Heading down the Mississippi

First of All –

  • First time backtracking (from Polestar Marina to Illinois River confluence)
  • First time with a sail out on the river
  • First time receiving an American Great Loop Cruisers Association discount (gas and moorage at Alton Marina)

Namely Speaking-

  • Portage des Sioux
  • Brickhouse Slough

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 20; Sail: (motor sailed with the jib for an hour)
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 524
  • Hours Underway: 3
  • Fuel: 26.1 gallons – $81
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 13.1
  • Wind Speed: 5 to 8 ; Wind Direction: ENE
  • Daily High Temperature: 75
  • Water Temperature: 82

DSCF7845It’s moving day, time to shove off on our way down the great Mississippi River. Batteries are all topped off, thanks to the new charger. Our goal is modest, just 20 miles downriver to Alton, IL where we’ll put in at the marina and stock up on groceries. The day starts out rainy, a continuation of the periodic downpours we experienced throughout the night. It’s supposed to clear off as the day progresses, so I don’t bother putting up the cockpit surround. This decision pays off, as the rain quits shortly after we leave Polestar Marina. The air feels fresh and cool, and the scenery is in contrast with the flat, rural country we’ve traversed on the Illinois River. Steep rocky bluffs line the river’s east bank, and some of the trees on top and bottom are tinged with fall color. As soon as the breeze gives us enough of an angle, I roll out the genoa and we are motorsailing down the Mississippi. We maintain 7.5mph with ease, at under 2500rpm, thanks to the boost from the Mississippi’s steady current, and the push of the wind. The sailing is a bit erratic, because of the bluffs, but it’s still fun having the sail out.

Shortly past noon we near Alton, an attractive town situated on a hilly site along the river. Huge grain elevators give evidence toDSCF7850 agriculture’s contribution to the local economy. A big riverboat casino adds to the story. We pull into the marina right at the Alton highway bridge, an imposing cable stay bridge which spans the river at this point. I fill all the gas tanks on board at their fuel dock, and then get a slip assignment and we moor the boat. After checking in, we head out on foot. The marina staff tell us that the local grocery will pick us up in their car, and bring us back with our groceries. This is a very nice service for boaters such as us. I give them a call, and shortly after the butcher pulls up to give us a ride to the store. It’s a modest mom and pop type of store, but they have all the essentials, and the folks there are very friendly. After we check out, the owner drives us back to the marina. He refuses the offer of a tip, saying they really appreciate serving the boaters. We load groceries in the dock cart and wheel them down to the boat, and then go through the major project of stowing them all on board. It’s a lot of work, trimming fat off the meat, washing the apples, cleaning out the refrigerator before repacking it, and repackaging many items. Amazingly, it all finds a place, and we’re now well stocked in anticipation of continued cruising downriver. Handling all this food generates a considerable appetite, so we walk up into town in search of a restaurant. It’s Friday night and the first place we try has an hour wait, so we go further and end up at Tony’s, where we enjoy great service and excellent food. We’re thankful that it’s a bit of a walk back to the boat. After our big meals, the walk does us good. It feels so good to actually sense a chill in the air after all the heat and humidity we’ve had since leaving Chicago. One item that has helped us put up with these conditions is bath talc powder. When it’s hot here, we really powder up, and combined with our fans, we manage to stay reasonably comfortable. Lower temperatures, however, are definitely the preferred solution.

I should mention our little stowaway. This country is rife with spiders, both big and little, and as soon as we arrive at a dock, they launch their invasions. We find them and their webs everywhere. Most of the time we do our best to usher them off the boat, however, we’ve made an exception for one enterprising little spider. Our upright paper towel holder is decorated with a little ceramic lighthouse, and yesterday Sandy noticed that this little spider had spun a web between the lighthouse and the hull of the boat. He’s taken up residence near the top of the lighthouse, and from time to time actually perches atop the lighthouse. We call him our little lighthouse keeper. He’s causing no trouble, and might even do us a service if he ever manages to snag a bug in his web. We were also boarded by a green tree frog the night we anchored out, and by little toads while at Polestar Marina. As long as the invaders remain so small, they shouldn’t pose a problem.

