Category Archives: Great Loop

Captured in Carrabelle!

Loopers are warned to not be on a schedule, and we really have tried not to be. However, we did have a “plan” to be in Dunedin or Clearwater, FL where we intended to leave the boat for Thanksgiving. But the weather did not cooperate so we have had to leave the boat in Carrabelle, FL which is where it currently sits.

Carrabelle is just south of Tallahassee and is the last port on the GICW before the Big Bend area of Florida – where the water is too shallow and the land is too swampy for it to continue.  It will pick back up on the west coast at Tarpon Springs, but getting there or further south requires a 140 – 160 mile crossing of the northeastern tip of the Gulf of Mexico.  Since this will take us about 8 – 9 hours, we must have a good weather window with calm seas for a whole day.

To top it all off, work has picked up for Mark and he now must make 3 trips to client sites between now and Christmas. This has hampered our ability to be available to move the boat when the weather is good, so now Denise will stay in Winter Park for a few weeks until we get a good combination of acceptable weather and Mark’s availability.  It’s a good thing we are not on a schedule and that we are just a 4-hr drive between home and boat.

Here is the last few days on our adventure before the holiday break:

Tuesday, (11/17) – Apalachicola, FL – This morning we settled into our boat and enjoyed some very nice, albeit windy weather.  It was sunny and the temperature was comfortable, so it was nice to just open up the boat and work from our Island Office.  Denise finally got the last blog post done and Mark was able to get some phone calls in and client work completed.

We visited with some of the other Loopers in our marina, or who walked down to our boat to discuss travel plans this week. Everyone is trying to figure out how to make a Gulf crossing, and the weather is just not cooperating. The high winds are forecasted to continue for the next week with a small window developing for maybe Friday.  This has everyone frustrated; we would be happy to just get to Carrabelle so we can leave the boat and go home for the Thanksgiving holiday. If the weather is good tomorrow we will cruise the 24 miles there and Claire will come down from Tallahassee to get us.

In the late afternoon we walked all around the town of Apalachicola and sought out a friend who works in the courthouse, only to learn she was in Tallahassee all week for training.  We then went to the Owl Café Tap Room for drink and appetizer, and to hang out watching sports on their TV’s.  Later we went around the corner and up the stairs to the dining room at the Owl Café and had a fabulous meal of red snapper (Denise) and black grouper (Mark).  We left the place stuffed and highly recommend this as a great place to eat.

The Owl Cafe

The Owl Cafe

Wednesday, (11/18) – Apalachicola, FL – Our hopes for leaving were dashed this morning when we woke up to howling winds and now high water around the marina.  The SE winds have pushed the water from Apalachicola Bay north into the river and it is flooding all the fixed docks just south of us.

Flooding over fixed docks

Flooding over fixed docks

Fortunately, where we are there are floating docks and we are rising with the water; no flooding here like we had at Dog River in Mobile.

After Mark did some work in the morning, we walked to Boss Oyster for lunch.  This restaurant is very popular and has been written up as one of the best oyster houses in the south.  It is quite eclectic and rustic, and we had the place almost to ourselves. You can tell it is definitely the “slow season”.

Boss Oyster

Boss Oyster

Mark at Boss Oysters

Mark at Boss Oysters

Denise at Boss Oyster

Denise at Boss Oyster

At Boss Oyster

At Boss Oyster

After lunch we walked around to the Apalachicola Marina to see some Looper friends who were docked there, but they were not on their boats.  So we walked over to the municipal marina and saw our new Looper friends on “Salty” to talk about their plans to go all the way to Steinhatchee tomorrow morning. The have a small C-Dory with a shallow draft and can navigate the shallow water there better than we could. They are from Melbourne Beach and are anxious to get back home as they run a marina there and it is boating season in FL. We agreed to stay in touch and keep each other posted about leaving in the morning.

Although it was very windy and there was increasing clouds, we wanted to walk and see more of the town.  Right near the municipal marina is the headquarters and the park which hosts the annual seafood festival; Florida’s oldest maritime event.

Seafood festival sign

Seafood festival sign

Seafood Festival HQ

Seafood Festival HQ

Our trek then took us by St. Patrick’s Church and near the Hine’s house (a house owned by the parents of Denise’s nephew’s girlfriend – Scarlett).

St. Patrick's

St. Patrick’s

Hine's house

Hine’s house

We then went to the John Gorrie Park and Museum, which unfortunately was closed for the day.  John Gorrie was responsible for inventing the technology which led to refrigeration and air conditioning. After a few pictures here we walked back through a few shops in town, then headed back towards our marina, but not before the sprinkles started.

John Gorrie State Museum

John Gorrie State Museum

John Gorrie Marker

John Gorrie Marker

Here are some other pictures we took during our walk:

Gibson Inn

Gibson Inn

City Wharf

City Wharf

Leavins Seafood

Leavins Seafood

Raney House Museum

Raney House Museum

We were not on the boat long before the weather turned really ugly with rain, wind and big gusts.  Suddenly, the weather radio alerts went off and announced a tornado warning (not a watch) for our area.  So where do you go when you are on a boat and there is a tornado warning?  The lobby of the marina hotel!  Fortunately for us it was right near our boat and we didn’t have to walk far. So we hung out in the lobby for a little while until the apparent threat was diminished, then went back to the boat for the rest of the evening.

Water Street Hotel Lobby

Water Street Hotel Lobby

The forecast for tomorrow looked good to move the boat to Carrabelle, so we made plans accordingly and prepped the boat before going to bed.

Thursday, (11/19) – Carrabelle, FL – The morning brought the calm weather that was forecasted and we knew the trip to Carrabelle was short, so we were not in too big a hurry to leave.  However we did expect the wind to pick up a little, and we did not want to be in Apalachicola Bay or on St. George’s Sound if it started to blow strong.  Eventually, we headed out for an uneventful passage to Carrabelle; a town we have been to or through many times before.  We communicated with “Salty” and learned they too had left, but were going to try and make it to Steinhatchee; a very long day for them.

Hiway 98 Bridge - Leaving Apalachicola

Hiway 98 Bridge – Leaving Apalachicola

Entering Carrabelle

Entering Carrabelle

We arrived at the Moorings Marina and first stopped for a fill-up of diesel.  Our next passage will have us heading offshore in the Gulf and we needed to have the maximum amount of fuel possible.

Moorings Marina Office

Moorings Marina Office

Afterwards, we were assigned a slip on the western end of the marina, where the current seemed to grow stronger with each passing slip. Finally arriving at the designated slip, it took Mark three attempts but he finally was able to park the boat.  At first Denise was a little embarrassed that it took so many attempts, but then the next three boats who came in after us had an even worse time so she didn’t feel so bad after all.

IO at Moorings Marina in Carrabelle

IO at Moorings Marina in Carrabelle

Since the weather was not going to cooperate for a Gulf crossing before Thanksgiving, we decided to leave the boat and go home for the holiday. In the late afternoon Denise’s sister, Claire picked us up and took us to her home.  We spent a few days there, visited our nephew at FSU, and then rented a car to make the 4 hour drive to our home in Winter Park.

We will continue with our adventure on Island Office when we can make a safe crossing between our scheduled client visits.

Stay tuned for more very soon!

Finally Florida!

Monday (11/2) – Orange Beach, AL – The day started with excitement to be moving on, and a little anxiousness (Denise’s) about crossing Mobile Bay.  Before we could leave the dock Glenn from the Marina Boatyard came to check on the inline water valve and discovered it was still leaking. He knew we were trying to leave, so he put two guys on it who had to go get more parts before it could get fixed. However, a very thick fog had rolled in and no one was moving. You could barely see into the river and could not see the other side for a few hours.

Monday morning fog on Dog River

Monday morning fog on Dog River

Eventually, the fog lifted and the repairs were completed, so we pulled up to the fuel dock and filled our tank. Alabama has some of the cheapest fuel with our diesel price at $2.34 gal; regular car gasoline was around $1.90 gal. We said good-bye to Ricky (Dock master) and thanked him for all his assistance during the storms and our stay.

Ricky - Dockmaster at Dog River

Ricky – Dockmaster at Dog River

We left Dog River and entered Mobile Bay to traffic common to the area; passing a large cargo ship being escorted in by 3 tugs, a shrimping boat, and eventually other pleasure craft.

Shrimper on Mobile Bay

Shrimper on Mobile Bay

We cruised for a little more than an hour and half in mostly flat seas with some waves, but they were on our starboard side so it wasn’t uncomfortable.   Eventually we turned into the Gulf Intercostal Waterway (GICW) and headed east towards Orange Beach.

IO on Mobile Bay

IO on Mobile Bay

Along the way we passed some homes and condos and the waterway narrowed to a canal. Despite this there were a few tows (much smaller than those on the Tenn-Tom) and a few “hot spots” known to locals and few Loopers. Two of these include “LuLu’s” (waterside restaurant with an amusement park beside it), and “Tacky Jacks” (a waterside bar/restaurant).  There were also a few marinas that had good reviews on Active Captain,

LuLu's on GICW

LuLu’s on GICW

Tacky Jacks on GICW

Tacky Jacks on GICW

We eventually came to the marina at The Wharf at Orange Beach, and we were amazed at how big and nice this place was. It has beautiful docks and the people who run it are so friendly and helpful.  The marina sits aside two very large condominium towers, and there are shops, restaurants and bars on the opposite side of the condos.  There is also a movie theater, Ferris wheel and a family adventure park that includes miniature golf and zip lines.  From the moment we tied to the floating docks, we kept wondering why we couldn’t have gotten stuck here for a week instead of Dog River!

Fuel Dock at Wharf Marina

Welcome Looper Sign – Fuel Dock – Wharf Marina

Wharf Marina

Wharf Marina

We tied up and with the help of marina staff, settled the boat and checked in at the marina office. This place is first class all the way.  They have a big flat panel monitor that is linked to cameras pointing towards the GICW; this way they can see the boats coming into the marina and better direct them to their slip.

IO at the Wharf in Orange Beach

IO at the Wharf in Orange Beach

Although this place is not directly on the beach, it has a total beach theme and is full of fun. There is a bar/restaurant called Bimini Bobs that is located between the two condo towers.  It has an outside bar in the shape of a fishing boat that even has outrigger poles flying fish burgees.  It has a bunch of Adirondack beach chairs to sit in, and several games for playing like corn row and King of the Ring. In the summer time this place is packed and I am sure many folks enjoy the place. But it is the off season and very quiet; the only excitement was watching them put up the foundation for the Christmas tree.

Bimini Bob's

Bimini Bob’s

Bimini Bob's corn row

Bimini Bob’s corn row

King of the Ring Game

King of the Ring Game

Bimini Bob's

Bimini Bob’s

We spent the rest of the day working on cleaning the boat; Mark washed off the salt from the Mobile Bay crossing, while Denise tackled some interior areas.

Mark cleaning salt off boat

Mark cleaning salt off boat

When we were done we walked to the “Market” and picked up some pizza for dinner. It had been a long time since we had had some and it tasted really good.

Tuesday (11/3) – Orange Beach, AL – It was so quiet we hardly moved all night long and woke to a beautiful morning on the GICW.  Denise went for a run all around The Wharf area. It is a lot larger an area than we originally thought. In addition to the marina, condos, etc. there is an amphitheater where they have concerts, and they are building a Marriott Springhill Suites on the western part of the property.

Mini Golf - Beach style

Mini Golf – Beach style

Sharky's Adventure Park

Sharky’s Adventure Park

The Wharf Amphitheater

The Wharf Amphitheater

Pool & Beach Volleyball at The Wharf

Pool & Beach Volleyball at The Wharf

Several months ago knowing we would be in the Mobile, AL area, Denise made a commitment to speak at the Mobile chapter of APICS; a professional organization she is involved in. However, our timing for being in Mobile was expected to be slightly later, so now we had to return to Mobile for the evening event.  We rented a car from Enterprise in Foley AL and spent the afternoon getting picked up, and then returning back to the marina (long story not worth repeating).

We then drove to University of Mobile campus and Denise delivered the presentation to a small group; Mark found a Wintzell’s Oyster house and grabbed some dinner. It was 9:30 by the time we drove back from Mobile and got back to the marina, but we were happy to have made the trip and done so without incident.

Wednesday (11/4) – Orange Beach, AL – Today was a day to just hang out and complete some boat chores. There were several things we had been wanting to get done like change our fender covers back to the nice ones with our boat name on them (taken off for the 101 locks so they would not get destroyed).  While this might seem like a simple task, everything on a boat takes 5 times as long as you think it is going to.  Therefore, the whole morning flew by in a flash.

After lunch we used the rental car to go explore a little of the beachside of Orange Beach. It is filled with high rise condos and hotels, and looks like any other beach town USS. Nothing unique, and a bunch of shops and restaurants catering to the beach goer (i.e. surf shops, pizza joints and seafood places).

Water tower - beach side

Water tower – beach side

We then had to return to the rental car to Enterprise but not before making a quick stop at Home Depot for a hose connection. Oh how we have loved the big box stores on this trip, and how we cannot wait to not having to go there for a boat thing in the future.

One of the other happenings around The Wharf was the housing of SEC college girls’ soccer teams. For a tournament they were having in the area. We encountered teams from Vanderbilt, University of South Carolina and Auburn.  They were all very nice and we enjoyed talking with them. We were also amazed at how they managed to be staying in the condos that are “rental units”; sure beats the heck out of hotel rooms that other college sports have to stay in.

Also today, we learned our friends on “TiKa had made it safely home to Ft. Myers and officially “crossed their wake”; completing their Loop Adventure. Congratulations Tim, Karen & Mark – the younger. We miss you!

TiKa crosses their wake

TiKa crosses their wake

Once back at the boat, we walked around all the shops and venues around The Wharf. We also decided to eat dinner at the Villagio Grille where we had a delicious meal of salmon.  We hung around the town square to see the light show they have every night which lasts about 15 minutes. It was a fun day and a great place, and we are glad we came here.

Villagio Grille

Villagio Grille

Last night at The Wharf

Last night at The Wharf

Thursday (11/5) – Ft McRee Anchorage near Pensacola, FL – Today was a terrific and fun day!  Sadly we had to leave the Wharf marina and bid our farewell to the great team there.  But our travels were not taking us very far; just a short 18 miles to an anchorage near the Pensacola Naval Air Station – Home of the Blue Angels. This is air show weekend and we had selected an anchorage to spent our first night so we could watch them practice for the show.

Along the way we crossed into our home state of Florida and Denise was excited to see was her favorite sign on the Loop!

Favorite sign on The Loop!

Favorite sign on The Loop!

Here we found a beautiful area between the barrier island housing the old Ft McRee, and an island south of the GICW but north of the anchorage that was nothing but high white sand dunes and sea grass. There is tons of wildlife and we saw dolphins as well as this feathered friend who perched on our dinghy for a little while.

Visiting heron

Visiting heron

After settling the boat we launched the dinghy and motored over to the beach on the southern barrier island. We encountered a group of men with an annual tradition to camp out and watch the Blue Angels perform for their last show in the flying season. They had their boats tied to the shoreline, a large bonfire, chairs and coolers at the ready for their planned fun.  For 17 years this all-guy event has been taking place, and they have plans to bring in the generators, flat panel tv screens and tents to watch college football all day Saturday as well.  We had a fun time talking with them and hearing about their plans.

Party guys

Party guys

Party guys campsite

Party guys campsite

Afterwards we walked the shoreline of the cut out to the Gulf of Mexico and encountered more campers and others who were setting up for the weekend. We walked some of the dunes and collected a few shells. Denise was elated to finally put her feet in the soft sand of the Gulf of Mexico!

Denise at Ft McRee

Denise at Ft McRee

Gulf Beach Sand

Gulf Beach Sand

Ft McRee marble on beach

Ft McRee marble on beach

About this time the Blue Angels team started their “practice” for the air show on Friday & Saturday. So we stayed on the beach with other boaters and watched in awe as they maneuvered their powerful aircraft through some amazing acrobatic moves. We even got excited when #6 pilot (Ryan Chamberlain) flew right over our heads. This is a great anchorage to view the show as the jets fly right overhead and you can see far in all directions.

Blue Angels practice

Blue Angels practice

After the flying was done, we walked back to the dinghy and motored back to our boat, but noticed Looper friends on “Morningstar II”- whom we met while at Dog River Marina – had come in and anchored near us. We stopped by to talk with them for a bit and then went back to our boat for cool drinks and to make dinner plans.

Because of the time change, it gets dark really early here, especially since we are so close to the Eastern Time Zone. By the time the sun set we had barely started dinner, but saw some of the most amazing stars.

