Monday (1/22) Takin’ care of business.
The morning coffee was interrupted by the second boat, in two days, going aground in front of us. On the way out of the marina, it went unnecessarily wide to avoid Loofah’s bow and anchor. Then it got caught by the wind. Fortunately, the frustrated captain shut down his engines to refrain from making things worse and sucking sand into the engines’ cooling system. Art got in our dinghy, crossed to the shore, got out and pushed the boat off the shoal. The engines were restarted and a successful departure executed.
This morning we needed to leave the slip in order to have our holding tank pumped at the fuel pier. Art suggested to the harbor master that Loofah be relocated at the same time. She asked if we would be willing to utilize a slip between some piles at the other end of the pier. It looked acceptable and we made the switch, much to the delight of others in the marina!
Pumped out and secure in our new berth, lunch and reprovisioning were next on the list. We have obtained groceries on foot, by bicycle, marina courtesy car, and the Jolly Trolley. Today we did it by dinghy.
We got in the inflatable and headed toward the center of town. We beached the dinghy and walked a block for lunch at the “Historic” Keylime Bistro.
“The Island Store,” a combination deli and convenience store, is across the street from the bistro. It is certainly not a Publix, but it had most of the items we needed.
Our chores for the day completed, we returned to the marina and lounge chairs at swimming pool.
Later, we threw some brats on the grill and enjoyed a quiet night onboard, watching a Netflex movie. Ah, the life of a Looper.
Sunday (1/21) A “Roman” weighs in!
For the last two weeks we have been looking to the north for news. Sue’s nephew, Adam, and his wife, Kelsey, have been expecting their first child. FINALLY, at 9:58 PM last night, Roman Douglas weighed in at 8 lbs 15 oz, complete with a full head of hair!
With Roman’s arrival, the first of the generation, Sue’s dad (Don) became a great-grandfather, her older brother & sister-in-law (Ed & Connie) became grandparents, and Sue, a great aunt. Goodness!
This has been quite a year for Adam and Kelsey. They landed new jobs, moved back to Des Moines from Chicago, bought their first house, and got a dog. And now, Roman! Life as you know it, guys, is about to change!
Love from Loofah!
P.S. Being away from family, at times like this, is a bummer!
Saturday (1/20) Captiva Icons
According to Sue’s Fitbit, the ladies aboard logged over 7500 steps (3 miles) on the beach this morning, while the guys enjoyed coffee and conversation aboard.
The plan for the day was to cruise up the GICW to Cabbage Key for lunch, but an extremely low tide took care of that. Loofah III was not going to make it out of her slip and around the anchor protruding for the boat to port, until the tide reversed later in the afternoon.
We went to plan B, borrowed bicycles from the marina, and headed up the Island to visit two of its icons.
Our first stop was the Bubble Room. It opened in 1979 with just a few tables in the front room of a family home. Today the restaurant is jammed with toys from the 1930’s and 1940’s, moving trains on all three floors, photographs of stars and cinema productions cram the walls, and the front room is decorated for Christmas, leading to the theme of “its always Christmas at the Bubble Room.” An extensive collection of music from the 1920’s,1930’s and 1940’s is played throughout. The Bubble Room is certainly unique and truly, “world renown.”
But it was a day to have lunch outside, on a beach. We remounted our bikes and took a short cruise down the street to the Mucky Duck, another island icon.
In 1975, two entrepreneurs got together and purchased a beach house that had originally been a tea house (the Gulf View Inn), for a potential rental property. “While at the Lee County Courthouse to get things in motion, they inadvertently discovered an expired beer and wine license which could be reactivated for $100.00. That evening while sipping cold beer and watching the sun paint a picture as it set across the Gulf of Mexico, an idea was born…this magical sunset experience needed to be shared with others.”
Today, the Mucky Duck is still only licensed to sell beer (16 on tap and many more bottled) and wine, no spirits. But you can order some interesting cocktails, including a “Bloody Mary” and a “Key Lime Margaretta”, made with fermented but not distilled spirits (hence,technically wine) to accompany your meal. Sand, surf, sunsets… a marvelous place
It was a perfect afternoon for some time in the Tween Waters’ pool and hot tub, before Jim and Laurie departed for accommodations ashore, closer to the Punta Gorda airport.
It has been enjoyable having you guys aboard! Safe travels!
Friday (1/19) “Tween Waters”
We had a slow start this morning. Jim and Laurie joined us onboard last night and our conversation went into the morning. After obtaining bagels and breakfast sandwiches at a shop in the marina, and a brief walk through or a farmers market, we got underway.
Jim and Laurie explored the mainland areas Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, and Captiva by car, and enjoyed a 3 mile walk on the beach. We relocated Loofah III from Punta Gorda to the Tween Waters Marina in Captiva Island, a distance of just under 27 miles.
As we passed Useppa Island and Cabbage Key, we hailed the crew of “Don’t Think Twice” from Charlevoix, Michigan, whom we hadn’t seen since Hoppies, south of St. Louis. They were heading into Cabbage Key. We were also joined by a number of playful dolphins.
“Tween Waters” is a perfect name for the resort and marina. It is located on a narrow neck of land, with the Gulf on one side, and the Roosevelt Channel of Pine Island Sound on the other. Proper navigation is required as outside the narrow channel, it gets shallow, quickly!
Jim and Laurie met us at the marina about 5:15. After changing into some warmer clothes (the temperature drops significantly with the sun!), we walked across the road to the Gulf side to view the sunset.
Dinner followed at Crows Nest Beach Bar and Grille. On the way out we stopped in the lobby of the Captiva House to look at some etchings of Jay “Ding” Darling on the wall. As Jay and Penny were good friends of Art’s maternal grandparents, he shared a number of wonderful stories as we enjoyed the etchings.
The evening wrapped up onboard with conversation and sharing family memories.
Thursday (1/18) Family coming aboard!
It was a good thing they covered the flowers in Venice last light! The low was 32, but fortunately the winds subsided and Loofah’s heat pumps kept us warm and cozy!
Today’s float plan was to make the Burnt Store Marina in Punta Gorda. It is about 41 miles from Venice.
For the past two days the winds have been strong and consistently from the North. This generated small craft warnings, with waves forecasted from 4 to 6 in the Gulf. We had planned to avoid this part of the GICW in favor of a few hours at sea, but though better of it. Besides, there is more to be seen proceeding inland than there is from several miles offshore, like big swing bridges, abandoned railroad trestles and dueling ferries.
As departed from Venice, we noted the tide seemed rather low. As we progressed south, it became more evident. We have seen derelicts, apparently abandoned following hurricane Irma or others. But, what we saw today seemed the result of poor seamanship rather than a storm.
This was confirmed by a conversation that Sue had with the harbor master at the marina. A combination of monthly and annual cycles had made an abnormal fluctuation in tidal levels the last several days.
The reason Punta Gorda was today’s destination: Sue’s brother, Jim, and his friend Laurie, were flying down to get a respite from the COLD Iowa weather! They would be joining us onboard for a couple of evenings here and in Captiva. Why Punta Gorda? Allegiant Air has a direct flight from Des Moines, departing Des Moines at 4:55 PM (CST) and arriving in Punta Gorda at 9:00 PM (EST). Imagine: Des Moines direct to Punta Gorda! (Maybe this would be a good place to leave a boat to use during the snow bird season?)
Anyway, the boat has been washed, the windows cleaned, and the beer cans and garbage grubbed out of the cabin. More on the family reunion tomorrow!
Wednesday (1/17) A pleasant surprise in Venice!
After two delightful weeks at Marina Jack in beautiful Sarasota, it was time to move on south. Sue took the helm as we worked our way 18 miles down the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway to Fisherman’s Wharf in Venice, FL.
With frequent slow zones to protect the matinees, a swing bridge we could pass under, a surprising number of individuals sculling, and we averaged just 8.2 mph. The good news is that Loofah III is very fuel efficient at that speed!
We arrived at the marina about 1:00 and got secured before we were buffeted by wind gust of 31 mph pushing is broadside against the pier. Fortunately, Loofah didn’t pop any of her fenders!
We rode our bicycles across the bridge just down stream and into the historic downtown Venice. As we did so, it was hard to miss the volunteers from the local garden club covering the plants throughout the area. Freeze warnings for tonight!
As we were doing a little shopping, Art received a call from Bill, with whom we dined last night. He, inquired if we had plans for dinner; if not would we like to join his brother-in-law, George, and him? What a pleasant surprise! Of course!
Bill picked us up at the marina and we met George at “Pinchers,” a new location that had just opened here about two weeks earlier.
During dinner, Sue mentioned that we had encountered a number of people rowing on the GICW. George said that Florida is a mecca for rowing clubs and Sarasota actually hosted the 2017 World Rowing Championships late last September. The venue was Nathan Benderson Park where there is a 400 acre artificial lake that was excavated to provide fill for the construction of Interstate 75.
We covered a full range of topics, including the impact of us snow birds on the Venice dining scene (George moved here full time in 1997 and thus is considered a native). Meeting George, and having another evening with Bill, was an unanticipated pleasure!
Tuesday (1/16) The Finale
Today was our last day in Sarasota. We went through the routine preparations for getting underway: laundry, a stop at the grocery store, reorganizing the cabin, and securing the dingy, bikes and other gear in the “garage.” We watched yachts come and go from the harbor, our home for the past two weeks. As we did so, the old* adage “All good things must come to an end,” came to mind.
Tonight, we enjoyed a visit from Bill, and Cheryl and Denny, friends from Des Moines. Bill and his wife have a place on the GICW at the Heron Bay Club in Osprey. Denny and Cheryl prefer to rent, this year a place on the Gulf beach near the midpoint of Longboat Key. We are nomads, here on a boat. Choices.
Bill, Denny, and Art are members of “The Greater Des Moines Business Exchange” in Des Moines (aka, “the breakfast club”). It was started over 50 years ago with the purpose of generating business referrals. That goal has significantly diminished over the years. It meets every Friday at 7:00 AM for breakfast and comradery. The guys in the club are all similar in age and have gone through the various stages of the “trials and tribulations” of life and business together. Some in the world seek professional therapy; for Art, the breakfast club is his support group!
This evening, to facilitate boarding, we moved Loofah III to a pier near the fuel dock. Bill, Denny and Cheryl came aboard about 5:00 PM. The time was set so that we could enjoy the sunset while cruising a short portion of the GICW. It was followed by a most pleasurable dinner at Marina Jack where we exchanged recent events and news.
Humans seem to have a desire, almost a need, to rank everything. We are often asked, “What have you enjoyed most,” “What is your favorite…?” That is like asking which grandchild is your favorite!
Having said this, this evening was a marvelous finale to an amazing time, with many wonderful friends and aquantances, in an incredible place. Our favorite?
(* Today’s trivia: Apparently the phrase, “All things must come to an end” has been around for a long time! It was penned by Geoffrey Chaucer in his poem Troilus and Criseyde, completed in mid-1380s.)
Monday (1/15) A not so pleasant start ends extremely well!
Today we got out the bag and headed to the Bobby Jones Golf Club, a 45 hole municipal facility named for the legendary Robert Tyre Jones, Jr., who personally dedicated the facility on Sunday, February 13, 1927.
When the starter called our names, we walked toward our cart. He looked at it and asked, “Where’s the second bag?” Art responded, “We plan out of one.” The starter responded, “Not here.”
Art went in to the pro shop and asked for the rationale. “It’s the rule.” If we were walking, going two different ways, OK. But on a cart, we were going to each ball anyway. “It’s the rule.” Art rented a set for $30 (which were ancient) and didn’t use a club from it the entire round.
The terribly unfortunate start to the round was offset by the delightful couple with whom we played, Mel & Marti, from Chicago. They have rented a place here in Sarasota for three years and are “trying to figure out what to do when they grow up.” Mel is three years from retiring. We are both retired, Mel, and are still asking the same question!
Heading back to the boat, we walked passed “Serenity” and were invited aboard for a libation and a further discussion of the Loop. Never passing such an opportunity, we dropped off the clubs, changed into some warmer clothes as the sun was beginning to set, and returned with cocktails and a map showing the Loop.
“Serenity” is a beautiful Sabre 48 Salon Express. It’s owner, Thies, (right, below) and a business partner/general contractor, Stan (center), brought the boat up from Naples, while Thies’ wife was in Texas. The primary topic was the Loop, but we certainly covered a number of other topics, during the freewheeling conversation. In the “small world” department, Stan (through “WPO”) knows a friend of ours who has a condo one floor up from ours in Des Moines, as well as a home in Naples!
As we disembarked “Serenity,” plans were made for a visit when Loofah III is in Naples. Thies is in hopes that Sue can talk his wife, Connie, into the pleasures to be experienced on the water and the Loop. If you are reading this, Thies, we are looking forward to dinner!
After a quick bite onboard, the day was topped off by a 5th Dimension concert at the Van Wenzel auditorium.
An architectural landmark and a cultural treasure, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall was built in 1968 and 1969 with monies from a city of Sarasota bond referendum and a bequest from local philanthropists Lewis and Eugenia Van Wezel. This season it will host more than special 100 events, in addition to more than 50 performances and events presented by the Sarasota Orchestra, Sarasota Ballet, the Sarasota Concert Association and the Ringling Library Town Hall Lecture Series. Another real gem in Sarasota.
And, hearing the 5th Dimension there was a treat. Although there is only one of the original group still singing (Florence LaRue), the songs sounded just as we remembered the originals. In addition to others, the performance included the classics “Up, Up, and Away,” “One Less Bell to Answer” and the iconic “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In.” In addition to Florence (now 76 with the same spunk and voice she had 50 years ago), Floyd Smith (upper right) was a standout. He has an unbelievable 3 three octave, deep base to baritone, range.
Following the concert, Floyd posted this picture and the following on Facebook: “What a fantastic crowd we had here in Sarasota Fl , it was one of the best 5th Dimension shows ever, The singers and the band were on point tonight!
We agree, Floyd!
Recently we received the question, “Sue and Art, why no last names?”
According to WordPress, since this site was established in September (123 days ago) it has been viewed 4,938 times by 1,118 visitors. Some visitors are “one and done;” others are frequent readers.
But the statistic that really caught our attention was the site has been viewed in 21 countries including: Argentina, Bahamas, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Vietnam, in addition to the United States.
We can understand interest by fellow Loopers, friends and family, but why there is an international interest in Loofah III’s experience, is beyond us!
Hackers “mining information?”
While not generally subscribing to unfounded “conspiracy theories,” like the North Koreans or the CIA are specifically following Loofah and its crew, we do try to be careful about the material we post. For that reason, “to protect the innocent,” the site refrains from providing last names and overly detailed specifics. Readers, who possess additional personal knowledge, “can connect the dots.” Others will just have to accept it. Because, hackers may be watching! 21 countries?
Sunday (1/14) Reflections… daily at 1300.
Goodness, how the time flies. It is Sunday, another week has passed, and we are again enjoying our “time for reading, reflection, relaxation, refreshment and research.” Over the Sunday morning fare of bacon, eggs, toast and coffee, our conversation this Sunday turned to a new tradition at Marina Jacks: “Taps” everyday at 1300. In our research, we found the following, posted December 7, 2017 on YourObserver.com:
“A partnership between the marina’s parent company and a military nonprofit has created a daily ritual along the waterfront.” by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor.
“At 1 p.m. every day, the same musical notes can be heard echoing across the water in downtown.
Residents and passers-by might wonder where it’s coming from, unable to place the tune from a distance. The answer to their question can be found at Marina Jack, where a plaque near the entrance explains the recently instituted ritual.
“Each day, at 1300 hours (one o’clock), activity at Marina Jack marina stops as taps is played and the bell tolls thirteen times,” the plaque reads.
A recording of the bugle call plays daily as a moment of remembrance for members of the American armed forces who have sacrificed their lives, said Tom Delong, a vice president with Marina Jack’s parent company, Suntex Marinas.
“It honors our fallen heroes,” Delong said.
The ritual was borne out of a partnership between Suntex Marinas and Folds of Honor, a nonprofit that provides scholarships to the children and spouses of fallen service members.
“That’s one of the main missions they have — helping children carry on with their lives after a parent has fallen,” Delong said.
The nonprofit’s focus is reflected in the small ceremony: The 13 chimes of the bell are sounded to represent the 13 folds in American flags offered to the surviving family of service members and veterans who have died.
Marina Jack began playing taps daily in August. Beyond the plaque at the entrance of the marina, the business hasn’t done much to publicize the significance of the routine.
“We’re supporting the Folds of Honor initiative, so we want the focus to be on the program,” Delong said.
Still, some visitors have taken note, Delong said, passing along their appreciation to staff at Marina Jack — or just taking a moment for solemn reflection as taps plays.
“It means a lot to a lot of people,” Delong said.
It does to the crew of Loofah as well. We have become accustomed to pausing at 1300 to honor those who have fallen protecting the liberties we experience, and take for granted, every day. Thank you!
Saturday (1/13) A “mundane” Saturday? Not!
It was a rather mundane Saturday morning. After catching up on the news, weather, websites, Facebook, emails, text messages, and our network of Loopers, we gave attention to maintaining Loofah’s interior spaces, a weekly chore.
The afternoon, however, was anything but mundane. The plan was Mell and Michael would pick us up in their new Marlow fishing boat (“Two Dogs”) at Marina Jack and we would head to New Pass Grill and Bait Shop on City Island for lunch. The grill & bait shop is described as a “circa 1929 tackle shop & eatery with kitschy fishing décor…”
Sue came back from her morning walk with the news that the weather posted at the boating club located in the marina, included winds NNE 15-20, gusting to 25, and seas (in the Gulf), 4’ to 6’. We could see white-capped rollers in the bay and called Michael to see if the outing should be done by car; we would be happy to pick them up. Michael indicated that they were still good with boating and would see us about noon.
Precisely at noon, “Two Dogs” checked in as it entered the marina and headed to an open slip next to Loofah III. “Two Dogs” is not just a typical center-console fishing craft. It is 38’ of elegance, fitted out with a gyro stabilizer, all of the electronics and navigational gear you could imagine, satellite TV and telephone/internet, and a “cuddy cabin” that you can live in. Michael took delivery of it that the Fort Lauderdale boat show.
With the winds and seas as they were, the plan had changed. We would forgo the New Pass Grill & Bait Shop and to run south, to their home on Siesta Key and have lunch there.
As we departed the marina, the seas hit us broadside, and the craft started to roll significantly. Michael look down, simply pushed a button on the console engaging the stabilizer, and we flattened out.
Mell and Michael’s place is in a small bay, previously the site of a boat yard, that now has been developed into a lovely residential area. The bay is relatively deep and has a sea wall that allows “Two Dogs” to dock at their home. As we came around the corner, we could see a stern with “Tortuga” inscribed, moored. We recalled that “Tortuga” was the name of the boat on which Mell and Michael did the Loop.
With “Two Dogs” secured, we went inside and met the other two dogs who friskily greeted us! We enjoyed a stem to stern tour of “Tortuga” and observations regarding its construction, layout, and amenities, and their experiences doing the Loop in a 65’ yacht!
Michael put German Bauernwurst, procured earlier from Geiers Sausage Kitchen, on the grill. They were outstanding, as was the dialog over lunch which we enjoyed in their lovely home. The alternative was having lunch at a “circa 1929 tackle shop & eatery with kitschy fishing décor…” Boy did we luck out!
After lunch, we were graciously asked if we wanted to return to the marina via boat (this time into the wind and seas) or car. All of us agreed, for various reason, on the former.
On the return trip, the ladies chose to enjoy the warm, secure cabin below. As “Two Dogs” came to the end of a no-wake Manatee zone, Michael knocked on the overhead of the cabin and opened the throttles on the pair of 400hp outboards. What a thrill. From 7kts to over 30 kts, in just seconds!
As we approached the marina, the winds were strong and gusting. It would have been relatively easy to head into the wind, come alongside the fuel pier and drop us off. But Michael again chose an open slip near Loofah, where he masterfully docked “Two Dogs”, winds gusting a beam. We could see why he and Mell, just the two of them, were successful in piloting a 65’ yacht on the Loop.
With warm remarks exchanged, on a cold and blustery day, we stepped ashore, looking forward to our next meeting!
Friday (1/12) The third time around…
For the third time since we have been here in Sarasota, we headed to The Ringling. This time to the Museum of Art.
“Today, The Ringling, the State Art Museum of Florida, is home to one of the preeminent art and cultural collections in the United States. Its story begins nearly a century ago, with the circus impresario and his beloved wife’s shared love for Sarasota, Italy, and art.
“While traveling through Europe in search of acts for his circus, John Ringling, in the spirit of America’s wealthiest Gilded Age industrialists, began acquiring art and gradually built a significant collection. The more he collected, the more passionate and voracious a collector he became, educating himself and working with dealers such as Julius Bohler. He began buying and devouring art books – that would become the foundation of the Ringling Art Library.
Soon after the completion of Ca’ d’Zan, John built a 21-gallery museum modeled on the Florentine Uffizi Gallery to house his treasure trove of paintings and art objects, highlighted by his collection of Old Masters, including Velazquez, Poussin, van Dyke and Rubens. The result is the museum and a courtyard filled with replicas of Greek and Roman sculpture, including a bronze cast of Michelangelo’s David.
John opened the Museum of Art to the public in 1931, two years after the death of his beloved Mable, saying he hoped it would “promote education and art appreciation, especially among our young people.” Five years later, upon his death, Ringling bequeathed it to the people of Florida.
As we drove south on the Tamiami Trail toward Marina Jack, the car took a right over the Ringling Causeway Bridge and found its way to a parking spot just off St. Armands Circle. And, as luck would have it, we not only found a great parking place, Sue was able to find a sweater and a long sleeved blouse! After all, we weren’t properly prepared for this cold weather! (Sarasota high: 73, Des Moines low: -3)
St. Armands has a marvelous history; more on that later.
Thursday (1/11) Dining at various levels!
Sarasota has some of the most varied venues for dining. Today we experienced two of them, within blocks of each other
The first, O’Leary’s Tiki Bar, was our choice for lunch. The sandy, beachfront tiki bar was just a few minutes walk from our slip, but why walk when you can go by sea! And the dingy needed some exercise. Our course was set to depart our slip at the end of the D Dock (less than a 1000 yards from our ultimate destination), take a left at the fountain at the marina entrance through the mooring field, and to parallel the beachfront until we pulled up on the beach. It was just like a Corona beer commercial.
Dinner this evening was at the other end of the spectrum. Willia and Bob graciously invited us back to cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at their 12th floor condo. The vue outside this evening was a bit limited, but the view inside had changed dramatically. Willa and Bob have only been in the condo for a few weeks and the interior decorating is still underway. The walls were painted between our visits and colors magnificently set off their art and collections. They have been so thoughtful having us there when their plates have been full!
And speaking of plates, Willa and Bob are very familiar with the Sarasota dining scene. The options are many. This evening we were heading to The Bijou Cafe located in the heart of Sarasota’s downtown Theatre & Arts District. “Highly rated by Town & Country Magazine, Bon Appetit, and Gourmet, The Bijou Café is consistently one of Sarasota’s highest-rated restaurants.” We were not disappointed.
During dinner, Bob continued to regale us with his delightful stories of times previous. He was able to balance his business life with a substantial, conservative, financial firm, while running Las Vegas junkets and a couple of discos. It was another delightful evening!
Wednesday (1/10) So close, yet so far.
