The Motor Vessel "Once Around"

The Motor Vessel "Once Around"
The Motor Vessel "Once Around" in the Florida Keys

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Heading: South by North

OK, OK, I’ve gotten several messages via text that I have been too long silent on this blog.  Joe Wheeler had no WIFI and of course, where that happens it is almost a sure bet that our Sprint card doesn’t work either.  Remember Murphy?  So…get over it, I’m on vacation!
Since we arrived at Joe Wheeler State Park in Alabama a few days before the AGLCA Rendezvous’, Carrie and I took the opportunity to rent a car and do a little sightseeing in the area, including a trip up to Chattanooga, Tennessee.  A lot of boats are headed that way after the event, but we are closely watching the geese, and those guys are headed south!  Chattanooga is 150 miles north.  So, seeing it by car saves us about a week travel on the boat…in the wrong direction.  It is a beautiful city right on the Tennessee River, and it takes full advantage of that gorgeous location.
The river shoreline in downtown Chattanooga, TN

One of the city docks for visiting boats

Beats the hell out of me...the Admiral must have liked it

One of the rural Alabama roads we wandered on

A cotton field ready to pick
While in Chattanooga we met up with Tonia, our daughter Carla’s future mother-in-law.  She lives in Blairsville, Georgia and drove over for lunch with us.  Lunch began at about 1:00 PM and ended as the dinner crowd began straggling into the restaurant.  We had chatted for almost five hours.  That did not deter us.  We simply moved to the bar, ordered drinks and snacks and kept on gabbing for another couple of hours.   I think my daughter is lucky to have such a nice mother-in-law.  Course, Tonia’s lucky to be getting Carla, too, so it seems like a good deal all around.
The AGLCA Rendezvous at Joe Wheeler was a great success.  Fifty-seven Looper boats were tightly wedged into the slips and many Gold Loopers, as well as Looper wannabees, filled the seminars and dining room.  As always, it was fun to be in a room with a couple of hundred people who were all excited about the loop.  It was also a chance to catch up with many old friends and make some new ones.  The docktail parties (especially on the 600 dock where we were) were great fun as we caught up with each other and talked about the excitement that lies ahead.
the 600 dock
The event ended Wednesday, and Thursday about half the boats departed, some for Chattanooga, most back towards the loop route.  Some of the goodbyes were made difficult by the fact that folks were finished and headed home.  Even those who are continuing we may not see for weeks, months or ever, so every good bye has the possibility of being the last.  That’s looping.
A half-dozen Loopers departing in the distance
We jumped back into the car Thursday after the first departures and headed for Nashville.  We were excited to be picking up Carrie’s sister Katie, and her husband Kyle, visiting us from home.  They will be aboard for about a week.  Of course, the weather gods decided to dump on us Friday morning, and we had a rain delay for a few hours as it poured down.  By 9 AM, Once Around and Grianan finally braved the elements and headed back down the Tennessee.  Now, down the Tennessee at this point means going north for 60 or so miles.  Confused yet?
Besides being aboard on one of a dozen or less times that we needed foul weather gear, Katie and Kyle got a baptism of fire introduction into locks.  The Wilson lock is a 94 foot drop, second tallest in the US.  We shared it with Grianan and a towboat, which had dropped its barges first and then rode with us down.  It was quite an experience and our guests seemed suitably impressed, if a bit frozen.
The lock doors start to open as we reach the bottom of the 94' lock

We had to wait as he reconnected his load and moved along

The tow captain let us pass, this is looking back as Grianan passed him
Once thru that second lock, we bid Grianan goodbye and put the petal down to reach our destination for the day (40 miles downriver) at Aqua Marina, near Iuka, Mississippi on Yellow Creek.  We arrived there near closing time and Kyle and I thawed ourselves with an Irish coffee from the Once Around Saloon as soon as we were tied off.   Yellow Creek is where you turn off the Tennessee River to head south on the Tennessee-Tombigbee (Tenn-Tom for short) waterway.  It is about 450 miles of winding river and canal that will lead us eventually to Mobile, AL on the Gulf of Mexico.  I am pretty sure the geese are there already!
This is not a terrorist nomad, just a cold

