Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Gold Burgee, T Shirt Quilt, Next Chapter

Goin' Gold - October 2, 2017

It’s been three weeks since we crossed our wake at Aqua Yacht Harbor on Pickwick Lake. Time is ticking by.  Several days after our crossing we rented a car, unloaded the boat with essentials and headed home.  Yes, it felt like moving from one culture to another but after the second trip and several days of unpacking and relocating “stuff” I think we are settled…sort of.

Before we embarked on the 49 week journey around the eastern US, Bahamas & Ontario, Canada we had very busy career lives.  So it’s been somewhat challenging to fill that time – doctor, dental, optical visits have been completed.  LOTS of visiting with family, friends, neighbors (past and present) and looking forward to a much-needed Thanksgiving reunion have given us the opportunity to really reflect upon the past year.  So…

We have decided that we are NOT DONE cruising!!
A few shirts I collected along the way - very therapeutic walk down memory lane
The Lower Place has been pulled out of the water and is currently receiving the required maintenance (bottom paint, strut, shaft, bearing, prop, etc.) inspections.  We have renewed our DTOPS inspection (customs fee) sticker.  Once the boat work is completed and The Lower Place is back in the water we will cruise to Columbus Marina, Columbus MS for staging!!

That’s right, after Thanksgiving (or the boat work is completed, which ever comes last) we will head south on the Tenn-Tom once again, heading to the west coast of Florida.  Only this time we will have leisurely cruising on the itinerary, planning to be north of the Demopolis AL before June 1, 2018 (hurricane season).  Several have asked if we plan to do the loop again and my standard answer is “not on purpose”.

The Loop was a trip of a lifetime and we are so blessed to have started AND finished without interruption (boat or health issues) so now we are looking forward to doing more exploration within a smaller geographic area.  But never rule out another side trip to the Bahamas or the Chesapeake Bay…it could happen!!  Have you met my captain?!!?

In closing…THANK YOU!!!  Thank you for riding along with us during this crazy adventure, I hope you enjoyed it – even if you didn’t quite understand it.  Thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement – even if you thought it was the craziest thing you ever heard.  Thank you for taking care of our parents, adult kids and grandchildren during our absence – I felt better knowing that. And thank you for making this blog required reading – it pushed me to create a lasting memory.  Not every event has been documented (you can thank me later) but I tried very hard to hit the highlights.

This is the final entry for our Loop Adventure and while I’m not sure how we will document future random cruising fun, I can promise you America’s Great Loop is close to the top of the greatest trip I’ve ever had.

Step outside your comfort zone, look beyond yourself, life is worth living – don’t just exist.

God Bless
The future is out there...

Monday, October 2, 2017

Iuka, Mississippi – WE DID IT!!!

Our final Loop sunset at anchor 10/1/2017

Day 343 brings us to Pickwick Lake Harbor in Iuka, MS and yes…as of 2:47PM on 10/2/2017 we officially completed America’s Great Loop!!!  The time flew by, the challenges were conquered and our new friends are forever!  And the fun…oh, all the fun, fun, fun!!!  It will remain etched in our memories, pictures, t-shirts and social media.  

We've looked at a lot of real estate
This has truly been a trip of a lifetime – any bad day was minimized by the overwhelming good days.  Any mechanical issues was quickly remedied with a suggestion or hands-on correction offered by another looper or well-positioned professional. Any homesickness or emotional meltdown was cured with empathy, shared tears then laughter!

The Winter Pool puts waterfront fun on the ground
Yes, we saw a lot of the USA – 17 states and DC. We left the country twice – Bahamas and Canada.  We took LOTS of pictures and I tried to update the blog often. We ate some interesting food but the best meals we enjoyed were the pot luck dinners with other loopers.  We walked A LOT – sometimes for fun, sometimes dragging a wagon to the Laundromat, grocery store or dockside dinner!  We visited with people we would have never met, most became our friends and some feel like family!!

Completing the Loop is bittersweet because like most things in life – people move on and circumstances change – nothing stands still.

