Sunday: The clocks fall back, we gain another hour overnight, but the daylight will end earlier in the day as we go forward. So we are greeted with daylight, but not sunlight as today is the start of a day and a half of real nasty forecasted weather. National Weather Service is issuing severe weather alerts for the entire lower Mississippi River Valley and the Ohio River Valley. Basically we’re right in the middle of those two areas. They are predicting severe thunderstorms with damaging winds and flash flooding throughout the region, but are saying that it will be more severe south of us. So for once it might be a good thing that we’re so far behind all other loopers, although I must admit that we’re getting kinda tired of being live-live-aboard in 40 degree weather. When we originally looked at looping, many of the writings said that for the most part, you’re in shorts and tee shirts the whole way! We enjoyed a spectacular summer in Canada and a nice early fall on Lake Michigan, but lately, the fall weather has been worse rather than better as we’ve moved south. So we will stay tied up to the Kaskaskia clock wall for another two days as the forecasters say that there will be a string of nice but cool days right after the storm passes meaning Tuesday should be a good day to depart here and move on towards Paducah, Kentucky.
We’re thinking of making a boat run thru the lock and into Evansville, Il, the first town up the Kaskaskia River. They have a Dollar General, so we can re-stock the three boats for the next week as we wait out the storms. Instead of a run to Evansville today, we spend the afternoon in the salon of Kailani with the crews of Duette and Sea Wolf. Diane aboard Sea Wolf had already prepared some pasta with sauce, so Tracy added some more quantity so all six of us would have enough and we had a nice dinner aboard Kailani and spent some nice time sharing stories, etc. We tried to play our DVD of My Cousin Vinny but it wouldn’t keep playing. Occasionally it would freeze, so we decided to stop the movie and just enjoy the company until we were all tired.
Monday: This morning is a delightful change to the weather we’ve been experiencing lately and it’s a beautiful sunrise to start the day. Frankie gets to walk outside to do his morning business and afterward, I unleash him and let him run free on the lock wall. Over the last few days, he’s become real friendly with the crews of Duette and Sea Wolf, so he goes to both boats during his play run and says hello to everyone.
After everyone has breakfast and we confirm the this mornings sunshine will be short-lived today and we should definitely stat tied up, we all agree to get ready to cruise up the Kaskaskia River to Evansville aboard Sea Wolf and provision ourselves after so many days out. We’re all running out of essentials like water, milk and breads.
So at 10:00 am we’re leaving the wall aboard Sea Wolf headed upriver to the town of Evansville. It should be about an hour cruise and right about 11:15 and we’re in sight of the town and the docks at Waterside Restaurant. The restaurant is closed today, but we pull up and tie off anyway as it’s the only place in town with docks. There’s only five of us on this trip because Bill of Duette toyed back for the vessels as there is a rule that you’re supposed to remain with your vessel when tied to the lock wall. So here we are, five strangers in a town of 702 people walking down the main street looking for a restaurant and a grocery store. As soon as we got onto land, there were two electric utility trucks stopped and enjoying their lunch break. They gave us a few tips on where to go in town for food and groceries and we left and started walking up to main street to the bar that they said had the best pizza in the area. Well since it’;s Monday, the bar doesn’t open until 3:00 pm so we’re out of luck on that score, but we see lights on at another restaurant two blocks up the street, so we walk up to there only to find out that they’re closed also! I guess nobody eats out on a Monday in this town! So the five of us start walking back towards the grocery store and before we get there we are approached by an older gentleman in a Dodge Caravan and he slows down, and starts talking to us. He lets us know that he’s the Mayor of Evansville and welcomes us to his town. He lets us know that five strangers walking in downtown merit a stop by him to see what’s up. He turns out to be a real friendly guy and offers any help he can to make our stay as comfortable as possible. He also tells us that Ronny Schenk of Schenk’s Grocery Store will make us any sandwich we want at the deli counter and Bridgette t the check out counter will take care of the rest of our needs. So we walk the last block to Schenk’s Grocery Store and walk in. We say hello to Bridgette and Ronny and soon they are walking the isles with us helping us find everything we’re looking for and then Ronny offers to bring his truck around to the front of the store, load up our groceries and drive our supplies down to the boat so we don’t have to carry them! Now that’s down home service with a smile!
