Aqua Yacht Harbor, Iuka, MS to Joe Wheeler State Park Marina, Rogersville, Alabama — October 17, 2013

After we sat for a day with the rain we were ready to move.  The forecast was for cloudy skies but no rain.  The radar showed most of the rain to the south and east of us so it did not look to bad.  Candy and I had a little mist on the first walk of the day and that pretty much told the story for the rest of the day.  I think we were chasing the weather
on the Tennessee River today.

We were underway early because we had 60 miles and 2 locks. We were on our way to Joe Wheeler State Park Marina to meet up with Humbug to go to Chattanooga.  Joe Wheeler is where the Looper Rendezvous is and I was afraid there might not be any slips.  Today was the last day of the rendezvous and when I called this morning they said they had one slip that would fit us.

There were a lot of bass fishermen on the river today.  The first 30 miles or so is still called Pickwick Lake.  It is wide but as we went further east the deep part really became a channel and the rest was fairly shallow.

The development along Pickwick Lake is not a lot but there are areas of homes scattered along the shore. There are a few towns with the biggest being Florence right by the Wilson Lock.  Large lock named for President Woodrow Wilson and construction started back in about 1911.

The lock is the largest on the Tennessee River and I think the lift is about 78’.  The water comes in pretty fast and really moves the boat around.  This was the toughest locking experience we have had so far but we made it to the top.

We went thru Wilson Lake about 15 miles to Joe Wheeler Lock.  We had to wait for a tow that was in the lock.  We could see the tow while we were 4 miles out so we slowed to an idle speed to use of the time. When the tow finally started to exit he was just crawling and then finally stopped as he cleared the door.  The lock master came
on and told us he was tying up and we should come around him and enter the
lock.  Well it looked a lot tighter than it was and we fit between him and the lock walls but there was not much room to spare.

It was a good thing Joe Wheeler State Park Marina had a slip because there are not many marinas along the way.  There are a few private ones but the closest public ones to Joe Wheeler are about 10 miles before or 10 miles after.

When we arrived the dock master was there to help us in.  After Labor Day the dock master’s day normally ends at 4:00.  We arrived at almost 5:00 and she mentioned that the day before she was there till 6:00 waiting for a boat to arrive. Pete from Humbug was also on the dock to help us in.

The slip was about 16’ wide with no separator piles and we were next to a houseboat.  The woman from the houseboat was a little nervous but taking my time and going very slowly we were able to get in without an issue.  It is a good thing that there was not much wind.

Clifton Marina, Clifton, TN to Aqua Yacht Harbor, Iuka, MS — October 15, 2013

We got an early start today because we had almost 60 miles and 1 lock to go thru.  The sky was partly cloudy at day break but it was mostly cloudy by the time we left.  Within the first hour we had some light sprinkles but they never really amounted to anything.

The scenery was good with lots of limestone rock walls and some nice residential developments.  All the homes have storage areas under the houses with stairs up to the first livable floor.  It looked like a lot of the houses were elevated at least 12’ and maybe more.

Many of the banks where the limestone is located is on the outside of the bends in the river.  The flood waters over the years have scoured the outside bends as it drains down river.  The opposite side of the river is a sand bank.

As we got nearer the Pickwick Lock and Dam the water current started to increase.  While we started out at approximately 9.6 mph we were down to about 7.8.  I increased the throttles and got us back up to about 8.6 but it still kept dropping. As we neared the dam I think the current in the river was about 4.4 mph.  We passed a sailboat about 2 miles before the dam and I think he was crawling along at about 2 mph.

The lock was busy and we waited about 50 minutes for them to take a tow up and bring the lock back down.  That actually gave the sailboat the time he needed to get to the lock.  The lockmaster even commented that they were letting a lot of water thru today and they would be increasing it later in the day.

The scenery on Pickwick Lake was great.  We saw many large homes on the lake and a lot of them for sale.  You almost wonder why???  One house even had a sign on the balcony saying it was for sale and was the best view on the lake.

