What the heck is the Great Loop and how did we get here?
The Great Loop is a counterclockwise circumnavigation of the eastern United States by boat, usually done over the course of a year, following the seasons. Many who have done this have said they will do it a second time to see all that they missed the first time around. The prospect of buying 3000 to 4000 gallons of diesel fuel a second time does not appeal to us so our plans are to travel from Louisville to Florida with side trips up the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers this year. Next year the Bahamas and the east coast of the US and 2020 will find us on the Great lakes, traveling down Lake Michigan, right through downtown Chicago to the Mississippi River to the Ohio thus crossing our wake and proceeding back up the Ohio to Louisville. Google AGLCA for more information on this voyage of a lifetime. Friends Bob and Pam Shircliff undertook this amazing journey 7 or 8 years ago and it really got my interest. Debbie and I had done some barefoot cruises in the British Virgin Islands and really enjoyed those trips. So much so that after our first trip I promptly enrolled in sailing school in Fort Lauderdale, living on a sailing catamaran for a week sailing to the Keys and back. We had also owned a 22′ runabout that we had on Taylorsville Lake and the river. So I get to thinking that Debbie and I should/could/WOULD undertake this grand adventure. Only issue was, ya need a big boat that you can live on for extended periods. Over the course of 4 years I attempted to get Debbie to drink this particular brand of Kool Aid while I searched the inter-web daily over coffee looking for our Loop Boat. We went to Detroit first to look at a boat that piqued our interest but was not a very good candidate. A few years went by and we went to Michigan again and looked at a few boats on Lake Michigan. Nope. Looked at a few boats in Florida but nothing worked for us. One morning I came upon a Jefferson (named for Jeffersonville, Indiana where they were designed and sold at Kentuckiana Yacht Sales by the Shaw family. This particular 46′ Jefferson was 90 miles upriver just this side of Cincinnati. Deb and I and some knowledgeable boating friends went to see her and Debbie knew this was the boat. It was and is. Learning about a boat this size is like drinking from a fire hose. There is so much to learn as she has 2 main diesel engines (420HP each) plus a diesel generator. Two bedrooms with ensuite heads (bathroom/showers), 3 air conditioners and enough hoses to plumb an apartment building. We spent 2 years preparing the boat for this journey with countless upgrades and maintenance. My buddy Dave Heilman helped me replace every sanitation hose (there are a LOT) on this boat (you may address me as Craptain Rogers). A trip like this cannot be undertaken while still working so 2 years ago Debbie and I sold the Party Mart stores and began planning. In November of last year RJ Meiers and Keith Shifflet were on board Whisky Business winterizing her. The owner of KYS, Dave Shaw shows up to say hi and I offered my post-retirement services, washing boats, sweeping floors or whatever if he would just teach me about the myriad systems aboard this complex vessel. He agreed and allowed me to hang out in the shop handing RJ and Keith tools and helping out where ever I could. A HUGE shout out to Dave, Justin, RJ, Keith, Joe and Randy for accepting me and using small words and hand puppets teaching me these systems and giving me the confidence to make this happen.
Day 1 of the adventure begins!
Whisky Business departed Captains Quarters Marina at 9:15 am Sunday, August 19. One of my training captains (yeah, I needed 2!) Dave Heilman and his beloved bride Sue are accompanying us for the first leg to Nashville. We hope to arrive there within the week. We sped down the mighty Ohio at 11mph! Traveled for 11 hours and covered 125 miles to get to a safe dock for the night in Cannelton, Indiana. During the day naps were enjoyed by my alert and ready crew. Enjoyed by everyone but the Captain, that is. After such a long day on the river Dave and I finished our day with Manhattans made with Maker’s Mark that was bottled in 1996. Back then Maker’s was aged significantly longer than todays offering. Been saving that baby for a special occasion.
Day 2 dawned with the promise of showers that did not materialize other than brief periods of drizzle. We got a quick transit through the Cannelton locks which were about 1 mile from where we docked. As always, we donned our life vests for the passage through the lock as the water is quite turbulent with an undertow ever-present.
We arrived in Owensboro around 1 for lunch at the Old Hickory restaurant. A bit of a pain to dock and tie up just for a lunch stop but well worth the effort. We had heard that one of the locks was down at the Newburgh dam and there could be a bit of a wait to get through. There were 5 tow arrays waiting on the upriver side of the lock to wait their turn. We waited 2 hours before they locked us through whilst the waiting barges and tugs prepared their transit. More barges waited on the other side of the lock to transit upriver. Quite the mess and we were quite happy the lock master got us through as quickly as he did. Since we had a late lunch cheese, crackers and grapes were dinner for the evening. Finished up with a rousing game of dominoes!