“What’s next?”  Right now, we will do what every responsible boat owner does…pull the boat out of the water for a “physical”!!  We know routine maintenance (clean & paint the bottom) and a few other updates will need to be done.  In a few days we will lock in the timeline.  Then we will off-load the vessel and head home by the middle of October!!  There’s a lot to do after a year on the water!  We also have to see about routine physicals (doctors, dentist)!!

And yes, we would like to keep cruising…there is so much more to see!!  The pressure of seeing everything according to seasons and weather has been accomplished – now we are ready to really take our time to explore a few areas we rushed through.

The Lower Place secured in the Pickwick lock - final lock of the loop!
In a few days I’m sure we will post the trip stats (engine hours, fuel consumption) but not tonight. Tonight we will rest easy, knowing how blessed we are to have this dream become a reality.  We are not promised the next hour on this earth…make every moment matter!

Of course we give all the glory to God for taking care of us throughout this journey!! This wasn't the easiest trip to undertake and for reasons yet to be realized He watched over us and brought us safely back home!!  Thank you Lord!

God Bless

Morning breaks on our final day of America's Great Loop 10/2/2017

Sunday, October 1, 2017

River Boating and the Winter Pool

Signs of winter - geese flying south

After a great day of cruising, Saturday we anchored at Cuba Landing Marina.  A unique situation – we actually pulled into the marina, being VERY careful of the water depth and motored past the covered slips to find a well-protected part of the harbor.  Apparently we were the only boat to motor in this area for a while – fish were jumping everywhere!   It was quite a sight to see but of course I have no pictures – I was on the bow of the boat looking for “obstacles”.

Apparently the winter pool is already stabilized because we are on high alert for low water!!  Our plan was to make it to Perryville Marina in Parsons TN on Sunday.  We made arrangements to see a couple family members – so excited!!  Charlie called Perryville and the person on the phone was kind enough to tell us there was not enough water at their docks for our boat.  We need 4’. 
Water levels are very low - it's called Winter Pool\
We continued cruising to Mermaid Marina…Charlie called them & was told “yeah, we got 6’ here”.  Hmmm…upon arrival/approach to Mermaid we hit bottom…apparently, their version of 6’ is a result of delusion.  We were able to back off the sandbar, thankfully without damage to anything.  Charlie radioed the “fella” at Mermaid, explained what happened.  The “fella” acted like we shouldn’t have a problem…Charlie thanked him and we continued cruising.  So disappointed we won’t get to see the family but the last thing we need is to get stuck behind a sandbar at Mermaid Marina…until Spring!!

So the research continued…and now we are comfortably anchored at Swallow Bluff Anchorage south of Clifton TN.  It is only fitting that we anchor on this final night of our Great America Loop journey!!  It’s been a whirlwind of excitement, frustration, determination and love!  My emotions are all over the place but at the end of the journey…every single day – all 343 of them – was a day well-spent.

Would I do it again?  Hmmm…not next week – but never say never.
Today - just be still
Tomorrow we will arrive at Aqua Yacht Marina, the “technical” starting point for us since we’ve traveled from Pickwick to Midway Marina in Fulton several times.  So with nearly 6,000 miles under keel since October 23, 2016 we will bring The Lower Place to the dock.  Our not-so-white burgee will be exchanged for the GOLD burgee!!  Yes, the GOLD was certainly earned by all those who prayed for us, supported us (even though they secretly thought we were nuts) and most importantly our family – you guys ROCK!!  Thank you for loving us enough to allow us to be a little selfish and experience the trip of a lifetime!
Mondays were really never my favorite day of the week – but tomorrow is MONDAY and I’m a little excited about that!!
God Bless

For Sale by Owner - water views!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Hello Tennessee!

The front yard at Clay Bay anchorage 9/29/2017

Friday morning (9/29/2017) we departed Green Turtle Bay, Grand River, Kentucky at the crack of 10:00 am…WaHOOOO!!!  We had plenty of time to get a few things done without the “fire drill” urgency that sometimes pushes our departure – very nice way to start the day.

We left the Cumberland River and transitioned to the Tennessee River – still enjoying the beautiful Kentucky landscape.  Before long we pulled into Kenlake Marina for fuel (lowest price around)…and a surprise lunch stop - YUM!  After a grilled chicken salad (me) and a catfish sandwich (he) we boarded The Lower Place and continued our southerly direction of travel.

