Cruising on Island Time

America's Great Loop here we come

Crossing our wake!

Posted on November 23, 2019

Friday, November 15 – Indiantown. At first light, we departed Fort Myers thinking we could transit the 5 locks (yes more locks), cross Lake Okeechobee and make Stuart about 120 miles away. The forecast was for rain most the day but that’s okay. Lightning and wind not so much. We have travelled across the Caloosahatchee / Okeechobee waterway before so we pretty much knew what to expect. Most of the waterway is very rural with sightings of cows, alligators, ospreys, and manatees. In fact the last time we crossed, we had manatees in at least a couple of the locks with us. Got off to a good start and able to run at about 20 mph. No problems with the Franklin lock; got right in. Slight wait at the Ortona lock but it turned out to be the most challenging lock of any we have transited. It was about a 9’ lift and as the water was pouring in from the other side, we couldn’t hold on to the lines and finally had to start our engines and control the boat with the engines. We later remembered that in the Florida locks, you are supposed to wrap the lock lines around your cleats (not tie it off) and adjust as you go up or down. Since we were used to just holding the lines from the previous 145 locks so had trouble controlling the boat. Anyway, figured it out and all good for the moment including the low swing bridge that we had to call via VHF and have opened.

When we were approaching the Moore Haven lock, there is a railroad bridge that is usually open unless a train is coming. Sure enough, the bridge was closed and our Garmin information said that you might have to wait for 30 minutes. Just about this time, we look behind us and here comes a wall of rain. Heavy, monsoon type rain so we quickly scooted over to the Moore Haven town dock and tied off just as the rain came down. Bob called the lock and asked about status of train bridge since a train had passed minutes before and yet the bridge was stilled closed. Lockmaster said there maybe another train in area but he would call if not open in 10 minutes. About 10 minutes later, lockmaster called us via VHF and told us the bridge would open soon so we untied from the dock and headed to the bridge. After a westbound boat left the lock and passed through the narrow opening of the bridge, we proceeded into the lock and locked through without incident.

After Moore Haven, you are almost to Clewiston and Lake Okeechobee. We decided to check the middle bilge pump and it wasn’t working. Decision time as to whether we head into Roland’s Marina in Clewiston or head across Lake Okeechobee which is 25 miles across with some wind and rain. Chose to continue but halfway across, Bob jumped into the engine room to see if he could get the mid bilge pump to work. We didn’t want to sink out in the middle of the lake. Finally got it pumping but with the several delays we knew that we would not make Stuart. We finally figured out was what causing the water leaking into the bilge. It appears our shaft seals are leaking which is aggravated by running fast. Tried calling a couple of marinas in the area thinking we would have them haul us out, replace the shaft seals and we would rent a car and go home. No go. The marinas were are full and too booked up for us. Getting concerned now as with the delays in crossing, we weren’t going to get to the last lock by 4:30 which is their last locking time. Finally, called Indiantown Marina and they squeezed us in to the last space they had on their wall. Told us we would stick out but we were happy to have a place to tie up and try and fix our bilge pumps and pump out any new water. The term Marina is a bit of a stretch for this place. It really is a working boatyard where boaters store their boats for the summer during hurricane season and it is in the middle of nowhere, about 20 miles west of Stuart and in between two locks. Came in around 4:00, tied up, made dinner and went to bed. Confirmed we weren’t sinking. The only thing in our favor for the day was that the Port Mayaca lock was open and we passed through. Didn’t have to stop and tie off the tender, just passed through at idle speed as the lake was level with the waterway.

Saturday, November 16 – HOME! Crossing our wake! First light headed out again with destination Pompano Beach (100 miles) and home. 15 miles to the St. Lucie lock which was a short wait but easy then 15 miles to the ICW and southbound. Fairly uneventful day but just long. Some pretty homes along the Okeechobee waterway (photo) and of course once into the Palm Beach / Jupiter area. We know we are on the home stretch and just want to be home but so many slow speed or idle speed zones. Finally got home and officially crossed our wake at 6pm. Yay! Another 11 hour travel day. But we had texted our friends / neighbors Scott & Gayle that we would be home and asked them to join us for a drink in celebration. They were so sweet meeting us at our dock just as it was getting dark and had brought lots of fine wine for the celebration. Tied up the boat and sat on our dock with Gayle and Scott to enjoy the moment.

And so ends our Great Loop adventure and we can now fly the “Gold” AGLCA burgee, signfying that we have completed the Great Loop.  Wow!!!

Bittersweet, really. We are glad to be home for sure but just now realizing our accomplishment. Two countries, 18 states, about 150 locks, approximately 5,200  miles, 11 months on the boat (split up 6 months in 2018 & 5 months in 2019), met at least 100 other loopers along the way, made some new life long friends, got to see and explore so many new towns and cities, lots of beautiful vistas, anchorages, and wildlife. It’s an adventure that not many people will ever experience. In fact, more people climb Mount Everest then do the Great Loop each year. While we were both experienced boaters before setting out, we certainly learned a lot more and perfected the term “team work”. Bob likes to tell people that inquire about the fact that we tow our tender that we are like a Nascar pit crew. When approaching a lock or marina, we can pull in the tender or let it out in a minute or less. Fast and efficient.

Lots of people have asked us “what was your favorite spot” or “what next”. The answer to the first question is its really hard to point to one favorite or best parts. There were certainly highlights of the adventure that were more memorable; Belhaven (NC), Annapolis, the Hudson river, Lake Ontario, Thousand Islands (NY), most if not all of Canada, Georgian Bay/ North Channel, Harbor Springs (MI). But seeing the beauty that each area had to offer and all the loons, bald eagles, dolphins and other wildlife was amazing.

The answer to the second question as to what’s next is a few things. We look forward to spending more time in the Keys and the Bahamas as we continue to enjoy our semi-retired lives. We have also planned a trip to Europe next September. We will fly to Copenhagen, visit our friends Mari & Tommy in Sweden, then make our way south (via cars & trains) to Barcelona visiting several countries (Denmark, Germany, France, Switzerland,) on the way then board a Celebrity cruise ship back to Fort Lauderdale. This is a repositioning cruise and is 15 days (8 days at sea) while crossing the Atlantic Ocean. So that is what’s next.

At this writing, we have been home almost a week and it truly is nice to be home. We retired our white looper burgee (badly needed to retire) and hoisted up our new gold burgee. So friends, farewell for now. Thanks for travelling along with us on our Great Loop adventure. Stay well and keep in touch!

Bob & Gigi
Island Time – Gold Loopers

Pensacola to Fort Myers

Posted on November 18, 2019

Thursday/ Friday, November 7 – 8 – Destin Harbor. Departed Pensacola in the morning and headed out into Mobile Bay which is a big bay. As we were turning east into the intercoastal waterway, we spotted a couple of other looper boats that were just ahead of us. One of the boats we had seen before. Travelled along together for a while but we were going slightly faster than they were so we passed them. Originally, we had planned to anchor out in a remote anchorage just past Destin but Bob needed to have a document notarized and sent off so we opted to anchor in Destin Harbor (pesky work thing!). Saw tons of dolphins along the way and some were very playful and even flirting with Bob at the bow of the boat.

While Destin Harbor has a lot of marinas, private and public, there are very few available slips due to Hurricane Michael decimating the Panama City area. Surviving boats from that area have taken up residence here as Panama City is still in a bad way. In fact, we were warned to bypass the Panama City area as it remains in bad shape. But within the Destin Harbor there are a couple of places to drop the hook for the night and we did. Intended to go to dinner at one of the many waterside restaurants but decided to stay onboard instead.

A cold front was forecasted to pass through the area in the evening with strong winds expected on Friday. Went to breakfast at Harbor Docks restaurant then headed back to the boat intent on leaving. While we wanted to get going, we decided to stay another night at this anchorage and forego getting beat up with 3-4’ waves in the bay. So while Bob worked, I called a friend of mine, Tim Malambri, that is a yacht broker with Galati Yacht Sales and asked if he would drive me to the grocery store. Tim’s office is in the harbor so I hopped in the tender and went to visit him. Nice to have friends when needed.

Later in the afternoon, we went for a tender ride and explored the harbor area which has a mixture of really nice homes and less nice ones. Afterwards, we headed to dinner at Boshamps and had more oysters. It was quite chilly and raining off and on.

Saturday, November 9 – Apalachicola, FL. At first light, we weighed anchor and headed out towards Choctawhatchee Bay and GCICW. The first 24 miles were very bumpy as it was windy and the bay is very big. The winds were coming out of the northeast and we were on the southside of the bay so lots of time for the waves to grow (called fetch). But once we crossed the bay, we were in the narrow ICW channel protected from the winds so we decided to run the boat. We had not gone fast and up on plane since Lake Michigan (over 1,000 miles) and wanted to make sure Island Time was ready for the long crossing coming up (more about that later). We put out a longer tow line for the tender and ran at 22 mph for the rest of the day. Originally, we had planned on travelling only about 70 miles to an anchorage just past Panama City but decided to push on to Apalachicola which was 104 miles away. We travelled 11 hours and made Apalachicola just before 5pm and headed straight for the fuel dock. As we were planning on an early start (before the fuel docks opened) we needed to top off to make the upcoming and big crossing. We knew of several boats that were planning on doing the crossing on Sunday morning (the purported better weather window) including One Eye Dog, Lucky Me, R & R, Mimi & Me and a few others.