This morning was spent running the errands necessary to support life: Costco, Publix, and Swim City.
After the morning fog burned off, the skies turned crystal clear, and the temperature climbed to 77. (We thought of our family in Des Moines facing temperatures falling from 41 to 1, with 1″ to 3″ of snow forecast.) It was time to exercise Loofah III.
We got underway about about 1:00 and headed north. As we did so, there was Ca’ d’Zan, Ringling’s home on the shore. We remembered its wharf and pictures of “Zalophus,” John Ringling’s 125-foot yacht moored there. How convenient it would be to come alongside and to attend this evenings performance at Mertz Theater, immediately adjacent to the Ringling Estate. Art checked the depth and found Loofah would be aground at low tide. We’d have to return back to the marina and go by car.
In the interim, we dropped anchor, enjoyed lunch and got a little vitamin D. Art took the opportunity to dive the boat. He reported the props looked good and the bottom was still free of salt water creatures.
The evening was spent enjoying “Shakespeare in Love” performed by the Asolo Repertory Theatre. It was opening night and the theater was sold out. Our tickets were in the last rows of highest balcony, but there are no bad seats in the house. The cast did an admirable job and no opening night defugalties were noticed!
The opening night audience was a mostly “senior” group. As we walked out, one of the hosts asked a patron what he thought of the show. The immediate response was, “Terrible.” We discussed his response when we got back to the boat because we (like 40% of those attending) were on our feet at the end of the performance. Were the others too old to get up? Did they have a hard time with the English dialect? Were they offended by the “adult” nature of some of the scenes? Had we experienced a generation gap, this time from the younger side? Who, cares. We loved it!
Tuesday (1/9) A decision, and a road trip with a special ending.
We are not going to trade up to a 34 meter Westport. That was the decision this morning. Why? Simply, we couldn’t do the rivers and canals we have enjoyed so much. The rivers have a personality, a life, that is well captured in this poem written recently by Art’s nine year old grand-daughter.
With that decided, today, by car, we did some backtracking. Our goal was to visit two marinas we passed (for our next loop?) in the Bradenton area and enjoy the barrier islands of St. Armands Key, Longboat Key, and Anna Maria Island.
After enjoying lunch at the Anna Maria Oyster Bar, we drove back to the mainland to visit Twin Dolphins Marina in Bradenton, and Regatta Pointe Marina across the river at Palmetto. When we were in the area, Loofah found a slip at Riveria Dunes. It turned out that Riveria Dunes was beautiful for a day or two, but a bit isolated. After visiting the other two marinas, we agreed that Twin Dolphins (even with its fixed piers) would be more enjoyable. as it was within walking distance of the shops and restaurants of downtown Bradenton,
As we headed for a coke and some chips on the pier of the Regatta Pointe Marina, it was hard to miss this craft! Originally a “Floating Wedding Chapel,” this boat has been re-purposed into a private residence.
But the highlight of the day was a visit and dinner with Art’s nieces’ sister-in-law, Helen. She and her husband, Greg, live nearby and it was a great opportunity time to catch up. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner on the beach at Mar Vista, and enjoyed conversation with this gracious, humorous, “southern” lady!
Evenings like this have been the highlight our our experience on the Loop.
Monday (1/8) We were faced with an interesting question today!
Over breakfast this morning, looking at the two Westport 112′ yachts at the pier, the conversation drifted to what if…
The temperatures finally returned to the 70s and the sun was out. A great day to play golf and Art threw the bag over his shoulder (to conserve space aboard, we play from one bag). As we walked down the pier we conversed with some of the professional crew on one of the yachts. They had some suggestions where we might like to play. We had already selected a course just a few miles from the marina, that looked good on the website, unknown to the crew. That should have been a sign.
It was an interesting course. When we got there we found the front nine was par 35, and the back nine, 29! This would be interesting. The grass was short and the ground hard, so the balls ran, and ran. The most intriguing hole we have ever played was #16. The question was, should we just throw the balls?! If the rules had allowed it, we would have been better off. Oh, well. It was an enjoyable outing, nevertheless.
Our friends from the Westport greeted us upon our return. After fun conversation, they inquired if we would like to see the boat. Absolutely! The Captain and “Stew” (as she referred to herself) took us for a tour. Her statistics: Length: 111′ 8″, Beam: 23′ 9″, Draft: 5′ 6″ Sleeps: 8 in 4 Staterooms, Crew: 5 including Captain, Cruise Speed: 22 Knots, Range: 2500 nm @ 12 kts, Engines: (2) MTU16V2000, Generators: (2) 65 KW, Displacement: 275,000 lbs. Wow, now that’s a YACHT!
It was fun to not only talk about the specifics of the boat (power plant, navigation gear, accommodations, etc.), it was also interesting to hear about the lives of a professional crew, and the places they have been. Most wonderful people!
We picked up our bag of clubs and walked down the pier to Loofah III. We enjoyed dinner aboard, watching the national championship football game, asking the question: would be any more enjoyable on a craft 111’8″ long, than it was on one 49’10”? As we pondered the question, two things we did know: 1) it had room for two sets of clubs, and 2) we certainly could have more Loopers aboard for “docktails”!
Sunday (1/7) A day late…
As mentioned in the blog previously, Sunday for Loofah’s crew is typically a day for reading, reflection, relaxation, refreshment and research. ** As we enjoyed Sue’s onboard breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast and coffee (a Sunday treat), we looked at the date and realized that yesterday was “Epiphany.”
In the western churches, Epiphany observes the visit of the Three Wise Men to the infant Jesus, usually celebrated on January 6. But in the Orthodox churches, as we learned while we were in the Greek community of Tarpon Springs, Epiphany observes Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan by John the Baptist.
Apparently, Tarpon Springs’ Epiphany is very similar to how Epiphany is celebrated in Greece and is home to the largest Epiphany festival in the country. It is such a major event (up to 20,000 people attend) that the archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in America often attends the festivities. We decided to Google the local Tarpon Springs websites to check in on this years observance.
Epiphany is celebrated over two days, beginning with the Blessing of the Fleet on Friday and culminating in the blessing of the waters on Saturday, including the diving for a cross. During this ritual, a high-ranking member of the Greek Orthodox Church throws a cross into Spring Bayou, and dozens of teenage boys dive for it. The dive signifies Christ’s immersion into the River Jordan. The diver who retrieves the cross receives the blessing of the church, and it’s said he will have good fortune and “divine beneficence” in the new year. After the dive, there’s a festival called Glendi, that features Greek food and traditional music and dancing.
Tarpon Springs residents believe St. Nicholas, the city’s patron saint and the namesake of the Greek Orthodox Church in the city, protects them from hurricanes. Before Hurricane Irma last year, the last hurricane to pass through Tarpon Springs was in 1920. And even though the city was impacted by Irma, Epiphany organizers say St. Nicholas is still protecting Tarpon Springs as they didn’t get the stronger, major hurricane that was at one point predicted to hit the area.
We reflected on the Blessing of the Fleet in which we participated last Spring, and the role the waters have played in our lives and everyone’s, in so many ways, over the centuries.
** Sunday’s also include watching NFL football games and PGA golf events. These were not included in the above list as they don’t start with “R.” Rest assured, the crew will be watching today’s playoff games!
Saturday (1/6) The land of “proper” yachts and clubs.
On November 12 we passed under Cochrane Bridge, located on N30.73456 latitude. Located at the north end of Mobile Bay, it was the last bridge we encountered as we made our way down the various rivers from Lake Michigan to to Gulf of Mexico. A funny thing happened as we passed south of N30.7345: Loofah III shrank!
Not restricted by the depth of the channels, or getting under fixed bridges, the size of the boats we began to engage grew significantly! We were now in the company of “proper” * yachts.
This became most evident when we approached slip 17 at the far end of Marina Jack’s D Dock. Our neighbors were enormous and Loofah, lost at the end of the pier, looked like she could be one of their tenders!
Art could have been a little embarrassed today, washing the accumulated salt from the boat, even launching the dingy to get the nasty crystals removed from the hull. After all, a proper yacht had professional Captains and crews that coordinated that work with professional detailing crews. But Art takes pride in, and actually enjoys the exercise, rigging, tools and mechanics necessary to maintain Loofah (as much as he can) by himself. Although still a bit nippy, it was a beautiful day to accomplish the task.
The highlight of the day was dinner with friends from Des Moines at the Sarasota Yacht Club. We have passed the club, located on Coon Key, right off the John Ringling Causeway, many times. But, at the invitation of Michael and Mell, we were finally able to pass through its gates.
We are members of the Milwaukee Yacht Club, which was founded in 1871. Through reciprocity agreements, we have been able to visit and enjoy a number of other yacht clubs. Among them,the Sarasota Yacht Club would, indeed, be deemed a most proper club!
But, it was not the venue that was most enjoyable, it was the conversation. Michael and Mell did the loop in 2009 in their 65′ boat. With the swim platform added, it had to be the largest craft to the the loop that year, and still may be. The four of us swapped experiences of times on the water, and times spent with friends and family on watercraft. It was apparent that all of us have been informed by the seas.
As we returned to the boat, we again realized that friendships, not proper yachts and clubs, make life worth living!
* Use here, the adjective “proper” is something that is genuine, suitable, appropriate, and distinctive.
Friday (1/5) “Bay-front, one owner home, fully furnished and ready for entertaining.”
It is impossible to be in Sarasota without seeing the name “Ringling.” Although we have been to Sarasota on numerous occasions, our visit to the Ringling museums and home was a first for us. Phenomenal!
We had lunch and spent the afternoon touring Cá d’Zan, the summer home of John and Mable Ringling, and the adjacent Circus Museum. We were among the last out when the doors closed at 5:00, yet we hadn’t even had time to get into the Museum of Art. Before we left, we confirmed that the “ROAM” feature of our Des Moines Art Center membership would apply to the entrance fee for a later visit. We were pleased to find, it did, and that we could even go through the priority entrance available to members.
One of the prominent features of the Circus Museum is the train car, “Wisconsin,” on which John and Mable toured with the circus. The docent said that the Ringlings spent more time in that train car than all of their beautiful homes.
We were aware that the Ringling Brothers started their circus in Baraboo, Wisconsin, as we had seen the Circus World Museum when we did an open-water SCUBA certification dive there at Devils State Park. What we didn’t knows was that John was actually born in McGregor, Iowa, our home state. The Winter Quarters of the circus was moved to Sarasota in 1927.
In addition to the circus, Ringling had investments in oil, real estate (owning all the barrier keys of Sarasota Bay, with the exception of Siesta Key), rail roads and ranching, among others. It was while traveling to Europe that he and Mable fell in love with Venice, it’s architecture and art. We enjoyed sitting on “porch,” looking over Sarasota Bay, thinking about the celebrities, business tycoons, investors and politicians that were guests of the Ringlings here, and wonderful entertaining that went on within these walls, for three months of the year.
John and Mable, together, were able to enjoy this dream of theirs for just three years. Soon, John endured many misfortunes, including the death of his beloved wife, and the loss of virtually all of his fortune. The story of how (and why) he was able to keep Cá d’Zan and the art collection together, away from creditors including the Federal government, is fascinating.
The story of Sarasota is the story of John and Mable Ringling!
Thursday (1/4) Wow, what a VUE!
It is always marvelous to see Des Moines friends in a different setting. And today was no exception.
As we walk down the pier from our slip to the shore, it is hard to miss a beautiful building that has been recently completed, provding the background. In our continuing quest to dream into the future, Art mentioned that it would be fun to see one of the condos.
We were having lunch at Old Salty Dog on City Island when Sue got a text, wondering if we were available for a cocktail and dinner. It was from a Des Moines friend, Willa. We were delighted and received the proposal: a cocktail at their condo, followed by dinner on the town.
As fortune would have it, Willa and Bob’s place was a short walk across the street in, of all places, the beautiful building we had been admiring. It is called the “VUE.” And boy, does it have one!
Willa was a classmate and good friend of Art’s first-cousin, Babs. Although in different class years, they all went to the same high school. Bob had worked with Art’s father establishing Neumann Brothers’ first group pension plan, a fact that had not been established previously. The conversation was easy and most enjoyable.
As Bob and Willa dropped us off at the marina, we agreed that we needed to dine again before we departed Sarasota. Art went to sleep thinking about their beautiful condo!
Wednesday (1/3) Settling in.
Sarasota has been a favorite of ours for years. We intend to settle in here for a couple of weeks.
Through the years, we have enjoyed the various restaurants at Marina Jack, as we did so, fondly looking at the boats in the marina. Now we are actually on one of them!
It is a rainy, windy day; a good day to enjoy the “New York Times” that appeared on Loofah’s aft deck earlier this morning. Now that is customer service!
Tuesday (1/2) Back to Marina Jack.
The overcast sky broke about noon, but the winds continued from the NNE at 20-25, gusts to 28. The weather channels on the VHF were reporting “small craft warnings” for the entire Florida Gulf coast. Small craft warnings are defined as “sustained winds or frequent gusts ranging between 25 and 33 knots and/or seas or waves 5 to 7 feet.”
Our float plan for the day was to cruise 30 miles south to Sarasota. Given the direction of the wind, we would be in sheltered water while we were in the Manatee River between Palmetto and Bradenton, as well as on the GICW from Anna Maria Island to Sarasota. Our only exposure to the predicted seas would be a stretch of about 5 miles in the Gulf, west of the entrance to Tampa Bay and the Sunshine Skyway.
We got underway at 1:25. There was only a minor chop on the Manatee River. As we approached the Gulf we could see a sailboat under power, struggling to head north. It was “hobby horsing” badly, with its bow dipping into the oncoming waves, which appeared to be 2 to 4, occasionally 3 to 5. As we entered the Gulf, we adjusted our course, “veering” to keep the waves off our beam. For the next half hour, Loofah III preformed admirably in the seas.
As anticipated, once we reentered the GICW at Anna Maria Island, the water settled. We had a pleasant run through Sarasota Bay, enjoying the dolphins that frolicked in our wake.
We approached Marina Jack at 3:45 and were directed to slip D17. After getting secured, and a nice conversation with George and Rene aboard “Bodacious,” we enjoyed a cocktails and dinner aboard.
New Years, 2018 – Reflections
It was on New Years Eve, 2002, that I proposed to Sue before a crackling fire at the Rittenhouse B&B in frigid Bayfield, WI. Fortunately, the surprised woman said, “Yes.” We joined my sister and brother-in-law at Christ Episcopal Church for music and a New Years service. It was a “high church” celebration with “smells and bells,” and the incense nearly did in my new fiancee. Although less memorable, we have always had wonderful times on NYE. On one of them, daughter Ellen gave birth to #1 grandchild, Caroline.
We had a choice this evening. 1) A “Florida formal” dinner, with dancing ashore, 2) a “Topsider” event on the pier adjacent to the two floating swimming pools where we could enjoy the camaraderie of other mariners listening and dancing to the music provided by the venue mentioned in 1) above, or 3) champagne, steaks and a bit of dancing aboard Loofah III.
As we enjoyed our late dinner, watching the globe fall in NYC, exchanging texts (as you do now, right?) with family and friends, we reflected on the blessings of the past year.
We are so fortunate.
Experiences over Christmas and the last few days drove it home.
Earlier, reference was made to Mike on “Comic Relief.” Mike and Cindy bought their boat with the anticipation to doing the Loop within the next year. Mike volunteered that they were considering their options; on Friday, Mike had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When he responded to his friend who asked, “How’s it going,” and Mike responded, “I’ve got some challenges,” as he held the hand of his wife; my heart broke for them.
We started the New Year with each other, realizing just how fortunate we are!
Sue joins me in sending you our best wishes for a 2018 filled with many Joyful moments!
Happy New Year!
Sunday (12/31) Get set for the New Year!
New Years, here we come! A wonderful day to head 23.8 miles across the entrance to Tampa Bay to Riveria Dunes Marina in Palmetto.
Forty-five minutes of exercise, Sue afoot and Art on bike, started the day. The locals were enjoying brunch and the “Casino” was getting prepared for a New Years dance. Art bumped into Mike and Cindy of “Comic Relief”. A friend of theirs came up to them and inquired of Mike, “How you doing?” Mike simply responded, “I’ve got some challenges.” The conversation went to the evening’s events. Mike invited us to join them at the yacht club where a beer cooler would be lowered from the yardarm at midnight. Unfortunately, we were booked at River Dunes that evening. Art shook hands with Mike, “I’ll be thinking of you.”
As we departed Gulfport, we decided to try a route that had a relatively low, fixed bridge, that would save us some time. As we approached we checked the clearance boards. The tidal current was running, pulling us toward the structure. We approached in “docking mode,” ready to back off should it be necessary. Sue stuck her head up through the open sun roof, gave the thumbs up and we proceeded. Close!
The rest of the cruise was most enjoyable, shared best with pictures.
Saturday (12/30) Easy days, heading south.
Our float plan was open from Tarpon Springs (where we left the boat for our Christmas trip home) to Sarasota (where we are going to take some time to play golf and visit friends). Our first day was 20 miles to Clearwater; today was 24 miles down the GICW to Gulfport.
Art started the day with a bicycle ride across the causeway to Clearwater Beach. As the sun rose, it illuminated the beach highrises.
There are many ways to fish. Some prefer a solitary experience in a small boat; some a 6 person charter; still others, spaced about 7′ at the rail of a larger boat.
Today’s cruise, with the exception of a Pirate attack, was uneventful as we passed from high rise structures and replaced them with smaller homes. As we passed through the narrows, we heard “Horizon” requesting a bridge opening. As Loofah’s “air draft” was low enough to pass under the bridges without opening, we had caught up with Ken and Ruth. We hailed Gulfport Marina on VHF channel 68 and both boats proceeded to the two fuel docks before proceeding to our slips.
We assisted the crew of “Comic Relief” (Mike and Cindy) get into their slip next to us. Mike said he appreciated the assistance as it was just the third time he had done it. They had been at a “T” in the marina previously. Mike and Art talked at some length; more on that later.
Mike, a local, suggested a few resturants. We got on our bikes and heading into the charming town for dinner.
Friday (12/29) 1870 and underway to Clearwater
After breakfast the marina gate key was returned to the office. Next, our intention was to get Loofah III pumped out and fueled up. Both projects were less than successful. Turtle Cove is a very well regarded marina, but it took over 35 minutes to partially pump out the holding tank. When we went to get fuel, the employee at the pier didn’t take instruction particularly well, noting that he was actually the fork-lift operator. During the next half hour, we took on 28 gallons of fuel before we decided to move on.
Our destination was Clearwater Harbor. Our log read 1870 miles when we departed.
Our cruise was uneventful as we again carefully navigated the narrow GICW. We were secured in our slip and all hooked up in time for a libation watching the sunset. That evening, as the dinner cruise boats passed, one named “Star Ship IV” we thought of grandson James, our Star Wars expert.
Thursday (12/28) Changing gears, and seasons!
Upon our return last night, it was great to see Loofah floating securely in her berth. Today was spent preparing to resume our way down Florida’s Gulf coast. We jumped the Jolly Trolley for a provisioning trip to Publix.
It was amazing to see what had happened in our absence: tourists! Dodecanese Blvd and the Sponge Docks were shoulder-to-shoulder with them! We had been told earlier that “the season” starts the day after Christmas and runs to Mother’s Day. Indeed, it started on schedule.
Our last evening in Tarpon Springs was spent at Rusty Bellies, watching the Iowa Hawkeyes beat Boston College in NYC’s Pinstripe Bowl, 27-20. The place was BUSY and our waitress, Kelly C, came back to the table to inform Sue that the chicken salad she had ordered was no longer available. Sue simply resounded, “That’s OK. I understand.” Apparently, some of the guests had not been that gracious that evening. We had a delightful conversation with Kelly, and later the manager, about how everyone should have an opportunity to wait on others. Unilaterally, the restaurant made an unnecessary adjustment to our bill. Rusty Bellies is 5-star!
Tomorrow it will be time to get Loofah III underway.
“There is no place like home for the holidays!”
So on Thursday, December 21 the crew of Loofah III traveled 1300 miles north. The temperature in Tampa the day we left, 79.
Friday morning at 0700, Art had breakfast with a group of guys with whom he has been meeting since 1976; a marvelous way to start the visit. Next, “The stocking were hung by the chimney with care.” No, not quite. In our transition, we lost a fireplace in the move to the condo, so mirrors would have to do for the 12 stockings. We had a delightful day, listening to carols, singing, decorating, and dipping into a bit of eggnog.
Later that night, however, Sue became violently ill, and spent the next 48 hours flat on her back. That was a problem, as Saturday was to be our day of shopping and we weren’t going anywhere! Sue spent Sunday rebuilding her energy while Art ran a few errands and created a game (since shopping had been aborted), involving pictures of presents hidden behind “doors” created on six-segment picture frames.
Fortunately, Sue recovered sufficiently so we could attend services and see our friends at St. John’s Lutheran.
Monday, Christmas Day, was filled with family. Matt, Molly and Jenn came to exchange gifts around out tree. Art’s present to his loving wife? A picture of the prop set we got in Green Turtle Bay. A real romantic guy, eh? The it was off to Sue’s brother’s home, and her extended family. Ellen checked in from Thailand. It was a great day.
Monday, we enjoyed having Jack and James for the day. Things we accomplished: a snow ball fight, lunch at “Five Guys,” a stop at Barnes and Noble for books, a stop for birthday cards for cousin Caroline (10 on 12/31), and swimming at the condo. We returned to Charlie’s loft for dinner, and unexpectedly, another gift exchange. Among other gifts, Charlie gave CoCo a huge buffalo head prepared by a Wyoming taxidermist. A real romantic guy, eh? And there was a delightful treasure hunt, with wonderful cut-outs to top off the great evening!
On Tuesday, we departed for Loofah III. The thermometer read “-8”, but we will be filled with warmth! It was a wonderful Christmas.
Wednesday (12/20) 2294.5 miles in just 10!
On a previous sailing charter, we anchored one evening as we returned from the Dry Tortugas to Key West. We were awakened early in the morning by increasingly significant thuds. Our hull was rhythmically hitting ground with each wave as the tide receded. Soon, the bouncing subsided and we were fully on the hard.
Remembering that experience, Art slept fitfully last night, waiting for the thud. But it never came. Our slip flip had worked! Loofah was afloat at low tide, and with room to spare where it was needed (at the props).
Relieved, we decided to change cultures today, from Grecian to Scottish; from Tarpon Springs to Dunedin. Google Maps indicated that the distance from Scotland to Greece, via A3, is 2294.5 miles; here it was just 10 miles on the Jolly Trolley.
The Nation Trust for Historic Preservation notes, “Florida’s Gulf Coast might seem like a dubious place to discover Celtic history, but sandwiched between Clearwater and Palm Harbor is a city that boasts a proud Scottish heritage — and an admirable preservation ethic.
“Dunedin is one of the state’s oldest towns, tracing its history to 1852, when Richard L. Garrison recorded the first land deed. Its current moniker was bestowed in 1882 after two Scottish merchants — J.O. Douglas and James Somerville — petitioned to name the post office, and then the town itself, after the Gaelic interpretation of their hometown of Edinburgh.”
Christmas has come to the downtown business district that is notable for its absence of large commercial signage, corporate franchise restaurants or chain retail stores. Golf carts are the preferred mode of travel. And, you might note in the above picture of Flanagan’s, in this season of giving, even the pay stations are wrapped. A present from the City Council – no charge to park from 12/14 to 1/2.