Kyle records the vacation memories in sunny Alabama

Then Kyle promptly settles in for a winter's nap...and the Admiral says I can sleep anywhere!
After arriving and thawing, the four of us ate dinner at the marina restaurant, which wasn’t bad at all.  We had been warned we had again hit a dry county, so we took our own wine along.  We were told by the marina that it was perfectly acceptable, but began to wonder when the waitress asked us to keep it out of sight.  I come from a long line of Italian bootleggers and remember the stories of them strapping a flask to their wives thighs so they could have a whiskey when they wanted.  Given the nature of things down here in the south, that seems like a good idea to me, but the Admiral has met that suggestion with that god-awful glare of hers.  Still, she drank the wine right along with the rest of us!
Saturday morning (today) we awoke to a misty sunshine.  It is supposed to be the start of a warming trend, and the weatherman says no rain this week.  That scares me enough to keep the rain gear close at hand.   We plan a relax day for today and some short cruise days this week of 35-40 miles per day.  Katie and Kyle will be flying home after we reach Columbus, MS.
Local bass fisherman in this morning's mist
I mentioned before how crews of different boats can go weeks or months without seeing each other loop on the route.  I have reason to hope for two meetings in the coming weeks. 
First, Algonquin is in Green Turtle Bay and headed south hopefully by the middle of the next week.  Garth and Kathy have had many setbacks this year, the latest being hurricane Irene and Zeke’s (their dog) near fatal illness.  Any luck we should cross wakes somewhere between Mobil, AL  and Port Charlotte, FL, if not sooner.
Second, there is a Looper boat named Abreojos from Ventura, CA I am hoping to finally run across soon.  We kept our “west coast boat” (as Doug from Moonstruck has taken to calling it lately) at Ventura Isle Marina for a couple of years and very briefly were introduced to Larry and Brenda of Abreojos out the window of Poseidon one afternoon.  All we knew at that time was that we were both hoping to do the loop the next year.  All we know beyond that is what we have learned from reading each other’s blogs.  So, I know Larry is a great writer and very detailed about documenting what they have discovered on the loop.  (They started in Texas after trucking their boat from California, so have been at this for several months longer that we have been.  We were so far ahead of them when we were in Canada I thought they would need an ice-breaker to get through the north, but last I saw they were heading up the Ohio and will soon be in Green Turtle Bay as well).  All Larry knows about me is that I am a bit nuts and write mostly about the goofy stuff we encounter along the way.  Of course, we both know John and Linda from Poseidon…that probably worries both of us more than anything!  Seriously, John is one of my oldest I know that any friend of his...should probably be avoided!  Unless you're a little bit nuts...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lord, Give Me Strength

The promised rain, wind and cold did hit Alabama on Wednesday.  The marina is not yet full of Loopers, but there were lots of us here.   People either huddled up in their boats or rented cars and deserted the place to do some sightseeing before the official festivities get started this Sunday.  Count my First Mate and I as the “huddlers”.  Wednesday we did inside the boat chores and watched a couple of movies.  We ran the heat and I wore long pants for the first time in months.  And, I'm not too happy about that!
Thursday I took Mrs. Howell up to Athens, AL to get her nails done.  My kids probably won’t believe this, but I went alone to Walmart for provisions.  It went pretty well, although I started to get awfully impatient with the checker who spent about 15 minutes checking out the lady in front of me due to their long and detailed conversation about so and so who “has a restrainin’ order ‘gainst that low-life husban uh hers, but she’s not inforcin’ it cause she’s tryin her bes ta make thangs work.” 
Lord, please give me strength”, is all I could mutter to myself.
I was still a bit ruffled I guess when I walked out and loaded the groceries into the trunk of the rental car, a grey Ford sedan of some type.  After returning the shopping cart to a collection area a few spaces away, I came back to the car and noticed someone waiting for me to leave so they could park in my place.  For some reason, the electric door locks  sounded like they were operating, but the doors would not unlock.  It had worked fine just a minute prior when I used it to pop the trunk.  What the heck?  I walked around the car, repeatedly pushing the “unlock” button on the remote and trying all four doors. I finally tried inserting the key in the door to manually unlock it.  When I could not get the key to go into the lock I took a step back and realized I was trying to get into someone’s Dodge, not my rented Ford!  As I sheepishly turned to the right car (in the adjacent space) I imagined the look on the waiting shopper’s face who must have thought I was trying to break into the Dodge.  These people carry guns here, so I left quickly before any shootin’ could start.
I’m really lucky the Dodge had been locked.  Back home one Christmas shopping excursion I had parked our Escalade at a strip mall in Elk Grove while I bought Carrie and her friend Carole a gift certificate for a spa treatment.  Returning to my vehicle, I hit the remote to unlock it jumped in and tried in vain to start it before looking around and realizing I had jumped into the wrong SUV!  Well…they both were white…who coulda’ known?  On that occasion too I quickly slipped away, wondering if the car’s rightful owner had witnessed what had to look like an attempted car theft.
Moral of the story…let my First Mate do the shopping…she’s a pro.  Besides, she would not have been impatient listening to the checker and the shopper in front of me in line.  On the contrary, by the time she had gotten through she would have figured out several people she knew in common with them or how she was related.
Lord, please give me strength, and let Carrie do the shopping!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Where U At?

