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.


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.


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.


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:


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.


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.


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.


Some pretty images of the river:


and these…


And then about an hour of this…


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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


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


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.


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!

Fuel Burn and Sun Burn

September 18

First fill up today since our stay at Green Turtle Bay in Western Kentucky. We have burned 130 gallons of diesel in the last 215 miles. That’s a smidgen better than 1.5 miles per gallon. BUT we ARE running upstream against significant currents. The sun is just so bright that the heat is pretty tough. Haven’t even wanted to drop the dinghy for a fast boat ride.

Before I go any further, I must post Debbie’s favorite photo that I overlooked in my last installment. The clouds look amazing while we are entering the chamber at Pickwick Locks and Dam.


Last night whilst we were enjoying a post prandial beverage we noticed our neighbor’s boat fender. Looks like it is growing longer. Nope, that’s a raccoon trying to get in this guys boat which was left wide open (stupid is as stupid does, momma said) .


These guys are vicious as hell so we did not mess with it.

Today we only traveled 10 miles to the Grand Harbor marina. Just too damn hot. Had to mail a letter to the IRS so one of the guys in the marina gave me a ride to the office and there was an owl in a large cage. Pickwick Lake State Park has a small aviary with injured red-tailed hawks and a great horned owl.


Went to a local Mexican restaurant for dinner and God bless ’em, frosty beer mugs!

Welcome to the beautiful Tennessee River

September 17

Left Clifton Marina this morning at 8am sharp. Lovely folks at a pretty neat marina. Not much to see in Clifton but the marina owner Gene Davidson was gracious enough to let us use the courtesy car to visit lovely metropolitan Savannah (Tennessee, not Georgia). So, we’re on our way when we see this sign on the road.


Oh hell, this is like seeing an old friend in a way out of the way place. Nobody home so we took a little walking tour. Did not go into any of the restricted areas, just stayed in the parking lot.


This is where Brown-Forman purchases white oak logs and converts them into barrel staves for the 3 cooperages that make the barrels for Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve, Old Forester, Coopers Craft and Early Times.

When we left Clifton this morning, the Tennessee was like glass. This lasted the whole day and there was a respite from the heat. Real pretty day. Check out these photo’s.


We had to pass through the Pickwick Locks to get to our current marina, Pickwick State Park Marina. This was a 55′ vertical lift to get to Pickwick Lake.


Couple of things you may have noticed in the above photo’s. We always wear life vests (these only inflate when submerged) when entering a lock, very turbulent water. Debbie is wearing what is called a marriage saver. Since there is a significant amount of real estate on WB we wear headset communicators. Beats the hell out of yelling back and forth. Deb is also brandishing a boat pole to keep the boat off the yucky walls of the locks we go through. You might have also noticed the concrete wall beneath the lock doors. The top of the concrete wall was the bottom of the shipping channel the lock was lifting us to.


Haley Bennett (not THAT Haley Bennett, I am referring to my daughter) sent us the above photo of a killer sunset in Louisville. Not to be outdone Deb and I responded with the photo below.


This photo is even better cuz this is how we roll.


Another toasty/sweaty day on the Tennessee River

September 15

Another sweltering day on the flybridge of Whisky Business. We could run the boat in comfort driving from the lower helm in the saloon (remember, pronounced “salon”) with the AC running but visibility is not very good from that location. This boat is really designed to be operated from the flybridge. By 10 am we were sweating, by 11 we were still sweating, by noon we were really sweating and the continued forecast for the day was, you guessed it…


This is a selfie taken by my MAIN MAN JAMIE from Cuba Landing who so graciously gave Deb and I the homemade sausage and muscadine jelly. Ya can’t take a selfie for shit Jamie! In the lower left hand corner is the other great fella, Jerry who shared his ice cold Mich Ultra’s with us at Cuba Landing. These guys know how to roll! It appears they are having a blast. What a great community.

Below are some real pretty photo’s we took on our way up this beautiful river we hope you enjoy them.


Hmmm, looks a little shallow here or those birds are walking on water.


Volley ball on the beach! We almost stopped to punish those guys with our vaunted spiking abilities. Deb at 5′ and me at 5’7″ woulda CRUSHED all comers!!!


Entrance to Mermaid Marina, our original bogey for the night but nothing to see or do in this area.


So many cool homes on the river.


Looks like heaven!


Pretty serious dredging operation.


Finally civilization, downtown Clifton, Tennessee.

Actually a non eventful day other than the beauty of the river. That all changed once we got all snugged in at Clifton Marina. When folks find out you are doing the loop a really fun conversation ensues. We were talking to a group of people when a fellow comes over and introduces himself, Glen Lineberry. Lived on the river for 50+ years and is a fixture in the area as he has a boat repair shop. I had sent my training captains/friends Dave Heilman and Bob Shircliff a text telling them where we had stopped for the night. Captain Bob responds with a text, ” Ask them if Glen Lineberry is still alive. He was the guy who helped us when our shaft broke”. Bob and Pam had a propeller shaft break 7 or 8 years ago here when they did the loop.


I dunno, but he looks alive and well to us!


