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...

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