if the boat was in neutral we would drift back down river at up to three miles per hour. I put the boat into neutral forward and even that wasn’t enough to keep up with the current. I finally had to throttle up slightly to keep ahead of the current and I ended up making circles and figure eight patterns under power to maintain control. After about forty-five minutes the tow left the lock and we scooted in and got onto a bollard for the long ride up. We were very concerned that once we reached the top of the chamber the winds would be strong enough to make keeping control of the boat difficult. Fortunately the walls of the lock were very high so we were protected all of the way.

We motored out of the lock and entered beautiful Barkley Lake. Green Turtle Bay marina was just a mile down. As we pulled into our slip we were greeted by a very friendly staff and the tie up was simple with their help. Green Turtle Bay is not only a large marina but a resort community as well with condos, rental cabins, a yacht club…all the amenities. We went to dinner at the yacht club where there are signs with the boat names of the members. One struck us both as being a fun and original boat name – “Cntrl Alt Delete”.

So we will remain here for a few days. There is a storm system set to blow through here Sunday evening and Monday morning with very favorable weather, albeit cold, for the rest of the week into next weekend.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Cape Girardeau to Angelo Towhead – Anyone for pea soup?

We all know the quote “The best laid plans of mice…”, yada, yada, yada. And this was the case Thursday morning. We and Pampered III had planned to slice off of the Kidds Fuel dock at around 5:30am to start down the Mississippi River and for us, up the Ohio River to a set of mooring cells near the Olmstead Lock project. But the weather was making it a no-go. Thick fog settled into the area and as I am writing this at 7:40am we can’t see a thing outside of the boat. We can’t see the river, we can’t see the other shore (nor our shore as far as that goes), nor could we even see the huge bridge crossing the river just a half mile down from us. So here we sit as we wait for the fog to lift.

This did help us make up our minds about our cruising plan for today. We’re just going to go to Angelo Towhead where we will drop anchor for the day and night. We will then start our slow drudge up the Ohio River to the Cumberland River Towhead on Friday.

So here we are…Lisa and I on Why Knot, with Kevin, Mark and Carl on Pampered III all waiting around for the fog to clear. 7:00, 7:30, 8:00, 8:30 all passed by with no noticeable change in the situation. The fog was still settled in thick and heavy. Then, in what seemed like a magical transformation, at 9:00 am the fog was gone in about five minutes. Poof! No more fog. So we all scrambled into action. Lisa and I got Why Knot off of the raft and headed on down the river. Pampered III is a fast trawler so when she undocked she came up on us, dropped down to give us a slow pass, and then zoom – off they went. We ran at a slower pace than the day before. We did not have to be in a hurry since we were only covering fifty miles with the current pushing us along. We still managed ten plus miles per hour most of the way. We arrived at our anchorage at Angelo Towhead about 2:30. It was a nice anchorage with plenty of water to drop the hook in, the light current to keep us pointed in the right direction and a view of the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Good view.

One small side note here…On our way down the river we approached a tow that was heading up river and coming around a bend. We radioed them about what side to make our pass. The captain replied to do a one whistle pass (port side to port side). But as we looked at the situation we decided to drop down into neutral and wait for him to pass as the turn was narrow. The captain thanked us. When it passed we saw that the name of the tow was the Stephen B. Colby of the Marquette tow lines. This was the third time that we dealt with this boat: once on the Illinois and twice on the Mississippi, once going down and this time coming up. Those tows sure do get around.

Our anchorage at Angelo Towhead was terrific. Every now and then we would get a gentle roll from the wakes of passing tows. Twice I woke up during the night. Both times I would take a look out of the salon windows and I was surprised how busy the rivers were with tow boat traffic. And not just up and down bound traffic, but also tender tows moving barges around all of the staging areas that were all just down river from us. There were lots of high power search lights sweeping the area. At one point one of these high beams aimed right at us and I got an eyeful of bright white light. I’m sure we were zapped a number of times during our sleep, but we were well off of the channel so we were just of passing interest to the tows.

Tomorrow we head up the Ohio River to our next anchorage at the Cumberland River.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cape Girardeau or Bust!

