Hurry up and wait!!

After finishing the river portion of the trip and entering Mobile Bay, we were happy to take a couple of days off from cruising in Fairhope, Alabama.  The weather was beautiful and we took the time to do some grocery shopping, laundry and relaxing with other Loopers.  There’s a shrimp boat that runs in and out of there every day, so we were able to get 4 pounds of fresh shrimp for $20!  Fresh fish (non catfish!) is something we were really missing for the last part of the trip, so we had some that night and the rest is stocked away in the freezer.

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Fun Looper Dinner in Fairhope with the crew of Breakaway, Idyll Time, Lucky Me, Honey Badger and Laurie Jean
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Cleaning the fresh shrimp from the swim platform of our boat. I did it too. It’s …… well….. yucky! But they were delicious

 

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Getting ready to leave the dock at Fairhope, AL

Danny and I detoured off the route on our own for a bit after leaving Fairhope to head to Flora-Bama!  This is a place on the Florida/Alabama line that Danny had known about and always wanted to go to.  It’s actually just a bar – or a group of bars – with live music 365 days a year.  Google says it opened in 1964 and is a “down-home waterfront bar/grill that offers oysters, pub grub and live music every day”.   That’s what it is!  We ’d made a dock reservation a few days prior, when we got there we found out we couldn’t fit into any of the slips with power – so we ended up at the end of a pier in a very shallow, quiet creek.  We may or may not have bumped bottom once on the way in when we weren’t paying attention, but luckily its a sandy bottom there 😃 .  So, it definitely is “down home”, one might say a dive bar with bras hanging from the rafters and torn leather bar stools.  But the place was packed on a Tuesday afternoon and we listened to T Bone Montgomery as well as some really talented musicians who were in town for a Song Writers Festival.  We really had fun and thought about staying an extra day to walk the sandy white beach and go listen to more music, but as often happens on this trip, weather was predicted so we moved along after just one night.

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We spent three days in Pensacola, FL, home of the Blue Angels.  We kind of kicked ourselves for not just moving on from Flora-Bama and skipping Pensacola; we are starting to be a little crunched for time if we’re going to make our 11/22 reservation in Fort Myers – but more about that later.  It was windy and rainy, but we visited The Naval Aviation Museum, which was cool, and sat on the dock in blustery weather to watch the Blue Angels fly, they happened to have a show while we were there.

Next stop was Destin, Florida.  This is a town on the “Emerald Coast” that I’d heard about years ago.  It sounded quaint and pretty and I was happy to hear it could be a stop on the trip.  It was really, really touristy.  We docked beside Margaritaville, and I had a good Cheesburger in Paradise, but the stop was a little disappointing.  We did see a pod of dolphins 🐬 swimming near the boat on our way in, there were white sanded barrier islands all along the route, and the weather was warm and sunny, so all in all it worked out nicely.  No dolphin pictures unfortunately – I still haven’t been able to capture any good ones, though I LOVE watching them play in our wake.

B79C6771-4897-4843-B24F-058744EF8763Cruising into Destin, Florida

We are back into intracoastal waterways now, and when leaving Destin had the choice to travel in the Gulf ICW, or “outside” in the ocean – the Gulf of Mexico.  The weather  apps all predicted low wind and waves, so we decided to make the 45 mile run outside to get to Panama City more quickly.  Well, the weather apps were wrong.  The waves were predicted at 1 to 2 feet with an occasional 3. They were more like 2 to 3 feet with an occasional 4 and very close together, so it made for a bumpy few hours before we started turning in closer to the coast to get to the marina.  About halfway through the journey, I felt the port engine stop just before we heard the alarm telling us that had happened.  The rough waters had stirred up some “junk” at the bottom of the fuel tank, so Danny had to go change the primary and secondary fuel filters while we were underway in the ocean.  This happened to us just about a year ago in a big bay on our way South and I was absolutely panicked operating the boat on the one engine while he was down below.  Now, some 4000 miles later I was still nervous, but maintained my cool while keeping us going on the one engine.  I was once again reminded how grateful I am to have a capable, determined, downright stubborn Captain as a husband.  He was dammed he was gonna fix that engine – and he did and instead of panicking and calling him up to the bridge every 15 minutes I kept my cool.  What a difference a year makes!

We spent one night in Panama City, FL and thought about waiting out an oncoming cold front and winds there for a few days.  The issue now is time.  Old boaters say you can have a destination or you can have a schedule, but you can’t have both.  I get that.  Weather rules, and running in “iffy” weather can make or break your trip.  So, when we got out on the water that day we decided to keep going while the going was good – to stay ahead of the weather!  We cruised a long, 80 mile, 10 hour day to Carrabelle, Florida the “jumping off point” for the next section of the Loop – THE CROSSING!  What does this mean? Well,  to get to the West Coast of Florida, we have to cross the Gulf of Mexico.  That means we have three choices:

  1.  We could travel for one long, fast day the 175 miles to Clearwater, FL
  2. We could travel across the gulf for 175 miles at our normal, slower pace for an overnight to Clearwater, or
  3. Take the “rim route”; 3 shorter days all in the Gulf to Steinhatchee, then Crystal River, then Tarpon Springs which is very near Clearwater.

Option 1 doesn’t work for us because we’re not fast enough and Option 2 doesn’t work for us because I’m not brave enough.  We’d have to leave Carabelle at about 2pm on one day to arrive at 10am the next day – that means about 18 hours overnight across the ocean where we would lose VHF radio and cell phone contact for a few hours.  Our boat can handle it.  Danny can handle it.  I can’t.  So we are waiting for the right weather to start the rim route, which looks like it might be Monday at this point.  And while we’ve waited it’s gotten COLD!  Not as cold as home, I know that but there’ve been lows in the 30’s and the highs are only in the 50s.  This isn’t what we came all the way to Florida for!!

We have reservations in Fort Myers for two weeks starting 11/22 and plan on spending Thanksgiving with Danny’s nephew Brandt and wife Carolyn, so we’d really like to get there soon.  Also, Fort Myers is where we cross our wake!!  That means we finish the Great Loop!  Danny figured out today that we are about 6 stops away from crossing our wake and becoming Gold Loopers, so we are anxious to boogie but more concerned with a safe crossing, so we are in a holding pattern.

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This is a Great Loop map I had framed before we left – we put pushpins in at each stop. If you zoom, you can see the pins are almost full circle! Danny is checking it out counting the stops until we cross our wake. We are getting there!

There are LOTS of Loopers here now, many arrived yesterday and we expect more tomorrow.  We will all enjoy the free breakfast that’s offered every morning at the marina, attend a weather briefing given by a local mariner, enjoy some docktails and figure out who’s going when and with who.  Buddy boats have been really nice along this trip, but now they’re practically essential.  Even on the rim route you’re in open waters for several hours, so it’s better to have someone around who knows you’re there and vice versa even if it’s just for moral support.   This is a really big part of the Great Loop and one that causes the most anxiety to a majority of the Loopers.  Just what I need – more anxiety!!!