The crossing from either Apalachicola or Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs creates a lot of angst among loopers. The crossing is about 130 – 150 miles unless you opt for the rim route to Steinhatchee which is about 70 – 90 miles depending on your departure point. During the winter months, which is when most loopers make the crossing, one must wait for the right weather window as there are no places for safe harbor along the “Big Bend”. Wind, waves, storms & fronts can and do bring on bad crossing conditions. Sometimes loopers have had to wait at least 2 weeks before the conditions were right. Also adding to the stress, is that many looper boats are slow and only can go 7 – 9 mph (6 – 7 for sailboats). So if you do the math, you are looking at a 15-18 hour crossing for the slow boats which means running out of daylight. Most of the slow boats, buddy up and travel at night leaving in the afternoon and running all night in order to arrive in Tarpon Springs no earlier than 10am. The timing of arrival is very important because this time of year the commercial fisherman lay out hundreds of crab pots in the shallower waters approaching land. Why is this important? Well, you must see them to avoid them and avoid having the floating buoy and line wrap around your propellers and stop your engine. And if you try to arrive with the sun just rising, the sun is in your eyes and you can’t see the crab pots. All part of planning the crossing.

After fueling, we found a spot on a marina wall in between One Eye Dog and Sand Dollar. Got settled in, had a much needed cocktail after a very long day then headed to meet some loopers at the restaurant Up the Creek. We all discussed our plans and planned speeds with most of us departing at daybreak. Some were headed to Tarpon Springs, some to Dunedin, and some Clearwater. Our plans were to make Dunedin. Everyone turned in early to rest for the “big crossing”. Sand Dollar was planning on the overnight and leaving the next afternoon.

Sunday/ Monday, November 10-11 – Not Dunedin. Larry & April on One Eye Dog departed at 5:30am in the dark. They had done this crossing before and were comfortable heading out in the dark. April texted us after they got out of Government Cut and into the Gulf that conditions were a lot worse than the 2 -3’ waves predicted. 4’ – 5’ waves were spraying over their flybridge. The forecast was calling for the winds to die down starting around 9am. Marv’s Weather was way off! (Marv provides a free weather service to loopers and others) We headed out at 6:30am as planned and it was nasty out in the gulf. R & R and Lucky Me were able to get up and run at 20 mph since they do not tow tenders. However, it was just too rough for us with the tender so we had to slow down to about 10 mph. And we kept waiting for the wind to die down. After a few hours of getting tossed around, we knew that we would not be able to reach Dunedin or Tarpon Springs before dark so we turned east and headed to Steinhatchee. Finally at about 2pm as we got closer to land (less fetch equals smaller waves) and the wind died down, we were able to bump up the speed to 18 mph and run the last 50 miles. We called the Sea Hag Marina to see if they had an available slip and were delighted to hear they had a T-head for us. Great!

But that isn’t the rest of our bad day! Just as we were preparing to turn around and approach the dock, our starboard gear control decided to freeze in forward. Bob and I both tried shifting back to neutral to no avail. Finally we had to turn off the starboard engine. But no it gets better! Here we are in the middle of the channel with an outgoing current, trying to turn the boat around with just the port engine (which turns the boat to the right) and with the tender tied to our starboard side which adds drag or pull so your steering is not as effective and getting close to another boat and shore. So Bob jumps in the tender and tries pushing the Tiara back into the channel and away from shore and then finally tows it out into the channel with the tender. And, once the tender was not creating as much of a drag, I was able to slowly maneuver the Tiara to the T-head and we avoided damage and embarrassment. Phew! Alcohol was immediately served to settle the nerves.
Once nerves were settled, Bob went to check into the marina office and spoke to some fisherman that said that the marina had a good service department. I was a bit concerned because all I saw around us were small outboard boats and didn’t want someone that didn’t know how to work on diesel inboards to try and fix our problem. But after Bob spoke with the service manager, who absolutely knew what he was talking about, we felt so much better. Steinhatchee (pronounced Steen Hatch ee) is in the middle of nowhere and we did not have cell service and weak Wi-Fi so communication to the outside world for help was almost nonexistent. And, Clearwater, where we could get our boat repaired, if not here, is 120 miles away. The manager said the mechanics come in at 8am and he would send them to the boat to have a look. This gear problem first surfaced after our boat was splashed in Gulf Shores where we noticed the gear shift control was stiff. The problem was intermittent and we did experience the stuck gear one other time in the last week but got it resolved. Not this time. After we got cleaned up, we took the tender and went up river to Fiddler’s restaurant and enjoyed some fresh stone crabs and gulf grouper. Crashed and burned shortly after.

Monday morning (Happy Veteran’s Day) the mechanic showed up promptly at 8am and diagnosed the problem as the cable and not a transmission problem. The service manager, Charlie, found the parts in Perry, FL which was 32 miles away and Bob and I drove up there in the courtesy vehicle and retrieved them instead of waiting for delivery the next day. Since our cables are 15 years old, we decided to do them both at this time. On the way back we stopped at the market for a few provisions and returned to the boat hoping that they could make the repairs this afternoon as opposed to waiting until tomorrow. Not that we don’t like or want to stay in Steinhatchee, but another front is forecasted Tuesday night and according to Marv’s Weather, the next weather window is not until Nov 21-22. Of course, he was wrong about Sunday being a good day to cross but the weather app does show the wind picking up and thunderstorms.

To our delight, Wyatt,  the mechanic showed up at 3pm and was finished installing the new gear cables by 5pm. What a relief. We certainly can’t say enough about Sea Hag Marina and their staff. They saved us lots of time and money. After we said farewell to Wyatt, we went to dinner at Roy’s. Charlie said we could use the courtesy car even if it was within walking distance. The no-see-ums (sand gnats) here are terrible and once again I have been ravaged by the little buggers and unfortunately, have an allergic reaction to them. Dinner at Roy’s was great. They are famous for their view of the sunsets. We were seated by the window and it was beautiful to watch. Bob and I decided to try the blue crab claws for an appetizer and they were so good that Bob ended up having more for his dinner while I enjoyed the grilled red fish. Roy’s restaurant was paying homage to all veteran’s and active duty military by comping their dinner. What a great community service.

Tuesday, November 12 – Clearwater Beach. But, first Happy Birthday to grand daughter Kaity who turned 10 today! We departed Steinhatchee at first light to take advantage of the calm winds and before the forecasted rain / front moved through in the afternoon. Our goal today would be to make Clearwater (120 miles) if we could run. If it was rough again, we had plans to divert to Crystal River or something closer. The Coast Guard was broadcasting a National Weather Advisory with small craft warnings starting at 7pm and lasting until 7pm the following day (more on this later). Fortunately, we were able to pick up and run and secured a spot at the Clearwater Beach Municipal Marina in the afternoon. Fueled up then went to our slip. We were too tired to go anywhere so grilled steak on the boat and turned in early. But we got the dreaded crossing over and done with. The dolphins on the west coast of Florida are everywhere. Not only daily sightings but constant sightings. Bob got a video of some dolphins jumping and playing with our wake.

Wednesday, November 13 – Venice. Another early start at daybreak and another push to go far and get home. We normally would be taking our time and travelling less distances but Bob has some pressing work issues and a trial next week and thereafter the kids & grandkids are coming to Fort Lauderdale for Thanksgiving. So the push is on. Even though the winds had picked up, it seemed fine in the protected waters of the ICW when we departed. But when we got to St. Petersburg Bay, things got nasty. The winds were out of the northeast so the waves had lots of time to build on their way down to where we were. Once we got out into the shipping channel, we turned south and had beam seas with 4 – 6’ waves so the boat was surfing. Bob got out the life vests and insisted we both put them on. First time ever! And of course, we could not run so it took us about 2 hours of getting tossed around before we made it back into the protected waters of the ICW. There was some comfort in seeing the Coast Guard helicopters flying overhead and saw a Coast Guard cutter to the southwest. They probably thought we were crazy since they kept broadcasting “small craft advisory” in effect. Since it was slow going for a good portion of the travel today, we only made it 80 miles and pulled into Fisherman’s Wharf Marina in Venice. Luckily, the marina gave us a T-head which made docking easy and we could leave our tender on the hip. Once settled and cleaned up, we went to dinner at the restaurant on property. Sat at the bar and enjoyed a good meal.

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Thursday, November 14 – Fort Myers. Departed at daybreak with no particular destination in mind. Just seeing how far we would get. Since we aren’t familiar with these waters, we didn’t know how much we would be able to run at 20 mph which turned out to be about half the time. So another 80 miles today and we landed at the City of Fort Myers Yacht Basin marina. While it was relatively early in the afternoon, we needed to fuel up before the start across the state via the Okeechobee Waterway. It’s about 120 miles across and there aren’t a lot of marinas or anchorages so we opted to play it safe and get the fuel in Fort Myers. Frankly, I was tired from the long run days with little rest in between so wanted to call it a day early and be ready for the long day across Lake Okeechobee.

