Sunday: Frankie’s walk is a change of pace today as I walk him towards the boat ramp which is on property, but directly on the Tombigbee River. It’s a slightly longer walk, but pretty nonetheless. We walk by a cotton field that is just stalks for the winter, but would probably be nice in the growing season.
Once we’re at the ramp area I can see that the river is still high. The boat ramp is completely submerged! I mean gone, not visible, not even an indication of where the boat ramp is other than the sign signifying that this is the boat ramp area. Isn’t Frankie’s shadow cute? -tc
By mid afternoon, First Forty and Eagle One are pulling into the marina and we walk over to their slips to greet them. Hugs and welcomes all around and it’s good to see them again. First Forty is on their second loop so their past experience is invaluable. After they register, we hear that the fuel dock over in the Demopolis Yacht Basin is completely blocked in and recreational vessels can not get fuel at this time. So I take a golf cart and ride over to check it out. Jimmy is on the fuel dock taking care of 2 towboats. When he gets a chance, he comes back into the fuel office and we chat for a while about the river conditions.
He confirms that the pile of debris accumulating on the recreational vessel side of the dock will be there until the river recedes a bit and the lock opens more times. He explains that when the lock opens slightly downriver, it starts to draw the debris out of their basin and poof, it’s soon gone. “He’s got 2 towboats fueling and provisioning on the commercial side which is not affected by the debris. He tells me that one of the tows has just come up from Mobile Bay and used 20,000 gallons of fuel to go 230 miles! I find that hard to believe, but I have no basis of knowledge to refute his story, I’m just glad that we get better fuel economy (by a long shot)!
Most of the day is spent doing spring cleaning in the sunroom. We wash the ceiling, walls, floor and re-arranging the furniture, all to have a fresh perspective for the coming months and also to prepare for friends and family to visit starting at the end of this month. We just need to get across the Gulf to Tarpon Springs before they arrive because we told them both to use Tampa International as their flight destination(s). So hopefully, we’ll be able to get into Mobile Bay soon, meet up with Wild Goose and possibly The Journey, then compete the gulf crossing so we can be in the right area to receive friends.
Monday: We know that there will not be any departures today for a reasons that include the river conditions and the fuel dock being inaccessible yesterday. But today there does seem to be some room for at least one vessel at a time, so vessels that are trying to get out of here fairly quickly are rushing over to fuel up including Kailani. We all agree to meet at 4:30pm in the clubhouse to discuss departure strategies and to coordinate our departures because if 12 vessels all left on the same day, the available anchorage(s) would not accommodate everyone. So Bobbie Bristow of First Forty leads the docktails in discussing the conditions of the river going down and the available anchorages. We learn thru the looper grapevine that Bobby’s Fish Camp is not taking any tie-ups due to the river conditions. So anyone looking to leave must use Bashi Creek.
Also, we’ve been in contact with Ed Ofshack for a week now discussing the perils and dangers of traveling in these conditions of high and fast moving water. Numerous buoys are submerged or out of place and hitting one of them would be instant sinking, not to mention the flotilla of debris to avoid. So Kailani drops out of the Tuesday morning departure, but First Forty and Eagle One are still planning on leaving. But it’s at 10pm when I get an email from Eagle One saying that they were changing their minds and would be staying in port tomorrow after all.
Tuesday: Everyone continues to watch the weather and river conditions improve slightly, but not enough for some’s liking, including Kailani, So Eagle One and First Forty make their final preparations for a Wednesday departure while Kailani hitches up with Then Again, Red Pearl and Buy the Book to sit longer and continue to wait for better conditions.
The waiting here has produced some tired emotions and the boat opposite us has a display that fits the mood perfectly as he has a skeleton lying on a hammock!
We make dinner arrangements with Lenny and Louise of Then Again for the Red Barn Steak House. We are all watering for a nice juicy steak prepared and cleaned up by someone else.
Wednesday: Eagle One and First Forty head out early and by day’s end, they are reporting back to us that the anchorage at Bashi Creek is totally unusable.
Bobby’s Fish Camp is their final destination and they must dinghy to shore from the docks and tie their boats to trees so Bobby’s doesn’t lose any docks due to boats pulling on them in high river currents. Still not a pretty picture, but at least they’re 70 miles closer to the gulf.
Thursday: Today, we have another get together and the four of us make a decision to go for it on Friday as Louise has learned that Bashi Creek is now useable after the river has now receded quite a bit in the last two days. So we all agree to target a 6:30 am departure and shoot for Bashi Creek before sundown tomorrow. Since we’re getting an early start, we all turn in by 10pm.
Friday: I start my day at 4:50 am and at 6:00 am, Louise is calling the Demopolis Lock for status of dropping 4 PC’s early this morning. The lock master says that there is a single tow going downriver who hasn’t arrived yet so it’ll be first come first served if we want to get a move on right away. She radios the other 3 crews and we all jump to prep our boats for departure and by 6:30am all 4 loopers are out of the marina and headed towards the lock some 2 miles downriver.
Lenny radios the lock and the lock master tells Lenny that the down river tug is ahead of us, but right now he has an upriver tow approaching the lock so it’ll be a while before we’re able to get into the lock. How did all this change in 30 minutes? Anyway, we all decide that better than hanging around in the current of the river, we should all go back to the marina and tie up to the docks while we wait this out, because if it’s 9am or later before we are given the green light, we should not try to depart. Otherwise we’ll end up dealing with anchoring after dark on the other end.
It all works out well as 8am we are getting the signal to proceed to the open gates of the lock. The water has gone down considerably since the beginning of the week as we will drop 18 feet today and on Monday the lower pool was only 2 feet below the upper pool. Once the four of us are out of the lock, we’re on our way to Bashi Creek. Today’s cruise is 65 nautical miles, so we need to make hay while the sun shines, but cruising at 10-11 knots will be sufficient to make it by 4pm. So downriver we go with Then Again leading the way followed by Kailani, then Red Pearl and Buy the Book. Then Again has AIS, so Lenny takes care of radioing the four tugs we will meet today. The first is an overtaking situation, being the vessel that preceded us into the lock going downriver, then we have 3 passing situations with upriver tows making their slow way against the current.
Actually the current is only giving us a 2 plus knot push, so even the flow of the water has gone down somewhat. All in all, we have a cool, but sunny day on the river and we have to keep a sharp lookout for bridge clearances due to the high water level. In the first 15 miles, we pass the old Rooster Bridge. This bridge was in use and spanning the river up until the 80’s but in 1979, there was a tug, Calaba that actually got caught under this old bridge during high water and the fact moving water buried the tug under the bridge structure, then it got pushed thru and dramatically ‘popped up’ on the down river side of the bridge and righted itself. To see photos and more story of this incident, just Google: “Rooster, Cahaba, Tombigbee”. This old bridge has now been demolished across the river, but the piers and bridge coming off the land are still visible today.
At 3:15pm, Then Again, Kailani and Red Pearl are at the anchorage and one by one, we enter the creek, set our anchors and watch the next vessel enter as we need to stay in single file to fit everyone into this creek. We set our bow anchors and deploy stern anchors to keep the vessel orientation correct through the night. We are all set in place and Then Again gets a call that the slower, Buy the Book sailing vessel is only about a mile upstream and will be entering the creek soon.
That’s awesome as we thought it was possible they wouldn’t arrive before dark. Once they are in the creek, we determine that the best way for them to secure the vessel is to bridle off Kailani’s stern cleats and drift down-current to the ends of the lines, then set their stern anchor to maintain orientation and just as daylight is disappearing, all four vessels are secure for the evening and tomorrow will be another long day to another anchorage.
Tonight will be a nice cool but dry short evening so we can start early tomorrow with the same type of schedule and another fairly long cruise as we try to complete the 215 mile cruise to Mobile in three days. Hopefully by the time we get to the gulf shore, we can start thinking about shorts and short sleeve shirts again. I need to work on my tan!
Saturday: The end of week 39 and we’re one day away from Mobile Bay and salt water. Today we went thru our last inland waterway lock and we’re now at theoretical sea level. I say theoretical because we should be at no more than 2 feet above sea level (depending on tides), however, we are still some 25 feet above sea level. The Coffeeville Lock should be a 34 foot drop and today we only dropped 4 feet! So at the lock (60 miles upstream) the water was still 30 feet high. The cruise today was one of the highest for floating debris.
Anyway let’s go back to the beginning. We turned in last night at 9pm and lights out by 10pm so I knew I’d be starting the day early. In fact we both woke up around 3am and Tracy actually thought that it would signal the end of sleep for us both and we’d be hanging around for 2 hours waiting for 5am but we both fell back asleep and I woke up to my 5am alarm, but didn’t get out of bed until almost 6am. I guess I really needed the sleep. As planned collectively last night we were outside and getting Buy the Book released from Kailani’s stern right at 7am so they could clear out the path for the rest of us to leave the creek. By 7:30am we were all out on the river and headed south towards the Coffeeville Lock and Dam which is 29 miles south of us. We weren’t sure of the vessel traffic so we agreed that we would call when we got close and see if there would be a long wait or not. As it turned out, when we were four miles upstream from the lock we learned that there was a tow going down the river already in the lock and four tows waiting on the other side for locking up the river!
This was not good news as the lock master told us to return further upstream towards Bobby’s Fish Camp (unusable for dockage) and wait for his instructions. As the PC Gods would have it, the lock master completed the down river tow, took the first up river tow, then as the first upriver tow was coming out of the lock, the lock master radioed us and said to come on in as he was going to lock us down while he was dropping the pool for the other up river vessels. Hooray for small favors! Our wait/delay turned out to be a reasonable 25 minutes, so no big deal. Soon we were turning our vessels around and heading back towards the lock for our previously described 4 foot drop!
