Finally, the Rendevous!

October 14

For the last few days we and the Cassaro’s have been motoring back down the Tennessee River on our way to Joe Wheeler State Park in Rogersville, Alabama. Beautiful scenery, very good weather and all went to plan.

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The above photo is the the Riverwalk marina in Decatur, Alabama. If your only requirements are to be tied up for the night with shore power, at 75 cents a foot, it’s a bargain ($34.20 per night for our boat). The only “facilities” was a bathroom that I would not enter without a hazmat suit and a 5000 psi power washer. What is not shown in the photo is the covered slips on the left side of the photo having been destroyed 6 months ago by a micro tornado that hit the area.

Had some expert help at the helm yesterday. When I needed a break Captain Rene took over. Notice the splendid Captains hat she is sporting.

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During our cruise yesterday Matt was able to stream the U of L – Boston College game. When I turned from the helm it appeared America’s Team was not doing so well.

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Debbie’s frowning,

Matt’s scowling,

And Rene is just too damn cute to let a football game get under her skin.

This is Painted Bluff. I am sure I included a photo on our trip upriver a few weeks ago, but so darn cool had to do it again.

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This is a dear old friend who I sadly learned departed this earth yesterday way too young. Back in the mid 80’s when Deano and his dad bought the Equus Restaurant in Saint Matthews, I always enjoyed calling on him in my days as a wine salesman. In later years we did the Secrets of Louisville Chefs Live show together and had a million laughs. We did those shows live with no retakes. Such a hoot. Prayers go out to Julie and the 3 boys Dean leaves behind.

Yesterday we arrive at Joe Wheeler State Park, back WB into her slip and a couple of fellow Loopers come out to give us a hand tying up. There are a lot of lines on a boat this size and fortunately they are always too long.

What to do with the extra line?

One boat neighbor wrapped it this way

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Another boat neighbor arranged the lines thusly

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This is how Captain Dave taught me to wrap my extra line

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And this is how Captain Bob taught me to wrap extra line…

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Wonder how long it’ll take Cap’n Bob to find and shoot me!

 

 

 

A blustery day on the water

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Wonder why our collective heads hurt so much this morning…

What a great night, the food, friends and ALCOHOL!!!

Oi!

Not really, we are seasoned veterans of self medication.

Started out pretty overcast and quite windy. There was a 15 mph wind at our back at the start of our day. The river had white caps the wind was blowing so much. Since it was off our stern (back of the boat) it did not affect our ride much. Not as scenic a section of the river as what we have seen lately but pretty in it’s own way (like me).

Matt took the helm for awhile today. Notice how quickly he mastered the use of the remote for the autopilot. The little device in his right hand? Debbie told him he had to drive that way while using the remote.

As the captain and master of this vessel, the responsibilities and rigorous demands placed on me while under way require a respite at times.

Yup, pretty comfy up here.

Another artistic expression of Debbie’s use of the Ipad camera.

We anchored out last night in a great spot behind an island and we had the whole channel to ourselves. Speaking of anchoring, there is no shortage of anchors on WB. Under the flybridge helm there are 2 spare anhors plus one for the dinghy. This plow type anchor that we are currently using is great for mud and conditions that one would encounter on the inland rivers.

This series of line (no rope on a boat, just lines) has a loop on each end that attaches to cleats on either side of the bow pulpit (the flat piece where the anchor resides). In the middle of the line is a large stainless steel chain hook that hooks on the chain and keeps the tension off the windlass (device that lets out and brings in the chain that attaches to the anchor)

Now, this is an ANCHOR! This beast weighs 50% more than the plow type anchor we currently deploy. Will use this when we get to water with a sandy bottom like the gulf and the Bahamas. Bigger the anchor, the better ya sleep.

We stopped in a marina in Guntersville, Alabama today. Fella that owns the marina has a home in E-Town, Ky. The marina has a courtesy car which we availed ourselves to for dinner. Great little spot called the Rockhouse. Came back to the boat and 2 of us cowboyed up for Manhattans.9862AEA2-1F38-46F1-8CDC-3AAF3A1E296A

Fun and games with the Cassaro’s

October 10

Our friends Matt and Rene drove down to Chattanooga to join us on Whisky Business for the trip back down river to Joe Wheeler State Park. Intrepid travelers those Cassaro’s. Joining us for the 200 mile trip back at 10 mph. Veritably screaming down the river now that we have the current at our backs. Just can’t get over the beauty of the river. Enjoy these pics:

Coouldn’t help but think of “Smoke on the water” by Deep Purple when Debbie took this pic.

Water was like a mirror all day long. Quite overcast but very comfortable.