Had planned to relax in the afternoon but we discovered a problem with our aft bilge pump. We noticed that the breaker for the pump kept tripping and would not stay on so we pulled out the large fish box so we could access the bilge pump. And to our surprise, the whole aft bilge was full of water. A lot of water and we could not get the pump to work. And our middle bilge pump was acting up leaving us concerned about two out of three pumps not working. Bilge pumps are what keeps you from sinking when your boat takes on water. So we got the manual hand pump out and starting bailing out water. Once the weight of the water in the back of the boat shifted forward, the middle bilge started working and pumped out the rest of the water. The marina office sent over one of the local mechanics that lives at the marina but he said that the pump would need to be ordered and it would take at least 2-3 days to get it so we opted to keep moving towards home and have the repairs done at home thinking that we had 2 bilge pumps working.

Later in the evening, we walked into town to Capone’s Coal Fired Pizza and had a really nice meal. Good meatballs and pizza. Back to the boat and another early dive into bed.

Unfortunately, the last week has been focused on travelling long days so not a lot of photos to share as sightseeing has been limited. Well that wraps up our week as we wind down to the end of our voyage. Stay tuned for the crossing of our wake next week!

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Gulf Shores, AL to Pensacola, FL

Posted on November 7, 2019

Wednesday, October 30 – Saunders Yachtworks / Gulf Shores, AL. Promptly Wednesday morning before 8am, we headed into the haul out slip and watched as they hauled Island Time out of the water. We were anxious to see the bottom of the boat to check for any damage to the hull or propellers. Sure enough, we had two bent tips on the starboard propeller and a couple of gashes on the hull below the waterline compliments of the Mississippi River. Normally, if we are in clear Florida waters we would be diving under the boat to check ourselves. But along the rivers from Chicago to Mobile (about 1,000 miles) the water (for most of it) is muddy and not clear. No desire to get in it!  Shortly upon hauling, the yard started pulling the props and cleaning the bottom of the boat. Bob went to get the rental car as I made final preparations to leave the boat for a few days.

Once we had the car, it was off to go exploring as we made our way to the Pensacola area where our son Ryan currently lives (he is being transferred to Albany, NY next summer). Took the scenic route and checked out the Wharf Marina in Orange Beach and the Palafox Marina in Pensacola. Stopped in at a T-Mobile store where Bob picked up a new phone and then into Joe Patti’s Seafood for stone crabs, shrimp and beignets to take to Ryan’s. So great to see Ryan, Kristin and our grandkids; Riley (14), Kaitlyn (9) and Katrina (4 1/2). Ryan cooked a fabulous shrimp & pasta a la vodka while we all caught up on the latest happenings.

Thursday, October 31 – Pace, Florida. Happy Halloween! While I ran off in the rental car to run a bunch of errands, Bob worked on some of his consulting cases. The kids went off to school early and were excited about trick or treating in the evening. Ryan warned us that it would be crazy in his neighborhood with swarms of kids coming to collect their treats. Bob and I volunteered to hand out candy at the house while Ryan & Kristin took the girls out for a tour of the neighborhood and Riley went off to a party with friends.

While a cold front (low 40’s) with rain all day supposedly slowed down the flow of trick or treaters, Bob and I haven’t seen so many kids enjoying the Halloween festivities since we were kids. It was non-stop until we finally ran out of candy at about 9pm so turned off lights and closed the blinds to indicate “don’t stop here”. Sometimes there was a line of people (kids & adults) waiting for their treats. Perfect timing too as the minute we came in off the porch, the girls came home with their treats. Kristin says it was so cold out there that the girls had wanted to come home earlier but they coaxed them into toughing it out.

Friday, November 1 – Daphne, AL. Said farewell to Ryan, Kristin and the kids as they were headed to Crossville, TN to visit Kristin’s father for the weekend and we were headed out on a road trip to go exploring. Destination today was Fairhope, AL as we had heard it was a quaint and pretty town. Stopped by the boat in Gulf Shores to check on progress then continued on to Fairhope. Glad we picked up our ski jackets from the boat as it is really cold and windy. Had lunch at Sunset Pointe, went out to the municipal pier, walked around downtown Fairhope, had coconut cake at Sandra’s (their cake was featured in Southern Living) then drove to the Hampton on Mobile Bay in Daphne as the prices were more reasonable. Fairhope truly is a beautiful town and offers some high end shops in the downtown area. On the drive to Daphne, we passed by some beautiful mansions on the bay.

Later in the evening, after watching a spectacular sunset over Mobile Bay, we went next door to Boudreaux’s Cajun and enjoyed live entertainment and a good Cajun meal at the bar. As Bob was taking the photo of the funny sign, the manager informed him that he actually has to stop patrons from doing that. Photo is self explanatory.

Saturday – Tuesday, November 2-5 – Orange Beach, AL. Since the boat would be in the boat yard for at least until Tuesday, we decided to rent a condo at The Wharf in Orange Beach through VRBO. The Wharf, in addition to being 5 miles from the boat yard, is a large complex with a marina, condo’s, restaurants, shops, an amphitheater, a ferris wheel a zip line and other fun activities for kids. We rented a one bedroom condo overlooking the marina and GCICW which is nicer than being in a hotel room with lots of room to spread out; a large kitchen, a living room, 2 large TV’s, and this one could sleep six if needed.

Check-in for the condo wasn’t until 4pm so we took a leisurely drive via the scenic route towards Orange Beach. We stopped in at the B & B Pecan farm (never been to a pecan farm or seen a pecan tree) picked a few pecans off the tree and bought some pecans, pecan candy and pecan flavored coffee. Also stopped at the RV show in Foley as we had been wanting to see inside one of the smaller RV’s. We have seen a couple of the large ones (40-45′) but not the smaller models. Thinking future adventures going cross country (a new blog?). After the RV show (we weren’t impressed with the quality of the ones we saw), we headed to lunch at Doc’s Seafood which is a local and tourist favorite. We had been craving oysters for over a week now and ended up having a couple dozen raw oysters. They didn’t have the chargrilled ones we wanted but these were good and fresh then followed it up by splitting a plate of their famous “best in the civilized world” fried shrimp. We must say, it was the best we have ever had as fried shrimp go.

While the condo instructions said we would not be able to get in the door until 4pm (touchpad entry), we tried the door at around 2pm and got in and turned on the TV so we could watch the FSU – Miami game. Bob happy with outcome (not me). At half-time, we headed to Publix to pick up provisions for the condo and ended up staying in and enjoying a quiet evening in the condo. We saw dolphins swimming in the GCICW from our balcony!


Sunday morning and daylight savings time. Okay so its 9:30am as we write this and have been up for 4 hours. Yep, woke up 4:30am. It’s bad enough getting used to Central Standard Time but now this. Pretty lazy day today. Hung around the condo then later went to walk around the shops here at the Wharf. Bob ducked into Daiquiris to watch the NY Jets play the Miami Dolphins while I explored the shops and complex.

At 3pm, there was a looper gathering at Villiaggio Grille which is across the street from our condo. There were at least 15 boats represented with most of them staying in the marina. Saw some of the same boats we have travelled with and met some new ones. One couple had not started the loop but were planning to start in January from Bay Saint Louis, MS. They were there to learn and absorb from this group of experienced loopers and are excited about starting. Good food, good drinks and lots of fun.

Monday morning, we drove over to the boatyard to check progress on Island Time. Looks promising for a splash on Tuesday with only a few items still not complete. Then we headed into Foley for flu shots at Publix and then lunch at Lambert’s – home of the throwed rolls. Yes, that’s right, they throw rolls at the patrons. No sooner had we been seated when the guy with the roll cart spotted us and threw us both rolls which we promptly caught. Big rolls too and delicious. They are pretty famous for their “throwed rolls” so if you get a chance, google it. Legend has it that, many years ago, Mr. Lambert was busy serving customers and couldn’t get around to serving the rolls when one of his regulars remarked “throw me the f*#$$@g roll” and the tradition began. In addition to serving you a huge meal you cannot possibly eat, the servers constantly come around with the “pass arounds” such as fried okra, cabbage, black eyed peas, tomato & macaroni, and more gigantic rolls! It is very entertaining watching the rolls fly across the room. The rolls and the entertainment are the best part of the meal.

On Tuesday morning we checked out of the condo and headed to the boat yard. The work on Island Time was complete and boat ready to splash. The bottom was painted, props reconditioned, prop speed applied on the running gear, oil changed on the engines & generator, and a few other small items. The boatyard was great. Quoted us prices and time frame to complete and lived up to their promises. And the yard is so clean which is unusual for boatyards.

Originally we had planned to leave today for Pensacola but it was approaching noon and we were concerned about getting there before sunset at 5:00pm. Plus Bob wasn’t feeling well, so we opted to spend the night on the boat at the marina instead. Nice relaxing evening watching the herons and the military helicopters flying in overhead as there is an airport next door to the marina.