 

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Wine and Weather apps – what could possibly go wrong?!?

I think I’m ready.  Danny’s ready, he’s changed the oil and checked everything twice. I’m knocking wood, blessing myself compulsively and watching the weather furiously.  Next time I blog we’ll be on the other side of the Gulf – God willing!!

I will keep all y’all posted!

Captain Dan & Cruise Director Jodi

A New Day

I was way too grumpy to blog yesterday, but today is a new day!  We traveled only 42 miles, but we are WAY ahead of where we were.  We have finished the rivers!!!!  We have completed the Chicago to Mobile section of The Great Loop and in many ways it was the toughest yet.  I swear these rivers almost broke me!

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I don’t know if I’ve ever been so happy to finish a guide to a loop segment!

We traveled about 471 nautical miles down the Illinois, The Mississippi, The Ohio, The Cumberland, The Tennessee, The Tenn Tom and The Tombigbee and Mobile Rivers since leaving Chicago on September 12th.  Close to two months of muddy water, barges, logs, fog, LONG travel days, anchorages, some rain, some cold and hours of planning.  There were plenty of docktails and smiles as well, but it was still Tough.  Danny loved every minute of it. Today we cruised into Mobile Bay in beautiful sunshine with pelicans and seagulls flying all around.  We’re in the Gulf!! Salt water!  Woo hoo.

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Shrimp boat in the Gulf – Danny says they’re catching his dinner for tonight 🙂

Later today there will be champagne with our buddy boats TxAu and Laurie Jean who we’ve done all of this with.  Lucky Me is here too and new friends Joan & Dan from Massachusetts will join us – we can all have fresh off the boat shrimp for dinner tonight!!  We will be here a couple of days and then head for the Florida panhandle and stop in many spots along the way.  Destination for this leg – Fort Lauderdale, where we’ll cross our wake!   We are getting closer.

Today I’m beyond grateful.  We are here.   We are safe.  We are blessed.

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Danny getting the boat ready for our stay in Fairhope, AL. We hear it’s a great town and will explore soon!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend,

Captain Dan & Cruise Director Jodi

This weeks’ episode is brought to you by Oscar The Grouch

This week’s entry is a little different – we’ve had many long travel days as we move down these rivers and it’s given me a lot of time for reflection…..uh oh!  But first, the normal trip update.

We left Columbus AL after the rain stopped on Monday and traveled to an anchorage and then to a marina in Demopolis AL on Tuesday. It rained hard off and on for the 3 days and nights we were there but we made the best of it.  We caught up with other Loopers in Demopolis and spent a day touring a couple of beautiful antebellum plantations.

 

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Big looper group at Columbus Marina

The rain brought a mean cold front with it. When we woke up on Wednesday morning it was 75 when we went to bed it was 40, in fact it’s been colder here in Alabama than it’s been at home.  It’s been hovering in the mid to low 30s when we wake up so the heat has been on and our winter(ish) jackets have come out to play.

As I’ve mentioned previously, the rain makes the rivers rise which means there is likely to be lots of debris in the river.  The logs and downed trees that are on the banks get swept in when the river rises and they up and down in the water or sometimes just stick straight up. You really need two sets of eyes to watch for what’s coming, hitting something could cause major damage to the props or worse, your boat! At the marina in Demopolis the dock master gives a talk each night to discuss weather and river conditions to help boaters decide when to stay and whether to stay another day or get going. Given that many of us had to avoid traveling south before November 1st, there are many many Loopers traveling to the same docks and anchorages – which are few and far between on this leg of the trip, so how many are traveling also has to be considered so that there’s enough room for everyone.  So we decided to leave on Friday morning and did so just before dawn with 7 other boats and cruised almost 100 miles to Bobby’s Fish Camp, another iconic Great Loop destination. It’s not really a marina, just a dock with a restaurant where we had to raft up 3 deep in a roaring current. The captains all did amazingly well and I’m glad it wasn’t a bigger group!

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Leaving Columbus Marina at Zero Dark Thirty

After the fog cleared we all peeled off of each other 😏to continue on our trek  south Shortly thereafter I am thrilled to say that we cleared our last lock of the loop! We have done over 100 locks since leaving Fort Myers in March so this is a huge feeling of accomplishment. I did a happy dance out on the bow of the boat at 7:30 this morning in the fog and chill – it wasn’t a good dance, but I danced!

So, as exciting as this trip is, lately I’ve been thinking about what we’ve left behind, and today underway I compiled a list of what I miss. For better or worse, I’ll share it here:

Things I miss from real life (from least to most)

The gym – can’t believe I’m saying that but I’m putting weight on partially due to lack of consistent exercise and mostly due to Docktails. Please note that I miss the gym the LEAST of all that follows. 

My car – not the vehicle itself (though I do love Baby) but the places it takes me…..like……

  • Home Goods – if we are in a car we haven’t been near one in months
  • Stop n Shop – I can’t believe how often I buy groceries at Walmart which I never did before – but there hasn’t been a choice! (PS – Danny says he loves the “Wallymart – nothing like being able to buy your oil for the boat at the same place you buy your lettuce)
  • Tendercrop Farm – seems like a long time since we even came across a Farmers Market!

My hairdresser Tom – As he would say if he saw me “Girl…….those roots!!”

My washing machine – I’m SO over marina washers and dryers, especially the lugging it to and from the boat part

My dining room – I really miss making the table look pretty and having my people around it eating the food I buy from anywhere but Walmart

My kitchen – it’s not big as kitchens go but it’s WAY bigger than our galley on the boat – though we do cook and eat well (too well as stated above)

My bed – we have a king size bed on the boat but we are thinking we need a new mattress. We say Ouch for the first several steps every morning – actually, we do that at home too, but still……

The view of the river from our front porch – yes we always have a waterfront view on the boat and it’s often prettier than home – but home is OUR view 

I guess I miss my whole house 😀 now that I look at all of those 

And most of all – the number one thing I miss, of course – my people. Our good friends and our families. I miss our friends Robyn and Terry and I especially miss my sister Brenda though I hear from her almost every day.  I really, really miss my kids and most of all I miss Lilah. I hate that I’ve missed two of her Halloween’s, a Christmas and I’m about to miss a birthday ( though I did fly home for her birthday last year and was home for her dance recital). We will be home for Christmas this year and I look forward to spoiling her rotten.

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Lilah as Shine from Shimmer and Shine.  We had some face time on Halloween morning before her pre-school party.  Check out that pose – her dance lessons are surely paying off.