Friday (11/6) – Pensacola, FL – The morning in the anchorage was so peaceful and calm, it was very inviting to want to stay.  The fact that it was foggy made it even harder to leave.

Foggy Anchorage

Foggy Anchorage

We had not explored the remains of the old fort, so we decided to do that before it was too late.  Unfortunately this civil-war era fort had not been preserved and there are lots of overgrown bushes to get though.  We had tried to get to it yesterday from one side of the island, but tried it from the anchorage side and was more successful.  Unfortunately, there is little to see except some old gun turrets and part of the wall around the place. Everything else has been filled in with sand or has crumbled into oblivion.

Fort remnants

Fort remnants

After exploring the fort we went back to the boat, secured the dinghy and headed to Pensacola. It was none too soon as at least 3 other boats were coming into the anchorage and it was still morning. By the end of the day the place was going to be very crowded!

Here are other pictures of this wonderful anchorage:

Fort McRee Anchorage

Fort McRee Anchorage

IO at Ft McRee

IO at Ft McRee

Boats in Anchorage

Boats in Anchorage

We arrived at Palafox Marina and were assigned a slip in a great location. We were close to the fuel dock, and Jaco’s, the on-site restaurant and bar. But more importantly we ended up being right across the dock from Looper friends the Chamberlains – we met them in Annapolis in May, have remained in touch, and planned to connect while they were here for the air show.  They are here staying on their son Ryan’s boat (“Terraphobic”) while theirs is on the hard in the Chesapeake for the winter.

In the afternoon Denise did a few loads of laundry and we watched what we could of the air show from our dock. A little while later the Chamberlains came back from the show and we discussed plans on the opportunity for VIP tickets for tomorrow’s show. It wasn’t looking promising so we decided to remain open and maybe do one of the many other activities going on in town this weekend.

Later that evening, Claire (Denise’s sister) drove over from Tallahassee and her daughter Marie drove from Mobile and all four of us went out to dinner at “Shucks” – a restaurant within walking distance from the marina. After dinner we stayed up talking for a bit and then crashed as we all were tired.

Happy Marie

Happy Marie

Saturday (11/7) – Pensacola, FL – The morning started off really nice and made for good exercise weather.  Claire and Denise went for a long walk around the Palafox Wharf and downtown Pensacola, past the farmers market which was just setting up.  We saw the “Pelicans In Paradise” art project and took pictures of the three that adorned the major square downtown.

USGC Pelilcan

USGC Pelican

Marine Pelilcan

Marine Pelican

Navy BA Pelican

Navy BA Pelican

Our walk took us past the Florida State Museum and part of the Archaeology trail and into the Old Town area that was hosting a very large juried art festival over the weekend. Unfortunately, it was too early to see anything as most of the tents were still closed.  We decided we should try to come back to the show before the weekend was out.

First Nations Pelican

First Nations Pelican

Mural on Old Firehouse

Mural on Old Firehouse

When we got back to the boat, Marie and Mark were now awake and we made plans to go to Publix (where shopping really is a pleasure) and get a few things we needed. When we returned we had a chance to connect again with the Chamberlains and decided we would spend the day with Claire and Marie and forego the air show.

One of the things we decided to do was get some fresh shrimp for lunch. Since Claire has spent a bit of time in Pensacola over the years, she took us to Joe Patti’s Seafood – an institution in Pensacola.

Joe Patti Seafood

Joe Patti Seafood

This very large fish market which sells to all the restaurants in town also has a deli, bakery and gelato counter. We got a couple pounds of fresh already-cleaned shrimp and had them steam them for us, which they then immediately put on ice.  We also got some fresh snapper for our freezer and a future meal, as well as a big loaf of fresh bread.  Marie got a delicious gelato that she promptly ate, and we took some back to the boat for a future dessert.  Joe Patti’s is quite a place and an adventure into itself – you can learn more about it here.

Joe Patti's

Joe Patti Seafood

At Joe Patti's

At Joe Patti’s

Joe Patti's Shrimp lunch

Joe Patti Shrimp lunch

After lunch, we all went to West Marine to return a brush we previously purchased but was the wrong size for our boat pole. We spent quite a bit of time shopping their Veteran’s Day sale; Denise tried on a bunch of clothes with Marie, and ended up buying a skirt and a dress on sale.

When we returned to the boat Marie decided she needed to head back to Mobile as she had lots of prep work to do for student teaching and some school work to address.  Shortly thereafter Claire also left neither one of them wanting to get caught in the terrible weather that was headed our way. Later we spoke with the Chamberlains and made plans to go to church with them in the morning; it is so nice that we share the same Catholic faith.

Pat & Mark Chamberlain

Pat & Mark Chamberlain

We walked around the docks to see other Looper boats in the marina, but everyone was off their boat – probably exploring all that this area had to offer. Soon thereafter it began to rain and get very windy. We stayed close to the boat for the rest of the evening and ate a light dinner onboard as we were still full from lunch.

Sunday (11/8) – Pensacola, FL – The rain never let up all night; it poured and poured.  Fortunately, this marina has floating docks and we didn’t have to worry about flooding here.  In the morning we did get a little reprieve long enough to go to mass at St. Joseph’s with the Chamberlains.  What a mass it was – with a mixed racial congregation and a very lively chorus.

St Joseph's CC

St Joseph’s CC

Due to the ongoing rain, the rest of the day we stayed holed up in the boat; Mark doing some work related activities and Denise with her nose in an excellent book she couldn’t put down (“Boys in the Boat”) – instead of working on the blog. Needless to say the rain also kept us from going back to see the art festival we wanted to see.

In the evening we had cocktails with the Chamberlains aboard “Terraphobic” and ended up going to dinner with them at Jaco’s. The pouring rain which had given us a brief respite, started again and we didn’t want to venture too far in those conditions.  The food was pretty good and the company was exquisite. We enjoyed talking about our families and our respective Looping adventures.  Of course we discussed all about the Blue Angels and the experiences they have had following Ryan all around the country and the wonderful people they have met and made friends.

Jaco's

Jaco’s

Dinner with the Chamberlains

Dinner with the Chamberlains

Monday (11/9) – Pensacola, FL– The rain finally subsided and brought clear skies, but we had an adventure planned for the day.  The Chamberlains offered us the use of their car and we used it to visit the National Museum of Aviation at NAS Pensacola.  What a fabulous place and what fun we had.

Chamberlain's Car

Chamberlain’s Car

We watched an IMAX movie about aviation and walked through the main part of the museum to see all the different airplanes.

Mark rode the flight simulator where you can pilot of an F/A 18 jet like a Blue Angels pilot. He enjoyed the 4 minutes of fun where he rolled the plane from side to side, and flew at supersonic speed.

Mark in Simulator

Mark in Simulator

Mark in simulated roll

Mark in simulated roll

Denise got to watch his flight (via monitor) from the outside as she is not one for such motion – we didn’t want the morning’s breakfast left in the cockpit.  We did however enjoy the aircraft carrier adventure and touring all the other exhibits in the museum.

Then we went to the second building where there are even more planes, an exhibit with a Lunar Module from the Saturn flight days, and the “Blue Angels Experience” – a 4D movie that is very Disney-esq.  It is a fascinating place and a great spot that everyone should visit.  You can learn more about this very cool museum here.

BA in Hanger Bay One

BA in Hanger Bay One

Lunar Module Hanger Bay One

Lunar Module Hanger Bay One

Naval Museum

Naval Museum

We spent all day at the museum and got back to the boat just before dinner time. We had identified two restaurants we wanted to go to that were near the marina, but we discovered that both were closed on Mondays.  So, we made the decision to eat again at Jaco’s as they had a varied enough menu with good food, and it was convenient.  This also allowed us to get in and get out so we could get back to the boat and ready it for leaving the next day.

Here are some other pictures from Pensacola:

Palafox marina

Palafox marina

Denise preparing for docking

Denise preparing for docking

Palafox Wharf

Palafox Wharf

Palafox Ave near Marina

Palafox Ave near Marina

 

Tuesday, (11/10) – Baytowne Marina Sandestin Resort – Miramar Beach, FL. – The rain was gone and the cool air came with the front that passed over the weekend.  When we awoke it was 56 degrees with a slight wind, a little fog and overcast skies. After a quick breakfast we said good bye to our friends the Chamberlains, and left the dock at 8:00.  It took us no time at all to cross Pensacola Bay and make our way back into the Gulf ICW.

Here are a few sights from along the way:

Gulf Islands National Seashore

Gulf Islands National Seashore

Water Tower & marina near Ft Walton

Water Tower & marina near Ft Walton

By noon we had arrived at Baytowne Marina with a side-tie to the main dock. We got the boat settled, ate some lunch, and checked in at the marina where all the amenities were explained to us, including renting a golf cart to get around ($75/day – a rental car is cheaper). Sandestin is a large resort with lots to see and do, and some really good restaurants all around. There is golf, tennis, beaches, fishing, dinner cruises, kayak and SUP rentals, and great walking/running trails.

In the afternoon Mark had some work conference calls, and Denise got two loads of laundry done, then continued to read (and finish) her book. Eventually the skies cleared and we found ourselves in a really beautiful spot with lots of wildlife around. We even watched a float plane take off right near the marina.

Float Plane in marina

Float Plane in marina

About that time Looper friends on “Lady KK” and “The Bucket List” came into the marina and we had a chance to talk with them. Come to find out they were at the Wharf in Orange Beach when we were, but because the place is so large, we did not see them. We asked if they wanted to go to dinner, but they had plans to eat on their boat, so we ended up going by ourselves.

Since it was just us, we opted for to eat at the bar/restaurant on-site at the marina as they had a “Happy Hour” special with half-price off all their appetizers. Sharing these is a fun way for us to try a bunch of different items on the menu and not eating too much or spending too much on food.

Here are some sights around the marina:

Baytowne Marina

Baytowne Marina

Baytowne marina

Baytowne marina

Sunset at Baytowne Marina

Sunset at Baytowne Marina

Wednesday, (11/11) – St. Andrews Marina – Panama City Beach, FL. – Again we woke to an overcast sky which burned off quickly.  We went for a walk around the entire marina area, taking a raised wooden path through a marshy area into the village they call The Wharf.

Walkway to Baytowne Wharf

Walkway to Baytowne Wharf

Here there were lots of shops and restaurants, as well as a mini golf challenge, a bungee adventure for kids, and a zip line.  Since it was so early nothing was open except the Broken Egg Café, but it had us wishing we would have ventured past the marina and into the village for dinner last night.

Baytowne Wharf

Baytowne Wharf

Baytowne Wharf

Baytowne Wharf

Baytowne Wharf

Baytowne Wharf

Baytowne Wharf

Baytowne Wharf

During our walk we also saw where they have a display where the Guinness World Record was broken for the world’s largest fishing lure. Unfortunately, the wooden lure had been taken down (off=season), but all the photographs were on display documenting the event.

We continued walking around the docks and looking at all the boats. It is a pretty big marina and there are some very large yachts that come to this place.  We also saw lots of different kinds of birds and witnessed our first manatee swimming around the docks.

This is definitely a place we would like to come back to and would recommend any other Loopers to plan on staying here one or two nights as they head east.

We left the area around 11:00 am and headed to Panama City through the GICW. It was a beautiful day to be on the water as there was light winds and the Chocktawhatchee Bay was very flat.

Chocktawhatchee Bay

Chocktawhatchee Bay

During parts of the journey we traveled through a very narrow canal with a high levee on both sides; kind of reminded us of parts of the Tenn-Tom River, but with white sand instead of rocks and dirt.

We arrived at St. Andrews Marina at 2:00, pulling into the fuel dock for a fill-up and a pump out. The fuel dock here is a bit challenging as it is a series of 3 short non-connected low fixed docks with high pilings in between.  Additionally, there were people fishing from the docks and it is self-service, so there is no one there to tell them to move while you are trying to dock. But we negotiated through it all and tended to the needs of our boat.  Mark went to the marina office to pay for the fuel and get our slip assignment, which was just around the corner from the fuel dock; again a side-tie to the long pier.

IO at St Andrews Marina

IO at St Andrews Marina

Once we were settled in our slip, Mark immediately washed all the salt off the boat – oh how we miss the fresh waters of the great lakes!

During the afternoon, a helicopter was making its way through the St. Andrews Sound towing what we believe to be a mine-sweeper. It was amazing the amount of prop wash that the helicopter created when low to the water. We now feel for those who have experienced a rescue-at-sea situation as the prop wash from the helicopter would be almost as bad as the rough seas. There was quite a crowd watching this maneuvering and Denise managed to get some pictures, as well as others around the marina.

Air Force practicing in Bay

Air Force practicing in Bay

FSU Underwater Forensic Boat

FSU Underwater Forensic Boat

Shrimp Vendor at St Andrews

Shrimp Vendor at St Andrews

Back on the boat, Denise worked on cataloging pictures until it was time for dinner. We walked up the street to a very popular restaurant “Uncle Ernie’s” which everyone raves about.  We ate lightly (fish sandwich and tacos) so we cannot attest to their entrée’s, but our food was good.  They were not at all crowded and we were in and out of there quickly.  It had been a great day on the water, and we were happy to be in the FL Panhandle.

Thursday, (11/12) – St. Andrews Marina – Panama City Beach, FL. – We spent a good part of the morning planning for our future stops, putting us in Dunedin for what hopefully would be the weekend before Thanksgiving.  We already had reservations at a marina there (Marker 1), but the weather for the next week was not looking good for a Gulf of Mexico crossing before Friday.  This did fit in line with our plans so we went ahead and made reservations for Port St. Joe, Apalachicola, and Carrabelle.

During the day the winds picked up; we were thankful to be tied to a dock and not sitting at an anchorage. We spent most of the day working in the boat, or just hanging around the dock. Mark changed the fuel filter – first time since Liberty Island in NYC and did some other maintenance items. Several other Looper boats came into the marina, including Jeff & Susan (“Act III”) that we had dined with in Demopolis, AL and we had a chance to talk with them for a bit.

In the evening we had dinner with an old high school friend of Denise’s who lives in Panama City Beach. Staci and her husband Todd joined us at Huck’s Oyster Bar where we got some delicious oysters and were able to catch up on many years of not seeing each other. Staci is also a childhood friend of our neighbor and good friend Mark Medei, so it was so fun to share mutual stories. She is also a great wildlife photographer and you can check out her work here.  We had a great time and was so thankful that they were able to meet with us.

Staci & Denise

Staci & Denise

St. Andrews marina is a nice place. Even though their shower and restroom facilities were under construction we still liked the location and the floating docks. There are several restaurants and shops within walking distance, and there is a beautiful pavilion with tables and swings. It’s a nice place to enjoy the view over the St. Andrews Sound and to just people watch.  This is also the “home” marina to numerous commercial fishing vessels, charter boats, TowBoatUS, and the FSU Underwater Forensic vessel.

Here are some pictures from the area:

Commercial Fishing boat dock

Commercial Fishing boat dock

St. Andrews Marina

St. Andrews Marina

St Andrews Marina Office

St Andrews Marina Office

Friday, (11/13) – Port St. Joe, FL – We woke to blustery winds, but they started to calm down mid-morning as forecasted  Denise visited with Loopers on “ACT III” and “Job Site” – whom we had originally met on the wall in Joliette, IL – while Mark had a conference call.  At this point, the long-range (7 day) weather forecast does not look like there will be an opportunity for a Gulf crossing within a week, so everyone is trying to decide where they should spend their time.  The dilemma is do you spend time in places that have more to offer, or do you move closer to Carrabelle – where there really isn’t much to do but positions you to take advantage of good weather when it comes about.

We had already decided that we would spend more time in Port St. Joe or Apalachicola if we had time to burn as we love that area and it is more familiar to us than Panama City. It also would bring us closer to Tallahassee where we have family and could visit if we really had to wait longer than a few days. So, when the winds dropped down at 11:00 we left Panama City and headed out to Port St. Joe.

It was an uneventful cruise for 42 nm in mostly protected ICW water. The most common thing we saw the whole time was a large number of derelict boats that have been left to deteriorate.  Some were washed up on shore, while others sunk while tied to now decrepit docks.  Most likely these were destroyed in a storm or hurricane and never salvaged.  What a sight!

ICW on way to PSJ

ICW on way to PSJ

Derelict vessel

Derelict vessel

Derelict #2

Derelict #2

more derelict boats

more derelict boats

More derelict boats

More derelict boats

To get to Port St. Joe, we had to leave the ICW and cruise 5 miles down the Port St. Joe canal passing a boatyard and a seafood processing plant before coming into the bay.