Wednesday, November 6 – Pensacola, FL. We are back in Florida! Yay! Departed the marina at 7:30am and had a leisurely cruise to Palafox Pier Marina in Pensacola. Saw quite a few dolphin that came right up to the boat, colorful townhouses that reminded us of the Bahamas and lots of beautiful expensive homes along the waterway.  Got here around lunchtime and settled in.

In the afternoon, we had plans to have dinner with Ryan, Kristin and the grandkids at a restaurant within walking distance to the marina. The marina is situated in downtown Pensacola and close to shops, bars and restaurants. Ryan and family came to the boat first then we all went to Paul V’s, an Italian restaurant, for dinner and celebrated Kaity’s 10th birthday which is in a few days. The restaurant and service was very good and the owner spent quite a bit of time talking to us. Very nice evening. We bid everyone farewell as we would be heading out in the morning.

Well that wraps up another week of our adventures (mostly road trip this week). Stay tuned and see you next week!


Columbus, MS to Gulf Shores, AL

Posted on October 31, 2019

Tuesday, October 22 – Pickensville, AL MM308. We bid farewell to Columbus, MS and departed for an anchorage in Pickensville, AL which is our 18th state visited on our journey. Today’s journey would take us through 1 lock and 28 miles. We departed the marina with the crew from Pearl and two other boats and headed to the Stennis Lock which is less than a mile from the marina. One of the boats was Camelot whom we had met at Kaskaskia lock wall several weeks before. Pearl, Camelot and us were traveling at the same speed and headed to the same anchorage before the Tom Bevell Lock. Island Time took the lead today so we were the official “log masters” which meant we were the ones watching for debris and trees sticking up in the river and notifying the others. Sometimes you see what appears to be a small stick or object in the water but discover it is a branch that is attached to the entire tree so one must be vigilant. The Tenn-Tom river is quite scenic with lots of rock bluffs, wild life and tall trees. The foliage is just now turning so every day we are seeing more of the fall colors. The anchorage was on one of the offshoot rivers or creeks and was very nice. We all came in and anchored close to each other.

Later in the afternoon, Bob and I (you guessed it) went to explore in the tender. We headed south to check out the next lock then came back to the anchorage and stopped in to say hello to Camelot & Pearl. We synchronized our plans for the morning where we would call the lock at 7am and report back to the group on VHF channel 17. Just as we were headed back to the boat, another boat entered the anchorage and anchored a bit farther away from us. Enjoyed a relatively calm, cool and quiet evening aboard.

Wednesday, October 23 – Tombigbee Oxbow MM266. Morning brought more fog so we all agreed to wait until it cleared a bit. Samantha, the boat that joined our anchorage later in the day, hailed us and said they would be locking through as well. They had just started their loop adventure and this would be the first time locking through with other boats and they wanted to know the protocol. At around 8am, the fog had cleared significantly enough so we all weighed anchor and headed to the lock after confirming the lock could take us. Our travels today would take us 42 miles and 1 lock. Samantha told us that they travelled slower than we did so probably would not make it as far as we were planning. Our planned anchorage was just beyond the Heflin lock (about 100′ past) in the Tombigbee Oxbow. An Oxbow, and there are many of these along the river, is a u-shaped river or creek with an upper and lower entrance into the main river. The upper portion of our particular anchorage had the Heflin dam so current could be an issue if the dam was releasing water but Camelot called and spoke with the lockmaster and he said we would be good. Today was a longer travel day so all three boats anchored and enjoyed a quiet night.

Thursday/ Friday/ Saturday, October 24-26 – Demopolis, AL MM216. Another foggy and spider web morning and delayed start. One thing I have been meaning to mention is the spiders we have encountered on our great adventure. We have never seen so many spiders in our lives and certainly not in Florida compared to the hoards of them we see on the docks, our boat, wherever you walk, dock lines, power cords, etc. I don’t know how they manage to constantly get on the boat but we seem to have to do a spider sweep every day. We don’t kill them but try to relocate them off the boat with a brush. The attached photo is an example of what we find on our boat. The webs are beautiful and a work of art but it creeps me out to walk into a spider web.

Once the fog started to clear, Camelot decided that they would venture out and would call back on the VHF radio as to the condition on the main river. About 15 minutes later, we decided to depart as well and got underway behind Pearl. Since we were right next to the lock and monitoring the radio, we learned that Samantha and about 4 other boats were just coming into the lock which means 5 boats coming right behind us. Two of the boats ending catching up and passing us. Today’s travels would take us 50 miles with no locks to Kingfisher Marina in Demopolis, AL. Most, if not all the boats were headed here as marinas are few and far between so a good time to fuel up and provision. The marina is a few miles out of town but provides a courtesy car (if you are lucky enough to reserve it) and a shuttle bus that runs into town at 10am & 5pm which you have to sign up for as well. There were probably 20 or more looper boats here so reserving a spot can be challenging.

Originally we were planning on staying the one night but the forecast for Friday was calling for lots of rain, thunderstorms and a new tropical disturbance so we decided to extend our stay. Made plans to take the shuttle into town for dinner at the Mexican restaurant with Don & Glenys at 5pm. Rained all day and it was pouring at 5pm when we went to catch the shuttle so everyone had on their rain gear. We had been told that the Mexican restaurant served good margaritas but the food and margaritas rated fair at best. The company was good! We said our farewells to Don & Glenys as we thought we would be leaving. They would be staying here for a few more weeks as they were planning on flying home to Spain and while gone would be having their boat hauled out for prop repair and a good detail and wax.

Saturday morning, we were preparing to leave and had topped off our water tank and unplugged our shore power. But several local boaters and the dockmaster said they wouldn’t advise leaving due to the flooding, current and debris that we would encounter on the river because of all the rain. It was reported that the Coffeeville lock with a normal river gauge of 4’ was up to 20’. We don’t really know what all that means but we decided not to risk it and paid for another night at the marina. Several loopers at our dock said they were staying put as well but had plans to leave on Sunday morning and would coordinate the locking process with us and the group. Before plugging back into shore power, we decided to go to the marina next door, which is part of Kingfisher, and fuel up. The attendant at the fuel dock cautioned us on the radio about the debris that was floating around the entrance. Sure enough we saw lots of debris out in the river and a huge tree sitting by the fuel dock which we had to maneuver around so we’re glad we made decision to stay.

In the afternoon, the dockmaster Anna Marie, arranged a briefing for the loopers from Edward, one of the seasonal slip holders, who travels back and forth between Florida and Demopolis every year and so has lots of river experience. About 40 loopers attended the briefing. Also in attendance was the crew of Seabatical who had just that afternoon “crossed their wake” at Kingfisher Marina where we were staying thus earning the gold looper status and AGLCA gold burgee. They had begun their loop from this marina 12 months ago and thus this was the finish line. We all cheered and congratulated them when they came in.

Edward’s briefing basically warned us not to go as the river was flooding and in “action stage” and he normally would not go when the river is this high. After the briefing, a group of us (7 boats) that were planning on leaving in the morning, got together to coordinate a departure. The feeling of this group was that there was more rain coming on Tuesday & Wednesday and we didn’t want to then be stuck longer and then having to travel with a whole lot more boats. Mike from Carousel volunteered to lead the pack. We agreed to chat at 6:30am on VHF channel 71 after talking to the lock to check on locking status.

Sunday, October 27- Bobby’s Fish Camp MM119. At 6:30am, we tuned into channel 71 and Mike informed us that the news was not promising. The lock was undergoing some maintenance and we might not be able to leave until after 9am but for all of us to chat again at 7am. At 7am, we got the go ahead (unexpectedly) and all seven boats scrambled to unplug power, cast off lines and make our way down to the lock 2 miles away. Mike did a great job of communicating with the lockmaster and with the group and setting up everyone’s placement in the lock. Travelling in our group today were One Eye Dog, Curt’s Dream, R & R, Boyl-N-Water, Carousel, us on Island Time,  & Passages.

While there was quite a bit of debris in some areas, it was not as bad as we had expected. A piece of cake compared to the Mississippi River. Originally, we planned to travel about 70 miles (which is further than we normally travel) and anchor out but everyone was concerned about the floating debris so all of us opted to get to Bobby’s Fish Camp which is 100 miles. Long day but Bob and I took one hour shifts at the helm so it wouldn’t be as tiring. We were locking through at Demopolis at 7:45 and were tied up at Bobby’s by about 4pm.

Bobby’s Fish Camp is another iconic stop on the Tenn-Tom River with a dock, restaurant & fuel. It is basically a long dock that can accommodate 3 or 4 boats on the dock itself but rafted off is another story. We were hoping to raft off to One Eye Dog but April texted me that we would be rafting to a sailboat because they already had two big boats rafted to them. Rafting was challenging in the strong current where you had to sidle up to another boat without damaging it. And to make matters worse, the three big boats (One Eye Dog, R & R & Boyl-N-Water) were directly behind the sailboat so if you lost control, you would be slamming into them. Very nerve racking but we managed to get in unscathed or un-embarrassed. Some times, watching other boaters docking can be “entertaining”,  sometimes you are the “entertainment”.