Our waiter at Flanagan’s spoke of the continuing connections and exchanges with its Sister City of Stirling, Scotland. But, he added, when spring training for major league baseball begins, Dunedin is taken over by Canadians, not Scots. Dunedin is the spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Back to Tarpon Springs on the Jolley Trolley.
This evening Mike and Laurie (“Firestorm”), Mike (“Dash Away”) and Bud and Susan (“Odyssey”) joined us on Loofah to swap stories. It is always an enjoyable way to end the day. Much to be learned and discussed.
Tuesday (12/19) Postscript
We should have known. “Capt’n Jacks” was not Greek.
It was a beautiful evening for a dinghy ride to dinner. We love an open air venue over looking water, and Capt’n Jack’s fit the bill perfectly. As we headed back to the marina, the two different industries of Tarpon Springs became evident. On the southern shore we saw the lights of the quiet Dedecanese Blvd., the center of restaurants and shops catering to tourists. On the north-side of the bay, we saw the working lights of “Miss Alena” and its crew working into the night, taking their iced catch to shore.
We enjoyed the fresh, clear night, looking at the stars as we returned to Loofah.
Art checked the lines and we hit the sack.
Tuesday (12/19) A tidal challenge… and sabotaged?
Today’s priority: mail the Christmas cards and explore the community of Dunedin. Sue looked for post offices near the Jolley Trolley route. It turned out that the closest was actually here in Tarpon Springs, about 1.7 miles east of the marina. As Sue’s knee was improving, but not 100%, Art headed to the bikes with a sack full of mail.
As he opened Loofah’s aft door, he saw the bow of one of the kayaks that had been tied ashore, in the air! The tide was LOW. In fact, it appeared that our propulsion units (props) were aground. There was noting to do but check that tide tables to see when more water would be heading our way. In the interim, Art rode to the post office.
When Art returned, we surveyed the bottom with an hand-held depth finder. The solution to our problem appeared to be to turn the boat around in the slip, with the bow toward the shore and the stern, hopefully, in deeper water.
The reason we didn’t do that originally was that the finger pier from the shore was relatively short and we couldn’t get off the boat from the stern swim platform to the pier unless the boat was stern-in. With the bow in, we would need a ladder to get access to the pier from the deck. Sue found a West Marine store (near the post office, no less) that had a ladder in stock, that would assist. Art was back on his bike!
Loofah was flipped in the slip. We’ll see, at 7:44 AM tomorrow, if our measurements prove out. If not, we may be looking for a quick move; Loofah needs to have ample water under her hull on Wednesday when we depart for Des Moines.
As long as we had limited time to explore Dunedin, we opted out and Art went to work on the DISH satellite system we had purchased at Camping World while in Mobile. We need news and football! Since leaving Mobile, we have been in the dark. The people at DISH changed our zip code and walked us through the re-connection. We are now watching the evening news, and are anxious to be recipients of the upcoming “middle class tax cuts!”
Our current plan is to get into the dinghy and cross the little bay to “Captain Jack’s” for dinner. If there is no post in the next 24 hours, it is possible that our RIB has been sabotaged and we have been lost at sea! It is possible we parked in the wrong area! Tarpon Springs is a special place!
Monday (12/18) Is this Athens, no Tarpon Springs!
Our day started with an email from Ed and Sue Kelly. Although we had never met, we have numerous Des Moines friends in common. Their boat, “Angel Louise,” was secured in Marker 1 Marina down the coast a few miles in Dunedin and they were heading to Tarpon Springs on the Jolly Trolley. We met for an extended lunch at Rusty Bellies. Sue and Ed are REAL sailors, have taken their catamaran, “Angel Louise,” to 49 countries on 5 continents! It was a memorable luncheon!
The balance of the day was spent enjoying Tarpon Springs a community first settled in 1876 and named after the giant Tarpon that jumped in the bayou. But it was the founding of the commercial sponge industry in 1890 changed Tarpon Springs forever.
The sponge beds were discovered accidentally in 1873 by Key West turtle fishermen whose nets were fouled by sponges off the mouth of the Anclote River. Spongers moved to the area to work the beds, and during the 1890s, sponge packing houses were built, sponge presses were installed, and buyers moved to town. Early in the 1900’s, Philadelphia bank John Cheyney set up shop here believing that the sponge beds were among the worlds best.
Cheyney hired a Greek diver, John Corcoris who introduced the first mechanized sponge fishing boat to Tarpon Springs and then brought in 500 divers (know for their free diving abilities) from Greece to assist. Other Greeks soon followed and established businesses to serve the Greek community, including restaurants, candy shops, coffee houses and grocery stores.
Today, Tarpon Springs has the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the US.
Although you can find “loofah” sponges all over town, they don’t come from the sea! A loofah is actually fruit that looks like a gourd that grows on a vine that is cultivated and can be eaten as a vegetable. When the fruit is fully ripened, it is very fibrous. The fully developed fruit is the source of the loofah, a scrubbing sponge that “exfoliates and rejuvenates,” and our “Loofah” does just that!
Later that night we toasted the crew (Tim, Patty, Marcia, Harvey) and the wonderful times we had in September 2006 sailing the Greek Islands of Mikonos, Folegrandros, Santorini, Patmos, Telendos, Pserimous and Kos.
We slept soundly after the Ozo!
Sunday (12/17) We went a bit dinghy!
It was a beautiful day, one of the warmest we have experienced since leaving Milwaukee. We decided to stay in swimsuits and to take a picnic lunch aboard our little 10′ tender to check out the harbor and mangroves.
As we passed by this yard, it was hard to miss the bee hives. Sue recalled reading that honey is one of Florida’s more successful crops. In addition to Florida being one of the nation’s top five honey producers, it also exports bees, leasing hives to help pollinate crops in about 27 states. But over the last decade, disease, extreme weather, loss of foraging grounds, and an invasion of Africanized bees have created a perfect storm of peril for honey bees. As honeybees pollinate 90 percent of the country’s commercial crops, something had to be done. In Florida the answer has been encouraging back yard bee keeping as a hobby, and it seems to be working!
We love our little 10′ dinghy as it can take us to places inaccessible to Loofah III, and we can operate a full year on 5 gallons of gas!
After another great day on the water, it was time to return to “The Mother Ship” as grandson James, a Star Wars aficionado, refers to it.
As we returned to the pier we were greeted by Mike and Laurie (“Firestorm”) who had replaced “Islandia” in the slip next to us; and Larry and Cindy (“Bucket List”) who were walking by at the time. “Firestorm” and “Bucket List” left Carabelle on Friday, as we did, but chose “The Big Bend” route to Tarpon Springs. Instead of a direct crossing, the route goes from Carabelle to Steinhatchee, then Cedar Key and on to Tarpon Springs. Unfortunately, Cindy reported that they had to contend with some uncomfortable seas for the three days they had been underway. We were fortunate, as apparently Loofah III was the only boat to experience an “NBD” crossing.
After we had just moved things aboard, Sue heard a “Hello there!” It was none other than Herb Seaton, Tarpon Springs well know and regarded “Harbor Host.” Harbor Hosts are AGLCA members who volunteer to assist members in whatever way they can. Herb was making his rounds, talking with Loopers at the marina, passing out great information, maps and even a box of Cinnamon Streusel Cakes for breakfast!
Herb suggested some things to see, places to eat, and a brief (most enjoyable) history of Tarpon Springs.
Tonight, following Herb’s recommendation, we dined at “Costa’s Greek Cuisine” and tomorrow we plan to spend the day in this wonderful little “Grecian Fishing Village.”
Saturday (12/16) Finally, we’re really in Florida!
Over coffee this morning, Art mentioned that he felt like “Freshman final week was over,” that we had completed our first exams and passed. We have been Loopers for 95 days, traveled 1870 miles, and navigated the lakes, rivers, canals, locks and open waters of 8 states so far. But it was the last leg that felt like the test. It was our longest open water experience on a boat without sails! What happens if the engines die 90 miles out? We are nothing more than a helpless cork bobbing in the Gulf. But we are here, secure.
Our goal today was to get the lay of the land. To do so we hopped aboard the “Jolley Trolley” that runs from Tarpon Springs all the way to Clearwater. At $2.50 for an all-day senior pass, it was a deal! We decided to have lunch at the Palm Pavilion on Clearwater Beach. The white sand, life guard stands, umbrellas, and aerial advertisements were all here. And to top it all off, during lunch, right in front of us, a wedding! We were in finally in the “real” Florida!
One of the dilemmas that Loopers face is “what next?” Art saw this rig raking the beach and thought he might consider applying.
We spent the remainder of the day sightseeing on the Jolly Trolley, returning to Loofah for a quiet dinner and a Netflix movie.
Friday (12/15) Loofah III makes a “NBD” crossing.
We departed from The Moorings Marina about 7:30 AM this morning and arrived in Tarpon Springs shortly after 4:00 PM: 170 miles averaging an easy 20 mph. After we described the crossing, one of the Turtle Cove Marina hands said, “It sounds like an NBD crossing.” Sue inquired, “A what?” The hand responded, “A No Big Deal” crossing. It was.
Art is no meteorologist, but he likes to look at the NOAA website to glean what he can. As we caught up to, and passed this cloud formation mid-morning, he smiled; “Just like what they showed.”
What he was referring to was the front that had been the topic of Looper discussions for the past several days. And there it was!
As we came into the marina, we were directed to a slip next to “Islandia.” Bob described their “slow crossing” that started at noon the previous day. As forecast, they had relatively smooth sailing until about 10:00 PM. But then winds shifted and the seas began to build and become confused. They had a rough ride until about 5:00 AM. “Islandia” reached land before sunrise so they anchored safely out in the bay. Bob, an anesthesiologist, prescribed a nip and some sleep. With the benefit of daylight to see then channel markers, they proceeded through the narrow channel to Turtle Cove Marina. It was clear that the crew of “Islandia” didn’t have a “NBD” crossing like “Loofah’s!”
It was time for a dresser, shave, shower and a walk into town for dinner at Rusty Bellies.
Thursday (12/14) Learning the proper way to swallow…
By custom and the rules of each house of Congress, members are allowed to “revise and extend” their remarks made on the floor. The same privilege is hereby invoked regarding yesterday’s post.
After such a delightful time aboard Mother Ocean Tuesday night, we decided to host docktails on Loofah III and not to meet at the Captains Lounge as previously reported. We “provisioned” down the street at C Quarters Liquors, making sure to get “Tito’s” Vodka. As gin drinkers, Loofah’s crew was not familiar with the “Award Winning, Distilled 6 Times, Handmade Vodka, Crafted in an Old Fashioned Pot Still by America’s Original Microdistillery in Austin, Texas.”
What we did know: it was Capt. Dennis’s flavor of choice.
It was another memorable evening with Dennis, Jan, Bob and Diane. After a few evenings together, you grow to know and appreciate each other beyond the boat talk.
For example, later in the evening when Art found out that Diane had a Master’s Degree in speech therapy from Columbia, he mentioned the difficulty his Aunt Betsy had with swallowing. Diane diagnosed it immediately as a “corkscrew” esophagus. Fearing a genetic link with his Aunt, Art inquired if there were any exercises he could do to prevent or delay the onset of this ailment.
After some ribald comments, Diane said the only way to deal with it was to learn the proper way to swallow. She presented each of us with a Frito’s brand Scoop corn chip, one of two “perfect demonstration foods.” She then took us through the proper chewing, pulverization, and whetting techniques to be utilized before allowing the mush to start the three-stage descent to the stomach.
It was noted this morning, that Art took a good deal more time eating his Cheerios. There is much to be learned over docktails!
At noon, Islandia and Mother Ocean shoved off for their 20+ hour, over night cruise to Tarpon Springs. Loofah III was sorry to see them depart.
We turned our attention to Christmas cards and the weather, as we intend to start the crossing at daylight tomorrow.
No docktails this evening!
Wednesday (12/13) Waiting patiently (?) for the next “weather window.”
For days in advance of reaching Carrabelle, Loopers are watching the weather to find a day (or night) when conditions are favorable to cross the Gulf (175 miles) to Tarpon Springs or Clearwater. The last “window” was on December 3rd.
In addition to NOAA and other marine forecasts, as members of America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association (AGLCA) we also have access to “Eddy’s Weather Wag.” Volunteer Eddy Johnsen analyzes several weather reports each morning during the season and advises whether he, as a captain, would cross on that day.
Today’s entry: Ahoy Fellow Loopers! Go-Fast Loopers may get the chance to break away from the northern Gulf coast in a daylight-only crossing on Friday (15th). I don’t want to create false hope for the rest of you waiting for an over-night weather window. But if things will “shift” just a little bit, perhaps it will allow a Saturday night / Sunday crossing. Otherwise, we’ll have to wait until sometime beyond Tuesday (19th) for an overnight weather-window.
For safety, it is best to leave and arrive at ports during daylight hours as bright lights ashore can often obscure lights on buoys and day markers, and the buoys on crap traps are not lighted. Here, this time of year the sun rises about 7:00 AM and sets about 6:00 PM. So leaving an hour safety margin, a boat needs to go just under 20mph (a “Go-Fast” boat) to make it 9 hours during the day. If your boat cruises at 8 mph, as many trawlers do, the crossing will take about 22 hours. So most slower boats start before noon, travel during the night, and make landfall the next morning about 8:00.
Today was spent reviewing weather, returning email and calls, tending to the blog, kayaking and relaxing. Oops, have to sign off… time for docktails up in the marinas “Captains Lounge.”
Tuesday (12/12) Getting staged for “The Crossing.”
The Gulf Intercoastal Waterway (GICW) runs approximately 1,365 miles east from Brownsville, Texas, through New Orleans and Mobile Bay, to Carrabelle, FL. At that point there is a 175 mile open water gap before it resumes near Tarpon Springs, FL.
As Loofah III got underway at 11:20 AM it was hard to miss two more sailboats that had found rest aground. By 13:45 Loofah III completed the last 30 miles of the Mobile Bay to Carrabelle leg, a total of 377 miles. Although the distance between the mainland and Saint George Island, the barrier island to the southeast, is as much as 7 miles, the bay is extremely shallow and the navigable channel can be just a little more than 150 feet. As the cruising guides admonish: Lesson #1, it is always best to pay attention to the channel markers!
As we approached the entrance to Carrabelle, we gave way to a small boat towing a dinghy. Shortly thereafter it stopped suddenly, just ahead of us. It appeared, while he was drifting toward an adjacent sandbar, he was pouring gas into his tank. Fortunately he had the wisdom to take a break from that evolution, and to put his anchor out! We asked if he needed assistance. He said he was okay and continued to pour gas. Having done all we could do, we proceeded. So close, yet so far. Lesson #2, it is best to pay attention to your fuel.
As we continued up the Carrabelle River, it was impossible to miss this unfortunate sight. Lesson #3: There is a reason not to be in the Gulf during hurricane season!
We topped off our fuel tanks and got pumped out at The Moorings Marina before were secured Loofah III along the wall, just in front of Mother Ocean who have arrived earlier in the day. After washing the salt off the boat, we were invited aboard Mother Ocean for dinner. Such a gracious gesture! Jan is a marvelous cook, having been the owner of restaurants in an earlier life. It was delightful dinner and opportunity to spin stories with Dennis and Jan, as well as Bob and Diane (“Islandia”) whose boat was in an adjacent slip.
Monday (12/11) Coming to the end of the trail.
The sunrise this morning was as beautiful as the sunset last evening (although Sue generally misses the sunrises). Art generally uses this quiet time for contemplation, reading and research.
Today our course would take us through the last segment of this part of the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway, to Apalachicola, 62 miles east. There is always something to be seen and discussed as we cruise. Getting up to speed, we were again greeted by some playful dolphins frolicking in our wake. They appeared joyful. We wondered what they were feeling, hearing, thinking. Delightful!
As we passed “Wild Cat,” we wondered about her story. Did her skipper try to find a safe “hurricane hole” that turned out not to be?
And then there were these crab traps. We had seen and avoided numerous buoys indicating their presence, but this was the first time we could put a face with them. Tough work for a little haul.
Sue was at the helm when we passed through “Little Double Bayou.” Although 5 miles long and up to two miles wide, the 9’ deep channel was less than 150 feet wide; just outside of it, the depth could be 3’, or less. As we passed this island we thought of Tom Hanks and “Wilson” in “Cast Away.”
The notation on the chart is : “9”, Fl-G 2.5s 17ft 3M Ra Ref, PA. It designates, among other things, a green, lighted, aid to navigation with the number “9” on it, that is 17 feet tall and whose light can be seen at a distance of 3 miles. Really? Apparently, an endangered species selected this perch for its nest. Not to be disturbed, the Corps of Engineers had to improvise. At a lower height, could the light be seen 3 miles? And what mother would build a nest on a flashing light? More to ponder.
We arrived at Scipio Creek Marina about 2:45, secured the boat, and walked into town seeking oysters. Our mission was accomplished (more on that follows for those interested). As we had passed into the Eastern Time Zone earlier in the day, our “clocks” are a bit screwed up as we headed to bed.
TODAY’S EXTRA: “Damn the dam, and the people of Atlanta!”
Art LOVES fresh oysters on the half shell, so a stop in Apalachiocola was a must!
“Unlike most Gulf Coast towns that anyone’s actually heard of, the city of Apalachicola is not a tourist destination. Its industry is oysters, which are pulled out of the bay and are reported to be some of the best on Earth. That’s not hyperbole. The New York Times asked around in 2002 and came to that conclusion. Garden & Gun magazine concurred in 2008. Field & Stream agreed in 2013. They taste slightly salty and slightly sweet. They’re typically large and plump — three inches across is the standard. As one New Orleans restaurant owner told the Times more than a decade ago, ‘Little tiny oysters from other places don’t fill up your mouth.’”
So Art was absolutely crushed to find out that the oysters he was eating at the “Up the Creek Raw Bar” had not come from Apalachicola, but from Cedar Key (two hours away)! What gives? Although the waitress gave us a brief overview, more research was necessary when we returned to Loofah.
Oysters were sold locally as early as 1836, harvested much the same as they are today with scissor-shaped tongs hoisted aboard shallow-draft skiffs. By 1850, oysters had begun to be packed in barrels and shipped aboard steamers headed north or to other neighboring states.
The market continued to prosper with ebbs and flows throughout the majority of the 20th century due to droughts, hurricanes, the BP oil spill, and poor reef management. In 1990 the industry was thriving, but 25 years later, the market has hit the floor, and it’s facing a long and uncertain road toward any potential comeback.
The turmoil the oyster industry faces can be traced back 2015. It’s when the United States Army Corps of Engineers recommended that some water flowing through the Buford Dam, located on the Chattahoochee River in northern Georgia, should be used for the city of Atlanta’s water supply. Ultimately the water from that river dumps into Apalachicola Bay, creating brackish waters that allow the local wildlife, including oysters, to thrive. Reducing the fresh water, which provides necessary nutrients for oyster populations, increases salinity in the bay, bringing in new predators and oyster disease.
The result of the oyster market’s decimation has wreaked havoc on the local economy. The bay is the primary source of local jobs, and when the oysters aren’t there, it hurts. In the mid-2000s, there were roughly 400 oystermen bringing in the daily limit of 20, 60-pound bags. Earlier this year there were 80 or 90 who were bringing in four or five bags on average. On August 30, 2017, conservation measures imposed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission set the limit at 3 bags, and further prohibited harvesting on Friday, Saturday and Sundays through May 2018.
At the Up the Creek Raw Bar in Apalachicola, a dozen Cedar Key raw oysters in the half shell cost $13.99. No Apalachicola oysters were available. Art wondered if all the Apalachicola oysters had been sent to our favorite Harbor House restaurant in Milwaukee, where they are $2.75 a piece?
Sunday (12/10) French Roast Coffee…
Today we awoke to frost melting on the piers of the Bluewater Bay Marina in Niceville, FL (near Destin). Even though the “brunch” at L Schooners was appealing, we decided to depart about 10:30 for Panama City, a distance of about 60 miles.
Along the way we passed a tow as we traveled the narrow intercoastal waterway; it reminded us of the rivers we have traveled. It was a calm day with a few fishermen and dolphins along the way.
We went past miles of doslate sandy shores, alternating with rows of recently constructed highrise, beach-front condos. We discussed the continuing development of these hurricane prone barrier islands and the money we saw being spent on Dauphin Island to rebuild after Irma.
Visually, it all got summed up as we went under the Hathaway Bridge (US 98) at mile 284.6. A simple, two lane causeway, is now dwarfed by dual spans, 62′ in the air, that strattle it what is left if it.
As we were fueling up at the Panama City Marina pier, Sue heard Loofah being hailed on the VHF radio.
Paal (of “Eleanor”) had spotted us coming into the harbor from his 5th floor condo. Before we knew it, he greeted us on the pier! Paal and Betsy spend their summers on Washington Island in northern Lake Michigan, and their summers in Panama City.
We first met them in September at the Illinois Valley Yacht Club in Ottawa, IL. We were heading to the grocery store on our bicycles. We introduced ourselves and asked if they needed anything. Betsy responded, with a delightful smile, “How about some Eight OClock french roast coffee, if they have it.” Unfortunately, Wal Mart didn’t, but it was the begining of a wonderful friendship.
Subsequently, Loofah III and Eleanor crossed wakes in various rives, and locks, and we dined together with a group of 18, in Demopolis.
Paal and Betsy were gracious enough to invite us to watch the sunset from their beautiful condo. Although they were just planning to bring Eleanor down to Panama City from Washington Island, it was enough to give them the bug to complete the loop. They just received their ALGCA burgee!
We walked back to the marina with smiles on our faces and warmth in our hearts!
Breaking News – Loofah III makes the big time!
While Sue was working on the blog, she noticed a link to our blog site from cruisingodyssey.com.
Curious, she clicked on the link to find Peter Janssen had posted and article on the Cruising Odyssey website describing the migration of Loopers south at this time of the year. His wonderful summary of Loofah III and crew was a pleasant surprise and generated a number of hits. Welcome Cruising Odyssey readers! Hopefully this spotlight will encourage you to investigate “Looping.”
For those interested, here is the link to the article: http://cruisingodyssey.com/
Saturday (12/9) Our new, most favorite?
Pensacola exceeded all of our expectations!
To think that the first settlement was founded here by the Spanish in 1559: the founding of Jamestown, America’s first permanent English colony, in Virginia, was almost 50 years later, in 1607; and the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620. Since 1559, five flags flew over Pensacola: Spanish, French, British, Confederate, and US.
The marina is first rate, with a delightful restaurant steps away from the boats and blocks of eateries, galleries, boutiques and museums within walking distance on Palafox Street.
But it was time to move on. The morning news was filled with the fact it actually snowed in Pensacola last night, and the marina shut off the water to the piers. According to the weather channel, all 50 states have now experienced snow in 2017!
After returning the rental car to Enterprise, we returned to Loofah III and got underway at 10:30. Our destination was the Bluewater Bay Marina in Destin, FL, about 55 miles east. Although the temperatures were still in the mid-30s, and the winds were 15-20 mph, the sun was out!
Today’s cruise was uneventful, but there was plenty to be seen ashore, some identifiable, some not so!
We arrived at 2:30. Art busied himself washing the salt off Loofah’s exterior, while Sue attended to the interior.
