We have left the mid-west behind and are now officially back in the South. Feeling more comfortable now that we are east of the Mississippi and definitely south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Here is what we have been up to over the two weeks:
Saturday (9/26) – Little Divergent Channel off Mississippi River (MO side) – We got up early and left Hoppies at 7 am with four other Looper boats all trying to head south down the Mississippi River. Although last off the dock, we (naturally) took the lead ahead of “Harvest Moon”, “JimKat”, “Sum Escape”, and “Camelot”. Since these boats are trawlers, they cruise at a slower speed (usually 8 – 10 knots) then we do at 15 kts. Add to that a 3 kt current from the Mississippi and NO locks to content with, and we covered the 100 miles in excellent time. By 1:30 we had secured our spot at anchor in Little Divergent Channel.
The cruise today had us pass only a few areas of interest, including Cape Girardeau, MO (birthplace of Rush Limbaugh) and home of the Southeast Missouri State University.
The river is very industrial and we passed by many processing plants of all types, including rock quarries and cement factories where for excitement we would try to guess what they were. The tow traffic is constant, with us passing one about every 30-45 minutes or so. Just enough to break up the monotony of seeing nothing but trees, huge embankments or levees.
Then there are the wingdams and weirdams that you have to watch out for; jetty-like rock formations engineered to steer the river currents. Wingdams jet out from the shore and run perpendicular to the river. Their purpose is to deflect the currents to the center off the river, thus preventing erosion of the river banks and create a self-flushing action that helps curtail shoaling of the channel. Weirdams are located at the bends in the river and are usually angled 20 – 30 degrees into the flow of the river. They are very long and their purpose is to control the flow of water through the bend. Both of these engineered structures create little tidal currents (think whirlpools) that make steering the boat a bit of challenge, especially in narrow areas and/or when passing a tow. It is not for the faint of heart, and this is a primary reason for staying off the rivers at night lest you stray from the channel and run into them.
There are parts of the Mississippi river that have pleasantly surprised us. The high rock cliffs along the Missouri side made for interesting landscaping, and occasionally we would see huge houses perched atop them. The Illinois side was more flat, but would have some nice sandy areas that were often part of a state park or wildlife preserve. When we passed by one area we saw a bunch of kayakers who had set up camp along the banks and we wondered if Leann and Alyssum were part of the group. (See last post in Port Charles, MO).
Around 3:00 in the afternoon the rest of the Looper boats began showing up, including two Looper sailboats that were in Alton marina, but did not go to Hoppies. We rafted together with Anne & Jeff (“Harvest Moon”) while the others either rafted in pairs or anchored individually. In total there were 8 boats in the anchorage for the night. Small john-type fishing boats were coming by and one mentioned to us that there were 7 boats in the anchorage yesterday; we guess we had them beat!
After all the boats were settled in, Jeff invited us aboard “Harvest Moon” for drinks on their fly bridge. So, after our showers and some dinner prep we went over and enjoyed the beauty of the anchorage and getting to know them a little bit. That lasted for about 45 minutes until the bugs started to come out and the sun started to set. We went back to our boat where Denise made fajitas for dinner and we reviewed the charts and guide books for tomorrow’s adventures on Island Office.
Sunday (9/27) – Cumberland Towhead anchorage off of the Ohio River (Kentucky side) we left the anchorage with all the other Looper boats and made great time for the first 2 hours on the Mississippi River, with little excitement to speak of. However, once we complete the near 50 miles to the Ohio River, and turned to take it up river, well, that was another story. Since we were now traveling up the river and fighting a 3 kt current, our speed slowed down a bit.
Then we had to contend with 3 locks: the first one (Olmstead) is a newly constructed lock and will replace the other two locks, so it is really not operational. However, you must pass through it with permission and only if there are no tows coming down river. We went through with a short (15 minute) wait. The second (lock #53) we got lucky and three other pleasure craft were awaiting the lock opening as we approached. As we got up to the lock they were letting us all in, so we really didn’t have to wait at all.