After the gates opened, we passed the other three up river tows, thanked them for the accommodation and passed another three up river tows along the way. Today was a busy day on the river. And to top it all off, 7 miles before our destination we encountered Mr. David (we had overtaken him yesterday), another up river tow and an ‘ess’ curve in the river all at the same time! Since Red Pearl and Then Again have AIS they were able to anticipate the chance encounter and it was all worked out before any logjam occurred. Since Kailani is not equipped with AIS we rode in the middle of our caravan.
As a direct result of the high waters of the lower Black Warrior River there were more buoys missing today then there were buoys in place.
We saw at least 20 red buoys stuck in the trees on the shores of the river. If you think that’s amazing, get this: all but one of the red buoys were on the right descending bank whereas when they are anchored in the river, they would be on the left side of the channel! How’s that for a strong current? Not only yanked out of their anchorage, but drifted completely across the river. Now that’s some strong water current(s).
With plenty of daylight left even on this overcast day, we were pulling into Three Rivers Lake inlet at 4pm and looking for a suitable spot to drop and set the anchor. There’s so much surface area on this normally small lake due to the high waters that we are all able to anchor with just the front hook(s) and let our vessels swing in the wind and current without hitting each other. This should be a nice comfortable evening even with the rain and cooler temperatures. But what makes it the best is knowing that once we raise the anchor tomorrow and leave this anchorage we will be ending the day in Mobile Bay at Fairhope City Docks and into the Gulf of Mexico thereby ending our portion of the loop in freshwater. We’ve been in fresh water since entering the Hudson River last June so getting back into salt water will be a long time coming. Hopefully the weather will be a long time coming also. Were totally ready for shorts, tee shirts and bare feet!
Sunday: Today is our second day back aboard Kailani and we’ve already returned the rental car and re-provisioned for the upcoming leg, but we’ve made a decision to stay docked here because there is a bad forecast for Monday and if we were to leave today, Monday would be at anchor, so we’ll stay here for a few more days and look at leaving on New Years Day.
Monday: The rains make the forecasters look good and there are even tornado warnings, so we made a good decision staying tied up. We borrow the courtesy car once again and go shopping for some shelving that Tracy has been looking for lately. Lowe’s has a few of the shelves Tracy wants and soon we’re returning to Kailani and making sure we’re ready for an early departure tomorrow.
On the next slip is another looper boat that came in yesterday. Dave and Chris aboard Breathe First are cruising to Demopolis where they will pull the vessel out of the water and get an RV to travel to the west coast for the winter. So we agree to travel together and plan for an 8:00 am departure since we’re looking at a 57 nautical mile cruise including 2 locks. Even though today is New Year’s Eve we turn in early and the best we can do is stay awake long enough for midnight back home (11:00 pm here). Since we’re now in the Central Time Zone, we are 1 hour later and therefore, we miss the actual local midnight.
Tuesday: As has been the case throughout the entire adventure, every time I set my alarm clock for an early rise, I end up waking prior to the alarm going off. Today is no exception and with the alarm set for 5:30 am, I am fully awake at 5:00 am! Oh well, this gives me plenty of time to make sure Frankie is walked, the garbage is placed in the dumpster and Kailani is fully ready for the departure. Tracy wakes early and Breathe First is looking like they are ahead of schedule also, so after Chris calls the lock and tells the Lock Master that we’re ready to leave, he says to come right in and the gates will be ready for us, so at 7:40am we’re releasing the dock lines and pulling away from Kailani’s home for the last month.
As we approach the open gates of the Stennis Lock we cannot believe the sight in front of us as there is literally a wall of debris from wall to wall at the entrance to the lock. Using the binoculars we confirm that there are also some large logs in the pile, so we are extra careful entering the lock.
We pull Kailani right up to the starboard lock wall and move in very slowly so the bow has an opportunity to push aside some off the debris and to also make sure we don’t hit anything big. Once we’re past the debris field and into the somewhat clear water of the lock, we move over to the port lock wall for our tie up to the floating bollard. Tracy is giving the docking stick a try this morning while I drive us in and everything works out fine until Tracy’s nagging shoulder starts to ache, but we are already hooked to the bollard, so I go down and switch up with Tracy as I take the lock line and Tracy heads up to the bridge. Soon the lock is lowering and we come out 23 feet lower than when we started.
Breathe First pulls out and we fall in behind them as we cruise the next 25 miles to the next lock. We immediately notice that the river is providing a nice 4 knot push but it’s a good news/bad news situation as the current is also creating lots of floating debris and we must keep a sharp lookout as we enjoy the nice push. We now know that making the Sumter anchorage before dark will be a foregone conclusion as we are making 12-13 knots so we are no longer looking at an 8 hour cruise today.
At the Bevel Lock there is a Museum with the USS Snagboat Montgomery exhibited in dry dock adjacent to the lock. She is one of the last steam wheelers to ply the waters of the southern rivers and is an interesting sight as you approach the lock from upriver. The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway is a little known waterway that when built in the 60’s was a larger canal project than the Panama Canal, yet very few Americans know about its existence. This waterway was designed and constructed to make the passage from the Tennessee River down to the Gulf of Mexico shorter and more friendly than the Mississippi River and today is shared by barges and recreational boaters 24 hours a day, year round. The lock masters are very accommodating to PC’s (pleasure craft) and the tows are usually not as large as what we saw on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. The design uses parts of the original Tombigbee River and man made canals to carry vessels from the Tennessee River to the Block Warrior River, then into Mobile Bay.
Today, at one point of the cruise while traveling on the original Tombigbee River portion, we cross the Mississippi-Alabama state line 5 times in 2 miles! While traveling with Breathe First, we actually get to a point where the 2 vessels are no more than 100 yards apart in the waterway and Breathe First is in Mississippi and Kailani is in Alabama!
After 2 locks and 57 nautical miles, we are safely anchored in the Sumter Recreation Area more than halfway to Demopolis, our next stop. The weather today gave us a mostly cloudy and somewhat raw 62 degree day, so even though we’re moving south, we’re not seeing nice warm weather yet, but it will be soon.
The river is extremely high and in some respects, a bit dangerous. We’ve gotten some correspondence from locals cautioning us to be very diligent and careful cruising to Demopolis and that they would definitely not recommend going past there until the high water starts receding. So we’ll watch carefully tomorrow as we cruise to Demopolis, then talk more with the locals there and the AGLCA local members about the safety of the river going further down to Mobile. For sure, we are recreational boaters, not risk-taking boaters.
Since we are at anchor and do not get off the vessel after dark, the evenings end earlier than usual for us so we are in bed shortly after 9pm and fully expect to get an early start tomorrow accordingly.
Wednesday: We are in fact, ready to depart by 7:00am. We can see the crew of Breathe First preparing to raise anchor also, so we move into our positions to raise our anchor and start today’s careful journey to Demopolis. Tracy is on the bow controlling the anchor with the windlass and I’m at the helm taking directives from her for using the movement of the vessel in conjunction with the windlass to facilitate the raising of the anchor. Once Tracy can see the shiny Ultra anchor break the surface, she can see that the bed here is about 5 gallons of clay lighter because that’s how much clay is clinging to the anchor claws. We move Kailani back and forth for a while with the anchor just hanging at the water level and some but not all of the mud comes off. Finally, we decide to just leave the rest of the mud on and move out into the river to start the day. We have three miles to the Heflin Lock and Dam, so once we’re out on the river and cruising south, I radio the Lock Master and he tells us to keep on coming and when we cross under the highway bridge, he will be ready with the gates open for us. Since we are talking to him on VHF 14 which all the tows monitor, he gets a call from a tow that is about 5 miles behind us and traveling down river also. The Lock Master asks him if he’s okay with locking us first while the tow is approaching and both agree that we can precede the commercial tow. The Lock Master tells us that the drop today is only 17 feet rather than the usual 32 feet due to the high pool levels, so the lockage will be somewhat quicker than normal and he’ll have plenty of time to raise the lock and be ready for the tow after we leave the lock.
As I’m approaching from 2 miles up river of the lock I can see that the Lock Master has opened the gates and given us the green light to enter, so I coast Kailani into the lock (with very little debris) and Tracy hooks us up to the floating bollard. Once we’re secure to the bollard, we switch up positions with Tracy at the helm and me tending the line so she doesn’t aggravate her ailing shoulder. As promised, the lowering is rather short and soon were leaving the lock with the Lock Master alerting us to the strong currents that will be hitting the starboard side of our vessels coming from the dam spillway. Tracy compensates for the strong currents and we are safely through the rough water and into calmer river. I take over for the 47 nautical mile cruise and slow Kailani down to 800 rpm’s which produces 8.4 knot boat speed and the current gives us 11.5 knots speed over ground. So all I have to do is remain situationally aware for debris and tows and make our way down to Demopolis.
The total cruise is very comfortable and all the warnings and alerts we received prior to departure are all welcome and helpful, but the cruise turns out to be very comfortable until we are approaching the confluence of the Tombigbee River (which we are on) and the Black Warrior River which comes in from the left descending bank. As we are approaching this intersection, we see our first commercial tow of the day and after a radio call to the captain, he confirms that we can keep on coming on the ‘one’ whistle. I instantly see that I’ll be able to use the 600 feet of barges to effectively ‘block’ the water raging out of the Black Warrior River and pas the tow in relatively calm water. The calm is short lived as soon as we are clear of the tows stern and as we are looking at the entrance to our marina, Kingfisher Bay Marina, the water is a boil just as we would expect just a mile above the Demopolis Lock and Dam. This is our destination, so all I have to do is navigate through a little bit of rough water, then the marina inlet will instantly calm down as it blocks the river currents.