As we were dressing for dinner ashore, the local channels featured two Christmas parades: a lighted boat parade that started at LuLu’s and ended at Flora-Bama; and, a parade down Palafox Street from the square to the marina. It was fun to be familiar with geography. This is a happenin’ area!
Dinner at L.J. Schooners Oyster Bar, located at the Bluewater Bay Marina complex, was a delightful way to top off the day.
Friday (12/8) Weather, Presidents, another fort, and… Flora-Bama?
Watching this morning’s national news, we came to realize Loofah III is in the center of a good deal of it… snow approaching from Alabama, freeze warnings in Pensacola, and the President is coming to town to discuss, among other things, the Alabama Senate race.
First the weather:
NOAAs “National Data Buoy Center” maintains buoys to monitor weather and seas. We have been watching Station 42039 located in the Gulf, 115nm SSE of Pensacola, FL. Conditions last night at 10:50 PM: Winds ENE, 23.3 mph, gusts to 29.1, waves 10.2’
The National Weather Service marine forecast for Saturday reads, “Northwest winds 20 to 25 knots with gusts to around 35 knots. Seas 6 to 9 feet with occasional seas up to 11 feet.” Freeze warnings for tonight. Things look grim for a Carrabelle – Tarpon Springs crossing until at least next Wednesday.
Second, the day trip to Fort Pickens on the Gulf Islands National Seashore and “Flora-Bama?” Where? … and why?
During the War of 1812, vulnerabilities along America’s shores were exploited by British Forces. In response, the United States constructed a system of over 40 coastal forts. Fort Pickens was one of them, completed in 1834 and built of over 21.5 million brick. It had 200 cannons. The only combat that actually took place at Fort Pickens was during the Civil War in 1861. Modern batteries were later added, including 12” gun batteries, which were part of the United States’ coastal defense system until 1947. While there, Art added to his ever growing library.
Then it was on to “Flora-Bama.”
“Over the past 50 years, the Flora-Bama has been named either the #1 Beach Bar in the U.S. or the World (at least one of the top) by Playboy Magazine, Maxim Magazine, Delta Sky Magazine, Men’s Journal, USA Today, CNN, The Huffington Post, Yahoo Travel, Fox News, etc.… to name a few. The Flora-Bama has been covered or mentioned by countless others including John Grisham (The Pelican Brief), The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Boating Magazine, Outdoor Magazine, and Jimmy Buffett (Riddles in the Sand). Art seemed to get into the swing of things.
At the time it was established in 1964, Escambia County, FL. in which it is located was “wet,” while across the line, Baldwin County, AL was “dry”. Before it was “rearranged” by a hurricane, Flora-Bama had as many as 20 different bars.
The “Bama” serves a local favorite known as the “Bushwacker”. Some say, “a few Flora-Bama Bushwackers will give you the best time you do not remember.”
The Bushwacker got some additional press in the Washington Photo Blog on Tuesday, June 15, 2010: “Cherry on Top: President Barack Obama drinks a “Bushwacker” drink traditionally made with dark rum, coconut cream, creme de cacao, half and half, coffee liqueur, as he makes an unannounced visit to Tacky Jack’s, a restaurant, in Orange Beach, Ala., as he visits the Gulf Coast region affected by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”
Before we departed, Art felt obliged to autograph another wall with a Sharpie… right next to a Navy jet no less. Maybe people will think his call sign was “Loofah III.”
Lulu’s, Tacky Jacks, and Flora-Bama are all here, within miles of one another!
And today, President Trump is here, coming to town in an effort to further unravel President Obama’s legacy, not far from where President Obama enjoyed a “Bushwacker” .… this is a special part of America! Good night…
Thursday (December 7th) :
The significance of the date was not lost on us. We discussed the moving memory of our previous visit to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pear Harbor, and the sailors would gave their lives that day.
As we prepare to make the 175 mile diagonal crossing of the Gulf from Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs, our morning routine now includes a visit to “Eddy’s Weather Wag” on the AGLCA website. In addition to giving a daily forecast of when the next “weather window” for a crossing may occur, he adds a fact for the day under the title “Brain Clutter.” Today he wrote: “There were 8 battleships at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, which included all the battleships of the U.S. Pacific fleet except for one (the Colorado). All 8 were either sunk or damaged during the attack. All but two (Arizona & Oklahoma) were eventually able to return to active duty.”
Coincidentally, today we headed to the National Naval Aviation Museum. It was clear as we approached the gate of the Pensacola Naval Air Station, Art started reliving his Navy experiences. His hope was to be a naval aviator, but a color blindness test put an early end to that dream.
Trip Advisor ranks the museum as one of the “25 Best Museums in America.” We were not disappointed!
Our visit started with a large screen format film on carrier flight operations. It was quickly followed by Art jumping into the cockpit! Clearly he was heavy into the experience, although just a dream!
It was here at the museum that the notations on charts of Lake Michigan indicating a “Naval Training Area” was explained.
During WWII, it was determined that no carriers could be taken from active sea duty in order to train pilots. Indeed, with German U-boats prowling the East Coast in 1942, Commander Richard F. Whitehead proposed that the carrier qualification of thousands of Naval Aviators be on training aircraft carriers (essentially floating simulators) located on Lake Michigan. It is estimated that from 1942 to 1945, anywhere from 135 to 300 aircraft were lost in Lake Michigan during carrier training and thus far only 35 planes have been salvaged.
The Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, Inc. is the nonprofit, 501(c)(3) educational and fundraising organization that supports the development of the National Naval Aviation Museum. Since its founding in 1966, the Foundation has raised over $80 million to fund construction of the museum; preservation and maintenance of historic aircraft; development and expansion of exhibits; and a host of educational programs, including the National Flight Academy, a camp for children 9 to 12 designed to teach principles of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
Art went to bed humming the theme from “Top Gun; ” no way to know what was going on in his brain!
Wednesday (12/6) Heading on East
Today we took a short cruise East on the GICW from Orange Beach, AL to Pensacola, FL just over 30 miles.
We winched the dinghy into the garage, loaded the bicycles and secured the kayaks on the swim deck between morning showers, and left the marina about noon.
It was cold and windy (winds 20-25, gusting to 30). Within the protected GICW, the only issue we had was to work with passing tows, in sometimes limited spaces. Art contacted the Captain of this tow as we both approached the bridge, radioing that we would hold our position until he cleared. He was quite appreciative as it was a tight turn and he didn’t need to worry about Loofah as well!
It was a good thing the generator and heat pump issues were resolved yesterday! As we crossed the Florida state line, we (for the first time since leaving Milwaukee) actually needed HEAT while we were underway! To get it, both the generator and heat pumps were required! Welcome to Florida?!
As we headed out of the GICW and north on the open Pensacola Bay, we were greeted, head on, by the winds and waves we had been spared earlier. We were pleased with the way Loofah responded, as well as the well protected Palafox Yacht Harbor in which we will spend the next few days.
Tomorrow we are looking forward to visiting the National Naval Aviation Museum at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. It will be a good day to be ashore and inside. The weather forecast on the local news tonight actually included the word “snow” for the northern part of the viewing area. The marine forecast was for higher winds than today, with continued “small craft” warnings in the bay and “gale” warnings in Gulf.
But that’s tomorrow. Right now the spaghetti is cooking and we are secure in a marina with internet, cable TV, electricity and water available. A cozy, rainy night aboard Loofah. Life is good!
Tuesday (12/5) Taking care of business!
While we were in Dog River, we worked on trouble shooting two issues: 1) the generator was not providing 230v electricity, and 2) the heat pump system (for heating and cooling the cabin) was not working properly. It appeared that the two items may have been related. We think a voltage spike from the generator may have blown the Smartstart controllers on the compressors as well as a 230v breaker. Replacement controllers were received and installed before we departed Dog River; the generator breaker caught up with us today on Orange Beach and Art promptly installed it. Both issues, resolved.
Two other items were on the “to-do list” for today. An oil test and a trip to the fuel pier to get pumped out.
Part of a routine physical is a blood test from which a great deal of information can be gleaned. Similarly, the “health” of a piece of equipment can be diagnosed by an analysis of the oil running through it. Today we had five samples taken for analysis: from two engines, two propulsion units and the generator. Art is anxious to see the results.
The remaining issue was to have the “black water” pumped from Loofahs holding tank. This can be an issue with our boat, as our tanks are relatively small. Loofah III was actually built in France where it is standard practice, and perfectly legal, to cruise three miles off shore and dump it. No need to hold much, for long.
When Art was in the Navy, when asked what an aircraft carrier with a crew of 6,000 did with its waste, an Admiral replied, “We just dump it. After all, the solution to pollution is dilution.” He lost a stripe and ended up driving a desk.
Although there are areas that are protected, dumping black water off shore is generally permissible. However, by international agreements, other items, like plastic, can not be dumped anywhere. Fortunately, dumping black water is illegal in the Great Lakes and the inland water of the US.
Too much information?
Monday (12/4) I have lost a mentor; we have lost a true gentleman.
Time on “The Loop” is special. It breaks life’s everyday patterns. Things seem simpler. There is little to separate you from the winds and water. You have time to reflect each day as the sun rises and sets.
Saturday morning brought the sad news that my associate and friend, Tom Walter, died after a long, courageous struggle with cancer. I have been thinking about Tom, his wife Earleen, and daughters Jessica and Stephanie each day since.
Although my junior in age and corporate rank, Tom was my mentor. He was a wise, steady, kind person. He sought the positive, avoided the negative. Tom could be firm when necessary, but what I will always remember will be his smile, the warm look in his eyes and his firm hand handshake. I’ll remember the love he had for Earleen and his “girls.” I’ll remember his dedication to Neumann Brothers and everyone of it’s clients, and employees.
Tom was not the center of his life; others were.
I have learned much from Tom. I have lost a mentor; the world has lost a true gentleman!
Sunday (12/3) Off to “Tacky Jack’s”
It was time to get back underway. But, rather than get Loofah III all fired up, this time we chose to get the Brig dinghy out of the “garage.” Our float plan was to head back the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway to Tacky Jack’s for Sunday brunch.
Like “Lulu’s”, just across the waterway, Tacky Jack’s is a well know venue in these parts. Its adornment consists of pieces of colored duct-tape inscribed with names and various remembrances of the patrons. We were similarly encouraged and further adorned one of the walls with “Loofah III, Sue & Art 11/3/17.” Original, eh? Wanting to make sure our tape would survive, Art felt it necessary to climb a bar stool and to seek the highest elevation possible.
It was a proper Sunday brunch, except our brunch buddies, Muffy and Henry, were missing. We had a Bloody Mary and enjoyed lunch before returning 3 miles east to Loofah III and a nap, followed by popcorn, pizza for dinner, and Sunday night football. Goodness we are creatures of habit!
Saturday (12/2) Q&A Time: “Weren’t you concerned about ESD?”
The picture of Art swimming in the marina prompted that immediate question. Thank you for your concern, Jim!
Although Electric Shock Drowning (ESD) can occur virtually in any location where electricity is provided near water, the majority of ESD drowning deaths have occurred in public and private marinas and docks. The typical victim of ESD is a child swimming in or around a fresh water marina or dock where electricity is present.
Art has studied ESD and only considered a dive in the marina after he talked with one of the professional divers who routinely makes underwater inspections and cleans the bottom of boats here. The diver noted that the marina’s electrical system was well bonded (grounded) and tested. Further, salt-water is more conductive than fresh water, so a stray current will likely go around a swimmer (especially one “wrapped in rubber”) unless the swimmer grabs hold of something — like a propeller or a swim ladder — that’s electrified. For those interested in more detail, check out the links following this post.
Bottom line: You are right, Jim: swimming off a boat or pier, especially in a fresh water marina, is risky business! Anchor out or consider a beach or pool…
Friday (12/1) A milestone day!
The ice packs and the chicken noodle soup seemed to have worked; we are going to make it!
Typically, as we enjoy a cup of coffee and breakfast, we check the news, stock market and weather. One could say “unbelievable” regarding each! But, it was the Weather Channel that got our attention this morning. Today is the “official” end of Hurricane Season. For us Loopers, that is a milestone. We are “good to go” in these southern waters until we need to be north of Norfolk, VA by June 1, when hurricane season resumes.
Also,according to the Weather Channel, December 1 is the “official” start to the “meteorological winter.” It is the three month period (December, January, and February) which statistically, is the coldest 3-month period of the year. We celebrated the milestone by putting on our swimming suits and sitting in the sun (NO pictures, please!)
It also gave Art an opportunity to get out the “Hookah” breathing system and to done his wet-suit. One of the items to be checked before we proceeded were the condition of the props. This can be accomplished either by diving or hoisting the boat out of the water. At $8.00 to $10.00 per foot for a hoist, this was an easy decision. Relief, thumbs up on the props.
Thursday (11/30) Report from “Sick Bay”
Loofah’s crew continues to recuperate. As we had not re-provisioned before departing Mobile, we were now out of food, Kleenex and Sudafed. “Florence Nightingale” hobbled up to the marina office to check on available transportation. Although the marina didn’t have a courtesy car, Judy apparently took pity on us and was willing to loan Sue her personal car. Now that is Southern Hospitality!
Art continued to work with Spring Brook Marina in Seneca, IL, and D & P Marine Services and Saunders Yacht Works here, as we want Loofah to have a physical before she heads 175 miles across the Gulf before Christmas. It looks like we are in the que for Monday.
Chicken noodle soup, Sprite and Thursday night football was just what the doctor ordered!
Wednesday (11/29) Resuming life afloat
Today was a slow day. Maybe we are “paying the fiddler” for all of the fun we had over Thanksgiving. Sue got up this morning with a stiff, swollen knee; Art with the sniffles and a sore throat. Oh, well; it was certainly worth it!
The logs and blog were updated, we relived special moments of the past week, and arrangements were made to make sure all of Loofah’s systems are “go” before we do a diagonal across the Gulf in the coming weeks.
Email from fellow Loopers is always enjoyable. Bev (“Seaquest”) sent us a fun picture of Tammi (“Ned Pepper”) taken in Tarpon Springs, the sponge capital of the US.
We had lunch on the patio of a restaurant here, overlooking the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway, before succumbing to a nap. Ah, the pressures of Looping!
At 6:00 PM were were entertained by a 15-minute light and sound production in the mall area of The Wharf. We are looking forward to spending a few days here.
Tuesday (11/28) Not exactly Rockefeller Center, but fun!
After a wonderful time celebrating Thanksgiving with family in Des Moines, it was time for Loofah III to get underway. As Sue was finalizing our stay with the staff of the marina, she saw Dennis & Jan (“Mother Ocean”) at fuel dock. They were departing for the Wharf Marina, as were we. After a quick update on the time since we last saw them at the Ivy Club in Peoria, Loofah III got underway to cross Mobile Bay to Orange Beach, Alabama. It was a busy crossing with many fishing boats, tows, barges and ships along the shipping channel.
The Wharf, located at Orange Beach, is a family entertainment district with activities and events throughout the year, including shopping, dining, movies, a marina, events amphitheater, Ferris wheel, ice skating rink and more. After Loofah III was secured we joined Loopers Dennis & Jan and Mike (“Dash Away’) at the Orange Beach tree lighting event on main street at The Wharf. We enjoyed children singing Christmas songs, the lighting of the Christmas tree and seeing Santa arrive, not by sleigh, but by fire truck. The area was full of families enjoying the activities; hot chocolate, writing letters to Santa, Ferris wheel rides and photos with Santa. Not exactly Rockefeller Center, but nonetheless, a fun way to start the holiday season!
After a slow start Sunday, we prepared Loofah for Monday’s return to Des Moines.
As families grow, multiply and spread out geographically, times when we can all be together are special. Thanksgiving is one of those times.
Tuesday night we had dinner with our friends Bill and Mary who have been routinely following us on the blog. It was great to see them and to catch up things happening in Des Moines.
As Art’s sister’s children and grandchildren were in town, in addition to Charlie and his boys, we arranged a swimming party and supper at our condo for Wednesday evening so all could get reacquainted. An active group!
Thursday, Art’s sister and brother-in-law hosted the annual Thanksgiving Day dinner. “The cousin’s,” missing Caroline and Langston who now live in Stockholm, gathered for the annual picture. Goodness have they grown!
The Kennedy’s had their football game; soccer is the preferred game here, girls included!
Friday was the annual cookie bake at Art’s cousin’s home (where 1200 anise flavored Christmas cookies are baked and frosted); and a baby shower and family gathering with Sue’s family. Saturday, the newly weds, Matt and Molly, and daughter Jenn joined us for a quiet dinner and conversation. Sunday we enjoyed church and seeing our friends at St. John’s, before brunch around the Christmas tree at Charlie’s.
We departed departed Des Moines on Monday, November 27. After a thrilling ride back to the Dog River Marina at 11:00 PM (during which Sue noted the cab driver, age 78, hit speeds to 80 mph) we were glad to see Loofah was still safely in her berth. We retired to ours, a bit tired but with happy hearts!
It was a marvelous week!
Saturday (11/18) “Downsizing,” “What’s Next,” and other musings.
Frequently, as we are having breakfast, enjoying coffee, catching up email, planning the day and making entries into our various logs, the boat “CAPT SID S” returns to its mooring place. (Upon closer inspection, it appears that faint lines through the “S” renders it a “$” sign.)
A small, grey pickup truck is always there to greet it. Usually, a couple of coolers are passed from the “shrimper” to the shore. Today, there were none passed. Time, labor and fuel invested with no return. Again, we counted our blessings and prayed for those who work so hard, in so many diverse ways, to put food on our tables!
Time seems to fly by. It was 11:30 when we completed reading and returning email, observing marina operations, and starting to consider our next leg, down the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway. As some of our fellow mariners are already on their way, we get emails and text messages daily, with their observations, suggestions, and concerns.
We continued to receive some “guff” regarding our rental car. It’s a Yaris. When we initially drove it into the marina, a fellow Looper didn’t think it “was in keeping with our boat.” Today, someone asked if we were planning to put it on our swim platform. Enough! It’s a great size. We have downsized from a house to a condo; maybe it’s time to downsize cars as well!
As we did our circumnavigation of Mobile Bay the other day, we saw a “Camping World”, an RV/camping super store, selling everything from soup (dehydrated, awaiting water over the campfire) to a large inventory of RVs. We needed to return. And did. Is a “land cruise” in an RV, in our future?
The afternoon outing to Camping World served two purposes: 1) to see the store, 2) to help Bill and Bobby (First Forty) advance their car to the Homeport Marina. We agreed to meet them at Lulu’s at 5:00 and to have dinner at Ed’s Seafood Shed on the return.
Ed’s sits on the original causeway that runs across north Mobile Bay, which I-10 now parallels. Although just opening in 2000, it has become a well established favorite of locals. It is “Home of Yo Mama’s Platter”: “A cup of ED’s famous gumbo, a cup of garlic cheese grits, a cup of turnip greens, served before a platter of fish, oysters, shrimp, scallops and crab claws and Ed’s fries – finished with Yo Mama’s Dessert. Served family style (NO substitutions please) 39.95”. We passed, and choose to downsize.
Returning to the marina, we saw some water running down the parking lot. Concerned that a water main had broken, we surveyed the parking lot with our headlights. Shortly, we were able to determine the water was emanating from a marshy area on the north edge of the lot. High winds and a rising tide was piling water in the bay. As high tide was still three hours away, Art used his surveying skills and selected a high point to park the car.
We hit the sack… until the front went through and broadsided Loofah with 30- to 40-mph gusts. Art, in his pajamas, doubled the stern line as the frontline winds passed, and the rains began. It was a narrow front, lasting just a few minutes, but it was fierce. Happy that we were securely in a slip, and not at sea, we returned to our berth, and sleep.
Friday (11/17) Circumnavigation of Mobile Bay … by car!
It was time to burn some fuel, this time in the Yarus we had rented. Sue’s research indicated that we should head to Dauphin Island, about 20 miles south. We are always attracted to long causeways, bridges, car ferrys and forts. This had all of them!
As we toured the island, it was clear that this “barrier island” had been hit hard by recent hurricanes. The municipal fishing pier was now land locked in sand deposited around it by “Katrina.” More recently, hurricane “Nate” hit it with a good punch. There was a checkpoint on the only road to the west end of the island through which only residents and contractors could pass. Dumpsters topped with debris and “For Sale” signs were everywhere. For those interested a WKRG News 5 article, actually posted this afternoon at 4:12 PM, follows today’s entry. FEMA has been, and continues to be, busy!
Talking about properties “For Sale,” one of these five “boat houses” we passed was selling for $179,900. Not sure of the floor plan. Any takers?
Never wanting to miss a ferry ride, we drove to the east end of Dauphin Island for the 35-minute crossing to Ft. Morgan Peninsula and Gulf Shores.
We had read that a natural gas field had been discovered under Mobile Bay and it was hard to miss the abandoned wells that dotted this end of it.
Our destination was “Lulu’s.” Lulu, the owner, says she is Jimmy Buffet’s “crazy sister.” The gift shop (one t-shirt lighter) has all kinds of Lulu and Buffett memorabilia and CD’s. It is a large and popular spot (for both locals and Loopers), located in the Homeport Marina.
Lulu’s and Homeport are located at mile marker 155 of the Gulf Intercostal Water Way so we will see them again, in about 10 days.
Leaving LuLu’s, and all along the way, we were reminded that Christmas is coming! With sunny days, sandy beaches, and the warm waters of the Gulf replacing blowing snow, it just doesn’t seem right. Oh, well; we’ll take it.
Our mission completed, we headed up the East Shore, across the long I-10 causeway at the north end of the bay, and back to Loofah.
Today’s mission, accomplished!
Reference: FEMA Declaration Includes Dauphin Island Hurricane Damage
WKRG News 5 Staff Published: November 17, 2017, 4:16 pm
DAUPHIN ISLAND, Alabama – Dauphin Island’s recovery from Hurricane Nate can “get started in earnest” now that five counties in Alabama are eligible for FEMA assistance, Mayor Jeff Collier said.
The following is a statement from the office of the Dauphin Island Mayor:
Thursday’s disaster declaration by the Federal Emergency Management Agency could save Dauphin Island as much as 85 percent of its $5.5 million damage estimate, much of which will be spent to put mountains of beach sand back where it belongs.
“We did initial repairs right after the hurricane hit,” Collier said. “We helped clear the causeway on the north side of the bridge, and we got the west end of Bienville Boulevard cleared of sand as quickly as we could so people could get to their houses and property. After the initial push to restore services and access, though, FEMA’s protocol is that you have to wait for a disaster declaration.”
Hurricane Nate struck the central Gulf Coast as a Category 1 storm on the weekend of Oct. 7-8. On Dauphin Island, in addition to flooding and sand buildup on Bienville Boulevard, the town suffered damage to docks and piers on Aloe Bay and Billy Goat Hole, destruction of public facilities at West End Beach, erosion at its newly nourished East End Beach and damage to more than 30 side streets on the west end of Bienville Boulevard.
The mayor predicted contractors will take two to three months to remove an estimated 400,000 cubic yards of sand that’s currently piled along the shoulders of about three miles of west Bienville Boulevard.
“Contractors will have to sift it first and then put it back on the beach,” Collier said. “We also suffered shoreline erosion on East End Beach, and that will be repaired. The goal is to get us back to pre-storm conditions.”
Despite the pockets of damage, Dauphin Island is “up and running and open for business,” he said, including tourist attractions, retail shops, restaurants, charter fishing and equipment rentals.