That’s it – that’s enough!  So I just asked Danny if this sounds whiny and he shrugged which means yes. Sorry for that – I know we are blessed beyond words to be on this trip and have loved much of it, mostly the new places we’ve seen and the people we’ve met, and I look forward to winter in Stock Island, which is minutes from Key West.  We are getting closer and closer with each days’ travel and I’ll continue to share our journey.

I will be cheerier next time and hope you miss us too! 

Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi

Weather woes and big slow tows

This week  we traveled about 120 miles over 3 days and 25 hours!  We left Florence on Tuesday morning and backtracked up The Tennessee River then onto the Tenn Tom for about 61 miles in total to an anchorage near Armory State Park.  The next morning we were just before a lock and we learned there was tow traffic and significant fog, so we didn’t start our travel day until 10:45 – that’s really late for us. It made for some cool photos and time for a dinghy ride to a nearby state park for a walk. That late start and the barge traffic caused us to travel only 17 miles in 5 hours.  Thursday was our longest day, 10 hours to go 61 miles and we arrived at the marina in Columbus, Mississippi the birthplace of playwright Tennessee Williams just before dark.

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Foggy morning- this photo is just in time for Haloween
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A morning walk in the park with Laurie and Kevin
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Sunset as we pulled into Columbus Marina


The 
days on the Tenn Tom were long because of barge traffic in the locks; commercial tows always take priority over pleasure craft and we were behind one for a while on our last travel day. It’s kind of a fun story about that barge actually- so the barge consists of a very big tow boat and they are pushing barges of various sizes – this one was probably 3 wide and 5 or 6 long, so he was BIG! They don’t move very fast but they take up a lot of room so passing them has to be arranged over the vhf prior to doing so. The radio call sounds something like:

Us – “This is pleasure vessel Done Diggin’ calling the tow “Joe Cain”

Tow Operator “Go ahead pleasure vessel”

Us “Yes sir, we are approaching and would like to pass”

Tow Operator “ alright keep on coming and you can take me on the 2”

Sounds straight forward right? Well it is as long as you and the tow operator can understand each other; you’re both speaking English but we are back in the Deep South! I have to admit that I look at Danny and say “what’d he say?” most of the time and he understands him. Ironically, he often doesn’t understand me  and says “What?!?” about 50% of the time. Hmmmmm……And the 2 thing tells the approaching boat which side to take – took me a while to fully understand that, but I do now. 😉 Somehow we ended up the lead boat for a while on Thursday and I had to call the tow to ask permission for 13 of us to pass – I guess I did ok but I said pleasure vehicles instead of vessels.  The tow operator was polite enough not to correct me and not only let us pass but actually pulled way over near the riverbank, all the while acknowledging each boats “thank you” over the radio and wishing us safe travels. He even said he wishes he was with us! The crew was out on the sides waving and taking pictures of us. Impressive that they enjoyed us instead of seeing us as a nuisance!

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This isn’t the actual tow that I just described but will give you an idea of the size

The weather early in the week was beautiful for anchoring while waiting to enter a lock or overnight. The mornings have been chilly – but warmed up nicely into the 70s and Danny and I have been toasty warm up on the fly bridge. We’ve had lots of company day and night as lots of Loopers are bunching up again on the part of the trip. Our old buddy boat Lucky Me caught up again it’s been nice to spend time with Susan and Greg – we’ve also been traveling with new friends from EcstaSea and Southern Cross (more about these boats soon) so our little group of 3 boats has grown to 6 these days! It’s been fun to catch up with a few boats that we met way back on the East Coast in the Spring and  have met quite a few new people in the locks and at docktails.

A little bit of detail about this kind of travel – When you enter a lock it’s important to call ahead to the lockmaster to request permission and also to get a sense of whether there are tows that will cause a long wait. Our “commodore” Greg from TxAu calls the lock at 6am and then we all hop on the vhf radios at 6:15 am to get an idea of the best time to head to the lock. It’s worked out really well, it’s better to wait at the marina or anchorage than at the lock. So our routine has worked well – but on the 3rd morning of our trip 7 more boats caught up along the way so that we were 13 when we entered the lock . That’s not so many, but the interesting thing was that the “new” group also had a “leader”, so there was a lot of talk on the radio while the Captains figured out who would call the lock, who would raft with who, etc. Ultimately everyone played nice and it worked out really well.  The Looper Spirit at its finest!

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One of the boaters has a drone and took this amazing photo of all of us in a lock. Can you find Done Diggin’?
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Our Commodore Greg. Danny and I found this t shirt in a breakfast spot in Chattanooga called Bluegrass Cafe. Not sure who “their” Greg is, but ours wears it proudly!


So about our two new buddy boats – The crew of EcstaSea aren’t a couple. The Captain wanted to do the Loop but his wife didn’t, so he hires people to crew for him. Right now there’s a woman aboard for 3 months, she’s from Canada and will fly home when we get to Tampa. T
he other boat, Southern Cross is a 61 foot Ocean Alexander that we’ve seen and admired in many ports since as far back is Florida. It’s a gorgeous yacht and we were invited on for docktails the other night and I got a huge case of boat envy. It’s the most beautiful boat I’ve been in and the couple aboard are really nice people. That Captain was a real Captain in the Navy, so his leadership skills have come in handy – specifically on that testosterone filled vhf call I mentioned!

So we arrived here in Columbus on Thursday and it started raining before dawn on Friday. The rain was predicted and it rained really, really hard for more than 24 hours, so we were glad we planned on staying for three nights. Most of us didn’t venture off of our boats until dinner at a local restaurant. This marinas has a loaner vehicle which happens to be a minivan- since there were 13 for dinner that meant two trips to get everyone there and two trips back.  Kinda funny riding along in a minivan with a bunch of other adults. 😂

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In the minivan with our friends!
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Loopers out on the town at Harvey’s in Columbus Mississippi

We’d planned on leaving today and continuing on our trek to The Gulf but now we’re hearing that the river is at flood stage and will crest near here probably later today. That means a swift current and likely lots of debris floating around, some of which you can’t see.  It could be a bit risky and sounds an awful lot like traveling in The Big Muddy Mississippi to me. There was a big docktail gathering last night and much “should we stay or should we go” discussion; our group has decided to stay another night and re-evaluate early tomorrow morning.  So I’m doing laundry and updating the blog while Danny is finding things to fix, he even helped someone on another boat that we didn’t know – now we do. That’s what it’s about.

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Hopefully we’ll get moving together if the creek don’t rise (yep I said it and I meant it). We have been blessed with great weather for most of this trip, so we can’t complain but we are getting closer and closer to Florida, so we want to move. Those palm trees and umbrella drinks are a callin’!

Thanks for following along on our Great Loop journey. Until next time,

Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi

 

Soldiers, Mountains, Blues and Choo Choo’s

We haven’t traveled by boat much since my last update, but we’ve done some exploring by car and have truly enjoyed the journey. Most of this story can be told in photos but first a bit about where we are, why, and how we got here.