The third lock (#52) was another story. We had a heads-up that they were going to make us wait at this lock for 2 hours, and we knew it would take us time to get there. We could have sped up and made the lock with another pleasure craft that was waiting, but we were told they would make them wait for us and the other 3 boats that previously locked with us. So we took our time cruising around 8 kts – which was still way faster than the trawlers, so we now had to wait for them to catch up. There was one other pleasure craft ahead of us, but they had pulled way out of the channel and anchored, which is what we should have done. Instead we motored in place near the edge of the channel because we were led to believe it would be just “a little while longer”. The other boats arrived and we all still had to wait over an hour before they would let us in.
This lock (like Lock #53) is very large and old with lots of hazards that can harm your boat. It is also s a very busy lock; the down-bound tow traffic was queued at least nine groups backlogged (one group is a full lock going up or down). It took a long time to fill so we could lock up, but eventually we all got through, grateful that we were going up-bound and not having to wait any longer than we did. We have heard stories of other Loopers who waited 8 -12 hours to get through this very busy lock.
Knowing we could not make it the last 45 miles or so to Green Turtle Bay in the daylight, we opted for a night at anchor behind a small island called Cumberland Towhead. Unfortunately, this meant we would not be anywhere to go to church and would mean we would miss mass this week – only the second time since we started our adventure that we have not been able to get to a church.
However, this was the night of the super moon and the eclipse so we were happy to be away from city lights that would pollute our view. Unfortunately it was quite cloudy and although our sunset was spectacular and full of color, we did not get a good view of the eclipse. Not that it would have mattered; we were exhausted and went to bed early. Mark got up during the night and saw the blood moon, but was not able to take any pictures of it, and he missed the eclipse.
Monday (9/28) – Green Turtle Bay Marina (Grand Rivers, KY) – We were up even before sunrise, so once we got a little bit of daylight, we pulled up the anchor and headed toward GTB. Within a few miles of the anchorage we left the Ohio River and headed down the Cumberland River. Again fighting the down-bound current as this river flows upstream into the Ohio. However, there was very little traffic on this river, which narrows and twists about quite a bit. We passed two big quarry areas with tows, but other than that we saw very few boats.
The water on this part of the river was incredibly still and the shores were quite beautiful. We noticed how the leaves were now changing here from the yellowish tint to the more auburn and red tint. In another few weeks this place will be full in color with fall foliage. At one point Denise asked “What is that on the water up there?” and Mark’s answered “it’s the reflection”! It really was peaceful and beautiful and we were celebrating the early departure and having this all to ourselves.
We arrived at the Barkley lock (the only one we have to go through on the Cumberland River) and only had to wait for the up-bound tow to finish locking down before we went in. While waiting we saw a whole school of Asian carp jumping in the air right near the lock & dam spillover. It was wild to say the least!
It had been awhile since we had faced such a huge lock-up (we had to go 50+ feet) and it was a little intimidating as it is a large lock and we were the only vessel in the place. It took about 20 minutes to fill and lift us up, but we were happy that we got through so easily.
In just over 3 hours from our anchorage we pulled into the fuel dock at Green Turtle Bay marina and added 100 gallons of diesel. Just enough to get us to our next (more affordable) diesel stop down the Tennessee River.
Coming here was like a class reunion. We saw Loopers we have met all long the trip, and few people we have not seen since the AGLCA Rendezvous in Norfolk. It was lots of fun to reconnect and tell stories, but it also became a big distraction. Without realizing it we had whiled away a huge chunk of our day.
In the afternoon we began the process of planning the next stops of our adventure. We had previously decided that we were not going to take the time to go down the Cumberland River and visit Nashville, and that we were not going to the AGLCA’s Fall Rendezvous at Joe Wheeler State Park in Tennessee in October. We also knew we wanted to be ahead of the 50 – 60 boats that would all be leaving the Rendezvous at the same time heading to Mobile, AL filling up the marinas along the way there. We had a rough estimate of the time it would take to get to Mobile so we decided to extend our stay at GTB from the 2 days to the 4 days to get some boat chores and work for clients done.
Denise met up with Lola (“Sunny Daze”) who had reserved the loaner car and offered a ride into town to go to the local supermarket. So, off they went and returned with a handful of items, and a quick survey of the town. Mark had some work to do for clients so he stayed behind and got a few phone calls out of the way.