Found the anchorage where we stayed on our way upriver a few weeks ago and stopped here again.

First round of cocktails after securing the boat at anchor.

Made the best Bloody Mary’s ever. Saw this BM mix in a bar in a airport in Hawaii. Could not find it anywhere. Not gonna tell ya how I got it. Yer not gonna find it. I know a guy…

Nobody knows how to pack a cooler like my buddy Matt!

And do they know how to cook!!!

For dinner, bow tie pasta and Italian sausage, garlic bread and a decent bottle of red wine. And for dessert? Champagne of course!

AND MOON PIES!!! Proudly made in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Been listening to weather reports all day about Hurracane Michael. Just heard the municipal marina in Panama City is destroyed. Our concern is this is an area we have to traverse in order to get to our jumping off point to cross the Gulf of Mexico at the “armpit” of Florida. Not sure at this time what we can expect so we reserved a slip in a marina in Demopolis, Alabama for the months of November and December. Got all those folks down there in our prayers, yours too hopefully.

On the road again…

October 8

Left Louisville yesterday with a small SUV filled with gear for the upcoming sprint to Florida after the AGLCA (American Great Loop Cruisers Association) Rendevous held at Joe Wheeler State Park on the Tennessee River in (where else?) Rogersville, Alabama. At this time there are probably 100ish boats circumnavigating the eastern US by boat. Many will converge at Joe Wheeler Park next week. Debbie and I will be among them. Plan is to have the boat safely in our slip in Burnt Store Marina where we have a home in time to get home for Thanksgiving.

We had to make a side trip to Soddy Daisy, Tn to pick up our props at Performance Propellers. Owner Tim Hackney met us at 7PM on a Sunday night. Where do you get this kind of service???

We finally get to the boat, unload the car, enter the boat and…the AC is not cooling and there is not much water coming out of the AC pump. Absolutely miserable night. Today replaced a macerator pump on our holding tank, flushed out the AC system after making a flushing contraption, and rebooted the autopilot. Remember earlier I mentioned a failed experiment where we tried to use a portable AC unit on the flybridge? Well it is still on the boat and we are glad of it. Brought it down to the saloon, placed the mounting plate our friend Dave Hobbs made for us in a window and voila, we had AC in the saloon. Flushing an AC system takes all day for all the junk to be cleaned out of the AC lines and upon our return home after dinner, IT WORKED!!!

When we got to Chattanooga and had such a hard time getting WB in a slip we met a guy who helped us get the boat in our assigned slip.

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This is our new friend Brad Gillenwater, man that guy saved our bacon when we got to Chattanooga. Such a swell fellow that we are giving him this bottle on Tuesday evening.

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Brad and his wife Christy own this beautiful 52 foot Hatteras yacht. Our friend Leslie Taylor was kind enough to do the artwork for the bottle. With Leslie’s brilliant artwork I am sure this bottle will end up in the Louvre too!

Last night after unloading the car and getting everything on board the boat I went to the airport to return the rental car we used to get here from Louisville. Rented another car for the next few days but Alamo did not have the Nissan Maxima I was supposed to get. Gal at the counter told me I could have an upgrade, a Chevy Camaro or a Dodge Challenger. Chose the Camaro cuz maybe there is a little red streak to the back of my neck. Young lady at the counter did not tell me it was the Super Sport model with 450 horsepower.

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Holy cow this thing is fast, I mean reealllly fast.

We hired a diver to reinstall the props we damaged when we ran aground a few weeks back. It seems when we had the spare props reconditioned in Louisville…they weren’t. When we had them installed after the grounding, we still had a heavy vibration after installing the spare props. I am hoping the newly reconditioned propellers will solve the vibration issue. When properly reconditioned, a shop will give you before and after performance reports on your props. Great guy by the name of Cooper Jones did the reinstall. It took him every bit of 5 hours to pull the spare props and reinstall the original props. And he did it in 12 feet of water! Couple of photo’s of Cooper performing his magic:

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These are not very good photo’s but Debbie and I were in the saloon when she happened to notice a HUGE tree coming down river and heading straight for the back of our boat. Where Cooper happened to be just under the surface working on the props. This thing was at least 3 feet in diameter and would have surely hit him. Due to Debbies keen eyes I was able to divert this thing with a boat pole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last leg into Chattanooga

September 23

Found a great anchorage behind an island that had plenty of room for WB to swing on anchor. Fat chance of that as there is at least a 2 mph current. This is a photo of the chartplotter showing the anchorage.

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The blue area is shallower water (in this case, 13′) than the channel. The anchorage is denoted by the little green square with the anchor in it. There is this really cool user based app called Active Captain that Garmin purchased from the founders of the app 2 years ago. It gives reviews of anchorages, marinas and things to do around them. Great to have this info.

Got this great photo of the sunset from our flybridge 90 minutes after we anchored. We learn fast.

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Cruising along on Friday we were fighting a significant current. Heading upstream with the engine rpm’s set at 1200 we were going 8.79 mph. When we turned and cruised with the current at the same engine speed we increased our speed to 10.2 mph.

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Some pretty images of the river:

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and these…

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And then about an hour of this…

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Went through the Nickajack locks earlier in the day. When I called the lock master about 3 miles out he already had prepared the lock for us since he was alerted to us on his AIS system. On our way out of the lock, Jeff the lock master came out to say hi.

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After leaving Jeff and the Nickajack lock behind we noticed the deepest water we have encountered in 1150 miles of travel since leaving Louisville.

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Finally got to Chattanooga and the dock we had rented for the next 2 weeks was right on the river. The dam just upriver from town, the Chickamauga locks and dam was dumping a lot of water. Current was running about 3 mph. Doesn’t sound like much but that is screaming. Simply could not get the boat in the slip without crashing into the dock.    So we just tied up across FOUR docks until we could figure out how to get in that darn slip. From this beautiful 53′ Hatteras at the end of the dock comes the owner. Brad Gillenwater came over and gave us a really good idea on how to get in that slip. We have 2 very large round fenders we use in locks to keep WB well off the walls of the locks. We tied them to the end of the downriver dock of the slip and aimed WB up river at the slip. We knew we were gonna hit the dock but the big round fenders were up to the task of bouncing WB off the dock preventing any damage to boat or dock. Finally got in that slip. Big sigh of relief!

Our relief was short lived as after hooking up the shore power we were only getting 120 volts, should have gotten 240. Hooked up to the other side of the pedestal. No luck. Tried 2 other pedestals. Again, no luck. Made some calls and could not figure this out. At 3 am, woke up with a viola moment. As it turned out, the marina that repaired the boat a few days earlier did not have a hookup for our 50 amp service. They hooked up a 30 amp cable and shut down 1 side of our panel. Turned a knob on the electric panel and that did the trick. The issue had not shown up the prior night because we anchored out.

Picked up a rental car and drove 314 miles home. Not even 1 tank of gas. Took 1120 miles and I don’t even know how many gallons of diesel fuel to get there.

What is wrong with this picture???

Not a question of “if”. It’s a question of “when”

September 22

It was this past Thursday. Deb and I were just knocked out by the scenery. We were beginning to see cliffsides and mountains. Simply breathtaking. We were making a long run that day, maybe 100 miles. At 8-9 mph, that’s a long day on the water. We knew we could make our next stop before sundown. Saaaaaay, doesn’t sundown occur earlier when mountains are present??? Yup, sure does! Deb and I found ourselves navigating in the dark. Dark like, other than the light of the moon there was nothing. We were in unfamiliar waters. And nervous (read scared). Finally get to the turn off from the main channel and we can see the lights of the restaurant where our dock was. Intently monitoring our new chartplotter we made the turn. *&%$#*(), made the turn 5 feet too late. The red marker (which should have been on our right side) was on our immediate left and then…the boat stopped and both engines died. We are aground. In the dark. Restarted both engines, put the starboard engine in reverse, gave it throttle and the boat did not move. Starting to mutter expletives. Put the port engine in reverse. Gave it throttle. Boat started to move back. Got free. Uhhh, no rudder control. Did I say it’s reeaallly dark by now. Debbie being the smarter of us says, “I am getting the life vests”. Not only is she prettier, but she is certainly the smarter of the two of us. Debbie dug out our SeaTow insurance card and we phoned for help. Guy was an hour away. After turning the wheel all the way to port and then starboard, we regained rudder control. But we are still in the middle of nowhere and we were not going to try to enter THAT channel again. Our savior shows up and we follow him into a marina through waters that I would not attempt in the bright of day. Safely ensconced on a dock with shore power we turned on the AC and opened a bottle of our favorite beverage, Taittinger Champagne. We are alive and safe and that is enough to open a bottle of bubbles.

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Bright and early at 7am we meet with the marina shop. Their travel lift is empty and we promptly fill it with Whisky Business. This boat weighs 1,000 lbs per foot. This fabulous machine picked up this 46′ long beast as gently as could be. Once out of the water the 24″ diameter beautiful propellers that we had reconditioned and polished were now chewed up and one of the propeller shafts was bent.

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That’s the leading edge of a $3500 propeller.