We are on VHF Channel 11 talking to Anna-Marie, the Kingfisher Dock Master and she is waiting to grab our lines at slip B13, our covered home for probably the next few days. Tracy is on the bow and between Tracy and Anna-Marie, we are quickly secured to the pier and shutting down the engines. We have travelled 47 nautical miles and one lock in just over 4 hours (7am to 12:15pm) so this is definitely one of the quickest cruises we have experienced on this entire voyage. The river cooperated, the currents were somewhat friendly (not too extreme) and the lock timing was perfect. All the stars aligned for today’s cruise and we now know that our safety will come first as we wait out the cresting of the river, followed by lowering levels or the water. It’s truly fantastic that after posting on the AGLCA forum that we were cruising out of Columbus Marine and headed to Mobile, a fellow member wintering in Cape Haze, Florida recognized the potential danger to our vessel since these are his home waters and reached out to us to provide a wealth of information and data that reinforced the need to be extremely careful cruising to Demopolis and to accept that we definitely shouldn’t go any further south for at least a few days. Well informed advice and it was surely reinforced when I made the phone call to the marina to let them know that we were about 30 minutes out from arriving and he said “you’re on the river today?”.
Once we were all tied up and we walked over to the office to register, we walked by at least a dozen fellow looper vessels with both familiar crews and new to us crews. Isn’t this looper community great? We will have a boatload of vessels to cruise with once the water recedes.
Thursday: So we are able to schedule some projects aboard Kailani once again. The prognosis for the river is presently sitting at mid next week before safe downriver passage should be contemplated. We will continue to monitor and start enjoying the area and the loopers here. Today is a wet rainy day so outdoor projects are saved for another day even though we are in a covered slip.
Sounds like laundry is a good project for today. The laundry and lavatory facilities are a covered walk from our slip, so we have a very nice arrangement here. The laundry and lavatory are in a common area including a captain’s lounge with cable TV so it’s a very comfortable chore doing laundry and showering at the same time. We also get a chance to discuss downriver cruising with a few other boaters that are not loopers. They’re just working on getting their vessels to Florida for the winter.
Friday: Rains are projected to stop today, so we can start some outside chores. The setup for Frankie’s morning walk are fairly convenient. There are some other dogs in the marina, but it all works out for being able to prevent Frankie from doing his ballistic dance whenever he sees another dog.
The marina store is at the old Demopolis Yacht Basin site and the marina provides golf carts for transient boaters to get form Kingfisher Bay to Demopolis Yacht Basin. So we take a golf cart and run over to the ship’s store to check out the merchandise. Tracy picks up a few supplies for cleaning, waxing and caulking and we chat with the staff for a while about the river status. It’s always good to glean local knowledge and these people live and work on the river, so who better to get some education.
We also discover through Nebo that First Forty and Eagle One are leaving Columbus Marina today and should be here by Sunday afternoon if all goes well. They check in with us and we confirm to them that Sumter Recreation Area should be their plan A anchorage for the halfway point to here and we caution them about the increasing debris on the river. Tonight, we dine aboard again as Tracy cooks up some steaks.
Saturday: Today is Sunday, a day early. The sun is finally out and the weather is warming up to the mid sixties! Everyone in the marina is commenting on being surprised to see that new fiery yellow ball in the sky!
We borrow the marina courtesy car and go out for dinner at the Red Barn, the local steak house. We just beat the big crowds, but the meal is a slight disappointment. Oh well, there isn’t a Ruth Chris’ Steakhouse in every city!
Back aboard Kailani we continue our 2 episode-a-night regimen of watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. We’re nearly complete through the second season so soon we’ll have to come up with a new series to watch, maybe Bosch.
Sunday: We awake fully expecting to depart today for Smithville where we have reservations for tonight. I walk Frankie in a slight fog and a check of the weather shows that the forecast for rain has been pushed up to noontime rather than 2 pm so it may turn into a worse day than expected. Upon return to the boat with Frankie, Tracy looks outside and asks if maybe we should stay put today and go tomorrow instead. We agree on that strategy and let Whisky Business know we intend to stay here today. Jerry and Jim are preparing for departure and as I’m wishing them well, Breathless is moving out of their slip 2 docks over, so Jerry tells Jim to step on it as they need to leave and I help Jim with the lines as Jerry takes Whisky Business off the dock and heads for the Whitten Lock.
So today will be a chores around the boat day as we settle in for the day. With plenty of time, I make a French toast breakfast and we enjoy the morning. I go up to the office to let them know we’re staying, but nobody is here on Sundays, so I’ll have to talk to Chris tomorrow before we leave.
In the afternoon a beautiful 65 foot Marquis called Patty Time from Florence Alabama pulls in behind us and I help them with their lines. They are traveling from Florence to the Alabama Gulf Shores where they have rented a home for the winter. They will be leaving in the morning also so we make arrangements to look at a potential 8 am departure based on weather and the lock status. We’re still planning to get to Demopolis before next weekend and rent a car to drive back home for the holidays. So we have 200 miles and 10 locks to get thru to reach Demopolis, so if we have good luck with the locks and don’t get held up for commercial traffic too much, we should be able to make our goal.
Monday: Today is a much better day for travel. To start, there are clear skies with no fog although the air is a bit crisp. As I’m walking Frankie, I see that Patty Time is readying the lines for departure and I tell them that we’re planning for a morning departure also and we’ll see them down the road. Well I start thinking about it and is seems like a better idea to depart together and not wait for the lock to re-fill the pool some time later, so I rush to let Tracy know that we’ll be departing soon and we should star preparing the lines and vessel for departure. In retrospect, it was a bit too quick for Tracy and it felt uncomfortable and not right, but we did it anyway. Actually Nick released the boat from the dock before I had thought through the departure and decided on a plan of motoring out of the marina. We did have a rather intense “debriefing” after this. -tc 7:30 am we’re pulling off the docks of Bay Springs Marina headed for the Jamie Whitten Lock. This is the first of four locks we will need to go thru today in order to make our planned destination of Smithville Marina and it’s the tallest lock we will travel thru with a vertical drop of 84 feet. As we approach the lock, Patty Time is already secured to the lock wall and Tracy nudges Kailani in on the port side right behind Patty Time and lets the lock know we’re secure. I’m on the port side holding the bollard with our new system that we put together last night. I’m using our docking stick line attached to a boat pole and as we approach the bollard, I drop the loop over the bollard while the opposite end it already fastened to the midship cleat. Then as the vessel continues to drift forward a bit, I’m able to bring in the slack and secure Kailani right up to the lock wall with the one line secured to the bollard. The process gets better as the day goes on and we pass thru all four locks. The team of Tracy at the helm and me on the midship with the docking stick works very smoothly and our technique and communication get better and better Yayyyyyy -tc with each passing lock. So we now have a neat system for safe and efficient locking with floating bollards.
Our cruise today is 33 nautical miles and the 4 locks are all in the first 20 miles, so after cruising together with Patty Time thru the 4 locks, we are wishing them a safe journey as they soon are out of sight after our last lock of the day. Then we have a nice leisurely cruise the last 13 miles to Smithville Marina where we see Breathless tied to the transient dock right behind us. We last saw them depart Bay Springs Marina on Sunday in the fog. The dock master, Jim is waiting on the dock to grab our lines and at 12:30 pm exactly 5 hours after we departed, we are secured to the old dock with real good 50 amp power and have turned the heat on. Smithville Marina has a courtesy car and Tracy immediately looks for a spot where she can get her hair cut and and streaked. She finds a Regis Salon in the Super WalMart and makes an appointment for 2 pm. So we borrow the marina courtesy car and head out. While Tracy is in the salon for 90 minutes, I walk over to the Huddle House and have a quick bite, then walk back to the WalMart and do some snack shopping and as I’m finishing up the shopping, Tracy is paying for her service and we return to Kailani for the afternoon.
I check with Columbus Marina in Columbus and confirm availability for tomorrow night as we firm up our plans for tomorrow’s cruise, then we relax in our heated space while the air temperature outside drops into the 20’s! Tomorrow should be another cool but clear day for cruising with light and variable winds.
Tuesday: As predicted, the air temperature is cool, but there is no fog and waters are flat and calm, so by 7:30 am we’re starting to prepare Kailani for a departure and I’m calling the Glover Lock to check status of traffic. The Glover Lock is within our first quarter of a mile on today’s trip, so I’d like to know the lock status before we untie our lines so if there’s a long wait for commercial traffic, we can simply stay at the marina instead of floating out in the river. The lock master describes that he knows that there are a couple of pleasure craft coming down from Fulton and they will be at the lock within 30 minutes, so our preparation for 8 am is right on the money and we will be able to get a nice start to today’s cruise plan of 37 nautical miles and 3 locks.
So at the top of the eight o’clock hour, we’re dropping the lines and pulling way from the docks with a bit of frost on the decks of Kailani. Again, we’ll pass thru today’s locks just like yesterday with Tracy at the helm and me on the midship with the docking stick. It’s just a bit colder than yesterday, but every minute at the helm is another minute farther south, so eventually, we’ll be in warm territory. Come to think of it, we’re already way ahead of last year in terms of our southern migration. Last year at this time, we were still in New Jersey chasing marinas that were shutting off their water and pump outs as we travelled south. Here we have full operations at every marina we get to, and other people to meet with and chat. Today, we should run back into Paul and Diane of Sea Wolf as they are still docked at Columbus Marina.
We pull into the lock and the vessel already in the lock is Tortuga Verde, or Green Turtle. We’ve seen this vessel already and it was docked the whole time we were in Green Turtle Bay and we suspect that it’s the Owner’s vessel, but the voice doesn’t sound like him, so were sort of sure, but not really sure. Anyway, Tortuga Verde is a 17 mph vessel and we’re making 11 mph today (9.6 knots), but at each of the subsequent two locks today, he’s waiting patiently for us to arrive before locking down. So together, we drop a total of 78’ thru Glover Lock, Armory Lock and Aberdeen Lock.
After Aberdeen Lock we have 22 more miles to each our destination, so we wish Tortuga Verde a safe trip and again, a faster vessel is soon out of our sights ahead of us. The rest of today’s trip is quite picturesque with campgrounds, parks, small river cut-offs and as we are approaching the Columbus area, we are in the air space of the Columbus Air Base and lots of planes flying overhead on training maneuvers. This makes for interesting sights and the sounds of the aircraft will soon be a familiar sound for the remainder of our stay at Columbus Marina.