Police will continue to maintain a checkpoint on the western end of Bienville Boulevard, limiting access to homeowners and their visitors plus contractors, insurance agents and others who have a need to be there.
“That’s primarily for safety,” Collier said. “We want to keep people safe and traffic under control as our contractors are doing repairs.”
The mayor said the FEMA declaration is the second piece of good economic news Dauphin Island has received in recent days. Earlier in the week, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced $33.5 million in grants for five coastal restoration and conservation projects in Alabama, including nearly $6 million for two projects on Dauphin Island.
NFWF will spend about $4.5 million on Dauphin Island bird habitat acquisition and enhancement and about $1.4 million on near-shore and onshore restoration options for a future project to enhance and protect Little Dauphin Island.
“Eco-tourism is Dauphin Island’s bread-and-butter,” Collier said. “Although the town is not the grantee in either of the NFWF projects, they will yield benefits for us economically as well as environmentally.”
The NFWF grants are being funded by lawsuits related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill that affected beaches and wetlands in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Texas.
“We commend Gov. Kay Ivey for her vision in working with NFWF and FEMA to put these monies into the areas that were affected by the oil spill and the hurricane,” Collier said.
Thursday (11/16) The sun shines!
Despite the disconcerting loss of a week’s work of postings, the sun still came up and the sky’s are blue. Life continues!
With a fresh pot of coffee available, we sat down to recreate the missing posts. Typically, Sue makes notes at various times during the day in a number of spiral notepads. Those notes, along with information, pictures taken during the day, information from cruising guides, AAA guides and the internet (generally Wikipedia, so readers be forewarned) all become the fodder for posts. We spent a major portion of the morning putting the puzzle pieces back together. There was a bright side, however; we got to relive and discuss the wonderful experiences and friends of the past week!
Work on resolving issues with the 230v leg on the generator and the Cruiseair heating/cooling system continued. Art even took a turn as he wants to become more familiar with all of the Loofah’s systems. By the end of the day, the issues had been identified and parts (fortunately minor) were ordered. It appears the issues may have been related.
Right outside the entrance to the marina, overlooking the bay, is the Mobile Yacht Club, established in 1847. Sue called to see if the club had a reciprocal agreement with the Milwaukee Yacht Club (founded in 1871). It did, but it was not necessary, as they welcomed Loopers. We made a reservation for six: Bill and Bobbie (First Forty) and Jim and Andrea (State of Bliss), joined us.
As we were just getting seated, Bobbie mentioned that they had met earlier, upstream, a delightful couple who were members of the Mobile Yacht Club. As fate would have it, the Circuit Judge, his wife and family, were sitting at the table across from us! Delightful people, indeed!
Later, well fed, we climbed into our berth, again with happy hearts!
Wednesday (11/15) Art’s sister’s birthday.
Today started with sending birthday greetings, via text, to Art’s sister. This has been a marvelous experience in every regard, with just a few exceptions: we miss our family and Des Moines friends! Fortunately, we will be home for Thanksgiving!
Art spent the day aboard working with various people trouble shooting generator and the heating/cooling system. Fortunately, Tami, Kevin and Shawn at Spring Brook Marina in Seneca, IL (from whom we purchased the boat) are quick to answer questions that arise as this French built boat and its systems are relatively unique at this time, especially in this area.
Daily “Dock talk” continues to be enjoyable. Through it, Sue found that Angelika needed to secure some groceries. Since they sold their cars and canceled their auto insurance (as many loopers do) she was leery of using the marina’s courtesy car. Sue and Angelika got into our little rented Yarus, and off they went, returning with a trunk and back seat filled with provisions!
Meanwhile, apparently Art couldn’t be a day without going to sea!
Dinner aboard; work on the blog followed. Unfortunately, through a computer malfunction (or operator error!), all the postings for the past week were lost… A project for tomorrow morning.
Frustrated, we went to bed.
Tuesday (11/14) Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile, Alabama… a MUST SEE
USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park is dedicated to honoring all Alabama Veterans. The park has been self-sufficient since opening on January 9, 1965 and depends solely on admissions and Park revenue for daily operations. It has had more than more than fifteen million visitors and an economic impact approaching one billion dollars. Our senior citizen discount (55 and up) allowed us to tour the Battleship USS Alabama (BB-60), Submarine USS Drum (SS-228), the Aircraft Pavilion and the many displays throughout this unique military park.
We were amazed at the access we were afforded as we took 3 separate routes that took us from bow to stern, and from engine rooms to the bridge.
In the early 1980s, the Navy decided to renovate the IOWA class of battleships, the only four ships newer than ALABAMA. Since the IOWA class, and three of the four battleships then on display, were all built within months of each other, $270 million worth of irreplaceable and no longer available parts, were taken from the Alabama and the other cruisers to retrofit the IOWA class battleships. Now that is big time recycling!
As we toured, we keep bumping into Ken and Ruth (Horizon), and we later joined Dirk and Pat (Wandering Star), who were in the snack shop, for lunch. Loopers are everywhere!
After lunch we walked over to the WWII submarine USS DRUM (SS-228). The DRUM is the oldest American submarine on public display. With a crew of 72, The Drum is credited with sinking 15 ships and damaging 12 others. It was another interesting tour viewing the periscope, torpedo rooms and the crew’s quarters. Even though the submarine’s beam was 27’, it felt very narrow, and the hatches were tiny; quite a contrast to the Alabama.
After enjoying the Memorial Park, we decided to visit the town of Fairhope, located on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. Recently “Southern Living Magazine” honored Fairhope, often referred to as the “jewel of the Eastern Shore.”
“You have to tip your hat to a place that considers its municipal pier the ‘town square.’ That’s the charm of this bayside berg, originally founded as a utopian society in the late 19th century. Fairhope’s knack for creative thinking is reflected in many authors and artists who call it home and the galleries that dominate downtown.”
We drove around the marinas, the town and ended up on the Fairhope Municipal Pier watching the sunset at Shuks restaurant.
It was a beautiful evening giving us a clear view across Mobile Bay to downtown Mobile to the north and the town of Theodore to the south. A great way to end the day.
Monday (11/13) Getting settled at Dog River Marina
As we plan to leave Loofah III at the Dog River Marina while we return to Des Moines for the week of thanksgiving, it is a good time to have a few things checked out before we head on to Florida.
Art went to the office to meet Mike and to discuss the options. There is a West Marine store on site, a candy store to mariners, so we needed to check it out. And, of course, we had to get updates from the crews of II At C, Pura Vita, First Forty, and Ocean Star, who were also at the marina.
Sue had arranged to rent a car from Hertz at the airport; we just need to get there. Upon checking, the marina’s courtesy car was booked for the day. When Maggie (II AT C) became aware of our dilemma, she graciously gave us her courtesy car time slot at 3. In the afternoon traffic, it took us 2 hours to get the car and get back to Dog River. But we had wheels!
To celebrate our independence on land, we took the car to dinner across the river at Mariner Restaurant. As we walked in, there were the “Three Amigos”, Dale, Steve and George, dining with another couple. It would be the last time we would see George on the Loop. He was heading home to Paducah with his wife. We promised George that we would never pass Paducah without looking him up!
We shared hugs and firm handshakes that only close friends exchange. It was another good day!
Sunday (11/12) The first leg is completed.
The morning started with a tug of war! Art versus the two anchors.
Typically, with two anchors set, Sue is at the helm, backing the boat and letting the chain on the forward anchor out using the remote control on the windlass. Art goes aft to pull the boat back to the rear anchor which is put on deck. The front anchor is then retrieved.
This morning, despite how hard he pulled, Art couldn’t get the rear anchor up. “Plan B:” reverse the operation, let line out aft, go forward and weigh that anchor, and rotate the boat around the anchor to hopefully release it.
As Art got to the bow, “Idiot” was heard over the wireless headsets we wear to communicate during maneuvers. In his hurry to go aft, Art forgot to clear the bridle off the anchor chain forward. The 75’ of chain that was let out as we were trying to back down, was sitting directly under Loofah. We were still restrained by the bridle! Once the bridle was released, the forward anchor was easily retrieved, the boat was rotated and the aft anchor released easily.
We were finally underway at 07:35, heading to Mobile, the last stop on the first leg.
Approaching Mobile, the scenery changed from tree lined river banks to marshy bayous. As we entered the Mobile shipping channel, the river tows drawing 9 feet of depth, were replaced by ocean going ships (one from Hong Kong) drawing 40 feet.
The ship yards, with their “dry docks”, were numerous. We need to do some research on these craft!
It was turning out to be a grey, windy day. The “chop” on the bay was building as we turned into the narrow channel leading to Dog River. As the wind was blowing from the Northeast, the water from the bay was getting blown out, into the Gulf. Fortunately, the tide was in our favor and we never had less that 5 feet of water below our hull.
Loofah III headed to the fuel dock at the Dog River Marina. Her tanks were replenished and we headed for a slip. As we approached it, there was Maggie (II AT C) ready to assist with our lines. Her help was greatly appreciated as, with the exception of 8 posts defining the slip, there was only one, very short finger pier.
Comfortably in the slip, with lines properly crossed to handle the tides, we enjoyed a cocktail and ordered a pizza to be delivered from Pizza Hut.
Saturday (11/11) Veterans Day!
We started the day remembering, and giving thanks, to all Veterans, past and present. How we have been blessed by their service!
As the sun rose, Art stepped outside, enjoying conversation and coffee with the others. Steam was drifting off the river as the tow that had just cleared the lock downstream, passed.
At 7:35, seven of us headed to the last lock of this leg of the voyage. we head up the east coast. On this beautiful, warm sunny day, were headed downstream to the Alabama River cut off, arriving at 12:15. We debated going on to Mobile, but opted to anchor at the side of the channel with 2 anchors and to enjoy lunch, in swimming suits, on the aft deck.
Ocean Star and Pura Vita arrived later in the day. During the day, several fishing boats came by, at full throttle, I think a bit miffed that we were sharing their water.
At dusk, Art check the anchor light. Finding it out, he climbed up on the “roof” and changed the bulb. It was fortunate, as fishing boats continued to come and go. Forrest (Pura Vita) later mentioned that one of the fisherman blew his airhorn at their boat as they passed about 0430 the next morning.
More river road rage?
Friday (11/10) On to Bobby’s!
Usually at 4:00 PM each day, any Looper who is planning to leave the next day gathers at the picnic tables near the marina office to coordinate departures so that when the lock is first available after sunrise, as many boats as possible can go through the lock at one time. The plan was that Art would call the lock at 5:30 AM to check its status and then, through VHF channel 68 at 5:45, relay the information to those interested in departing first thing. As Art was preparing to call the lock we heard “Lady Chateau” (a 72’ yacht, not a looper) and others hailing the lock for an immediate lock through. The lock master said the lock was ready and boats should proceed. Given that the plan was to go through the lock at 6:00 not all boats were ready for this first lockage and would be delayed. Fortunately, there was no tow traffic and the lock master quickly turned the lock around so that the rest of us could lock through by 6:30.
One of the locals at yesterday’s river briefing mentioned how curvy the river would become. “After going several miles, you end up just a few trees from where you were before!” He was right on!
Our destination was Bobby’s Fish Camp, not a marina, but rather a facility that has a 150 ft floating pier, fuel and a restaurant for use by transient’s boaters & on site campers only.
Bobby E. Dahlberg built and opened the restaurant in 1956 to serve river traffic. He also built rental cabins on the river in the early 1960’s. The customers of Bobby’s Fish Camp were primarily local folks. In 1985, the Tenn-Tom Waterway opened which resulted in a significant increase with yacht traffic on the Tombigbee River. The yacht marinas at Demopolis, AL and Mobile, AL were nearly 240 miles apart and many yachts could not travel this far without refueling. At the request of the Demopolis Yacht Basin, Bobby installed a fueling station at his Fish Camp which was about midway between the Demopolis and Mobile marinas. Bobby’s Fish Camp became the smallest marina of the Tenn-Tom Marina Association. In the years since the opening of the Tenn-Tom, yachts from all over the world have visited Bobby’s with some making it a routine stop. Bobby’s Fish Camp is listed as one of the “100 Greatest Stops on Americas Great Loop”.
When we arrived at 12:32, “Pura Vita” and “Ocean Star” were at the pier. We came along side behind them, near the fuel pump. Next, “it’s OK 2” appeared a requested to raft alongside Loofah III. Granted. “II at C” was next, rafting off “Ocean Star”, followed by the sailboat “Tessera” that rafted off “Pura Vita”. Next a 65’ SeaRay, professionally captained appeared, and asked to raft off Loofah and “it’s OK 2.” We agreed and they tied off. “Allison Leigh” and “Heavens to Betsy” appeared next and they rafted off the front two. Nine boats were now rafted, hanging off three boats tied to the pier.
Who should next appear, about 30 minutes before sunset? “Lady Chateau” They telephone Lori, the late Bobby’s daughter who ran the place now, reminding her that they had a “reservation.” It is well know that Bobby’s, like Hoppie’s on the Mississippi, is “first-come-first served.” Nevertheless, Lori did come down to see if some accommodation could be made.
All of us said that we would be willing to untie, let her come to the pier, and we would raft off her. Lori relayed the message. After a few moments of silence, we heard “Lady Chateau” calling the Coffeeville lock downstream. She was heading on.
But the excitement was not yet over! Here comes another 65-footer wanting to raft. The crews outboard of Loofah looked at Art. “What do you say, Captain?” Art’s reply was simply, “No.” Loofah, a light displacement boat, was not going to take yet another, longer, heavier boat, in current, alongside.
Art radioed, that permission was not granted. He added however that the boats in our raft would move out and they could come into the pier, and we would raft off her. “That won’t work as we plan to leave at 0430.” Art responded, “Then you have a choice to make.”
The Captains on the other two boats suggested that there were a couple of places to safely anchor above and below the lock downstream. Art relayed the information.
Shortly thereafter, the boat made as much wake as possible as it made a sharp turn near our boats, making a hand gesture not appropriate for this post. River road rage?
After things settled down, we headed up to the restaurant. It was packed; no open ables. But the crew of Tessera asked us to join them. Dale, from Green Turtle Bay, was taking his sailboat to Florida. Steve was from Murry, KY and knew Steve Prohm, ISU’s basketball coach. We shared a picture of Coach Prohm with some of our friends; small world. George said he was just along for the ride.
Bobby’s “serves absolutely the best catfish in the Southeast.” Art was not disappointed!
Visiting Bobby’s is like traveling back in time. The place is filled with all types of collectibles and artifacts. On the walls are pictures of old steamboats and places that no longer exist. There is a counter that has dozens of three-ring binders, each stuffed with all types of old newspaper clippings and pictures.
We enjoyed at all … and Sue has the t-shirt!
Thursday (11/9) “Demopolis” … It’s Greek to me; more things to ponder; and a truck ride to remember.
Demopolis was founded by French expatriates from Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic and Haiti) who settled in Philadelphia following the fall of Napoleon’s Empire. They petitioned the U.S. Congress to sell them property to colonize, which Congress did on March 3, 1817. They were able to buy four townships in the Alabama Territory at $2 per acre. By July 14, 1817, a small party of pioneers had settled at White Bluff on the Tombigbee River, at the present site of Demopolis, founding the Vine and Olive Colony.
“Demopolis,” meaning in Greek “the People’s City” or “City of the People”, was chosen to honor the democratic ideals behind the endeavor. First settled in 1817, it is one of the oldest continuous settlements in Alabama.
Our time to visit the community was limited by the two-hours we could have the marina’s courtesy car. We chose to visit “Gainswood,” the estate of General Nathan Bryan Whitfield. Whitfield was a cotton planter who had moved from North Carolina to Marengo County, Alabama in 1834. In 1842 Whitfield bought the 480-acre property from George Strother Gaines, younger brother of Edmund P. Gaines.
Whitfield started with the open-hall log dwelling of Gaines and added additions to it until the home seen today. He had 16 children!
Our docent, Reggie” was a fifth generation of General Winfield. She made the mansion come alive with historical accounts and family stories, noting that wished she had listened and learned more as a child.
One of the accounts she shared was when George Gaines was serving as the US Indian Agent, he met with Chief Pushmataha, of the Choctaw Nation. Under an old oak tree on what would become the Gaineswood estate, they negotiated the terms of the treaty that would lead to the “Choctaw removal to Indian Territory.”
She talked openly about slavery. Reggie mentioned that she had an adopted grandson of partial Aferican-American descent who visits “Gainswood.” “His questions are always thoughtful.”
As we left we pondered the US Government selling property to French expats, taking property from Native-Americans, and a time when “property” included human beings.
We drove to the Demopolis Public Square, one of the oldest public squares in Alabama. It was laid out in 1819 along the lines of Philadelphia from where the original settlers came. We passed a monument dedicated to “Our Confederate Dead.” Later, we found that the marble Statue of a Confederate soldier which stood atop the base, was toppled last July by an on-duty patrol car that ran into this monument. If you are interested a Washington Post article is appended to this post which describes the town’s dilemma.
But the day was not yet over. A number of us had signed up during the day to take the usual 4:45 shuttle to town for dinner. After standing 45 minutes, we found that the necessary arrangements had not been made and we were without transportation as the courtesy car had been reserved for the evening. Anna Marie, the marina’s manager secured a pickup truck for us. It was a crew cab, designed to carry 5; we numbered six. We would do it!
Art drove; Sue became a contortionist, wedged between the storage box between the front seats and the roof; Bill (Seafox) rode shot gun, sharing his legroom with Sue; Jack (Traveler), Billy and Christy squished into the back bench seat. We headed to HVS Bistro on the second floor of a building on the square.
It was a delight dinner, personally prepared by the owner, whose wife served as the hostess. She also operated the store below which she opened so Billy and Christy could purchase three bottles of wine they had earlier enjoyed.
While at dinner, Ed and Kyle (it’s OK 2) arrived. Hearing of our plight, they offered to take one of our party back to the marina with them, saving Sue from repeating her contortionist act. Wonderful! We love Loopers!
We slept well.
About 3:30 a.m. on a Saturday last July, an on-duty patrol car with the Demopolis, Ala., Police Department proceeded along North Main Avenue toward West Capitol Street. It was a clear night, and nothing much was going on. There hadn’t been an arrest for two days, and that had been for misdemeanor theft from a supermarket. The squad car rolled past the bank and the power company on the left, the town square on the right. Up ahead, in the center of the intersection, loomed a monument: a marble statue of a soldier, not quite life-size, elevated about a dozen feet on a granite pedestal. He was gazing south, toward the oncoming patrol car. The butt of his upturned rifle rested at his boots; a blanket roll was draped over his left shoulder. Negotiating the intersection required a slight swerve around the monument — but the police officer crashed straight into it. The impact of the Dodge Charger broke off the soldier at the shins and put him on his back amid the shrubs and flowers around the monument. His cropped boots remained on the pedestal. Undamaged was the inscription on the base: “Our Confederate Dead.”
A sign at the outskirts of Demopolis announces “City of the People,” a translation of the town’s name from the ancient Greek. The population numbers 7,020 — 50 percent black, 47 percent white — which is enough to make it the largest city in Marengo County. This is the western part of Alabama’s Black Belt, so named for its rich soil, but also intimately associated with the enslaved people who worked the cotton fields, then stayed on as free tenant farmers, and whose descendants drove the struggle for civil rights. Symbols of liberation and lost causes are everywhere, telling rival stories, like the Greek Revival plantation houses, with their white columns and pediments out front, and their former slave cabins calling quietly from the back.
Following the crash, the lieutenant on duty woke up Chief Tommie Reese, who responded to the scene. The chief, in turn, rousted Mayor Mike Grayson, who threw on a pair of shorts and hurried the few blocks from his house. Grayson, 65, who is white, was silently praying the act wasn’t intentional. According to family lore, his grandmother, as treasurer for the Marengo Rifles Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, wrote the check to pay for the monument. “The last thing I wanted to happen was Demopolis to become a battleground between the Sons [of Confederate Veterans] and the Daughters of the Confederacy and the Black Lives movement,” he said later. “We had worked too hard for too many years.” Reese, 52, who is black, wanted to get the facts out as soon as possible, before conspiracy theories could propagate. The car and statue were removed quickly. As a consequence, few pictures circulated on social media, an Orwellian turn that unintentionally fueled speculation. After working the scene, Reese took a short nap. When he awoke by 9 or 10 a.m., “it was already spiraling out of control” on the Internet, he said, spurred in part by people chiming in from other parts of the country. A leading theory was that the officer was black and had been paid to take out the statue. A small, peaceful, racially diverse crowd of gawkers gathered to contemplate the pedestal that now uplifted simply a pair of Confederate ankles.
The news spread “immediately, by word of mouth,” said Annye Braxton, 84, who had participated in voting rights drives and rallies in the mid-1960s at Demopolis’s Morning Star Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. once spoke. An African American pastor at another church told me, “There was jubilation on the African American side of town.”
The white side of town was conflicted. There was a faction that saw an opportunity to tell a new story about Demopolis, and another that wanted to dig in to defend an older version. The night the statue was knocked down, David McCants, 68, who came within two votes of winning a council seat last election, and his twin brother, Dana, had been preoccupied with news coverage of attempts to remove Confederate symbols in other parts of the country. That prospect offended them. Then, incredibly, Demopolis lost its soldier in a single stroke. “Hitting that statue would be hard to do; you would have to work at getting to the statue,” David said later. Dana insisted, “He hit the statue on purpose. Ain’t no way to tell what they paid him.”
Confounding the battle lines was one inconvenient fact that everyone, black and white, could agree on: Until that Saturday morning a year ago, the soldier had stood guard almost entirely without controversy. Nobody protested him, nobody celebrated him. It was only after he was gone that he mattered.
Within days Reese announced the findings of an internal investigation, based on drug and alcohol tests, security camera footage and GPS data: The officer fell asleep at the wheel. He hit the statue at about 25 to 30 miles per hour. The car was totaled; the driver was lucky to be unhurt. To protect the officer’s safety, Reese refused to release his name — or his race.
Now Demopolis faced a dilemma. Could such an act of God, chance or negligence be allowed to stand? As cities around the country wrestled with whether to take down their Confederate monuments, Demopolis had to decide whether to put its soldier back up.
Thursday (11/9) preliminary
Demopolis is the largest city in the county with a population of about 7,500. The city lies at the confluence of the Black Warrior and Tombigbee rivers and is situated on top of the Demopolis Chalk Formation, known locally as “White Bluff”.
Wednesday (11/8) A day ashore…
Today we took the opportunity to do several loads of laundry, give the boat a wash, and to secure the courtesy car for a trip downtown where we visited Walmart, the ABC Liquor store, and had a Subway for lunch.
We returned to the marina in time for a 4:00 PM gathering of boaters who intend to proceed tomorrow morning. Although we planned to stay another day, we took the opportunity to gain some addition knowledge on the next leg of our voyage, the “Black Warrior – Tombigbee Waterway.”
Kingfisher Bay Marina is the last marina until we reach Mobile, 217 miles south. It’s sister marina, Demopolis Yacht Basin, less than a half mile down stream, is a large commercial fuel dock which serves tows, as well as pleasure craft (the rest of the basin has been silted in and the slip are no longer operational). It is best to fill tanks there, although it appears fuel is available at “Bobbie’s Fish Camp” (mile 118).
