Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Columbus, MS

 We left Smithville for Columbus, MS a distance of 42 miles and 3 locks.  Columbus is the home of a large airforce base.  It was a beautiful day, light winds and about 80 degrees though a strong front is predicted tomorrow.  We decided to book two nights at Columbus a protected marina to hunker down.
 We saw much wildlife as we motored down the waterway, including deer, eagles, white pelicans, and a water moccasin snake swimming across the channel.
We were about 30 minutes out from the third lock so I called the lockmaster on the phone.  He said 5 other boats were entering the lock but he was going to hold if for us.  We sped up to not delay the folks. I needed to blow out the diesels anyway.  Turned out there were 12 other "loopers" at the marina all heading south.  The marina folks are very accommodating.  They even had a great BBQ meal of pulled pork and all the fixins for us at no charge.  

We have traveled 328 miles from Green Turtle Bay, KY and traversed 8 locks.  

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Smithville, MS

We were prepared to leave our anchorage at 0730 for the nearby lock but the lockmaster said he was waiting for a tow so we would not be able to enter until at least 0845.  We entered on time and were on our way by shortly after nine.  This lock has the most lift at 84 feet of the entire trip.  We were lowered into the next "pool" 
We had 4 locks today to reach Smithville Marina.  Our traveling buddies were a trawler (8MPH on a good day) and a sailboat which wide open on the outboard was 7MPH.  So we slowly made our way the 36 miles to the marina.
The lock makes us look small. 
 After being on KY Lake the Ten Tom (short for the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway) was narrow and shallow.  Beautiful autumn colors were beginning to emerge.  
We arrived at Smithville at 2:30PM (1430).  We stayed here in 2006 and not much has changed except the clearing of a house occupied by the owner who was killed here in the tornadoes of the spring of 2011.  It didn't damage the marina but leveled a few buildings about 300 yards away.  Simple marina but with wifi, cable and a courtesy car all was good.  We declined the car and grilled out.
The view approaching the marina

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bay Springs Anchorage

 We departed at 0840 for our 56 mile run with 3 locks bound for Midway Marina.  We stayed there in 2007.  Another beautiful day to be on the water.

 Unfortunately we came upon a towboat that had priority at the lock.  The Captain did say we could lock through with him and his two barges carrying sand.  WE declined as he was traveling at 4 MPH, so we would have difficulty making the marina in daylight.  We had 3 locks to pass through so the lockmaster at each lock would wait for the towboat while we cooled our heels.

We decided to anchor near the first lock, after only 39 miles, in a cove with one other trawler.  Good holding in 14 feet of water.  We put the outboard on the dinghy and went to shore for some exercise.  Another good night grilling out.  Glad Admiral Debbie had stocked the galley and the wine cellar.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Grand Harbor Marina, Iuka, MS

 We left at 0820 bound for Iuka, MS and Grand Harbor Marina. 58 miles and one lock called the Pickwick Lock.  Eddie took his shift at the helm.
 Nice cruising on the TN River.
 Nice camp along the river built from shipping containers

We passed a dredge removing sand and gravel from the river bed. 

Pickwick Lock 55 foot lift.  The lock was understaffed, it was Sunday so we had to wait (at anchor) for 2 hours for a towboat to clear before being called to the lock.  Eddie is honing his skills for the locks to follow.

Love the courtesy car we took to dinner.  No charge at most marinas.  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Clifton Marina

 Our next stop was Clifton Marina a distance of 64 miles.  We awakened to ice on the gunwales, deck and the dock.  Deckhand Ed hosed off the dock to remove the ice.  It warmed to 52 degrees and sunny skies. 
 Beautiful boating on the TN River.  We have been running much slower than prior deliveries, about 10 MPH vs. 19-20 in past years.  Less stressful and only uses 30% of the fuel.  
Only two transient vessels here.  The marina had a deli and nothing much in Clifton, TN so we grilled out steaks.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Departing Green Turtle Bay

 We left Island Hopper in Green Turtle Bay Marina near Paducah, KY in a covered slip so we could return to Cincinnati after being gone for almost 3 months.  Since we had now officially completed the loop we ordered a Gold Burgee signifying our achievement.  
I returned to IH on October 23 with my good friend and fraternity brother, Ed Daniel.  He has done this trip to Mobile with me twice before.  We finished our job list in two days and after a great meal at Patti's and a visit to the spa we departed GTB heading south on the TN River on Friday October 25.  
It was a glorious boating day after a day of rain due to a passing cold front.  Clear skies and cold temperatures were to follow.
Our first night took us to Pebble Isles Marina a distance of 73 miles and no locks.  We departed at 0840 and arrived at 415PM (1615).  Here is an abandoned dock in KY Lake after the lake was created it was flooded. 
 It was cold in the morning so we got out and dusted off the trusty heater that is showing its age after being in salt air and little use.  Takes the chill off on the flybridge.

"Sea smoke" on a cold morning.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Green Turtle Bay

 We pull anchor at 7AM for our 30 mile run to Green Turtle Bay one of the best stops on the great loop.  I have stopped here several times before.  We have one lock to traverse.  The only glitch is that the tow traffic has been diverted to this lock due to the closure of the TN river lock for maintenance.  We have been told to count on a 2-4 hour delay waiting for this lock.  