Jim for Duette was looking for an extension cord and Schenk’s didn’t have one, so they called the local Dollar General to see if they had one there. Once Ronny heard that, he said that he’d drive Jim over to the Dollar General since it was about a mile away, then meet us back at the boat. As we walked back, we noticed the Mayor was down at the Waterside Restaurant taking pictures of Paul’s boat. Then he left and soon Ron was returning with Jim, the extension cord and the rest of the groceries. As we were loading them, the Mayor returned a third time and walked to the stern of the boat and said that he needed pics from the back of the boat and he hadn’t taken any yet. Soon Ronny Schenk was returning to his grocery store, the mayor was driving off to work on a project with a tractor and ladder, and we were all packed into Sea Wolf and ready for the return trip to the lock. Just as we were leaving the dock the rains started and that’s the end of the nice weather for today. It rained all the way back including thru the lock and onto the wall and while we were distributing the groceries to the respective boats. The rains kept up, sometimes very heavy, until almost 6:00 pm and since we’re now back in standard time zone, it’s dark by about 5:15 pm so basically it rained for the rest of the day. The good news is that we’re pretty sure that tomorrow will be a spectacular day for cruising with sun all day and a high in the sixties, so we are looking forward to moving more south on the Mississippi and anchoring in Little Diversion Channel tomorrow night and that, if all goes well, will be our last night on the Mississippi as we should be able to get up the Ohio River on Wednesday and into Paducah, Kentucky. The only wild card will be how strong the downriver current will be on the Ohio and we will be going upriver into that current. So tomorrow is a planned sixty nautical mile cruise downriver to Little Diversion Channel. If we can maintain 12 knots boat speed it should only take five hours to get there. But the following day is the long haul as we will have to cruise 42 nautical miles down the Mississippi, then 36 nautical miles up the Ohio all in one shot to reach Paducah. If we can’t make Paducah before dark, we’ll have to stay at anchor by the Olmsted Lock and Dam, then finish the last 14 nautical miles on the following day into Paducah. Either way, it will be very nice to be tied at a marina with shore power again where we’ll be able to use our on board heat as much as we want. And we may want to use it a lot because the forecast is for some cold nights later in the week.
Tuesday: Its finally moving day and its a beauty! The sun is warming up the air and Frankie gets his morning exercise in relative comfort.
Everyone is preparing for an early morning departure. Duette will want to leave earliest because they cruise the slowest and by 7:00 am Duette is pulling out into the Kaskaskia River towards the Mississippi. Sea Wolf is next around 7:30 am then Kailani leaves at 8:00 am to complete the trifecta. This segment of the Mississippi this morning is relatively low for tow traffic, but as the day continues and as we get closer to Cape Girardeau the tow traffic in both directions increases. Kailani eventually is in the lead based on our boat speed and when we are about 10 miles from Cape Girardeau, we see a tow ahead of us moving downriver. She’s a pretty large size at 4 wide by 6 long, so she’s 140 feet wide by 1,200 feet long, plus the tow! And she’s traveling at nearly 11 knots with the current, so Guess what I do? I back off a half a knot and follow her all the way to our anchorage! I figure she’s 140 feet wide and we’re 15 feet wide, so anywhere she goes, we’ll fit! We just sit right behind her and when she passes an upbound tow on the ‘one’, we pass on the ‘one’. We even pass an unbound tow like we’ve never seen before. Its 4 wide by 5 long and there’s a tow pushing the load with a smaller tow strapped to her starboard side getting pulled along for the ride!
As the large tow in front of me approaches the port city of Cape Girardeau, we see lots more tow traffic and she slows a bit to negotiate the traffic and the overpass. So we’re forced to take Kailani out of gear or run right up her stern. Even with no gear driving the vessel, we’re making 8 knots thru the water. So once we’re thru the overpass and the tow starts to push her load up to speed again, the tow calls me and says we can pass her on the ‘two’. I let him know over the radio that we just have 3 more miles to go, so we’ll just stay behind her and remain out of her way and soon enough, she’s farther down river, its 1:00 pm and we’re turning Kailani into Little Diversion Channel for our overnight anchorage.
