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.