Of course when we near the lock it begins raining, but we are used to that!  I call the lockmaster several times on the cell phone and he tells me in the last call, get up here in 45 minutes and I can lock you up between two downbound tows.  I urged IH up to 20 watching the wake for fisherman and other towboats, it was a Saturday but the rain had dampened the fishing spirit.
 We entered the lock and when the gate opened a tow was at the entrance.  He backed up to allow us enough room to pull out, thank you I radioed.  No wait as we arrived at Green Turtle Bay by 11AM.    Link to Green Turtle Bay website
 GTB is a large marina with a restaurant (Yacht Club) covered slips, courtesy cars and a protected basin off the busy Cumberland River. 

 Tom is switching out the Great Looper burgee for the St Pete Yacht Club burgee.  He is having to answer to many questions about our voyage by curious dock folks attracted by the burgee.  It works.
 A thunderstorm appears so we batten down the hatches.

We see a ferry behind the marina heading down the canal to the TN River (Ky Lake)

 We walk into town and we discover a store with a few booths of pistols and rifles for sale but not to out of state residents.  Oh well, nice to ogle. 
 I am attracted to this weapon for IH to keep pirates away.  Can't conceal it though.
 Grand Rivers is the adjacent town, nice quaint stop complete with boutiques that we don't visit.  No bars either as the county is "dry".  Good news is that restaurants allow carry in wine, no corkage, but we have been told to keep it on the floor as this is a family restaurant.
The pies looked great at Patti's but we did not partake. 
The Captain in front of Patti's Restaurant known for its 2 inch thick pork chops and bread baked in a flower pot.  Link to Patti's

Friday, August 16, 2013

Closing the Loop, Cumberland River

Bridge at Cairo, IL
 We depart our calm anchorage just after 7AM after taking up our stern and bow anchor.  We have another 110 mile day, half with the 6 MPH push on the Mississippi and the rest against a 3 mph current on the Ohio. We arrive at 4:30PM. The Ohio river level was elevated due to heavy rains in Tennessee around Nashville we learn.  
Approaching Paducah on the Ohio
There are anchorages not as far but we elect to push on as we are able to run 20 MPH if necessary.  We did speed up a few times but the Ohio River was busy with towboats who would not appreciate a 4 foot wake from us.  Again we saw no pleasure craft today just towboats every where from Cairo to Paducah, busy with river commerce.
 We passed the lock and dam under construction on the Ohio to replace locks 53 and 52, known as Olmstead.  20 years and not near completion. 
It did cross my mind on this leg of our journey what does one do if there is engine trouble or a collision with drift damages the props and shafts. No AAA out here.
We pass Paducah and  turn up the Cumberland River to an anchorage behind Cumberland Towhead Island. great spot though the current is running. We set the anchor with plenty of chain rode and watch carefully, we are holding, though Tom isn't so sure about this.  If we drift back, it is into the Ohio River channel.  Tom checks our position several times in the night, we hold our position.  Great having an anchor watch crew.  We grill out again.
Tom is used to running every day so this anchoring out is a new gig.  I promise him tomorrow we have a short day and he can run at the next stop.  No cooking either.

When we entered the anchorage we had completed the journey known as the great loop which we started in October of 2007 as we left Cincinnati for FL on IH.  A great journey of 7000 plus miles.  Great Loop description

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Little River Diversion Channel, Mississippi River Mile 49

The Muddy Mississippi
 After a chart briefing at Hoppie's Marina we learned the next stop was an anchorage at Cape Giradeau up Little River which is a diversion channel for storm water around Cape G. It is 110 miles downriver but with the current we depart at 7AM and arrive at 3PM just idling the engines.  So,  don't anchor there if rains are predicted or suffer the consequences.  Again our luck was with us, no rain, clear and cool, so no A/C needed.

An Illinois high security prison, don't pick up swimmers we are told. 

 Note the rock walls that were constructed into the river perpendicular to the flow, called wing dams.  Don't try to pass over them.  We stayed on the "sailing line" to avoid these.  if the water was up a foot or so you would not see them but look out.  The purpose is to speed the flow of the water to keep the silt from dropping out and shoaling up the channel.

Watching out for towboats keeps us on our toes.  We have not seen nor will we see any pleasure craft on the 212 miles of the Mississippi.   
 Oh Oh, two tows coming up river in a bend.  I call them on the radio and they say to stay on the one whistle which means port to port passing. They thank me for the call. 
 Then the larger one starts passing the small one reducing the available channel.  I call them again, "Should I hold back here, I ask" "No Captain keep her coming and thread the needle" I am told.  So between them I pass.  Huge rollers come off their sterns as they push their loads up river against the current.
Little River Diversion Channel
The Mississippi in the background
We turn up the Little River Channel and find a calm anchorage though deep at 18 feet due to the high water on the Mississippi. No current in here though.  We use the dinghy to set a stern anchor as the wind is blowing us around in the narrow river. We enjoy grilling out and watching a James Bond DVD.  The wine isn't bad either.