The description of this anchorage says to continue in right up to the old unused railroad bridge, drop anchor and let the current push you back away from the bridge to set the anchor. So that’s exactly what we do and Tracy sets the anchor perfectly.
Soon, Sea Wolf is entering the channel and we radio him and decide to have him raft up to our starboard side, then he can set his stern anchor to keep us from potentially swinging. We don’t think this will be an issue, but it’s better to be prepared regardless. And an hour later Duette is pulling in and rafting up to our port side.
Once we’re all tied up we’re able to enjoy an hour or so of nice fall sunshine before the sun sets and early evening takes over. Bill and Jim come over to Kailani for dinner and before turning in for the night, Paul comes over from Sea Wolf and he starts complaining of sinus drip, so Tracy immediately puts him in the recliner chair, takes off his socks and inflicts reflexology pain on him in an effort to stop the sinus drip. Eventually, (and rather early), we all agree to get started at sunup tomorrow so it’s looper midnight and we turn in for the night. Tomorrow, Sea Wolf and Kailani will shoot for Paducah while Duette makes it to Boston Bar at the intersection with the Ohio River and he will wait for our feedback on the current so he can plan how many days it’ll take him to get to Paducah.
Wednesday: Today’s entry starts at 12:02 am, just after midnight. Tracy is getting up and putting on an overcoat to go outside to talk with one of our looper neighbors, I don’t know yet which one. The activity eventually wakes me up which is unusual because I usually sleep like a log! Anyway, I’m lying in bed deciding whether or not to get up and I’m figuring that someone has a medical issue and that’s why Tracy is out there helping. But it goes on for quite some time, so I eventually go out there to see Paul and Tracy on our bow trying to divert an extremely large log that got caught in our anchor chain and is catching all kinds of other debris which is putting a large strain on Kailani’s ground tackle. She’s already holding three boats in place! Eventually Paul and Tracy (who is out in her nightgown and a windbreaker) gets the log unjammed and then we separate the boats so there’s room for the debris to flow by for the rest of the night. Once everyone’s satisfied that the bows are clear and there is room for future debris to flow thru without getting hung up, we all turn in, however, Tracy decides to sleep on the salon couch in case the situation presents itself again later in the night. Which it did, although not as severely -tc We all know that we’re getting up at 5:00 am anyway, but we try to get some decent sleep.
So I wake up at 5:00 am, turn on the generator and make fresh coffee for the morning. By 6:00 am everyone is up and getting boats ready to depart by 6:30. Our Ultra anchor did a great job holding all three boats against the 1 knot current and the additional debris picked up over the night. We’re real proud of it’s performance. Bill and Jim are the first to untie from Kailani’s port side and soon they are chugging out of Little Diversion Channel towards the Mississippi. Next is Sea Wolf as I hand Paul his lines that were cleated to us. His plan is to gradually pull himself back towards his stern anchor then when he’s right over it, he can pull it straight up and stow it. As soon as he’s cleared the starboard side of Kailani, Tracy starts retrieving our anchor with me at the helm. Soon she’s got our anchor locked into its cradle and we’re ready to turn Kailani around and depart the anchorage. Sea Wolf is motoring out of the channel ahead of us and the cruise day has started. As soon as we’re out of the channel, we pass Sea Wolf and know that we’ll meet them later in the day at Paducah, and after about two miles we’re tasing Duette knowing that they will be anxiously waiting for our feedback on the Ohio River conditions so they can plan their cruise strategy.
The day starts out somewhat cold and we aren’t able to enjoy the greenhouse effect until almost 10:00 am because the morning is cloudy. But once the sun comes out the helm gets very comfortable. Traffic is relatively light this morning on the last 48 miles of the Mississippi that we need to travel to reach the Ohio River. We do not have to overtake any down river tows and there are only about 8 up river tows that we must call and verify the whistle pass. However, all 8 up river tows are very large as is to be expected in this segment of the river. In all, the smallest tow was 3 wide by 5 long or 15 total barges.