We were informed that the restaurant stops taking orders at 5:30 so the crews of all seven boats headed up there. Bobby’s is known for their fried catfish so as they say “when in Rome”, Bob and I both had the fried catfish dinner which was very good. After dinner, the group had a brief pow-wow about the next day’s travel with Carousel leading the group. Then, most of us went back to One Eye Dog’s boat for a tour of their 48′ Aquila Power Catamaran and enjoyed drinks of Bailey’s provided by R & R.

Monday, October 28 – Convention Center Wall, Mobile, AL MM2. Another 6:30am chat on VHF channel with the group of 7. There was a bit of fog when we got up so the group decided to wait a bit before heading to the Coffeeville lock 2 miles away. But first, we had to un-dock/ un-raft ourselves in the strong current and floating debris. Larry from One Eye Dog told the group that we should clear our props before heading out so if any debris was caught in the props, you could dislodge it before causing damage or getting into trouble. To clear the props and while still tied up at the dock or the other boat, you briefly engage your engines, one at a time, first in reverse then in forward. We were lucky and didn’t have any debris, R & R dislodged a huge tree (photo) from under their boat. Soon we were on our way and headed to the Coffeeville lock 2 miles away. Our last lock! Yay!

Another super long day (117 miles and longest travel day on the entire loop so far) as we were pushing to get to the courtesy dock at the Mobile Convention Center at MM2. The debris field was worse today so you were constantly dodging it. The tow traffic was heavier then what we had encountered in the entire 450 miles of the Tenn-Tom. Once again, Bob and I took one hour shifts at the helm but a 12 hour day operating on the water is tiring. Added to this was we knew it would be a close call getting to the wall before dark. Sunset was at 6:07pm and we got there at about 6:30pm and Mobile is a very busy port with cargo ships, barges & tows. It was just getting dark, but fortunately Larry & April of One Eye Dog came out with spotlights and helped us tie up. Curt’s Dream was following us most of the day and followed us to the wall as well.

One of the advantages of using the Convention Center courtesy dock is that town is a few blocks away with restaurants, bars and shops. However, the crews from our 3 boats were too tired to go anywhere. Bob and I fixed ourselves a Cosmo and celebrated the end of the Inland Rivers, the end of the locks and the reentry to salt water! Happy Dance! Larry came over for a chat and we made him a Cosmo as well and we toasted to the fact that they would be “crossing their wake” in Fairhope, AL which is 15 miles away.

Tuesday, October 29 – Gulf Shores, AL. No mile markers as we are not on the Inland Rivers anymore! Well, there are mile markers on the Gulf Coast Intercoastal Waterway (GCICW) but they aren’t relied upon as much as in the rivers. Today’s forecast was calling for rain, and lots of it. We were just getting ready to leave when the sky opened up and a downpour ensued. Shortly thereafter it stopped raining and the radar showed a break in the weather heading south so we lit out after saying farewell to Curt’s Dream and One Eye Dog.

Our destination today would be Saunders Yacht Works in Gulf Shores, AL (48 miles) where we had set up to have the boat hauled out of the water for bottom painting, oil change and to check the propellers. Mobile Bay is huge and at first we were in the shipping channel as we headed south but then headed southeast towards the GCICW. The rain came and at times we had to slow down due to the reduced visibility but luckily boat traffic was non-existent once we left the shipping channel. Immediately upon entering Mobile Bay we spotted dolphins which we had not seen since south of Norfolk, VA. So good to be back in the salt air, the cleaner green water and sightings of pelicans and dolphins.

Arrived at Saunders just after 1:00pm and tied up to a dock. While they were ready to haul us out that afternoon, we wanted to spend one more night on the boat as we would be leaving the boat for at least 5-6 days and needed to pack and prepare. Later in the afternoon, we took the tender up to the famous Lulu’s restaurant which is owned by Jimmy Buffet’s sister. This is a huge restaurant on the water (GCICW) with a retail shop, beach and activities for kids. Our bartender, Jason, told us that in the summer they seat 5,000 people per day and employ 400 servers. Lulu is very active in the business and owns another one in Destin, FL and North Myrtle Beach, SC. He did say that they are slow in the winter and close for the month of January but that Lulu keeps a core staff of 100 servers and is generous in benefits. Jason has been there for 10 years. We sat at the bar and enjoyed fried green tomatoes and peel and eat Gulf shrimp.

Wednesday, October 30 – Gulf Shores, AL. Haul out and farewell to Island Time for a few days.

Well that wraps up our week and our adventure on inland rivers and return to salt water! We will be doing a road trip this coming week so stayed tuned and see you next week.



Luka, MS to Columbus, MS

Posted on October 26, 2019

Sunday/ Monday, October 13/ 14th – Aqua Yacht Harbor Marina, Luka, MS. Woke up at our Wolfe Island anchorage to a super foggy morning. Completely fogged in where you couldn’t see 10’ in front of you so had to wait for it to clear. We had called the Pickwick Lock earlier to find out status of locking through and lockmaster said it was really foggy down there and to be very careful. At one point, we thought it was clearing and were making preparations to get going when all of a sudden the fog rolled right back in. It finally cleared at around 10am and we got underway. Arrived at the Pickwick Lock (14 miles) and had to wait about 2 ½ hours as there was quite a bit of tow traffic up and down bound. Several other Loopers caught up with us as we waited and 5 of us locked through together. The lock lifted us up 55’ into Pickwick Lake which is big and beautiful.

We have been on the Tennessee River (206 miles since turning off the Ohio River) and would be turning into the Tennessee-Tombigbee River (referred to as the Tenn-Tom) at MM215. If we were to continue on the Tennessee River, it would take us past Florence, AL, Muscle Shores, AL and Chattanooga, TN. However, we opted out of side trips and headed south towards Mobile, AL. The start of the Tenn-Tom is at MM450 with Mobile being MM0. Which means 450 miles to go to the Gulf and back in salt water!

After finally transiting the lock, we arrived at Aqua Yacht Harbor Marina which was only 10 miles from the lock. Got settled into our slip and headed over to the Aqua Grill for dinner and to meet our friend Steve Palazzo from Fort Lauderdale. Steve and Bob had worked together at FLPD years ago and now Steve is working as a yacht broker with me at Denison Yacht Sales. Steve was in the process of delivering a 45’ Carver from South Florida to the Green Turtle Bay Marina in Grand Rivers, KY and we luckily were at the same place at the same time. The restaurant is on property and owner of the restaurant suggested I try the cauliflower crust pizza and I am so glad I did. It was fabulous. I had tried making it myself at home several times unsuccessfully but when its done right you would never know you weren’t eating regular thin crust pizza. Much healthier choice than all that white flour.

Monday, as it was fogged in again, and our friend Steve suggested we go to breakfast as he was buying. The Aqua Grill is closed on Mondays so we borrowed the courtesy car, asked about breakfast recommendations and headed to the Outpost General Store at Pickwick Dam. Had a good country breakfast including a biscuit and gravy and country ham while enjoying our time with Steve. When we returned to the marina, the fog had cleared and Steve and his crewman Bob headed out. Bob and I borrowed the courtesy car and headed to Savannah, TN to provision and go to the CVS. Our marina is right on the border (2 miles) between MS & TN. Returned, had lunch on the boat then jumped in the tender to go see the waterfall which is one of the local attractions. Nosed the tender right up to it and I jumped out for the photo op. Afterwards, we borrowed the courtesy car again to run a couple more errands and stopped for dinner at T. Freddy’s. We had dinner at the bar and spoke with one of the locals who drives a tour bus for celebrities and performers who are on concert tours. The restaurant did have a good selection of high end wines by the bottle (it is Luka, MS) including Opus 1 and Caymus. Food was pretty good.


Tuesday, October 15th – Five Fingers anchorage MM314. Departed around 8am as it had warmed up a bit so no fog. Fog as you probably know arises when colder air passes over warmer water. Our destination today would be to an anchorage 35 miles away and right before the Whitten Lock. This section of the river is relatively narrow with few marinas and places to anchor with the exception of Bay Springs Lake. This lake is very large and has all sorts of coves and anchorages. As the wind was blowing pretty strong from the south, we chose one of the coves in the Five Fingers area which was protected from south winds and 2 miles north of the Whitten Lock. Beautiful quiet anchorage that we had to ourselves. There was supposed to be an eagle sanctuary but we didn’t see any eagles. The forecast was calling for rain and it did so. Once the rain stopped, Bob and I jumped in the tender to go exploring. We went across the bay to check out the Bay Springs Marina then stopped by to say hello to Don & Glenys on Pearl and Nolan & Mona on Hoot Owl as they were in a cove just down from us. We were all anchoring here so that we could have an early start in the morning as we would be transiting four locks and a total of 37 miles the next day. Stopped in for a drink with Don & Glenys, officially met the crew on Hoot Owl and then headed to our anchorage. Nolan on Hoot Owl said he would call the lock at 7am to check status of locking through and we all agreed to stand by VHF channel 16 and make plans from there. It was a quiet evening until about 2:30am when the wind shifted to the north and began thumping on the sides of the hull. Our anchorage was not well protected from the north so it got bumpy the rest of the night.