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As I mentioned previously, our boat insurance is not valid south of Demopolis, AL until November 1st when hurricane season is officially over – how hurricanes know to read a calendar is beyond me 🤣. That means  we’ve had some time to kill, so we strayed a bit from the Great Loop “route” and instead of banging a right onto The Tennessee Tombigbee Wayerway (affectionately know as the Tenn Tom), we continued down the Tennessee River to Florence, AL to kill some time.  When we left Paris Landing we stayed at anchorage for one night, then traveled to Pebble Isle which is on The Kentucky Lake.

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Cruising on Kentucky Lake was absolutely beautiful

After leaving Pebble Isle on a foggy morning, we anchored on Pickwick Lake near the state park for two nights. I’m  definitely getting more comfortable with anchoring overnight, but on our second night at Pickwick the winds picked up and there was a rainstorm which meant we swung around a bit – we held fine, but I admit to having some red, red wine to calm my nerves before bedtime that night.

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The Laurie Jean, one of our good buddy boats on a foggy morning,

 

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The calm before the storm

We walked in two beautiful state parks during our trip, the first at Pebble Isle – we learned about how the Kentucky Lake was made by filling in towns and displacing hundreds of families back in the 40’s in order to enable commerce (barges!) on the rivers. We also walked on grounds where the civil war was fought which was pretty cool. In Pickwick State Park we walked in a Loop along the water – seems to be a theme with us.

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A memorial in Johnsonville

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We came across an armadillo on a walk – here he is playing possum!

When we arrived in Florence we rented a car – actually a pick up truck which made Danny happy – so we could take some road trips. First stop Memphis , TN which was about a 3 hour trip. I’d been there before always on weekends, so I was surprised that it was relatively quiet on a Wednesday afternoon, there were just a handful of retired old folks like us. I have to admit that we were in bed by 9:30, I’ll bet it got a little more lively after that!  We listened to some blues and walked around the city and stayed at The Peabody Hotel which just exudes southern elegance and is the home of a twice daily duck walk – their resident ducks walk to the fountain where they live. I thought Danny got a picture and he thought I did – so no pictures! But there was a painting of one in our room!

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We shared a room at The Peabody with this guy. I love nice hotels, Danny is just as happy in a Motel 8!

On the way back to the boat we stopped at Shiloh, where a major and deadly civil war battle was fought in 1862. The grounds have been restored and maintained as a national park with monuments, cannons and plaques placed strategically where various battles were fought over two days leaving 23,000 Union and Confederate soldiers dead. It was somber and I reflected on another “battlefield “ we honored on this trip just about a year ago – the 9/11 Museum. Obviously the only common factor in these two sites are the lives lost and the fact that wars and death are a part of our national history which I’ve been re-learning on this trip.

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One of the sites at Shiloh
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A mass burial site for Confederate soldiers at Shiloh


Later in the week we visited a National Cemetery in Tennessee to further remember and honor our Veterans. The cemetery was reminiscent of the one we visited in Normandy, France a few years ago.

Now on to a lighter note! Our trip to Chattanooga,TN which was also about 3 hours from the marina and took us through Alabama, into Georgia for a bit, then Tennessee and into the eastern time zone.  It kind of tickled me to see a highway sign that said “entering eastern time zone”, I’ve flown into different zones and even boated into them, but haven’t driven into them – it’s the little things folks!! Anyway, the drive was so scenic, the mountains, the river, the lakes all made for a beautiful trip. We drove up a winding hill to Lookout Mountain where there’s a tourist attraction called Ruby Falls. You take an elevator down about 300 feet, walk through caves and get to a beautiful underground waterfall – we enjoyed it even though the tour guide told corny jokes and the caves and waterfall were artificially lit!

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The view from Lookout Mountain

After the tour we walked around part of downtown  and then stayed at The Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel! The original train station is now the check in area and although there’s an option to sleep in a train car, we spent the night in a regular room – the train car was a little too claustrophobic for me!

The next day we went to Rock City – also a tourist attraction but self guided and way less cheesy (except for the part where there are caves filled with gnomes – actually a little creepy). Basically you walk through caves (think Lost River in the White Mountains only bigger) then up to an observation deck where earlier generations claim you can see 7 states on a  clear day. I have to admit I’ve had to pull up a map a time or two on this trip – the geography here confuses me. The views were breathtaking.


On the way back we took a detour (ok – it was unintentional, I put the wrong place in the GPS) and toured the George Dickel Distillery. It’s the less famous Tennessee Whiskey distillery tour and Danny had mentioned he’d like to see it since he’s had a sip or two over the years 😉.  We were almost lost but we made the best of it!


The detour took us 50 miles out of our way but the drive back was all back roads and we stopped for lunch in a little town called Wartrace,TN.  This part of the country is just gorgeous- we saw cattle farms, cotton farms, quaint downtowns, little ramshackle houses and stunning ranches along the way. I loved this little vacation from my vacation.

So on Tuesday we will head back to the Tenn Tom and continue our trek south. The goal is to stay ahead of the cold and behind the hurricanes.  We will keep you posted and hope you enjoy traveling along with us!

Until next time,

Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi

 

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A museum beside the restaurant and town hall in Wartrace – this was actually the whole downtown

Hello from Paris!

Paris, Tennessee that is.  Did you know there was a Paris in Tennessee?  Neither did I, but we are here and just got back from a quick trip to the Eiffel Tower – no kidding!

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Billie, our tour guide with Laurie and Kevin at the Eiffel Tower!

It is also home of the World’s Biggest Fish Fry which happens every year in April when the whole town closes down for a parade to celebrate the catfish!  A local boater offered to take us to see the sights today, we didn’t travel because it was supposed to rain all day.  It actually just started now at 3:00, but it’s ok, it’s been a nice place to visit, and we will likely never be here again.  The marina is adjacent to Paris Landing State Park where we walked some trails and enjoyed the beautiful view of the Kentucky Lake.

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Yup. Paris, Tennessee. Here we are in front of the catfish on a stick to prove it.
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View of the Kentucky Lake from the State Park

Kentucky Lake is actually on The Tennessee River and we’ve spent two beautiful, short days cruising here from Green Turtle Bay in Kentucky. The boating here has been spectacular and way more pleasurable that that dam Mississippi River (did I mention that I didn’t like being on the Mississippi?) We had two sunny days and anchored out the first night.  The water isn’t brown and yucky (that’s a nautical term) anymore, so we kayaked and Danny went for a swim.  It was a beautiful anchorage just off the river.

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TxAu and Laurie Jean rafted up at anchor
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He doesn’t look happy in this picture – but he was!