In the evening, we went to dinner at the Commonwealth Yacht club – located at the marina with access provided to anyone who stays at Green Turtle Bay. Our dining companions were Lola & Terry (“Sunny Daze”) whom we met in Michigan, and Brian and Janice (“Fugitive”) – whom we had met in Havana, IL when they let us in the gate at Tall Timbers marina so we could visit our friends who were there while we stayed at the free dock. The food was good and we enjoyed hearing the stories of these other Loopers.
Tuesday (9/29) – Green Turtle Bay Marina (Grand Rivers, KY) – It was a rainy morning for which we knew would keep us inside for a while. So, we decided to use the morning as a working day on the boat and get some chores done. Also, our original plan was that we were not going to go to Nashville, but today when we did some long range planning we discovered that we did have time to take the boat there. So we mapped out a plan to take the boat down the Cumberland River, go to Nashville for 2 days, then come back up the Cumberland, and onto the Tennessee River. This would require two long days on the water, a stay in a marina in Clarksville, and passing one lock….and then repeating the whole thing on the return. But, we figured we had time so we spent a good bit of the day making the detailed plans and marina reservations accordingly. Our friends Lola & Terry provided insight and some thoughts as they are from this area and will cross their wake in the coming days.
Once the weather cleared up a bit we went on an adventure into the small town of Grand Rivers. We used the marina golf cart which is available for use around the grounds or for the short 1-mile trek into town.
We did a little window-shopping through some of the stores and rode around to see the sights. Afterwards we went over to one of the docks in the marina and saw the reason this place is called Green Turtle Bay – we got these pictures of all the turtles that hang out waiting for people to feed them.
In the late afternoon we had Chuck & Vicki Stapleton (“Patriot”) aboard for drinks before dinner. We had not seen them since Norfolk and really enjoyed getting to know them then – they are both retired FBI agents. We spent nearly two hours getting caught up and discussing Mobile, AL where they reside. Mark had been researching where we could have the boat detailed there, and they provided some valuable insight. Because our time with them flew by, we had not put together anything for dinner and found ourselves going back to the yacht club to get a bite to eat.
We ran into Anne & Jeff (“Harvest Moon”) who had just sat down and invited us to join them, so we did. They were planning to leave in the morning for Nashville with several other boats (“Sunny Daze” & “Fugitive”), taking three days to get there. We made plans to connect with them when there as we were going to leave a day later, but arrive at the same time. We enjoyed spending more time with them and looked forward to this new and budding friendship.
Wednesday (9/30) – Green Turtle Bay Marina (Grand Rivers, KY). The rain from yesterday brought a little reprieve from the heat, so Denise started the day with a 3-mile run out of the resort property and into the town of Grand Rivers just a mile away. After showers and getting on with our day, we had office work to do (it is payday after all) and Denise made an attempt to get caught up on the blog, while Mark washed the outside of the boat.
In the afternoon our friends on TiKa arrived from their cruise down to Nashville, now with Karen back onboard (after an extended stay in Ft. Meyers). We spent some time talking with them about Nashville and the pros & cons of taking the boat there, versus driving a rental car and staying in a hotel. That got us rethinking the Nashville trip so we went back to the drawing board, and re-planned the whole thing. First was the marina: could we leave the boat another few days, or were they full up? Fortunately for us they could keep the boat, and they had a special going – stay 5 nights, get 2 free. Perfect! Next came the rental car; Enterprise in Paducah had a car. Then came the hotel; we were able to cash in Hilton points and got a room for Friday & Saturday night at the Hilton right in the heart of downtown. Bingo! We had a plan and felt the best about this one that allowed days to go to Nashville, and still kept us ahead of the crowds headed to Mobile, AL.
That evening we joined Julie & Tom (“Sum Escape”) and Jim & Kathy (“JimKat”) for dinner at a local restaurant called “Pattie’s”. We met aboard “Sum Escape” for drinks first, then a driver from the restaurant came and picked us all up as it was a bit too far to walk in the dark. The place is known for its 1” and 2” pork chops as well as desserts – which we managed to get a tasting of and enjoyed.
Here are some pictures of the town of Grand Rivers:
Thursday (10/1) – Green Turtle Bay Marina (Grand Rivers, KY). We started the day calling marinas and cancelling or rescheduling our dates based on the new plans for Nashville. We encountered no issues in doing so and we felt really good about the new plan and our future itinerary.