After our night run into Joe Wheeler on Sunday, we decided to hang out and catch our breath for a while. 
Carrie tried to make some new friends on the dock...but they weren't too interested.

The weather was sunny and warm, but rain, wind and colder temps were forecast, so Tuesday we decided to leave the boats and visit Jolly Tolly in Goose Pond by car.  We hadn’t seen Jolly Tolly since Michigan.  We knew getting the crews of Jolly Tolly, Moonstruck and Once Around together again would be good times, which was confirmed when Captain Ron and Jan (the Pumpout Queen) met us at the top of the gangway of their dock with a tray of Margaritas. 
We spent a couple of hours on board Jolly Tolly, sippin’ and dippin’ on the drinks and snacks Jan had prepared.  We had a lot of catching up to do, and more importantly, a lot of planning for the next several months.  They are headed out again mid-November and should catch up with us before we make the Gulf crossing to Florida.  They are bound (eventually) for the Bahamas, but we all will probably enjoy a lot of Florida together.  Ron and Jan are now “Gold” Loopers, meaning they have “crossed their wake” by completing the full circle of the Great Loop.  We just had to have a picture as they are the first of the crews who we have spent a lot of time with on the Loop to reach gold status.
Jan and Ron from Jolly Tolly, Gold Loopers

To celebrate Ron’s birthday, he bought us all dinner at the Goose Pond restaurant (thanks again Ron).  I had their specialty, shrimp and grits (with some Cajun sausage chunks thrown in for good measure).  It was really tasty.  The menu was pretty varied, and the others had everything from gumbo to flounder fingers.  Ya’ gotta love the South! 
Speaking of loving the South…some of the churches here get pretty creative with their signs.  Here is our favorite which we sighted on a small church just outside Rogersville, Alabama:

When I get time I’m thinking of changing the words “Find Us” on the locator link on this blog page to read, “Where U At?”.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dumb and Dumber