The next morning we pulled anchor and continued South, and the cruising has been just as smooth as Tennessee Whiskey…..speaking of whiskey…..we spent a week at Green Turtle Bay Resort Marina in Grand Rivers, Kentucky where there were lots of get- togethers with some of the many Loopers that were enjoying some R&R and air conditioned boats and bars in a heat wave; the temperature was around 90 to 95 degrees for 5 days straight.  There were Looper docktails and dinners and after one of the dinners some of the men were sipping bourbon on Tex’s boat and I decided to join them!  Well it was very smooth and tasty.  And the next morning my head weighed a ton and Danny brought me my coffee in bed……clearly I’m not as smooth as the whiskey!

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Docktails at the pool at Green Turtle Bay with the crews of Southern Cross, Contentment, Spinning Dreams, Aquaman, and of course our friends Laurie & Kevin
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Interesting Kentucky IPA choices at The Thirsty Turtle
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Nothing like a bonfire when it’s 90 degrees outside! The Firestarter in the picture is actually from Portsmouth, NH

Being overserved aside, it was great to meet new Loopers and catch up with people we hadn’t seen since earlier in the trip.  Andy & Cindy on Aquaman were the first Loopers we met way back in Fort Lauderdale last winter, we traveled with them for a bit on the Mississippi and danced with them at The Thirsty Turtle, the bar at the resort.  We met another great couple in Canada, Geni & Bill on Patriot; they are both retired military and fabulous, warm and interesting people.  We ran into them again at Green Turtle Bay and they hosted dinner for about 16 people aboard their huge, beautiful boat the last night we were there.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again I’m sure, but the people we are meeting are a big part of what makes this trip so special.  They come from all over the country, all walks of life and are on boats of all shapes and sizes, and are generally open to conversation and camaraderie.  Fun.

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SO many Looper boats on the dock at Green Turtle Bay

Tomorrow we will pull our lines and move further south and continue to get to know this country of ours, which continues to be an eye opening for me.  Being in the South in places like Kentucky and Tennessee is quite an experience for this Liberal Yankee girl,  and I’ve seen quite a few “Trump” and “Keep America Great” flags along these waters.   I can’t help but think about the first time I was old enough to vote in a presidential election when Richard Nixon was elected.  I remember being really upset and telling my father that I didn’t even know any Republicans or anyone who even voted for him…..I guess I was pretty naive.  My father laughed and told me that the country was much bigger and different than Massachusetts and the East Coast.  I guess Jack Hughes knew what he was talking about and I’ve thought about that conversation many times over the years.  And if I thought I was upset after that election, I shouldn’t even think about how I felt in 2016 and fear I’ll feel in 2020…..but that’s a whole other thing and I’m trying really hard not to talk about it on this trip, and especially in the South – that’s not what this is about.

I’m looking forward to more beautiful cruising days as we get closer and closer to crossing our wake in Florida.  Thanks as always for following along our Great Loop Adventure!

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Not really an ad for Brunelle Brothers Electric….he gets all dressed up on travel days 🙂

Captain Dan & Cruise Director Jodi

Not the happiest camper….I mean boater

Man, what a week. We’ve been in Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky; three states in four days, three different rivers, over 200 miles and about 40 hours of cruising, locking, anchoring, docking and playing a mean game of “dodge a log”.  To be honest, it feels like a lot more than four days, this river section of the Loop has kicked my butt!

We left Alton Marina on Tuesday, just after sunlight at 6:45 am.  We’d planned on leaving that morning, but when we got a call from the marina telling us that the water level in the entrance channel was dropping and that they didn’t recommend boats with more than a 4′ draft go through, we doubled down on that decision and got the hell out of dodge!   Apparently, the Army Corp of Engineers controls the depths on the rivers, and was lowering the “pool”, there’s been a lot of issues with flooding on the rivers this year.  Although the water in that part of the channel was pretty shallow, we made it out no problem and continued our trek south on the Bitchissippi, I mean Mississippi River.  Shortly after leaving Alton, we passed by the St. Louis Arch and all went round and round in circles to take photos of one another.  The barges love it when we do stuff like that!

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Going by the arch in St. Louis

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A beautiful sky is the reward for pulling the anchor at first light
As Danny says, they don’t call it “The Big Muddy” for nothing – it is big, it is muddy, and it’s got a current that runs about 5 knots, in our case in the same direction we’re traveling which means you’re going about 5 mph hour than you’re trying to.  All the while, you’re watching for and navigating around GIANT barges that throw a big wake as well as all kinds of trees and logs that have come off the banks because of the flooding.  They bob up and down in the wake and could really damage your props if you hit them…..it’s pretty serious business to avoid them.  Then there are locks.  We’ve done locks before, pretty close to 100 of them by now, but everyone told us “just wait ’til you get to the rivers”, and man have we waited…..and waited…..and waited.  The barges have priority when locking through and we’ve waited with other pleasure boaters for a couple of hours at each lock this week.  We’ve actually been somewhat lucky in that regard….we’ve heard stories of boaters getting stuck for 4 hours or more and having to lock through and continue on to their marina in the dark.  We haven’t had that happen (knock wood), but the waiting has made for some pretty long days.

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This log was probably 12 feet long and 2 feet around…..Tex refers to these as “trip stoppers”
On Tuesday we stopped at Hoppies Marina.   Hoppies isn’t really a marina – it’s a couple of barges tied up to the side of the river where you can tie off.  It was never anything fancy, but sustained a lot of damage from ice and floods over the last year, and now it’s even more “rustic”.  So, there ain’t nothin’ fancy about Hoppies, but it’s an iconic Great Loop stop and on a stretch of the Mississippi where there are no other marinas for about 200 miles.  We tied up and walked to the little town of Kimmswick, Missouri for lunch at The Blue Owl.  The town was actually adorable, a nice surprise.

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The three buddy boats tied up at the infamous Hoppies Marina. Marina is a bit of an exaggerated term!
The next day we traveled almost 100 miles to an anchorage in a channel just off the Mississippi.  I don’t love anchoring, but you have no choice on this leg of the trip, and after 10+ hours of travel in the hot sun, we were more than ready to rest.  It took a few tries to get our anchor to set, but it held well until we left the next morning at first light.

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TxAu and Laurie Jean rafted at an anchorage after a very long day on The Mississippi
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Tied up to a lock wall after a long wait

That morning it was a little foggy and hazy when we left and the weather forecast predicted some showers.  Well, the weather was wrong – we had downpours for the first few hours of the trip and the wind was pretty strong.  That was the day I learned about “river eddies”.  An eddy is a current that flows in a circular direction opposite the direction of the rivers…..so this means whirlpools.  Some were small, some were big and a few of them kind of caught our boat and made it feel like we were whipping around!  We weren’t really, Danny never lost control of the boat, but it was scary – for me, not him.  So………rain, wind, barges, debris, locks, eddies….. ARE WE HAVING FUN YET?????  Nope, nope we’re not!  We were very relieved to turn off of the Mississippi onto the Ohio river just as the rain stopped and the sun started to come out.  At this point, the current changed and we started traveling “uphill”….our speed went from 12 knots to 6 knots as soon as we took the turn.  Nevertheless,  I am relieved that the Mississippi is in the rear view mirror, and our reward for that day was tying up at a nice dock in the town of Paducah, Kentucky.  Paducah is a nice little city where they were hosting a huge BBQ festival the night we stayed.  It was good to get off the boat, walk around and eat some meat!  I slept like a baby that night.

