Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

No photos today.  I worked on cleaning the flybridge and Joe had mechanical stuff to take care of.  It was a great day for working--cloudy but warm.  Joe and I finally knocked off around 5:30 or so and went to join the other "Loopers" at the gazebo for happy hour. 
Phil did some sightseeing in the nearby town of Grand Rivers, KY and for the second night, he fixed his own dinner and ate alone--but he's a good sport about it. 

After a long hot shower, I crawled into bed to read and Joe relaxed by pulling out his harmonicas and playing for a while. 

It was a good day.  =0)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

We left our anchorage at Paducah and headed to the Cumberland River.  When we reached the Cumberland we were delighted to see how beautiful it is. 

There were a few houses near the water at first, but then we saw only trees and farmland.

Pretty soon, though, we rounded a bend in the river and this rock quarry operation came into view.  We saw another, smaller operation a few more miles upriver.

 It was interesting to see, but we were glad to finally get past the noise and resume the peaceful, scenic landscape we'd been enjoying. 
There were several small creeks that joined the Cumberland along the way.

We reached the Barkley Lock 38 miles up the Cumberland from the Ohio and it was a pretty dramatic view coming in.  This boat in the lock is 64 feet long, and you can see how small it looks here. 

Every time the lock is operated, it uses 37.5 million gallons of water but, once the gates were closed, it only took 5 or 6 minutes for us to be lifted 57 feet.

Here's the view when we were almost ready to exit.

This was our first view of Lake Barkley, a man-made lake that is 134 miles long with over 1,000 miles of shoreline.

It only took about 10 minutes to get to Green Turtle Bay Marina where we would spend the next 2 nights.  GTB is a beautiful marina with 450 slips, gas dock, a couple of restaurants, laundry facilities, free loaner cars, golf carts to rent for trips into town, a complete service department, ships store, and wifi.

Amazingly, the daily dockage fee was the same as Hoppie's.

This is the cute gazebo right in front of Paradise where we met other "Loopers" for happy hour each evening.  Besides great conversations and stories, we got lots of good advice for our trip.

We're waiting for a generator pump to arrive and I'm looking forward to a couple of days of being able to get out of the boat and walk around.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Note: In previous entries I have mentioned "barges" on the river, but what I was describing are correctly called "tows"--meaning the combination of a towboat attached to containers that are individually called barges.  So from now on, I'll refer to tows, towboats, or if I'm talking about the containers themselves, I'll say barges.
We woke to moderate fog this morning, but headed out anyway.  This is what we saw when we reached the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers at 8:15--fog and moving tows and anchored barges everywhere!  It was pretty scary.  All three of us were in the pilot house and Joe said "All eyes on the river!"  Even without the fog, we hadn't seen anything like it on the Mississippi.  Joe throttled way back and inched Paradise through the maze of vessels and fog.  Making it worse was that the fog made it impossible to see the buoys marking the channel. 

About 9:15 the fog had pretty much lifted and Phil commented that it looked like we were in a major seaport instead of the little town (population 3,000) of Cairo, IL.
Going upriver on the Ohio our speed was less than 6 knots compared to the 11 or 12 knots we were moving downriver on the Mississippi.

Once we got past Cairo, there wasn't much activity and we cruised along in sunshine enjoying the trip.

Before long, Joe noticed Summer Song coming up behind us.  Summer Song is the 65 foot boat owned by Stan Hubbard that was in back of us at Sunnyside, our home port.  The crew was bringing her to Ft. Lauderdale for the winter.  The captain hailed us on the marine radio and chatted with Joe for a few minutes.  It turns out they had spent Sunday night at the same anchorage as Abreojos.

We reached Paducah, KY and I was hoping to stop there and see the old town because I read somewhere that there's a nice waterfront for tieing up...
...but unfortunately not for any vessel that isn't trailerable.  So we had to keep going.

We reached our anchorage on the north side of Paducah about 4:30 and settled in for the night. 

Phil has been wanting to go swimming ever since we left home, but of course the temperatures have been too chilly to make that an appealing idea.  Since the weather was so much nicer today, Phil decided maybe he'd take a dip here.  After sitting on the diving platform with his feet in the water he said that the water temperature wasn't too bad, but the water had stuff floating in it that took away his desire to swim--at least for today.

No wifi and no bars so we were incommunicado for the night.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday, October 23, 2011

We woke to heavy cloud cover this morning, but the tempature was in the low 60s--a definite improvement from the chilly temps we've been having.  Joe wanted to get all the way to the Cairo, IL area and we were on our way by 7:30.   Brenda and Larry in Abreojos stayed behind at the anchorage for a while so we were cruising alone.