We left Clifton early on what looked to be a bright clear morning.  But, as we turned up river we were greeted by what looked like very dense fog ahead.  We turned on our radars, planning on slogging it out in the fog until it burned off.  Happily, the fog was not as bad as it looked from a distance and happier yet, it was gone within a half an hour or less.  We enjoyed a gorgeous ride up the Tennessee River, marred only by our rooky performance at the Pickwick Lock, detailed in my previous post.
We reached Pickwick Lake, and turned off at Yellow Creek to stop at Grand Harbor Marina.  If we were headed straight for the Gulf of Mexico, this would be the turnoff for the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.  But we are going back onto and about 60 miles further up the Tennessee to our Looper Rendezvous, so we will have to backtrack and pass through here again in a couple of weeks.
At Grand Harbor, Once Around got a covered slip assigned (a first since we’ve owned her).  This slip was a fair haul to the other end of the marina where the office and store were located and where most of the other Loopers were berthed.  Not a problem, the marina issued us a golf cart for our two day stay.  The docks were wide enough on which to drive and park them, although it was a leap of faith for either of us to trust the other’s driving.  Naturally, the Admiral pulled rank on me and insisted she drive.  The first time she drove out on the long dock, I reminded her of a story Tom (the former owner of our boat) had told me about his loop trip.  One evening, after a few too many, he had tried to coolly skid his bicycle to a stop out at the end of the dock.  However…you got it, he made a slight error in judgment about the distance, and Tom and the bike ended up in the drink!  Tom said he and a buddy successfully “fished” the bike out of the 12’ deep water after a couple of hours of grappling.   I told Carrie if she just drove the cart into the river it would make a heck of a story…which earned me that dreaded Admiral glare.   She never really came close to going into the water, but she darn near drove right through a gate crossing arm at the access road.  When I yelled and she skidded to a stop within a foot of the arm, she claims to have had it under complete control the whole time.  Right!  Lying is a privilege of rank, I guess. 
Saturday (college football is HUGE in these parts) we flew our colors...this one's for you Dad.

Lots of Loopers at Grand Harbor...believe it or not, this held.
Saturday, Gene from Free to Be reserved a huge van and the eight of us took a tour of the Shiloh battlefield which was nearby.  This Civil War historical site was remarkable, if you like that sort of stuff (which both the Admiral and I do).  Some fifty years after the battle, historians assembled as many survivors as they could find and precisely marked the troop placements of individual regiments.  They also placed cannon exactly in many of the spots they had fired from and marked the various important battle lines with monuments.  We had a CD audio in the van that explained the flow of the battle as we drove the hundreds of acres, stopping at many of the sites to read more.  There were over 100,000 men fighting here for two days, and the combined dead, wounded and missing from both sides was 24,000.  It was one of the bloodiest battles of a particularly bloody war.  It was sobering, even 150 years later.

This little cabin was at the site of some of the most intense fighting.  It survived, although full of bullet holes!

Sunday morning Moonstruck and Once Around took off at dawn headed for Joe Wheeler.  It is a 60 mile run with two locks.  We would make it easily if we didn’t run into delays at the locks.  Big IF.  We were stalled for about three hours at each of the locks.  We made the last two miles across Wheeler Lake and into the harbor in the on a dark and moonless night, followed in by Blue Skies.  We are not practiced at navigating at night and were a little white knuckled as we approached the dark harbor entrance.  The whole process would have been made a lot easier, if we had remembered to charge our Flir night vision camera that the Admiral had given me last Christmas.  Of course, to charge it we would have had to remember it sooner than exactly eight minutes before we reached our destination.  We felt like Dumb and Dumber.  Luckily, we pulled into our slip without incident and were greeted by a bunch of other Loopers who had arrived in the daylight apparently.  Where’s the challenge in that!
Along the Tennessee River

The "house" pic of the day

Real rural Tennessee, or possisbly Alabama

The Emma Kate, our nemesis this day

The next morning we cleaned the boat in and out.  Here's my First Mate caught scrubbing my big balls.  What a gal!

I guess that in case you're there.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Lock from Hell