The rain held off long enough for us to get to the marina and get tied up. Most of the rain was light with no real serious weather like they were predicting.

Pebble Isle Marina, New Johnsonville, TN to Clifton Marina, Clifton, TN — October 14, 2013

We were invited by one of the marina staff to stop in for cinnamon rolls in the morning.  They were providing them for all the Loopers.  I went over just before we left and he had fresh cinnamon rolls made and he put 2 in a Styrofoam and I took them with us. We had them after we got onto the river and the cinnamon rolls were really good.

While I was talking to the gentleman I asked If there was some sort of bass tournament on today.  I had seen at least 6 trucks pull in and launch their bass boats.  He said no there was nothing special.  He did not understand how these guys were fishing on a regular work day.  He said some of them really had issues on the water ignoring no wake zones, they never wave at passing boats and not showing any courtesy at all.  He had a name for them, “Bassholes”.  I learned a new word today.

The day was real warm in the cockpit because were going with the breeze most of the time and the result is no breeze at all in the boat.  The temp today was about 85 and it was mostly sunny today.

The scenery was good with lots of rock walls.  The river is a lot wider than the Illinois and almost as wide as the Mississippi but the scenery is much better than the Mississippi. The homes are really scattered along the shore with some clusters here and there.  Lots of RV’s and mobile homes and some of them even have a canvas canopy over the whole unit to shade it from the sun.

We did have a pontoon follow us for about 8 miles.  It was a family that was towing a inflatable tube platform with 2 kids on it.  They kept criss crossing the wake to get a little air under the kids.  I did speed up for a mile or more so the wake increased.  They pulled into the marina before us and actually helped us dock in Clifton.

We used the courtesy car to go to dinner.  We had been here last year and the car was an old Buick Century that has seen better days. I asked if they had the same courtesy car and the women said “Oh Yes, They will probably bury Gene in the car.” Gene is the Owner of the Marina.

We went to the same restaurant as last year because the woman thought it was the only one open on a Monday.  When we got there was one table of 4 eating and another table of 6 that was drinking.  It turned out that the Owner was by himself and accommodating the other people and he said we could stay and he would serve us. The menu indicated the restaurant was closed on Mondays. The food was good and the service was not all that slow.  The Owner felt he might have been a little rude when we first came in so he charged us for the wine and gave us the food at no cost.  What great southern hospitality. I left a tip that more than covered the food.

Green Turtle Bay Marina, Grand Rivers, KY to Pebble Isle Marina, New Johnsonville, TN — October 13, 2013

Had a great week at Green Turtle Bay.  It is hard to believe that the week went by as fast as it did.  They had a “Harvest Moon” festival in Grand Rivers KY this weekend.  They had a parade in town yesterday.  Someone said that everyone that had a convertible would be in the parade.

During The Week I have been busy running to the local NAPA store to get supplies for doing an oil change and fuel filter change.  The store and the marina were very accommodating.

We also did some shopping at several stores.  This year the marina pointed us to Eddyville because it was closer and during an election this year the area voted to be a
wet county and the beer and wine store has opened and the Food Giant also sells beer.  I am sure it has helped all the other retailers in the area, although that is not a great number.

The Loopers that were behind us all caught up and arrived Wednesday and Thursday.  They had waited the bad weather out at Hoppies and then travelled 4 days to reach Green Turtle Bay.

There was also a contingent of boats from Nashville that came in for the weekend.  On of the boats, a 48′ Sea Ray Sedan Bridge, was called Play Dough.  The owner runs a company that makes all the bread for the Cracker Barrel Restaurants.  They usually carry a couple of cases of bread on the boat when they travel and hand them out.  We were able to get a loaf of the bread and it was pretty good.

The day was cool when Candy and I went for our walk and we were able to get on the water by 7:30 as we had 73 miles to go to Pebble Isle Marina.  We had also stayed there last year and they have good fuel costs so that is where we will fill up.