We mostly saw trees, deserted beaches, and barges for the whole day.  At one point Joe said he hadn't expected the cruise on the Mississippi to be so boring; I reminded him that boring is good--we've already had plenty of excitement in my opinion.

We've seen quite a few camping spots like this all along the river.  Joe says they would be a good place to put someone in the federal witness protection program.

Several times today we encountered turbulent waters caused by special dams on the bottom of the river that are supposed to help keep the channels from filling in.  They are placed at bends in the river.  We were warned not to try to pass a barge in a couple of those places where the river was especially narrow.  At one point, Joe found out two barges were coming around the bend so he turned around and backtracked until they were clear of that area.

The current was really carrying us along today; we were doing as much as 12 knots at times and our average speed was 10 knots for the day, even after losing 30 minutes or so to avoid those barges.

We made 94 miles today in just 9 hours and settled into an anchorage just north of this bridge by Cairo, IL.  Joe decided to take the dinghy out "just to make sure it's working properly" and had fun buzzing around.  He managed to disturb a few Asian carp that did their flying act for him, but fortunately none hit him or the boat.

 We made red pepper, mushroom, & black olive pizza for dinner tonight.  I made the dough early this afternoon in the food processor, then we finished assembling it at dinner time.  It's a recipe we've been making for a few years, but I think this one was the best we've ever made.  Or maybe it's just the setting.  =0)

Tomorrow we head up the Ohio River and, if everything goes right, we'll make it about 60 miles to Paducah, KY.  Temps are supposed to be in the high 70s!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

We planned another short day today, so we slept late; actually, Phil was up early, Joe got up with the alarm and I slept late.  But we couldn't leave anyway until Larry and Brenda pulled out because of how the marina crew squeezed Paradise in between the sailboat ahead of us and Abreojos behind us. 
This is how close our bow pulpit was to the end of the sailboat's mast...I was on the bow when the marina crew maneuvered Paradise into position yesterday and it looked too close for my comfort.  But they added lines on the side of Paradise and we didn't move forward or back. 

Not long after I got up, look what came putt-putting up to the marina gas was the shanty boat from yesterday.  Of course we were all tickled to see it and curious about both the boater and his vessel.  He turned out to be a friendly and well-traveled fellow named Wayne, and his dog Bentley was just as friendly and also very well-mannered.
Wayne told us that he has done the Great Loop in sections and was regaling us with stories about his adventures and the sights he'd seen and the people he's met.  Like us, he is headed for Florida to spend the winter and he's just as anxious as we are to escape the chilly weather we've been experiencing.  I tried to get some photos of the interior of ShantyBoat...

We finally were on our way and passed this boat disguised as a duck blind--folks sure take their duck hunting seriously around here!

This is the confluence of the Kaskaskia River and the Mississippi--at least this one has a marina.  I still can't get over the Missouri River's discreet entrance to the Mississippi...

We had a great day of cruising, the sun was shining and the temperature got up into the 60s, so we spent a good part of the day on the flybridge.

We finally reached our destination--an anchorage about 60 miles south of Hoppie's.  We traveled with Abreojo today, so Larry and Brenda pulled in next to us.  Although they've nearly completed the Great Loop, they originally started out from Texas.  This is their first experience with the fast Mississippi River current since their 2 previous nights on the Mississippi they were at marinas.
You can see the sandy beach on the other side of Abreojo; that's what it's been like for many miles since we left Hoppie's--deserted sandy beaches. Can't help wondering if they're also deserted in the summer. 

This is a great anchorage with faster wifi (on Joe's cell phone) than any wifi we've had since we left Sunnyside.
We have a 10 hour day tomorrow, so it's time to close for the night. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

We don’t have too far to go today and only 2 locks to go through, so we slept late and didn’t leave Alton Marina until 9:45.  While we were at the marina, Joe met 2 couples there who have completed the Great Loop—Stan & Barbara Grogg, who own this boat “Grogger”, and Robert & Patty Mitchell who own “Orinoco”.

Our first lock for today, the Melvin Price L&D aka L&D 26, was in sight of the marina and just 2 miles downriver.  When we got there we were happy to find that there was no wait.  26 is different than any of the other locks we’ve been in; anyone on the outside of the boat during the locking procedure has to wear a life jacket, and instead of huge doors on both ends that swing open and closed, the upper side of the lock has a gate that rises to just above the level of the water. 

This lock has a drop of 24 feet and we’ve been lowered almost the whole way in this photo.  Phil is plugging his ears because there was painfully loud screeching from the floating bollards or something; I had to turn off my hearing aids too.