Wednesday, October 16th – Smithsville Anchorage-MM377. At 7am, the lock informed us that he did not have any commercial traffic locking through and we were welcome to come on down. Everyone decided to go early so we all weighed anchor and headed to the lock in spite of the windy conditions. Our three boats were joined by another looper on Seamore Odyssey. The Whitten Lock would be taking us down 84’! The biggest drop or lift of any lock we have encountered in the locks we have transited so far. (about 135) All four boats cast a line around a floating bollard with two boats on the port side of the lock and two of us on the starboard side and we were ready for our ride down (photos).

Afterwards, the four of us settled into a routine and travelled through the four locks together. Next up Montgomery Lock (30’ drop); Rankin Lock (30’ drop) and Fulton Lock (25’ drop). The crews of Pearl & Hoot Owl were of the same mindset as we were that 4 locks in one day is enough so we had decided on an anchorage just before the Wilkens lock. As we have said, there are very few options so its either travel 80 – 100 miles or find something plausible. Seamore decided to continue on so we bid them farewell. It’s cooler today with a high of 63 and low expected to be down to 43 degrees. Our anchorage was just off the channel and not very protected but winds were expected to die down around 6pm. It did settle down and all three boats enjoyed a quiet night aboard their vessels.

Thursday, October 17th – Columbus, MS-MM335. Really cold this morning as it got down to 43 degrees and we had the hatches open. Our cabin temperature was 51 degrees so we didn’t want to get out of bed. We forgot to turn on our radio and missed the 7am VHF radio call to the lock so our buddy boats were trying to call us to inform us that we were heading out. The fog wasn’t bad but once we got on the other side of the lock it was bad. You could only see about 30’ in front of you. Pearl took the lead since Hoot Owl said his radar wasn’t that good. Locking with us was the sailboat Lady Love and they were so happy to fall in behind since they didn’t have radar at all. AIS yes but no radar and AIS is only good if the other boats around you have it as well. We were all going idle speed through the “pea soup” fog. At one point, we couldn’t see the boats in front or behind us (photo). Looking ahead on the Garmin chart plotter, we could see on AIS that there was a tow heading our way at the next lock (5 miles away) and Pearl was concerned as he was in the lead and couldn’t pick it up on AIS. Fortunately the tow heard our concerned voices about the fog, and his tow, over the VHF and decided to tie up at the Amory lock wall and wait for us to come into the lock instead of meeting us in the tight channel. We thanked him for the courtesy and headed in.

Today’s journey would be 42 miles and 3 locks (Wilkens, Amory & Aberdeen). We radioed back to Lady Love that we would wait for them at the lock since they travel slower than the rest of us and they were real appreciative. Sea Major joined us in the Aberdeen lock and all 5 boats were headed to Columbus marina. While we were checking into the office, we and Don & Glenys on Pearl, agreed to share the courtesy vehicle and head into town for dinner. At 6pm, we all hopped into the van and went to Huck’s for dinner. Good food, good wine and good company. We all chose the ribeye since of the local patrons said it was really good and it was.

Friday – Monday, October 18th-21st, Columbus marina. Originally we had planned on staying only 2 nights then heading out to an anchorage about 50 miles away but the tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico had us concerned. We prefer to be in a marina if there are strong winds and thunderstorms so we decided to stay put a few more days, rent a car and do a road trip. The next marina is 119 miles away and at 8.5 mph, that’s 14 hours. No thank you. While we generally could get up an run, we suspect we might have some prop damage from the Mississippi as there is a vibration when trying to kick up the RPM’s. We plan to have it checked when we get to Mobile.

Later in the afternoon, we got our rental car from Enterprise and invited Don & Glenys to go into town with us for dinner. We had seen a Thai restaurant while we were in town yesterday, and the four of us agreed that Thai would be good. The food was very good; the service not so much. Our server was very nice but she seemed amped up and scatter brained. Oh, and no wine.

Saturday morning, our planned road trip this lovely morning would be to Memphis, TN as neither Bob nor I have ever been. It was a lovely 173 miles through beautiful rolling hills with cattle farms and cotton fields. We booked a room at the Hampton Inn on Beale Street in downtown Memphis and got there around lunchtime. One of Bob’s friends had recommended a few things to do including restaurants. We were looking forward to eating some Memphis BBQ and walked a couple of blocks to Rendezvous. On the way, we walked through the Peabody Hotel and enjoyed the ducks swimming in the fountain in the lobby of the hotel. Apparently the hotel is known for their duck march everyday at 11am & 5pm. Beautiful hotel but pricey. The food at Rendezvous was delicious. Their ribs are dry rubbed so not slathered in BBQ sauce but there is sauce if you so desire. We started with the cheese & sausage appetizer then shared a plate of ribs and brisket. Really good.

After lunch, we walked around downtown then headed to the National Civil Rights Museum and the Lorraine Hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. This was the highlight of the trip to Memphis. Very well presented with exhibits that take you through the civil rights movement, Dr. King, the room where he was staying when he was shot and the boarding house across the street from the hotel from where James Earl Ray fired the rifle that killed Dr. King. The Lorraine Hotel and the Boarding House were purchased for the purpose of memorializing Dr. King and turning it into a museum. Very sobering experience. If you go, plan to spend several hours as its worth it.


After the museum, we walked along Beale Street which is a smaller version of Bourbon Street in New Orleans & Broadway Street in Nashville with lots of bars, music, restaurants, and shops. Memphis is the home of B.B. King, Blues music, soul music, BBQ, Graceland, Fed Ex headquarters & Bass Pro headquarters. We were a bit worn out so we headed back to our room to rest a bit then ventured out around 8pm and listened to some music.

On Sunday, we decided to cross the bridge over the Mississippi River which puts you in Arkansas. I had never been to Arkansas so I can now check that state off of my list of states visited. On the way back into Memphis, we stopped at Bass Pro headquarters which is in the Pyramid building. So glad we stopped! This place is like Disney World. It’s huge and has giant trees, aquariums, boats, live fish, alligators, and ducks. You can also ride the elevator up to the top of the Pyramid to the lookout or the restaurant. Picked up a few items, then hopped in the car and headed to Graceland; the home and resting place of Elvis Presley. Graceland is the second most visited house in the U.S. (second only to the White House) with over 650,000 visitors per year. Another Disney like attraction with different touring packages available but we decided to pass on the tours and headed out of town.

Next stop, Oxford, Mississippi and home of the University of Mississippi or “Ole Miss”. We had planned on having lunch in town square but it was super crowded. Found out it was parents weekend for the school and the restaurants all had lines out the door. Pretty town and campus though.
After Oxford, we decided to head back to Columbus. Bob had been really curious about the cotton fields and decided to pull over and pick some cotton (photo). Once in Columbus, we stopped for at Buffalo Wild Wings for a late lunch / early dinner so we could watch some football. Bob ordered a beer and I ordered a glass of wine. Bob got his beer right away and I waited and waited. Apparently the corkscrew (only one in this big bar & restaurant) had gone missing and the bar staff and manager were frantically looking for it. Finally, they sent someone to the store to buy one and I got my wine after about 20 minutes. The manager did apologize and comped my wine. They obviously don’t get many wine drinkers there. All good.

On Monday, Bob suggested we take another road trip since we had the car until the end of the day so off we went to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Home of the University of Alabama and the “Crimson Tide”. This trip was only 56 miles one way and was very scenic as well. When we got close to Tuscaloosa, I spotted my first Publix grocery store since leaving Florida on our trip so we stopped so I could pick up a prescription. Yay. Then we drove through the university campus (very pretty and stately) and stopped for lunch at Half Shell. The char-grilled oysters were excellent as was the meal; Blackened red fish and seafood pasta.

Drove back to Columbus in the rain (cold front moving through) and upon returning to Columbus, we returned the rental car. So ends our weekly adventure. Sorry we are behind in the posting but the cell service and WIFI have been virtually non-existent. Stay tuned and see you next week.

Green Turtle Bay, KY to Wolfe Island, TN

Posted on October 13, 2019

Sunday, October 6th – Green Turtle Bay.  In anticipation of leaving Tuesday, we did boat maintenance such as changing out the racor fuel filters and engine zincs. In the afternoon, some of the loopers made arrangements for a looper get-together at the yacht club. As mentioned, there must have been around 40 looper boats at GTB so the club was packed with loopers. The yacht club and the marina truly appreciate the loopers and the business. One of the locals at the club bar said “we love loopers and glad you are here”. After cocktails we had dinner with Greg & Sonia of Golden Daze, and the crews of B Side & Seabactical. Fun evening.
Monday, October 7th – Green Turtle Bay (GTB). Since we would be anchoring for the next few days, we did last minute provisioning in town and laundry. We had lunch at     T. Lawsons and said our farewells to Ashton our young bartender. Sandi and I played Mahjong in the afternoon for a couple of hours then the 4 of us planned to meet up for a farewell dinner. Sandi & Dick would be staying at GTB until Friday then renting a car and driving to the Looper Rendezvous. So chances are that we won’t see them again until we are all back in Florida at our home ports. Originally, we planned to go to the club for dinner but they were closed so back into town and T. Lawsons for dinner. John from Ecstasea joined us for drinks first then the 4 of us had our farewell dinner.