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There’s a National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY. I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would, the quilts are beautiful art.

Yesterday we traveled about 40 miles from Paducah, KY to Grand Rivers, KY and we’re staying at Green Turtle Bay Marina for a week for some welcome R&R.  We had to take a bit of a detour off of the Ohio onto the Cumberland River to get here, there’s a lock that would have been on the quicker route that’s out of service.  So the 38 miles ended up taking over 8 hours when you threw in anchoring outside the lock for an hour and a half to wait for a huge barge.

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Cows grazing on the bank of the Cumberland River – one side is Illinois, the other Kentucky
So, here we are in Kentucky for a bit, and yes I know I need an attitude adjustment, I’ve been complaining – a lot.  But all is well, and I am counting my blessings. This marina is pretty nice and there are lots and lots of Loopers here – it’s a good place for everyone to slow down.  There are a couple of pools, a couple of restaurants and they have loaner cars and golf cart rentals  so you can go to town and run errands.  It’s really hot out, but we’re plugged into power and have A/C on the boat, so we’re comfortable.  I’m about to close down my blog and get some appetizers ready for a big docktail gathering at the pool. I am continually grateful to be on this journey even on the bad days, and happy to be with my Captain.  He’s so even tempered, he enjoys every day, and he puts up with me. What more could I ask for?  Palm trees and an umbrella drink or two would be nice – but what else?!?

Thanks again for following along (and for listening to me),

Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi

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Danny said I should drive for a while since I was wearing a Gilligan shirt that day

Mississippi Mud

We are still at it! We finished the Illinois River section of the trip and cruised into The Mississippi a few days ago when we landed in Alton, Illinois.  The marina we’re in has a buy three nights, get three nights special, so we decided it’s a good time to rest, do some boat projects and get ready for the long days ahead before the next comfortable stop.  We are not alone! We use an app called Nebo that logs our trips and shows where other boats are as well – Loopers are identified by a yellow flag; this screenshot shows how many of us are here.

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Lots of Loopers here!

Peoria was a good stop for a couple of days, Danny and Tex helped Kevin with their transmission issues and we recovered from the stress of the locks, we were all pretty relieved to get them behind us.  We toured the Caterpillar museum and relaxed on the boat.

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What’s he thinking about? I’ll bet either work that needs to be done on the boat or LUNCH 🥗
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Laurie and me at The Caterpillar Museum……I don’t have a lot to say other than they make tractors – yellow ones 😉

There aren’t as many marinas to stop at on this leg of the trip, so we’ve had some long days and there are more to come.  We left Peoria on Tuesday and traveled 100 miles and almost 11 hours to an anchorage.  This anchorage was nothing like the beautiful secluded coves where we dropped the hook in Canada, we were literally 200 feet outside the channel near the side of the river.  We knew there would be barge traffic, and there was – but we were also fairly confident we’d hold in the spot – and we did. Phew. This was another “first” for us, and I’m told not the last time we will anchor so close to the channel on this trip.  I wasn’t looking forward to that night, but by the time we got there I was exhausted from the travel and the hot sun, so I slept way better than I thought I would.

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The Laurie Jean and TxAu rafted together at our anchorage on The Illinois

From there we traveled to Grafton, Illinois, which we were told is the “Key West of the Midwest”.   Hmmmmmm…….I don’t get it.  Maybe it’s because it was a Wednesday after Labor Day, but we sure didn’t get a Key West vibe!  It’s a cute town and we had a fun dinner at the marina with other Loopers, but it was quiet!

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Another Looper dinner – this one in Grafton, IL and in addition to the usual suspects, the crews of Aquaman and Contentment were along.

The scenery has really changed from the heavily industrial area of The Illinois when we first left Chicago to green trees and high bluffs along the shore.  The water has is really brown, it looks like chocolate!  Our boat will need a really good bath when we finish the rivers.  This is familiar territory for Danny, he lived in Godfrey many years ago, and is really enjoying seeing this area from his own boat! I should mention that he thinks this part of the trip is great, and has been looking forward to all of it.

So we cruised into Alton Marina on Thursday, we’re here until Tuesday. It’s a nice big marina with a pool and a barbecue area where we’ve grilled out with Loopers and locals.  We’ve spent a couple of lazy afternoons drinking cocktails at the pool too…..it’s HOT here, some afternoons have been in the high 80’s!!

Danny fixed the pump on our generator and had the lovely job of fixing the holding tank on one of the toilets.  What does that mean? Just what you think!  That “stuff has to go somewhere doesn’t it?  We pump out our tanks frequently, but one of them was leaking into the bilge. Yuk.  It took him a long time to get the tank out of the small area behind the wall where it belongs, thankfully he had some help from our friend Kevin.  It turns out the leak was caused by screws from a label screwed into the tank by the company that sold us the boat, so once they got it out they were able to patch it.  Then there was LOTS of clean up before putting it all back together again.  Did I say yuk?  I am beyond grateful that Danny is so good natured about these kinds of jobs – he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty (that’s an understatement) and really doesn’t give up until the problem is found and he figures out a solution.  Don’t worry, there are no photos to accompany this memory!

Speaking of memories – Danny has shared quite a few of when he lived and worked here over 35 years ago with his first wife and Kyle and Melissa.  We’ve rented a car for the weekend and he gave me a tour of the area as best as he could.  It’s been a long, long time and lots has changed.  We tried to find where he used to live the other day, but we couldn’t – we plan on trying again today now that he’s remembered a couple of landmarks.  He says there are highways here that were two lane roads back then!  One of the reasons we rented a car was to be able to visit St. Louis (which is where Kyle and Melissa were born) and is only about 30 minutes from here, so we went there yesterday with Laurie, Kevin and Tex.   We started out with a tour of The Anheuser Busch Brewery, then took a tram to the top of The St. Louis Arch and finished up with a great dinner in a little Italian place recommended by a local here at the marina.  It was a long, fun day.  Laurie and I love field trips and she planned it well – as expected!

 

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The view from the city
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Ok this is a really goofy picture- we knew we weren’t going to buy it (hence the “proof” on this photo, but we were told we “had to participate” before going into the tram. We agreed we’d all make a silly face 🤪 when she said 3 – this shot  only captured Danny doing so!