We also did a little maintenance on the boat. We wanted to change the ventilation filter for the holding tank, which was located in the smallest possible space under the galley floor. This of course meant that Denise would be the one crawling into this space. Fortunately, it was an easy replacement and did not involve the actual holding tank itself.
A little description about Green Turtle Bay. This is really a total resort with condos, hotel rooms, marina with a full service boat yard, a full-service spa, a sandwich shop, boat rentals, beach with chairs, a bonfire pit, and more. And yes…there are even turtles in the water here. We have determined this would be a great location for a family reunion and Bill (one of the owners and harbormaster) advised they have them all the time in the summer months. Something to consider sometime if anyone would be up for a weekend of fishing, boating, swimming or just hanging out!
The resort is located in an area called the “Land between the Lakes” because it is located between the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers. There is a National Recreation Area that starts just south of Green Turtle Bay, and is really quite beautiful. There are lots of parks, campgrounds, hiking trails etc. and would definitely be a trip if you are into the outdoors. You can learn more about it here.
During the day Denise was able to book an appointment into the spa and get a much-needed pedicure. Mark worked on installing the latest IOS update for our iPhones & iPads, as well as some computer systems maintenance.
In the evening, the owners of Green Turtle Bay hosted a bar-b-que as a way of recognizing the Looper community. They provided food: pulled pork sandwiches, salad, cole slaw, potato salad, and peach cobbler and some entertainment as well as a big thank you. Over 100 Looper boats come through this area most in a 3-week time frame. It is a great stopping point after the long run down the Illinois, Mississippi and Ohio Rivers from Chicago. The marina is really nice with terrific staff and this was a very nice gestures on their part. Even the deer came out to enjoy the party!
Friday (10/2) – Nashville, TN. We were picked up at 9:00 by the Enterprise rental car driver who then took us to Paducah to get our car. What should have taken 35 minutes took over two hours as we had to wait on a car to be returned and Paducah is a 30 mile drive from Grand Rivers. However, once we got the car we made our way to I-24 for the easy drive to Nashville. Along the way we found a Chick-Fil-A at the Clarksville, TN exit so we stopped for lunch. What a treat! Since we could not check into the hotel before 3:00 and we were early, we located a Costco and picked up a few items that we just couldn’t live without (HA)!
We then headed to our hotel which was located in the best spot; we could not have planned this any better. Across the street on the west side was the Country Music Hall of Fame, on the North side was the Bridgestone Arena, one block away was Broadway Street with all the Honky Tonks; to our immediate South was the Johnny Cash Museum, and next to that was the Symphony Hall (beautiful building). We were within walking distance of so much, which was a good thing as it continued to drizzle and rain all night. To add to the fun, they upgraded us to a suite that was bigger than our whole boat!
We had been in touch with Looper friends Anne & Jeff (“Harvest Moon”) who had their boat on the wall at the city riverfront. We made plans to meet at “Jacks Bar-B-Que” on Broadway where we had a quick beer while waiting for them. Once we got together we walked around Broadway to locate someplace a little nicer to eat, and that included some type of entertainment.
Eventually we stumbled onto the ACME (an old feed store building right on the corner near the river). This place had been highlighted to us by other Loopers, so we went in. On the first floor is a stage with a live band that was playing (yes, country music), a large bar along the whole side, and a counter where you order & pick up your food. On the second floor is a smaller bar and lots of tables, chairs and lounging sofas and recorded (not live) music that enabled conversation. Here we were able to secure 4 seats at the bar and then ordered our dinner which was quite good. It was a win-win for Mark (who doesn’t like Country music) and was not a touristy Honky-Tonk as our other options in the area.
After dinner we walked to a place called “Printers Alley” which has a handful of bars and nightspots and has a very New Orleans feel to it. We opted not to stay here and walked back towards Broadway.
In the meantime Anne had been in touch with Brian & Janice (“Fugitive”) and we connected with them at a place called “The Big Bang”. Here there were two musicians playing facing pianos and ridiculing folks from the audience like a “Howl at the Moon” show. However this did not last long after we arrived and the entertainers began taking requests for songs by the audience. During their performance, more musicians would come in and play different instruments (drums, guitar, etc.) and they would swap around. These were very versatile and talented individuals who played everything from hard rock, disco, Billy Joel, and of course country. They had the crowd singing and dancing and it was a lot of fun. People told us that we would see excellent talent along this strip of nightspots and they were not lying; these guys were great!
