Discovering Chattanooga

Oct. 27

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Chattanooga was once one of the dirtiest cities in the country, thanks to its role in river and rail transportation. But before its industrial history lies a very sad chapter for Native Americans— for us all. Ross Landing was the last site of the Cherokee’s occupation of Chattanooga and is considered to be the embarkation point of the 1838 Cherokee removal on the Trail of Tears.

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The beautiful water feature near our our boat which commemorates the Trail of Tears.

Over 16,000 Cherokee were forcibly removed from their homes at bayonet point and looked on as white men looted and ransacked their homes, and 4000–1/4 of them—died of cold, hunger, and disease on their march to the western lands. By this time, Andrew Jackson’s  administration had removed 46,000 Native American people from their land east of the Mississippi, opening 25 million acres of land to white settlement and to slavery. In 1839 Ross Landing was incorporated into the city of Chattanooga, and by 1850 it was a boom town “where the cotton meets the corn” as a hub in railway transport. During the Civil War a few decades later, Union forces defeated Confederate forces in the battle on Lookout Mountain, and The Battle of Chickamauga was the second-costliest land battle of the entire war, with 34,624 casualties. History and pride run deep here.

As Steve and I discussed taking this side trip, I felt a little cynicism for having driven through Chattanooga so many times as we traversed to Florida last winter. Why take an additional couple of weeks and the boat when we could have stopped by car much more easily if we had wanted to?! The answer to this sits at the very heart of this whole looping venture: the point is to discover gems which we have overlooked or have not known; the point is to discover these bits through the back door; the point is to delight in small things and in self-discovery. 

The river wound through the foothills of the Appalachians, and Red Pearl reluctantly pushed upstream against a strong current at 7 knots with 2000 rpm, past industrial sites and along Interstate 24. Chattanooga has a long river front with a few floating docks (always a good thing around dams, where water levels can fluctuate), but the most picturesque spot was on the concrete wall right beside an emotionally-moving fountain commemorating the Trail of Tears and the iconic Aquarium. We sidled along the wall in front of several Looper vessels with whom we had left the rendezvous, and Mike and Brenda Finkenbinder from Velsignet met us and assisted with our lines—the Looper Welcome! And what to do first in the city?! Docktails! 😉 Everyone brings their own beverage and a snack to share.

We took advantage of our weather window the first day 7A8E5C37-F650-4060-8524-247A995318E8and took a Lyft to—I’m almost embarrassed to admit—the highly-commercialized Rock City on Lookout Mountain. Remember the barn roof media blitz, “See Rock City,” as one drives in the Southeast and Midwest? We wanted to see the panoramic views of Chattanooga and to learn more about the Lookout Mountain Civil War history, and Rock City was a natural. We were prepared for its commercialization—and here we found the first Starbucks on our trip so far!—but not its undeniable beauty. As we followed the flagstone paths around huge boulders and rock cliffs, admiring fauna that we know and love from home, I felt my body unwind and lighten. 26F9357F-7CCA-4559-8624-EF0B343CDB71There is a vista in which one can view seven states, but it was the smaller-scale creativity that caught me by surprise. The project was fashioned, similarly to Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC, by Frieda Carter, whose husband Garnet was a busy and otherwise-occupied businessman. She created and won awards for the rock gardens, in addition to a dozen fairytale scenes tucked into small alcoves in the caves featuring German gnome figurines. Garnet was the advertising brains behind the attraction and, interestingly, the originator of Tom Thumb Golf, now recognized as America’s first miniature golf course. 

 

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A sector of the view of 7 states. The tiny barn at the center advertises, “See Rock City.”

The next day, with rain and drizzle, we toured the Chattanooga Experimental Whiskey Distillery with Mike and Brenda. We learned about the history and the recipe of the libation. Prohibition of distilling alcohol for commercial trade remained Tennessee law until 2010, and there still remain some dry counties. American Bourbon Whiskey requires a distillation of 51% corn, but the rest of the recipe is open-ended, and this facility boasts 150 different experimental recipes in oak casks at any time, aging and awaiting tasting and assessment. The tour ended with a flight of 6 tastes. Very interesting! Next—our visit to the Moonpie General Store, while listed as one of the top 15 things to do in the city, was a bomb. We discovered that Moonpies, no mater how fresh and local, are NOT delicious!