The next time we see the Arch, it will be from the water as we cruise by on Tuesday, hopefully we’ll get the obligatory Looper shot of us in front of it and I’ll include it in my next blog entry. Today I’ll try to firm up reservations for down the river, go to the grocery store to “provision”, ride around the area with Danny, and clean the boat a little.  Oh and there’s a Happy Hour – have I mentioned that Loopers like docktails?  Danny remembers that there was restaurant named Tony’s here in Alton that had the “best toasted raviolis in the world”.  They’re still here and have Happy Hour at 4:00 today, so we’ll be there.

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He really hates selfies at this point and usually looks grumpy. Not when he’s at the helm though, this is his happy place.

So, tomorrow will be our one year anniversary from when we left home. On September 23rd of last year we pulled off from our mooring in front of the house at about 7am and set off for this journey.  Since then we have traveled nearly 5000 nautical miles!  Wow!  There are about 1200 more to go until we finish The Loop 🙏 and many, many more until we get home, but it’s quite a milestone.  We have basically lived and traveled together on this boat for a year and we still like each other – most of the time! 💕

If you’ve made it to the end of this, thank you for following along with us on our journey.  Until next time……

Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi

On the Loop Again!

Well as Jack Nicholson would say………We’re baaaaacccck. We are on The Loop. Big time. We’ve left powerful, majestic Lake Michigan behind and have started the Hell they (ok I) call The Rivers on this trip. But first a quick update on our time in Chicago and our visit home.

When we arrived in Hammond Indiana our plan was to get onto TxAu and be with Greg and Nancy when they crossed their wake.  The lake was just getting bigger and bigger as the day went on so we postponed the plan. They were great tour guides for our walk around Chicago the following day and the next day we were all aboard as they crossed their wake in Chicago almost exactly a year to the day after leaving the city.  We were really excited for them (and a little bit jealous if I’m honest – I’m looking forward to our turn) and drank champagne at 10:30 am! Why not? We then had our very own architectural tour of The Chicago River on their boat.  Most loopers consider Chicago and the river one of the highlights of the trip and I understand why.  It’s a beautiful city and although we only spent a few days, having “locals” be our tour guides was a great experience.

We flew home for a couple of appointments and a little bit of a break and I can’t believe how quickly the two weeks flew by.  It was great to be with my favorite people and things – we spent some of Labor Day weekend in Maine with our best friends Robyn and Terry, hung out with Shannon and Evan, had a family cookout at my sister Brenda’s with my niece and nephew and their families   ( ❤️❤️❤️ These people and didn’t even get one picture),had lunch with Symes brothers Al and Butch and sister-in-law Barbara,  and I was thrilled, of course, to be with my granddaughter Lilah and son and  DIL Ryan and Amanda. I DID get pictures of Lilah of course 😍.  We also went to Becky’s in Portland and waited in the line that’s always there for breakfast, had drinks and appetizers at Seaglass in Salisbury, MA our favorite place and had a couple of lobster rolls! I’ve said it before – we have been to  beautiful places on this trip, but the beauty of New England never gets old.  We are lucky to live there.

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Ready for her close up
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Happy Grammy – the unicorn headband I bought for her was a big hit
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Jet lagged Daddy

So – back to the trip.  On Thursday we left Lake Michigan and we are now on the Chicago to Mobile portion of the trip. We will cruise The Illinois, The Mississippi, The Ohio, The Tennessee and the Tenn Tom Rivers before our Gulf crossing to Florida and estimate there are about 18 travel days required to do this, maybe a few more.  Our hurricane insurance won’t cover us south of Demopolis, AL until November 1st, so we are allowing ourselves six weeks to do about three weeks travel.   The Illinois is a mostly industrial area and in this river, as the others we’ll travel, commercial traffic – BARGES – have priority in the locks, pleasure craft can only lock through when the lockmasters have cleared as much barge traffic as they see fit.  These barges are huge and though you don’t have to be told to get out of their way, there are rules that require the Captain to hail the barge on the radio and arrange how to pass when you meet them on the river .  There’s either a “one whistle” or “two whistle” pass depending on where the tow Captain is pushing the barge.  I don’t know why they  don’t just say left or right or port or starboard even though Danny has mansplained it to me several times 🤣. There are about 30 locks on this portion of the trip (I think) two of the locks on The Illinois have been on partial closure for several weeks with a complete closure coming up on September 20th until October 5th.  Our goal is to get through those locks before the closing to keep us a little ahead of the cold weather. We knew that many other Loopers have the same plan and that there would likely be long waits and lots of company in the locks. Even though I knew all of this I wasn’t prepared for what that meant.  So, on Thursday we happily left Hammond with 8 other Loop boats.  All of the bridges opened quickly for us, and we were cruising along then we “met” our first barge in a narrow area of the river as he was coming from a lock.  We all had to go into a holding pattern in a little “hidey hole” which was a staging area for barges that a tow captain was kind enough to point out to us and wait for him to pass. That took well over an hour.  When we got to the lock there was a barge in there, so more holding, waiting and maneuvering…..by the time we were in the lock there were about 18 to 20 boats in there – we were all rafted up to each other 4 rows of 5 boats!  Long story short (kind of) we needed to repeat all of this a couple of times that day and the next 2 days which means we have had 3 very long days….we have typically launched at 6:30 am and landed for the day on a wall or a marina at about 5 pm.  At least 3 of the boats we’ve locked through with have had issues with overheating engines from all of the idling and our good friends Laurie and Kevin had a transmission cable snap yesterday! They limped into the marina last night with a little help from their friends, It’s exhausting and I can’t believe it’s only been 3 days!

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The lockmaster said it was the biggest group he’d put through the lock. There were 4 rows like this one.

 

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A barge on The Illinois River – about 500 feet long and 60 feet wide

 

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Greg and Danny keeping TxAu off of the wall in a lock

So clearly this has not been a favorite part of the trip for me, I didn’t think it would be but there is good news in all of this:

  • Most importantly, we’ve safely made it through the two locks that are closing, and apparently in the nick of time. We are hearing that southbound pleasure boaters are not being locked through at all this weekend and there are many, many waiting.
  • I’m amazed at the abilities of the Captains of these boats including and especially my own 💕.  Holding a boat for a bridge or outside a lock isn’t  like holding a car at a red light, there’s no “Park” And boats float! Even in neutral the boat moves with current and wind and requires careful maneuvering whether you’re all alone or in a crowded area! Then there’s the rafting to other boats in the locks……the Captain has to wait until the boat you’re rafting to is settled on the boat they’re rafting to, then the first mate (me) has to throw lines to the first mate on that boat and then cleat it back to their own boat.  When the lock is complete you have to untie and continue on in very close quarters.  Most of the boats are big and heavy and it’s pretty impressive watching this all happen without it turning into bumper boats!!   Laurie and I have jokes that if this trip had started here, we’d have both quit! These miles and months have made us better boaters and able to manage (knock wood).  That said, we’ve all remarked on how crazy, and what a total Shit Show 😳 this has been!
  • There has been some beauty mixed in with the beast – beautiful trees and birds and the weather has been great.
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This bald eagle was watching the herd of Loopers float by….
  • The best news is that we are still with TxAu and Laurie Jean and those friendships become more special to me every day. We’re blessed to have met them and hope to stay with them all the way to Florida if all goes well.  We’re also running into other Loopers we met on the East Coast, The Erie Canal and in Canada, so we’re always in good company. Everyone is always ready to offer a hand to a boater in need. The boating community in general are friendly, social people and Loopers distinguish themselves when it comes to kindness and generosity.
  • We have really made progress! From the East Coast to the Hudson River to The Erie and Oswego Canals through Canada and down Lake Michigan. Wow.
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I stole this from another Looper on FB – not our exact stops but a really good illustration via pinpoints of our journey so far. I have to figure out how to use the app that created this.