Sign on ICW

Sign on ICW

Old Port operations

Old Port operations

Port St. Joe Canal

Port St. Joe Canal

Derelicts on PSJ Canal

Derelicts on PSJ Canal

Derelicts on PSJ Canal

Derelicts on PSJ Canal

PSJ Seafood Processing

PSJ Seafood Processing

From there we navigated to the entrance to the marina.  It is also along this canal that we entered the Eastern Time Zone – at least for a few days. We will go back on Central Time on the GICW when we leave here, but pick up Eastern Time again in a few short miles.  Now the sun will come up almost an hour later in the morning and set almost an hour later than it did just 40 miles to our west.

Almost immediately after tying up the boat we met Danny who owns the 70’ cruising Hatteras (“Big Wave”) that was at the dock in front of us. He and his wife Vicky just purchased this older model yacht after selling their 60’ Hatteras that was several slips away.  They were in the process of moving all their stuff from one boat to the other, and did so all weekend.  They immediately offered us their car for use while we were here and offered suggestions on good restaurants.  Once again we are impressed with boaters showing such kindness as we have seen all along this whole trip.

The marina here is on a very pretty piece of land that overlooks St. Joseph’s Bay. Directly across this bay is a state park (St. Joe’s) and the land known as Cape San Blas. We have stayed on the Cape several times and absolutely love this area. It is one of Denise’s favorite beaches in FL as it is relatively undeveloped with mostly private homes and no hi-rise hotels or developments. It is like old FL in these parts, but unfortunately, it is being discovered and we fear is going to change.  Tonight we saw an awesome sunset and delighted in all that God gave us in this beautiful place.

Sunset at Port St. Joe

Sunset at Port St. Joe

Taking advantage of the “loaner” car, we drove up the street to Joe Mama’s Wood Fired Pizza.

Joe Mama's Woodfire Pizza

Joe Mama’s Woodfire Pizza

We were sick of eating seafood and decided we needed a change, so this was the perfect place.  The food was excellent and the service was terrific.  We highly recommend this place to anyone visiting Port St. Joe.

Pizza Joe Mama’s Wood Fired Pizza

Pizza Joe Mama’s Wood Fired Pizza

Unfortunately, our meal had a cloud over it as just before we left for dinner we had heard of the terrorist attacks in Paris.  We spent a good bit of the dinner and the rest of the evening watching and listening to the story unfold.  We were most grateful for our nations safe-keeping, but fear it is just a question of time before this comes to our country.

Saturday, (11/14) – Port St. Joe, FL. – Another cold morning in the FL panhandle with temperatures in the high 40’s when we woke up.  It took Denise another 2 hours before it was warm enough for her to venture out for a run.  It had been days since she ran as earlier in the week she fell on the stairs inside the boat and really hurt her behind.  Fortunately, it was much better and she was able to get in a decent run and felt good about it.

During the day we looked at the long range weather forecast and decided to stay another day here, and cleared it with the marina. Mark called the marinas in Apalachicola and in Carrabelle, adjusting our planned arrival accordingly.  It was sunny, cool and very windy, so we were not going anywhere anytime soon.

We also listened on the radio to the FSU-NC State football game; it was blacked out on TV in this area since it was a home game for the Seminoles and we are so close to Tallahassee. Meanwhile Denise worked on this blog post and Mark cleaned and reorganized all the stern lockers on the boat.

Later in the afternoon we borrowed Danny’s car and went to the 4:00 mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. We had been to this small community church a few years ago and Mark recognized the priest.  Mass was done in 45 minutes; such a difference from last week’s service at St. Joseph’s in Pensacola.

Danny's Loaner car

Danny’s Loaner car

St Joseph's Catholic Church

St Joseph’s Catholic Church

On the way back to the marina we stopped at the Piggly Wiggly (“The Pig”) and picked up a rotisserie chicken and salad fixings for dinner aboard our Island Office. Amazingly the wind had stopped blowing and we spent a quiet evening watching a Netflix movie (“The Way Out”) and an episode of FL-Keys-inspired “Bloodline”

Sunday, (11/15) – Port St. Joe, FL – It was really weird to wake up and have nothing planned to do today; we were not moving and had already gone to church. This is what cruising is really supposed to be about!   And that is how we spent most of the day; just hanging around on the boat, talking to other boaters and yes, Denise working on this (now very long & overdue) blog posting.

Enjoying PSJ and the sun

Enjoying PSJ and the sun

In the evening we rode our bikes to the park that forms the barrier protection for the marina to watch the sunset. We talked with a bunch of locals and took pictures.

Ready to ride

Ready to ride

How do we stack up??

How do we stack up??

Selfie at Sunset

Selfie at Sunset

Sunset with perspective

Sunset with perspective

We then rode our bikes to Peppers, the Mexican restaurant downtown.  The food was good and we got to watch some of the Patriots & Giants NFL game on their numerous TV screens.

Pepper's

Pepper’s

Pepper Mexican Cantina

Pepper Mexican Cantina

Back at the boat we continued watching two episodes of the Netflix series “Bloodline”. At this rate we should be all caught up by the time we get home for Thanksgiving.

Monday, (11/16) – Apalachicola, FL – This morning it was overcast with a brisk breeze blowing and a cool 55 degrees; perfect running weather.  So Denise took off for a run through the neighborhoods of Port St. Joe and around the park near the marina.  By the time she was done the sun was shining brightly and it was hot!  Here are some pictures from her run:

PSJ CIty Hall

PSJ CIty Hall

Downtown PSJ

Downtown PSJ

PSJ Lighthouse Park

PSJ Lighthouse Park

Fountain at PSJ Park

Fountain at PSJ Park

Beach at PSJ Park

Beach at PSJ Park

PSJ Marina from park

PSJ Marina from park

While she was gone, Mark repaired the brackets on our slider windows that were coming loose and on the verge of breaking.  It is so nice that he can fix anything!

As much as we like this area, we wanted to get closer to Carrabelle in case the weather forecast did change in our favor later in the week. Therefore, we said goodbye to Danny & Vicky and headed out to Apalachicola.

We had to cruise the 5 miles back up the St. Joe canal to the ICW and then another 20 uneventful miles; we only passed one boat the whole time and it was a Coast Guard working barge.

We pulled into the Water Street Hotel & Marina to a very narrow slip, aided by Loopers on “Sadie Too”. After we tied up and made introductions, we checked into the marina – at the front desk of the hotel. It is a hotel first, a marina second with a limited amount of boat slips.  It is not as convenient as the Apalachicola Mariana, but it is only a short walk to the downtown area and much better protected from the wind and the passing fishing boats.

Water Street Hotel & Marina

Water Street Hotel & Marina

IO at Water Street

IO at Water Street

One of the Looper boats that had arrived before us had organized a Looper get together at Papa Joe’s Oyster Bar, so we went there for drinks and dinner. In total there were 7 couples, all who are at various stages of their Loop experience.  It was fun to hear their stories and where they would end their adventures.

Papa Joes

Papa Joes

Looper dinner

Looper dinner

We left there and walked back to the boat, where we then watched two more episodes of “Bloodline” before turning in for the night.

Stay tuned for more adventures!

New friends and old acquaintances!

Despite our best attempts, we can’t seem to update the blog posts as fast as we want to. It is really hard when we are moving the boat every day and it takes a lot to get all the pictures and writing done. But we will keep trying.

We have had a lot of fun meeting new Loopers and connecting with ones we have not seen since the start of our journey. What stores and experiences we all share.  Here are some of the adventures we have been up:

Monday (10/19) – Columbus Marina – Columbus, MS – We were able to secure the loaner car from the Marina to take Mark to the airport to fly to his client site in SC.  On the way back to the marina, Denise discovered an Ulta store and stopped in for a new hair blower. Her current one had been on the fritz for a while and she wanted one similar to it, but not the same model. She found what she was looking for pretty fast and got back to the marina on time for other Loopers to use the car.

Marina Loaner Car

Marina Loaner Car

The rest of the day for Denise was spent cataloging pictures, working on the last blog and doing some work. She hunkered down and stayed on the boat the entire day, barely talking to anyone in the marina. A few new Loopers came in, but all were on the main docks and a bit of a distance. Our slip in this marina is in the next to the last row of docks and is quite a hike to the marina office, showers and ships store.  Therefore, it was easy to hang out and not be interrupted or bothered by anyone and get a big part of this done. This was a nice reprieve for a day and afforded some needed quiet time.

Meanwhile Mark traveled to Columbia, SC where an old client needed him to do some work. He had the luxury of a nice hotel bathroom and shower for the next two days.

Tuesday (10/20) – Columbus Marina – Columbus, MS – It was really cold this morning and didn’t warm up to the mid-50s until mid-morning. Denise used this time to go for a run at the park that overlooks the Stennis lock less than a mile from the marina. We will go through this lock tomorrow immediately when we leave Columbus marina.

Here are some pictures of the area around Columbus Marina:

Marina office, facilities & fuel dock

Marina office, facilities & fuel dock

Columbus Marina

Columbus Marina

Again today was mostly a work day, but as Looper friends started to arrive in mid-afternoon, Denise was able to catch up with them and hear about the AGLCA rendezvous. Included in the group were boats “Tika”, “Endoxi”, “Sassified”, “Divali” and “Act III”.  We all got together for docktails that evening until the sun started to go down and the bugs started to come out.

Later the folks from “TiKa”, “Endoxi”, “Sassified” and Denise all went to dinner. As the loaner car had already been spoken for, we were given the keys to the pickup truck owned by the General Manager of the Marina (“T”). So we crammed all 8 of us into the two rows of seats in the cab and drove the 5 miles into downtown Columbus to eat at “Hucks”.  This is a local restaurant that offered good food at a reasonable price, that we both have eaten at when visiting our client in Columbus. It was unfortunate that Mark was not with us to enjoy the experience.

Sassified, Endoxi & TiKa at Huck's

Sassified, Endoxi & TiKa at Huck’s

Wednesday (10/21) – Sumter Recreation Area, – Aliceville, AL – In the morning, Denise was up and out the door to use the marina loaner car for a quick run to Walmart to buy paper products and salad fixings for the evening dinner. She was back in a flash and then cleaned the interior of the boat and shortly thereafter Mark arrived from his morning flight back into Columbus.

When Mark phoned to say his plane had landed and he was in route to the marina, Denise checked with “T” about our planned departure as he stays in contact with the Stennis Lockmaster. He had advised that a boat was just entering the lock and it would be an hour before they locked him down and turned the lock for us. This meant we would not leave before noon.

When Mark arrived back to the boat we put on the radio and heard a tow that was still several miles out calling for a lock opening. Immediately afterwards we called the lock and asked if we could get in with or before the tow. The Lockmaster advised us he could get us in if we got there in 5 minutes.  So we made a mad dash to untie the dock lines & electric cords, and get out of the marina and up to the lock.  Fortunately, we made it in time and the doors closed behind us locking us down all by ourselves.

This set us up well as we knew we had 56 miles to cruise on the river to get to our planned anchoring destination for the night. Earlier in the day our friends on “TiKa”, “Endoxi”, and “Sassified” had all left and we were planning to join them if we could, however, they had a 4-hour head start.  Even with our go-fast boat, it would be a push to get there before dark. It all depended on getting through the next lock.

The water on this part of the Tenn-Tom is not nearly as pretty as the Tennessee River, but we still got to see some interesting sights along the way. We were particularly thrilled when we went under the US82 Bridge; when visiting our client here we used to state “someday we are going to take our boat under this bridge”.  Well today was the day!

Going under Columbus Bridge

Going under Columbus Bridge

We were also thrilled to enter the state of Alabama; our 17th and final state before returning back to The Sunshine State in a few weeks.

After passing several other pleasure craft (two of whom were Loopers we did not know), we arrived at the Bevill Lock and had to wait 30 minutes before we were let in. It is a quick lock down, so in no-time we were on our way.

Here are some of the other things we saw along the way:

The Alligator Hilton

The “Alligator Hilton”

DSCN4504cc

Bird on a stick – with fall foliage

Volleyball on Tenn-Tom

Volleyball on Tenn-Tom

Western shore dunes

Western shore dunes

We arrived at Sumter Recreation Area (state park) with the intention of anchoring.  However, we ended up rafting to “TiKa” as “Endoxi” and “Sassified” were rafted together not far from us. This enabled us to easily get together for socializing without having to put our dinghy in the water.

Sumter Rec Area Anchorage

Sumter Rec Area Anchorage

Anchorage Sumter Rec Area, AL

Anchorage Sumter Rec Area, AL

Tim and Karen had us all aboard for “rafttails” (it is really not docktails if you are not at a dock). We were divided up with the guys on the top deck and the gals in the stern cockpit; it felt like high school all over again.  We had a great time and enjoyed getting to know our newer Looper friends, as well as time with Tim, Karen & Mark-the younger.  We stayed as late as we dared, but finally went back to our boat for steaks on the grill and a salad. Of course TiKa is our good friends and Pam & Pete (“Endoxi”) and Rodney & Sherri (“Sassified”) whom we met at Green Turtle Bay are now our new friends.

Thursday (10/22) – Demopolis, AL– The Sumter anchorage was 3 miles north of the only lock (Howell-Heflin) we had to go through today.  So our plan was to call the lock at 7:30 and then report back to the other Loopers about our opportunity for a lockdown.  Denise called and was told that we would need to be there in 45 minutes. So at the appropriate time we pulled our anchors and headed to the lock 3 miles away.  When we got there we were able to go in, but we had to wait tied up in the lock for 30 minutes for some other down-bound pleasure crafts.  Once they arrived and were securely tied up, we were locked down in 10 minutes.  As this was our only lock of the day, we were then able to take off and cruise at our usual 15 – 18 kts, slowing only for the fishing boats that were along the shores.

The cruise down the river was somewhat boring, but there were a few areas with interesting and beautiful sights. We passed by the white rock cliffs of Epes, several homes and RV parks, an environmentally friendly power plant and then some more cliffs about 10 miles from Demopolis.  It really is amazing how the terrain changes from very hilly to flat land, to cliffs, and then back to flat.

Here are some pictures from the journey:

White cliffs near Epes

White cliffs on way to Demopolis

White cliffs near Epes

White cliffs on way to Demopolis

Cliffs near Epes

Cliffs on way to Demopolis

White cliffs near Epes

White cliffs on way to Demopolis

Cliffs on way to Demopolis

Cliffs on way to Demopolis

Locals along Tenn-Tom

Locals along Tenn-Tom

Island Office on Tenn-Tom

Island Office on Tenn-Tom

We arrived at the Demopolis Yacht Basin and first filled the boat with diesel fuel, then got a pump-out. While we were awaiting for the dockhand to assist us, the tug part of a tow we had passed earlier came in for his diesel fill. We took on 150 gallons, he took on 20,000 gallons!  Mark went over and talked to the Captain as he had been kind enough to let 7 of us boats into the lock ahead of him earlier; something he did not have to do.  It was a very nice gesture and indicative of southern hospitality; something we have missed for the last 6 months!

We were assigned our slip at Kingfisher Marina (Demopolis is now only fuel) and settled in by 2:00. Within the hour our friends on “TiKa”, “Endoxi”, and “Sassified all showed up and put in near us.

This marina is fairly new and is very nice for transients. It has lots of slips, some covered and some not covered.  It has a terrific laundry facility that has a flat panel TV in it and adjacent showers and rest rooms which are really nice and clean. Above the laundry facility is a deck that has tables and chairs; perfect for Looper pot-lucks or docktails.

Cruisers facilities

Cruisers facilities

Cruisers laundry & restrooms

Cruisers laundry & restrooms

Laundry facilities

Laundry facilities

Cruisers patio above facilities

Cruisers patio above facilities

The marina also has golf carts that you can use to drive around the complex (pool area, other docks, etc.) and is what you really need to use to get to the Demopolis marina office and fuel dock as it is almost ½ mile away.  Fortunately the marina also has a loaner car that can be signed out in 2-hr increments.  Of course this is what is needed to get anywhere in the town of Demopolis which is too far away from the marina to walk.

In the late afternoon, all of us on the 4 boats got together as a group and had docktails on the back of Island Office.

Doctails on Island Office

Doctails on Island Office

Doctails on IO

Doctails on IO

Rodney & Sherri (“Sassified”) had signed out the Loaner car and we all went to dinner at a local place called “The Red Barn” (no affiliation with the one in Graton Beach, FL) that was about 5 miles from the marina.  Since there were now 9 of us, we could not all fit in one trip, so Mark agreed to be the DD and did the 10-minute trip to and from the restaurant, and then repeated it after dinner. Then Mark- the younger got the golf cart to follow him to return the loaner back to the marina office/fuel dock, and then come back to the boat slips. This kind of reminded us of the logistics nightmare in Grand Harbor, but it was much shorter distances.  However, it was all good and Mark got have a dinner favorite – southern fried chicken – and he tore it up!