With 5 miles to go to our destination and a nice straight section of the Tenn-Tom ahead of us, we run the rpm’s up to 2,000 and proceed with our normal period of taking care of ‘blow-by’ on the diesel engines. Kailani handles the additional rpm’s beautifully and soon our gauges are telling us we’re traveling at 23 knots! In a few short minutes, we have the Columbus Lock and Dam in our sights and the cut-off entrance to port for the marina. As described by Steve in an earlier conversation, he instructed us to check with him on VHF-09 as we were approaching, so we follow orders and I call the marina on Channel 09. Steve has been following us on NEBO and is already prepared for our arrival. He talks us thru the entrance to the marina and Jim, the dock master is waiting at our covered slip to receive our lines as I pull Kailani into the slip right between Sea Wolf and Destination. We’ve never been docked in a covered slip before, but it’s quite nice and it will be especially nice if we decide to stay here rather than continue down to Demopolis for our Christmas trip home.
Tracy has done some research and first impressions are telling her that this is a very nice marina and we should consider this location as our home base for the month. Then to ice the decision, during the check-in process, Steve Arndt, the General Manager tells us that the monthly rate for AGLCA Loopers has a $3 per foot discount of their normal rate, So our decision is made, we’re staying here at Columbus instead of moving to Demopolis. The weather is virtually identical her and there and we are already situated in a covered slip so we won’t have to worry about rains over the course of our trip home. Its a win-win situation and there is an Enterprise Rental office within 3 miles of our location, so we’re now docked until 2019! Oh by the way, the power is great, they have slip-side pump outs and the Wi-Fi is very strong here, so the only downside to staying here is that in a town called Columbus (possibly named after one of the most famous Italians in American history), there is not one single Italian restaurant in the entire town! Apparently, the town is named after Fred Columbus, not Christopher (haha).
We make arrangements with Enterprise to pick up a month long rental on Thursday and start heading home on Friday morning. We’ll spend the next two days preparing Kailani for hibernation and getting ourselves ready for the minimum three day drive back home.
Wednesday: There’s lots of activity here at Columbus Marina and some familiar faces. Today, Sea Jamm pulls in with Alan and Sherry Johnson. We haven’t seen them since we were in Cape May in May. They hosted Dock Tails on their boat and we were introduced to Bruce and Buffi Miller’s delicious donuts. Well we had a nice time reminiscing and talking cruise plans together. They are now sporting the Gold burgee as they have crossed their wake already. For dinner, we get the courtesy car and head over to Harvey’s with Paul and Dianne. The meal is tasty but Tracy’s meal is delivered lukewarm I like my food hot, hot. -tc and she has to send it back for heat. Other than that, it’s a good meal and on the way back to the marina, we spot a Krispy Kreme and Dianne has never had one, so we are compelled stop in and get some to donuts for breakfast. However, a few of the donuts are missing from the boxes before we reach the marina and there are now less than the original total come breakfast time the next morning.
Thursday: We spend today picking up the rental car and getting as much packed as possible so we can get a fairly early start tomorrow morning. Paul and Dianne get a courtesy car and bring me to the airport, then head off to do some shopping of their own since they will be cruising by Saturday morning. At the Enterprise counter I sign the documents and the clerk tells me he will be giving us a free upgrade from the compact car we reserved and he gives us a Chevrolet Malibu. It turns out to be fortunate for us because once we’re finished packing the car, there’s barely enough room for Tracy, Frankie and me!
For dinner tonight, we have Paul and Dianne over so we can use up as much food as possible before we leave. The less food we have, the less food we’ll have to carry home with us. So Tracy makes a delicious spare rib dinner with beans and macaroni and cheese, all preceded with a garden salad. We have a nice meal aboard Kailani and the crew of Sea Wolf turns in for the night as we spend our last evening aboard Kailani for at least a month.
Friday: We wake to a rainy day but since we’re in a covered slip, we stay perfectly dry while we get a final pump out before departing. Our plan for a 9 am departure is off by 90 minutes as we don’t officially leave the marina until 10:30 am so the 8 hour drive to Ashville, North Carolina will end in the dark since the days have shorter daylight now and that’s exactly how it goes down and it’s dark and rainy when we pull into the Comfort Inn-Biltmore at nearly 8:00 pm. Our actual driving time was an hour less, but I had erred in neglecting to include the change back into Eastern Standard Time Zone. Oh well, the room is spacious and comfortable and we get all unpacked and settled into our room for the next two nights. We even had a bit of luck checking in when they had a sign promoting discount tickets for the Biltmore Estate. So we saved ten dollars buying the tickets here rather than waiting until we got to the estate tomorrow.
Saturday: The day is spent touring the Biltmore Estate where George Vanderbilt built the largest private residence of it’s time in the United States and amazingly, it still holds that distinction today with nearly 180,000 square feet of space spread over 250 rooms including an indoor swimming pool, a bowling alley, 65 fireplaces and 43 bathrooms! So that’s how we could spend nearly the entire day at one house.
We did feel that for the opulence of the estate and the price required to get in, they could have done better than paint on the blacktop of the parking lot for directions. -tc
Dinner is a nice relaxing meal at the Cracker Barrel and amazingly, we simply can’t resist buying some Charles’ Chips and Moose Tracks candy on the way out. Hey, you gotta have some snacks available when you’re in your motel room. Tomorrow we’ll get up and travel again to Harrisburg, PA where we’ll rest for a night before finishing our travels back home for Monday. Weekly blogs will take a holiday break now and we’ll get back to posting travel blogs when we return to Columbus, Mississippi and continue our loop voyage in January, 2019. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!
Sunday: As we planned, Sea Wolf is on the fuel dock by 8:00 am topping off their tank and by 8:30 am Kailani is on the water leaving this beautiful facility along with Sea Wolf. The temperature and the winds are very favorable today again and although it’s only been four days since we had our first snow of the year, it is now a distant memory. The cruise today is our last leg of the gorgeous Kentucky Lake as once we get to Waverly, Tennessee it marks the end of the flooded plain and the rest of our journey on the Tennessee River will be mostly the original profile of the river before the dam opened. So we will take in the beauty today as our last looks for Kentucky Lake.
As is the norm for boating, every once in a while, there will be issues with the performance of the vessel or one of it’s components. Well today’s component is the starboard engine oil pressure. Today’s cruise is 43 nautical miles and right about halfway thru, the starboard oil pressure gauge drops to zero. I had been watching the needle waver a bit so as soon as it dropped to zero, I shut off the starboard engine. Tracy monitored the helm while I went down to the engine room to evaluate. The oil levels were good and there was a slight loosening of the cap, so I tightened the cap and returned to the helm. After starting the engines, the gauge returned to normal, so we resumed our cruising. But alas, all temporary fixes don’t stay for long and after another few miles, the gauge dropped back to zero, so we shut her down for the last time and made the final 20 miles of the journey on the port engine.
As we were approaching the only bridge that was of concern to us today, I radioed the bridge to confirm the vertical clearance. I called the CSX Railroad Liftbridge and asked him if he knew what today’s vertical clearance was and he said, “I don’t know” so I asked if he knew if there was an elevation board on the bridge pier and again he said, “I don’t know”. OMG, we were sooo un-impressed with the lockmaster here. -tc So we were hobbling along on one engine by this time anyway, so we just took it slow and as we got closer, we were able to verify (with the elevation board!) That my calculation of 26’-4” was dead on for today’s pool levels and we were good to pass as we only need 18’ of clearance. The whole incident was frustrating to us both even to the point of discussing whether or not we should call the USCG. But cooler heads prevailed and we just chalked the incident up to experience. We’ve never had such an air of uncooperative-ness from a bridge tender in the past. We were simply trying to avoid an unnecessary raising of the bridge and he should have been more cooperative, but it was not the case.
So on one engine only, the last 18 miles against the current slowed us down to 7 knots and we didn’t arrive until 2:45 pm. It was as we were heading into the marina inlet that I fired up the starboard engine one last time for maneuverability and surprisingly, the gauge read 60 psi as it should. So we’re pretty certain that it’s a bad pressure sender unit which we happen to have a brand new one on board! Anyway, back to pulling into the marina. When we talked with the marina yesterday they told us that during the fall and winter, the office and staff are off on Sunday and Monday, so there wouldn’t be anybody there to help with lines, but to just dock on the fuel dock for the night and leave the check payment in their mailbox before leaving. So we are pulling into the marina inlet and we spot a looper sailboat already tied up on the fuel dock and there’s Brian (we met him in Green Turtle Bay) aboard Magnolia Glen waiting at our slip to take the lines from Tracy. It’s really great to have this looper network to ride on our shoulders wherever we go. Brian sailed into Cuba Landing Marina an hour before us from an anchorage spot and he would be leaving in the morning also. We got all the lines secured and the power cord hooked up and enjoyed the last hours of sunshine for today waiting for Sea Wolf to arrive.
Once we were all set in our slip I went to work trouble shooting the oil pressure issue. I went under the helm to check all the electrical connections to the gauge and with the engine running, there was 12 volts DC to the power terminal and 6 volts DC to the sender terminal, so the gauge was not the issue and I knew I’d be replacing the oil pressure sender with our new one before they was over. As I was re-attaching the helm fiberglass to its proper position and attaching the screws, Sea Wolf arrived, so Tracy, Brian and I went over to Sea Wolf’s slip and waited to grab their lines. Paul turned Sea Wolf around in a small area and Diane was on the starboard side ready to hand us the lines to secure the Sea Wolf to the dock.