Tuesday, October 8th – Clay Bay anchorage MM54. We departed Green Turtle Bay after a delightful week at the resort & marina. After a week in a marina with tons of loopers, we were ready to go exploring and anchor out by ourselves. We selected an anchorage about 30 miles down the Tennessee River and in Kentucky Lake. The Tennessee River is so delightful after the miserable (my new nickname for it) Mississippi and the busier Ohio River. It’s wide, its pretty, there is only a slight current and the tow traffic is minimal. Green Turtle Bay was located on the Cumberland River so we had to cross over to the Tennessee River using the Barkley canal. There are tons of little coves on both sides of Kentucky Lake for anchoring and we had Clay Bay to ourselves. Since the lake is down to what they refer to as winter pool (354’ versus summer pool of 359’) we wanted to make sure there was enough depth to take in the Tiara. So Bob hopped in the tender and went in first while talking to me on VHF channel 71. He was calling out the depths he was reading on the Garmin depth finder to me and once we knew that it was deep enough, I brought the Tiara in and we anchored.
After settling in, we jumped in the tender to go explore the cove and were happy to see a resident bald eagle and deer. One doe had come down to the water and was frolicking in about 6” of water. We turned off the engine and watched her for at least 15 minutes. Later in the day, she had company and was on the cove bank pretty close to our boat. The temperature was nice and cool so we had on sweat pants most the day and as it was going to drop below 50 degrees in the night, we didn’t run the generator, AC or fan that night. In the morning, there was quite of bit of fog, so we enjoyed watching the fog roll by as we enjoyed our coffee. On a funny note, we picked up a hitch hiker. A tree frog whom I have named Henry (photo). We first noticed Henry in Paducah on our windshield. Then we didn’t see Henry again for at least a week until Bob opened up the chart locker looking for something and there he was. Don’t have any possible idea on how he got into the chart locker which is always closed. Anyway, I thought Henry would starve in there so we removed him. Didn’t want to throw him overboard as we were anchored so I set him outside on the gunnel. Now he has crawled into our engine room vent. So we shall see if he surfaces again.

Wednesday, October 9th – Birdsong anchorage MM103. While some of our looper friends were stopping in Paris Landing State Park, we opted to pass it by since we had been in a marina for a whole week. Our destination today would have us travelling about 50 miles which would take us almost 6 hours at 8.5 mph. Nice easy run. Some of the reviews regarding this next anchorage were negative with regard to the depth while entering so Bob went out again in the tender to scout it out as it did look pretty shallow along the banks. There were a couple of fisherman near the entrance to the cove and Bob spoke with them. They said that it appeared the red buoy marker was off station (sitting in 1’ of water) and to stay to the left of the green buoy as there was plenty of water there. Had we not known this or gone in without scouting the channel first, we would have been in trouble as we would have gone between the red & green buoys. But there was plenty of water so I followed Bob in and we anchored outside the channel and close to shore in 14’. We had a relaxing afternoon, watched the sunset, had some cocktails and grilled some salmon. Life is good. At dusk, we saw a coyote walking along the beach where we were anchored. Didn’t know what it was at first but apparently they exist in “these parts”. Other loopers have commented about hearing howling sounds at night. Yes, life is good.

Thursday, October 10th – Denson Island anchorage MM125. Our anniversary today – 16 years married and coming up on 25 years together March 2020. Before departing Birdsong, Bob and I took a coffee cruise up the creek about 2 miles. There is a small marina back there and we wanted to see the depths leading up to it. Very picturesque with some really pretty homes up on the bluffs. The Wildlife Marina had covered slips and most were either houseboats or outboards. Cruised back to the boat, had some breakfast and departed the anchorage. We did pick up some PVC pipe (photo) or something when pulling up anchor so it was a bit of a challenge but got it off and were underway in no time.

Our journey today would be a short one of only 24 miles. Along the way, we noticed One Eye Dog on AIS coming up behind us and hailed them on the VHF. We told them we would slow down so they could pass as we would appreciate a slow pass. They were headed to Clifton Marina which is where we will go tomorrow. (We took photos of each other’s boats) Our original anchorage was slated to be Lick Creek but after going in to check it out, we didn’t care for it. It was really protected from the wind (too protected & too hot) and there just didn’t seem to be a good spot so we turned around and went back out the ½ mile entrance. Bob had taken the tender in first to check depths and they were fine but it felt too cramp. We back tracked one mile to Denson Island which is just off the Tennessee River behind a small island. Anchored in 30’ of water into the river current (which flows north) and settled in.

Later in the afternoon, two looper boats (Sand Dollar & Nautilus) pulled into our anchorage for the night. Since it was our anniversary, we made ourselves some cosmos and then went for a cocktail cruise. Stopped over to speak with Bill & Kim (and their Golden Retriever Luke) on Sand Dollar and Rob & Jill on Nautilus as they were rafted off to each other. I had met Jill back in Chicago doing laundry but hadn’t met the rest of the crew. We chatted for about an hour then Bob and I headed back to make some dinner. Kim on Sand Dollar offered us an “anniversary dessert” of a decadent cinnamon roll they had picked up at Pebble Isle. We gladly accepted it and enjoyed half of it after our steak dinner. Beautiful evening and way to celebrate our anniversary.

Friday, October 11th – Clifton, TN. In the morning, all three boats departed about the same time and headed for Clifton marina. We had heard that the marina had new owners and a new on-site restaurant. All three boats got put together and we enjoyed a relaxing day and evening together. About 9 more looper boats came in later in the day including Pearl. Bob & I had met them in early July in Sault Saint Marie, MI. Glynis was the one that had fallen overboard and was seriously injured. We were glad to see Don & Glynis again and see her recovering from the injuries.

The forecast was calling for thunderstorms and rain all afternoon so we opted to come into a marina as opposed to anchoring out again. The forecast was accurate and it stormed all afternoon and got much cooler. Bob & I enjoyed staying in the cabin, reading and listening to the rain. At 6:30 the six of us went up for dinner at the restaurant and were joined for drinks by Don & Glynis. Food was pretty good and we enjoyed our stay in Clifton. Stacey, the new owner, told us they had taken over the marina last April when the water level was 44′ higher! She said the whole area was underwater due to heavy rains. So in the last year, she has seen it go from the highest to the lowest level seen in the area. Luckily, the entire marina including the restaurant and office are on floating docks with massive pilings so they all stayed above the flood waters.

Saturday, October 12th – Wolfe Island, TN MM192. Woke up to 43 degrees. Brrrrr. Sweat pants, socks, jackets was the order of the day as the high would be 63 degrees. Beautiful day though. We said farewell to Sand Dollar & Nautilus as we were planning on anchoring out at Wolfe Island and they were headed further south and through the Pickwick Lock. Because we are going against the current, the 34 miles we would be transiting took us about 4 hours at our 8-9 mph pace. Very scenic with beautiful homes high up on bluffs. We arrived at our anchorage at about 12:30 and settled in. Tons of bass boats up here that only have two speeds; zero while fishing with their trolling motors or all out going 50 mph. These guys fly and in 50 degree weather its got to be cold.

Watched a beautiful sunset and a full moon rise in ideal conditions. Grilled some pork chops and broccoli, shut the generator off and listened to the sounds of nature. Didn’t hear any coyotes howling (disappointed) but it was a lovely evening.

Sunday, October 13th – Woke up to 37 degrees and completely fogged in. Won’t be departing early today. But once the fog lifts, we will head down to Luka, MS, our 14th State and the country of Canada that we visited on our great adventure.

Stayed tuned and we will see you next week!



Cairo, IL to Grand Rivers, KY

Posted on October 6, 2019

Sunday/ Monday, 9/29- 9/30 – Paducah, KY. The last nine miles of the Mississippi were relatively uneventful except for quite a few northbound tows. At MM 0 we turned into the Ohio River which has us going up river and against the current. What a completely different river! First, the color of the water changed from chocolate muddy-dirty water to fairly clean greenish water. Second, no turbulence. Even without the backwash from the tows, the Mississippi is turbulent due to the strong currents and eddies. Sometimes the eddies would toss our boat around making it hard to steer. Third, almost no debris. Once we got past the first couple of miles with dozens of parked barges and tows, it was calm and pretty. The Ohio seemed as wide as the Mississippi but it was a cake walk. We actually got a little cocky and were sitting back in the helm seat and steering with our feet. Glad to be off of the “miserable Mississippi”.


About 13 miles up the Ohio, is the Olmstead Lock & Dam or Lock 52. This is a brand new lock that opened in September 2018 and replaced the old lock 52 & 53. As luck would have it, we timed our arrival perfectly as a tow was just exiting the lock headed down bound. Actually, the correct terminology is “up bound or down bound” instead of north or south bound because sometimes the rivers run east & west so we have started to use the correct nomenclature when speaking with the tows via VHF. We hailed the lock on the VHF and were given the green light to enter right away and locked through by ourselves.