Green Turtle Bay is on Lake Barkley so we exited to Lake Barkley, went about 1 mile and turned right into the canal to Kentucky Lake.  The canal is only about 1 mile
long and we turned left into Kentucky Lake.

Technically we were still on Kentucky Lake when we arrived at Pebble Isle but the lake was more like a wide river at that point. The Lake ends about 3 miles further south.

Lots of nice scenery and everything on our port side (east) for the first 30 miles+/- is known as the Land In The Middle and is a park.  It is between Barkley Lake and
Kentucky Lake.  There are lots of bays where the locals will raft up and anchor for the weekend and have a good time.

The day was a nice day with the sun out and the wind behind us so there were no problems.  Nice scenery with all the coves in the park area.

We passed a few bridges and only one tow.  It was a good day to travel.  There were a lot of bass fishermen out on the water racing up and down the lake as fast as they could go.  You wonder if some of them ever fish.  It is also interesting that those in the north part of the lake will race to the south end to fish and those in the south end of the lake will race to the north end to fish, go figure???


Cumberland Tow Head, Smithland, KY To Green Turtle Bay Marina, Grand Rivers, KY — October 6, 2013

We awoke early at 6:00.  I needed to check the engine room and the oil levels in each of the engines and generator (normal daily practice). Everything was fine so I started the generator so I could brew coffee.

It was raining most of the time after I got up so I waited with Candy’s breakfast. We had planned on leaving at around 9:00 because we only had 33 miles and 1 lock. At about 7:30 the rain stopped and I fed Candy and went out to bail the dinghy.  The gas tank was floating in the dinghy and when I stepped in the water was almost mid calf on my leg.  I figured we had about 4″ to 5″ of rain last night. After I bailed the water Candy and I went into shore. On the way into shore the Asian carp started jumping all around the boat and one jumped into the boat.  Candy seemed unconcerned but the carp was flopping all over the place and I finally wacked it a couple of times and then threw it back into the water. The Asian carp had pretty well slimed up the boat and left a lot of blood.

As I am on shore I look down the river and I can see the rain coming up the river.  I tried to hustle Candy back to the dinghy as she had already done here job.  Well she was not in the mood to move too fast, until the rain started, and then there was no problem and she came right over and jumped in the dingy.  I had a raincoat on but Candy did not.

I pulled the dinghy up on the lift in the rain but the rain started to lighten and then finally stopped.  We got everything in order and got ready to pull the anchor.  We noted that there was a lot of debris in the water floating by in the current.  We pulled the anchor and started to move out of the anchorage while the other boats pulled their anchors.

The carp started jumping all around us and they were hitting the sides of the boat and were on the lower swim platform.  It was quite a site and the other boats were the spectators.

We got onto the Ohio River and we had only 1/2 mile to the mouth of the Cumberland River. The debris was everywhere.  The debris ranged for small tree branches to large logs that were maybe 20′ long and 10″ in diameter. Some of it was by it self and other were in larger piles that had been swept off the shore.  Once Upon A Time said that the river was 12″ higher today than last night from the rain.  Dodging the debris was quite a chore and it was a good thing that the Cumberland is relatively deep bank to bank. Several times there was no clear path thru and I put the engines in neutral and coasted thru the thinnest group.

The Cumberland is about 32 miles form the Ohio to the Barkley Lock and the debris lasted for about 20 miles.  There were lots of places along the banks where there were water falls with the rain runoff flowing into the river.

We were about 4 miles form the lock and called the lock to get a status report.  They told us the wait would be 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  They were going to lock a tow up.  We pulled the throttles back to idle and move up the river at 4 mph.  We sat in front of the lock until it was ready for us and the wait was 3 hours.  The tow was in the entrance way when we got there but did not enter the lock for awhile.