Murphy's Law is:  Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.  Now, I am not a pessimist.  I don't really subscribe to Murphy's law. 
However, in my experience rarely does only one little thing go wrong all by itself.  In my world, Murphy's law is more like:  When one thing little thing goes wrong...hold on...the fun is just starting! 
We have been through something like a gazillion locks since we nervously locked through the first two back in the Dismal Swamp last May.  We’re pros at this, right?  Uh-huh.  Just when you least expect it, Murphy shows up, and just one thing doesn’t go wrong…hell no…several things combine to make a normally easy procedure a nightmare.  Such was our time at the Pickwick Lock today as we continued up the Tennessee River with Moonstruck.
Murphy was alive and well at the Pickwick Lock today!
It was a little breezy as we waited below the dam to enter the lock, nothing terrible, just enough to make it interesting.  My First Mate went down to prepare the (big ball) fenders on the port side as the lockmaster directed.  Port is not our preference, because we need to lower the tilt on the motor on the dinghy.  It sticks out when it is raised, and the lower unit and prop might hit the lock wall. 
Problem #1:  Carrie yells up to me (yeah, we’re too cool to use the $300 headphones, we’re pros right?), “The battery is dead in the dinghy and I cannot lower the motor”.  No big.  Had it not been quite so windy and had we more time, I might have been able to deal with it.  But, I holler back, “The big fender balls will keep our stern far enough from the lock wall…I hope!” 
Problem #2:  Carrie bellows, “Oh crap, one of the (big ball) fenders just came off its’ line, and it’s floating away!”  We spend about 5 minutes trying to retrieve a 27” diameter ball with me maneuvering the boat close in the wind, and Carrie trying to snag it with a boat hook.  Of course, the lockmaster calls us into the lock at precisely that moment.  I bid adieu to the $159 fender and move forward into the lock, yelling down to my mate, “Just put as many of the smaller fenders out as you can.”
I couldn’t believe it, but a kind fisherman saw our plight, plucked the fender up into his aluminum boat and chased us into the lock.  Sure glad I always slow down when I pass those guys!  No time to tie it on; Carrie thanked him, hauled it into the cockpit and I continued to the wall.
Problem #3:  And, this is a Venus and Mars thing…although I cannot see what’s going on below, I assume that she has put the remaining large ball near the stern, to protect the dinghy motor.  I realized my mistake as we reached the lock wall, but that was not the time to worry about it, as the wind…(remember the wind?)...kicked up and was throwing us against the wall and pushing us past the bollard.  I could hear nothing from below except my mate struggling to get a line over the floating bollard.  I might have, just might have, yelled down in a tone that betrayed my frustration.  She continued to struggle with the line.  I knew she had to be leaning out to reach for the bollard, and the way things had gone in the last several minutes, I would not have been surprised to hear a splash as she fell over the side.  Thankfully, she finally secured the line and I raced down to re-tie the second ball and get it over the port side at the stern so that infernal metallic sound of the lower unit on the outboard hitting the lock wall would be silenced!  I glared up the side of the boat at my First Mate, but the fun wasn’t over.
Problem #4:  The forward fender ball had, once the boat was finally secured, landed precisely in a trough in the side wall of the lock that contains the safety ladder.  So, it was doing exactly zero to prevent the bow from hitting the wall.  The discussion between the two of us at this point is probably best left unwritten, but you get the point.  Not our finest hour.  We did manage to hold the bow off the lock wall enough to secure the fender a few feet back, where it would do its’ job.
The 55 foot ride up the lock was very, very quiet.  I sat up at the fly bridge helm, and my mate stood by her line.  If Murphy had been there either of us would have punched him in the face!
When all was said and done and we were on our way again, with absolutely no damage to the boat, we knew better than to talk about it for a while.  So...we got in a knock down argument about the exact wording on our boat insurance policy (I'm not kidding), which, after a full half hour of argument, turned out to be just another fine Venus and Mars moment.
The moral of the story is…hell, there is no moral.  It was just one of those days.
Don’t worry about us.  We haven’t been married for 26 plus years without knowing how to make up! J
Life is good, and boating is fun!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Kentucky Lake & Tennessee River