Originally we were going to anchor out because the Paducah Transient Docks did not have availability but Bob happened to call them and they told us they would make it work. Arrived mid-day and it was like old home week. We knew almost all the boats already tied up and the ones that arrived later. It is unseasonably hot up here this week (highs of 92-95 degrees) and that combined with no sleep from the night before, exhausted us.

However, we rallied a bit and by the end of the day were having docktails with the crews from Meant To Be, Desiderata, Just Jilling, Talisker, Patriot, Short Vacation, Reality, The Journey & Amazing Grace. Later, I went to dinner with the crews of Amazing Grace, Talisker and Meant To Be while Bob opted to call it a night. He only had one hour of sleep the night before and decided he was more tired than hungry. We headed up to Shandy’s and all enjoyed the camaraderie and a nice meal. Slept extremely well.

On Monday, we had a leisurely morning, then I met Bob in town to go for lunch. He had gone up to have a document notarized and told me to meet him in town. He was seated on a bench looking down on the Ohio River (in the shade of course) and it was a pretty vista. It is hard to capture in photos but you just can’t believe how high (and low) the river can get. The city of Paducah is surrounded by a flood wall (about 18′ high) to protect them from the river when it floods. In low water, which is what we are experiencing, the city removes the gates from the entry points which are situated about every 100′ or so along the wall. Apparently, during one of their floods, the water was about 2-3′ high in the downtown area. If you look closely at the photos below of the transient docks where we were docked, notice the pilings for the floating docks. They are at least 40′ high! Look at the downward incline of the ramp we had to walk to get to our boat. Then look at the photo of the docks when the water is high (stolen photo off the internet).  Huge difference. This past Spring during a flooding stage, the water was up to the parking lot above the docks.

The City of Paducah owns and manages the transient docks. There is nothing other than the docks here. Water, electric, fuel & pump out but no marina office or other amenities. Downtown is a 10 minute walk with a few good restaurants, bars and some shops. When a boater arrives or wants to fuel or pump out, one of the city employees drives in from the Parks department 4 miles away. Pretty interesting set up.

After viewing the river from the bench, we walked over to Doe’s for lunch. Really good food and glad we got there early as it got packed. I had a black & blue salad and the steak was really tender and tasty. When we got back to the dock, Pam on Short Vacation said she had rented a car and was headed to the grocery store with Geni & Bill from Patriot. I joined them and they made a stop for me at the liquor store so we could replenish some wine & spirits. We were told our next marina is situated in a dry county and even the restaurants there don’t serve alcohol. We all did our provisioning and headed back to our boats. Had a leisurely afternoon in the AC of our boat to stay out of the heat.

In the afternoon, a few more loopers pulled in, including April & Larry on One Eye Dog, who are gold loopers. We recognized the name of their boat as they frequently post on the AGLCA forum. April came by in the afternoon and informed us that the Barkley Lock & Dam would be closed from 6am to 6pm and that they were organizing a lock through with the Kentucky Lock & Dam. We confirmed that we would be leaving in the morning and signed up for the flotilla of 9 boats. The Kentucky Lock is a shorter run to our next destination but it is mainly commercial tows and they have priority. It is also rumored that one of the lock tenders has a big dislike of all pleasure craft. So most loopers take the Cumberland River route, which is 25 miles longer, and go through the Barkley Lock.

Tuesday, October 1st – Grand Rivers, KY.  In the morning, we (all the loopers) woke up to our boats covered in mayflies (that’s always fun to clean off). Even the dock lanterns were covered with them. Earlier, April called the Kentucky lock and was told they could probably lock us through at 11am. It’s a 2 – 2.5 hour run to the lock so most of us headed out around 8am and stayed on VHF channel 68 so we could communicate as a group. We arrived around 10:30am and April called the lock to announce our arrival. We were told it would be at least 2 hours since there was a split tow just starting to go through. A split tow is when the number or length of the barges exceeds the size capacity of the lock and so they have to split up the barges and it takes a long time. Most of the group went outside the channel markers and anchored to wait it out. Finally at 2pm we were called to come in. The Kentucky lock is huge and it was about a 40′ to 45′ lift. Island Time was the last to come in and rafted up to Desiderata. While the lock is big enough to fit all 9 boats onto the wall without rafting, there are very few places to tie up for the smaller pleasure craft. The bollards are spaced far apart since normally its commercial traffic coming through. The lock attendant took us up slowly to cut down on turbulence so it took a awhile in the sweltering heat. We were finally out of the lock and on our way by 3:00pm with the destination of Green Turtle Bay Resort & Marina only 6 miles away.

It was a little chaotic for the marina with 9 boats arriving at the same time but they got us all in. They had assigned us a covered slip where the seasonal slip holders are housed and once we got secured into our slip (with no help) we realized that the slip only had 30 amp power not 50 amp. This would be okay if we were only staying 1 night but we were planning on staying a few days. Talked to the office and they moved us back to where all the transients and loopers we have been travelling with. Long hot day so we showered and caught the shuttle service (golf carts) to the Thirsty Turtle for drinks and dinner with Dick & Sandi and were later joined by Bob & Kim of Talisker. Tons of loopers everywhere. We counted 40 looper boats here at this marina and probably missed some. After arriving and seeing the marina and its amenities, we opted to extend our stay to a week since they had a special. Pay for 5 nights and get 2 nights free.

Wednesday – Saturday October 2nd-6th – Green Turtle Bay Resort. Wednesday chore day. The boat was in bad need of a cleaning inside and outside. While I tackled cleaning the inside of the boat and three loads of laundry, Bob scrubbed the outside of the boat in 92 degree heat. So nice to have a clean & pretty boat again.

At 5pm, we walked up to the Commonwealth Yacht Club (CYC) for happy hour. Marina guests are allowed in and they were having 50% off all drinks and they had Meiomi Pinot Noir. Sat at the bar and enjoyed speaking with local club members and other loopers coming in. Our female bartender, Ashton, was adorable and provided great service. She told us to come into town for lunch at T. Lawson’s as she would be bartending there during the day. Dinner at the club was good.

Thursday, we rented a golf cart for 24 hours and spent the day exploring the resort property and the town of Grand Rivers which is about a 7 minute drive in the golf cart. Went to the grocery store for some provisions and brought them back to the boat. At lunchtime, we went back into town and went to T. Lawson and sat at the bar with Ashton (photo) . She is one hard worker. Everything on the menu is named after some person of note from the town past and present. Had a good lunch there (I had fish taco’s & Bob the shrimp and grits) then took off to explore the area. The Marina Village area has some big and beautiful homes overlooking the lake. Saw quite a few deer and they didn’t seem to spooked to see us. On our way back to the boat, we picked up a couple that were walking and offered them a ride to the marina. Scott & Jeanie on the sailboat Joie de Vivre are anchored in a cove near marina village and were walking to our marina to check it out (about 4 miles one way). Got back to boat and I offered to take Sandi of Amazing Grace to the grocery store in town and off we went. Picked up Scott & Jeanie headed back towards their boat and dropped them at the grocery store as well. Laid low and on the boat for the evening.

Friday morning, we decided to go have breakfast in town since we had the golf cart for another hour or so. It finally cooled down to high 50’s at night and in morning. On our way, we offered a ride to another walker headed into town. Susan from Ecstasy. Susan is Canadian and only crewing on a looper’s boat for 3 months. She has quite a bit of boating experience and loves being on the water so she signed up to help a gentleman whose wife doesn’t like boating at all. Susan was looking for coffee so we informed her that we were headed to breakfast and she was thrilled. She hadn’t realized how far a walk it was into town so she was extra appreciative. Breakfast was really good at the Lite Café & Bakery. All made on premises and delicious. Saw more deer.

At 11am, I headed to the Jade & Earth spa on the resort property for a much needed pedicure and then back at 1pm for a massage. Nice treat for me while Bob relaxed on the boat. At 5pm, we headed back up to CYC for happy hour and dinner and of course Ashton who remembered what we were drinking. Another nice dinner and evening.

Saturday, we spent a quiet morning on the boat then headed out on the tender to watch the sailboat regatta. Not much wind on Kentucky Lake so these guys didn’t even look like they were moving. Almost painful to watch. Too much excitement so we headed over to the Thirsty Turtle for lunch. Dick & Sandi came over on their dinghy as well and we found the crews of Pegasus & Lucky Me having lunch there as well.

Saturday evening, we bought tickets to accompany Dick & Sandi for a BBQ dinner & concert in town. The Outlaws of Country Music tribute band were playing. We were unprepared for such a terrific concert and group of musicians. These guys were simply amazing and we could not believe this small town (population 380) had such a great little theatre. Apparently they put on different concerts all the time. We are sorry we won’t be here for the Beatles tribute next week as they played one of the Beatles songs they perform and it was awesome. One of the band members, Terry Mike Jeffrey, has been performing since he was three, met Elvis in Vegas when he was 15 years old and starting playing with Elvis until his passing. Then Elvis’s band played for Terry. Amazing voice and guitarist and born, raised and lives in Paducah which is about 30 minutes away.

Well that wraps up another week in our Great Loop adventure. Stayed tuned as we make our way south towards Mobile, AL.