We stayed up way past double-digits and finally called it a night. When we left there was a line out the door to get in and the town was just getting warmed up. We heard music and partying from our hotel room well into the wee morning hours.
Saturday (10/3) – Nashville, TN. Again we woke up to a light rain and cool weather, but that didn’t stop us from playing tourist in the Music City. We got a hop-on-hop off bus ticket and took the 1.5 hour tour around the city, only getting off at one stop due to the rain – the Farmers Market. This is a permanent structure which houses a food-court type of area as well as stalls for the typical farmer’s market vendors. We bought some micro small pumpkins and gourds to decorate the boat with, and had lunch at Bella Nashville Wood-fired Pizza. It was incredibly fresh and some of the best pizza we have had.
The bus tour continued past the Bicentennial Capital Mall state park, and then through all parts of Nashville including Vanderbilt University and Music Row; an area where the music studios, production companies and royalty monitoring services are all located. We also went through an area known as the Gulch, where there are shops and some up and coming restaurants are located.
After the bus ride, we went back to our hotel to get out of the rain and watch the FSU game. We were happy to be able to see the entire game and to dry off for a while.
For dinner we had previously made plans with Anne and Jeff to dine at a restaurant called “M” located in The Gulch. Brian & Janice had other plans for the evening, so it would just be the four of us. We met at our hotel first for drinks, then together took a cab to the restaurant. We had a delicious meal; probably the best meal we have had since starting the Loop – or at least since Charleston. Feeling a little stuffed and since the rain subsided, we decided to walk our way back to the hotel (and the boat for Anne and Jeff). We said good bye to them and hope we reconnect along the rest of our adventure as we have become friends and really enjoy their company.
Sunday (10/4) – Nashville, TN. We got up early and walked the 5 blocks to St. Mary’s of the Seven Sorrows Catholic Church. We assumed the 9:00 mass would be over in the usual hour, but we were mistaken. It was a high mass with most of it sung and many parts in Latin. It took 1. 5 hours and we came to the conclusion that all the masses in this church were like this. However, it was filled with many young families, including the one that shared our pew. This church is the one of the first Catholic Church buildings constructed in Tennessee and dates to 1848. Richard Pius Miles, O.P. (1791-1860), the first Catholic Bishop of Nashville is buried on the premises and there are efforts to have him beatified as a saint.
After mass, we returned back to the hotel and checked out. We wanted to get back to the marina and the boat, and prepare it for leaving on Monday morning.
Other pictures from Nashville:
On the drive back to Grand Rivers, we stopped in Clarksville, TN as they had a Wal-Mart and a Publix – a store we were so happy to finally be able to do grocery shopping in again. We picked up some things at both stores and then made the drive back to Grand Rivers, arriving in time to get laundry done and put water on the boat. We grabbed some to-go pork sandwiches from the Yacht Club for dinner and stayed on the boat for some “down time” for the rest of the evening.
Monday (10/5) – Paris Landing, TN. Knowing we were heading into days where it might not be possible, Denise started the day with another run around the town of Grand Rivers, using the hills to get in a bit of a workout. It felt good to get the legs moving again.
Because Enterprise Rental Car is not open on Sunday, we had to return the rental car to Paducah before we could leave Green Turtle Bay. Mark had coordinated with Larry (“Cheryl Lynn”) – a Gold Looper on a Sabre 52 that was in the slip next to ours – and they went together; Larry picking up a car and Mark returning one. This prevented the long wait for the Enterprise employee to take Mark back to the marina.
Once Mark returned to the boat we left Green Turtle Bay for the 38 mile cruise down to Paris Landing, arriving at 1:30. It is the end of the season and the dock master instructed us to just choose any slip we wanted when we arrived, so we pulled into one designated for a 60’ yacht. It was nice not to worry about sticking out too far.
After settling in at the marina, we hosed down the boat as it was covered with bugs from Green Turtle Bay and we were sick of having them around. Despite our best efforts, they get inside the boat and we are constantly vacuuming to get rid of them. On the outside the bugs and spiders poop all over the boat and leave a mess that has to be constantly cleaned or it will stain. We never want to hear anyone complain about the bugs in FL again – we have put up with our fair share in the last few states.