Cape Girardeau is a well known location for loopers. Oh, not for any great marinas (none) or wonderful ambiance (college town). It is known as the location of the only fuel stop, Kidds Fuel,  on the Mississippi River between Hoppies and Green Turtle Bay marina in Kentucky…and then its only diesel. But for me “Cape” as we Missourians call it is the home of Southeast Missouri State University, otherwise known as SEMO. This is where my two sons, Bryan and Kevin, attended school. So I have some familiarity with it. And to see it from the river was an interesting experience. Not the rock show in my mind experience of cruising past downtown St. Louis but it was kind of fun.

Trivial Self Indulgent Side Note – Cape Girardeau was also the sight of a messy little occurrence several years ago. There is now a beautiful bridge across the Mississippi River in Cape Girardeau. There used to be an ugly, decrepit old span that the new bridge replaced. After the new bridge was finished and opened it was decided to blow the old one up, or down as the case was. Funny thing happened – the old bridge decided to save taxpayers a bunch of money and just fell into the river on its own. Like I said, trivial, but weird.

We left Hoppies just after 6:30am because this leg was 106 miles long, the longest leg that we have cruised anytime on the loop. It was cloudy again but a tad warmer and no rain. Even with the cloud cover the visibility was excellent. The first third of the cruise was very uneventful…nary a tow or hazard anywhere. The middle third got a bit more interesting. There were numerous tows to negotiate around and some very sharp corners where barge traffic would be challenging. Fern at Hoppies warned us about this. With the water being so low (and it IS very low) some of these tight corners were narrow and harrowing both for us and I am sure the tows. The last third was back to a routine with wider and straighter waters. The current varied from location to location but we ended up with an officially calculated and logged average speed of 11.3 mph, which is fast for Why Knot. There was even a point that she got up to 14.6 mph, which was like warp speed. There were also some pools of turbulence that would sashay the boat around.

Midway through the afternoon we called Kidds and gently reminded them that we had politely called the day before to ask if we could dock there. Charlie (I guess Charlie Kidd himself) told us that it was still ok but there would be a fifty foot cruiser there and we would have to raft. That was ok with us but we hadn’t seen a fifty foot cruiser anywhere. So, like, where is the boat that we would raft up to? As these things seem to work out a few minutes later we were hailed by the fifty footer as she was going to overtake us. They told us that they knew who we were and that it would be fine to raft. We arrived in Cape Girardeau about 4:00pm and the crew of Pampered III was waiting to tie us on with them. They are a delivery crew. We asked what time they wanted to cast off on Thursday and they told us about 5:30am. We have gotten into a rut of going to sleep around 7:30pm and waking up at 3:30am so this was fine with us.

This did discombobulate our Thursday cruise plan a bit. Originally we were going to cruise 59 miles to an anchorage called Angelo Towhead which is just up river on the Mississippi from the confluence with the Ohio River. Then the next day we would cruise up the Ohio, albeit slowly due to its downriver current, to the mouth of the Cumberland River to anchor, where the next day we would cruise into Lake Barkley and Green Turtle Bay Marina. The challenge is that if we leave at 5:30 am we would arrive at Angelo Towhead about 10:30am. That would be a very early day and kind of a waste of good predicted boating weather. (NWS, where is that sunshine you have been promising? Oh,Thursday? Great!) So what we will probably do is continue up the Ohio to a mooring field 17 miles up near where a new super-lock at Olmstead, IL is being built. Doable. But the current of the Ohio is very strong with the runoff from Hurricane Sandy. Hmmm. We’ll see.  

“Go Boat!”

Pictures will be posted as soon as we have a greater slice of bandwidth somewhere down the line.

“Go Boat” is our new catchphrase. It is used to indicate the time to get going. At first we would say “Lets get on the boat and get going”. Then, due to either laziness on my part our my lack of imagination, I would simply say, “Let go get on the boat”, with the idea that getting on the boat would include going on the boat. Eventually it got whittled down to just “go boat”, like some Neanderthal grunt. But it worked for me! So Tuesday November 6th was “go boat” day. Nationally it was election day. (Yes, we voted absentee.) But for us it was the day to resume our Great Loop adventure.