After Tracy prepared a nice salad and leftover fried chicken (from the Cracker Barrel), I opened up the engine room again and went to work on replacing the sender. Surprisingly, the engine was still fairly hot even after cooling down for 3 hours, but we have moving blankets in the engine room and I took one of them and laid it across the top of the engine for comfort. The sender on the starboard engine is way over on the outboard side of the engine and I would have to work off the top of the engine to get to the location about a foot below the top. It’s an awkward spot and arm access is not east, but I was able to unscrew the old sender by running my arm through an opening in the engine and turning the wrench a quarter turn each time and re-adjusting the wrench for another turn. It was a long and tedious process but I knew as long as I was making progress, it wouldn’t be too bad. Soon I had the old sender off and the power cable disconnected from the underside of the sender. I then took out the new sender and noticed that while there was one terminal on the original sender, there were now two terminals on the new sender and this is the correct part number for the Caterpillar manual. So I determined that there was a power terminal and a ground terminal. I reconnected the power cable and installed the new sender. Pleased with my tenacity, I went up to the helm and fired up the engine and sadly watch the gauge do absolutely nothing!!! I was temporarily at a loss for what to do when I realized that maybe the ground terminal had something to do with it. Whereas the original sender didn’t have a ground, maybe since the new one had a ground I better use it. So I made a ground wire connection, took off the sender, attached the ground wire, re-installed the sender, reconnected the power cable and returned to the helm for the second time. When I fired it up this time, the gauge shot right up to 80 psi! Eureka, I did it! We were all set to cruise tomorrow again. Excellent work Nick! -tc
Climbing into bed felt real good tonight as I was tired and felt real good about the days accomplishments. Sleep came fairly quickly and we both knew that we’d be heading out again tomorrow.
Monday: With the new oil pressure sender working properly, we plan for an early departure to insure we don’t run out of daylight before reaching our destination, Clifton Marina. While I’m walking Frankie and putting our payment into the Cuba Landing mailbox, Sea Wolf and Magnolia Glen are readying their vessels for departure. Sea Wolf leaves first and is soon out of sight. Magnolia Glen is taking more time to prep for departure with his chartplotter and other safety equipment on board. Meanwhile, Tracy is reversing the dock lines on Kailani so we can release them from onboard when ready.
At 8:00 am we’re backing away for the fuel dock and headed back out into the Tennessee River for another day of battling the head current. In fact it’s getting stronger now that the river is narrowing, so today’s planned 38 nautical mile journey will take anywhere between 5 and 6 hours based on the currents and traffic. At least we don’t have any locks to deal with today. As we come out of the marina inlet and center ourselves in the river channel, we are quickly overtaking Brian in Magnolia Glen. He does not plan to go as far as us today because he travels at 4 knots. So his day is only about 20 miles to Perryville Marina. Right as we’re passing Magnolia Glen, there is a light mist coming down and visibility is diminished due to the precipitation. So Tracy turns on the radar and it stays on for the remainder of today’s journey. We are getting fairly good at reading the radar. We have left it on in good weather to practice reading it, it’s easier that way. You see a blip on the screen and look up to see a buoy shining in the sun. We would both exclaim “that’s it!” -tc Because of the rainy mist, the clouds hold back the sun from heating the flybridge, so it’s a bit if a cool trip today. But have faith, the sun does come out later in the day before we reach our destination. Within another hour, we’re passing Sea Wolf and then we’re all alone on the river, just us, the cool mist and the hazy fog.
We do end up passing a few tows with some decent barge counts, but the main view today is the change in the scenery as this portion of the Tennessee River is full of limestone ledges right up to the river’s edge and there are spectacular weekender house on top of these ledges.
Where there is flatland adjacent to the river, there are campgrounds galore and the style of camping down here is very different from what we’re used to back home. Here, people pour a concrete slab, then erect metal roofs over an area the size of ordinary campsites back home, then they back in their monster campers under the metal roofs and have boats, all cars, picnic tables, swings, etc. all under these roofs! We imagine that its for sun protection more than rain, but I think these RV’ers have more invested in their structures than they do in their campers!
Anyway after 5 hours and 20 minutes of cruising, we’re pulling into Clifton Marina and after checking in, we relax a bit before Paul and Diane show up aboard Sea Wolf. They dock right opposite us on the transient dock and we each make pasta dinners, discuss tomorrow’s even longer cruise, and turn in early knowing that we’ll be leaving close to sunup (if not before). This town, Clifton, Tennessee is the birthplace of Tennessee’s first Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, T. S. Stribling and there’s a museum in his memory, but alas, there’s no time for that on this trip.
Tuesday: Big day today as the travel distance is 51 nautical miles against the current and we need to pass thru Pickwick Lock, so Sea Wolf departs at 6:00 am before sun-up and Kailani departs at 6:40 am. As I’m walking Frankie, I see a large tow moving upriver in the same direction that we’re going, so I know as soon as we get out on the river, we’ll be overtaking that tow. So I get out the binoculars and read the name of the tow so I’ll be able to hail them by name when it’s time to overtake them. And as usual, when I return to the slip, Tracy already has the dock lines reversed and the utilities disconnected so we’re ready to shove off.
As we figured, we’re only in the river channel for about ten minutes when we’re hailing the tow, ’Greenwave’ for instructions on whistle pass and best spot to initiate the overtaking. He replies that his port side is the preferred side and we can keep down on the throttles right now and pass, so I confirm that we’ll overtake on the ‘two whistle’ and we make our run. In less than a mile, we’re totally clear of ‘Greenwave’ and continuing on our way until we come upon Sea Wolf and with today’s clear skies, we pull up real close to their Port side and Tracy gets some really good shots of their vessel underway which we’ll share with them as they were saying they would like some shots of their vessel underway.
After the photo shoot, we accelerate back to cruising speed and continue to try and make time on today’s journey. The current is really not bad and with the vessel moving at 10 knots, we’re netting 7.5 to 8 knots speed over ground, so the head current isn’t yet as bad as we thought it would be. The river winds through similar scenery as yesterday, however there is one special location that we pass and that is Shiloh National Park. Here is where a Civil War Battle took place and 23,000 American soldiers lost their lives just on this battlefield. We’re hoping that we can get transportation tomorrow to go visit this park.
As we’re making such good time, we get to the Pickwick Lock by 12:20 pm and this is way before I thought we would get here. But it’s all for naught as the chambers are down for repairs and the lock master tells us to proceed into the entry lane for the auxiliary chamber and tie off to one of the cribs as he’s not sure how long the repairs will take. Well, the repairs take nearly 2 hours and after getting bounced around for 90 minutes due to the currents in the lane, we are finally called by the lock master and he says to turn around and proceed back into the main chamber and tie up to bollard #7 on the starboard wall. At last! It’s 3:10 pm and we’re departing the lock for the last 10 miles to Aqua Yacht Harbor Marina. So we left Clifton Marina at 6:40 am and arrived at Aqua Yacht Harbor at 3:40 pm, 9 hours on the water. We knew it could potentially be a long day, but until Pickwick Lock we were having a great day timing wise. While 9 hours was definitely a long day, it was short compared to Sea Wolf’s cruise. They left the Clifton Marina at 6:00 am and we had to guide them into their slip with flashlights because they didn’t get here until shortly after 6:00 pm!
The great news is that now that we’re off the Tennessee River and onto the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, we are now going down river all the way to Mobile and there will be helping currents or at least neutral, but no more head currents for a while.
We’re going to stay here at Aqua Yacht Harbor Marina at least thru Thanksgiving, so we’re here in Iuka, Mississippi, our 15th state since we started. When we pulled in we quickly spotted Wild Goose, Sea Cottage and Journey. All three boat crews are back in their dirt homes, but Wild Goose and Journey are returning to the loop at the end of this week. It’s getting a bit warmer (but still cool nights) and the Gulf coast is closer now. The next 500 miles to the gulf will be more anchorages than marinas, so there will be different ways to spend our downtime. We’ve had a great run so far and we’re anxiously looking forward to the next leg with some new and some old boat buddies.
Wednesday: Today we borrow one of the marina courtesy cars and Paul, Dianne, Tracy and I go out for a nice breakfast at the R & B Diner recommended to us by Leonard at the marina fuel dock. After a delicious breakfast, we find a small grocery store to re-provision our galleys, then the crew of Sea Wolf wants to get some wine, so we have to drive to Savannah, Tennessee for the wine, but they buy enough to last a while. We were in a dry county, which no one had ever heard of except me. They were stupefied. -tc
Once we’re back at the marina and the sun is warming the air, I take a walk to meet some fellow loopers that are here in the marina. I meet the crew from Buy the Book and the crew from First Forty. Both vessels are here getting some work done so they’re not sure when they’ll be able to depart. Eagle One is also here, but the crew left the boat here, rented a car and drove to Memphis for a touristy Thanksgiving. Speaking of Thanksgiving, Bill and Bobbie from First Forty, Paul and Dianne from Sea Wolf and Tracy & I agree to have a potluck thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.
Thursday: This is our second consecutive Thanksgiving away from home. Last year we cruised to Atlantic City from Staten Island on Thanksgiving Day. Today, we’re much further south, the weather is warmer, and we’re not alone, but rather, we’re with looper fiends for the day.
We decide to meet for thanksgiving potluck at 1 pm so we can take full advantage of the warm sun and we’ll be eating outdoors today. The meal is delicious as Bobbie prepares a turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, Tracy prepares a chicken stew and yams, and Dianne prepares hors d’oeuvres. We have a delicious meal, everyone is full and we’re able to clean up and breakdown the tables well before sunset so it doesn’t even get really cold on us. It turns out to be a delicious feast and a day to really be thankful for friends and family.
By nightfall, the crew of Eagle One has returned from Memphis and they bring along a turtle encrusted cheesecake. Rick and Kris stop by Kailani with their dessert and we have a nice time chatting and sharing some dessert from Memphis.
Friday: Paul and Dianne arise and decide to make their way south to Bay Springs Marina today, so we help them with their lines and wish them safe cruising. We learned from Bill aboard First Forty that he never says goodbye to anyone on the loop, he simply says that he’ll see them again real soon somewhere down the line, and it’s true! After helping them off the dock, I walk over to the fuel dock and make arrangements for a courtesy car so we can drive to Shiloh National Park to see the exhibits and battlefield.