During dinner the discussion turned to how long we were all staying. Our original plan was to stay here only one night, TiKa was planning to stay either 2 or 4 nights, and the other two boats through the weekend. But a little peer pressure ensued and since we had an extra day in the schedule before we had to be in Mobile, we relented and decided we would stay one more day.  This also gave Mark a work day in port to handle some client items and Denise a chance to get a run in before two or three very long days with anchorages and no running areas.

Other pictures of the marina:

Kingfisher Marina

Kingfisher Marina

IMG_5902c

Island Office at Kingfisher

Pool at Demopolis Kingfisher Marina

Pool at Demopolis Kingfisher Marina

Dockmaster Terry

Dockmaster Terry

Friday (10/23) – Demopolis, AL – This was a pretty unexciting day. Denise ran in the morning to the downtown of Demopolis and back and was happy to be able to do so.  Mark worked for most of the morning while Denise started on this blog post.  There was a little pow-wow with “TiKa” and the other two boats; the weather is going to get ugly next week, and no one wants to be on the water especially on Mobile Bay.  Collectively we all decided to leave together in the morning and go fast (20 Kts) to get to Mobile by Sunday night or Monday morning.  We also made plans for docktails and dinner together again, and secured the loaner car for another night of 2 trips back and forth to the restaurant.

In the afternoon there were boat chores to do and planning for our departure in the morning. “TiKa” had a rental car and used it to go to the store, while “Endoxi” and “Sassified” took their boats and topped off their fuel for the trek to Mobile.  We had all agreed we were going to go fast in the next two days, and that meant we would burn some fuel.

Later we gathered on the upstairs patio at the marina for docktails and were joined by Jeff & Susan (“Act III”), who came in earlier in the day. Between “TiKa’s” rental car and the marina loaner car we all were able to go to dinner at a newly opened restaurant called “The Bistro”. The owner (Mike) is also the Mayor of Demopolis; a town with a population of about 7,500.

Mayor Mike at The Bistro

Mayor Mike at The Bistro

The menu was limited, but the food was good and our waitress (Natasha) had a very good sense of humor.  The restaurant is on the second floor of an old office building and the dining area is spread across several of the rooms, with the hall being used as the “bar” area. In one of the small rooms there was live entertainment with a 2-piece ensemble. However, the room was small and crowded so we were not able to fit in our whole group, otherwise we may have stayed for a set or two.  The restaurant had filled up and it was good to see a new place be patronized so well.

Dining at The Bistro

Dining at The Bistro

Hallway bar at The Bistro

Hallway bar at The Bistro

It was just as well as “TiKa” had to return their rental car. So once we were all dropped off at the marina, Mark followed Tim to Enterprise and Rodney met them at the marina office with the golf cart so they could drop the loaner there; another successful coordination of logistics.

Other pictures from Demopolis are as follows:

Downtown Demopolis

Downtown Demopolis

Downtown Demopolis

Downtown Demopolis

The Bistro - downtown

The Bistro right next to Wine & Hoof – downtown

Saturday (10/24) – Anchorage – Three Rivers Lake, AL – At 6:30 am Denise called the Lockmaster at Demopolis Lock (3 miles down the waterway) and confirmed that there were no tows in or waiting on the lock. So six Looper boats all left the Kingfisher marina and locked together with another local boat.  We were so happy to have this lock behind us as we had a plan to go all the ways to Bobby’s Fish Camp, some 95 miles down the river.

Sunrise over Demopolis

Sunrise over Demopolis

Along the way, there were a few tow boats to pass and some small fishing boats that we had to slow down for, but we still made pretty good time.

Our fleet – TiKa, Sassified, & Endoxi

Shortly after lunch we were approaching Bobby’s and made a decision to press on to an anchorage that had been identified earlier as a possible stop for us on Sunday night.  There was one other possibility to anchor further up the river should we not make it to this one.  But all of this would be dictated by how long we had to wait for the Coffeeville Lock which was just past Bobby’s. We slowed our speed heading to the lock to enable “Endoxi” and “Sassified” to take on more fuel at Bobby’s.

Endoxi & Sassified at Bobby's Fish Camp

Sassified & Endoxi at Bobby’s Fish Camp

Then once we got to the lock we had to wait about 30 minutes for it to open; just enough time for “Endoxi” and “Sassified” to catch up to us.  We all went through without issue and we celebrated with “TiKa” as this would be the very last lock for both of us! YEAH!!!

Leaving Coffeeville lock

Leaving Coffeeville lock – Our last lock!! Yeah!

After leaving the lock, we continued cruising until we came to the targeted anchorage at “Three Rivers Lake”. The entrance to the anchorage was like the Disney Jungle Cruise; we had to pass through a very narrow channel that eventually emptied onto a small lake. There were already two Looper boats anchored ahead of us, but plenty of room for the four of us to anchor and dual-raft together for the night.  It was just after 5 pm when we settled our boats, making for a very long day.  We cruised 134 nm today; our longest single-day distance on The Loop.

After celebrating our journey aboard “TiKa” for cocktails, we ate aboard our own boats and called it a day. The entire anchorage was quiet by 8:30 pm and we had a beautiful sky of stars to look at.

IO rafted to TiKa at 3 Rivers Anchorage

IO rafted to TiKa at 3 Rivers Anchorage

Three Rivers Anchorage

Three Rivers Anchorage

Other sites from today on the water:

Home made tube slide on BWTB

Home made tube slide on BWTB

Patriotic buoy on river

Patriotic buoy on river

Typical bass fisherman on river

Typical bass fisherman on river

Home on River

Home on River

Cliffs on river

Cliffs on river

Logging operation near mm 88

Logging operation near mm 88

Sunday (10/25) – Mobile, AL – We were up early and under way by 7:00 as we were all anxious to get to Mobile before the remnants of pacific hurricane “Patricia” hit the bay. It was already overcast and the wind picked up along the way.

We passed under the Dolly Parton Bridge and eventually into the Port and downtown Mobile.  This is a very active port with lots of tows, container ships and military vessels, including the new hi-tech stealthy ships built by Austal.

Dolly Parton Bridge

Dolly Parton Bridge

Tanker in Mobile Port

Tanker in Mobile Port

Austal Ships

Austal Ships

Downtown Mobile

Downtown Mobile

By the time we passed through the port of Mobile and into the bay it was a bit choppy and not a fun ride. Fortunately, the journey to Dog River was short and we were tied up to the Dog River Marina by early afternoon, logging another 68 miles.

There were several other Looper boats that were in the marina, including Anne & Jeff (“Harvest Moon”), with whom we had fun with in Nashville and anchored with in the IL and MS rivers. We had them over for drinks before dinner to get caught up and to hear about the rest of their travels down the Tenn-Tom waterway. We also ran into Vicki Stapleton (“Patriot”) our friends we met in Norfolk who completed their Loop and are now home in Mobile.  They recommended this marina/boatyard for the work we wanted to have done.

Eventually, the rain began but it did not keep us from going to dinner with “TiKa”, “Endoxi”, and “Sassified”. We borrowed the loaner car and went to the other side of the river to the Grand Mariner Marina and Restaurant and had a delicious meal of very fresh seafood.

Mariner's Restaurant

Mariner’s Restaurant

IO on dock at Dog River

IO on dock at Dog River – from Mariner’s Restaurant

When we came back to the marina, the water level was rising and all the cars were moved from the parking lot near the docks to higher ground near the office. The moon was rising to full status and high tide was not until near midnight.  We had no idea what we were in for.

Monday (10/26) – Mobile, AL – It rained all night long and the wind was really blowing.  When we awoke in the early morning we realized the power to the boat had been cut off a little earlier. Come to find out the marina had prophylactically cut the power as it the water had risen and was near the top of the dock and they didn’t want it to short out.  Fortunately we had battery and generator to keep us comfortable, but it would have been nice to be told in advance that this was going to happen.

During the day it continued to rain and the wind continued to blow from the East, pushing all the water from Mobile Bay into the Dog River. The marina was flooded and the docks were under water for almost the whole day.  We watched large logs and pieces of debris float down the river, and prayed they didn’t foul our prop or hit our hull.  Everyone hunkered down and didn’t go anywhere (not that we could) and the boatyard/marina was closed – meaning no work would be done on our boat.  It would not have been that bad, except the WiFi at this marina stinks so we were not able to stream any movies. Add to this the fact that there is no cable TV on the docks and the aerial antennae could only pick up 5 stations, so we were kind of bored.  Denise worked on cataloging pictures and writing the blog while Mark did what work he could.  This was the first day in a long time that we also got to take naps!

Mariners Marina - fuel dock under water

Mariners Marina – fuel dock under water

Dog River Marina parking lot

Dog River Marina parking lot

Ducks on the dock - Dog River

Ducks on the dock – Dog River

Grand Mariner Marina - Fuel dock under water

Grand Mariner Marina – Fuel dock under water

Dock under water

Dock under water

In the late afternoon the rain subsided some and we got out and walked around, sloshing down the dock. We removed a 12’ plank that had washed itself between our boat and the dock, and we adjusted our fenders & dock lines. Island Office now sat way above the dock and there was a big step down now to get on the dock; even from the swim platform.

Mark - walking on water

Mark – walking on water

Since, there was nowhere to go as the whole parking lot and drive up to the street was totally flooded, we got back on the boat for the rest of the day. It was a good thing we had leftovers in the freezer as that is what we had for dinner.

Tuesday (10/27) – Mobile, AL – The morning brought a reprieve from the rain and high water, which receded with the low tide and we were now able to move off the boat again.  We checked in with all our Looper friends and was hopeful that today they would haul our boat for the detail work and maintenance items we had planned to have done.  However, it was cleanup day in the marina and the boatyard people were not coming in.

We had previously decided to get a rental car from Avis where we had 3 free days that were going to expire. So, we used the marina loaner car to go to the airport with Tim & Karen (“TiKa”) to go get some lunch, then get our rental, and then they used the loaner car the rest of the afternoon. We used the rental car to go to Costco and to Publix (where shopping really is a pleasure) for some boat provisions.

In the evening a large group of us decided to go out to Benjas, a Thai restaurant that was about 8 miles away that had received good reviews. It took 3 cars to get all 11 of us to the restaurant and we were the only customers in the place.  However, the food was good, the service great, the company was outstanding, and so no one cared.  We all laughed and had a good time with all our Looper friends.

Wednesday (10/28) – Mobile, AL – In the morning there was lots of activity in the marina and the boatyard was back in action. The first thing we did was go to the boatyard office to see when they would start working on our boat. While waiting for Linda (the scheduler) to arrive we met Sonny, the owner and talked with him a bit.  Shortly thereafter Linda arrived and told us she would check on the schedule and let us know.   The work we had scheduled included a wash & wax of the hull, replacing zincs on the shaft and thrusters, installing an inline water connection, and touch-up painting of the bottom at the waterline level only. Most of this was “preventative” in nature to protect from the salt water we were now back cruising in.

In the meantime we watched “Endoxi” get a haul-out to confirm that in fact they had damaged two of their props when they hit a log coming out of Mobile Port. Now they had to get that repair scheduled before they could move on.

We went back to our boat to wait for word from Linda when several dockhands showed up to tell us that they were ready for the haul out. So we untied from the dock, moved the boat to the sling and watched them haul Island Office out of the water and put her “on the hard” in an enclosed hanger.

Hauling out IO

Hauling out IO

Knowing there was nothing we could do while they worked on the boat, Denise used the rental car to go to a local laundromat and get the laundry done. The marina laundry consisted of a single washer and dryer, and the pump to support the entire facility was knocked out of order from the flood. So, it was easier and faster to go where multiple washers and dryers could be used.  Mark stayed on the boat to oversee the work.

When Denise returned, it was obvious that staying on the boat for the next several days was not going to be an easy thing to do. To get on and off, there was a 10 foot climb up a latter and any water from the boat had nowhere to go without rigging a hose-to-bucket drainage for the sinks, showers, etc.  So we rented a hotel room at a Hilton Garden Inn for the next two nights so we could sleep and shower in comfort.

IO - "on the hard"

IO – “on the hard”

We had been invited to dine with TiKa aboard their boat for the evening, as a final meal together (they were leaving in the morning) and to watch the GOP Debate – they have satellite TV aboard. We offered to bring the salmon so it was back to Costco to get it and then back to the marina to drop it off at TiKa.  While there we checked on the progress of the boat and learned “Endoxi” would be waiting on new props to be delivered and installed; they would be here through Friday.  There was not enough time to check into the hotel and make it back for dinner, so we hung out at the marina visiting with Loopers, then headed to TiKa for a terrific meal.  We stayed and watched most of the debate, then headed to the hotel for check-in and a good night’s rest.

Thursday (10/29) – Mobile, AL – We wasted no time getting over to the marina in the morning to see about their work for the day. Although they made progress yesterday, it seems like no one works past 3:30 in the boatyard, even though they lost two days this week due to the storm.

We answered some of their questions and talked with some of the other Loopers in the marina before leaving for a few errands, lunch and a pedicure for Denise. We also made dinner plans with Pam & Pete (“Endoxi”), and Sharri & Rodney (“Sassified”) to go to Wintzell’s Oyster House for dinner later that evening. Then we headed back to the hotel for a few hours of working with a good internet connection in a quiet environment.

Leading up to this week we had been in touch with our niece Marie who attends Spring Hill College in Mobile. She had been away traveling, but got back into town, so we made plans for her to join us for dinner, which she did.  It was great to see her and we all enjoyed a fine meal at one of Mobile’s most famous restaurants.

Dinner at Wintzell's

Dinner at Wintzell’s

Friday (10/30) – Mobile, AL – Today was a day we were hoping to leave Mobile.  We had been in touch with our insurance company for our FL-Bahamas and to make sure we were covered if we went further south before 11/2.  We received our amended coverage in the morning, so there was nothing keeping us from leaving Mobile…..except the boat was not ready.

After checking out of the hotel we went to the marina to check on the progress. The team was working hard to get the job done, but it still had a ways to go. We watched “Endoxi” have their new props installed and said good bye to them and “Sassified” as they were heading out.

Since we were not leaving with them, we used that time to borrow the marina loaner car and return our Avis rental back to the airport, which was all the way across town. When we returned to the marina they were still working on our boat. It would be 3:30 before they put it back in the water, and into a new slip. Unfortunately, they still had some work to do and never finished until well after 5:00. Needless to say this meant we were not going to be able to leave Mobile, but at least we were able to stay back on our floating home.

Putting IO back in water

Putting IO back in water

IO in 2nd slip at Dog River

IO in 2nd slip at Dog River

While waiting for the boat to be completed, Denise walked the docks and discovered several other Looper boats had come in. Included in the group were Pam & Mark on “Sea Bear”, whom we first met in Deltaville, VA, and had not seen since April. We saw their boat in Brewerton, NY in June, but they had left for a trip back home.  They had just finished their Loop (i.e. crossed their wake) from this very marina on this very day, so a celebration was in order. Denise called Mark to come down to their boat and we ended up talking with them for several hours.  We got back to our boat and had no plans for dinner. So we were grateful for leftovers in the freezer that could be ready in 15 minutes.

In the evening we reviewed the weather forecast and made plans to leave early in the morning, but only if the waves were calm in Mobile Bay. It appeared that we would have a window in the morning before the wind kicked up the seas and we wanted to be able to take advantage of it.

Saturday (10/31 – Halloween) – Mobile, AL – Denise was up at 5:30 to look at the weather and it did not look good to leave.  For several hours we debated, looked at several sights and decided to stay put.  We are in no hurry to get anywhere, so we don’t need to get beat up crossing the bay. The problem is that we knew the weather would be bad for at least two days and if we stayed it meant staying through Sunday as well.

Given the decision was made to stay, we then tried to reconnect with Marie to see her school and her dorm. We borrowed the loaner car and drove to Spring Hill College where we got to tour the campus.  Here are some pictures of the campus:

Spring Hill College

Spring Hill College

St Josephs Chapel - SHC

St Josephs Chapel – SHC

Inside St. Josephs Chapel at SHC

Inside St. Josephs Chapel at SHC

SHC Library

SHC Library

Unfortunately, we were unable to connect with Marie as it was a very big weekend for her, so we went on to Shoe Station, grabbed some lunch and then back to the boat.  About this time it started to rain again.