We have been in fresh water without tides since leaving Milwaukee, over a thousand miles ago. About 100 miles from here, after going through the Coffeeville Lock, that will change – salt water and tides. Our cruising guides suggest we should expect a 4′ tide and the associated currents, coming and going, half the time going with you, half the time against. A new experience for Loofah III!
But, tomorrow we want to kick back and see some of the beautiful old homes we head about from Des Moines friends who are familiar with the area.
Tonight a relaxing dinner aboard.
Tuesday (11/7) Demopolis, here we come!
Thanks to Mike (of Ned Pepper) for taking the lead again this morning and calling the lock. Due to a tow that we saw pass our anchorage earlier, we were told to wait an hour before approaching the lock.
A total of 9 boats, some of which anchored last night in different areas, approached the lock together and were directed by the lockmaster where to tie up. This was the first time we had a “chatty” lock master. As were were getting in and secured, he walked around the chamber talking to each boat, making observations, and asking questions about things he noticed, and suggesting the order that would be the safest exiting the chamber. It was clear that he really cared about us and enjoyed his job.
It was another lovely, day as we proceeded down the “Tenn-Tom” to Demopoils, Alabama, enjoying the varied shoreline, including these spectacular white cliffs at mile 248.8 near Epes.
As we had finished fueling up, securing our lines at Kingfisher Bay Marina, and were washing mud off the anchors, we heard a voice call out, “Sue & Art.” Our friends Bill & Bobby, of First Forty, were on the next pier. Bill called, “Let’s catch up later,” and did so at dinner.
A service that this marina offers, in addition to a courtesy car, is a shuttle for those who want to go out to dinner (5:45), or shopping in the morning (10:00). Eighteen Loopers took advantage of the shuttle tonight and all headed for dinner the Red Barn, where we were greeted by a dilapidated John Deere tractor.
We were amazed by the quick and attentive service we received from Christina, our server. How she, and the staff of this little restaurant, were able to keep up with our requests for drinks, and have the food served to all 18, at the same time, was quite an accomplishment. Christina continued to show us southern hospitality with a big smile as she was asked to take 4 pictures of the group, with 4 cameras!
The couple sitting across from Art had “crossed their wake” (completed the Loop) in October on “C Way.” It was nice to hear Craig and Carolyn’s experiences; they didn’t want their Loop to stop. A number of Loopers have shared the same observation and are planning on doing the loop again next year!
As we were enjoying conversation with the couple to Sue’s left, we were reminded it is a small world. We first met Paal & Betsy (on Eleanor) at the IVY Yacht Club in September. During dinner we found that Paal & Betsy were familiar with Decorah, Iowa. In fact, they stayed at the Hotel Winneshiek a few years ago, on their way back to their home in Wisconsin. They knew the wonderful story of how Helen Basler had a vision to restore the Hotel and Opera House for the benefit of the community, and were amazed to find out that Art’s firm had completed the restoration and (unfortunately) ended up owning it for a period of time.
Demopolis is like a funnel on the loop. * As a result, not knowing the exact number, it appears that there may be at least 20 boats doing the loop at Kingfisher Marina this evening. It is, indeed, a floating yacht club.
(* Note: Many insurance policies covering boats doing the loop have a provision that excludes coverage during “hurricane season” (generally June 1 to November 1) for boats south of a stated latitude, or within a stated distance from the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic. Demopolis is frequently that point at which boats cannot pass until November 1. As it is also the collection point for boats who have traveled the various rivers to the north, there is generally a concentration of boats here at this time of the year.)
Monday (11/6) 65 miles to our anchorage, and “docktails?”
Mike (of Ned Pepper) called the lock which was a half a mile away at 7:00 AM to check its status for the 6 boats planning to depart Columbus Marina today. He got the all clear and all of the boats were ready for locking at 7:26 AM. Just two locks today.
By the time we arrived at Sumter Recreation Area (2:16 PM) to anchor we had locked through with, or passed, 12 boats with AGLCA burgees.
The entrance to the anchorage was shallow; at one point we saw 4 feet the way we came in. But, once in the small basin the depth was 8-10 feet. After we were secure with a bow and stern anchor, we got in the kayaks to check the depths with our hand-held depth sounder knowing that a sailboat following us would be aground if they came in the same way. (And we had swimming suits on in November!)
As Art was checking the depths around the basin, 7 other boats slowly made their way into the anchorage. Just as most Loopers help each other as they arrive at a pier, we assisted each other in anchoring. As there were going to be a number of boats in close proximity, we used a technique used in the Mediterranean, where dock space is limited. Known as “Med Mooring,” an anchor is lowered out away from the wharf (or land) and the boat is backed down toward the shore where a line is secured. A number of boats can be accommodated in a small space and no one is swinging about at the wind changes. For some in the group, this was a new experience.Art, in his kayak, help take stern lines to shore, around a tree, and back to the boat.
Once everyone was settled and secure, Art invited them to Loofah III for docktails. So the question of the day: can you have “docktails” if you are at anchor? We fret about it long and celebrated a good day on the water with new friends!
Sunday (11/5) A day for reflection, Walmart, and conversation.
We spent the morning in Columbus Marina. After a wonderful breakfast aboard of bacon and eggs, we had some quiet time.
We were without internet and cell phone coverage. We should have gotten a clue that Verizon and AT&T didn’t have towers in the area when we passed this phone booth yesterday!
Our onboard logs were updated, photos downloaded, the boat tidied, and the marina’s courtesy car secured for a provisioning trip to Walmart. Our efforts to replenish the gin inventory, however, was thwarted: no Sunday sales of alcohol.
Art spent a good deal of time reviewing photos he had taken at Corinth and Shilo, and reading the materials secured at both locations. There will be a later post on his reflections.
At 5:30 it was time for docktails on Loofah – Seaquest, Ned Pepper, State of Bliss, Ocean Star, participating. It was another great evening getting to know other Loopers from such varied vocations: the Coast Guard, a history teacher, an English teacher, an attorney, and lovely Angelica, a German native.
Saturday (11/4) – From fog to “docktails?” … another day on the river!
At 7:15 AM we watched 7 other Loopers depart the marina for the Fulton Lock, a half a mile away. Within minutes of their departure fog set in so we watched the boats on our AIS, as well as listened to their VHF communications. We could hear their horns and bells as they slowly progressed toward the lock. A northbound tow had just cleared the chamber and chose to tie to the wall outside the lock until the fog cleared. The lockmaster cautioned the boats to proceed cautiously around the barges.
The lockmaster had received information from the previous lock through which we passed yesterday, that there were 8 boats in the group, and noted that just seven were in the lock chamber. The lockmaster radioed “is Loofah III going to lock through?” Art responded from our slip 3 miles upstream that we were going to let the fog clear. The other Loopers locked through, the first of today’s 4 locks.
Within 30 minutes the fog cleared so we headed for Fulton Lock. The lock master graciously turned the lock around so we could lock through before the tow coming up the river arrived. The gates were open when we arrived and Loofah had the entire chamber to herself!
Shortly, we joined the others. “Seaquest” led the group which included “Imagine This”, “Ned Pepper”, “Insandity”, “Catalina”, “Vahevala”, “Eleanor” and “Loofah III”.
As we approached Wilkins Lock, we were advised that a tow was locking through and that it may be an hour and a half before we could get into the chamber. No problem, one of the boats drops and anchor and we “raft up” for coffee and conversation.
Six of us ended our day at Columbus Marina, Columbus, Mississippi. “Imagine This” hosted docktails for the group whose home ports ranged from Minnesota, Alaska, Ontario, Florida, Virginia and Iowa.
A great day with good friends.
Friday (11/3) 1,000 miles, 14 locks and counting!
We have enjoyed the past week in Counce, TN at the wonderful Grand Harbor Marina.
Today it was time to get underway, traveling with 4 other Loopers 57 miles to Fulton, Mississippi. Shortly after we departed our mileage from Milwaukee turned 1,000 miles. Loofah III had gone down in 13 locks (194′) and up in 4 locks (134′) since leaving Lake Michigan 51 days ago.
Today we went down through additional 3 locks (a total of 148 feet), the largest drop being 84 feet in the Jamie Whitten Lock. Typically, the boat leading the flotilla hails the lockmaster on the VHF radio to check on timing and instructions. The communications are heard by all the boats at the same time so that the others need not hail the lock independently. All of the boats tie up to “pins” on floating bollards (located in recesses in the wall of the lock) that rise or fall as the water level changes. Each boat radios the lockmaster when they are secure. Once all are secured, the lockmaster shuts the gates, sounds a siren, and opens valves to let water drain from the lock. The floating bollards descend until the lowest level is reached. At that point the are gates opened, the lock master sounds the horn and, one by one, each boat unties and slowly leaves the chamber. After the boats are out of the lock the positioning begins, each boat getting into a line based on their cruising speed.
Today we left Grand Harbor marina at 9:27 AM and arrived at Midway Marina in Fulton at 4:45 PM. We averaged just over 9 miles per hour. It took 20-25 minutes to descend in each of the three locks.
Thursday 11/2 – Memphis – Checking off the stops…
Our morning began with a walk through #6, “The Pyramid.” Originally built by the city and county as a 20,000-seat arena, it is now a mega store that includes Bass Pro Shop, Ducks Unlimited exhibits, restaurants, a 103-room hotel, aquariums, a bowling alley, and an observation deck (reportedly 32 stories up reached by the tallest free standing elevator in America.) Now that was worth the stop!
During our drive to Graceland (#5), we passed the huge St. Jude’s Research Hospital, recalling the commercials asking for donations with pictures of children undergoing treatment. The vision of Danny Thomas (to fulfill his vow to St. Jude Thaddeus that he would build a shrine which would be a world leader in cancer treatment for children) is amazing!
Arriving at the parking lot of Graceland’s visitor center, across the street from Graceland, we were a little overwhelmed with shops, restaurants, an automobile museum, airplanes, Elvis’s clothing, a movie theater, ice-cream shops and plenty of opportunities to purchase memorabilia. It appeared as if everything that “The King” owned when he died, is on display.
I commented to Art that I was surprised that Graceland appeared to be just as it was on August 16 1977, when Elvis died in the house of a heart attack. I had anticipated that some things would have been removed, but it looked like EVERYTHING was as it was in 1977 on the day of his death. It was eerie, like one day he was alive, the next day buried in a grave in the meditation garden. Time stopped.
After the tour of the “mansion,” we toured the 1958 Convair 880 jetliner Elvis purchased in April 1975, named “Lisa Marie,” after his daughter. The amazing customized jet featured a living room, conference room, sitting room, and private bedroom, as well as gold-plated seat belts, suede chairs, leather covered tables, 24-karat gold-flecked sinks, 4 TVs and a stereo system with 52 speakers. A smaller JetStar, “Hound Dog II,” sits nearby.
Elvis came a long way from the tiny family house in Tupelo. The Gold Records were numerous (600 million records sold worldwide), and the trappings of his success, evident. But the later years of his life were tragic. The tour of Graceland ends in the meditation garden walking by Elvis’s, his parents, and grandmother’s graves and a memorial to his stillborn twin brother. The day began with the excitement of seeing “where” Elvis lived and the memorabilia. We ended the visit thinking about “how” he lived: self-made, extremely successful, lived life to the fullest, yet … a tragic ending.
Lisa Marie Presley (9 years old at the time her father died) inherited the estate in 1993 when she turned 25. In 2005, an 85% stake in Elvis Presley Enterprises was sold to a media company for $114 million. But as well chronicled, life has not been easy for Lisa Marie since.
On our way back to return the rental car we stopped by the Corinth Visitor’s Center. North-South and East-West railway lines crossed at Corinth, so it played a critical role in the western battles of the Civil War. It had several thoughtful displays on the causes, circumstances, and times of the Civil War era.
Ahead, more reading and reflecting.
But not tonight. We are back aboard Loofah III, looking forward to a restful night.
Wednesday 11/1 – Memphis, according to AAA
Although our plan for the Loop is to spend the time on the water and adjacent communities, if there is a place within an easy day’s drive, worth visiting, we’ll arrange for a rental car and do a “land excursion.”
We had heard and read mixed reviews of Memphis, but since we were just 120 miles away, we consulted our AAA guide and hit the road. The menu of “Must Do” AAA offerings:
- Sun Studios where Elvis, Jerry Lee, and Johnny Cash cut their first records.
- Sightseeing on a Memphis Riverboat. (We’ve done rivers…)
- “Elaborate ceremony” of the “parading ducks” at the Peabody Hotel.
- Beale Street
- The “Pyramid”
- Music and other museums (We were in Nashville…)
The Peabody Hotel was programmed in our GPS; it just happened to route us past Sun Studios where a tour bus was stopped. We drove past and saw it; #1 was checked it off.
Arrival at the Peabody was in time for a late lunch at the Capriccio Grill while we waited for our room. As we were on “vacation,” we decided to enjoy a local brew and a Bloody Mary. Our earlier research (reading social media reviews and watching YouTube videos) indicated that tour bus loads of tourists start to crowd into the lobby at 4:00 for the 5:00 PM, 60-second, five-duck, parade down a red carpet from the fountain to the elevator. After lunch we picked up our keys, circled the lobby fountain, greeted the ducks, and retired for a nap. #3 was checked off!
Later, fully refreshed, we walked a few blocks to Beale Street: full of bars, restaurants and neon lights. Another mecca for tourists. Music emanated from the various venues indoors and outdoors. Walking toward Silky O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub, we were intrigued by a building facade held in place by structural beams and braces, behind which was an open air garden. Looking around the adjacent enclosed area, there was an Iowa State flag hanging from the ceiling! We felt right at home. As we were taking a picture, Jay, the manager, greeted us “How Y’all Doing?” Jay told us Johnny Majors gave the flag to his good friend, Silky O’Sullivan, when ISU played in the Liberty Bowl in 2012.
Past the pub’s dueling pianos, a goat pen is located in O’Sullivan’s outdoor-garden area. This pen is the key to what sets Silky’s apart from the other bars that line Beale Street: beer guzzling goats. There is another item there, one of only four of its kind known in the world. A goat tower! Apparently, goats love climbing things. This tower allows the goats to do their climbing in style, and though the goats climb this tower sauced, the goats can apparently hold their beer, as there has yet to be a single accident involving a falling goat. #4 was checked off! Back to the Peabody.
Tuesday (10/31) Education and Recreation…
Another crisp, beautiful Fall day.
We originally planned to go sightseeing in Memphis today but decided to take advantage of the weather and tour the Shiloh National Battlefield, about 20 miles north.
It was also clear that we would be heading back to the links!
We started to weigh into the Civil War when we stayed at New Johnsonville. Today it was Shiloh, one of the most significant battles of the “Civil War, ” as President Lincoln referred to it. It took place early in the conflict (April 6 – 7, 1862) and was one of the bloodiest contests, with “losses on each side reaching over 10,000,” in just two days!
As we drove toward the visitors center it was impossible to miss the tallest monument in the area, a 75-foot-tall granite obelisk dedicated in 1906 by Iowa Governor Albert Cummins. “This monument is erected by the state of Iowa in commemoration of the loyalty, patriotism and bravery of her sons who, on this battlefield of Shiloh on the 6th and 7th days of April, A.D., 1862, fought to perpetuate the sacred union of the States.” We stood before her, proud to be Iowans!
Our subsequent “research” unearthed the following:
- The battlefield is named after Shiloh Methodist Church, a small log church near Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee.
- Pittsburgh Landing is the point on the Tennessee River where the Union forces landed for the battle.
- Just under 100,000 troops were involved:
- 65,000 Union troops (under Ulysses S. Grant and Don Carlos Buell)
- 44,000 Confederates (under Albert Sidney Johnston, killed in the battle, and G.T. Beauregard).
- “The [two day] battle resulted in nearly 24,000 killed”
- Iowa had 11 regiments in the Battle of Shiloh
- One source noted that “one fourth of Grant’s troops at Shiloh were from Iowa”
- “The total number of Iowa casualties was 2409 including killed, wounded, and missing. This, no doubt, was the greatest loss of Iowans in any battle, in any war.”
- Iowa regiments formed the heart of the line at the Hornets Nest, one of the deadliest battles.
As with most historical accounts, numbers and accounts vary, but the magnitude and significance of this battle cannot be understated. We have more reading ahead!
As we have been driving about the area, timber trucks are most noticeable; it is hard to drive a couple of miles without passing one. It turns out that the Packaging Corporation of America (“PCA”) has an enormous containerboard mill in Counce. Take a look at the Google satellite picture at the following link to see the facility and the piles of timber it takes to feed it! The next time you see a corrugated box, think of these trucks and the forests from which they come. Recycle!
After a morning at Shiloh, it was time for lunch at Jane’s Diner before we returned to the Pickwick Landing Golf Course for a bucket of balls and a quick nine before the sun set.
Another great day on the Loop!
Monday (10/30) Enterprise, here we come (again)….
Neely greeted us with her big smile this morning and the keys to the courtesy van. Off to Corinth for a rental car. (Enterprise gives Loopers a discount on car rentals.) Not to be disappointed, we were greeted with smiles and “How Y’all Doing?” as we walked through the door.
As Trisha began to process our reservation, she asked where we were from. “Des Moines,” Art responded. “Oh” said Trisha, “I was there once and had a really bad experience.” We were obviously crushed! She explained that she was a manager for Ole Miss’s track team that competed in the Drake Relays a few years ago. Small world! Trisha said that she didn’t like cold weather and for two days, in the April rain and cold of Des Moines, she had to videotape the runners. “Hot chocolate after every event!” She was hysterically funny!
By the time we returned to the marina, the temperature had gone from a low of 35 to the upper 60s. Crystal clear sky’s induced us to head for our second course on “The Tennessee Golf Trail,” Pickwick Landing Golf course.
It will be a day long remembered as Sue sunk an 80-yard approach shot!
Sunday (10/29) Reconnected!
Finally, internet and cable TV! As access to the world has been very limited or non-existent for over a week, the day was spent catching up on news, the Weather Channel, watching football and sewing curtains for the front windows of the salon. (Every boat has a sewing machine aboard, right?)
Most Sunday nights for us begin with popcorn in the late afternoon, followed by pizza for dinner. Time flew, it was getting late, and we didn’t have pizza aboard. Crisis!
Sue noted the marina office was still open, well after the normal closing time of 6:00. Neely, the harbor master, was working late as she was waiting for two more boats, delayed at the Pickwick Lock, to arrive. When Sue asked her if there was someplace we could call that would deliver a pizza, Neely offered to turn on the oven and to make us a pizza from the marina’s small snack bar! Another act of wonderful the service we have encountered on our trip!
Grand Harbor Marina, and it’s people, deserve the accolades noted on the cruising guides!
Saturday (10/28) Getting to know the territory!
The morning opened with a bet between the two of us: Sue said we were in Mississippi, Art said Tennessee. It was a heart breaker for Art as Neely said that boat’s slip was actually in Mississippi, although once we stepped ashore we were in Tennessee.
That resolved, the marina’s courtesy car available so we took a driving tour of Pickwick & Counce, TN. A short tour! It included driving over the Pickwick Lock & Dam, around Pickwick Landing State Park & Marina and a visit to Aqua Marina, all within 15 minutes of our boat. We had lunch at Aqua Marina’s restaurant, located just a mile upstream from Grand Harbor, overlooking the large harbor.
As we had heard that Freddy T’s is a “must see”, we called for the shuttle later in the day and headed there for dinner. Clayton, a most delightful individual, picked us up at the marina wearing a Halloween mask. Clayton “moonlights” driving the shuttle on the weekends, providing rides from all 3 marinas in the area for the last year and a half. His stories were numerous and enjoyable!
It was Freddy T’s annual Halloween Party. We chose to sit in the main bar although 4 other options were available; the main dining room, the Rooftop, Club 50 & Parrothead Bar, and the Beach Club. All under the same roof! As we were taking this picture of the TV screens showing Iowa States victory over TCU , Gary, at the next table said “How Y’all Doing?” Despite the warm greeting, we were a bit nervous as we were clearly in SEC territory!
For the rest of the evening we enjoyed conversation with Gary (a retired Memphis police office) & Marty (a medical helicopter pilot), who were later joined by another retired Memphis officer. They spoke about Memphis, offered us rides for provisions and told us to call if we needed anything. Marty even offered to let us use the pier at his vacation home on Pickwick Lake the next time we visited. We gave them our boaters card, anticipating nothing. By the time we got back to the boat, however, Marty had emailed us sharing his contact information!
Jim, who had been sitting at the bar with his wife and a friend, approached us asking if we were Loopers. He did the loop last year and is on his way to Florida for the winter. Jim and his wife were leaving their Viking sport fisherman at Grand Harbor as they were returning to an aunt’s funeral. We exchanged numbers and intend to talk to Jim later about his experiences in the Bahamas.
Another great day meeting wonderful people!
Friday (10/27) On to Pickwick!
Today’s float plan included 60 miles up the Tennessee River, through the Pickwick Lock, to Pickwick Lake and Grand Harbor Marina, Counce, TN.
As the marina’s channel was rather narrow, we chose to give way to this lovely “river boat.”
The American Queen riverboat takes tours from Memphis to New Orleans. Here the passengers are disembarking for a tour of Shiloh National Military Park. (Note the passenger on the left mid-deck balcony waving and taking our picture, as we take his.)
The banks of the Tennessee River are showing the colors of Fall. We were impressed by the lovely homes on the banks.
Should we consider a second home here?
We started from Clifton at 07:39 as the weather forecast called for showers later in the day. As we approached the Pickwick Lock shortly before 11:00, it began to sprinkle. As we waited to lock through (total time 1hr 48 min) we were again impressed by size of the dam which is a significant producer of hydroelectric power. At approximately noon, we were lifted 55′ with 2 other PC’s.
As the lock gates opened we were greeted by a three-wide barge and tow. The lockmaster, over the VHF, informed us that there was plenty of room for us to pass!
Less than an hour later we were secure in a slip as the rains came. A cozy evening aboard!
Thursday (10/26) Tennessee River
A beautiful day of travel today up the Tennessee River from Pebble Isle Marina to Clifton, TN, started with fog in the marina.
When we arrived at the marina we went directly to the fuel dock. The Harbor Master pointed over to an area between a pier and a rock embankment. “Do you think you can get ‘er in there? It’s got over 5 feet of water.” We made it!
Wednesday (10/25) Civil War, Pearls, and the TVA; Oh, my!
This area is a fascinating!
The day began with Sue’s morning walk, iPhone in hand and Airpods in ears. This morning it was the sound track from “Hamilton.” Timely.
After that, we utilized the marina’s courtesy car and went just up the road to the Johnsonville State Historic Park.
“During the Civil War, Johnsonville was the location of a Union supply depot that moved food, guns, uniforms and everything else needed to supply an army. Steamboats brought supplies up the Tennessee River to the Johnsonville Depot. The Nashville & Northwestern railroad line was extended to the Tennessee River so that supplies could be transferred onto railroad cars and transported along the 78-mile Military Railroad to Nashville and on to General William Tecumseh Sherman’s army in Georgia.
“On May 10, Tennessee’s military governor, Andrew Johnson (later the 17th U.S. President), rode the 78 miles on the first train from Nashville to the new depot. According to witnesses, Johnson ‘stood on a pile of cross-ties and made a flowery speech,… then breaking a bottle of wine on the railroad track… named the place after himself.’ From that day on, the depot and town were called Johnsonville.