DSCF7853Tomorrow should be a big day. We will cruise past the mouth of the Missouri River, and along the St. Louis waterfront. We should have great views of the famous St. Louis arch, with the rising sun. Our destination will be Hoppe’s Marina, which is a true institution among loop cruisers. It’s the last source of fuel and local knowledge along the river until we reach the Cumberland. We’re looking forward to meeting Fern Hoppe, who at 84 years old still runs the place.

Sailing down the Mississippi

First of All –

  • First time radioing a tow boat identified by AIS
  • First time floating free while being locked down the river
  • First time pure sailing on the river
  • First selfie of our boat taken with the GoPro (in front of St. Louis Arch)

Namely Speaking-

  • Chouteau Island
  • Chain of Rocks
  • East Carondlet
  • Pulltight Landing
  • Hoppies
  • Kimmswick

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 29; Sail: 14
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 567
  • Hours Underway: 8
  • Fuel: 3.1 gallons (10mpg average while under power – about half that time motor sailing)
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 13.1
  • Wind Speed: 10-12 mph ; Wind Direction: NW
  • Daily High Temperature: 75
  • Water Temperature: 76

DSCF7869Ever since I first started dreaming about this trip, I imagined how great it would be to hoist sails and glide under wind power down the mighty Mississippi. Today we have that chance. We have a modest distance to go, just 40+ miles down to Hoppies, which is a must stop for fuel and local knowledge. The forecast is ideal, with 10 to 12 mph wind out of the northwest. I’m up at 6 and away from the Alton Marina dock by 7. My intention of letting Sandy sleep in is thwarted once I enter the river and see how close we are to the Mel Price Lock. I inform Sandy that she’ll need to be on deck for locking duty, and then call the lock. The lockmaster says she’s got a whole bunch of other pleasure craft (they end up being 8 fishing boats) standing by to lock through, and she says as soon as she clears the auxilliary chamber she’ll take us down. We circle around for about 40 minutes until we get the green light. I attempt an approach to a floating bollard, however with an 8 mph tailwind pushing us down the lock, this proves difficult. I scrape the danforth anchor stock, which hangs from a bracket on the bow pulpit, before being told we could just float the lock down, if we wish. I definitely wish. It’s easy maintaining position in the cavernous lock chamber, which is empty except for us and the small fleet of bass boats. We escape the lock with just a bent anchor stock, which can easily be straightened at a later date.

After exiting the lock, I raise the main and jib and motor sail down toward the Chain of Rocks canal and lock. As we near the canal weDSCF7856 pass the mouth of the Missouri River, which played such a pivotal role in the exploration and development of the West. A few miles further down, we near the entrance to Chain of Rocks Canal. The main river is blocked by a dam a short distance downstream, and cannot be navigated. A large sign directs all boat traffic to bear left and enter the canal. As I approach I see a towboat with lengthy barge train exiting the canal. I identify him on my AIS and radio him, clarifying how he’d like me to pass. I keep the sails up as we cruise down the canal, but furl the genoa as we approach a towboat with barges. I need the visibility and control DSCF7867while passing him. We end up with a short wait at the Chain of Rocks Lock N0. 27, while a tow struggles to line up in the main lock chamber. Once he’s in, the lockmaster directs us to the auxilliary chamber, and we lock down all by ourselves, again floating through. Exiting this lock, we find ourselves just a couple miles above downtown St. Louis. We can see the tall downtown buildings, and the famed Gateway Arch soon comes into view. I hurry to rig my GoPro camera to the end of our boat hook, as I want to try taking a picture of our boat in front of the Arch. I’m not that familiar with the camera yet, and I struggle to get it linked to my cell phone and properly aimed. With Sandy at the helm, I finally get things set, and just in time. I hope I’m actually getting pictures. I’m not sure they’ll be any good (the super wide angle lens bends our boat into a dory or drift boat type of shape), but I figure it’s worth a try. I also snap a few pictures with our regular camera as we pass by the Arch.