The Aquarium, whose expansion was part of the 1995 revitalization of the downtown area, was a great way to spend our final day in Chattanooga. The Ocean, The Rivers, and the IMAX are all distinct buildings and each is a small gem. We enjoyed learning about agile and frisky Lemurs, walking amidst butterflies and watching them emerge from cocoons, and petting (small!) sharks and stingrays—and of course, lots of fish and turtles—local and exotic, small and huge. Our fun week ended with the mundane necessities of laundry and provisioning.

This morning we left Chattanooga before sunrise in order to beat the 8:00am closing of through traffic on the river for Paddleboard and Kayak races today. Last night the entire riverfront park filled with small, colorful vessels and their hale and hearty owners dressed in sock caps, wet suits, and flip flops. Fog hovers over the hillside but, thankfully, not the water. Sadly, we are leaving the forested hillsides still before fall color has really begun. However, it’s time to seek sun and warmer temperatures, so off we go! Cruising downstream at 10 knots, we hope make it back to Goose Pond—an 85-mile day with a lock—in time for a great dinner there again. 

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This photograph from an Aquarium display exemplifies why cruising the rivers of Tennessee is so amazing. It shows the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers and their tributaries in the state of Tennessee. WOW.

We said goodbye to Mike and Brenda yesterday, as their unique itinerary includes continued work and the month of February in Hawaii. We hope to meet up again in the spring on the east coast of Florida. Our journey is already delivering on the promise of nice folks whose lives intersect ours—sometimes once, but often repeatedly, lovely friendships formed, the option of myriads of paces and itineraries, and the discovery of kind people everywhere.

Departing the Rendezvous

October 21

The realization that cruising in the Midwest in the fall means dealing with rain and chilly temperatures seemingly escaped me as I stood in my closet in Goshen wondering what to pack way back in August. We were thinking “south” and “warm” and “simplify.” A small boat does require making tough choices and economizing one’s space, but to have over-simplified was a miscalculation. Hence, we are woefully unprepared for fall: I with one pair of socks (now with a hole), one sweater, and no fleece, gloves, scarf…well, you get the picture. My foul weather gear is warm and dry, and, while not stylish, it is a godsend; and the quilt which I purchased for the boat and seemed like the silliest aesthetic of all during those 95-degree days in early October has made bedtime inviting and cozy.

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Cruising in the rain
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It’s cozy down here at the lower helm. The boat has 3 windshield wipers across, although defogging the inside of the window requires a cloth on a long handle. With the generator running, we have heat. Our only lack from the lower helm is autopilot, requiring that hands pretty much remain on the wheel. In this photo, you can also see our two electronic charts, one being an iPad. We can zoom in and see detail on one and zoom out and see the bigger picture on the other, but these are also different charts, each  with its unique assets. We also use a paper chart in a flip book.
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Cold air and warm water…
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make channel markers hard to find
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The perfect antidote to cold mornings—baked oatmeal!

And why are we NOT in Florida by now? Well, first of all, it’s not November yet. Most Loopers’ boat insurance requires that they wait until the end of hurricane season to be within 100 of the Gulf here on the rivers. Second, we attended the AGLCA (American Great Loop Cruising Association) Rendezvous at Joe Wheeler State Park in Northern Alabama, a 4-day conference for gathering information about the Loop and for socializing with other loopers. (One of the important pieces of information we were seeking was the availability of marine services along the coastline that Hurricane Michael hit.) And third, we decided to avoid the crush of loopers heading south and to enjoy a scenic side trip up the Tennessee River to Chattanooga. Fall color is just beginning, but we hope to catch it full on next week on our return to the main route. 

We are just now truly beginning the Looping lifestyle. Yesterday we and five other boats convoyed together from Joe Wheeler, enjoyed “docktails” and a pot luck on the dock of the marina at the end of our cruise, and departed this morning at “0 dark hundred” in order to lock through together at Guntersville. C4011270-F934-4F8B-AB6B-F9874E8198BFFrom there we scattered, as some have pressing time tables and we—finally and delightedly—do not. Up river another day’s journey we found dockage at Goose Pond Colony Marina in Scottsboro, Alabama. We spent a fun afternoon with new friends Mike and Brenda Finkenbinder from St. Paul, MN shopping at the Unclaimed Baggage Center, where lost and unclaimed items from airline travel end up. The operation stocks 7000 new items each day, everything from high end jewelry and electronics to books and unopened toiletry items. I’m pretty sure I saw some of Julia’s things there. 😉

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On the dog front….Oliver is compliant and flexible, and with healing of his spinal compression fracture and the return of cool weather, his trotting, top-o’-the-world gait has returned. That said, it seems, perhaps, that the trauma of the introduction of the “turf-on-a-tray” afflicted his constitution, and we dealt with 4 days of diarrhea. The plus side was that the urgency of the matter required that he find someplace to go while underway, and he finally acquiesced to our designated spot. Returning to land for a few days, socializing with other dogs and sightings of real live squirrels seem to have done the trick….that, and a few doses of Imodium.

Green Turtle Bay on a Mission

October 11

Our spirits have had their ups and downs during the three weeks while “in residence” at Green Turtle Bay, a legendary marina in Grand Rivers, KY. The get-acquainted phase was exciting, in which we had called all the folks whose services we requested and were comfortably in the cue. We enjoyed the GTB (Green Turtle Bay) cuisine (especially the local catfish). 186C1810-0D3F-4753-A02C-6BFF935348DDA shout out to Violet, who worked the entire Dockers Grill everyday from 7-2:00 and always took great care of us—and Oliver. Even when the grill was closed, Oliver would saunter up the ramp to the porch, looking for Violet, the bestower of infinite treats. The fitness center and spa were just steps from our boat, and we stayed active most days. The hair service did not go so well, and I recalled what one looper told me a couple of years ago: “Sure, you can get your hair done. You won’t look the same, though.” As project after project went through the “hiccup” phase, we became weary of living in a “garage,” with 13 years of debris and dust from the ceiling removal constantly afloat, no blinds for heat reflection or privacy, no speakers for entertainment, and ceiling lights dangling by the wire and banging us in the face everywhere. After the second week, we rented a car and drove down the Land Between the Lakes, which is a rustic recreational area, offering lots of shoreline and camping services. We spent an afternoon in Paducah at the National Quilt Museum, a beautiful display of inspired vision and artistic skill.

We had a wonderful farm to table dinner at The Freight House, which also boasts a collection of over 150 Bourbons. This being Kentucky where bourbon rules, uncharacteristically, we ordered and shared one lovely shot.

 

Having come to GTB to attack some projects, here are brief summaries of the ones we persevered through to accomplishment. If you’re not interested, just skip this part. 

    • The outboard engine: You may have already read about its failing us way back 39828455-B810-4069-890F-06919667834Ain Demopolis in September. The engine posed further challenges as we removed it from the dinghy at GTB: the swiveling handle for one of the mounting bolts broke off, and Steve had to manhandle it off with a hack saw. We borrowed a marina courtesy van and took the engine to Jet A Marine in Calvert City on our very first full day at GTB. We were told it was a good time—they weren’t busy. To the best of our understanding, damage to the engine was caused by it remaining connected to one of those new non-vented gas cans (who knew!?)—and then, of course, breaking the pull cord off…and then, of course, sawing the bolt that held it onto the boat… It was a week before we heard anything; a salvage part was needed for our old engine. We waited and waited for a progress report. After more than two weeks, Steve called and was told the unwelcome news that a knob had broken during repair and they’d order a new one and have it by the end of the week. This was not acceptable, as we were planning on leaving before said end of week. In the end, the knob was overnighted, and we were able to pick the engine up yesterday at 4:00. We have yet to see if it runs.
    • A simple oil change: While we have an oil changing system on the boat, Steve is not sure that changing the oil is something he wants to routinely do. It requires, not only having the receptacles in which to dump the old oil from two propulsion engines and a generator and then dealing with it, but also contorting one’s body to access hard-to-reach spots. An affable, young technician, Randy, showed up to do this, and we were grateful to have this easily marked off our list, until we realized a couple days later that he had over-filled all three engines. Randy having called in sick that day, his boss brought a bucket and coached Steve in bleeding off the excess, and he left with a gallon in the bucket. If you know nothing about oil, as I do not, it’s worse for oil levels to be too high than too low. 
    • The anchor and its supporting parts: Everyone knows what an anchor is, and yes, we did replace our mud-skipping anchor with a beautiful 44-pound Rocna, shipped free on Amazon Prime. But unless one is a model of youthful brawn and energy, one is looking for a mechanical aid to deploy that anchor—that being a “windlass.” I described in a past post the angst that our windlass caused, slipping and misbehaving, and ultimately leading to Steve’s mishap which required 6 stitches. This heavier new anchor requires a well-functioning windlass, and Randy ascertained that the gypsy was shot. When he returned a week later and installed the new one, the anchor chain still jumped and skipped… Oh, NO! The ultimate fix was the proper gauge chain to fit this gypsy. Luckily, Steve had just read a book on anchoring and knew more than this charming, inexperienced repairman, and it took the better part of a week to receive 200 feet of high test chain in the correct gauge by freight. It, too, arrived late yesterday afternoon, and Randy was at Red Pearl with the chain loaded in a john boat as we returned with the repaired outboard engine. The new chain/gypsy set-up is a match! 
    • Comfortable seating: The queen sofa/sleeper was practical but not comfortable for us. We vacillated all these months on whether to give up the flexibility for overnight guests and finally came to grips with the fact that, with a “one-butt-head” (bathroom), 4FFD7A5D-3145-4EE3-9B2B-2D43E24B4657the boat comfortably sleeps 2, feeds 4, and parties 8. We have shopped online and in stores for boat chairs, and finally went out on a limb and bought some from—ta dah!—Amazon Prime. We tipped a couple of young, sinewy marina employees to make the sofa go away, and we assembled the new chairs on the pier. As luck would have it, one of the chairs had a defective back, but with persistence, the company finally acquiesced and Fed-Exed a new one. We are delighted with the improved comfort of our living space. 
    • Electronics: the least drama—and the most expensive. We admit that we made it all the way here utilizing a 13-year-old radar, a new radio with AIS (Automatic Identity System, which allows us to identify commercial traffic before we come face to face with it, but not visa versa), and an iPad with Navionics GPS charts. It can be done. However, redundancy is a good thing, as systems DO fail, updated technology (and especially radar) has advantages, and we were increasingly uneasy with commercial boats not being able to detect US, until we called THEM on the radio. Justin at GMENI offered us great service, worked steadily for 2 long days, and patiently tutored us way past dinner time. It’s much more than a toy, but new toys are always fun. 
    • The Headliner: This was a big challenge for us and Mark Sunderman of Creative Canvas and Covers. Mark has a reputation for awesome craftsmanship of boat enclosures and cushions—and for running behind schedule. I had researched canvas contractors and contacted him months ago, while we were marooned in Goshen over the summer. Headliners are not his specialty, but he often puts them back after repairs that require their removal have been made. *How difficult could it be?!* He had us on his calendar, I stayed in touch with him, and I am happy to say that he gave our project the priority that we had hoped. The headliner had circular staining which looked like moisture had pooled on it, and while it was advancing, it never seemed wet. We wondered whether to invest in the repair, not knowing from where the staining came, but hoped that it would become clear once the old headliner was down. Mark was punctual, and we met the very afternoon we arrived at GTB. The next morning we selected the material and he ordered it. A few days later, the old headliner came down, and we entered our garage phase, which I have already described.

      Luckily, it was a rainy period, which allowed us to discover that broken speakers above in the flybridge were allowing water to seep onto that stained area in the headliner. Despite this bit of luck, from the get-go, installation did not go well; the fabric and the plastic track failed to perform as we expected. Mark researched online, he watched YouTube videos, he called the manufacturer, and finally decided to buy two recommended tools, a $500 investment! When they arrived, it was clear right away that the new tools were not the magic bullet. It was probably around this time that he admitted that he was regretting taking the job, but he also said he had messed up our boat and needed to see this through. We wondered what other jobs were going unattended or were falling by the wayside, but were grateful as he continued to seem committed to our “3-day project,” which now taunted us as it loomed over 2 weeks. Mark mentioned that sometimes new track is helpful, as plastic can get brittle over time, and we decided to try that. The 18-foot lengths shipped from NC, and we waited several days for shipping by freight. But the track was not the magic bullet, either. In fact, in the end, there was no magic bullet at all. What remained was slow, painstaking, hands-constantly-overhead persistence. Steve, always buoyant, always with the right encouragement, assisted in removing the old track and installing the new, and in putting things back together after the vinyl work was complete.

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      Mark Sunderman and Steve

      Mark’s frustration showed, but his gentle spirit and professionalism consistently won over. He was kind to our dog. He loves good food and perked up over foodie conversation. He is an artisan, a man of his word, and Steve and I feel that we are better for having met him and watching his arduous, beautiful work. We hope Mark remembers us in the future as good and fair clients with a better-to-forget project. He helped us mount the newly-repaired engine onto our dinghy after dark last night, and we parted with a hug. 

 

I know this is getting long, so I will just add a bit about our departure from Green Turtle Bay. Our goal has been arrive at Joe Wheeler State Park in Rogersville, AL on Oct. 14 for the Fall AGLCA Rendezvous, a pretty intense 4-day cruise from GTB. These events offer 4 days of socializing with past, current, and future Loopers, educational seminars, and access to vendors offering services and supplies important for this endeavor. A similar rendezvous in New Bern, NC a couple of years ago was pivotal in our decision to embark on this adventure. So, we pushed everyone offering us their services to be finished by yesterday, and off we cruised this morning at 7:00am, anticipating a high of 65 degrees, but sunny skies and a 10-mph wind at our back. Less than 10 knots into our cruise, Steve, Oliver and I were all shivering, the skies remained heavily clouded, the winds, we later learned, were 17 mph with gusts up to 24 mph, and the waves rolling from astern became white-crested. Steve quickly decided that this was not fun. Or wise. And so we are serendipitously at anchor in Sugar Bay, a beautiful cove protected from the northerly winds and waves.  Yes, the time table compromises our rendezvous plans. But this is precisely the serene setting that we envisioned as we planned to “spend the summer” in the Kentucky Lakes area. 

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Afternoon on Sugar Bay
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Morning mist looking toward Kentucky Lake
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Sunrise on Sugar Bay

The only other thing we could possibly need is a dog whisperer to convince Oliver to use the 2-foot artificial-turf-on-a-tray with the spray attractant. 

Progress Up the Tenn-Tom Waterway

September 13 While Hurricane Florence pummels North Carolina, we set out on a clear, cool morning here in Mississippi with a bit of mist over the wooded shoreline. Gorgeous. Oliver is getting into the rhythm of our morning routines and stood at the bottom of the stairs woofing impatiently to take his seat in the … Continue reading “Progress Up the Tenn-Tom Waterway”

 


September 13

While Hurricane Florence pummels North Carolina, we set out on a clear, cool morning here in Mississippi with a bit of mist over the wooded shoreline. Gorgeous. D8E07C46-C3C9-4B3F-8628-FB922FDF3843Oliver is getting into the rhythm of our morning routines and stood at the bottom of the stairs woofing impatiently to take his seat in the flybridge. 

Our resting day in Columbus yesterday was delightful. Many marinas offer courtesy cars for boaters’ provisioning and errand running. In our limited experience, these cars are not usually anything that a person would want to make away with, so keys are often left in the car, even  overnight. Because we were nearly the only transients here, we were told that we could keep the car for longer than the normally suggested 2 hours, and that allowed us to do some sight-seeing. We visited the Waverly Mansion north of town. It was a delightful step back into the 19th century, a time when Mr. Young, an attorney and man with many interests and skills could buy 50,000 acres and develop a cotton plantation with 180 slaves. These scenarios always create discomfort for me as, of course, slavery was a necessary fixture in this life. The docent who had degrees in history and had been employed by the old last owner of the mansion stated that owning slaves was a financially unsustainable model that was dying out and would not have survived, Civil War or not. From Waverly, we found some lunch that hit the spot at Harveys, and since we were first timers, dessert was on the house. We ran a few other errands, one of which was copying the boat key, because we forgot to get our second key from Anna Marie when we left Demopolis. By the time we returned to the boat, one of the new keys had disappeared from Steve’s pocket, and a few hours later the other new key jumped from the counter in the galley and very effectively hid someplace. How does one lose two keys, one at a time in one day?! 

We set off yesterday morning with a near miss and that could have grounded the boat, as I failed to follow the channel out from the marina. It was an example of my not thoroughly focusing and clarifying before setting out. We had not taken the time to boot up the chart plotter and were too hasty in our departure. Lesson learned! The rest of the day was uneventful, and locking through at Aberdeen, Armory, and Glover Wilkins Locks was slow and hot. 

In our planning, we chose to cruise 37 miles and navigate 3 locks; the alternate was 54 miles and 4 locks, which we thought was unnecessarily rigorous. We arrived at Smithville Marina and immediately realized that “rigorous” might have been the better choice; while Smithville is listed in the marina guides, it is not mentioned by boaters for a reason. Jim, who greeted us and helped with our lines, told Steve that he was surprised we didn’t get hung up on a sand bar—“the channel used to be marked but I’m not sure what happened to them markers.” The courtesy car touted in the book was inoperable, and there we were in the Mississippi back country. Our neighbor across the pier feeds hummingbirds and spends evenings on his computer. Most of the 8 or 10 boats in this marina look a lot like his.

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Sept. 14

We were not sad to leave Smithville, setting off with a beautiful sunrise. 0AB6253C-E626-4E0D-98F4-47ABD6EE408AThe challenge today was 4 locks, which we ticked off by noon. We ended with the awesome Jamie Whitten Lock with its 84-foot lift. We waited a while here in front of giant yellow doors for another “pleasure craft,” as we are called, to clear. It felt a bit like waiting to visit a fairytale kingdom. Weather forecasting a hot day, and anticipating waits like this, we used a trick that Captain Pat taught us and ran the generator while underway so that we could air condition the cabin. Despite being about twice as big as the other locks, Jamie Whitten seemed to take no more time than the others to lock through.

Leaving the lock, immediately to our left was the inlet in which Bay Springs Marina is located, a charming, quiet spot in the middle of nowhere, according to Verizon. We were greeted by friendly loopers, Captain Jack Lomax and first mate Jane Allen who were there on Dixie. As they assisted us with our lines, they told us that they had watched our approach, willing us to move more to the center of the channel to avoid trees that lurk just a few feet under the surface of the 40-foot deep bay. We were dismayed by the very real possibility of having had a nasty snag, but the channel simply was not marked. Evidently, our lucky angel sat on our shoulder again this afternoon. I took advantage of the free washing machine and $1 dryer and Steve took a  brief nap before a big rain blew up which, again, we watched from our covered slip. We ate leftovers for lunch around 3:00, so hungry that our hunger had almost passed: pasta with chickpeas, tomatoes, and collards; and green beans, ham, and potatoes. One-dish meals work really well on a boat. By 8:00 we were too tired to fuss much with dinner, so leftover Asian peanut sauce became a dressing for salad greens and grilled chicken which we had cooked and frozen in Demopolis. Those who know us well know that 9:30 is a never-heard-of bedtime for us, but 9:30 it was for these exhausted neophyte cruisers!

September 15

We slept in until 6:30 and Steve walked Oliver while I hosed down the boat. It is nice to start out with the bugs and spider webs from the night washed off, and I’m learning how to do this without soaking the boat in the next slip and my entire front side. I will welcome Steve taking this over again once he doesn’t have stitches to keep dry, but it’s good to develop the full accompaniment of skills! We had a short cruise with no locks today, but the challenge was the small crafts, it being Saturday! Early morning fisherman morphed to mid-day wave runners, skiers, and jet skis. A wise and thoughtful cruiser watches for a variety of small crafts and shoreline structures which may be damaged or imperilled due to one’s wake, and cruisers are legally responsible for any damage caused, so we are developing a sense for how far our wake travels—often over 1/4 mile—and the lead time needed for controlling it in a variety of settings.

We arrived at Aqua Yacht Harbor in Iuka, MS, topped off our fuel with 160 gallons of diesel, and then tied up to the transient dock on the wall, open to wake action in the bay. It promises to be a roll-y evening, but hopefully quieter during the night! We were greeted by Charlie McVey, a genial 2017 gold looper, who offered some local knowledge, and later, on his recommendation, we ate a delicious smokehouse country meal at Outpost right beside the Pickwick Dam in TN. 

I will close with a couple of photos of the inside of our boat, which many of you have asked to see. Clutter tends to explode in a tiny space, so these photos represent a rare moment of order and harmony in our current lives. 

Reverse-Looping

September 11, 2018

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Beginning in Demopolis, Alabama at Mile Marker 217, we are cruising with the AGLCA burgee—the small flag proudly flown on boats cruising America’s Great Loop Cruising Association—this week for the first time. So even though we are “reverse-looping” in the wrong direction, clockwise rather than counter-clockwise, we consider ourselves Loopers now! We had hoped to start a day earlier, but storms spawned from Hurricane Gordon were in the forecast, and wow! was there ever a sustained deluge, a show of nature which we happily watched from our covered slip. Monday morning we were prepared for rain, but it turned out to be a very pleasant, overcast, jacket day on the water. Scenery is bucolic and remote, and except for a couple of tows with their barges, we have the Tenn-Tom Waterway to ourselves. We waited an hour to enter the Heflin Lock, and, having negotiated two previous locks with Captain Pat back in June, we felt confident. The lock master came and chatted with us, giving us info about a dredge upriver, and admiring both our “old salt” dog and our eye-catching, red boat. 

A few miles upriver we arrived at our anchorage, an idyllic inlet by the Sumpter Recreational Area. Try as we might, however, we could not get the anchor to take hold on the mud bottom, and after four tries, anchor dragging and windlass (the anchor motor) slipping and skipping and misbehaving the whole time, we decided to try the other anchor. Having collected the required tools, and then more tools, Steve was nearly finished, when he sliced his finger on something around the windlass. Watching from the helm in the flybridge above, I could tell that it was a nasty cut. He calmly went inside, bandaged it up and returned to finish changing out the anchors. Then he dropped that anchor with 75 feet of chain on top—not by the book, but it did the trick! As we walked the dog ashore (Oliver was a great cruiser and became impatient only toward the end of the anchoring drama) and ate our soup and salad supper, we contemplated and discussed our options for treatment of Steve’s finger, which he had determined was in need of stitches if at all possible. Finally, we spotted a fisherman ashore, and decided to break his solitude to see if he could shed any light at all on our dilemma. We were hesitant to tip our hand, feeling vulnerable at the thought of either leaving the boat unattended, or Steve going for treatment and leaving me alone on the boat, because the anchorage was remote and out of cellphone range. The fisherman likely felt vulnerable as we approached him, too, but he turned out to be very nice, and directed us to a park ranger up the road a quarter-mile. I stayed there, chatting with the fellow, and when I asked what he does, he responded that he is a Doctor of Theology, a minister in the Pentacostal Church with a congregation in Cleveland and three down here in Mississippi and Alabama. He nodded to our boat and wondered if we brought it from Indiana. I told him that no, we bought it in Florida, and today was really our first day cruising alone and that we are trying very hard to love owning a boat…but don’t quite yet. Steve returned with the news that the ranger was willing to take him to the hospital, and bidding good-bye to both my husband and our fishing friend, Oliver and I dinghied back to the boat. 

Ah, but I need to paint another picture for you: the pull cord of the dinghy engine, having torn off yesterday, rendered the engine unusable. To be honest, the darn thing wouldn’t start, anyway. SO—we have oars, and they happen to be very long ones! Steve had readied the dinghy for rowing, tightening the oar lock plates after the cord broke. But as we set off for shore, one of the bolts holding the oar pin onto the oar fell into the water! The dinghy is a pontoon-type flat bottomed boat and is very stable, and so now with no ability to use the oar locks, it is more comfortable to stand and row, gondola-style than to sit. And so, I rowed to shore, singing “O Solo Mio,” because that’s what a Gondalier sings, right? 

4413B200-A529-48CC-B341-0C9035D4A6E7Back to Steve: The park ranger, Don, returned home from his day job to find Steve talking with his wife in the front yard. He, too, proved to be a very kind soul, and he by-passed dinner to take Steve the 45-minute drive to the nearest hospital in Carrollton, MS—Pickens County Medical Center. A shout out to Dr. Manley Sullivan, who gave Steve first-rate care, although the hospital was out of tetanus shots. Steve returned 3 1/2 hours later at 11:00, with Don having stayed with him the entire evening, with six stitches over his index knuckle and a splint. I was grateful for a lighted boat ramp area as I watched for him, and shuttled him back to the boat. 

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This morning, our plan was to raise anchor at 7:15, not a particularly early start but reasonable, considering our traumatic evening. I donned my life vest, put Oliver’s on him and rowed ashore; but I happened to trip as I stepped from the dinghy and was lifting Oliver onto the sea wall. Down we both splashed into the river, and as the CO2 cartridge in my life vest deployed and inflated snug around my neck I thought, “Well, THAT works.”(Now I have to figure out how to purchase another cartridge, Amazon not being so handy in our current mode of travel). Oliver shook and shivered and I squished and squashed in my leather boat shoes on this necessary morning ablution for a dog and his owner. We returned to the boat chilled, dirty, annoyed and feeling stupid. After quick baths for both dog and human, we were underway 35 minutes behind schedule. 

The rest of the day on the river was quiet and wide open. Lone and timid snowy egrets light up the shoreline, and something akin to gray herons are a common sight, as well. We negotiated two locks today, Tom Bevill and Columbus:  the first, we pulled right in and was quick and easy, the second required a long and hot wait for a tow and its barges to go through ahead of us. Right around the corner from Columbus Lock is the marina by the same name. The town of Columbus, touted for its charm, seems to be a good place to take a break from the water tomorrow and rest up from our foibles. 

Hello, Red Pearl

3A463896-C1DD-4F7F-AD71-AC0F1C444EFEHome sweet home. This entry marks our first outing with Red Pearl as her owners. We transferred the contents of our Prius onto her and then set out for local carry-out—opting to eat aboard so as not to overly traumatize Oliver, our 11 1/2-year-old Schnauzer, who has never been on a boat. After dinner, Steve and I settled into predictable roles, his with charts and boat manuals in preparation for tomorrow’s captain-assisted transfer from the Snead Boatyard to Suntex Marina in St. Petersburg, and mine in the galley, trying to make sense of my perception of necessities and cramming them into this small space. The previous owners generously left a lot of equipment on board, but I have my favorites and had planned how I would manage the downsize with equipment that I know and love. The result is that we have duplicates of nearly everything in a small space until we can make final decisions. As I pour over these “earth-shattering” dilemmas tonight, there is a father just on the other side of this state who is grappling with the loss of his beautiful, vivacious 14-year old daughter in the Valentines Day school massacre at Parkland High School. Just take a pan, Kathy! Any pan! It doesn’t matter.