The Battle of Shiloh is forever in the history books as one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War and American History in total. The battle was fought on April 6 & 7, 1862 and in those 2 days, the Union and the Confederacy suffered casualties totaling nearly 24,000 soldiers including the General of the Confederacy making him the highest ranking American Officer to ever die in battle. Imagine that, nearly 24,000 soldiers in 2 days, and they only fought in daylight hours, so while the entire 4 year long Civil War claimed an average of approximately 400 soldiers per day, this 2 day battle averaged nearly 12,000 soldiers per day!
It was really an experience to walk the grounds of the battlefield and to also go right by the Tennessee River that we had cruised down just 4 days earlier.
We got back to the marina in time for a nice dinner at the Aqua Grille with Bill & Bobbie and Rick & Kris. We all ordered pizzas and we each took home leftovers and we had a great time chatting about loop stops, past careers and friendship.
Saturday: Aqua Yacht Harbor is a great stop with friendly staff, great loopers in the marina and nice weather, but we must continue on as we have decided to make it to Demopolis, Alabama where we will leave Kailani for a month and drive home for Christmas. Today’s destination is Bay Springs Marina in New Site Mississippi. It’s a 32 mile cruise with no locks, so it will be a relaxing trip. First we will take on 100 gallons of fuel and get a pump out. Tracy takes Kailani out of our slip and over to the fuel dock where Leonard grabs our lines, fills our tanks and starts the pump out hose running for Tracy. By 9:45 am we’re leaving the docks and headed south on the Tenn-Tom Waterway.
Once we’re out of the Yellow Creek/Pickwick Lake portion of the trip, we enter the first of three distinct parts of the Tenn-Tom. This is the Divide Cut and it’s basically the northernmost portion of the man-made waterway. Most of it is straight for 3-4 miles at length with slight turns and bridges. The Divide Cut portion of the waterway also has unique features designed into it with the run-off areas having huge baffle walls to break u the run-off and deter erosion which would surely result for the other bodies of water emptying into the Tenn-Tom. Unfortunately the baffled spillways seem to get dryer and dryer as we continue south. I guess there isn’t much water running into the Tenn-Tom from other rivers, etc. We can verify that as we notice that the water level in the waterway is lower than it should be for this time of year. This is a dynamic we haven’t seen on any of the Inland Rivers ever since Chicago. The Illinois River was high, the Mississippi River was high, the Ohio River was high, The Cumberland River was high, and the Tennessee River was high. So hopefully, this does not impact our cruising. We’ll just have to continue to monitor the water levels as we cruise south.
My apologies! I should have posted these next few blogs at least as soon as we got home. Instead, I am doing it after we have been back at the boat for almost a week. Sorry! -tc
Sunday: Today is Tracy’s birthday. Her birthday present was the ticket(s) to see Hamilton in Chicago, but it’s still a special day nevertheless. We know we’ll be staying here at Green Turtle Bay for about a week, so there really isn’t any work that has to get done today on Kailani. So it becomes a day of rest. Duette arrives later in the day and we make plans to have dinner again at the Commonwealth Yacht Club for Tracy’s birthday.
At 6:15 pm we meet at the restaurant and Bill, Paul, Diane, Tracy and I have a nice dinner with Mark waiting on us again. At the end of the meal, Mark brings over a piece of cake for Tracy with a few candles on it and its a nice cap to the meal for her. We return to our boats and Bill says that he’ll be shoving off tomorrow as he really needs to get as far ahead of the cold weather as possible.
After dinner, Paul and Diane come over and we finish watching My Cousin Vinny. We all have a great laugh and turn in for the evening.
Monday: Today is the observed day for Veteran’s Day and Sea Wolf’s refrigerator dies. So Paul looks around for a replacement and decides to stay here for the rest of the week based on the repairs and the weather. The forecasters are actually saying that there might be snow when we wake up Tuesday morning. I hope that isn’t the case because Tracy and I have to get back to Paducah early Tuesday morning for an appointment at the Orthopaedic Institute. We will be taking the courtesy car from Green Turtle Bay and I will pick up the keys before they close for the day today.
We walk over to the Ship’s Store and check out the sale going on in the store. Tracy buys some cleaning supplies and some line for chasing water when it rains. And it’s a good thing that she buys it because as ewe are walking out of the store, the rains start. It’s not cold enough to be snow, so that’s a good thing, plus the rain is not freezing on the docks. But the rains make the rest of the day dreary no less.
At 4:35 pm I walk over to the store to get the keys and all the lights are off in the marina office. The sign on the door confirms that the store closes at 4:30 pm everyday, not 5:30 pm so now I’m in a jam. I need to get Tracy to the clinic first thing in the morning and we don’t have the keys for the courtesy car. Tracy tries to get her appointment changed to later in the day while I try to get in touch with the owner of the marina to see if he can come down and open the office so I can get the keys. Tracy finds out the appointment must stay or it won’t be until the end of November to get another one and I don’t get a response from Green Turtle Bay. So as a last resort, I call up our new Gold Looper friend Byron and he comes over to the marina with his personal car and tells me to take it tomorrow and use it for whatever we need to do and just re-fill the gas tank at the end. He refuses any other offer I make and he just wants to make sure we get our responsibilities accomplished. This is another example of the friendliness and helpfulness found on the loop. He even shows me a way to get around the commuter traffic in the morning to insure that we’re not late for our early morning appointment.
Tuesday: My alarm is set for 5:00 am today so we can be ready to leave by 6:30 am. I get up a bit before the alarm goes off and as soon as the coffee is brewed, I get out of bed, take care of my morning business and walk Frankie. There’s snow falling but the dock isn’t that bad for slippery. I was worried about that for Tracy’s sake with her leg ailing as it is, but I’m comfortable that she’ll be safe getting off the boat and into the car. By 6:35 am we’re driving out of Green Turtle Bay headed back to Paducah and the Orthopaedic Institute. We take it slow on the highway and by 7:20 am we’re sitting in the waiting room for our 7:50 am appointment. Even though we are there early, it doesn’t work out on the other end as it isn’t until 8:40 am that they’re calling Tracy’s name. She’s been real concerned about this appointment because if the MRI doesn’t confirm some sort of trauma, the long term diagnosis could be bad, but when the PA comes in he confirms that Tracy has a herniated disc and a loud sigh of relief fills the exam room. The herniated disc coupled with the lack of agonizing pain gives the PA and Tracy an encouraging level of comfort as to treatments and procedures going forward, so all in all, today’s news is rather great and at least for now, we can get on with our cruising as long as Tracy is comfortable. There is no need for surgeries, long term physical therapy regimens, etc.
So while we have the car, we scoot over to WalMart in Paducah and fill the rear of the borrowed Tahoe to return to Kailani. Once the groceries are loaded aboard Kailani, the afternoon is for staying warm and chatting with other loopers still here freezing. We make arrangements to borrow the courtesy car again after dark to go into town to see the town all lit up for the holidays. We talk with Paul and Diane and agree to go out for dinner to Cracker Barrel, then stop to view the lights. Paul has never been to a Cracker Barrel while Diane remembers them from the days when her family used to go to Florida. So we drive out to Cracker Barrel for their home cooked meals and shopping at the country store. Tracy gets some Christmas shopping done and then we drive thru Grand Rivers to view the lights. The town does a nice job decorating the downtown area complete with carols playing and we take some pictures, then return to the marina for a few episodes of Game of Thrones aboard Sea Wolf. There is a winter storm advisory for tomorrow afternoon into Thursday, so we mentally prepare for a couple inches of snow. I guess we’re getting used to it as this will be the third snow storm we’ve lived thru since moving aboard Kailani.
Wednesday: The morning is a bit cold, but snow isn’t expected until later this afternoon into Thursday, so Frankie gets his walk and we check in with Paul aboard Sea Wolf and he’s still waiting to hear if his propane lines will arrive at the RV store in Paducah today. Tracy goes down into the Galley bilge for a quick inspection of the raw water intake strainer for the air conditioner pump and after a bit of checking and verifying, we turn the Salon AC on, set it to heat and it works! And yes, I really did work on the heater from down there. -tc
Soon the Salon area of Kailani is a toasty 70 degrees and jackets can come off in comfort. With the Salon heated by the on board systems, the little space heaters can now be strategically located in other areas of the vessel for heat and again, Kailani does her work for our comfort and convenience.
By 1:30 pm Paul is getting confirmation that his parts are in and we can take a vehicle to Paducah to pick them up. We get one of the marina courtesy cars and head out in a mild snow. Traffic is rather heavy on the highway due to the wet surfaces, but as we approach Paducah, the highway turns dry and traffic moves slightly better. Soon we are pulling into Youngblood RV and Paul is getting his parts. The guy at the counter has been working so close with Paul, that when he rings up the 5 parts, he also provides a hand-drawn sketch of the installation procedure and gives Paul a 10% discount for his patience and business. We get back in the van and drive back to Grand Rivers. As we’re approaching the business area of town, Paul remembers that he was supposed to pick up pizza for dinner, so we pull into the Village Market because they make pizza at the deli counter. When we walk in around 4:40 pm they let us know that they’ll be closing at 5:30 pm for the weather. I decide to get pizza for Tracy and me and by 5:15 pm we’re walking out of there with our pizzas.
The pizzas are ‘Hunt Brothers Pizza’ and it’s the first time for both of us and the pizzas are quite tasty, warm and hit the spot. Tracy and I download a movie, ‘Django Unchained’ and dig into our pizza. After the movie is over, Tracy has an urge to clean and carpet shampoos half the Salon. I imagine that once that half dries tomorrow, she’ll do the other half of the carpet. We turn in to a toasty Stateroom with electric blanket heating up the bedsheets.
Thursday: There really doesn’t seem to be too much snow this morning, but the sky is gray so there could be more snow before the day is over.