As we proceed downriver, Sandy sets out lunch which for me is a great tortilla wrap with the leftovers of last night’s chicken dinner. Yum. After lunch, the wind looks favorable for some sailing. I raise both sails and ease back the throttle until I’m at idle speed with the motor, and still cruising at 7.5mph. That’s more than good enough for me, so I shut down the engine, raise it out of the water and sail along down the Mississippi. At one point I find myself alongside a towboat who’s pushing 15 barges loaded with coal. We’re neck and neck for a good long while, and I finally radio him, saying it looks like we’re having a race. He agrees. The contest can’t last long however, and as my wind eases off, he powers on. We sail until within 5 miles of Hoppies, with the wind sneaking up toward our nose. The added pressure on the jib sheet proves too much for my fancy EZcleat (the only one left after the other got launched into Lake Michigan a couple weeks back). This time the sheet simply pops free of the jam cleat, resulting in temporary chaos, with the genoa flapping wildly until I can sheet it back in. After this happens a second time I furl the genoa and resolve to retire the EZ cleat and go back to my tried and true turning block and winch setup.

DSCF7879Around 3pm we tie up at Hoppies. Charlie and Fern’s daughter Debbie is there to take our lines, assist us in getting secured, and pumpDSCF7882 gas. Hoppies is the only marina/fuel dock on the Mississippi between St. Louis and New Orleans, and therefore a must stop for Loop cruisers. The marina is located on a series of barges which are held to the bank by heavy cables. I transfer gas to the main tank I’ve used for today’s run, and end up only needing 3.1 gallons. I estimate getting about 10 mpg while motoring and motorsailing today. After fueling up, we walk a short distance into the historic town of Kimmswick, second oldest town in Missouri. The old buildings are interesting, however, they all house typical tourist town shops and businesses. We do find a restaurant with a wonderful dessert and pastry counter, and we grab goodies for dessert tonight.

Back at the dock, Debbie gives me and another Looper, who is also on a small sailboat, some helpful tips on cruising the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers as far as the Tennessee and Cumberland confluences. It sounds like this next stretch will be one of the more challenging of our trip. It’s 250 miles to the next fuel dock, which means we’ll need to average 6.5 mpg to avoid running out of fuel. The Mississippi’s current will help but once we hit the Ohio we’ll be going upstream. Finding safe places to stop for the night is another big challenge, with fluctuating river levels, weirs and wing dams, and barge wakes all posing challenges, in addition to the usual issues of wind, wave protection, and bottom holding conditions. Then to top things off, the Ohio River locks sound like they’re a mess. The Olmstead Lock has supposedly been under construction for almost 20 years and still isn’t finished. We’ll have to weave through a major construction zone. And Lock 52 got hit by a barge a while back, putting the main chamber out of commission and forcing all traffic through the auxilliary chamber. This has created major backlogs. We’ll just have to hope for the best and do our best.


Goin’ with the flow

First of All –

  • First day with temperature in the ’40’s (49 degrees at 6:30am)
  • First day with fog on the river
  • First 20 barge tow encountered
  • First time using the kicker motor to dinghy ashore from an anchorage

Namely Speaking-

  • Herculaneum
  • Hug Landing
  • Fort Chartres Landing
  • Kaskaskia
  • Cherokee Landing

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 58; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 625
  • Hours Underway: 7
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 13.01
  • Wind Speed: 5 or less; Wind Direction: S
  • Daily High Temperature: 79
  • Water Temperature: 76