It was close to 4:00 we were ready to stop for the day – milking every moment of every day as we approach the end of our journey.  Charlie pulled into a great anchorage, Clay Bay – no cell or internet service with Verizon.  There was only one sailboat anchored and a bass boat trolling/fishing*.  At 4:01, I turned off the engines and we sat in silence for a long time!!  After 10+ days of constant activity, friends and travel it was nice to just be quiet…ahhhhhh!  Before long we will be looking for friends and fun but today the solitude and quiet was very nice.

*According to the fishing couple we are anchored on the Tennessee side of the river but had lunch on the Kentucky side of the river – I love it when that happens!!

Saturday we will continue toward Perryville Marina in Parsons TN with a predicted Monday arrival.  We will see a few family members, YAY!!  By early October we will be in Pickwick and officially complete our loop…I have no words to explain our mindset – but every GOLD looper out there knows EXACTLY what we are feeling/thinking!!

We can’t wait to see family and friends but don’t be surprised if we cast off the lines again…sooner than you think!

God Bless
Our back yard at sunset - looking across the TN River-Clay Bay

Thursday, September 28, 2017

It’s funny – because it’s true!

This is a load of coal headed north...less than 90 days til Christmas. Just sayin'

 So I have been waiting to share this story in order to protect the parties involved…but it has to be shared!!!  There are no pictures to reveal the area…

Navigating the river system is an exercise in patience, courtesy and knowledge of the barge traffic.  As previously stated barge traffic has priority when it comes to lining up for locking through and we completely respect that.  Charlie & I have discovered the less pleasure craft in a group, the easier/faster we seem to get through the locks.  So we have tried to position The Lower Place in a small group when possible.  That being said – here’s a real-life event:

Traveling up (or down) an unnamed river one day we were having a good easy day…all alone, minimal barge traffic and nice weather – our destination required locking through only ONE lock near the end of our day.  We were about 6.5 miles from the lock when the AIS (barge alert software) indicated a barge 2 miles in front of us…headed to the same lock.

Charlie radioed the lock to ask if the barge was locking through (sometimes they “beach the load” until the next day). The lock master confirmed the barge was locking through.  Charlie asked the lock master if he thought the tow operator would allow us to lock through with him (it’s the tow operator’s decision) & the lock master said he would ask…here’s the dialogue – in general…

Lock master:  Mr. Tow Captain, can the pleasure craft lock through with you?

Tow Captain: Well, I have to break my load – they can come through with me on the second load. (gulp, sometimes that takes a couple hours and it was late in the afternoon). 

The Lower Place: Roger that, Mr. Tow Captain, thank you. (hey, you take what you can get sometimes).

Lock master: Mr. Tow Captain switch up/down one channel

Well – we aren’t stupid…we switched our radio to that channel too!!

Lock master to Tow: Do you have any margarine? (I thought that was a code word for something!)

Tow: Huh? Margarine? (sounding surprised)

Lock master: Yeah, I need some margarine…stick, soft I don’t care, I’m begging

Tow: Well, I suppose we can scrape something together for ya. (still sounding a little bewildered)

During this exchange, I tell Charlie “Hey, we have REAL BUTTER!! I’ll give him 2 sticks!!”

The Lower Place: Lock master, my wife says we have real butter and she will give you 2 sticks.

Lock master: Roger that! If you can get here before the tow, I’ll have the lock ready for you!

The Lower Place was full speed ahead (12 mph), we passed the barge & thanked him and made it to the lock!!  All alone we locked up (or down).  And before I pulled off the lines a bucket was lowered via L O N G rope, the butter (secured in a zip lock bag) was deposited – thank you’s were exchanged!

I pulled off the lines, we headed to the lock doors wasting no time – we wanted the lock turned around with minimal wait time for the VERY KIND and understanding tow operator.  Yes, kids, this proves that kindness is rewarded…sometimes in sticks of butter!!

We have several more locks to navigate before the end of our journey…I have more butter in the freezer!!

God Bless

Ever wonder where the empty rail cars are parked??