At 10:40 am we were saying goodbye to the Mississippi and hello to the Ohio. We have had our fill of the Mississippi and enjoy finally saying goodbye. The only part we’ll miss is the push we were getting as today Kailani was doing 13 knots with a 9 knot boat speed at 1,000 rpm’s. That contrasts to the Ohio where we had to push the Caterpillars up to 1,200 rpm’s to get the engines running at 10 knots which produced a boat speed of 7 knots over ground due to the current in our face. So at 10:40 am we still needed to go 36 nautical miles at 7 knots, so even though we had already cruised for three and a half hours, we still had five more hours to go. But we knew going in that today would be an extremely long day. We really didn’t care about the duration as long as we made it to Paducah before dark, and at this pace we’d be good.
The confluence city is Cairo, Il (pronounced Kay-row) and the port here is just a parking lot of barges on both sides of the river and in the river. If I was counting jelly beans in the jar here I’d say there were at least 1,500 barges in this three mile stretch of water! The good news is that there was not a single tow moving any of them in the channel. So we had to be diligent, careful and aware, but we didn’t have any meetings with a working tow until we got the new Olmsted Lock and Dam. Since it opened, the dam has been down due to the high water conditions and today was no exception. We didn’t get to see the whole new lock because most of it is underwater. As we went over the dam the lock master told us that there was a down river tow coming our way. So after passing over the dam and before reaching the demolition construction for the old Lock 53, the Harley Hancock called us and asked if we’d pass on the two whistle, but also if we could please hold up until he got thru the construction. So we complied and floated on the tows starboard side while he passed thru. As we were waiting, another looper vessel, the Calypso came up behind us and waited also. While waiting for the Harley Hancock to pass, the Calypso asked us of he could pass us once the coast was clear since they were a 22 knot vessel. We said absolutely and once the tow was past, the Calypso took off trying to make Green Turtle Bay before the end of daylight (they must have made it because they were not at Paducah when we got there).
Once we were underway again, I got a text from Paul aboard Sea Wolf and he said his transmission was overheating and he was pulling over to let it cool down before checking on some symptoms. That immediately meant that they would probably miss the opportunity to get to Paducah today, but that’s boating. Soon as they were anchored off channel, a fishing boat was pulling up to them to assist and the guy took Paul to a store where he was able to get some automatic transmission fluid and get it into the transmission. It seemed to be the problem so with not enough daylight and sort of being right in the middle of us and Duette (they were actually 17 miles past Boston Bar and 17 miles short of Paducah), they decided to take the fisherman’s advise and anchored where he showed them and they will make the run to Paducah tomorrow. Duette was nicely anchored in Boston Bar by mid afternoon and as I said earlier, by 4:20 pm we were docked at Paducah getting help with the pump out by Jon on the dock. After the pump out, we moved Kailani over to a slip for the next few days and it sure was nice to hook her up to shore power and get fresh water into the holding tank. So with empty black water tanks, full freshwater holding tanks and full AC power, we’re looking forward to some R and R here in Paducah. But first, as our new tradition, we have to call for a pizza delivery to the boat for dinner. Tracy picks a great location close to us and the meat lovers pizza is a delicious dinner. Tomorrow, we’ll start to explore the town, we hear there’s a Quilting Museum here that shouldn’t be missed. I’m not sure what it means meteorologically, but the water temperature has risen from 51.2 degrees at Little River Diversion Channel all the way up to 57.4 degrees here in Paducah. However all is not peachy keen as the forecast here for Friday is a high of 41 degrees and a low of 25 degrees compared to back home in CT, the forecast for Friday is a high of 54 degrees and a low of 44 degrees. Huh!!
Thursday: Tracy fell about a month ago and has been dealing with left leg sciatica and numbness. Today she noticed her left foot was “slapping ” on the ground as she walked and diagnosed herself with “drop” foot which she assures me is NOT a good thing neurologically. Therefore, we spend the day finding a way of getting her seen on very short notice (including x-rays). Eventually, she is able to find a walk-in orthopaedic clinic and with the help of Lyft we’re getting her checked out by an orthopaedic PA shortly after 1:00 pm. The x-rays do not show any breaks or fractures, so we get a prescription for some steroids, an appointment for an MRI and follow up appointment after the MRI is read. On the way back to the marina, we have the Lyft driver drop us off at the Holiday Inn right next to the marina and we walk in for an early dinner at the Burger Theory inside the Holiday Inn.
We’re there shortly before 4:00 pm and they don’t open for dinner until 5:00 pm so we wait around in the lobby for a while and soon we’re getting some great burgers and fries that taste delicious even though they’d probably taste delicious because of how hungry we were. Afterwards, it’s a cold dark walk back to Kailani for the evening and heat on the boat. Bill from Duette has confirmed that he’s sure he’ll be able to make the marina tomorrow, so we turn in for the evening knowing that our present boat buddies should show up tomorrow. We should be around and ready to catch their lines if the timing is right. We still may get an MRI appointment for tomorrow if the orthopaedic clinic can push up the availability. Tracy is trying to get this done ASAP partly because we want to know what’s going on, and partly because if we’re able to continue, we don’t want to be delayed here waiting for the appointment. So hopefully tomorrow will produce the arrival of our friends, Sea Wolf and Duette, and the call for Tracy to get an MRI moved up.
Friday: Cold weather is starting to drop in and although we’re certainly used to it back home and aboard Kailani (after last fall’s trip down the Atlantic ICW), it’s still cold and uncomfortable here in Paducah. The marina dock is spectacular and only 1 year old, but there are no other facilities here. At least with other marina’s when it was cold, we could still go up to the store, or the marina office, etc. but here you can’t go anywhere else because there isn’t anywhere else. When I give Frankie his morning walk, I’m hoping that he doesn’t want to lolly around, just do his business then get back aboard Kailani.
When I’m getting back aboard Kailani, Tracy is getting a call from the orthopaedic clinic that they can do her MRI at 3:00 pm this afternoon, so that’s good news. Also, we get confirmation that both Sea Wolf and Duette are cruising today and both expect to make Paducah before the day is done. So we spent the rest of the morning doing inside stuff aboard Kailani and in the mid-afternoon a trawler is visible in the distance coming up from Cairo. I let the dock hands know that I think it’s Sea Wolf and they say that, no, it’s a different vessel. We guide it in and I help with the lines and sure enough, it’s not Sea Wolf, it’s Forever Young. They are soon tied up and Tracy is coming out of Kailani ready to catch her Lyft ride for the clinic. She says to me that it’s not necessary that I go, so I can stay on the dock and wait for Sea Wolf and Duette to arrive. Off she goes as I wish her luck and shortly after that, Sea Wolf arrives and I help John tie her up. Then Paul, Diane & I wait for Bill and Jim to arrive aboard Duette.
Soon Bill and Jim are arriving well before dark and Bill is glad to be docked and Jim is glad that he can go get a hotel room and fly home tomorrow. He’s so elated that he tells all of us that he’s taking us all out to dinner tonight to thank us for helping them along the journey. Tracy soon is returning and I tell her that Jim is taking us all out to dinner and after Jim and Bill have gone to Jim’s hotel and showered, they return with a taxi, Paul, Diane, Tracy & I pile in and we go downtown for a nice meal at Max’s Brick Oven Cafe. We all enjoy a spectacular meal served with real hospitality from our waitress and Jim gets the taxi to return and take us back to the docks. We say our goodbyes to Jim and promise to stop and see him when we get to St Petersburg, FL. Everyone turns in to get out of the cold while Sea Wolf and Kailani agree to cruise to Grand Rivers tomorrow and Duette decides to stay for a day as he’s had some grueling cruises lately and he rally needs a day to re-compress.
Saturday: As I’m walking Frankie this morning around 7:30 am I notice that Sea Wolf is already gone from the dock and headed to Green Turtle Bay Resort. So after Frankie and I return to Kailani and I let Tracy now that they’ve already gone, we re-confirm that we will stick to our original plan and plan for a 9:00 am departure and catch up to them along the way.
The first thing I want to do is fire up the engines and give them some time to warm up while we tend to the shore power cords and dock lines. Bill says that he’ll give us a hand with the lines and at 8:45 am we’re pulling away from the docks and headed up the Ohio River towards the Cumberland River. The Ohio is relatively busy for a Saturday and we have to call several down bound tows to confirm whistle passes. But the Ohio is somewhat calmer today and we’re making fairly good time with only a 2 knot current. In 90 minutes, we’re looking at the confluence of the Ohio and Cumberland Rivers.