 

Today we we are in Peoria, IL and will stay here until Tuesday so that Laurie and Kevin can get their transmission cable fixed and we can visit The Caterpillar Museum tomorrow – think tractors, not crawly things – Danny can’t wait 😊. We are meeting over dinner tonight to figure out our next stops but know for sure that we are continuing to head South. The leaves will soon be turning so the palm trees are calling!

So as I said we’re back and so is my blog. Thanks as always for following us along our journey,

Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi

 

Homeward Bound (for a bit)

Another week, another update.  We have seen many lighthouses, more beaches, lots of ice cream and fudge stores and more t-shirt shops than I can count as we’ve traveled south along the Michigan shoreline. We’ve cruised on smooth waters and bouncy waters and anchored out and stayed in marinas.  We’ve seen sunrises and sunsets and “docktailed” with our buddy boats and others.  We’ve said hello to “new to us” Loopers and we’re getting ready to say “so long” to one of our Dear Buddies. So in summary, it’s been a typical week for Done Diggin’ on The Great Loop!

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We typically stay on a wall vs a slip because of our beam (width)

We left Ludington on Monday and traveled to Muskegon Inlet, Grand Haven, South Haven, St Joseph’s – all in Michigan – and then to Michigan City, Indiana and we’re now in Hammond, Indiana. It kind of tickled me to boat into a different time zone, we’re on CST now until Florida.  We can officially say that we’ve boated in two countries and two time zones! Pretty cool.

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Our boat at sunset While anchored in Muskegon Inlet

On most travel days we throw our lines pretty early, usually by 6:30 am. That means that I set our alarm for 5:30 so that I can throw on some clothes, have some coffee and get ready to go.  Setting an alarm for 5:30 AM is no way for a nice retired lady like me to be living, but it’s gotta be done. The guidance from experienced Great Lakes boaters is to get out early, the winds and waves can build during the course of the day, so our strategy is to be tied up early.  That strategy has worked pretty well for us; most of the time we were pretty comfortable but there was one day that I kept counting down the miles and time on the GPS, it got pretty bouncy.  Luckily the weather cooperated pretty well this week, so we made all of our planned stops and arrived here in Hammond this morning.

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This is Hammond Marina where we are now – very big, very crowded and today very windy. I took this picture from the second floor of The Horseshoe Marina, on site.

Having spent 12 days traveling on Lake Michigan I can say that I’ve gotten much more comfortable in big waters.  I don’t love the rocking and rolling, but I know that we can handle it and I’m much less whiny.  Danny is grateful for that 😁 and probably thinks it’s about time, it’s going on 11 months that we have been “out here”.

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A lighthouse at an inlet – I honestly don’t remember which one!

When we’re not boating we spend time walking or bicycling around the towns and have seen great beaches and lighthouses.  We often run across Farmers Markets and went to a terrific one in Grand Haven.  We stocked up on lots of fruit and veggies and  we are really trying to eat healthier! This “vacation every day” lifestyle is taking a toll on my hips 😒. Another highlight of Grand Haven is their light show set to music that they have every night during the summer. We were docked in a great spot to view the show both nights, it was really pretty good.  They’ve been doing it for over 50 years and it reminded me of the show at Epcot….or is it Disney, I can’t remember!

There are often farmers markets in the towns we docked in – Grand Haven has a great one!

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There are often farmers markets in the towns we docked in – Grand Haven has a great one!

 

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Music and light show at Grand Haven. We stayed up way past Looper midnight two nights in a row!

Loopers are staring to bunch up a bit at this point.  The next “target” is Chicago and the Illinois River as those of us who aren’t putting our boats up somewhere for the winter make the race south to beat the cold.  It was tougher to get marina reservations this week, it really requires planning.  Luckily, our friend Laurie on Laurie Jean is a former elementary school principal and the BEST planner, so we’ve been ok so far.

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A lot of Loopers in Grand Haven – our boat happens to be the backdrop

Another complicating factor are scheduled closures for two locks on the Illinois.  Since commercial traffic has priority, pleasure boaters will only be allowed through overnight until they close for several days completely.  They will reopen to all traffic from September 12th to the 21st and then close until October 5th. Confused? I am, in fact I’m not even sure I got that all right.  What I do know for sure is that everyone is trying to figure out what to do.  Some have gone quickly to avoid the closings and others have slowed down.  We are going to try to get through between the 12th and 21st – so the good news is our trip home for Danny’s scheduled check in with his doctor will be extended to almost two weeks! Our boat will sit here in Indiana waiting for the locks to open while we fly home to spend time with everyone, especially Lilah!! I miss that little munchkin more than anyone, FaceTime just isn’t enough!

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Homeward bound!

 

Before we fly home on Wednesday we will spend some time in Chicago, which is literally across the bay from where we are now, we saw the skyline as we pulled in today. Our buddy boat,TxAu crosses their wake (that’s what we call it when a boat finishes up, coming full circle) here and since they lived here before they left we’ll get the locals tour of the city,  weather depending we may all travel over in their boat so we’re with them when they officially “go Gold”.  The gold refers to the color of the flag or burgee that you fly to identify yourself as someone on the Loop.  If you’re in progress you fly a white burgee, when you finish you fly a gold one.  There are even platinum flags for those who’ve gone around more than once.  That will not be us, though I bet Danny would keep going in a heartbeat if I would. It will be hard to say goodbye to Nancy, though we will still see Greg since he’s bringing the boat to Florida.

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Nancy and Greg from TxAu (Texas Gold)……..right before they went Gold!

 

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There are beautiful beaches all along The Michigan shoreline

The trip home is really well timed.  It seems like every time the stage of the trip changes, I’ve been really ready for it to do so. For example, I loved Canada but was excited to get back to the US and see trees instead of rocks, but now I’m ready for the Lake Michigan part to be over.  I am really ready for a break and hope to come back ready to go, go, go.  Until then I won’t blog I can’t imagine anyone would be interested.  So thank you for traveling along our Great Loop Adventure and I’ll be back soon!

Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi