Monday, December 18, 2017

Demopolis-Mobile - Dec 7-13

Thursday morning we waited at the Demopolis Marina a couple hours for maintenance to be completed on the Demopolis Lock. (our only lock of the day) Sheli had to again man the lines in the rain and cold while locking through.  This is getting old!    We covered 98 miles - some fast, some slow - the rains forced us to slow down at times. Our travel days for this part of the trip are much shorter due to fewer daylight hours this time of year. We arrived at our destination - Bobby's Fish Camp - near dark. (4:30pm).  Bobby's Fish Camp consists of a historic restaurant famous for their catfish with a 200 foot long floating dock. The dock already had 9 other boats tied to and rafted off by the time we arrived.  They were all willing to come out in the rain and catch our lines.  Steve and the other captains worked together to make sure everyone could get hooked up to power from the few electrical outlets.  Though we are not big fish eaters, we joined the others for dinner at the "legendary" restaurant. Captain "Why Not" had the catfish while the First Mate "I don't think so" threatened to eat her arm but opted for a burger instead.

Oh the weather outside is frightful, Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow!

At 6am on Friday morning, the electrical power we all struggled for the night before went out. All the boats went dark and cold in a hurry. We looked out the windows to find that the predicted snow storm was upon us. Yuck!  We had hoped to leave at first light however we needed to take on fuel which now meant waiting for the owner to start a generator to power the fuel pump. Always an adventure!  After pushing the snow off the bow and windshield we started to move slowly down the river.  Traveling today required 4 sharp eyes on the chart plotter, radar and the river.  It proved to be quite challenging to see the river due to sleet, snow, fog and ice build-up on the windshield. Our new Buddy Heater saved the day again as we needed to put it on the dash to defrost the windshield. We had hoped to make it the 118 miles to Mobile but due to the weather, we stopped 1 lock (our last lock) and 65 miles later. Just before dark, we dropped the anchor at the Alabama River Cut-off.
Boating in snow was a first and hopefully a last for us!

Saturday we woke up to sunshine and blue skies! It was still only in the 40s, but sunshine made a huge difference.  We could see out the windshield!  Woohoo! We traveled fast for the majority of the remaining 52 miles on the rivers to Mobile Bay.  Once we hit the Bay, we traveled 10 miles south in the shipping channel and then turned hard to port and made way for the town of Fairhope, AL. Our home for the next two nights was the Fairhope Municipal Marina. We enjoyed our time exploring the quaint town, awesome food and an afternoon dinghy ride around the area.

Monday we headed back across Mobile Bay to Turner Marine at Dog River located on the western shore of the bay near Mobile, AL.  We will leave the PV2 here under the watchful eyes of some fellow loopers while we fly back to Michigan for the holidays.

Merry Christmas!

What, no windshield wipers?

Captain's having Catfish!

Anything's better than catfish!

First time for snow at Bobby's!

Fuel up and let's get south!

Sweeping snow!

Busy day on the helm.

What, no defroster?

Finally sunshine!

Docked at Fairhope

Oyster dinner at Shux on the Pier!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Pickwick - Demopolis - Dec 2-6

After 2 months back home at the dirt house, we were very excited to get back to the PV2. On Saturday, Dec 2 we flew Grand Rapids to Memphis, rented a car and loaded up on supplies for our last leg of our journey down the rivers.  We found PV2 to be looking mighty fine under cover at Aqua Yacht Harbor.  The next day, we spent time prepping the boat and had lunch with Joe & Tammy who kept an eye on the boat while we were gone.

Destination - Mobile, Alabama!  12 locks and 450 miles to go!

At first light Monday morning we began our trek down the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. We locked through our 1st lock, 38 miles down river. (As we exited the lock, we were hailed on the radio by the captain of "DougOut", the boat behind us inquiring about our dinghy lift. We were happy to provide information on our hydraulic lift as we are official Ambassadors representing FreedomLift. As we travel we will be promoting and demonstrating the ease and convenience of the lift. The PV2 may also be a working demo for FreedomLift at the Florida Boat Shows.)  We continued down the river the remainder of our 72 mile, 4 lock day and dropped the anchor at Smithville, MS.

Tuesday was cold and rainy.  The captain stayed warm and dry up on the helm while the first mate donned full rain gear to work the lines in the locks. Four locks and 70 miles later we pulled in with DougOut to Pirates Cove Marina near Pickensville, AL, which was a broken down and closed marina. We tied up to the somewhat dilapidated docks and ran generators as needed for heat and electric. While tying up, Doug was approached by a local asking what we were up to. Doug gave him $20/boat and he went away. To warm up, we went to DougOut for a hot bowl of homemade chili.

Just when we thought Tuesday was nasty, Wednesday brought even colder and wetter weather. The good news was that Doug gave us his portable propane Buddy Heater to use on the helm. What a life saver!  After locking down our 2 locks of the day with DougOut, we put the PV2 up on plane and traveled 25mph for the last 50 miles of our 90 mile day.  Our destination was Demopolis Yacht Harbor. Soon after docking, we used the marina courtesy car to make a run to Walmart to buy our own Buddy Heater as the predicted forecast was looking even worse.  Argh.

PV2 at Aqua Yacht Harbor

Handing off Freedom Lift Brochure

Cold First Mate

Captain Warm & Dry 

Wet First Mate

It ain't lookin any better! Argh!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Pickwick-Grandville, MI - Oct 6-9

Friday, October 6 we departed Pickwick Landing State Park and traveled 8 miles upstream on the Tennessee River and hung a right on to Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. We traveled a whopping 2 miles to Aqua Yacht Harbor in Iuka, Mississippi. It was another hot, sunny day, so once in our slip we dropped the dinghy for some exploration and a swim.

Aqua Yacht Harbor is the home port of Joe & Tammy, a couple we met at the Fall Looper Rendezvous in 2014 and they followed our blog for the remainder of our trip. Joe and Tammy are planning to do the loop in the future. They were instrumental in finding us a slip near theirs to leave the PV2 while we return home for a couple months. It was great to see them again and catch up.

Our friends Paul & Cindy from back home, drove down with their motorhome to meet us and bring us back home. Friday night we cooked out at their campsite at Pickwick State Park. On Saturday, they joined us for a boat ride to the Waterfall cove. This was one of our favorite anchorages on our 1st loop.  It was fun to share this with them!

Sunday morning we closed up the boat, boarded the motorhome, and hit the road.  We were sure glad we were in a motorhome vs a boat as it was a rainy, windy day.  (remnants of Hurricane Nate) This was the first rain we saw on the entire trip!  We stopped at a campground just outside of Nashville for the evening.  Instead of our normal dinghy ride after arriving at our destination, we jumped in their Jeep (that they tow behind the motorhome) and headed into Nashville for food, music and fun.

We had a smooth relaxing ride back to Grandville and arrived home by 5pm on Monday.  We plan to return to the boat in December and continue moving her south.

Trip Summary:  Number of days:          17
                          Travel days:                  14
                          Miles traveled:             949
                          Gallons of diesel:         Yup

Sandy beaches on the Mississippi River - too many to count.

                          Joe & Tammy

The Waterfall Cove

Paul & Cindy

Our anchorage near Nashville

The "dinghy"

See ya'll down the river!


Kentucky Dam-Pickwick, TN - Oct 3-5

Tuesday noon after spending the morning washing the boat and doing laundry, we cast off our lines and headed south on Kentucky Lake and the Tennessee River in reckless pursuit of our long lost friends on Thistle. We buddy boated two summers ago in Canada with Greg & Reenie on Thistle.
We very much enjoyed our time together that summer and looked forward to catching up with them.
Late afternoon we pulled into Pebble Isle Marina to find they had just arrived and were tying their lines. The evening was spent sharing pizza, stories and laughs.

Wednesday morning, after homemade cinnamon rolls at the marina office, be both pulled out and headed south on the Tennessee River. The PV2 got up on plane and went ahead to scout out anchorages for the night. We settled on a great little spot between Swallow Bluff Island and Dickey Towhead. We dropped the anchor and the dinghy, took a swim and watched for our friends to arrive.
Our welcome wagon dinghy picked up Greg & Reenie shortly after their arrival and transported us all to a small sandy beach on the island to enjoy a beautiful sunset. We had read that wild goats lived on the island and sure enough we were greeted (or not) by 3 of them as we approached shore. They allowed us to enjoy their beach in peace.  They looked mean, but they really weren't that baaaaaad!

Thursday morning we pulled out of our anchorage and were joined by 4 other boats along the way. The Lock Master at Pickwick Lock & Dam advised us that if we hustled he could lock us all through before an approaching down bound tow. We all picked up the pace and nicely made it. After locking up 55 feet, Thistle & PV2 turned into Pickwick Landing State Park Marina for the evening. We took the dinghy to the State Park Restaurant for our farewell dinner with Thistle as we will part ways in the morning. We will miss them and hope to catch up again this winter.

Tennessee River

PV2 at anchorage

Welcome Wagon Dinghy

Greg & Reenie on Thistle

Baaaaaaack off!

Beautiful sunset!

Beautiful sunrise!

Breakfast of Captains!

Dickey Towhead

Great friends, great times. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Alton-Kentucky Dam - Sept 30-Oct 2

Saturday, September 30, we pulled out of the Alton Marina and started our journey down the Mississippi River. Much like the Illinois River, the Mississippi water levels are very low. WOW! This river doesn't look anything like the last time we traveled it. Last time we were warned about the underwater wing dams which deflect water to the center of the river to keep the shipping channel from silting in. This time, the wing dams were very obvious as they were rock jetties sticking out of the water, some up to 10 feet tall. Yikes! Overall the Mississippi was much more enjoyable than last time. No dodging trees, logs and fighting the current, just one 6 point buck swimming across the Mississippi migrating from Missouri to Illinois.  Sheli fell in love with the beautiful sandy beaches along the banks.  Who ever knew! Our stop for the night was at Hoppies in Kimmswick, MO.

We departed at dawn for our 110 mile day on the Mississippi, pulling in late afternoon at Little Diversion anchorage. Sheli insisted we take a dinghy ride across the river to put her toes in the sand of the "not so Mighty Mississippi". The sand reminded us of Lake Michigan sand - weird! We spent the night anchored out with 6 other boats.

Monday, we left at first light and started our biggest/longest boating day ever! After 49 miles we made a NASCAR turn on to the Ohio River. As expected, it turned out to be a long day due to lock construction and closures. We floated right through the brand new lock chamber at Olmstead as the dam is not yet completed. The lockmaster told us the next lock was broken and instructed us to tie to the wall short of Lock 53. There were already 4 boats tied up and waiting. Come to find out, one boat had been there waiting 22 hours! Panic!  The good news is we only had to wait an hour before it was fixed and we were on our way. Ten miles later as we approached Lock 52, we were instructed to drop anchor out of the channel, as our wait could be 4-6 hours before we could lock through. (due to backlog of barges).  First Mate "Sweet Talker" called the lockmaster on the telephone and managed to get us locked through in an hour. Love that girl!  Although we never, never travel after dark, we made an exception.  One of the boats that locked through with us,was being delivered from Chicago to Kentucky Dam Marina by a local delivery captain. He intended to travel in the dark to get there and we made the decision to follow him.  Following his stern light and our radar, we turned onto the Tennessee River and traveled 22 miles to the Kentucky Lock. After locking through, we pulled into the Kentucky Dam Marina at 9:30pm. A 15 hour day!  Done!

Hello St Louis!

This lock stuff is hard work!

Mississippi River - Really???

Little Diversion Anchorage

First Mate "Sweet Talker"

New lock at Olmstead

Entering the Kentucky Lock at 9pm.

Ottawa-Alton - Sept 26-29

Tuesday, September 26, we traveled 80 miles to Peoria where we stayed on the downtown wall. Free stay with electric - yay - as temps are still in the 90s! On our last trip this is where we discovered the Nina, Pinta and the Pura Vida, but this time the Pura Vida sits solo in the harbor.

Wednesday, we tackled 110 miles and 2 locks before anchoring behind Big Blue Island. It took traveling 30mph at some points (sucking down the fuel) to arrive before sunset, but we made it.
Captain "I don't like that" polished the props on the river bottom as we pulled into the anchorage we were told had 5-6ft depth. We then dropped the hook between the red buoy and the river bank in about 6ft of water just out of the barge channel. As usual, when the anchor goes down, the grill came out. A fine meal was enjoyed under the bright moon and a zillion stars.

Thursday was an easy trek of 58 miles to the Grafton Marina. This is where the Illinois River meets the Mississippi River. Once again we made a left turn to join the Mighty Mississippi. (more NASCAR)   In the afternoon we deployed the dinghy to explore some nearby islands and coves on the Mississippi, harassing a few Asian carp along the way. At night we joined 8 other loopers for dinner overlooking the river.

Late Friday morning we left Grafton and did a short 22 mile cruise to Alton Marina where we fueled up and prepared for our trek down the Mississippi. That evening we enjoyed a fun dinner at the legendary Fast Eddies Bon Air.

Lock Duty!

Tows on the Illinois River

Pura Vida dos (PV2) docked at Alton

Grand Haven-Ottawa - Sept 20-25

We're off! We left Grand Haven early Wednesday, September 20 in a dense fog. We tested our radar to guide us out the Grand Haven channel. After turning left at the channel we decided that rather than Chicago, our destination for the day would be New Buffalo. The fog soon cleared and it was a beautiful, hot cruise down Lake Michigan.

While in New Buffalo, Captain Fix It (yes he is on board again) was checking things in the engine room and discovered one of the 4 new batteries, that were installed just prior to us purchasing the boat,  was running significantly hotter than the other three. We contacted the Interstate Rep who had a local dealer bring us a new battery the next morning. 

Looper friends, Dave & Michele from Just Us, now live on their boat full time in Florida. They were coming back by car to Michigan and stopped by to see us. It was great to see them again!
It was awesome to still have access to Lake Michigan for a dinghy ride and a swim on a very hot, 90 something, Julyish day.

Friday morning we had a 2 hour run of 40 miles across the bottom of Lake Michigan and entered the Calumet River near Hammond, Indiana. Due to the high water levels in the Great Lakes, we had to have several bridges lift to allow us through that we would have fit under at normal pool level.  Thirty miles later we again turned left (this is beginning to feel like NASCAR) onto the Illinois River. It was a 2 lock & 1 electric fish barrier day by the time we reached our destination of the free wall at Joliet.

Saturday morning we left by 7am with 5 other Loop boats and quickly locked through our 1st lock of the day. The 2nd lock, 22 miles later, was a different story. Due to Tow traffic we had to wait 4 hours before passing through. While waiting we dropped anchor and Captain Slave Driver put us to work on waxing the boat. Waxing in 102 degree temps is not the first mate's idea of a good time. Our 3rd and final lock of the day went much quicker so we were able to reach our destination of Heritage Harbor in Ottawa, IL before sunset.  It was a long, hot day.

Due to lack of rain, both the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers are very low, so we will battle this as we travel down the rivers. We stayed in Ottawa a couple days due to high temps (nice swimming pool and good dinghy ride to town) and barge congestion downstream where they are doing emergency dredging.

Foggy morning thru Grand Haven channel

Captain Adorable at the helm

New Buffalo

Friends Dave & Michele 

Calm morning out of New Buffalo to cross Lake Michigan

Electric fish barrier

Wall at Joliet

Captain loves his new dinghy and lift!

Heritage Harbor Marina