We’re getting close to departing Green Turtle Bay as our plan is for a Saturday departure and a week of cruising to get to Aqua Yacht Harbor in Pickwick Lake for next weekend. It’s certainly doable mileage wise and the extended forecast looks like it will not be a hindrance either. So if we can get to Aqua Yacht Harbor by next weekend, its a possibility that we’ll be able to hook up with the crew of Journey again as they are returning from their home next weekend and the repairs to Journey will be complete. So within a week, we may be cruising again with our great friends, Dale and Merna. They’ll enjoy Paul and Diane too. It’s also entirely possible that we’ll meet up with Bill aboard Duette again between here and there since he travels at a much slower pace and he left here four days ago and has only cruised for two of those days for the weather.
Friday: Today the weather breaks, the sun shines and it’s again pleasant to be in Kentucky! Want to know how warm it is? Bill Gary, the marina owner tells his staff to turn the dockside water back on today! A few loopers take advantage of the weather and shove off heading south on the Tennessee River while Sea Wolf and Kailani remain in port one more day to get some responsibilities completed. Paul is still working with his refrigerator replacement project and he needs one more part from the RV store in Paducah while Tracy has her appointment today with the zero gravity therapy pool at the Revive Clinic in Paducah. So the four of us pile into the courtesy car at noontime and head for Paducah. We drop Tracy off at Revive then Paul, Diane and I go to the RV store then get lunch at Red Lobster. After picking up Tracy we all head to WalMart one more time for last minute purchases before heading back to Green Turtle Bay.
The evening is spent relaxing aboard Kailani, then one more meal at the onsite Commonwealth Yacht Club where we get a chance to be waited on by Mark one more time and we say our goodbye’s to him. He’s been great serving us since last Saturday night. Tomorrow morning, we’ll refill our fresh water holding tank, get a pumpout, and head south on the Tennessee River. We have reservations at Paris Landing Marina in Buchanan, TN for tomorrow evening and it’ll be good to get more miles under our keel.
Saturday: This is it, after a week here in Grand Rivers, Kentucky we are moving south and what a day it is. When I walk Frankie at 7:30 it’s already 55 degrees and sunny. So Sea Wolf is at the gas dock getting fuel and a pump out at 8:00 am and we’re right behind him. After getting Kailani pumped out, Robin and Sandy throw us our lines from the dock and we’re headed for Kentucky Lake. Our destination today is Paris Landing State Park in Buchanan, Tennessee and it’s a cruise of 38 nautical miles south on beautiful Kentucky Lake. Kentucky Lake was formed by the Tennessee Valley Authority with the opening of Kentucky Lake Lock and Dam and it basically took nearly 100 miles of the Tennessee River and flooded it into beautiful Kentucky Lake. As we leave our marina, we turn into Barkley Canal and 1,000 yards later we are turning south into Kentucky Lake with the sun beating down thru the now opened helm windows.
Even though Kentucky Lake is a large expanse of water, navigation thru it with a vessel of our size requires us to stay in the marked channel which is basically, the original river bed of the Tennessee River. It’s so tempting to take short cuts thru straight line navigation, but it would just end up grounding the vessel in shallow water. Also, the whole area is clearly a recreational boaters paradise, but quickly you realize that this recreational area must be shared with large commercial tugs that we’ve been cruising with ever since we left Chicago 650 miles ago! We still have another 650 miles to share also as today is the halfway point in our cruise from Chicago, Illinois to Mobile, Alabama.
We pass Sea Wolf after about an hour into today’s cruise and then we really only see bass boats (gettin in some last licks for Catfish) and two barge/tows today. At 1:15 pm we’re pulling into Paris Landing State Park where we’ll get fueled up at a great price. We pull up to the fuel dock and take on 150 gallons of fuel, then move over onto our slip for the evening. We’ve gone 325 nautical miles using 150 gallons of diesel, so we’re still being very economical with our fuel consumption.
This marina is a beautiful facility with a restaurant on site and also has campground facilities, hiking trails, a golf course, a lodge and the harbor is also home to a Coast Guard Station. Presently there are two work vessels docked there with their decks loaded with nun and can buoys. I suspect that once the strong currents subside, they’ll be out on the river replacing and resetting buoys that have been moved by mother nature from high waters and currents. They’ll have a big job ahead of them this year as we’ve spotted many off-station and missing buoys.
Tracy and I go into the floating dock restaurant and have some fresh cooked burgers and tacos to satisfy our Saturday afternoon meal, then return to Kailani for some r and r until Sea Wolf arrives.
During our lunch we found out that 23 miles away in the town of Paris, Tennessee, there is a 1/16 scale replica of the Eiffel Tower, but alas, there is no taxi service, nor Uber or Lyft. We almost got one of the marina employees to take us there after work, but he said he had a family party to get to after he got off work. Oh well, we’ll just have to see it from Google Pics!
Sea Wolfe arrives and we help them dock right in front of us on the transient pier. Then we all enjoy the rest of the pleasant sunlight and agree to turn in for an early start tomorrow.
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.
Sunday: Alton Marina is closing some of their seasonal services after today, so we go up to the deli for a hot cooked breakfast and Beth gives us a pleasant surprise. Since today is the last day of the season for the deli, all meals are on the house! So we have a nice breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast with two cups of their complimentary coffee. Nice deal. After breakfast, I go over to see Jeff and Lucy on Encantada. We met them yesterday in Port Charles Harbor just before we left there. They had some friends aboard who were from the area and had left their vehicle down at Hoppie’s and were planning on cruising together down to Hoppies today, but the winds are very strong, so they will stay in port until Monday.
Sunday afternoon is very nice at Alton Marina and we make arrangements to eat dinner at the Argosy Riverboat Casino tonight. They have a shuttle that will pick us up at the marina and bring us back so transportation is a non-issue. Also, for the month of October, the casino buffet is only $7.77 per person on Sundays. So again, we simply can’t go wrong there. At 5:30 pm we call the shuttle and five minutes later we’re getting picked up and driven over to the casino. The buffet is not as spectacular as some other casino buffets we’ve enjoyed, but hey, you can’t beat the price!
After filling our stomachs, Tracy has to try her luck on the slot machines. We agree that she’ll just take a twenty and when it’s gone, she’s done. So we are entertained at the slot machines by Tracy’s twenty dollar bill for the next 15 minutes or so and soon we’re walking out after having spent more money gambling than eating.
Monday: Today is our last full day here in Alton as tomorrow, we’ll continue down the Mississippi to Hoppie’s Marina in Kimmswick, Mo. So I get out my bicycle and take a ride to Bluff City Outdoors, a short but semi hilly 2.5 mile ride. There I buy some new fresh worms for Tracy and on the way back, I stop at the local Dollar General and get milk and bread to keep us going for the next week.
Later in the day, Tracy was thinking about going back to the casino for the buffet again, but for some reason, she found that the buffet was closed on Mondays, so she made a nice big salad for each of us and it was delicious. After dinner, I did some chores that needed attention before we spend the next week mostly at anchor. Together, we refilled the fresh water holding tank, than I used the marina’s city water supply to refill our two drinking water tanks with 4.5 gallons of Brita-purified water. Now, we’re all set for a few days of anchoring out. Tomorrow, we’ll cruise to Hoppie’s Marina, but they will be the last marina for 200 miles.
Tuesday: We are sitting just 2 miles upriver from the Mel Price Lock and Dam, so after walking Frankie and getting the boat ready for departure, I called the lock at 9:00am and he said that he would get the auxiliary (smaller) lock ready for pleasure craft for a 10:00 am lockage and hopefully more boats would show up because yesterday, he got a bunch of ones and twos all day for lockage and is really set them back on the commercial lockages.
After hanging up with Jason, the Lock Master, I checked Vessel Finder and NEBO to see of there were any other pleasure craft(s) coming downriver from either Grafton or Port Charles this morning. Sure enough, two pleasure craft showed up on NEBO and I contacted them to see what their game plan was for the day. They said they were two of four vessels traveling together today and they would definitely want to get into the 10:00 am lockage and they could be at the lock by then, so Tracy and I got Kailani ready for departure and pulled out of the Alton Marina at 9:50 am heading for the Mel Price Lock.
I called Jason back and he said the lock was ready for us and we could drive right in, so Kailani and four other looper vessels entered the lock and prepared for the 23’ drop. Once the water started going down, we noticed that the lock only dropped us about 2-3 feet, not 23 feet! Oh well, it’s always good to get thru a lock without much delay. We noticed AGLCA burgees on all four boats, so we were in good company and actually the lead vessel, Still Waters II had a gold burgee, so they have already completed one loop. Seeing that, I radioed Dave on Still Waters II and told him that since he had already passed these waters once before, he should lead the way and as the lock gates opened and the horn blasted, I let him go out first. Still Waters II lead for the entire day and it was all good because today we are passing through the busiest port on the entire loop. St Louis is supposedly the busiest port city on the Mississippi.
Shortly after Mel Price Lock, there’s an entrance on the left descending bank to Chain of Rocks Canal. This is a man-made 12 mile long canal which bypasses the only portion of the Mississippi that has rapids, so it’s important to not make a wrong turn here. There is virtually no traffic on the canal, but there is a long line of tugs lined up at the lock, but the lock master was very nice and she was just completing a single barge lift and getting ready to open the gates when we showed up so she let us enter right after the single upriver lift and ride down as she returned the water to the down river side for the next up river lift. As it turned out, there was also an empty tow vessel that needed to lock down and she let him in with us since she was locking us though the main chamber and not the auxiliary chamber. This chamber is 1100 feet long by 110 feet wide, so the five of us were virtually lost in this chamber. It’s certainly the largest chamber we’ve been in with Kailani.
After the lock opens up we are back on the Mississippi River with the St Louis skyline ahead of us and the impending port traffic coming up. Still Waters II does an excellent job of getting us thru the traffic and shortly afterwards, we’re rocking and rolling down the Mississippi towards or stop for the night. The Mississippi is often described as “mighty”, but today it was “might and choppy!” We had a strong 5 knot current carrying us southbound with a 10-15 mph wind in our face coming out of the south. So whenever the current and the winds are in exactly opposite directions, the water gets choppy and that’s exactly what we had today. If you recall, about 4 weeks ago on our last legs of the Illinois River, we had pretty much the same water conditions, but this is a bigger body of water, so therefore bigger chop!