DSCF7886At yesterday’s cruisers briefing, Debbie said fog was likely for the next morning, and she cautioned against trying for an early start if fogDSCF7890 obscured the next corner downriver. It chilled right down after sunset yesterday, and after dark I got out my spotlight and was treated to a magical sight. The river was covered with wisps of fog, drifting with the current, and looking like cottonwood fluff in springtime back home. At 6am I rise, and am encouraged by the relatively clear view across the river. By the time I return from the restroom up the hill, however, I can see that those wisps of fog have tended to accumulate at the downstream river bend, piling up into a view obscuring fog bank. A tow boat rumbles upriver and I give him a call on the VHF. Sure enough, the fog is pretty dense downriver, so any plans I might have had for an early start are on indefinite hold. This give us an excuse to fix a nice breakfast. Sandy prepares an egg batter and we turn our leftover bread, from Tony’s in Alton, into some excellent french toast. As we are finishing breakfast the fog is lifting. We uncleat our lines and swing out into the powerful current at 9am, to begin our day’s run down the Mississippi.

Initially, the land on the Illinois side is low, flat and forested, while the Missouri side is graced with forested bluffs and steep limestone cliffs. Imposing homes are scattered along the crest of the bluffs. Further down river it becomes low on both sides of the river, still with dense forest. This stretch has a very remote, lonely feel to it. No highways are visible, just a set of railroad tracks on the Missouri side, but no trains come by. A few tows travel the river, not as many as in previous days, but they tend to be much bigger. We pass one tow working his way up river, 3 barges wide and 7 long, just two in front thus making for a 20 barge DSCF7893tow, the largest we’ve seen to date. It’s a beautiful day, brilliant clear blue sky and perfectly comfortable temperture. Sailing is out of the question since what little wind there is comes out of the south, right on our nose. The current is strong here. I set the engine at 2000 rpm and we average just over 8mph for the entire day’s run. It’s totally pleasant with the engine working so lightly, hardly any noise. On occasions, the current pushes us up to 9 and even 10mph where the river narrows or sweeps around bends. We pass whirlpool areas where we’ve been advised to not attempt passing tows. The whirlpools are noticeable, but not that severe. Kind of like Deception Pass back home about 40 minutes before or after slack. We pass by the first mooring option at Kaskaskia Lock around 1pm. We’ve come 41 miles at that point, but even with our delayed start it feels too early to stop for the day. Yesterday I talked with Ron, who’s also looping in a small sailboat, about anchorage possibilities, and he pointed out a spot at Rockwood Island, 17 miles past Kaskaskia. It looks promising, and we both decide to head there for the night. He leaves before we do, and when we near the place he’s nowhere to be seen. I swing in anyway, to investigate, and I give him a call on the cell. He says he’s just a mile below us and heading our way. We both have to take evasive action because a large tow, headed upriver, is in the act of passing another. Together they throw up big wakes and to top it off, we’re being pinched by a weir dam immediately downstream, and by a red channel buoy. I manage to clear the buoy and dam, but end up uncomfortably close to the wake of the nearest tow boat, which is laboring mightily against the current with his 18 barge tow. We get bounced roughly by his wake before being able to circle in toward Rockwood Island and our intended anchorage. I survey the depths and pick out the best possible area. We’re protected by weir dams above and below, but open to the river on our port beam. I figure the tows will give the weir dams a fairly wide berth, so we shouldn’t be bothered too much by them. We anchor in 9 feet of water, with 3mph or more of current sweeping by. We occasionally get bumped by driftwood.


After securing the boat, I mount the kicker motor on the dinghy and Sandy and I go ashore to walk the beach. It turns out to be surprisingly interesting. The gravelly places have lots of colorful polished chert and even agate. We even find some nice seaglass – make that river glass. As the sun lowers it’s time to return to the boat. We enjoy chip and dip, washed down by rum cokes and follow that with a nice dinner of sloppy joes, enhanced with steak left over from last night’s dinner. Coffee and lemon cake, from the Kimmswick restaurant, finish off an very pleasant day.