It was good that the lock was 57′ lift and they filled the lock in just 8 minutes and we were on our way. Green Turtle Bay is only about 1 1/2 miles past the lock so it did not take long.

We were going to have Docktails but we decided to go to dinner at a restaurant in Grand Rivers KY called Pattie’s 1880’s Settlement.  They are famous for their 2″ pork chops.  We had been there last year and they had that noted on the reservation slip.  The pork chops are as good as everybody says. the meal was great.

We are going to stay here 6 or 7 days.  I will need to look at the next part of the trip and do a little planning.

Angelo Tow Head, Cairo, IL to Cumberland Tow Head, Smithland, KY — October 5, 2013

Very dark clouds this morning and rain and thunderstorms were forecast for the day.  We are moving because the radar looked good this morning and the weather is coming in from the Southwest.  Candy and I went for our walk on shore and then we had a brief rain shower after we got back to the boat.

The trip up the Ohio River was slow.  I was at idle on the last mile of the Mississippi while the other boats were raising the anchor and the Champ III was moving at 9 mph.  As soon as we turned northeast we were travelling at 4.5 mph.  Most of the day we travelled at 7 mph.  We had 2 locks to go thru and the first lock had an issue with their secondary chamber.  They could not get the door open so we had to wait for the tow to clear the primary chamber.  At the second lock things went a little smoother as there was no real wait except it did take a while to put the water in for the 10’+ lift.

Overall the weather during the day was pretty gray but we did not have a lot of rain.  There were a few showers but everything was very tolerable. Nothing the windshield wipers could not handle.

After we finished the second lock Terrapin decided that they would stop at Paducah and the other 3 boats were going to continue on to the Cumberland Tow Head.  Terrapin was the slowest at 7 mph maximum speed.  We did pick up the speed to about 9+ mph to go the last 12 miles.

As we were going up the river we were listening on the VHF radio of reports that the weather service had issued tornado warnings for several Kentucky Counties. Cairo, where the Angelo Tow Head anchorage is located, was in the path of the heavy weather and received the tornado warnings (Boy am I glad we left).  Fortunately the county we were in was not one of the Counties.  We did hear one company telling their tow captains about reports of swirling clouds and high winds. Paducah appeared to be in the path or very near it.

We arrived at the Cumberland Tow Head and wasted no time in getting the boats anchored and I was able to drop the dinghy before the rain came.  We had lots of rain and some wind but no real problem.  By about 8:00 the rain had stopped and I bailed the dingy and Candy and I went into the Tow Head Island for her walk.

A little later, around 9:30, the second round of storms came thru and were much stronger.  The rain was really hard and the wind was pretty high.  The storms lasted a couple of hours and I spent a lot of time in the cockpit watching the situation and where the boats were. Things seemed to settle down a little after 11:30.  There were a lot of rain showers during the night with some of them pretty heavy.

I think everyone was pretty happy that we had gotten to the anchorage with plenty of time to set the anchors before the rain came.

Linde said he had monitored a couple of tows on the river and at one point the rain was so heavy the tows stopped on the river because the radar could no longer pickup the buoys on the river, the radar could not penetrated the sheets of water coming down.

Sorry there were not a lot of pictures today.  It was a result of the weather and rushing to get things done during the day and before the storms.

Mile 78 Near Grand Tower, IL on the Mississippi to Angelo Tow Head, Cairo, IL — October 4, 2013

We were up and at it about 6:00 this morning.  I did my engine checks before I started the generator.  I needed the power to brew coffee.  Candy and I went to shore and I
took a photo of the boats at anchor.  It is a real nice anchorage other than the depth if runs from 15” to 45’ with the deeper portion in most of the area. There is no current and the holding power was good.  Great protection from the tows on the river with the rock walls around it.

We had some local fishermen come in last evening and set some lines for catfish.  They had floats on the surface and the lines went straight down.  They were back this morning and they showed me one of the fish and it must have been at least 30 lbs. as the guy had a difficult time picking it up.  They said they had 2 tubs full of fish so their work paid off. I am assuming they will sell these when they get back to shore.