Soon we’re approaching Hoppie’s Marina on the right descending bank and one at a time, we are called in by the dock master and there are two dock hands to grab lines in this strong current. They really know their business and after 5 hours on the water and 2 locks, we’re finally south of St Louis and ready to tackle what some refer to as the most difficult stretch of water for loopers. This next stretch gets its reputation from the fact that there are no marinas for 200 miles and based on weather conditions, the available anchorages are sometimes unusable. The owner here, Fern Hopkins conducts river briefings every day at 5:30 pm to go over these scenarios, so we’re all looking forward to that later on today.
There’s also a really neat restaurant here in town called the Blue Owl Restaurant with a great reputation for entrees and their ‘Levee high apple pie’, but we’ve arrived here at 3:00 pm and the restaurant closes everyday at 3:00 pm, so we’ll have to wait until tomorrow for taste bud stimulation.
Hoppie’s is literally barges anchored to the shore with power and cleats, so after all 5 looper vessels are tied up, we mingle about the dock/barge getting acquainted.
While sitting on the barge/dock passing out boat cards, someone jumps up and says, “hey, look at that red buoy floating down the river!” So I had to get a quick video of it. Three of the other four vessels have all started their loop from north of St Charles on the Mississippi and the fourth is Still Waters II who are cruising on their second loop. They all met when Still Waters II got to the intersection of the Mississippi with the Illinois and they turned north so they could eventually complete the entire navigable length of the Mississippi (after here, they are continuing down the Mississippi rather than turning onto the Ohio River with the rest of us).
At 5:00 pm, Fern’s daughter Debbie came down to give us the briefing since Fern is still recovering from knee replacement surgery. Debbie described the preferred method for leaving their docks utilizing the reverse transmission trick to clear the shafts and propellers from any potential debris before untying the dock lines. Then she described the current (up to date and water) conditions for the next 200 miles on the Mississippi and the Ohio Rivers. Included with this information are the safe (and apparently only) locations for anchorage along the way. We had a plan that we thought was very doable, but Debbie squashed that plan and now we have to revise our strategy going forward. We will still be resting here tomorrow and enjoying the local town, but when we leave, our stop destinations may have to change for safety sake. In fact over the course of the presentation, the rest of the loopers all decided that it would be better for them to stay tomorrow, rather than leave as planned. So if they make their final decision in the morning to stay an extra day, we’ll all be cruising together again on Thursday. We’ll have to see how that works out in the morning.
Back onboard Kailani, some of the rocking (but not all) has ceased and Tracy whips up a shrimp scampi dinner that we enjoy on this fairly nice late October evening. There’s rain in the forecast for later on tonight with some scattered showers tomorrow, but we’re looking forward to enjoying this small town regardless.
Wednesday: This morning is decision time for the other four loopers (we had committed to spending two nights here). So after some coffee and some discussion, all four boats, Still Water II, Aurora, Blurred Lines and Gammal Dansk all fired up their engines, went thru the pre-departure process for clearing potentially fouled props and were soon headed off into the fog for Kaskaskia Lock. It’s a relatively short 40 mile cruise with the current, but I’m concerned for them in this fog (to complete their story, by 3:30 pm they were all safely tied up at the lock wall).
So today, Tracy and I are walking into town for the famous Blue Owl Restaurant meal. This is downtown Kimmswick, MO and this restaurant has been featured on the Food Network, Wall Street Journal, The Travel Channel and The Oprah Show to name a few. People come from all over the world to experience this small town gem and we weren’t about to pass thru without a taste! The home cooked meals are spectacular, but the desserts are the treasure.
They serve all in house prepared foods and desserts and the most famous dessert is their Levee High Caramel Apple Pecan Pie that has 18 apples in each pie! When our waitress described the available desserts I had to stop her at the carrot-cheese cake. This is a top and bottom tier of carrot cake surrounding a center layer of cheesecake, and for a simple request, they’ll throw a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top…Done! Everything was great and to top it off, our waitress’ folks are from Waterbury and Thomaston, CT. Her dad used to paint the faces on Seth Thomas clocks. And as we were leaving, we got to meet Mary Hostetter, the owner and she was very nice in sharing her pleasure to see so many loopers stop in for her home-cooked meals.
The sun never broke thru today but the winds died down and the fog eventually dissipated and two more loopers came into the marina for the evening.
Thursday: The overnight was a stressful night. Tracy spent the night trying to sleep in the salon because she was concerned about watching for logs and lines to snap. By morning, we were still secured safely to Hoppies barge but Tracy had gotten very little sleep. We spent two long hours trying to decide on whether to go or not. We both didn’t want another night like last night, but today’s weather outlook is bleak with rain all day and winds out of the north at 20 mph gusting to 35 mph. This is not a good day to be on the river. So with the desire to go coupled with the sensibility to be safe staying here, we finally decide to remain, add more fenders and wait it out because tomorrow is forecasted to be pleasant, partly sunny and negligible winds. Our new Canadian friends on Sea Wolf decide to stay and Duette says they’re going to go for it, then they decide to stay also.
The day is mostly overcast with periods of light and heavy rain. The barge traffic is still going strong in both directions, however most of the unbound tows are empty barges, but with the 4-5 knot current, they still throw out ridiculous wakes. Bill and Jim of Duette and I play some cribbage in the afternoon in Hoppies clubhouse. Afterwards Tracy and I get all bundled up for the rainy/raw walk into town for dinner at Smokey Robinson’s Cajun Smokehouse. They’re the only location open after 3:00 pm in this small town. We walk in around 4:45 pm and we’re the only ones in the restaurant besides the staff! We have a great meal with pulled pork nachos and fried pepperoni nachos for appetizers, then we share the combination plate for two of smoked ribs and pulled pork. We purposely over-ordered so we could bring leftovers back aboard for the next couple of days at anchor. As we are paying our bill and getting ready to walk back to the marina, the waitress asks if we’re going back to Hoppies and after confirming, she says to hang on because Mike, the owner/chef is leaving to pick up Bill and Jim at the marina and he’ll drive us back so we don’t have to walk in the cold rain. Another local helping out loopers.
Back aboard Kailani Tracy determines that the onboard heater is not functioning properly caused likely by insufficient raw water intake. The Mississippi River debris has probably clogged the intake and once we are tied up tomorrow at Kaskaskia Lock wall, and there is negligible current, we’ll be able to research and hopefully clear any blockage(s). For tonight we just use our electric heaters and the electric blanket on the bed.
Friday: I wake to a bit of low lying fog over the river. Not to worry, the fog is generated from colder air than the water and as soon as the sun works a bit, the fog will be gone. This is a non-issue since we don’t plan to leave until almost 10:00 am. So Frankie gets his morning walk, I get my three cups of coffee and Tracy gets her two cups of coffee and by 9:15 am we’re starting the engines and ‘flushing’ the props. This is a must when you are in moving water with so much debris scurrying by. It’s possible that something large (or small) can get fouled in the propellers so one the engines are running and the boat is still tied to the dock (barge here), you run each engine once in reverse, then in forward and see if anything spits out. We do it twice on each propeller and are satisfied that our propulsion is alright. Ray has already helped Duette and Sea Wolf off the dock properly (against the 5 knot current) and is alongside Kailani with Tracy ready to accept the lines from Ray. He un-cleats from the bow to the stern and leaves only the forward spring line which holds the boat from drifting back (with the current). Then with me at the helm, I give a bit of port forward and Ray tosses the line to Tracy. Once we’re free of the dock I head Kailani upriver into the current, then slowly turn the boat towards downriver once we’re in the sailing channel.
Once we’re on course, we have 37 nautical miles to get to the Kaskaskia Lock and Dam for the evening. The Kaskaskia Lock allows boaters to tie up to the lock wall on the dam side for the evening at no charge. The only stipulation is that you must call them to let them know your intentions and they keep track of the number of passengers, the homeport and the final destination of each vessel that ties up to their wall. That’s a fair deal and by 1:00 pm Kailani, Sea Wolf and Duette are safely tied up for the night. Paul from Sea Wolf also discovers that every thirty feet or so on the wall, there’s a duplex outlet with 110 volt AC power (since he’s Canadian he says that he found ‘Hydro’). But nonetheless, we have 110 power for small appliances like space heaters (so we don’t have to run the generator all night).
The location is perfectly calm and quiet and it’s so secluded that we let Frankie loose on top the lock wall and he runs free for a half hour or so blowing off some steam after being either cooped up aboard the vessel or leashed everywhere he has gone for the last couple of weeks.
Then we convene with the crews of Sea Wolf and Duette for some conversation about the day’s cruise and some plans for going further south to the Ohio River.
Saturday: Fog is heavy and not going away for a bit. We discuss with Sea Wolf and Duette the options looking forward and since Duette is a slower boat cruising with fuel conservation in mind, he can not make Little Diversion Channel if we leave at 11:00 am.
Plus there’s forecast(s) ahead looking at sever weather on Monday and since we would be in an open water anchorage if we left tomorrow, we decide that we may be here on the lock wall for a few days waiting out the severe weather. Our first decision is to stay put for today and continue to watch weather opportunities and pitfalls to navigation further south of here. We will have to watch our resources for the next couple of days as there are no marinas until we get to Paducah.
While we are passing the time in the afternoon a catamaran vessel cruises up the Kaskaskia River and we help them tie up. They are a French couple that started their adventure in June 2017 when they left France to cross the Atlantic Ocean. They’ve been to Florida, up the ICW to Maine, then around Nova Scotia on down the St Lawrence River to four Great Lakes, then into the river system in Chicago. The had their mast shipped to Mobile Alabama and once they have their mast again, they will be sailing to the Panama Canal then up to Hawaii and Alaska before turning around and sailing down to the tip of South America and returning to France! Now that’s an adventure!