A few days earlier the weather forecast was for some pretty nice weather. A storm system was to come and go over the most recent Saturday and Sunday. That soon stretched into Monday, our original go boat day, which is just as well as we needed that one additional day to finish getting the boat and ourselves ready to go boat. All went well with all of that.

On Monday Tuesday’s forecast was for reasonably clear and dry weather but by Monday evening the forecast deteriorated a tad so that it was going to be cloudy with a 30% chance of rain and a bit of a wind. But when we awoke on Tuesday we determined that this forecast was, for river travel, going to be acceptable. A bit cool but ok. Our destination was Hoppie’s Marina on the Mississippi River at Kimmswick, Missouri. It would be a journey of sixty miles starting in the far north side of the St. Louis metro area, going through two locks, past downtown St. Louis and the Arch, to the far south end of the St. Louis metro area.

We untied from the dock of Port Charles Harbor Marina shortly before 7:00 am and set out. The sun was trying to peek through every now and then but after two hours it was a solid cloud cover and with a stiff breeze quite cold. Our first waypoint of sorts was lock and dam 26 in Alton, IL. There was no waiting or traffic so we pulled right into the lock for a quick twenty-one foot drop to the next leg of the river. After a short while we turned down the Chain of Rocks Canal which would end up at lock and dam 27, the last lock on the Mississippi. Unfortunately there was lots of traffic as the lock was closed overnight for some quick dredging. This meant that tow and barge traffic was backed up in both directions which could have meant waiting a long time to get through the lock as recreational boat traffic is in dead last place as a locking priority. We were surprised though when the lock master told us to come on down the canal, weaving in and out and around all of the barge traffic waiting to lock down. After a short wait of only about twenty minutes he told us to come on in and down we went. The next part of the river took us through the heart of the busy Port of St. Louis. There were lots of tows waiting to lock up and plenty of traffic all around. By this time it started raining so we moved down to the lower helm in the salon.

As I am an unabashed St. Louis homer I was thrilled to cruise the Mississippi past downtown St. Louis and the Gateway Arch. Seriously, I have been down on that riverfront many many times looking at the river and wondering what it would be like to be out on the water. It was terrific. It was certainly one of the highlights of the trip for me. Too bad the weather was so lousy.

We continued on down the river, past the south side of the City of St. Louis, south St. Louis County and northern Jefferson County until we got to our destination, Hoppies Marina, which is nothing more than some barges lashed together secured to shore with electricity and fuel for sale. But it is a crucial link for loopers as it is the only marina between St. Charles County, where we started, and Green Turtle Bay in Barkley Lake in Kentucky, a total distance of something like 240 miles. So while it is certainly rough around the edges it is a welcome port. “Hoppie” and Fern run the place and they are legends on the river. Every evening Fern has a small meeting where she holds court dolling out information on the journey on south. There was only one other boat in the marina and since the weather was very cold by then the meeting was short and succinct. (I had already gotten all of the info from a phone call to her a few days earlier.

So, the electricity is on, the cabin heater is working great and we are comfortable in Why Knot on our Go Boat day.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Gettin' Much Closer to Gettin' Goin'

Oh boy. We are getting much closer to getting on the boat and heading on down the river to much warmer weather south of here.

After much ballyhoo we finally got all of our registration stuff straightened out with the state of Missouri and Why Knot is now officially a Missouri boat. Because of that we wanted to get the transom changed to reflect our correct home port of St. Louis. That involved getting the boat hauled out at Port Charles. So far so good. And since we had the boat out we also seriously looked at the possibility of needing to get a new bottom job. For those that don't know what a bottom job is it entails the part of the boat that is below the waterline get scraped and ground to get any crud off as well as get rid of any bubbles that formed when water would seep into the bottom coatings. Then a thick paint is applied to act as protection against such a harsh environment. We fully expected that it would need to be done but low and behold the assessment was that it did not as the most recent coating was of such a high quality that the bottom was virtually unblemished. According to the worker at the yard the existing coating was done by "someone that really knew what they were doing" and was probably very expensive. He pointed out that directly below the green outer paint there was an obvious layer of an epoxy coating that was in very good shape. Now I don't know enough about bottom coatings to know if this epoxy is normal but it made all the difference on our boat. The transom repainting and letter will get done sometime before Friday and the boat will be splashed (put back in the water) sometime this weekend. Yay!