We started down the river today and the sky was pretty dark and low clouds.  I had checked the weather radar and the only rain I could see was a line of showers and storms up around Chicago stretching east to west.  The visibility was only about 2 miles but plenty for river traveling.

We had a lot of tows today.  We passed a couple going south but there was tow after tow headed north.  I think the dredging in St Louis has slowed things up because they were talking that the Cairo area (intersection of the Lower Mississippi, Upper Mississippi and the Ohio River is al jammed up.  I think the biggest tow we saw was a 5 wide by 6 long, 30 barges with most of them loaded.  The prop wash behind the tow is really something to see.  In some cases it was worse than the freighters on the Detroit or St Clair Rivers.

We ran into a tow near the end of the day that was kind of strange.  I was leading the group and called to the tow for a preferred pass. He did not respond.  I waited a
few minutes and another tow called him and said some pleasure boats were trying
to contact him and he acknowledged that transmission but did not call me back.  I waited and then decided to tell him what I was going to do so he could respond if he did not like it.  Well he heard it and said OK to pass on the two (starboard).  As he went into a slight bend in the river he cut me off with no room between the buoy and the barge to
pass.  I slowed and waited for him to pass the buoy but as soon as he did he speeded up to the point he was going almost as fast as us.  Well we speeded up and passed him.  I am not sure what his issue was but today he did not like pleasure boaters.

We arrived at the anchorage around 3:30 and it did not long for the 4 boats to get anchored and setup. The shore is great for Candy and she had a chance to visit the other boats in the dinghy, when we checked on plans for tomorrow morning.  We have 60 Miles tomorrow and we are going against the current of the Ohio River. We also have two locks.  The first one may have the wickets down which means we do not lock thru but cruise right over the wickets.

Hoping for good weather.

Hoppies Marina, Kimmswick, MO to Mile 78 Near Grand Tower, IL on the Mississippi, October 3, 2013

We spent a lot of time talking about the weather this morning because the next 3 nights are anchor out time.  There are 4 boats that will be travelling together (Champ III, Once Upon A Time, Terrapin and Lindy).  We have about 260 miles to reach the next
marina, Green Turtle Bay.  The weather was forecast for possible thunderstorms today but there was nothing on the radar this morning in our area or the area we were going to.  More thunderstorms for tomorrow and a cold front is coming thru on Saturday that will drop the temperatures from 90 to 70.

We ended up leaving Hoppies about 9:00 and headed down river.  Lots of tow traffic in either direction today.  We had some really large tows that we passed.  We talked to
all the captains to make sure we did what they thought was best.  All of them were very good in communicating what they needed done.  Never any hesitation in their voice on what they wanted you to do.  Some of the tows were quite large.  The last one we passed was 5 wide by 6 deep.  Quite a bit of cargo in 30 barges.

Most of the day was sunny with some clouds but we did have a light shower for about 10 minutes in the early afternoon.  Nothing serious and so we were fortunate the forecast was not correct for us.

We did pass a River Boat Paddle Wheeler near Chester IL.  They were going into the bank and there was a tour bus and large van waiting along side the river for the boat.  I think they were going to unload passengers from the paddle wheeler. Chester Illinois is also the location of a State Penitentiary that is located along the banks of the Mississippi.

We Arrived at the anchorage approximately 3:15 and had all the boats anchored by 4:00 and the dogs on shore by 4:30.  Candy got to meet Tasha from Terrapin on
shore.  They had a great time running around the sandy shore.

The adults had their docktails on Once Upon A Time and we got to know everyone a little better. Great Group of People but we did have one argument start when it became apparent one couple were Spartans and the other couple were Wolverines. Well not really an argument but each displayed their loyalty to their schools.

It was a good time with smoked catfish that was purchased in Grafton so it was Mississippi catfish.