Good news is we had a spare set of props on board. Bad news, we had to drive close to 300 miles in a rented truck to drop off the original props in Soddy Daisy, TN. and then to Cleveland, Tn. to a fella who could straighten our shaft. Bear in mind that this shaft was a 24,000th of an inch out of straight. That’s a lot.

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And it’s over 9 feet long

Dropped it off at his shop last night. This man, who we had never met. This man, who we will probably never see again. This man, comes into his shop at 7am and straightens our shaft. On a Saturday. For us. Strangers. He owes us nothing. But he knew we needed help. A new shaft would have cost $2,000. He charged us $125. Jim Hughes is going to heaven. And so are Joe and Beth King at Anglers Marine. These are the folks who are 2 weeks behind schedule and they literally dropped everything to help us. They worked overtime to get us back in the water today. The guys that do the heavy lifting for them were equally fabulous. Cannot sing their praises enough. Oh yeah, they had to fabricate a special tool to remove the propeller shaft.

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Ask yourself this: If a tree fell on your house, would your neighbors come out to help you? Some of you will say “sure!” But, some of you will say no, they wouldn’t. We don’t even know them. We are just in awe of the wonderful people we have met along this journey and we are just getting started.

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Got back in the water at 2 this afternoon (9/22) and are now safely anchored out on a beautiful stretch of river near Bridgeport Tennessee or Alabama. Not sure which state. And yes, we opened a bottle of Taittinger Champagne.

 

 

 

 

 

Double Dam-It

September 19

Left the Grand Harbor Marina at 8am sharp. Our neighbor on Sun Spot who is doing the Loop as well gave us a tip this morning for pest (bugs, not me) control on the boat.

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First thing after starting the coffee I am on spider patrol before my brides feet hit the deck. She bloody damn well hates those things. Not sure she wouldn’t jump ship if she came across one that was large.

Just a few miles after leaving the marina, we came across this cove with a waterfall. There is so much natural beauty along this river.

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A few days ago I had installed a new VHF radio on the flybridge. There is a special number the FCC gives you to program into your VHF radio. The MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identity) identifies your boats exact location on the planet in case of an emergency. On the side of the mike is a red cover over the “O SHIT’ button. Flip this cover, push the button and the cavalry shows up.

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This tall piling marks the left side if the channel and it has become a home and fishing spot for an enterprising bird. Usually you would see ospreys making their nests on top of the pilings but that was no osprey.

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Yesterday we heard this loud noise, somewhere between a loud pop and a bang. Searched the boat hi and low and could find nothing. Figured we must have hit a submerged log. Today in preparation for our first lock through, Debbie gets out our PFD’s (personal flotation devices). We have these really cool ones that are very slim and only inflate when submerged. They offer a lot of movement compared to those big orange vests. Well, she goes to pull them out from under the upper helm and one of them had deployed, hence the bang.

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Above is the Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge. It served as a landmark for over 8,000 years. Buffalo and other wildlife came first, then later American Indians, trappers, traders and eventually boatmen who would float their flatboats to New Orleans, then walk the Trace back. Of course they did not have this bridge then but the river was much narrower and mostly shallower before the dams were built. The Natchez Trace had many hazards such as bandits, Indians and wild animals.

While on the subject of native Americans, while using a courtesy car from one of the marinas we recently stayed we came across a number of historical markers stating the “Trail of Tears”. I won’t bore you with a history lesson, but you might want to check out this link to Wikipedia regarding this awful piece of American history. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trail_of_Tears

Just can’t express the beauty of  this river. Came across Larry and Marney Brunner’s next lake house.

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Saw this place on a shear cliff. Those are stairs to the water. I think I would/could make that climb, hmmm ONCE.

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We titled todays installment Double Dam-It because we had to lock through the Wilson and Joe Wheeler dams. The Wilson was an astounding 94′ vertical lift! Biggest we have experienced so far. Prior to damming there must have been some kind of waterfall or rapids here. These are photo’s of the lock chamber once we entered. Once we rose to the upper level the water just rose over the top of the lock door! We shared the lock with a sailboat on this huge lift.

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The Joe Wheeler locks were “just” a 54′ lift. These are photo’s of the front and rear of the chamber.

Got to Joe Wheeler State Park Marina and had some issues with the power pedestal. Once we returned from dinner at full dark (8pm) we were informed we had to move to a different slip as they were having problems with the pedestals on our part of the dock. Hope they get the gremlins out soon cuz in less than a month about 100 Looper boats (including us) are going to descend on this place.

Some amazing views of this incredible river:

IMG_3173Uhhhh, damn!