We made plans for dinner at the Mobile Yacht Club located adjacent to the Dog River Marina. They serve dinner on select nights and even though they are a members-only club, they allow guests of Dog River to dine there.  We were joined by Mark & Pam (“Sea Bear”) and had a chance to talk about their post-Looping plans and moving back to the Sonoma, CA area where they are from.  They will have their boat trucked back out to San Francisco in the coming weeks, but they are leaving here on Monday to make the trek home.  We made a promise to look them up the next time we get out to Sonoma Valley or the Bay area.

Mark & Pam ("Sea Bear")

Mark & Pam (“Sea Bear”)

While we were at dinner the pouring rain began. When we walked to dinner we knew this was a possibility and brought our umbrella. But the amount of rain coming down made this a worthless tool as we would have gotten drenched anyway. Mark was able to get a local from the yacht club who was also finishing dinner at the same time to give us a lift back to the marina and we were spared the waddling through mud & puddles of this area.

This was not an ordinary Halloween and we missed seeing trick-or-treaters at our Winter Park home.

Sunday (11/1) – Mobile, AL – The rain that started last night continued all night long.  We were fearful of flooding again, but fortunately there was not the heavy east wind and high tide of last week to flood the docks.

Yesterday we had reserved the marina loaner car so we could go to 8:00 am mass at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, leaving a note on the reservation that anyone who wanted to come could join us. We had been contacted by the folks on “Odyssey” they would like to go, so we started the day meeting new Loopers and going to mass together.

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

By the time we got back to the boat the wind was picking up again. We had considered leaving even if it was raining, as long as the waves were not that bad. Unfortunately the buoy and NOAA weather reports were not favorable so we hunkered down for another day of staying on the boat.

All day long and into the evening it poured with few moments of relief from the constant rain. We watched NFL football on the one network TV channel we could get (CBS), while working on emails, cataloging pictures, and updating this blog post.  We ate leftovers for dinner and didn’t move from the boat except for a short walk up the dock just before dinner.

Later in the evening, the rain stopped, but more is forecasted throughout the night. With a little luck tomorrow it should break by noon, and then we will head across the bay and make it to Orange Beach.

Stay tuned for more adventures!

Loopers everywhere!

Loopers everywhere!

In the last week or so we have seen some spectacular scenery. The Kentucky Lake and Tennessee River are filled with limestone cliffs and the trees are covered with yellow, rust, orange and green as the fall foliage is coming into full bloom.  Of course pictures will not do it justice, but we have taken a few and will share.

And since this is the main route to Mobile and the Gulf of Mexico, there are lots of Looper boats – many heading to and then from the AGLCA Rendezvous at Joe Wheeler State Park in Tennessee. Each day we cross the paths of at least 10 others while underway, or staying in the same marina as us. Therefore our evenings are filled with socializing and sharing stories or plans.  Nothing exciting, but fun nonetheless.

Here is what we have been up to:

Wednesday (10/7) – Pebble Isle Marina – New Johnsonville, TN – We opted to stay another day at Pebble Isle because it is such a pretty place and we were enjoying the company of the owners and other Loopers.  Denise started the day with a run that took her into the Johnsonville State Historic Park and up a few very large hills that were quite challenging.  This park is the location of a former Civil War era garrison and was named after Andrew Johnson. Denise saw the remains of the garrison and even a few white tail deer along the way.  At the top there was a lookout over the hill and onto the Tennessee River, and she was able to get a few pictures.  You can learn more about this beautiful park here.  Here are some pictures:

Johnsonville State Park

Johnsonville State Park

Johnsonville Garrison

Johnsonville Garrison

Johnsonville Battlefield

Johnsonville Battlefield

TN River at JSP

TN River at JSP

Mark spent most of the day reading and finishing his book (“War Lord” by Ted Bell) while resting his foot; he hyperextended it and is hobbling around a bit. Denise worked on cataloging pictures (now well over 5,000) and posted the last blog update.  It was really beautiful day and we were enjoying the scenery; not a bad view out our Island Office windows.

Pebble Isle Marina office

Pebble Isle Marina office

During the day, some of the Looper boats left, some stayed, but new ones arrived including some we had not met before. In the evening, the marina owners prepared free hot appetizers for our “docktail hour” and invited us to bring our own drinks or purchase them there.  At $2 per beer, we purchased our drinks from them as this was a generous offering and we wanted to patronize their business.  The owners (Randy & Tammy) were super hosts and make you feel part of the family.  Of course they are always encouraging all boaters to stay “just one more night”.

Loopers at Pebble Isle

Loopers at Pebble Isle

Other Loopers at Pebble Isle

Other Loopers at Pebble Isle

Thursday (10/8) – Clifton Marina, Clifton, TN. – We took our time leaving in the morning as we were not going too far and Pebble Isle was such a great spot. Plus, we had to get our second morning of cinnamon buns!

Cinanmon Buns

Cinnamon Buns

We headed out along the Kentucky Lake-Tennessee River and enjoyed the spectacular color of the leaves which have been changing each day.

Leaving Pebble Isle

Leaving Pebble Isle

Sign from TN River

Sign from TN River

We also passed our Looper friends Sid & Evelyn (“Something Special”) whom we tried to connect with in Green Turtle Bay, but were unable to.  They are still interested in having our nephew Johnny help them make the crossing from Carrabelle to Clearwater sometime in November, so we shared his contact information so they could get in touch with each other.

Along the way we only passed one tow and very few fishing boats, therefore we did not have to slow down hardly at all. This allowed us to make pretty good time, despite fighting the increasing current as we headed up-bound. We also passed through the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge where there was a plethora of small bass boats enjoying the day.

TN Ntl Wildlife Refuge

TN National Wildlife Refuge

It was really beautiful and surely the pictures will not do it justice.

TN Ntl Wildlife Refuge

TN National Wildlife Refuge

Stowaway enroute to Clifton

Stowaway enroute to Clifton

Our intended destination was an anchorage at Double Island that had been recommended to us at the AGLCA Rendezvous in Norfolk. So, we pulled in there around 1:00, set the anchor and thought we would enjoy a nice quiet evening. However, we had no cellular signal and had to return several phone calls received during the day. Previously we had been encouraged by Tim & Karen (“TiKa”) to join them at Clifton Marina – 10 miles further south, and where we had plans to stay on Friday night.  So we changed our plans.

We pulled up the anchor, cruised past boats we had passed earlier, and headed to Clifton. Of course we had to find out if they had space at the marina for us, which we were able to secure while under way. By 3:00 we had pulled into the assigned covered slip and met up with Tim, Karen & Mark- the younger (“TiKa”).

This marina is located in a “dead” town with nothing much to see. It is also not a spectacular place with one bathroom and shower for use by all boaters, as well as lots of spider webs, wasps and very stagnant water.  The transient space is limited, but they were able to squeeze in the 10 or so Looper boats who came in for the night. The people who own it are very nice and helpful, but they have been trying to sell it for a few years. There is a restaurant/snack bar onsite and the owners were offering hotdogs and hamburgers for dinner. However, since we were planning to anchor out, we had already prepared chicken for enchiladas and chose to eat on the boat.  However, we did participate in the Looper docktail at 5:30 and were able to share some fun times with our friends on “Endoxi”, “Sassified”, “Mitzvah”, “Coer de Lion”, “Moondancer”, “GimmeTime”, “Chimera II”, “No Zip Code” and of course “TiKa”.

Given the conditions of the marina, we opted not to stay a second night and made plans to leave in the morning and get to Pickwick Landing State Park. This will put us a day ahead of schedule and that is ok with us.  The weather is expected to change with rain forecasted and high winds on Friday night, so we would just as soon be in a protected marina to endure it.

Here are some other pictures from our cruise today  on the Tennessee River and in Clifton Marina:

Latter to no where

Latter to nowhere

Houses on TN River

Houses on TN River

TN River Bank

TN River Bank

Cotton bush at Clifton Marina

Cotton bush at Clifton Marina

Clifton marina office

Clifton marina office

Sunrise over TN River

Sunrise over TN River

Friday (10/9) – Pickwick Landing Marina – We got under way at 8:00 and headed down the Tennessee River encountering a bit of traffic almost immediately.  First was the passing of Looper friends (again) “Something Special”, “Tranquility” and “Alley Cat” – who were not in the Clifton marina as they chose to anchor out.  Then we passed two big tows and had to slow down for many small fishing boats.  Eventually we caught up and passed “No Zip Code” who had left the Clifton marina about 1 hour before us.

We had one large single lock to get through today at Pickwick Lake. It is a 51’ lock up and we were initially by ourselves, but AJ on “Gimme Time” came up as we approached the lock.  Together we only had to wait for the Lockmaster to empty the lock from the last lock-up as only one of the lock chambers (the smaller one) was working. Fortunately there were no tows to wait on and we were through the lock in 30 minutes.

Gimme Time waits with us

Gimme Time waits with us

Entering Pickwick Lock

Entering Pickwick Lock

Leaving Pickwick Lock

Leaving Pickwick Lock

Pickwick Lockmaster

Pickwick Lockmaster

We entered Pickwick Lake and were so impressed with the beauty of this inland waterway. There were very large houses on the eastern cliffs and the trees were really showing the autumn colors now.  There was a nice reflection of the shoreline on the lake and it was a really beautiful.

Homes on Pickwick Lake

Homes on Pickwick Lake

We arrived at this state park marina and were directed to a slip near the office, and down the pier from our friends on “Palmetto Paradise”. Shortly after we arrived, so did “TiKa” and “Harvest Moon” and then in came the rain.  It was forecasted to rain in the afternoon and the sky opened up right after we all had settled in our slips.  We had been trying to arrange docktails with the other Loopers, but “Palmetto Paradise” and “Harvest Moon” had prior plans on another Looper boat that was putting their boat up for the winter in this Harbor.  So, we got together with Tim, Karen & Mark – the younger for drinks, just like our Canadian days.

For dinner, all five of us had the Pickwick Landing Lodge come and pick us up for dinner. Like at Paris Landing, this state park has its own Lodge (hotel) with a restaurant on site which is located 1 mile from the marina.  They offer breakfast, lunch & dinner and have a very affordable buffet dinner for $13.  The food is not 5-star, but it is good and offers sufficient variety that we all could find something to enjoy.  The state of Tennessee does a good job of offering some very nice facilities and the staff are helpful and friendly. We would recommend staying at this marina as it is in a well-protected area and is really quite pretty and peaceful.

Here are some more pictures from Pickwick Landing:

Pickwick Landing Lodge

Pickwick Landing Lodge

Pickwick Landing Lodge

Pickwick Landing Lodge

Slip at Pickwick Landing

Slip at Pickwick Landing

Saturday (10/10) – Grand Harbor Marina – Counts, TN (mailing address – but really in Mississippi) – All night long it rained off and on and when we woke up in the morning it was still misty and there was an overcast sky.  The park harbor master told us that they recorded 2.5 inches of rain and we were grateful as it washed all the bugs off the boat.

Harbormaster Bob

Harbormaster Bob

We were not in a big hurry to get going as the next stop was only 8 miles away and would take us off the Tennessee River. Finally we left the dock after 10:00 and headed south across Lake Pickwick and turned into Yellow Creek; the start of what will become the Tenn-Tom Waterway. Here we pulled into Grand Harbor marina; home port for Looper friends Mike & Lois Fannon (“Inchin Along”) whom we shared time with up the Hudson River in New York back in June. Although this marina has a Tennessee mailing address, it is geographically located in Mississippi. So right before entering the river and marina, we crossed into our 16th state; Mississippi.

Pickwick Lake Home

Pickwick Lake Home

We had wanted to get fuel right away, but when we hailed the marina we were advised there were several boats ahead of us, and there would be a 30 minute wait. We wanted to get on with our day, so we opted to go directly into our slip and decided to get it on the way out when we leave.  Since we are staying here for the whole week, we were assigned a covered slip which is usually reserved for seasonal renters.  This was nice as it provided us better protection from the elements, and was closer to the nicer restrooms & showers located in the condominium building also on the property.

Condo at GH

Condo at GH

We settled into our slip and visited several Looper boats that were near the marina office, including Evelyn & Sid (“Something Special”), Tom & Julie (“Sum Escape”) and Tim, Karen & Mark-the younger (TiKa). We made plans for docktails and dinner with TiKa and went back to our boat for some chores, watch college football games, and to plan some other activities for the week.

In the evening, we had dinner with several other Loopers that Julie (“Sum Escape”) organized, including some we had not yet met. It was at a place called “Freddy T’s”, a local Tiki-bar style restaurant with water-themed decorations all over the place, including Jet skis, water skis, mermaids & pirates.  It has lots of televisions all over the place, so people were watching college football games, as well as the MLB playoffs.  The restaurant had a passenger van, but because there was such a large group of us, they had to make two trips to pick us up, and then two more to take us back to the marina.  It was a lot of fun and the food was good.  We all had fun and we got back in time to watch FSU beat the Miami Hurricanes one more time.

Freddy Ts

Freddy Ts

Above door at Freddy Ts

Above door at Freddy T’s

Freddy T's Entrance

Freddy T’s Entrance

Freddy Ts

Freddy Ts

Tim & Karen clowing around

Tim & Karen clowing around

Sunday (10/11) – Grand Harbor Marina – Because we had the Looper dinner last night, we had to make 8:00 mass at the only Catholic church in the area.  But this means we had to get the marina loaner car keys the night before as the office doesn’t open until 8:00.  Fortunately, we remembered to do this and were able to make the mass at Our Lady of the Lake. It is a small but welcoming church about 5 miles north.

Our Lady of the Lake

Our Lady of the Lake

When we came back to the marina, we noticed many of the Loopers had left, or were preparing to leave. Most were headed to the AGLCA rendezvous at Joe Wheeler State Park down the Tennessee River which starts later in the week, and most need 2 days to get there.

We spent the rest of the day working on the plans that would take us through the month of November. We did this in part so we could make tentative plans for going home at Thanksgiving and make marina reservations, recognizing Florida marinas are going to fill up during the high season.

It was a very low-key day and there were few Loopers around to socialize with and that afforded us some quiet relaxation. Later in the afternoon we noticed Charlie & Kay (“Plane 2 Sea”) had arrived in the marina, so we walked over to talk with them for a bit, mostly about boat insurance and our future plans. Eventually it started to get dark and we went back to the boat where we grilled some chicken on the bar-b-que for dinner.

In the evening, we watched television. One of the benefits of this marina is free cable and we have been able to watch some news and other shows. This is not something we get in a lot of places; usually we are streaming on our tablets or a notebook computer. Depending on the Wi-Fi signal at a marina this can sometimes be tedious as they rarely have the bandwidth for this, especially when there are many boats in the marina all trying to do the same thing.

Monday (10/12) – Grand Harbor Marina – Counts, TN – It was a beautiful cool morning, so Denise took advantage and went for a run. The hills around the marina proved quite challenging as they are very steep and there are many of them.  Additionally, the two lane road that runs around the lake perimeter is wooded and has a small shoulder with no sidewalks. But she found an area where there was a cluster of lake homes and one long mostly flat street that she looped several times to get in a few miles. It is difficult to do more than 3 – 3.5 miles without running buddies or plenty of safe areas.

Today was a work day on Island Office.  Mark spent all day on the phone with clients, doing work for clients, or doing office work.  Denise worked on filing all the quarterly payroll reports and getting some bookkeeping activities completed. She also had some bookkeeping work to do for the embroidery business, and worked on updating this blog.  We also firmed up more of our future schedule and made a few marina reservations in AL and FL marinas.

Later in the afternoon, we met up with fellow Loopers Al & Kaye (“Knot Home”), and Ron & Bev (“Sea Venture”) for docktails. We saw an awesome sunset over the marina and enjoyed the reflection on the banks across Yellow Creek. We were very grateful for the beautiful weather in such a beautiful place.

"Knot Home" & "Sea Venture"

“Knot Home” & “Sea Venture”

Sunset at GH

Sunset at GH

For dinner we cooked a frozen pizza we have had in the freezer. We supplemented it with extra cheese and sausage we had in the fridge. It wasn’t near as good as the pizza we had in Nashville, but it was quick and easy, and it worked for us.

Tuesday (10/13) – Memphis, TN – We made plans to get a rental car for today and drive the 2 hours to Memphis and go see Graceland (Birthplace of Elvis Pressley).  This was a logistics nightmare! We had to use the marina loaner car to drive the 30 miles to Enterprise – the only rental agency around, and no, they would not come get us.  Then we had to drive 30 miles back to return the loaner car, stopping to replace the gas beforehand.  Then we left to go to Memphis driving right past the rental car location we had left.  Additionally, we had wanted to be at Enterprise at 8:00 when they opened so that we could get an early start, but that meant we had to get the loaner car keys the night before. Unfortunately, we forgot to do this and had to wait for the marina office to open.

