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.