Tuesday, after a great week stay at Green Turtle Bay, we were ready to continue our journey south.  Moonstruck, Free To Be and we took off at the civilized time of 9 AM, as we only planned a 40 mile run.  We have our Looper event in Alabama beginning on Oct. 22.  It is a distance of roughly 260 miles, so with eleven days to get there, we can take it easy.  In fact, if things work out, we may take about a 100 mile side trip and get to Jolly Tolly’s home port of Goose Pond, TN.  That is near Chattanooga, so may involve a visit there as well.
Once Around gets all spiffed up at GTB
There is a bit of bad weather predicted for later this week, although probably nothing to stop us from moving.  We saw signs of it Tuesday, as the clouds began rolling in.  We had hazy sunshine as we headed south on Kentucky Lake after leaving Green Turtle Bay.  We had a lovely morning cruise on the lake, and when we pulled into Paris Landing State Park Marina at about 12:30 PM, it almost felt like cheating after the arduous days on the rivers leading up to GTB.  The Paris Landing Marina is nice, deep, and has some huge slips.  We had our pick of probably twenty empty slips. 
My First Mate was a bit under the weather.  She had developed some sort of a rash (not sure if it is heat, new soap, or what), and she took some Benadryl in the morning as we left GTB.  She then promptly fell asleep on the bench seats of the fly bridge.  After we docked and had a quick lunch, she disappeared on me as I was tidying up the dock lines, and I found her sound asleep in our stateroom.  Ah, the life of an Admiral.  (I’ll pay for that!).
Next day the three boats headed for Pebble Island Marina, TN.  It was even a shorter trip of only 30 miles.  Ginny on Free to Be insisted on her beauty rest, so by agreement we didn’t get off the dock until 10 AM.  By 1:30 we were secure in our slips at Pebble.  It was a Looper extravaganza.  Kadadi, Something Special, Kay-De-Anna,  Blue Skies, all joined Free to Be, Moonstruck and Once Around for docktails at 5:00.  John from Kadadi brought the evening to life with his ukulele and singing.  It was a great time in the mild Tennessee evening.  Everybody stumbled back to their boats about 7:00.  The Admiral and I had actually planned ahead and had short ribs in ale simmering in the crock pot.  Good thing, or it would have been frozen taquitos for the two of us for sure.
Happy Loopers, with John from Kadadi on the yuke
Thursday (this morning) we were moving a little slowly.  One excuse after another kept us at the dock until 9:00 AM, when I almost backed out into Moonstruck who had snuck out ahead of me!  Doug goosed the throttle a little bit to avoid me hitting him, and I don’t think anybody but he and I knew what happened.  Doug is a complete gentleman and hasn’t said a word about it.  I’m not as discreet, so I'll tell you what happened shortly afterward.
My depth sounder has decided to act up “intermittently”, which as you all know means, “when you most need it”, so my wingman was leading me through the channel markers out of the marina and reading depths to me over the radio so I could verify the readings on my equipment.  As we talked, I watched him as he wandered completely outside the entrance channel markers!  Before I could pick up my radio and warn him he discovered it himself and was on the radio warning me not to follow in his wake!  No kidding!
I was trying to quickly think of something sarcastic to jab him with, but before I could, he reaches the main channel and turns right, heading north.  Well, at least he was in the channel now, but right was the same direction we had come from the day before.  He was headed back to Green Turtle Bay…I guess.
This was too rich not to share, especially since Sid and Evelyn on Something Special were right behind us.  I got on the radio and told Sid, “Something Special, this is Once Around, please switch to channel 17.”  I knew Doug was monitoring that as a working channel while we cruised together.
Once Sid was on 17 I called out, “MoonstruckDoug, where are you going?”  By that time I had turned left, headed in the correct direction.  Doug responded sheepishly, “I’m not sure, downriver I guess”.  Sid pops in, “Don’t you know north from south?”  This was Sid’s chance to get even with someone (anyone!) for all the teasing he had taken a month or two ago.  (See the post, “Something Special” in August if you are in the dark about this).
A couple of minutes later when Moonstruck caught up with us he radio’s back, “Uh…Once Around…I think I’ll just follow you again today, OK?”
“Good idea”, I answered.  No martinis for them tonight.
The scenery today was absolutely gorgeous and we skirted around the wet weather for the most part.
Some Tennessee River scenery

An abandoned railroad Bridge

A dock that had seen better days!

These limestone bluffs lined the river in many places

Some homes (and a lighthouse?) built on the limestone bluffs.