Eventually we got on the road to Memphis and drove through parts of Mississippi and, yes Tennessee again. We stopped at a Chick-Fil-A for lunch (Mark’s favorite) and shortly thereafter found our way to Graceland.

Graceland Entrance

Graceland Entrance

We had purchased our AAA-discounted tickets on line and arrived to find no lines at the ticket counter where we had to redeem them. There was no parking issues and there was hardly a line to get on the shuttle bus to tour the mansion. We definitely timed this well as there were fewer people behind us and we got to spend a lot of time at the mansion.

By today’s rock-star standards, the house is nothing. But considering the era and his humble background, this place was a palace. The biggest surprises for us was the beautiful horse pasture in the backyard, the trophy room, and the racquetball court. These last two rooms house all the record-setting awards and honors bestowed on Elvis.  It is here that you really appreciate his talent and contribution to the music industry – not just himself. You also come to appreciate his loving nature as he gave back to the community of Memphis with frequent donations to all types of charities. Graceland is a place that everyone who loves music should visit at least once.

GRaceland Mansion

Graceland Mansion

Living Room stain glass

Living Room stain glass

Shooting range - Graceland

Shooting range – Graceland

Shooting Range - Graceland

Shooting Range – Graceland

Smokehouse - Shooting Range

Smokehouse – Shooting Range

Selfie on Graceland tour

Selfie on Graceland tour

In the afternoon we checked into the Residence Inn downtown Memphis, passing the Mississippi River to our left as we went down Riverside Drive. There were beautiful homes on the cliff to our right, and crossing the river is a pedestrian bridge with a trolley that also runs underneath it.  Across the water is the state of Arkansas, beckoning us to cross to add one more to our list of travel states; but we resisted.

For dinner we went to a place called “The Bar-B-Que Shop” which had been recommended by a local we met at Grand Harbor Marina.

The Bar B Q Shop

The Bar B Q Shop

The place is not large and is located in the Mid-City area of Memphis. Because we didn’t want to move our car which was parked in a free spot, we took a taxi there and back.  Both drivers also said it was the best Bar-B-Que, and come to find out Bon Appetite magazine agreed.

Bar B Q Shop writeup

Bar B Q Shop writeup

After a sampling of their Bar-B-Que Spaghetti (something they are known for), we settled on a shared rack of ribs with 50% dry (rub only) and 50% wet (sauce).  While both were delicious we liked their sauce the best and bought a bottle to take home as you cannot buy it outside the Memphis area.

Bar B Q Spaghetti

Bar B Q Spaghetti

Bar B Q Shop

Bar B Q Shop

We did not have an interest in seeing Beale Street (famous for its “nightspots”). We are not really bar people and some locals we met at Grand Harbor had warned us of it becoming a problem area, even though it was not far from our hotel.  So we went back to our hotel, took advantage of the free DVDs and watched “The Fighter”, a true story about the boxing Ward brothers.  It was a great way to relax and end the day.

Wednesday (10/14) – Memphis, TN – We started the day with a trip to the Bass Pro store located in the Pyramid building near the Mississippi River.

Bass Pro Pyramid

Bass Pro Pyramid

We just had to see this place that houses 4 different fish tanks swimming throughout; one of which emulates a real marina with boats in the water and large carp swimming about.

Inside Bass Pro Shop Pyramid

Inside Bass Pro Shop – pyramid

Fish pond - Bass Pro

Fish pond – Bass Pro

In the middle of the store is a glass elevator that you can take to the top and see 360 view of Memphis. As Denise is scared of heights we did not think it would be worth the $10 per person fee, so we opted not to go up.

Elevator inside pyramid - Bass Pro

Elevator inside pyramid – Bass Pro

The Pyramid building also houses a Ducks Unlimited Heritage Center and as well as a shooting range and a Berretta-sponsored gun shop. But the most interesting thing is it also has a large hotel (called the Big Cypress Lodge) that has rooms that overlook the store (interior), the Mississippi River, or downtown Memphis (exterior) – depending on the room you get.  This was truly a sportsman’s paradise and makes the one in Orlando look like a 7-11!  You can learn more about this very unique place here.

Big Cypress Lodge Entrance

Big Cypress Lodge Entrance

Rooms overlooking store

Rooms overlooking store

Pyramid interior rooms at The Lodge

Pyramid interior rooms at The Lodge

Bass Pro Store entrance

Bass Pro Store entrance

After that we moved the car up the road a bit and went to the Welcome Center where we were able to park for free to explore some of the riverfront area. From here, we took the pedestrian bridge over a body of water called the Wolf River Lagoon to a place called Mud Island.

Mud Island sign

Mud Island sign

Ped Bridge to Mud Island

Ped Bridge to Mud Island

We could have taken a monorail that hangs on the underside of the bridge that is over 100 feet above the water, but someone in our party doesn’t like heights (see above). So instead we walked the 500+ meters to the other side and looked down on Mud Island.  Because we were high up, we could a lot of what this park had to offer.  In addition to the amphitheater it also has a shallow water feature in the shape of the Mississippi River that runs the length of the park. It is very cool and we wished we had bikes and more time to explore this area further.

Looking West over Mud Island

Looking West over Mud Island

Water feature on Mud Island

Water feature on Mud Island

Mud Island Ped Bridge

Mud Island Ped Bridge

After this adventure we left downtown Memphis and headed out to do some errands. We hit Costco and Lowes for a few things needed on the boat, and then to Supercuts right nearby for Mark to get his hair cut.  Afterwards we grabbed some lunch and then headed out for the long drive back to Grand Harbor.

Here are some other sights from Memphis:

Downtown Memphis

Downtown Memphis

Road signs on Memphis freeways

Road signs on Memphis freeways

We arrived in time for “docktails” with several Loopers including KelliRae & Bill (“Ocean Dancer”) whom Denise got to know in Michigan City, IN when Mark was in Wisconsin. As luck would have it, they were getting a rental car from Enterprise the next day and they were trying to schedule the marina loaner car to drive to Corinth to get it when we ran into them. We offered to coordinate departure time and take them in the car we had to return, if they would give us a ride back to the marina afterwards. This would negate the need for either of us to do the marina-loaner-logistics nightmare described previously (see above).  Since it was a win-win for both, they agreed and we set our plans to do so early in the morning.

But since we had a car for one more day, we opted for dinner off the boat and drove back to “Freddy T’s” one more time. We later learned that the reason discounts there are given to Loopers is because the owner of the marina also owns this restaurant. He also owns a 90’ yacht he keeps in the marina!

Thursday (10/15) – Grand Harbor Marina – We were up early with the fog and left the marina by 7:30 with KelliRae & Bill. The drive to Corinth and back took about 1.5 hours and had us back to the boat for a few chores.  Denise did laundry, which took the rest of the morning, while Mark put water on the boat and did a few other “honey-do” items.

Bill & Kellirae ("Ocean Dancer")

Bill & Kellirae (“Ocean Dancer”)

In the afternoon we moved the boat to the fuel dock to fill up our tank. We wanted to do this today as we want to leave before the fuel dock opens on Saturday, and didn’t want to fight the heavy wind forecasted for Friday.

Mark getting fuel

Mark getting fuel

We also made plans to meet with our Looper friends Mike & Lois Fallon (“Inchin’ Along”) whom we met on the Hudson River. They are from Memphis and have been taking 3 years to complete the Loop; leaving their boat (this time in Brewerton, NY) and returning to their home.  They recommended this marina to us as it is their “home port” and they wanted to come see us.

In the evening we got together with other Loopers for the usual docktails, including Al & Kaye (“Knot Home”), Dennis & Carol (“Reunion”), and Ron & Bev (“Sea Venture”). Some of the Loopers are leaving in the morning, and some are staying at Grand Harbor for the whole month of October.  It is a nice area, and a great place to hang out if you have to stay somewhere.

Carol & Dennis ("Reunion")

Carol & Dennis (“Reunion”)

Ron & Bev "Sea Venture"

Ron & Bev “Sea Venture”

During docktails, it is not uncommon for Loopers to share stories, but at this point in the Loop, discussion is frequently about boat insurance coverage, which dictates the plans for many to mover further south. While everyone is anxious to get off the rivers and into the Gulf Coast ports, many boaters have to wait until November (1st or 30th – policy dependent) due to their boat insurance. Since policies differ from carrier to carrier, and the FL coverage is one of the most expensive, everyone wants to compare policies and costs.  And as a result, many will hold up somewhere between Pickwick and Mobile Bay to wait for the special date when they are covered by their policy.  Since we live in FL we get the coverage we need for hurricane protection, however we won’t make it effective until we hit Mobile. This way we only have to pay for the remainder of the policy year (July 2016) and therefore did not have to incur the hefty fee for the whole year.  Comparing notes is like comparing presidential candidates across all parties; there are good and bad to just about all of them and there is no perfect one!

Friday (10/16) – Memphis, TN – Grand Harbor Marina – We woke up to cooler and slightly misty weather and the wind had picked up as expected.  We got the marina loaner vehicle and drove to Shiloh National Military Park, about 20 minutes away from the marina.  This national park is the site of one of the bloodiest battles during the civil war and is very spread out across miles of this pretty part of Western Tennessee. Denise was sorry she had not brought her running shoes to get a good run in as it had perfect trails in a beautiful setting along the river and provided the opportunity to go more than 3 miles without circling back over the course a few times; something she hasn’t been able to do in a long time.

Shiloh Welcome Center

Shiloh Welcome Center

Shiloh Visitors Center

Shiloh Visitors Center

In addition to the cemetery, there is a terrific award-winning video at the Welcome Center that documents the two-day battle at this location that had over 20,000 casualties. Throughout the entire park area there are markers that depict the locations of each battalion, company or regiment from both Union and Confederate armies. It is a great history lesson and was pretty overwhelming when you see how spread out the battleground is. You can learn more about this great park here.

Here are some other sights from Shiloh:

Cemetery Gates at Shiloh

Cemetery Gates at Shiloh

Shiloh Cemetery

Shiloh Cemetery

Old Shiloh church

Old Shiloh church

On the way back to the boat we went to a place called “The Outpost” located on the other side of Pickwick dam that we had been told about. It is combination country store, bait & tackle shop and bar-b-que restaurant.  We stopped in to buy a steak for cooking on the grill for dinner and some home-made pickles and then headed back to the boat.

The Outpost

The Outpost

The Outpost

The Outpost

We returned to the marina in time to meet Mike & Lois for lunch who then took us back to The Outpost for a delicious meal. We had a chance to get caught up on our Looping adventures since we last saw each other and talked of their plans to continue the loop next spring.  After lunch, they gave us a tour of the homes surrounding the area near the marina, and told us about some of the owners including the one who owns Grand Harbor Marina, and Freddie T’s (restaurant).  Then they took us back to the marina and said our good-byes. They are really fun and wonderful people and we were so glad they came to see us.

Lois & Mike ("Inchin Along")

Lois & Mike (“Inchin Along”)

In the evening we decided to stay close to the boat and prepare for our departure in the morning. Since our lunch was very filling and ran late, we decided to skip dinner and watched TV until we turned in for the night.

We really liked this marina and this area and can see why so many people stay here.  This is one of our favorite spots on the Loop!

Leaving Grand Harbor

Leaving Grand Harbor

Saturday (10/17) – Midway Marina – Fulton, MS. We were up and off the dock just after 7:00 with only bass fishing boats on the water with us.  Although it was cool and a little breezy when we woke up, once underway on the Tenn-Tom waterway we were more sheltered by the canal and hit some light fog. Fortunately it did not last.

Fog on Tenn-Tom Waterway

Fog on Tenn-Tom Waterway

When we left Grand Harbor we had called the first lock (Whitten) to clarify their opening schedule and to let them know we were headed their way. We received instructions to be there for what would be a 10:00 opening. That was per our plans and so we made our way south. When we got to the lock there was an up-bound tow that had just exited and he had the chamber filling for another up-bound waiting tow. We had to wait over an hour for this to materialize and then finally were allowed in this lock with two other boats (“The Bucket List” and “Lady KK”).

The Whitten lock is the first of 12 locks we will have to go through that will drop us over 400’ before we get to Mobile, AL and sea level. This particular lock is the largest drop of all at over 80’.  It has been since Canada and the TSW that we have encountered such lock heights and it can be intimidating when you first pull in and see the doors facing you.  It took about 20 minutes to lock down and be on our way.  Fortunately, the other two locks we had to go through were open for us when we arrived and we were in and out of them within 15 minutes each.

Tied up to cell waiting on Whitten Lock

Tied up to cell waiting on Whitten Lock

Whitten Lock - Looking forward

Whitten Lock – Looking forward

Some of the Tenn-Tom Waterway is more like a big ditch with high banks on both sides. During this portion there are baffles that are placed near neighboring creeks to prevent them from rushing into the waterway and affecting water levels. It is an interesting sight to say the least.

Creek baffles on Tenn-Tom

Creek baffles on Tenn-Tom

Along the way we also saw some evidence that we are definitely in the Bible belt!

On the Tenn-Tom waterway

On the Tenn-Tom waterway

We arrived at Midway Marine just after 2:00 pm and were quickly followed by the other two boats who had traveled the locks with us during the day. We exchanged boat cards and some pleasantries, and then we were off to shower and get to mass. We used the marina loaner vehicle to drive into the very small town of Fulton and attend Christ the King Catholic for their only mass at 4:30. We were elated that we could find a Catholic church in this part of Mississippi where Baptists and Methodists rule the roost.  There were less than 30 people at mass and the priest was a transplant from India, where Catholics are the largest Christian faith but only represent 1.5% of the total population there.

Christ the King Church

Christ the King Church

After mass we drove to the Wal-Mart, picked up a rotisserie chicken & salad fixings, and took it back to the boat for dinner. Although there is a restaurant up the hill from the marina, we had decided to eat on board instead. Walking down the docks we could smell the wonderful aroma of our fellow Loopers all of whom were cooking aboard their boats too. Great minds think alike.

Here are some pictures from Midway Marina:

Midway Marina

Midway Marina

Fuel dock

Fuel dock

IO at Midway

IO at Midway

Sunday (10/18) – Columbus Marina – Columbus, MS – Knowing it is easier to get the locks to open for a group of pleasure craft, we coordinated with our new Looper friends on “The Bucket List” and “Lady KK” and left at 7:45. We called the first lock (Fulton) to tell them we were coming and got their ok. So when we arrived there was no wait and that set the precedent for the rest of the day. There was only one lock of the other three that we had to wait at, and that was less than 10 minutes.

Wilkins Lock

Wilkins Lock

Bird at Wilkins Lock

Bird at Wilkins Lock

We arrived at Columbus marina just before 2:00 pm covering 50 nm, about the same distance as yesterday in about 2 hours less time. It is amazing how the locks can impact your plans.

After settling the boat and checking in, we went to work on assigned tasks. Denise had a blog to update and pictures to catalog and Mark had a very dirty boat that had to be washed. We showered in time to meet our new Looper friends for dinner.  Using the marina van we drove into town to Harvey’s restaurant with Larry & Sherry (“Lady KK”), and Gary & Ingrid (“The Bucket List”). Since Lady KK is a Gold-Looper and have run these rivers several times before, they already knew of Harvey’s. Of course we knew of the place from our days working for a client in Columbus so it was kind of like a trip down memory lane for us.  We stayed late at the restaurant talking and getting to know each other a bit before returning to the marina.

Gary & Ingrid ("The Bucket List")

Gary & Ingrid (“The Bucket List”)

Larry & Sherry Dufraine ("Lady KK")

Larry & Sherry Dufraine (“Lady KK”)

Mark & Denise at Harvey's

Mark & Denise at Harvey’s

Here are some other pictures from our adventures on the Tenn-Tom today:

Foliage in route to Columbus

Foliage in route to Columbus

Tombigbee River

Tombigbee River

Blue Bluff

Blue Bluff

Tomorrow Mark will fly to a client in Columbia, SC for work on Tuesday and will return on Wednesday morning. This means we will stay in Columbus, MS until at least Wednesday. In the meantime, Denise will be able to get the blog published and also get some much-needed boat chores done.

Stay tuned for more adventures!

Back in the South!

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.

Cape Girardeau, MO

Cape Girardeau, MO

Old St. Vincent's - Cape Girardeau, MO

Old St. Vincent’s – Cape Girardeau, MO

Southeast MO State University

Southeast MO 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.

Rock quarry - MS River

Rock quarry – MS River

Rock quarry & plant - MS River

Rock quarry & plant – MS River

Passing Large (5x7) tow

Passing Large (5×7) tow

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.