“By May 1864, the 90-acre depot included a sawmill, docks, wharves, offices, warehouses, horse corrals, and quarters for 2,500 soldiers. Union soldiers constructed the fort and U.S. Colored Troops (“USCT”s) stood watch to protect.
“The Johnsonville Depot was attacked by Confederate forces under the command of General Nathan Bedford Forrest on November 4th of 1864. It is believed that a local Confederate sympathizer, Jack Hinson, guided Forrest and his troops so that they were able to position their artillery pieces right under the noses of the Union defenses without being detected. Union gunboats and soldiers from Wisconsin, Kansas, Iowa, Tennessee, U.S Navy personnel, 6th TN Cavalry, 2nd TN Mounted Infantry, and the 12th, 13th, and 100th United States Colored Troops fought to defend the depot, but the battle was a Confederate victory.
“What remained of the Johnsonville Depot later became the thriving railroad town of Johnsonville. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) dammed the Tennessee River in the 1940s creating Kentucky Lake. The lake now covers much of the historic town of Johnsonville. Because of the area’s historical significance to the State of Tennessee, the land became part of Johnsonville State Historic Park in 1971.”
As we left the battle field displays of the park, we could not miss the numerous, enormous, electrical towers of the Tennessee Valley Authority (“TVA”). More on that later…
Our journey continued to the pearl farm at Bird Song Marina, the only freshwater culturing farm in North America. The freshwater pearl happens to be the State Gem of both Tennessee and Kentucky, although they are rarely found in nature.
At the pearl farm, the Washboard Mussel is the host. Bits of organic material are implanted into the mollusk. As a defense mechanism, the mollusk coats the organic material with a protective layer. Over time – three to five years – the material with its coating develops into a pearl. To get the pearls, divers harvest the mussels which are then pried open with knives in search for the hopeful result – a pearl. There are several thousand underwater baskets in the “farm”, which are noted on the water’s surface by three acres of rows hosting PVC piping.
We returned to the boat, and hit the internet. Battle of Johnsonville. Why is the pearl the gem stone of both Tennessee and Kentucky? The history of the TVA.
The day’s research:
We are going to visit Shilo, so we are sure there will be more to come on the Civil War.
With respect to the pearls, the official State Gem of Tennessee and Kentucky: Apparently, Tennessee river pearls were designated the state gem of Tennessee in1979 and in1986, schoolchildren in western Kentucky petitioned their state representative to propose the pearl as the state gemstone (the Kentucky General Assembly did so on July 15 of that year.) “Tennessee river pearls were among the most beautiful and durable in the world. But after dams were built on many Tennessee rivers, the mussels lost their swift and shallow shoals. The waters also became more toxic.” The pearl farm at Bird Song Marina is what remains of the one-time, million dollar industry.
With respect to the TVA:
“By Depression standards, the Tennessee Valley was economically dismal in 1933. Thirty percent of the population was affected by malaria, and the average income was only $639 per year, with some families surviving on as little as $100 per year. Much of the land had been farmed too hard for too long, eroding and depleting the soil. Crop yields had fallen along with farm incomes. The best timber had been cut, with another 10% of forests being burnt each year.
“By congressional charter on May 18, 1933, the Tennessee Valley Authority (“TVA”), a federally owned corporation, was created to provide navigation, flood control, electricity generation, fertilizer manufacturing, and economic development to the Tennessee Valley, a region particularly affected by the Great Depression. The enterprise was a result of the efforts of Senator George W. Norris of Nebraska. TVA was envisioned not only as a provider, but also as a regional economic development agency that would use federal experts and electricity to rapidly modernize the region’s economy and society.”
The “Pro’s and Con’s” of the TVA have been debated since 1933. Art is still reading!
Tuesday (10/24) A day for provisioning and research…
Today we used one of the marina courtesy cars to drive into Waverly for lunch at the Waverly Cafe on the square, and to pick up some provisions at Walmart.
As it was a rainy, blustery day, upon returning we took the opportunity to do some research on the area.
Throughout the 19th century, Congress passed a series of initiatives to improve navigation on the Tennessee River between the river’s mouth and Florence, Alabama. By the 1890s, a 5-foot continuous channel had been secured, but was still deemed insufficient for major river traffic. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted an extensive survey of the lower river in the early 1900s, and recommended constructing a dam at Aurora Landing, but the project was never funded.
Later, the Tennessee Valley Authority sought to create a continuous minimum 9-foot channel along the entirety of the Tennessee River from Paducah to Knoxville. The TVA also sought to help control flooding on the lower Mississippi River. To accomplish this, construction of Kentucky Dam was initiated during the New Deal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration. It was an investment in infrastructure that would also assist the recovery from the Great Depression. The Kentucky Dam project was authorized by Congress on May 23, 1938, and construction began July 1, 1938. Unlikely that could happen today!
The construction of Kentucky Dam and its reservoir required the purchase 320,244 acres of land; 2,609 families, 3,390 graves, and 365 miles of roads had to be relocated. 65 new bridges were built, 7 were rebuilt, and 3 were razed. The communities of Johnsonville and Springville in Tennessee, and Birmingham in Kentucky were completely inundated by the project. Also, unlikely that could happen today!
What you see in yesterdays post and here, are the remnants of structures of “old” Johnsonville, TN, now submerged. New Johnsonville is located high and dry, three miles upstream.
We have enjoyed reading about the geography and history of the areas through which we are traveling as the rivers played such an critical role in the development of our nation.
(Note: Extensive liberty has been taken extracting information from sources on the internet (e.g. Wikipedia) without proper attribution, or authentication. To academicians and legitimate historians, our apologies… CAW)
After completing this research, Doug & Glenda having departed, Diane and Chuck joined us again for more docktails and conversation. It turns out Diane and Chuck circumnavigated the world in a sailboat, starting in 2005, taking five years to do so!
Loopers are fascinating people who all have a story!
Monday (10/23 Cont’d) Pebble Isle Marina, “New” Johnsonville, TN
We arrived Monday afternoon at Pebble Isle Marina after a short journey in light fog and drizzle.
As we were going upstream we noted a few abandoned structures which piqued our interest. More on that later…
We were in the company of two other craft; “Bear” and “Saoirse,” who were also at Paris Landing, but we did not meet them until today. After getting secured and settled, we invited Doug and Glenda (aboard “Saoirse”, Irish meaning: Freedom), and Diane and Chuck (aboard “Bear”) to join us for docktails aboard Loofah III. It was a delightful evening as we all enjoyed sharing life experiences, on and off the water!
Monday (10/23) Hats off to the Coast Guard
There are 2 Coast Guard Cutters stationed at Paris Landing. The Chippewa is a 75′ cutter with a crew of 16; the Cimarron is a 65′ cutter with a crew of 13, put into service in 1964. There are usually about 30 total Coast Guard crewmen stationed at Paris Landing. Their mission is to keep rivers safe and navigable for river traffic. Their work consists of moving and maintaining buoys using the cutter’s capstan and crane, to cutting down the brush and trees that are in the way of navigational aids.
There are 18 river tenders in this area: as far north as Dubuque; as far west as Omaha; as far east as Pittsburgh; and on the lower Mississippi, south. In 2016, the Cimarron was underway 5,341 miles, replaced or recovered 582 buoys and serviced lights on 91 shore aids.
We have grown in our appreciation of the work accomplished by the Coast Guard!
Sunday (10/22) “Paris” – Tennessee’s version
“Paris” is not only in France, it is also 86 miles northwest of Nashville. And, the latter even has its own tower, a 70 foot replica of the Eiffel!
Twenty years after the U. S. became a nation, Tennessee joined, becoming the sixteenth state to join the union. Paris was the first municipality to incorporated in the state and became the county seat shortly after Henry County was established in 1821. Henry County was named after Revolutionary War hero, Patrick Henry.
Saturday (10/21) “How Ya’ll Doing?” – Really?
In our travel we have found Kentucky and Tennessee folks friendly and helpful.
Due to a benefit golf tournament in the morning, we had a “twilight” tee time at 1:32 PM . As we entered the marina office with our clubs, we were greeted by a delightful smile and a “How ya’ll doing?” It was Mackey, a member of the marina staff, who would drive us to the course again today. We came to understand what they meant by “twilight golf” as, on the 17th hole, we encountered several deer watch us miss a few puts as the sun was setting. It is hard to concentrate when the gallery is so engaging!
After our round, the golf course called to secure a ride for us. The Park Ranger, Brandon, showed up within minutes, greeted us with a smile and a “How ya’ll doing?”, and drove us from the golf course to the Inn for dinner. Brandon even offered to keep our clubs in his truck while we had dinner and told us to have the front desk call him when we wanted to return to the marina.
We enjoyed dinner at The Riverboat Restaurant which seats 250 people and overlooks picturesque Kentucky Lake. The restaurant is noted for its “excellent buffet featuring southern cuisine in a casual atmosphere.” The restaurant is located at the Paris Landing Inn which has 130 rooms with a great view of Kentucky Lake. The Inn was hosting a “BRAT” (Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee) event this weekend. Before dinner, in the bar which was decked out for a Halloween bash and dance later that evening, we spoke with two BRAT riders who were familiar with Iowa’s “RAGBRAI” (the Registers Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa), and expressed an interest in doing it.
Later at dinner, the dining room became filled with tables of fathers and young sons in camouflage gear and safety orange hats. They had completed the “youth quail hunt” that day for children 11 to 16. In doing research on the event, we noted “The hunt is made possible by a grant from Friends of the NRA. ”
From the staff at the marina and golf course, to the wonderful German baker at the Riverboat Restaurant who told us, in detail, how she made her delicious German banana pudding with meringue on top, we are thankful for the many people who have shown us gracious, “southern hospitality.”
We have come to believe that when someone asks you, “How Ya’ll Doing?” here, they really care.
Friday (10/20) Paris Landing State Park – delightful!
After we assisted the 3 Loopers off this morning we biked the park to become acquainted with the area.
After lunch, the marina staff drove us to the park golf course. It was a beautiful day for 9 holes of golf, in a gorgeous park setting. Since we enjoyed our round so much, we secured a tee time for tomorrow.
Paris Landing State Park is an 841 acre park located on the western shore of the Tennessee River, which is dammed to form Kentucky Lake (160,000 acres). On land, there are plenty of activities including golfing, hiking, camping or just relaxing and enjoying the natural beauty and wildlife. The park has a 130 room hotel, restaurant, cabins, a swimming pool and a convention center. Founded in 1945, Paris Landing State Park was named after an old steamboat and freight landing on the Tennessee River. In the 1800s, the river landing was an important spot for the delivery of goods to serve the settlements of the region and a shipping point for produce and other agricultural products. The park is hosting The Battle of Paris Landing Civil War this weekend. Civil War reenactors will be doing demonstrations: infantry, cavalry & artillery. Tomorrow we have a busy day planned attending the Civil War activities and 18 holes of golf.
Thursday (10/19) Buchanan, Tennessee
Loofah III departed GTB (Green Turtle Bay) mid morning for Paris Landing State Park & Marina, with a relaxing stop for lunch in Panther Bay.
On our way up the Tennessee River, we saw a dozen or more fishing boats casting out a lot of lines but no fish were seen. The Park Ranger told us they are fishing for Bluegill, Crappie and Redear and are not happy with the invasion of the Asian Carp. We were greeted by wonderful marina staff and 3 other Loopers which we had met briefly at Green Turtle Bay. The Loopers on “Wild Willey”, “Crow’s Nest” and “Cormarant” are all from Canada and traveling together.
Art and I are anxious to explore the park tomorrow.
Wednesday (10/18) Paducah – City of Crafts and Folk Art
Taking advantage of the courtesy van of Green Turtle Bay, we drove to Paducah for a few critical items (batteries & gin) and to see the town, since we passed it by on our way to Green Turtle Bay.
Originally established as “Pekin” in 1821, the town was actually laid out by William Clark during the Lewis & Clark Expedition in 1827, and renamed “Paducah.” Western Kentucky’s rich heritage is depicted on floodwall murals painted by Robert Dafford. Dafford, and the talented artists who worked with him, took five years to complete the project. Located at confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, you have to marvel at the style and detail of these murals on the flood walls that protect the city.
Creativity is the common thread that connects people attracted to Paducah (a designated UNESCO Creative City) from around the globe. The art district is anchored by the National Quilt Museum whose collection exceeds 500 works of art, and continues to grow.
Loofah III Trivia:
- 36 days on the Loop ; 30 aboard, 6 back in Des Moines for Matt’s wedding
- Of the 30 nights aboard Loofah III spent 3 nights tied to a wall, 2 nights at anchor, and 25 nights at a marina
- Meals – 65 aboard, 25 ashore
Tuesday (10/17) Buy 5, get 2 free
Who can pass up a bargain? Green Turtle Bay Marina discounts fuel for Loopers and gives us a break on dockage fees: giving 2 nights free after 5. We are taking advantage of the 2 nights free and will remain here until Thursday. Several reasons to stay here; no deadlines, no rush, a beautiful area, internet, cable TV, a few chores to do (waxing, sewing curtains), a spa, swimming pools, etc. Is the crew of Loofah III relaxed and enjoying this journey? Yes!
Yesterday Sue met 3 other Loopers and exchanged cards. Interesting all 3 captains were named Jim. Of the 36 Looper cards we have, 9 of the captains are named Jim. Is this a trend?
Monday (10/16) Christmas came early…
Gary, the boat yard manager called us at 10:30 to have us get ready to have Loofah III lifted out of the water. The boat yard crew, Bud and his daughter Christina, handled Loofah III perfectly as she was hoisted. Just as we suspected, the port props were bent and needed to be replaced. A starboard prop had a little ding which Bud easily hammer out as Christina replaced the port props. Good thing we had new props delivered – an early Christmas present. Once Loofah III was back in the water we took her for a sea trial- all is well. Fellow Loopers, we highly recommend the Green Turtle Bay Boat Yard!
After we resettled Loofah III back into the pier at 3:00, Art began some waxing and Sue biked to town for some groceries. On the way back to the boat, Sue met Jim aboard Shell Belle who invited us to join them for dinner at the Commonwealth Yacht Club. Shell Belle crossed her wake a month ago, so it was time well spent hearing about Jim & Mandy’s loop experience and suggestions for Florida harbors.
Sunday (10/15) Reflections…
It is a rainy Sunday morning in Kentucky.
Since Friday night, I have been reflecting on the makeshift signs on the restroom doors of the “Thirsty Turtle.” Tacked over the typical signs, they simply read: “Whichever.”
There was no requirement regarding gender, race, religion, LGBT status, national origin, politics, or anything else. No issues, statements, or sensitivities. Refreshing!
And, so it is with the rivers…
I mentioned today’s rain. Sue and her Canadian walking partner, Gil, agreed to meet at 8:00, saving Yvon and me from a morning death march. A front was clearly heading our way, but a walking date is a date. So after 75 minutes, and 3.5 miles logged on the Fitbit, a drenched Sue returned. It was a great start to the day. It continued with brunch and a Bloody Mary at a Docker’s, and a cozy day aboard revising our float plan.
Saturday (10/14) 40th Hunters Moon Fall Festival – Grand Rivers, Kentucky
The Grand Rivers Chamber is celebrating small town life with their Famous Fall Festival featuring food, fun, crafts, live music, children’s activities, and the Big Parade. A typical small town parade with high school band, cheerleaders, firetrucks and politicians. A fun day spent enjoy the hospitality of Grand Rivers.
Friday (10/13) Taking advantage of Green Turtle Bay Resort & Marina
While we wait for our props to arrive, we spent the day exploring the resort & marina, taking a dingy ride around the marina looking at the various boats and piers. The marina has 450 slips for boats up to 100’ with power, water, cable TV and internet. Many of the boats are under cover, with room in front of the boat for a sitting area. Many of the sitting areas are decked out with lights, fans, and bars.
Sue walked the area with fellow Looper Gil as she had already found her way around the various venues. The resort has a conference center, Spa, Health Center with indoor pool, 2 outdoor pools, tennis courts, golf carts, children’s play area and ships store. In addition to the Commonwealth Yacht club restaurant, the property has Docker’s Bay Grill and The Thirsty Turtle. With all the amenities of the resort, you do not need to leave the property. We highly recommend Green Turtle Bay Resort & Marina! http://www.greenturtlebay.com
We thought we needed more exercise so we biked to Thirsty Turtle for dinner. While sitting at the bar we met Deb & Steve from “Gypsie Palace” a 47′ Catamaran.
We are cheering Sonny as he and Phyllis recently crossed their wake completing their Great Loop. The bar soon overflowed with boaters as the Nashville Yacht Club crews joined us for the live music via golf carts.
Thursday (10/12) Bad news – had to return to Green Turtle Bay Marina
We left the marina this morning around 11 after fueling up with the plan of heading south to New Johnsonville, TN. As the port engine was not running correctly, we returned to the marina.
On our way into the marina Saturday night, in the dark and during a rain storm, we hit an submerged object. The boat operated normally as we were directed to our pier. Yesterday, Art tried to dive the props but the water was such, without a flashlight, he couldn’t see anything. As no water was seen in the bilges, the area around the propulsion units were dry, and the boat seemed to be operating normally as we entered the marina, we optimistically left the marina.
However, once in Lake Barkley, Art carefully opened the throttles. Unfortunately we felt a vibration, and isolated it to the port engine. We decided to return to the marina to have the props inspected. We are proceeding on the presumption that we bent a prop.
Art talked to Gary Baker, the manager of the Turtle Bay Boat Works, who was extremely knowledgeable and helpful. He noted that one of his Turtle Bay clients had ordered a spare prop set for his boat. He called the gentleman to see if he was willing to let them be installed on Loofah and we would replaced them. The gentleman was most amenable. Unfortunately, Tami Murphy, at Spring Brook Marine, from whom we purchased Loofah III, confirmed that they were the wrong size.
Bill went to work. Tami went to work. As a result of their heroic efforts, Loofah will have not one, but two, prop sets delivered shortly to Green Turtle Bay! I can’t say enough about both of them!
When the props arrive, and when Loofah III can be worked into the crammed boat works schedule, remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it is great to have professionals working on your side!
This means we will miss the America’s Great Loop Cruiser’s Rendezvous in Rogersville, Alabama, but this is a great place to stay! Even though the marina is full of Loopers and boats from the Nashville Yacht Club, they found room for us in slip vacant because the boat was out of the marina on a voyage.
Loopers note: Green Turtle Bay is a quality outfit!
Wednesday (10/11) Land Between The Lakes
We are half way down this segment of the Great Loop – Chicago to Mobile, Alabama. Loofah III has traveled 732.9 miles so far. The land between the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers is referred to as the “Land Between The Lakes”, which is a beautiful National Park. Land Between The Lakes is the largest inland peninsula in the U.S.A. originally created when the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers were impounded (creating Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley), one of the world’s largest man-made bodies of water. It features over 170,000 acres of forested & protected public land, and over 300 miles of undeveloped shoreline. Maintained and managed by the USDA Forest Service, Lake Between The Lakes welcomes over 2 million visitors a year.
Monday & Tuesday (10/9-10) Nashville – “Music City”
We had two busy days as we rented a car to drive to Nashville following the AAA guide and the “tourist things to do”. We toured the backstage of new Grand Ole Opry; attended a concert at the original Ryman Auditorium seeing the “Secret Sisters,” and Jason Isbell; took the hop on hop off trolley tour of the city; and walked downtown Nashville. As we travel we enjoy meeting others, this time two wonderful couples: one from Washington state who were also attending the concert at Ryman Auditorium (and are going to send us a picture of their baby to be born in February) and a couple from Iowa City who we identified as he was wearing an ANF (America Needs Farmers) hat with the Iowa Hawkeye logo.
Broadway street is the honky tonk highway full of musician’s singing in bars and restaurants. It was Tootsie’s 57th anniversary in Nashville and a part of Broadway Street was closed for the celebration. Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, a Nashville country music institution and world-famous honky-tonk has operated across the alley from the Ryman almost continuously since 1960. Its proprietor from 1960 to 1978, Hattie Louise “Tootsie” Bess, bought the lounge called “Mom’s” and named it for herself. According to tradition, a painter mistakenly painted the exterior orchid purple, a color determined by the leftover paint that had been put into a container from other jobs that was to be thrown away. The color was never changed and became Tootsie’s signature color. Over the years, she served such famous customers as Kris Kristofferson, Faron Young, and Willie Nelson when they were still up-and-coming artists. Tootsie was well-known for her generosity toward struggling musicians. The photo- and memorabilia-lined walls are called “Tootsie’s Wall of Fame.” A portion of the Loretta Lynn biopic, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” was filmed inside Tootsie’s.
Monday (10/9) Patti’s 1800’s Settlement, Grand Rivers
We biked a short distance into town for lunch before getting a rental car for our trip to Nashville. Grand Rivers is known for Patti’s 1880’s restaurant which serves 350,000 people a year. Patti’s Settlement includes a beautiful garden, 19 hole miniature golf course and gift shop, but is famous for their 6-8 inch “Mile High” meringue pie’s, pork chops and “flower pot” bread. One courageous woman transformed her love for cooking and family into an award-winning business that serves over one million dollars in pork chops every year– all in the town of approximately 350 people. As Patti’s Settlement grew, so did the number of guests that visited each year. They decided it was time to make their establishment a destination rather than just a restaurant so they incorporated places where their long distant customers can spend the night and enjoy all that the charming resort village has to offer. They invite you to stay at their hotel, bed and breakfast or campground, all located only minutes away from Patti’s 1880’s Settlement. We enjoyed the southern hospitality of Patti’s, as do most of the Loopers who stay at Green Turtle Bay Marina. It is a must do on the Loop.
Saturday (10/7) Green Turtle Bay Marina, Grand Rivers, Kentucky
This morning all boats departed at various times. The first PC arrived at Lock 52 at 9:50; the last of the 7 boats at 11:30 AM. We all anchored out of the channel and, almost exactly at 2:00 PM, we were invited into the chamber. So, presently it looks like the Olmstead chamber and Lock 53 one day; Lock 52 the next.
The 7 PC’s were cleared through Lock 52 at 3:00 PM with all but Loofah III stopping at Paducah, Kentucky. We entered the Cumberland River which flows into the Ohio River and flows 690 miles miles through Tennessee. We calculated that we could travel the 48 miles to get through Barkley Lock and arrive at Green Turtle Bay Marina around 7:00 PM. We had a few minute wait at Barkley Lock & Dam which lifted us 57′.
A little light rain off on on followed us up the Cumberland River but then it poured while in the lock and for the rest of the night. Secure and cozy in Grand Rivers.
Friday 10/6) Through Lock & Dam 53, Olmstead, Illinois
Ohio River locks: Olmsted, Lock 53, and Lock 52.
Lock 53 currently has 55 tows waiting, some since 10/1 (per Corps of Engineers “Lock Queue Report” report at http://www.mvr.usace.army.mil/Missions/Navigation.aspx). Hence, it appears that the lockmasters at 52 and 53 are grouping PCs together at each lock, for one lift a day.
We arrived at Olmstead at 12:17 PM, Friday, 10/6, and were directed to follow a tow through the Olmstead chamber, and to tie up on a lock wall to port, on the downstream side of Lock 53. At 6:00 PM, the seven PCs that had gathered at the wall during the day, were locked through. It was further suggested that we take a hard turn to port after locking through; to spend the night on an upstream wall of the same lock; and to proceed to Lock 52 the next day. We were also told that one chamber of PCs had locked through Lock 52 that day at 2:00 PM. All of us stayed the night on the 53 wall.