These fine people are Sonya, who runs the Clifton Marina and her assistant Gene Davidson who owns the marina. I suspect there is a little bit o’ that Maker’s Mark from the previous photo in that cup near Mr. Davidson’s right hand. The wine glass is filled with riesling for the lovely Ms. Sonya. Not a couple but it is obvious they are great friends.

Where’d the wind go???

September 14

Paris Landing State Park Marina was a great stop. Only drawback to this place was there is NOTHING around here and very spotty cell service. Good wifi and longneck domestics were $3.25 at the small bar. Harbor Master Mackey was as courteous a gentleman as you could hope to meet. Went in to settle up with him this morning for the slip and electricity. He says “how long is your boat?” My response was a truthful 46 ‘. He replied, “how about $20?  I felt guilty as hell for using a credit card!

So we get outta there around 9:30 and there is a great breeze coming off the port side as we idle out to the main channel.When we make the turn to starboard (remember,right/starboard and left/port) the wind is off the stern (back). So there is NO breeze on the flybridge and we have a black bimini which makes it a little toasty up here. You can see how the burgee just hangs there limp as heck and in the chartplotter photo the true (yellow arrow with the “T” in it) wind is coming from behind us.


One of the electronic navigation devices we have on board is the autopilot. Two of its’ main features are holding a heading and making a waypoint. When we tell this thing to hold a heading it will lock on a magnetic heading and stay there till you turn it off, change headings or you run into something. We ask it to hold our heading often as on a straight run down the river we set it, lean back in the captains chair and make minor course adjustments with the remote. Don’t have to touch the wheel.


Note also in the photo of the helm there are 2 sets of levers. The set of levers on the port side are for the transmissions. Each engine has its own transmission. Reverse , neutral and forward are your choices. The levers on the starboard side are the throttles. Each engine/transmission can be operated independently of the other. In this case you see the port throttle is pushed all of the way forward.  That’s because WB has a engine synchronizer that when engaged operates both engines at the exact same RPM setting. Keeps the boat going straight.


There used to be a large grain elevator located on the riverbank here. When the river was flooded as a result of the Kentucky Dam being completed, the building was left standing. This is a five story structure and only the top two floors are above water.


This is an abandoned railroad bridge but the swing section was removed when the dam was opened.

We approached this railroad bridge crossing the river with caution. It appears there is not much room beneath it. Actually there is 24’. WB has an air draft of 19’.  Inched our way forward.


Steam generating plant run by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

I explained earlier why we used the Scottish spelling of “whisky” in the name of WB. What I failed to tell you was how we got the name lettered. We didn’t want just any font for the name, but we wanted the same font as Old Forester Bourbon Whisky. Well there is no font for that style of letters.  The handsome lad in the above photo is Brady Nelson, Brown-Forman’s graphic arts wiz kid. He was gracious/crazy enough to create new letters for WB’s name that did not exist in the name Old Forester.

Thanks Brady, you rock!


Oh yeah, Debbie HATES spiders, this is her new best friend. Boats seem to be spider magnets.


Closed out the night with the locals who live around Cuba Landing Marina. I have been reading and researching this Great Loop for years and what I have read over and over again is how great the people are that you meet along the journey. These folks were as warm, friendly and inclusive a group as you could ever hope to meet. Jerry shared his beer and Jamie, MY MAIN MAN, was gracious/kind enough to go home and bring us some of his home made sausage and a jar of muscadine jelly made by some of the lovely people in this photo. On Saturday night they are having a Bloody Mary party so Debbie and I shared a bottle of the best damn bloody mary mix ever!

Heading south in earnest

September 13

Left Green Turtle Bay at 10 this morning after taking on 225 gallons of fuel. Picked up another nugget of handy info at the fuel dock. Since the opening to the fuel tanks are on the flat deck it is wise to have some paper towels to mop up any spilled fuel. Byron the dockhand and also a proud Jefferson owner had taken a “pigmat” and cut a hole in it for the fuel nozzle to protrude through so it is right there if there is a spill. Its the simple things in life!

IMG_3020IMG_3044Great photo of the Mighty Motor Vessel Whisky Business leaving our dock at GTB this morning. Taken by our new friends Brian and Sue Ramsey on Fahrfromwurken. Those guys would be a blast to travel with. Hope they get the transmission fixed soon and catch up with us. I must say, Sue looked rather chipper this morning after 2 manhattans!

Scootin’ along at 9 mph today with the wind at our back which meant there was no breeze at all on the flybridge. Pretty hot day. Some jet skis took advantage of our significant wake to get some air under them.

Deb took advantage of the free time she is enjoying so much by sharpening her solitaire skill set.


Betyerass she’s cheating!

Kentucky Lake is so darn wide we didn’t bother calling the tow captains to find out how they wanted us to execute our pass. Just steer clear of ’em. Came across this guy, 4 barges wide and 5 barges long for a total of 20!

Made it to Paris Landing Marina in Tennessee. Very nice folks here. The harbor master, Mackey was kind enough to put us in a van and take us to a boat yard where a fella had a dinghy we were interested in. Too long to fit on our hard top. Would have been perfect with a driving console and a 40hp Yamaha outboard. Our dinghy is pretty basic and is steered with a tiller. Debbie is not comfortable driving ours. Treated to a beautiful sunset as we were finishing up dinner of leftover pork chops from Patti’s.IMG_3045