Alton Marina, Alton, IL to Hoppies Marina, Kimmswick, MO– October 2, 2013

We had rain overnight and a couple of additional showers early this morning. Later in the day the sky partially cleared and the temps went into the mid 80’s.  It was pretty warm.

We left with 2 other boats this morning, Once Upon A Time and Terrapin.  Terrapin is from Petoskey and they are on the Loop.  We delayed our start to coordinate with the lock which was only 1 1/2 miles downstream from the Alton Marina. The lock has 2 chambers and we used the auxiliary chamber.  We were able to drive right in as they opened the doors as we approached.

Not many tows on the river and we heard that is because of dredging being done in the St Louis area. For the 2nd lock, Chain of Rocks Lock, we arrived at the entrance channel. The channel is unusual for the Mississippi locks because the rapids area on the river is fairly long.  The entrance channel is about 8 miles long.  Lots of barges and tows on the channel but we did not need to wait to long for the lock.  This lock is the last lock on the Mississippi before the Gulf of Mexico.  The river just flows free the rest of the way south.

After we left the lock and you immediately start to enter the St Louis area.  We passed several bridges and a dredging operation.  There are barges and tows all over the place and we were probably 10 miles south of St Louis before the tows and barges along the bank started to thin out.

Because of the current on the river we got a good boost in ground speed.  Normally we might travel 8.5 mph but today we were between 11.5 and 12.4 mph. This will allow us to make some good distances in the next couple of days.

We arrived at Hoppies and each boat took its turn coming into the dock to be tied up.  Hoppies does the tying because they have a system that allows the boat to move when the wakes from the tows come in from the river. 4 boat total here tonight and 3 of them are from Michigan.  The boat that was here already was Lindy from Grand Haven.

Fern held her meeting late in the day and we spent some time getting updated on her woes with the Army Corp of Engineers.  They built a wing dam just downstream from the marina about 4 years ago and now the shore side has silted in and Hoppies has lost 1/2 of it dockage. The Corp has listened to her but with deaf ears so she is moving higher in the chain of command with her complaints because they could be driven out of business.

The river info part of the meeting was as good as last year.  Everything she said last year was spot on when we arrived at the locations so I really paid close attention this year.  They had a large flood in late June and the flood waters stayed around until late July so a lot of things have changed. I hope her information is as accurate this year.

Good sign with the rainbow tonight because the forecast is for thunderstorms for the next 2 days and we will be anchoring out for the next 3 nights.  That covers the 300 miles to Green Turtle Bay.

Grafton Harbor, Grafton, IL to Alton Marina, Alton, IL — October 1, 2013

No big rush to leave this morning because we were only traveling 16 miles.  We got underway about 10:15 with fairly heavy skies.  You can see the haze in the pictures.

Spent part of the early morning talking to the other Looper boats.  I thought we were all going to travel together but as we pulled by they were not ready to leave so out we went.  The Mississippi was real quiet this morning.  I did not see any tows on the river and only 2 other small pleasure craft.

It still is a pretty dramatic change from the Illinois River to the Mississippi River.  The Mississippi has the sheer rock walls in this section and it is pretty wide. The water was calm and we did have a couple of Asian carp jump today but if I recall a lot of the actual action with the carp is over.

The Alton Marina is right downtown.  You can see the bridge over the Mississippi in the photos and there is a casino just to the north of the marina.  The local grocery store will provide transportation and there are harbor hosts at this marina.

The harbor hosts have a meeting every evening at 5:30 to pass on the information they have on the river and traveling it.  They get their information based on feed back from previous Loopers who have traveled the area and then let them know how things were.  They will provide transportation for the Loopers to a local restaurant for dinner after the meeting.  Probably will be another good evening swapping stories.

We will move on to Hoppies tomorrow.  There are 2 locks on the Mississippi that we need to go thru tomorrow.  Then all the locks will be done with for a while.