Wierdam on MS River

Wierdam on MS River

Wingdam on MS River

Wingdam on MS River

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).

Canoers and campsite - MS River

Canoers and campsite – MS River

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!

Little Divergent - looking East

Little Divergent Anchorage looking East

Little Divergent Anchorage looking West

Little Divergent Anchorage looking West

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.

Olmstead Lock

Olmstead Lock

Lock 53 - Ohio River

Lock 53 – Ohio River

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.

Pleasure boat at lock 52

Homemade pleasure boat waiting at lock 52

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.

Entering Lock 52 - Ohio River

Entering Lock 52 – Ohio River

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.

Sunset at Anchorage

Sunset at Anchorage

Blood moon rising

Blood moon rising

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.

Cumberland River

Cumberland River

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.

Cumberland River - Reflection

Cumberland River – Reflection

Cumberland River

Cumberland River

Cumberland River

Cumberland River

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!

Asian Carrp jump - Barkley Lock & dam

Asian Carrp jump – Barkley Lock & dam

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.

Barkley Lock

Barkley Lock

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.

Entrance to GTB Resort

Entrance to GTB Resort

Beach at GTB

Beach at GTB

GTB Fuel dock

GTB Fuel dock

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.

Commonwealth Yacht Club

Commonwealth Yacht Club

Welcoming sign

Welcoming sign

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.

Denise, Mark & Terry ("Sunny Daze")

Denise, Mark & Terry (“Sunny Daze”)

Lola & Terry ("Sunny Daze")

Lola & Terry (“Sunny Daze”)

Brian & Janice "Fugitive"

Brian & Janice “Fugitive”

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.

Golf cart selfie

Golf cart selfie

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.

Turtles in water

Turtles in water

Turtles in the water

Turtles in the water

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.

Patti's

Patti’s

Mark, Denise, Kathy, Jim, Julie & Tom

Mark, Denise, Kathy, Jim, Julie & Tom

Dessert at Patti's

Dessert at Patti’s

 

Here are some pictures of the town of Grand Rivers:

Downtown Grand Rivers

Downtown Grand Rivers

Downtown

Downtown

Shops in downtown

Shops in downtown

Downtown

Downtown

Pokey's in downtown

Pokey’s in downtown

Mr BB Q - downtown

Mr BB Q – downtown

Lite Side Cafe

Lite Side Café

Pedestrian Path downtown

Pedestrian Path downtown

Lighthouse Landing Marina - TN River side

Lighthouse Landing Marina – TN River side

Village supermarket

Village supermarket

Post Office

Post Office

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.

Denise's Pedicure

Denise’s Pedicure

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!

Mark at Looper Bar B Que

Mark at Looper Bar B Que

Pam & Pete ("Endoxi") - Looper Bar B Que

Pam & Pete (“Endoxi”) – Looper Bar B Que

Rodney & Sharri Hedeen ("Sassified")

Rodney & Sharri Hedeen (“Sassified”)

Kenny & Kathy Walker ("No Zip Code")

Kenny & Kathy Walker (“No Zip Code”)

Jim & Paula ("Palmetto Paridise")

Jim & Paula (“Palmetto Paradise”)

Kathy ("JimKat") and Julie ("Sum Escape")

Kathy (“JimKat”) and Julie (“Sum Escape”)

Tom ("Sum Escape") and Jim ("JimKat")

Tom (“Sum Escape”) and Jim (“JimKat”)

Entertainment

Entertainment

Billy Gray IV - Owner & Harbormaster

Billy Gray IV – Owner & Harbormaster

Deer at Bar B Que

Deer at Bar B Que

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!

Symphony Hall -from Room

Symphony Hall -from Room

View from hotel room - to River

View from hotel room – to River

Nissan Stadium

Nissan Stadium – Home of the Titans

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.

Jack's Bar-B-Que

Jack’s Bar-B-Que

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.

Anne & Jeff Simmons ("Harvest Moon")

Anne & Jeff Simmons (“Harvest Moon”)

ACME feed Store

ACME feed Store

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.

Mark taking girls picture - Printer's Alley

Mark taking girls picture – Printer’s Alley

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!

Big Bang Entrance

Big Bang Entrance

Janice & Brian ("Fugitive")

Janice & Brian (“Fugitive”)

Denise & Mark at "Big Bang"

Denise & Mark at “Big Bang”

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.

Farmer's Market

Farmer’s Market

Farmer's Market

Soooooo many pumpkins at the Farmer’s Market

Farmer's Market

Farmer’s Market

Pizza lunch

Bella Nashville – Pizza lunch

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.

Hotel Selfie

Selfie in hotel lobby before dinner

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.

St Mary's of the Seven Sorrows

St Mary’s of the Seven Sorrows

St Mary's

St Mary’s

Ceiling of St. Mary's

Ceiling of St. Mary’s

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:

Pedal Tavern

Pedal Tavern – Nashville’s Limo Cycle

Bridgestone Arena

Bridgestone Arena

Broadway

Broadway – the Nashville “Strip”

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.

IO at marina slip

IO at marina slip

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.

Tennessee River

Kentucky Lake shoreline – to Paris Landing

TN River

Kentucky Lake shoreline to Paris Landing

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.

Aunt Aggie

Aunt Aggie

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.

Paris Landing Marina

Paris Landing Marina

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.

Paris Landing Lodge Restaurant

Paris Landing Lodge Restaurant

Paris Landing Lodge Buffet

Paris Landing Lodge Buffet

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!

Sunrise at Paris Landing

Sunrise at Paris Landing

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.

Old Danville Grain Elevator

Old Danville Grain Elevator

Old Danville Grain Elevator

Old Danville Grain Elevator

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.

Homes on TN River

Homes on TN River

Marshy Grass on TN River

Marshy Grass on TN River

Western Shore - TN River

Western Shore – TN River

 

Fishing on TN River

Fishing on TN River

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.

Pebble Isle Marina

Pebble Isle Marina

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.

Kevin & Chris ("Sweet Sensation")

Kevin & Chris (“Sweet Sensation”)

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.

Looper Docktails

Looper Docktails

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.

Mark & Kay ("Plane2Sea")

Mark & Kay (“Plane2Sea”)

Stay tuned for more adventures!

Hello Mississippi River!

We have completed one of the big Western Rivers – the Illinois- and have now moved onto the Mississippi. We are now in our home space: south of the Mason and/or east of the Mississippi….or in our case ON the Mississippi. Just in time to bring in football weather; it was a cool 60 degrees this morning and we expect temperatures in the 50’s tonight. In the last week we have noticed the leaves on the trees have started turning yellow and in some places are falling on the ground. We believe fall has come to the mid-west.

Here is what we have been up to over the last week or so:

Tuesday (9/15)Hardin, IL – We left Havana at 7 am hoping to make a lot of miles today. With only one lock, we were hopeful we would get through it without too much delay and be able to get to Hardin and tie up to a dock at a restaurant for the night. If that didn’t work, then we had plans to anchor out not far from there. Although not in a hurry, we are now bored with the Illinois River and anxious to move to the Mississippi where there is a change in geography and the landscape.

The morning was spectacular and we saw no tows and only a few small fishing boats for the first 1.5 hours of the trip. The water was very peaceful and we saw all kinds of birds, including lots of bald eagles, hawks, herons and egrets in the water along the shoreline. It was beauty as only God can create!

Illinois River in early morning

Illinois River in early morning

Eagles on shore

Eagles on shore

We were making great progress for the first 40 miles, eventually passing several Looper trawlers on the way to the LaGrange Lock. When we reached the town of Beardstown, a few miles up-river from the lock, we call to see what the status was and when we could get in. We were advised to come on down to the lock and they would let us in right away. Unfortunately, there was a tow in front of us and he would not let us pass ahead of him to get to the lock. By the time we both reached the lock, he had the priority and got to go in first. But because he was a 3 x 5 (15 barges), he was not able to fit it all in one lock-down. So we had to wait for them to break him apart, lock down, lock up, lock down the rest of the tow, lock back up, and then we could go in. In the meantime all of the pleasure crafts stacked up in the channel with nowhere to anchor or no wall to tie to. It was very frustrating as we would not have hurried up to get to the lock when we called. We feel like the lock master and the tow colluded to mess with us and make us wait. Three hours later we finally got through after “motoring” in place and consuming expensive and limited diesel.

Entering LeGrange Lock

Entering LeGrange Lock

In the lock were many of our Looper friends: “Ivory Lady”, “Next Chapter”, “Sunny Daze”, “Pearl”, “Melinda B”, “Kat in the Hat”, “Gimme Time” and a few other pleasure craft. There was also a tug and a guy going down the river in a canoe, who was allowed to tie to the tug while in the lock. In total there were 10 boats plus the tug and the canoe. It is a large lock, but it was pretty full with all this watercraft.

Tug & Canoe - LeGrange Lock

Tug & Canoe – LeGrange Lock

Once through the lock we were able to move into the front and able to get back up to our cruising speed of 15 knots. There was one other (non-looper) boat that was also going this fast and they eventually passed us. Once around the tow that jammed us up at the lock, we were able to “go fast” and make lots more headway without much issue.

We were successful at landing a spot on the free dock in Hardin, right along the riverbank. The restaurant there “Mel’s Riverdock” had a fire in June and was still closed, but the dock was available and (because the restaurant was closed) was free. There is no power or water, but that is ok with us; the price was right! We had a very long day, cruising over 80 miles and were grateful for landing this spot.

IO at Mel's Riverdock

IO at Mel’s Riverdock

We were assisted on the tie up by a Looper boat we had not yet met; Monty & Keri (“Dream Girl”). It was only our two boats plus another non-Looper boat for the night, but there would have been room for two more boats. Although the steel dock was not in great shape; it prevented us from having to anchor.

Mel's Riverdock

Mel’s Riverdock

There is nothing to this area except the restaurant (that is closed) and little hamlet with a few homes. Just to the north there is a lift bridge for the main highway over the river, and a big nature park to our south. The place is pretty remote and the cell phone signal is very poor. Mark did manage to call his sister when we walked up the hill near the restaurant, but we could get none on the boat. So with nothing to explore in the area we ate dinner on the boat and hunkered down to reading for the rest of the evening.

Mark talking to sister - Mel's Riverdock

Mark talking to sister – Mel’s Riverdock

Bridge north of Mel's Riverdock

Bridge north of Mel’s Riverdock

Just around dusk we saw a tow coming upstream and as it started to align up to go under the bridge. All of a sudden we heard the engines roar as it threw on the reverse and tried to stop. The bridge was not up and it was going to hit it. Fortunately, the tow operator managed to stop it, but it was close. Monty (“Dream Girl”) had been listening to the VHF radio and heard the whole conversation between the tow and the bridge operator. Apparently the bridge broke and he couldn’t lift it. The tow pilot was as cool as a cucumber and pulled it along the shoreline opposite us and waited.

Sometime around 3:00 am they must have gotten the bridge working again as Denise woke up to the boat really rocking and saw a tow headed downstream; the bridge was up. The tow that almost hit the bridge was still on the eastern shore waiting to go upstream. But the downstream vessels have right-of-way, and at least two other tows came through; obviously they had been stacked up on the other side of the bridge until it could open. Around 5:00 am we saw the up-bound tow leave and finally make it under the bridge. It was a lot of excitement for such a quiet little place.

Wednesday (9/16)Grafton, IL – Following the other two boats on the dock, we left Hardin around 8:00 am. As we didn’t have far to go, and there were no locks to interfere with our travels today, we took a slow (8kt) cruise for the last 20 miles into Grafton.

Cliffs along IL River

Cliffs along IL River on way to Grafton

We arrived at 9:30 and were put into a slip right away. There were several Looper boats here as it is a big marina and a key stopping point on the Great Loop. One of the first boats we saw was Kevin, Chris & Graham on “Sweet Sensation”; the Brits who are on the Prout 38 sailboat. Later in the day “Ivory Lady”, “Next Chapter”, “Pearl” and “Melinda B” also showed up.

Sweet Sensation at Grafton Marina

Sweet Sensation at Grafton Marina

After settling in, Mark had a few conference calls to make then we washed the boat. It was covered with bugs and spider webs and needed a good scrubbing. We even cleaned the inside of the dinghy which had accumulated lots of dirty water that never fully drains out of the bottom, even with the plug removed.

Once we were cleaned up, we joined all the Loopers for docktails. It was a big group and the marina here has a great “porch” area right in front of the office/ships store to host such an event. It was a lot of fun to hear everyone’s stories and find out what their plans are.

Afterwards, we went to “The Big Kahuna” the restaurant/bar upstairs from the marina office. There were 6 of us; Jann & Bill (“Ivory Lady”), Caryn & Willy (“Next Chapter”) and the two of us. Although we have had conversations with these two couples before, this was an opportunity to get to know them even more. We had a lot of fun and feel like we now have new life-long friends.

Thursday (9/17)Grafton, IL– We needed to stay a day in port to get some chores done, and for Mark to be able to do some work. After several days on the river, it was nice to have a good marina with a fairly decent town to see, and to be stationary for a day.

At daybreak Denise went for a nice run on the bike path along the river. It was hot, but it felt good to get the legs moving and it was pretty quiet; only the fisherman were up. She ran past where there is a ferry over to the Missouri side of the river, and to the lighthouse near where the two rivers converge.

Later in the morning, Mark did some work for clients while Denise worked on cataloging pictures and began a blog update.

In the afternoon, Denise took on a tough boat chore; removing the hard water stains on the navy blue boat hull that don’t come off with a regular cleaning. Denise was motivated by Brian (“Pearl”) who was doing the same thing on the black part of his otherwise all-white hull. So with a spray bottle of vinegar, paper towels, and lots of elbow grease, she got 90% of the boat done. This was made easy by the fact that the slip in the marina had docks on both sides of the boat. Towards the end of the job, Mark came out to assist and finish it up.

We also hung the new banner off the stern with our boat name. We had one of these made up because you cannot read the one on the stern of the boat when the dinghy is on the davits. Thanks to our friends Ray & Rae at “Tarps, Etc.” who helped us make up the banner while we were home last weekend, others on the water will be able to see our boat name while underway.

Lastly, we hung our FSU flag. We are headed south and it is football season. As alumni of one of the finest college teams, we must support our Seminoles and let everyone else know it! Go ‘Noles!

New banner & FSU flag

New banner & FSU flag

During the day we said good bye (for now) to friends on “Sweet Sensation”, “Next Chapter”, and “Ivory Lady” – who all left the marina to move on to Alton. But we said hello to “TiKa”, “Fryedaze” and “Sea Moss” (whom we met in Charlevoix).

As we finished our chores quite late, our social director (Denise) did not have time to organize a Looper docktail. So, we informally planned one with Tim & Mark – the Younger (“TiKa”) whose boat was near ours. As we were gathering for it, we ran into Melinda and Bob (“Melinda B”) on the dock. They mentioned they were going to go to “Aerie’s Riverview Winery” at the top of the hill for dinner and invited us to join them. The winery, which is 5 minutes away, will come and pick us up at the marina and take us to their place. So in two separate groups, all 6 of us rode in dune-buggy style to the winery.

Aerie's Winery

Aerie’s Winery

Ride up to Aerie's winery

Ride up to Aerie’s winery

What a spectacular place. It overlooks not just our marina, but also the convergence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. They say on a clear day you can see the arch in St. Louis. While we could not see it due to the haze, we still had a spectacular view and were thrilled to have come here.

View from Aerie's Winery

View from Aerie’s Winery

Terrace at Aerie's Winery

Terrace at Aerie’s Winery

Shortly thereafter, Clark & Evelyn (“Sea Moss”) showed up and joined us at our table.

Evelyn & Clark (Sea Moss)

Evelyn & Clark (Sea Moss)

During our conversation at dinner, we learned that Melinda & Bob (who are from Port Orange) owned and started a manufacturing business in Mount Dora named Data Graphics. The company is now run by their son. Denise thought the name sounded familiar and asked if they were members of MACF. Bob immediately texted his son who then confirmed that they are, and we discover that he had been in conversation with Sherry Reeves (MACF Exec. Director and friend of Denise’s) earlier in the day. What a small world it really is!

Bob & Melinda (Melinda B)

Bob & Melinda (Melinda B)

Mark & Tim - Aerie's Winery

Mark & Tim – Aerie’s Winery

After dinner (and another dune-buggy ride down the hill) we were in the marina parking lot talking with Tim and Mark-the younger about them leaving the next day. We heard music coming from one of the local outdoor pubs so we decided to go support the local band and have a drink. As we enter the place we saw Dave & Betsy (“Fryedaze”), who called us up to the balcony where they were sitting to join them. Unfortunately, we weren’t there 15 minutes and the band wrapped it up for the night. So, we stayed talking for a little while until it was time to leave and head back to our respective boats.