We have also been following the devastation of the eastern US coast by Hurricane Sandy very closely, and we have both been moved by it. Because we have recently been to these places it became very personal to us. The pictures and videos from New Jersey have been shocking. I just watched a news report from Mannesquan, NJ and the reporter on the scene was on the outskirts about to enter. He was told that it was pretty much destroyed. Having been there we can certainly believe it. He was standing on the destroyed railroad right of way of the commuter train line that went right up through the town crossing a rail draw bridge that cuts across the harbor. There were boats on the railroad right-of-way. And we saw lots of pictures of boats in places where they shouldn't be. Terrible.

So our todo list is getting shorter and shorter. The shorter it gets the closer we are to casting off once again.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Day Four – AGLCA Fall Rendezvous. And What Comes Next


Let’s make a very strong point about something. The weather at the rendezvous was spectacular all week long!!! It was sunny every day with a high temperature hovering around eighty degrees, low humidity  and little wind. Unbelievable.  So on from there.

The seminars were a mixed bag. I attended one that was an introduction to a marine electrical system and I learned a lot. It turns out that we have been hooking up and out of shore power the wrong way. The correct sequence is a bit more complicated but I do believe that following it will be beneficial. (I’m not sure what significance the step of sticking my fingers in my ears and yelling “woo woo” has but…)

AGLCA has launched a new looper locator smart phone app. Every time I log in it shows my position somewhere along the western edge of the state of Mississippi. We’ll see.

The highlight was the dinghy race towards the end of the day. Here’s how it worked. There were powered dinghies and one row boat. There was a captain that drove (or rowed) the boat and a navigator to give them directions to cruise to and around a float about seventy-five feet out, then back to the dock. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Not so fast, you able bodied seaman you. The captain was blindfolded AND drove the boat in reverse…that’s transom first. It was pretty hysterical. It seems that inflatable dinghies aren’t designed to do that so good. The boats were going every direction. But eventually they all made it back. Then our supposedly good friends Laura and Ross introduced me to a looper named Joy who wanted to join in on the fun but her husband opted out of doing it. (insert chicken clucking sounds here.) So I got recruited. I didn’t want to use a powered boat. That would be too easy for such a sea-worthy crew as Joy and I, so we used the row boat. Man, it was HARD! I had absolutely no perspective on where we were at all. I’m guessing the blindfold had something to do with that. But Joy and I had a good plan. She would just tell me which oar to row: left, right or both. The system worked but there were difficulties. First I kept sliding off of the bench and then the left oar kept coming out of the thingie that holds it to the gunnel of the boat. (Sorry. Don’t know the technical term. “Thingie” will have to do.) We did make it back to the dock though. During the evening's award ceremonies we did get an honorable mention of which I stood up, whooped really loud and pumped my fists into the air. I think I kind of scared the people sitting at my table.

The evening’s event ended and we all said our good-bys. Many of us are planning to meet down in Mobile, Alabama after Thanksgiving to make the Gulf crossing together - 170 miles of open water. That ought to be fun.

So what is the final tally of my grades for the rendezvous?
Facility     B+:    - Rustic and charming. The rooms were surprisingly big and comfortable. Internet connectivity at least in the lodge rooms was blazing fast. Plenty of bandwidth.
Joe Wheeler Park     A+:    Beautiful. Doesn’t get much better.
Event Content     C:    There certainly was some useful content but I can see a pattern between the two different rendezvous. There needs to be some new juice. I would like to see seminars on building followers for my blog and social media, a tour of helpful websites, camera techniques, and clever smartphone stuff. Lisa suggested more things for the women on board (especially the newbies and skeptics) like how to cope with a tiny ship’s galley, how to keep entertained or even how mail can be handled. The scope needs to be broadened.
Hospitality     A:    The staff of the lodge were top rate and there was nothing left to chance. It all went very well. The docktails and happy hour receptions were great and the looper crawls were very good. The little girl trick-or-treating from boat to boat was precious. (Yes, I used the word “precious”. I am still a manly man!)
Food     D:    Ow. Sorry. But the buffet food was pretty bad. Everyone was still talking about the mystery casserole from Sunday night on Tuesday – bad sign. I thought the burgers were good. Btw, I liked that they had French vanilla creamer at the coffee stations.
Lifestyle     A+:    It was great to be with friends again. I have lived in many arenas of life and loopers are the best people in the world. Period.