Along the way to Paris Landing we cruised through Kentucky Lake which is quite beautiful and eventually forms into the Tennessee River. Here Island Office officially crossed into the state of Tennessee; our 15th since we started the trip in April.
Also along the way we passed Loopers Martha & George (“Aunt Aggie”), whom we had seen in Green Turtle Bay for the first time since meeting them in Amsterdam, New York in July.
When they pulled into the marina we laughed about there being so few boaters, and how we had our pick of slips to pull into. We made plans to get together for drinks with them later as they had friends on board and were in celebration mode; they will cross their wake in 3 short days!
The marina here is part of the Tennessee Parks system and there is a State Park across the highway and 1 mile up the road, with a golf course, conference center, lodge and restaurant. The park rangers will come to the marina and pick you up to take you to the lodge for dining in the restaurant or to use their pool (which was closed for the season) or other facilities.
After celebratory drinks aboard “Aunt Aggie”, we went to dinner at the Paris Landing Lodge restaurant and had their buffet. When we arrived we saw the chicken tenders, fried fish and ribs, as well as the extensive salad bar that was included and though this would be a pretty good meal at $10 each. However, by the time we ordered, ate our salads from the salad bar and went to get food, they were out of the ribs and were running out of the chicken. You see there was a big group of young college golfers (men) who were having a tournament there and they had started arriving before us. They were hungry and devoured the ribs before we even had a chance. Fortunately, there was still ice cream and apple cobbler, so we made up for it with dessert.
In the evening we found the marina to be eerily quiet as there were only us two transient boats. However, it was welcomed peace compared to the popularity of Green Turtle Bay.
Tuesday (10/6) – Pebble Isle Marina, New Johnsonville, TN – Dense was up early and was able to capture the spectacularly beautiful sky over the marina. It was so breathtaking and reminded us that while violent at times, nature can be a great soother!
Although not in a hurry, Mark was anxious to get moving and so we left Paris Landing by 9:30 and made the two hour run to Pebble Isle Marina in New Johnsonville, TN. The trip was really quite nice as it was a great day to be on the water; the sky was really blue and there were no clouds. There was a little wind, but just enough to keep us cooled off. Along the way we passed the Old Danville grain elevator which was one time on land sits nearly right at the edge of the channel.
This part of the Tennessee River is very pretty with hills on both sides. There are parts of it that have big cliffs and other parts that are flat, even some areas with grassy marshes. There are houses now on both sides of the river, but they are space out and it is still very rural. The water is not crystal clear, but still is nice and with the changing leaves on the trees makes for some beautiful scenery.
We passed a lot of bass-style fishing boats and even a Looper boat or two, and made it into the Pebble Isle marina before lunch.
Here we saw our Looper friends on “Sweet Sensation”, “TiKa”, and “Plane 2 Sea”, as well as new Loopers we met in Green Turtle Bay on “Endoxi” and “Sassified”. Later in the day Julie & Tom (“Sum Escape”) pulled in, as well as several other boats we did not know. We also met a Gold Looper couple, Vicki & Mike Agee (“Drifters”) who are from Mississippi and are starting their second Looping adventure.
Denise (aka social director) organized docktails for 5:00 and all were present for sharing stories and getting to know one another. It was truly a fun time and what makes the membership in AGLCA so worthwhile. Everyone looks for the Looper burgees when pulling into a marina or anchorage, and when one is spotted you know you have a friend.
The marina here is family owned and is pretty good size. It has a large dock space for transients, good fuel prices, and they love their Loopers. The restaurant is usually closed during the week this time of year, but when Loopers come through they will open if there is enough who want to eat there. So in the afternoon they come down the docks, tell you their specials and take a poll of how many are interested. If 20 or more people come they will open the restaurant.
Needless to say, we all said yes as we wanted to patronize the local small businesses. We headed to the restaurant at 6:00 and joined tables so we could all sit together. For dinner Mark got the bacon-wrapped sirloin special (no surprise there) and Denise got the Dungeness crab legs, both of which came with salad bar and a side dish. The food was really good, a great value, and we waddled away quite full. We had lots of fun and enjoyed talking with our old and new Looper friends.
Stay tuned for more adventures!