A house pic for the ladies
So, 60 some miles later we all arrived at Clifton Marina, on the Tennessee River in Clifton, TN.  Spirit Dancer is here as well as the four of us who travelled (more or less) together. 
Tomorrow we head further up the Tennessee to Grand Harbor.  I think Doug wants to lead.  The Admiral has already taken the time to take Doug to the edge of the dock and point up river in the correct direction!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Smokey and the Bandit We Ain't

There are some weird liquor laws around these parts.  First off, the county where our boat is docked is completely “dry”.  There are no liquor stores and no adult beverages served at restaurants, although you can bring your own!  OK, so maybe we aren’t quite in heaven after all!  Paducah (25 miles away) however is in a different county, so we thought we were home free when we went there to stock up on Sunday.  Wrong!  We found out they don’t allow any liquor sales anywhere in Kentucky on Sunday.  It’s called a “blue law” or something like that.  Come to think of it, this is starting to sound a bit more like hell, isn’t it?
So naturally (We are headed for Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, so the likelihood of weird liquor laws is still high), Doug and I had to borrow the marina car and make the run back to Paducah on Monday.  We left the Admirals off to shop for girl stuff in Grand Rivers, promising to return quickly, and pick them up so they wouldn’t have to carry their shopping plunder back to the boats, a distance of a little over a mile.  As we dropped them off, Carrie says to Doug, who was driving, “Are you sure you know where you’re going?”  Are you kidding me?  Doug and I are experienced businessmen.  We practically grew up in cars, and both of us have logged more miles in more places than we care to remember.  We acted a bit affronted at her suggestion and started to drive off in a huff.  Carrie hollered just before Doug made a right turn, “DOUG, LEFT HERE, RIGHT AT THE NEXT STREET”.  I don’t think we instilled much confidence at that point.
Now, Doug and I are a lot alike in other ways, too.  Our admirals would probably say neither of us can walk and chew gum at the same time, but that’s a stretch…I think. 
Anyway, once we hit the freeway headed for Paducah, we got deep into a heavy “man type” discussion.   Now, this was about something really important, like diesel fuel polishing systems, or how to silence the alarm on your GPS unit.  You know…important  stuff.  So when we finally looked up and saw the “Welcome to Illinois” sign, we knew we might have overshot Paducah, Kentucky, just a bit. 
This would not have shocked my Admiral in the least.  I once called her and told her I was on I-80 west of Sacramento and would be home in 45 minutes.  I then drove for I don't know how long before my “low fuel” light woke me from my daydreaming.  I looked up to see "Exit 8", and hadn't a clue where in the heck I was.  I tried to look nonchalante at the gas pump when I leaned over and asked another customer, "Where am I?"  Learning I was now in Dunnigan, I had to again call Carrie and tell her I was now on I-5 north of town and 45 minutes from home!  Another wife might not have believed such nonsense...but Carrie knows me.
Once Doug and I figured out where we were, we tried hard to hustle.  But of course, the booming metropolis of Metropolis, IL only had one liquor store, and it was another 5 miles down the road on the other side of town.  Long story short, we caught some long looks from the Admirals when we finally got back and found them at the boats. 
Of course, we told them every reason in the world why we had taken so long, except the truth about our little unscheduled visit to Illinois!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Are We In Heaven, or just Green Turtle Bay, KY?

Several times this past five months while we have been cruising up one river, lake, bay or another, I have looked over at my First Mate and whispered, “Are we in heaven?”  She usually flashes that heart-stopping smile of hers and responds, “I don’t think so, there were mosquitos (or spiders, frost, rain, whatever) last night, and there are no mosquitos in my heaven.”  Can’t argue with that, so I settle for imagining I am in Purgatory.  For you non-Catholics, that’s like…almost heaven…sort of.  Point is, there are so many beautiful places we have been fortunate to see; it’s hard to remember we’re really here on Mother Earth.
Maybe, just maybe, the calm relaxed feeling that overwhelmed us Monday, as we pulled in to Green Turtle Bay (aka GTB) Marina on Lake Barkley, had a bit to do with the hard run we had just made down the Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio and Cumberland Rivers.  Who cares.  We’re here, we’re with a bunch of other Loopers who seem just as glad to hang out for a bit, and we’re happy.
I know I have been a bit remiss about getting a post in (and I’ve heard about it from some of you), but…get over it, I’m on vacation!  And we’ve had no mosquitos, spiders, frost or rain, so I’m pretty sure we’re in heaven, or darn close.
Irish Rover and Blue Skies as Once Around departs the anchorage at Little Diversion

Oh yeah, heaven isn't at all cold either, according to the Admiral.  Our trip down the rivers sometimes got a little chilly.