So what’s next?

I have to admit that I was jealous of our friends who had their boats at the rendezvous. As I said above the hotel was nice but not as nice as being on Why Knot. For us there are still some things that need to get done here in St. Louis. It looks like our departure date is going to be November 1st. We are anxious to head on down the river towards warmer climates and catch up with everyone. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Day Three AGLCA Rendezvous 10/23/2012

Day Three of the rendezvous at Joe Wheeler State Park was steeped in cruising information about getting around Florida including going to Key West, which is definitely on our agenda. We spent a week there last November and had a blast. So much so it became a mandatory stopping point for our Great Loop Cruise. I guess the way it works is that the information from the rendezvous in Norfolk is about getting from Norfolk to St. Louis-ish. The rendezvous in Alabama is about getting from St. Louis-ish to Norfolk. Some of the most useful information was about making way down the gulf coast of Florida. The presenter made many great references to terrific locales. As we spent a bunch of time there last year we're anxious to see it all from the water. Also helpful was finding out what the best jumping off point from the mainland to Marathon (The Keys) is, and that there is a fully marked route inside the islands back up towards Miami.

Many of the attendees went to a hootennanny (my word, not theirs) in Rogersville, AL. Music and smores for all. But I didn't go. Kind of pricey for my tastes but I am sure everyone had a rip-roaring time. I hung out in my hotel room and watched more tv. (Remember how enthused I was about watching a TV program yesterday morning? Well the shininess of that experience has rubbed off. Man, TV stinks.)

One more day here then back to St. Louis, Lisa and Why Knot. Then just a few more days until we are back out on the water heading south catching up with of all our friends.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

AGLCA Fall Rendezvous Day 2 10/22/2012

The rendezvous kicked into gear on Monday morning. I woke up at my usual time but I felt sluggish and haggard. No amount of coffee would perk me up either. I am sure those of you that are frequent travelers can relate to this next statement...The coffee that comes from those little coffee brewer-thingies in hotel rooms generally sucks. I went down to the lobby of the lodge where they had some freshly brewed stuff. It helped get me up but I couldn't stay there. I went back to my room to get cleaned up and ready and I did something I hadn't done in about eight months. I sat and actually watched television. Amazing. It was an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent which is my favorite television show of all time. Unfortunately it was an episode with Jeff Goldblum as the lead detective, a poor substitution for the Vincent D'Onofrio / Det. Bobby Goren eponymous version. I did also get an opportunity to meet Jim Favors, whom along with his wife Lisa, has written several books about their looping experiences. Very nice fellow. Very interesting conversation.

Close to 7:30am I toddled down to the banquet room for a breakfast of biscuits, runny scrambled eggs, sausage hockey pucks and bacon jerky strips. Unfortunately there has been lots of conversations about the quality of the food here at Joe Wheeler State Park. Some of it has been ok, like the hamburger I had at the restaurant Sunday evening was very good. But then the dinner Sunday night was a complete mystery to most of us. (General Rule of Thumb - If I can identify it, I don't eat it.)

I sat with Ross and Laura in the back corner. The presentation subjects were all about cruising down the Tennessee Tombigbee waterway and the ICW from Mobile to Carabelle, FL. Then crossing the Gulf of Mexico from Carabelle to Tarpon Springs, FL. This part of the trip is what I see as the most risky of it all. The crossing is 170 miles of open water albeit very shallow water. A lot of my questions were answered and so I feel better about it all.