Boulevard Brewing & Piasa Winery

Boulevard Brewing & Piasa Winery

The marina here in Grafton is really a nice place and they people who own it do a great job catering to the Loopers. There is everything you could want onsite: ships store, restaurant, pool, hot tub, fuel dock, clean bathroom & showers. The marina has mostly covered slips for their regulars, and the entire marina is on floating docks that can accommodate the shifting heights of the river. Literally, the whole marina floats; including fuel dock, bathrooms, pool, restaurant, office, etc. It is really an interesting thing, but apparently not uncommon for marinas along these great rivers where water can sometimes rise 30 – 50 feet.

Grafton Marina from Street

Grafton Marina from Street

Other Pictures from Grafton or in the river near there:

Tara Point Inn & Cottage

Tara Point Inn & Cottage

Main Street in Grafton

Main Street in Grafton

Building a duck blind

Building a duck blind

Friday (9/18)Port Charles, MO – As we prepare for a long trek down the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, we needed to make sure we have as much fuel on board as possible. We also didn’t want to pay a fortune for it and availability is very limited between here and the Tennessee River. So Mark had found a place that had the cheapest price for ValvTech diesel at the Port Charles marina; less than 5 miles away. We had read about the town of St. Charles, Missouri and wanted to visit there, and the Port Charles marina had a loaner vehicle we could use to drive the 15 minutes to get there. However, this would require us to cruise 5 miles UP the Mississippi River (opposite direction of most Loopers) to get there.

When we woke up in the morning it was raining, and severe weather was forecasted for the day. So, we wanted to get underway as soon as possible so we wouldn’t have to encounter the storms while on the water. After calling the marina and confirming they could take us early, we left Grafton and headed out. It didn’t take long to get to Port Charles, but we did have to fight a 2 knot current and navigate around lots of debris in the water running downstream on us. Of course as we approached the fuel dock the skies opened up and it poured. Denise got drenched trying to tie up the boat, but Katie (marina operator) got just as wet. We agreed to wait until after the storm passed to take on fuel.

Marina fuel dock

Marina fuel dock

After the rain subsided we filled the boat with diesel, got a free pump out, and moved the boat to our assigned location on a parallel dock. Here we were adjacent to Looper friends Monty & Keri (“Dream Girl”) – whom we met at the Mel’s Riverdock, and Laurie & Dave (“Next Step”) – whom we originally met at Ess Kay Marina in Brewerton, NY.

During this time, we met two ladies kayaking downstream on the Mississippi as we were coming upstream. They pulled into the marina right after the storm passed and we had a chance to talk with them about their adventure. Leann & Alyssum had both separately started kayaking at the head of the Mississippi River, some 400 miles north of Minneapolis. They met along the way and are two of a whole group of kayakers who are heading all the way to New Orleans. They camp out where they can and call home to family every day. Leann’s iPhone needed a charge, so we used the waiting time at the fuel dock to get her back to 100% power. They checked the weather forecast and decided they could make it to Grafton before the big storms hit, so they thanked us and said goodbye.

Alyssum & Leann

Alyssum & Leann

In the afternoon Mark did some work while Denise worked on this blog post. Then we used the loaner car to go into Old Town St. Charles; a town known for its historic buildings (88 of which date back into the 1700’s) and was a gateway to the West for settlers – Lewis and Clark among them. Since we had the car we decided to make a quick run to Wal-Mart, which became more of an adventure. Denise was driving and Mark was navigating, which meant we went 20 miles out of the way to “the first Wal-Mart that Google Maps found”. NOT the one that were on the directions from the marina; a store a short 15 miles closer to the one we went.

Since we did the “short” stop at Wal-Mart first, we arrived too late to see the inside of most of the shops in St. Charles. However, we did find a place called “Little Hills Winery” and grabbed a bite to eat for dinner.

Little Hills Winery

Little Hills Winery

We chose this place because they had the FSU game on a TV in the bar area and we got to watch at least the first half of the game.

Watching FSU Football at dinner

Watching FSU Football at dinner

Afterwards we walked down Main Street to see some of the shops and see what else was going on. The main street is 12 blocks long and has all kinds of real stores mixed in with some of the touristy type spots; not unlike our own Park Avenue in Winter Park.

St Charles downtown

St Charles downtown

As we meandered down a few blocks there seemed to be more people out and about, and it was there that we stumbled upon “Mosaics Festival of the Arts” – a juried art show that was running all weekend. What a show it was! We saw some crazy art, and some really good stuff from mostly local (IL or MO) artists. There was a local band playing pretty good music and we enjoyed the atmosphere of the place. It was a lot of fun.

Art Festival in St. Charles

Art Festival in St. Charles

Band at art festival

Band at art festival

In addition to the street fare, a lot of the restaurants along Main Street have outdoor courtyard eating areas, and there is a huge park one block over that runs the length of Main Street, but along the Missouri River. We found this to be a delightful town that we wished we had more time to explore, and it is less than half an hour from St. Louis. Most Loopers don’t take the time to stop in Port Charles and we are so glad we did. It was after 10:00 before we got back to the boat and we were tired. We were also happy to then learn our ‘Noles pulled out a shut-out victory against Boston College. A perfect ending to a perfect day!

Saturday (9/19) – Alton, IL – We left Port Charles in the morning and made the quick 15 mile cruise down the Mississippi River to Alton, IL.

Port Charles Marina at sunrise

Port Charles Marina at sunrise

Along the way we passed “Our Lady of the Rivers Shrine” located near the village of Portage Des Sioux. Here there is a 50 foot shrine was built after the disastrous flood of 1951 as gratitude for the water stopping just short of flooding the village. It is not far from where the Mississippi and the Illinois Rivers meet.

Our Lady of the Rivers Shrine

Our Lady of the Rivers Shrine

We continued traveling south to Alton, passing beautiful high cliffs, a water park, and then navigating a tow and the highway bridge right before turning into the tricky marina entrance.

Cliffs along MS River

Cliffs along MS River

Water park along MS River

Water park along MS River

Alton Bridge

Alton Bridge

Here we will be leaving the boat for a few days as Mark has to go to Indianapolis to see a client, and Denise will visit with Aunt Anita & Uncle Ray who live a short distance away. Once tied up in our slip, Mark rushed to get to Enterprise to get the rental car for the next week before they closed for noon. While he was gone, Denise successfully hooked up the electrical to the boat and got all the house systems operational before he could come back.

Once Mark got back to the boat, we ate lunch. Afterwards, Mark took Dave (“Fryedaze”) to the local Wal-Mart as he needed a few things for his boat and we had the rental car. While they were gone, Denise worked on this blog, cataloging pictures and watched college football (streaming ESPN).

That evening for dinner we had an adventure outing planned with Dave & Betsy (“Fryedaze”), as well as Caryn & Willy Bain (“Next Chapter”) and Jann & Bill Mellman (“Ivory Lady”). Since two of us had rental cars, we went up the road to a place called “Fast Eddies Bon Air” which is a renowned (huge) bar in these parts– or really a bunch of connected rooms of bars – that serves a limited menu of food but with enough choices we all could find something to eat. You order your food as you come in and then go sit down and order your drinks from the waitress. When they call your number you go up to the main counter and get your food. You must order a drink, and no take out is allowed – those are their rules. The food is cheap and so are the drinks. But you go to hear the music and to people watch. It is a hoot! You will see all types and we saw it all: old, young, singles, couples, bikers and “biker wannabees”. There were at least 2 bride/bachelorette parties and one 50th Birthday party that we ran into. When we arrived there was one band playing, then they wrapped it up and a guitar soloist was playing. By the time we left another band was just getting set up. It was a lot of fun and we were glad we did it all together.

At Fast Eddies

At Fast Eddies –  Jann, Caryn, Denise, Mark, Dave, Betsy, Bill

Fridaze and us at Fast Eddies

Dave, Betsy, Mark & Denise at Fast Eddies

Other sights from Fast Eddies:

Fast Eddies

Fast Eddies

Fast Eddies

Fast Eddies

Signs at Fast Eddies

Signs at Fast Eddies

Sunday, (9/20) – Alton, IL – We got up in time to get showers and make it to 8:00 am mass at Saint Mary’s. The church could not have been closer; in fact it was by far the easiest church to get to in our entire looping adventure so far. It literally was ½ mile up the hill from the marina entrance. But, since we had the rental car, we drove it. HA! Only because from there we were going to go out to breakfast and then on to the grocery store. We were able to locate the Panera Bread (called St. Louis Bread Co. in these parts) for breakfast, and went to the grocery store right near it to get a few things.

St Mary's Church

St Mary’s Church

Once back at the boat we got out our bikes and went on a riding adventure. A little over a mile southeast of the marina is the Mel Price Lock & Dam on the Mississippi River. We will have to go through it when we leave Alton and head south. They have a great museum there and give tours 3 times a day of the lock and dam operations. So we rode along the bike path and got there in time for the 11:00 am tour which took us up to the platform above it all some 80’ up.

Alton Bike Path

Alton Bike Path

Mel Price Lock & museum

Mel Price Lock & museum

We arrived in time to watch a tow go through with 15 barges. Although they only had to lock him up 23’, the lock is long and wide enough that the entire tow could fit in without having to be broken down into two separate locks. This is a tremendous improvement compared to the locks on the Illinois River, and therefore saves a lot of time.

Tour guide at Mel Price

Tour guide at Mel Price

Tow in Mel Price Lock

Tow in Mel Price Lock

St Louis from Mel Price Lock

St Louis from Mel Price Lock

At Mel Price Lock & Dam

At Mel Price Lock & Dam

In the museum there was also a simulator where you could drive a tow either into and out of a lock, or under a bridge. Mark tried his hand at this, but got frustrated when he hit the lock wall. Gives us a finer appreciation for what the tows go through when trying to maneuver into and out of locks.

Mark at tow simulator

Mark at tow simulator

That evening we had a cookout with Dave & Betsy (“Fryedaze”). We were joined by other Loopers from “Gimme Time” (met in Grand Haven, MI) and “Kat in the Hat” whom we had traveled in a group with, but whom we had never met. However, these folks stayed only for drinks and appetizers; it was just Betsy, Dave and us for dinner. Without knowing what we each were bringing, we both cooked chicken shish kabobs. How funny!

During dinner “Ivory Lady” & “Next Chapter” came back from their adventures in St Louis and we said our goodbyes to all as we would be leaving for Indiana in the morning, and they would all be heading south down the Mississippi in the next day or so. We hope we get to cruise with them again as we really enjoy all their company.

Monday, (9/21) through Thursday (9/24) – Columbus, IN – As Mark had to go visit a client near Indianapolis and Denise has extended family that live south of there, we decided to leave the boat in Alton and go together. Mark dropped Denise off at her Aunt and Uncle’s home in Columbus and then headed to the client site.

While Mark worked, Denise had a chance to visit with her relatives, including meeting a 40-year cousin (Jason) for the first time. She also had to do a few boat chores and enlisted Uncle Ray’s help in cutting and drilling the wood for a new horizontal fender.

Finished product - Horizontal Fender for boat

Finished product – Horizontal Fender for boat

Aunt Anita and Uncle Ray were great hosts. Ray took Denise on an 8-mile bike ride through the corn and bean fields of Indiana, complete with the lesson on the different types of corn and the way they are grown. Who knew?!

Bike ride with Ray

Bike ride with Ray

Anita provided great meals and orchestrated a family cookout one night which gave a chance to reunite with cousins not seen in a while. It was loads of fun and felt great to connect with family.

Noah

Noah

Paige

Paige

Aunt Anita

Aunt Anita

Cousin Rick with nephew Chris' boy Cooper

Cousin Rick with nephew Chris’ boy Cooper

Cousin Jason

Cousin Jason

Greg Shatto

Cousin Greg

Chris (Cousin Debbie's son)

Chris (Cousin Debbie’s son)

They also took her to a local apple orchard that has a petting zoo, a kids play area, an obstacle course, a sweet shop and a market where you can (of course) by their apples. Denise purchased some to take back to the boat, and we also got a delicious ice cream cone while there.

Apple Works

Apple Works

Afterwards they drove to an area that used to be part of Camp Atterbury (an Army National Guard base where Cousin Rick is the Commander) and where there is a chapel built by the POWs housed there during WWII. It was quite an interesting spot, and a lovely chapel that is now more like a shrine.

Prisoner of War Chapel

Prisoner of War Chapel

On Wednesday night Mark returned to Columbus and we were able to take our hosts out to dinner in downtown Columbus for a final dinner together.

On Thursday morning we left Indiana and drove back to Alton, IL where our Island Office awaited our return. We immediately got to work to ready the boat for leaving which meant getting some laundry done, putting water on it, and hosing off all the bugs. Then there was the quick trip to the grocery store for a few items and returning the rental car back to Enterprise.

We had met a few new Loopers in the marina and coordinated with them for a group departure in the morning. When you travel in groups it is easier to get through the locks, and we have to go through two tomorrow. It was early to bed as we are planning to leave the docks as early as the Mel Price lock will take us.

Friday (9/25) – Kimmswick, MO (“Hoppies”) – After a 6:00 am call to the Mel Price lockmaster, we were told to be at the locks around 6:45 am and we could get through. So at 6:30 there were 7 Looper boats that departed Alton Marina and cruised the one mile, only to be put in queue for 45 minutes waiting on an unplanned tow to get through. Fortunately, there was plenty of room for us all to negotiate the water in advance of the lock, and we made it through pretty quickly.

Sunrise in Alton

Sunrise in Alton

Entering Mel Price Lock

Entering Mel Price Lock

From there we took our time cruising the next 15 miles to the second lock (Chain of Rocks lock) as we knew we they would want us all to lock together again. So Mark slowed the boat to 1300 RPM (we usually cruise at 2050 doing 15 kts) and we still managed to go 10 kts thanks to the Mississippi River current running in our favor. In no time at all we made it to the lock but had to wait another 45 minutes. During that time, the slower boats were able to catch up to us so we all got through together. Once through the lock we were able to increase speed and not worry about staying with the other boats. We were done with the locks for the day and we wanted to get to our destination; Hoppies Marina.

Chain of Rocks Lock

Chain of Rocks Lock

Our travels took us past St. Louis and the great arch. They are rebuilding the area in front of the arch, making a new park area along the waterfront. There was a lot of construction and there is tremendous tow traffic in this area.

St Louis Arch

St Louis Arch

For the next 10 miles it is very industrial and we were constantly passing tows or watching them maneuvering with their barges. It was quite nerve wracking and the wakes they create made for a sometimes bumpy ride.

Tow workers

Tow workers

But sometimes we got to see other boats too!

Queen of the Mississippi

Queen of the Mississippi

We arrived at “Hoppies” just before noon, and first topped off our fuel tanks with diesel. Then we moved a little further down the dock to our assigned location for the evening. “Hoppies” marina is really not like anything you would imagine. It is nothing more than 3 big barges that are strung together to form one big long dock that sits just off the channel on the western shore. The barges are anchored to the shore by these big ropes. Other than electricity, there are no real services offered, but they do have a covered area on the dock for cruisers to get together, as well as a few picnic tables.

IO at Hoppies

IO at Hoppies

The town of Kimmswick is a short half mile up the road from Hoppies and is home of the “Blue Owl Restaurant”. It is a famous restaurant that got put on the map by the Food Network (Bobby Fay & Paula Dean) as well as Oprah. Now people come for miles to enjoy the food, but mostly the desserts that has made this such a stopping point south of St. Louis. Naturally, we had to try it, so we went there for a late lunch and ate our fill, including a huge piece of their famous “Levee High Apple Pie”. You can read more about this place here.

Blue Owl Menu

Blue Owl Menu

The Blue Owl

The Blue Owl

The town also has many little shops in old buildings that reminds us of Mount Dora in Florida. The people are very friendly and Denise got to enjoy the shops a bit while Mark went back to the boat for a conference call.

Corner street sign

Corner street sign

Front & Market Gifts

Front & Market Gifts

Bottlehouse

Bottlehouse

Downtown Kimmswick

Downtown Kimmswick

During this time all the Loopers we had locked with earlier in the day had all come in and were making plans to get together at 4:30 for the talk with the owner “Fern”. Normally in the afternoon she will meet with the Loopers at her marina and provide information and advice about traveling the next few days along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Unfortunately, due to a health issue in the family, she was not able to meet with us. So we all just discussed our plans to get to Little Diversion Channel tomorrow and anchor out together. We know the next several days will be very long and will want the company of other Loopers.