Once the Cumberland is in sight, the current from both rivers is combined in our face at 3 knots, but as soon as we are exclusively on the Cumberland River there is only a 1 knot current in our face and we start to open up to 8 knots and before 11:00 am we are meeting and passing Sea Wolf.
Our only potential snag today is the Barkley Lock and Dam which is 30 miles down the Cumberland River. Our total distance today is a planned 38 nautical miles and the Barkley Lock is 2 miles from the finish line, so we get to enjoy a beautiful fall ride down the Cumberland with absolutely no commercial or recreational traffic save for 2 guys in a bass boat sitting close to the river bank. I slow Kailani down for them so our wake doesn’t bother their concentration and shortly thereafter we’re rounding a bend to see the nose of our first, and only tow vessel on the Cumberland. I call him and he says to keep right on coming on the one whistle and in no time he’s in our rear view mirror. This meeting was only 4 miles from the lock, so I know we won’t see another tow because they couldn’t get out of the lock quick enough for a passing. One thing I didn’t figure was that there could be an up bound vessel in front of us who could also be waiting for an up bound lockage and as we pass under the bridge 2 miles from the lock, that’s exactly what we are told when I call the lock. The Lock Master lets us know that the tow is just entering the lock and he will be a double, so he should be about an hour to complete. I tell Chris, the Lock Master, that that should work out fine because Sea Wolf is 6 miles behind us and while we wait out the hour, he should be able to catch up to us and we’ll make it a double lockage.
One hour later, Paul and Diane are pulling up alongside us and cleating off to Kailani since she’s already anchored for the wait. And the 1 hour wait turns out to be twice that and its 4:00 pm before we have a green light to enter the lock. While we’ve been anchored and waiting, we’ve been in touch with Green Turtle Bay and gotten our slip assignments because they are only open until 4:30 pm during the fall and they won’t be on the docks to help us after 4:30 pm. So we both know where we will need to go for our slip assignments and that we won’t get there before 4:30 pm. However, I get a call from Bill Gary and he says that he’s the Green Turtle Bay Harbor Master and he’ll wait for us to get in and help with our lines. That certainly helps us a great deal because the sun is gone when the lock gates open and we make the last mile under dusk conditions that get darker as we go along. It’s very hard to see Bill waiting on the docks, but we eventually split him and he guides us into our slips. Kailani eases into T6 and Sea Wolf pulls in right next to us in T5. We thank Bill Gary for waiting and off he goes while Paul and I get our respective boats hoked up to shore power.
As soon as we’re all hooked up, Paul and Diane both say that before they do anything else, they need to get into the showers and freshen up. They haven’t showered since Alton Marina ten days ago! After they are all cleaned up and feel human again, we decide to have the on-site commodore club feed us tonight and off we go to the Commonwealth Yacht Club, a mere one hundred steps from our slips. Dinner here is delicious and there’s a saxophone musician playing tunes during dinner. He’s a very personable guy and during his break he comes over to our table to chat and we have a nice night in the heated restaurant. Soon we’re walking the hundred steps back to our slips and hoping the our cabins are sufficiently heated for our comfort during this projected cold evening. It’s very nice to be here knowing that we’ll be here at least until Wednesday as on Tuesday, we’ll have to borrow one of the courtesy cars and drive the 23 miles back to Paducah for Tracy’s appointment with the Doc who will read and interpret her MRI with her and discuss treatment strategies. Yeahhhh, gimpy me! -tc
We feel very pleased to have completed the last two legs of this incredible journey. Since returning from our little trip to Connecticut, we have successfully completed the Mississippi River and the Ohio River. These two segments, in our opinion(s), are the most grueling segments of the trip and we’ve completed successfully completed them with teamwork, tenacity and hard work from us and Kailani. She’s served us very well over this stretch and we have everything to be proud of for this accomplishment. The legs were long, the weather has changed to nasty, the anchorages were a struggle, but after picking up the two buddy boats of Sea Wolf and Duette, we’ve all helped each other make it thru safely and successfully. Now as we cruise south on the Tennessee River and the Tenn-Tom Waterway, we can expect some fantastic scenery and friendlier waters along with many welcoming marinas to utilize during cold nights and picturesque anchorages for more pleasant temperature nights.