One of the few homes along this stretch of the Mississippi.  The Admiral says her girlfriends like the house pictures...guys, I don't get it either.

View of the Mississippi from the fly bridge

Mississippi River on the left, Ohio River on the right

Lock 52 on the Ohio River

At this nice Tow Captain's pleasure, Once Around and Moonstruck were allowed to lock thru with him 

We did make the 111 miles to the Cumberland Tow anchorage last Sunday.  That was a long day, but the anchorage was one of the best you could imagine.  Doug from Moonstruck and I had big plans to get together for something…drinks or cigars, I forget which, but in truth, we all crashed by 8:00 that night after the long run.
Monday we entered the Cumberland for a calm and quiet 30 mile trek up to the Barkley Lock, which dumped us into Barkley Lake and Green Turtle Bay.  Here we were greeted at the fuel dock by our old friends from Godspeed, Billy and Pam, and Sid and Ev from Something Special.  We learned that there were lots of other Loopers in port, and that evening we all had drinks aboard TerrMar IV.  Mark and Terri are another of our Canadian Looper buddies, and time aboard their boat is always filled with laughter and a bit of insanity.
As we entered the Cumberland that morning, we were worried we were going to get caught in the fog

But, it broke up into a mild mist shortly after we entered the river

The Cumberland scenery was spectacular...

...and the wildlife...

...was abundant.

My First Mate on the bow as we approach the Barkley Lock, leading into Barkley Lake

God I love that smile!

This lock has nearly a 60 foot lift, one of the largest of its' kind

Doug and Judy enjoy the ride up

Entering Green Turtle Bay Marina (darn close to heaven!)

Sid...Something Special...says it all!

Bob from Spirit Dancer enjoys his new found hair, thanks to Mark

The Admiral and Mark seem a bit bewildered by Sid and his hat

Sid's First Mate, Evelyn with mine aboard TerrMar IV

As the week progressed we decided it was time for pampering our baby again, so Once Around has gotten a complete rub down (hull and exterior wax), several “oopsie” scratch repairs (finally got that Erie Canal yellow paint mark off her hull) and had her engines serviced.  I even felt sufficiently in control of my “arocknephobia” to send the propeller we damaged in Canada to the repair shop.  (I still don’t want to talk about it, though).  The Admiral wasn’t sure about doing the cosmetic stuff on Once Around right now, until I reminded her that we were getting closer and closer to Sarasota, Florida.  If Tom (the previous owner) saw her the way she looked when we arrived here at GTB, he would have me tied to the mast at his yacht club and given a dozen lashes.  She looks absolutely pristine again, so Tom and Elaine, we’ll see you in December!
We have been otherwise vegetating here in GTB.  We had a great Looper gathering one night where at least 15 crews attended a “docktail” party.  It’s amazing; we’re still meeting new and interesting folks every time we stop.  Pam and Billy from Godspeed also organized a dinner at a small restaurant called Sugar and Spice, where we (the only 8 guests allowed that night) ate German food cooked by a gourmet chef in her own kitchen as we looked on.  Marilyn (the owner and chef) filled us with awesome food and a good run down of the history of the area.  It was another of those hard to explain amazing loop experiences. 
The work is still ongoing on Once Around, so we may be here thru Tuesday or Wednesday.  Then we are off headed down the Tennessee River for a big official Looper “Rendezvous” in Alabama later this month.  It looks like we may lose our wingman, Moonstuck along the way, as they are not attending the Looper gathering.  I think they are getting a bit “barn sour” as they head home for Port Charlotte, FL.  We’ve seen this syndrome before with Jolly Tolly, but we know it to be short lived.  Jolly Tolly, who completed the Loop in September, is currently in port in Goose Pond, TN, readying for a trip south to Florida and the Bahamas for the winter.  Moonstruck is also planning on getting back on that track after the holidays.  Something tells me all of our paths will cross along the way! 

Speaking of crossed paths, I spoke today with Garth on Algonquin who is currently in Chicago and heading south as fast as he can make it.  Kathy and Zeke are back on board and they should catch up with us later this month or early November.
Life is good and boating is fun!