Friday (10/6) Waiting for lockage
Loofah III is now traveling up the Ohio River. We currently have a break in travel at 2:00 P.M. as we tied to a wall at Lock and Dam 53 waiting to lock through later today (6:00 P.M.?). There are 7 PC’s (Pleasure Craft) waiting on this wall. Olmstead Lock and Dam is currently under construction and will replace Lock & Dam’s 53 & 52 in the year 2020. The Olmstead lock master is in control of the lock through and announced that there were 12 tows in line to lock through the one chamber with their loads of 3 wide and PC’s will be locked through as soon as they can. All loopers are reviewing options for the night as this later lockage has changed everyone’s plans for the night.
Thursday (10/5) Cape Girardeau, MO – 112 miles
After taking advantage of good internet access we departed Hoppie’s at 8:50 am. We traveled by beautiful homes along the bluffs and encountered various modes of transportation. (See picture page for more pictures)
Today was the biggest tow/barge traffic day as many of the tows were pushing 5 by 5 loads. We did not have problem passing the tows except in one narrow area at Mile marker 79 where we choose to wait for the tow Tom Frazier to clear the channel. As we approached the anchorage of Little Diversion Channel we were happy to be hailed by another Looper, Lake Effect as they provided us guidance on the anchorage. We also had wonderful assistance from Luc of Lil Hide Away as he tied our line to shore and helped us set our anchor with his dingy. It was nice to see both Canadian couples again and catch up since we last saw them at the Illinois Yacht Club.
Wednesday (10/4) Back underway – to Hoppies.
After 10 days ashore was was time to get back underway. The leaves are starting to turn.
As we departed Grafton and the Illinois River, we were greeted by “Our Lady of the Rivers” on the West bank of the Mississippi. She stands near the confluences of the Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri Rivers (separated by just a couple miles). Because of the base on which she stands, even when the river floods, she can be seen standing above the turbulent waters! A beautiful way resume our adventure.
Today we went through two locks on the Mississippi: down 23′ at the Mel Price Lock and down another 12′ in the Chain of Rocks Lock (we are now down 479′ from Lake Michigan). If you ignore the sign directing you to the channel to the latter lock, you will, indeed, end up on the rocks just north of St. Louis.
Seeing familiar sights from a different perspective is always enjoyable. We have pictures of the river taken from the St. Louis arch looking down; now we have them from the river, looking up!
Our destination for the day was Hoppie’s at Kimmswick, MO, just over 60 miles downstream. Hoppie’s is one of the memories shared by every Looper. The marina consists of 3, 100′ barges tied to the bank with wire cables. Fuel, electricity and water are all available. But, what makes this the memorable stop that it is: Fern Hopkins. Every afternoon she briefs boaters on the unique characteristics of the Mississippi, Ohio, and Cumberland Rivers to the south: where to anchor, where not to; dealing with tows and barges on river bends; stops for fuel (none for 250 miles); and the difference in locking priorities between the Corps of Engineers and the Tennessee Valley Authority (“TVA”). More on that later. We need to get underway!
Saturday (9/30) THE BIG DAY!
What more can be said?
Tuesday (9/26) Off to the Wedding!
Using the marina’s courtesy car, and joined by a delightful French-Canadian couple doing the Loop in a houseboat, we departed for the Enterprise car rental office in Alton, IL at 8:00. We returned to the marina, loaded the rental car and headed for Des Moines for an exciting week. Matt & Molly are getting married!
Matt and Molly enjoy Milwaukee and have made an annual visit to Loofah over the Forth of July weekend. In May of 2016 Matt called us for dinner to tell us he planned to ask Molly to marry him while they were aboard in Milwaukee. We enjoyed dinner with Matt & Molly at the Milwaukee Yacht Club July 1st and then departed the next day by RV for Door County. We left after hiding a cooler, chilling Champagne, and glasses. Matt asked Molly for her hand aboard Loofah July 3, 2016. July 4th, 2018. This weekend they will be married.
Next year they will have to visit us in Canada for their annual visit.
By returning to Des Moines early in the trip, we got the opportunity to take back items we no longer needed or wanted aboard, and to bring back things we forgot. On the list to bring back to the boat: Sue’s snorkel and mask, microwavable bowls, hair dryer, proper glasses for Port, an internet router, and citronella candles. Could we have gotten these things along the way? Yes, but not as easily as it will be by car rather than bike or walking.
Mon (9/25) Blogging, logging … and relaxing
First leg trivia:
- Today is day 13 of our trip. In the first 12 days we have traveled 421 miles.
- Progressed through 8 locks (going down a total of 159.2 ft from Lake Michigan)
- Traveled at an average of 13.46 mph.
- We have had sunny hot weather, with the highs in the mid 90’s (four days of record heat) and lows in the mid 60’s; one night of light rain.
- We believe we may be the newest Looper on this leg, having just started on September 13th.
- We have “formally” met (exchanged cards) 26 other Looper crews along the way; another 12 or 15 boats with AGLCA burgees have seen either on the water, at anchor or at a marina.
- Due to the short time of this leg we did not fully provision the galley and only needed one trip for a few groceries.
- Filtered marina water has been used to make ice, brew green ice tea, to do dishes, and to fill the onboard potable water tanks. We are using a Brita water pitcher to additionally filter the water from our tanks for drinking water and the critical morning coffee.
- We haven’t driven a car since September 12th.
- Our website has had 1617 views and 230 visitors.
Initial observations: In many conversations and emails, we are asked what we have enjoyed most.
We have enjoyed the nautical experiences of locking, navigation, and seamanship; of working together in doing those things. We have enjoyed the scenery and the water. We have enjoyed the quiet time together.
BUT we both agree, one of the things we have enjoyed the most is meeting wonderful people: fellow Loopers as well as individuals in marinas and ashore.
Tonight, we walked into the small, “river-town”, rustic, “Grafton Pub.” Heather, behind the bar, greeted us warmly. As did Mike (a Grafton resident for 7 years), who sat at the corner of the bar, leaning over a glass of Chablis. Just separated by a chair from Mike, were Eddie and Patty (locals, married 51 years.) Standing that the kitchen door was Gary, at the ready to cook our meal. Wayne, the owner of another establishment across the street, stopped in later for a libation, after work.
The conversation was easy, interesting, informative, lighthearted, and included an occasional, delightful jab. It reminded us of a episode of “Cheers.” And we were just one of the family…. It was a good day.
Sun (9/24) Grafton Harbor
Since we only had a short distance (21 miles) to Grafton, Illinois we spent the morning washing the boat, mainly to remove the fish marks (and pieces) left by the Asian Carp as they jump out of the water, slamming into the boat. Those that hit the boat were knocked out or returned to the water a bit “loopy.”
We weighed anchor at 13:30 for Grafton Harbor where Loofah III will stay for the week while we return to Des Moines on Tuesday for our son Matt’s wedding September 30th. A friendly Grafton Harbor crew greeted us at the fuel dock and assisted us at our pier. A number of local boat owners also greeted us, all interested in knowing more about our experience on the Loop. Once Loofah III was secure with power, water and internet we enjoyed dinner at Oyster Bar at the marina.
The weather has been very warm with mornings beginning in the 60’s reaching mid 90’s each day. No sweaters or fleece needed so far. The locals would welcome some much needed rain.
Sat (9/23) R&R at Anchor.
Loofah III untied from “Thistle” after breakfast at Mel’s Riverdock Restaurant. The other Loopers continued down river; we decided to travel a short distance to Mortland Island to anchor for the day and evening. The picture below is our view from the anchorage. Now that MM 77 was dredged, the tows and barges could get back underway. We were glad were were through. It was a wonderful day of kayaking, projects and relaxation.
Fri (9/22) Going for it!
After departing Ivy Yacht Club Marina 9/22 at 7:45 am Loofah III traveled down the Illinois River arriving at LaGrange Lock at 13:25. The river was closed to commercial traffic at this point due to low water and the grounding of barges just two miles down stream. The lock master brought the water up for us so it took just 8 minutes to lock through. We listened to the VHF channel 14 as tows were calling the lockmaster to get into the lock que. As we were passing there were now over 32 tows waiting to get underway! We slowly passed the Dredge Goetz as she was hailed by the Coast Guard asking for an update. The Dredge hoped to be finished at 17:00. We made it by 4 hours!
Loofah III logged 146 miles today to the Illinois Riverdock Restaurant and Pier at Hardin, IL. As we arrived the pier was full, but the crew of “Thistle” (Greg & Reenie) hailed us asking if we’d like to raft with them. After securing Loofah III to “Thistle,” we all enjoyed docktails aboard “Drift Away,” then a wonderful dinner at Mel’s Riverdock Restaurant. It was a good day!
Friday (9/22) – To go, or not to go!
Early this morning Art talked to other Loopers on the pier who were planning to get underway. Art called the LaGrange Lock who said they were locking PC’s (Pleasure Craft) through as the PC’s are being allowed to get by MM77, a low depth area that is to be dredged. There are 26 tow’s in que waiting to lock through near LaGrange Lock. The tows have locking priority. If the dredging gets completed and they start locking through before we get there, we may have to wait 2 to 3 days. We are going to go for it!
Loofah departed the pier at 7:45 and made it in time to lock through the Peoria Lock with 5 other PC’s. So far so good.
Thursday (9/21) Provisioning by Bicycle
We awoke to the following USACE notice:
1. USCG Sector Upper Mississippi River has closed the Illinois Waterway mile 77 – 78 due to several groundings on 17 September 2017. 2. The USACE Dredge Goetz is anticipated to arrive on Friday, 22 September to start dredging. It is estimated to take 48 hours after arrival to prepare a pilot channel at mile 77 ILWW prior to resuming traffic.
As we helped the crew of “Odyssey,” Sue and Bud, get underway from the slip next to us, we found that they were from Cedar Falls, IA. Sue’s brother had a construction firm in Des Moines with which Art is very familiar; small world!
It was time to try out the bicycles. Peoria was just 5 miles from the IVY Club, and we were out of tonic water. We enjoyed the exercise and sights, and lunch at the Blue Duck Barbecue Tavern upon our return.
Now off to meet the new Loopers that arrived today!
Wednesday (9/20) What’s Going On Downstream?
“Mother Ocean’s” float plan is to proceed South with some dispatch and their usual port departure is about sunrise. As they were in a tight slip, Art rolled out to the pier about 6:15 AM to see if an additional line handler would be of assistance. By the time he got there, they were down to one line and ready to go. Dennis at the helm (connected to Jan on deck providing direction and clearances by wireless headsets) skillfully “wiggled” their yacht out of the slip and the tight quarters to the river. We look forward to seeing them at the AGLCA Fall Rendezous at Joe Wheeler State Park in Rogersville, AL October 16-19, 2017.
Each morning we spend a good deal of time reviewing the US Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) websites to on lock ques, and notices. We review weather, Rivergages.com for water levels and the news on the daily AGLCA list-serve.
The good news is that the LaGrange Lock at Illinois River mile 80 is back to being fully operational! From June until last week, it had been closed from 6:00 AM to 5:00 PM for reconstruction. On one occasion, Art noted 21 tows were in the que, some waiting three days to lock thru!
But now, due to record low water levels on the Illinois River the word is that the river at mile 77 is closed closed and pleasure craft are NOT being allowed through. Nevertheless, it does appear from others blog posts that there is some movement. We are watching for news from “Mother Ocean” and others downstream from us. We need to get to Grafton Harbor Marina (mile 0.7) by Monday (9/25) to get back for our son Matt’s wedding!
The balance of the day was spent organizing the “garage,” line handling for other Loopers, and cocktails/dinner at the IVY Club’s lovely bar with “Thistle’s” crew, Greg and Reenie.
So we are experiencing first hand being part of the America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association (“AGLCA”). It’s a floating yacht club!
Tuesday (9/19) Off to the Illinois Valley Yacht Club.
We awoke to a foggy morning. After checking NOAA radar and local weather, we deemed the visibility to be acceptable. As Loofah III got underway at 7:45 AM, we noted that “Mother Ocean,” a Great Harbor 47 with Dennis and Jan aboard, had departed earlier. That was comforting.
After 45 minutes underway, we approached the Starved Rock Lock (MM 231, 18.7′ drop). There was “Mother Ocean” tied off to a cell. When we called Dennis on the VHF he told us the Lockmaster said it could be a couple of hours. We tied off to the same cell and took our coffee to join Dennis and Jan aboard their beautiful boat. The time went by quickly.
A 10:00 AM we were hailed by the Lockmaster to proceed into the lock. Thirty minutes later we down and out, and Loofah III was cruising the quiet river water at 25 mph. We became comfortable passing or overtaking the tows and their barges “on the one” or “one the twos” (old whistle signals) to designate turning to starboard or port.
Although we had seen videos and pictures of the “flying fish” of the Illinois River, we were totally unprepared for the experience. We actually had to close our windows as they were slamming into the boat! Tomorrow we wash the boat!
Loofah III entered the harbor at the Illinois Valley Yacht Club (the “IVY Club”) at 2:11 PM having traveled 64 miles since leaving the lock. As we had heard concerns about the water depths, Art and I got in the kayaks and took the handheld depth meter to recheck the approach and depths to the harbor. The data was texted to “Mother Ocean” who followed and to “First Forty” back in Ottawa.
Since arriving, “Serenity” and “Elenor” have entered the harbor, and “Mother Ocean” just landed. Off to experience the hospitality of the IVY Club!
Monday (9/18) In Port
With wiring and adapters installed for the new deck wash system, the planned enhancements to Loofah III were completed today. We said good bye to “Triple Threat’s” crew as they were heading home for a few weeks, leaving their boat to have some maintenance completed. It seems that since proceeding through the “electronic fish barrier” that is designed to keep the Asian Carp out of Lake Michigan, the engines never developed proper RPMs. As we were enjoying cocktails aboard “First Forty,” we greeted five boat with AGLCA burgees that had just completed locking through the Marseiles Lock. The evening was topped of with dinner at the Red Dog with the crew of “Mother Ocean.” The crew of “Loofah III” is sensing that she wants some exercise!
Sunday (9/17) A “Rope Yarn Sunday.”
“Rope Yarn is a tradition that the Navy has where the commanding officer can give time off. It started during the times when Navy ships used sails and the Sailors would break out rope yarn to mend their clothes and hammocks. Sailors would get the yarn they had to make ropes while underway. Short on resources, they used it as thread to mend clothes and hammocks. The tradition was a break from usual chores at sea, and was nicknamed “Rope Yarn Sunday.” After sailing ships were no longer used by the Navy, Rope Yarn Wednesday became free afternoons Sailors would use to attend to personal errands.”
Work on the windlass control, whipping lines for the new fenders, adding shelves to a locker, a briefing on river conditions (low!) by the Dockmaster, and tiding up the ship came to a halt at 5:30 when the crews of “First Forty” (Bill and Bobby), and “Triple Treat” came aboard for a short libation before joining the others on the shore for “docktails.”
On the way down the pier, Bobby stopped by “First Forty” and introduced Art to a wonderful Rye; there is much yet to be learned in this world!
Saturday (9/16) Heritage Harbor Marina.
It was time to turn attention to the boat projects, the logs, email and conversations with fellow Loopers. Later in the morning it was good to see our friends from the Joliet wall, “First Forty,” “Resolute,” “Cha Cha” and “In Deep Ship,” parade into the marina. After a day of projects, Wendy arranged for use of the marina’s courtesy car, and we headed to the “Lone Buffalo,” an Ottawa micro brewery. We are just starting to get into the swing of “looping!”
Fri (9/15), Joliet to Ottawa, IL.
At 9:00 AM, Jim, aboard “First Forty,” called the Brandon Lock just down stream (MM 286, drop 34′). The lockmaster directed the 5 “PC’s” (Pleasure Craft) that chose to get underway, to approach and be ready for a locking through. After an hour of drifting, we were directed into the chamber and to position starboard and aft the tow “WC Smith” for a 10:30 drop.
When the lock doors opened, “Loofah III” and “Riomargologa” were able to open their throttles to cruising speed (25 mph). Fifteen miles down stream, we arrived at Dresdon Lock (MM 271.5, drop ), our 4th. As we approached, there was “Triple Threat!” After waiting over an hour, we turned to see the three trawlers, with whom we had started the day’s journey, approaching. As there was limited room in the well, at 1:30 PM the first three of us were direct to proceed into the lock in front of a tow; the three trawlers would have to wait.
And, indeed, they waited! Art got a text from “In Deep Ship” at 5:00 PM that they were still at anchor, waiting. They ended up waiting nearly 5 hours and chose an alternate marina for the evening.
After departing Dresden Lock, we were able to open throttles and arrived at the last lock of the day, Marseiles Lock (MM 271.5, drop 21.75′) at 3:38 PM. Listening to the VHF communications between the tow Captains and the Lockmaster, we knew it was going to be a wait. “Loofah III’s” anchor was lowered in the “waiting area” and “Triple Threat” rafted alongside. These two Canadians, Wendy and Jim, are a hoot!
When the ship’s clock chimed 2 bells (5:00 PM), we poured a light gin and tonic, and continued the dialog until the 4 PC’s waiting to lock through were directed into the chamber at at 6:10. We dropped, as the sun did as well!
“Triple Threat,” “Serenity” (a PDQ36 catamaran), and “Loofah III” headed to Heritage Harbor Marina, Ottawa just a short distance from the lock. Harbor Hosts Dennis & Sandy greeted us at the end (“T”) of B pier to take our lines. Hot showers followed as did dinner at Red Dog with Jim & Wendy. Lights out 23:50. An enjoyable day down the river; the colors are beginning to change.
Thursday (9/14), Chicago to Joliet
We began our day entering the Chicago Harbor Lock for a two foot drop. The trip down the Illinois river to the wall at Bicentennial Park in Joliet is underway. Although we had traveled through Chicago last year, Art took a position on the roof top so he could check clearance with respect to the current river level. At river mile 320.4 there is a fixed bridge with a clearance of 17.6 feet based upon a pool level of 576.2 at the Lockport lock. Our “air draft” is 17′ 4″; we should make it.
Relief. The report that pool was 2′ low was confirmed as Art reported that Loofah III’s anchor light cleared the railroad bridge by 21″.
During the 45 mile trip we encountered several tow boats & barges before Loofah III rafted alongside “Triple Threat” forward in the Lockport Lock (MM 291, 39′ drop). “Triple Threat” is a 38′ Donzi with three, 300 hp Merc outboards. We exchanged cards and noted with some amusement that Wendy was the craft’s “Bumper Girl.” A delightful Canadian couple!
At 16:10 Loofah III was greeted by numerous other Loopers and secured to the wall at Bicentennial Park. We were encouraged to bring a “docktail” to the park benches to meet and greet the crews from the 11 boats. Dinner aboard followed the enjoyable conversation and the exchange of “boater cards.” Day two was a good day!
Wednesday (9/13) – Underway!
After planning and preparing for nearly 3 years, DEPARTURE DAY has arrived. Although things have not yet been properly stowed, we are anxious to get underway on this sunny day. Lake Michigan is calling. After a stop to top off our fuel tanks Loofah III departs Milwaukee harbor’s North Gap at 13:35. The adventure has begun!
Four hours and 90 miles later, Sue guides Loofah III skillfully to the end of the “L” pier at Burnham Harbor in Chicago. We spend a few hours sorting and properly storing the gear, and then headed ashore for showers.
Fully refreshed, we enjoyed libations, grilled steaks and had birthday cake aboard under the glittering lights of the Windy City. As we prepare to dine on the aft deck, we noted “# END HUNGER” spelled out by the lights of one of the buildings. We gave thanks for the blessings we have enjoyed and the need to share them.
Tuesday (9/12) – Final preparations
The day has been spent with multiple trips to Home Depot, Target, and the grocery store. The major project (new rollers for the dingy in Loofah’s “garage”) has been substantially completed and everything has been put aboard before the rental car is returned to te Milwaukee airport. Things are in a bit of disarray, but for the first time we feel like “Loopers” as our means of transportation has gone from a car to folding bicycles.
Monday (9/11/17) Locking the door!
As we pack and prepare to depart for Milwaukee, our thoughts turn to those whose lives were lost or impacted on “9/11” seventeen years ago, and those impacted by Hurricane Irma. The fact that we don’t know what will greet us in Florida, the Keys, and the Bahamas seems like a minor worry compared to those who are rebuilding lives and properties. Should we go at all? We’ll put off that decision, pick up a rental car at the Des Moines airport and head to Milwaukee.
August 21, 2017 – Pre-departure “Physical”
On Monday, August 21, we had Loofah III pulled by CenterPointe Yacht Services in Milwaukee to get her prepared for our journey. We can’t say enough about the service we received from Daren Stein and Larry Schultz.
The bottom was scuffed and a new coat of Pettit “Hydrocoat” applied, and then we waxed the entire hull and superstructure.
Although Art had changed the oil and filters on the engines and generator previously, he was anxious to become familiar with preforming other maintenance operations. Typically Larry would do the operation first and then watch as Art repeated it on the second engine. All of the impellers, oil filters, fuel filters, engine anodes, and the generator anode were pulled and replaced. The anodes on the hull looked good after two years in fresh water and were just bead-blasted to clean them up. The coolants were checked and topped off.
To get in and out of the shed, the anchor light had to be removed which allowed less than an inch of clearance between the radar mast and the overhead door.
All the systems were checked out while in the slings before relaunching.
Before departing CenterPointe, Art secured all of the parts and tools that had been used during the week, including the fluids to keep the systems topped off.
A sea trial followed and all of the temperature, pressure and fuel readings checked out, from idle to nearly nearly full throttle.
It was now time to return to Des Moines to complete the “to do list” at home before setting off for a year on the Loop!
Each Spring for 146 years, the Milwaukee Yacht Club has conducted a “Commissioning” ceremony to formally start a new year of activities, to install new officers, to “Bless the Fleet,” and to honor those who have died or been lost at sea. Although commissionings differ, the event is usually done with nautical precision and formality.
The “Blessing of the Fleet” is a tradition that dates back centuries when, prior to setting out to sea each year, prayers were offered for the safe (and successful) labor of fishermen and their craft.
Those who have died or been lost at sea are also honored. During the yacht club’s event, a wreath is commissioned and reverently taken out into Lake Michigan where it is set adrift.
The formal program is followed by another nautical tradition: comradery over libations.
Although we have always found “Commissioning of the Fleet” events meaningful, this year’s had a special significance for us as we prepared to set out on a yearlong adventure aboard Loofah III.
July 12, 2016 – “Publicly Committed”
During a conversation at a cocktail party, Sue & Art casually shared they were seriously considering doing “the loop” beginning September 2017. Shortly after this conversation the following appeared in the Des Moines Business Record, online edition.
NOTEBOOK: Art Wittmack plans to sail “great loop” by Dave Elbert, Columnist
“Art Wittmack, father of ultra-adventurer Charlie Wittmack, is planning an unusual trek of his own in 2017. You remember Charlie, the Des Moines native who created the World Triathlon, an 11-month swim, bike and mountain climb journey from England to Mount Everest. Art Wittmack, who formerly led Neumann Brothers and the Science Center of Iowa, wants to do something called the “great loop,” which involves piloting a sailboat from Lake Michigan down the Illinois and Mississippi rivers and other inland waterways to Florida, then up the Atlantic Coast to the Hudson River, Erie Canal and back to Lake Michigan.”