Speaking of Ross and Laura, we are going to meet up with them in Mobile, AL and make the crossing with them.


Anyway, back to the seminars...

After the early afternoon session I was having a hard time staying awake so I went back to the room and took a power nap.

Ok, I guess I am part of the rowdy crowd. At dinner we rafted three tables together (go to - entry: restaurant/banquet rafting) and had a lot of laughs. But then we had Kermit from Good Karma with us, so of course we were borderline out of control.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The AGLCA Rendezvous - Day 1

The fall rendezvous of the AGLCA got underway on Monday, 10/21/2012 in a great fashion. Registration took place at the Lodge at Joe Wheeler State Park in Rogersville, AL under clear warm skies. After picking up my swag from the registration desk I mozied around to all of the exhibitors spending a few minutes with each. The weather is spectacular. The high temperatures will be in the 80s with it being bright and sunny. Terrific.

It was then time for the introductions of all of the loopers in progress. We all took our short turn to say who we are, a bit about out boat, where we are in our loop and a short story. Some of them were very funny and a few were a bit chilling  such as the one looper telling the story how his boat was stolen from a public dock. The thieves were apprehended in less then 30 minutes as they didn't know what to do to get past a drawbridge. After dinner the gold loopers (those who have already completed the loop) made their introductions.

Monday will start the full schedule of events and seminars. I will be attending the talks "Tenn Tom to Mobile", "Mobile to Tarpon Springs" and "The Gulf or the Big Bend". There will be Looper crawls prior to dinner the and introductions of newbie Loopers. The weather is calling sunny skies with a high temperature of 81 degress. Perfect.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Top Five So Far

It’s been a great trip so far (3700 sm covered) and we have seen many, many wonderful things. Here is our Top Five so far.

5  -  Sarasota, FL
Technically we haven’t reached there yet but it was the starting point of our journey back in November of 2011. It was here that we first went to look for a boat that would be our own. Of course, we didn’t find one there. We had to go the east coast of Florida to finally get matched up with Why Knot. But we look back on our time in Sarasota with fondness. When you are there you must visit the Bradenton Donut shop. They are awesome. Also if you are in need of a new boat for your Great Loop journey call Capt. Charlie Pendergrass of American Marine. He’s the best.

4  -  Campbellford, ON
A great time was had by all in Campbellford! We were there with a great bunch of fellow loopers and had a blast. The town is nice, the Canadian Tire store there has everything you need and, of course, the donuts in Cambellford are #1 in the known universe. Lots of fun.

3  -  Annapolis, MD
Holy cats! What a cool town. There is so much to do and see that if you don’t set aside a week to be there you will certainly miss something cool. Taking a guided tour of the US Naval Academy is a must. If you can do it, mooring in the mooring field in the main harbor is a unique and wonderful experience. They have water taxis and a mobile pump out boat. The town of Annapolis has it all: great restaurants, shops and lots of historical stuff. (The state capital is kind of cool.) The only downside is that there is not a close by grocery store. Throw in the entire Chesapeake Bay and all that it has to offer and you have a recipe for boating bliss.

2  -  Charlevoix, MI
If you have been following our blog ( you may remember how much I gushed about Charlevoix. What a place! Grab a thesaurus and look up the word “awesome” and all of those synonyms can be used to describe this great destination. We stayed a week and could easily have stayed longer.

1  -  Canada (Ontario, "The Canadian Shield", The Trent Severn Waterway, Georgian Bay, North Channel)
Cambellford got special mention already but the entire excursion into Canada was a moving experience. Cool, clear water everywhere. The Trent Severn Waterway is wonderful. We got a special treat at the Peterborough Lift lock that we have been sworn to secrecy about. Bobcaygeon rocked. Georgian Bay was spectacular. (Lisa and I differ slightly here. She preferred Georgian Bay. I preferred the Trent Severn Waterway.) The lovely people of Canada are, well, lovely. The vistas charged our emotions. The rocks were, um, very rocky. And what can you say about the Big Chute. What an experience. We have it already in our plans to return there and spend more time and explore more of this beautiful country.