We had about 10 miles to go to the next lock and the cruising was uneventful—sunshine and relatively calm winds made it so much more pleasant the previous days had been.  This part of the river is somewhat industrial with lots of small barges and smallish companies.

We passed the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. I was surprised that it was such a non-event; I expected that there would at least be a small town or something but there wasn’t even a sign.  One of our guidebooks said to beware of extremely turbulent water there, but with the currently low water levels, it wasn’t a problem.  Maybe last spring it might have been a different story.

 Throughout the day we encountered smaller vessels that were also sharing the river with us and the barges; a kayak, a couple of fisherman in a canoe, a fellow who looks like he may be going a long distance in a very long canoe, and a shanty boat.

 Soon we came to the Chain of Rocks canal and L&D, aka L&D #27 which is the last lock we’ll have to navigate before we leave the Mississippi and head up the Ohio River at Cairo, IL. We were surprised that there weren’t a lot of barges in the canal with us, it was quite a nice ride.

At L&D 27 this boat in front of us turned out to be another Looper boat—Abreojos (“open eyes” in Spanish)--owned by Larry and Brenda Golkin.  We met them later in the day at Hoppie's Marina.

Finally, we saw St. Louis.  We all went up on the flybridge to get a better view and to take photos. 

The current was so strong that we were going 10.3 knots past the city which is nearly 12 mph--that's flying for us!

I called this a Frankenstein factory!  It was a power plant at some point, but we couldn’t tell if it is still operational.

Here’s the Gateway to the West; it’s REALLY huge!  In the late 1970s, I was on a business trip to St. Louis and rode up to the top of the Arch and looked out the windows—that was scary for me because the ride up was in weird little cars and I have a fear of heights!  But I’m glad I did it.

 More photos of the downtown area near the waterfront…

Joe and Phil went below and I was driving for a little while.  You'll notice that we took the bimini down (the canvas cover over the seating area; in strong winds it was acting like a kite and making Paradise difficult to handle, so the guys took it down on Wednesday.

The river south of St. Louis is heavily industrial for another 20 miles or so.  We saw dredging operations, row after row of barges filled with coal, abandoned barges, empty barges floating high in the water and waiting to be filled, a scrap metal yard, a power plant, factories that were operating and some that had obviously been abandoned, even a casino (cheap real estate prices, I imagine, and they never have windows anyway so the view doesn’t matter).   After that we saw a few miles of McMansions high up on the cliffs.  Then, the trees took over again. 

About 30 miles south of St. Louis was Hoppie’s Marina, a mom-and-pop operation that’s actually just a couple of old barges that serve as docks.  Hoppie’s is a must-stop just for the experience of meeting the friendly and colorful owners who dispense both fuel and advice on navigating the often treacherous waters of the Mississippi.  The marina crew secured Paradise within a couple of feet behind a sailboat, with Abreojos tied just behind us.  Several other boats were secured on the other side of the barge/dock.

We met and chatted with Larry and Brenda Golkin, the owners of Abreojos, as well as Hoppie’s owner Fern.  The main topic of conversation was the destruction of the Erie Canal by Hurricane Irene and whether or not the canal will be open by next summer.  Fern had photos that showed incredible damage; many boats and boat owners are stranded there and this is causing catastrophic economic damage to the small towns along the Canal.  Canal authorities have said that the canal will re-open by May 2012, but there’s a lot of scepticism about whether that will actually happen.  Hopefully they'll be able to call upon the kind of resources that rebuilt the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis so quickly.  If it is not open, we cannot complete the Great Loop in 2012 as we have planned.  We could go up the Hudson River and we'd have to turn around, which would still be a worthwhile trip!

 Once we got settled in for the night, Phil wanted to explore the small town that was close to the marina, so he and Joe got one of the two folding bikes down from the flybridge and we didn’t see Phil for a couple of hours after that.  Ed and Nancy, the former owners of Paradise left the bikes for us and they are great for getting around.  I haven't had the opportunity to ride one, but Katy and Joe used them in Grand Haven, MI when I was in the hospital.  I was tempted to try the bike yesterday after Phil got back, but I decided not to push my luck and to let it go for another couple of weeks.

After dinner, Phil walked back into town and when he got back he informed us that the town was having “Witches Night” and that the bars, restaurants and shops were all filled with women dressed as witches.  He said the proportion of women to men was about 12 to 1 and he felt pretty awkward being male and out of costume.  However, he stopped at a bakery/cafĂ© and bought a slice of apple pie which he graciously shared with Joe and me.  It was delicious!