Dodging driftwood in the whitecaps at 10 mph

First of All –

  • First time encountering a 25 barge tow (7 long, 4 wide)
  • First time cruising 95 miles in a single day

Namely Speaking-

  • Potato Bend
  • Cinque L’Homme Light
  • Big Muddy River
  • Hanging Dog Bluff
  • Moccasin Springs
  • Cape Girardeaux
  • Dogtooth Bend

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 95; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 721
  • Hours Underway: 10.5
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.45
  • Wind Speed: S; Wind Direction: 10mph
  • Daily High Temperature: 78
  • Water Temperature: 76

DSCF7910It’s 10 degrees warmer when I get up, and no fog has formed on the river. This sets us up well for a reasonably early start. We will try toDSCF7909 make a long run today, nearly all the way to the Ohio River, so that tomorrow we have a good chance of getting through the 2 Ohio River locks. Boats have been considerably delayed there of late, and we look forward to being in a good jump off position. The Waterways Guide indicates an anchorage 7 miles above the Mississippi/Ohio confluence, and that will be our goal. It’s a whopping 95 miles down river, but if we can average 9mph we should make it there by 5pm. We’re off the anchor and in the Mississippi current by 7am, and motoring into a brisk south wind. The sailboat who came in with us also gets underway and follows us downriver, matching our speed. I’m cruising at around 2500 rpm, which keeps us above 9mph most of the time. Early on, the river sweeps by some interesting bluffs on the Missouri side. It’s pretty empty country, with practically no boats except for the occasional tow, and 2 loop boats which pass us in the late morning. We pass a couple of small towns, and one small city, Cape Girardeaux, which is walled off from the river by a tall flood control wall. We tangle with another whirlpool, which tries to spin us around several times. The directional thrust of the outboard really helps. The south wind creates our biggest problems. Even though it’s only around 10 mph, it’s on our nose and against the flow of the river. This results in choppy water, and even whitecaps in places. The chop makes perfect hiding places for woody debris, ranging in size from small twigs to fair sized logs. Some float vertically, with just a few inches above the water. The debris is everywhere, and hard to avoid. It’s impossible to use the autopilot, so we steer manually DSCF7914most of the day. In mid afternoon we close on a towboat who is pushing 21 barges upriver. We’re right at a tight hairpin turn listed as Dogtooth Bend. I radio him and he gives us the ok to pass between the barges and the river bank. There’s ample room, but whirlpools atDSCF7911 the bend don’t help. We’re really tired by the time we reach our intended anchorage. It’s a small inlet at the south end of Boston Chute, just above an interstate highway bridge. It’s not the best site, but should do. I radio the sailboat who has been cruising with us, and tell him I’ll go in and survey the depth, since he doesn’t have a working depth finder. It’s deep close in to shore, but the inlet shallows up quickly. It’s also fairly narrow, with just enough width to accomodate us. I figure I’ll go in furthest, since I’ve got the more shallow draft. I drop the anchor in a perfect spot, but in following us in, the other boat grounds and gets stuck. He tries, unsuccessfully to get off, so I pull up our anchor and take his stern line so I can give him a tow. It takes a strong pull, but he finally drifts free. I let him anchor first, and then drop in a spot at the mouth of the inlet. I’m glad to be securely moored. While I’m straightening things out, a power boat radios me. He’s out in the river, and desires to anchor her also. I tell him what I’ve seen for bottom depth, and he anchors between us and the bridge. He’s most considerate, giving our location more than enough clearance. I go into the cabin and check the house battery, and am perplexed to see it lower than I would have expected. I thought those problems were behind us. Sandy did run the laptop a good part of the day. I’m now wondering if the engine, running at low rpm, is capable of powering the gps, occasional autopilot, and steady computer. We’ll give tomorrow a try without using the computer and see what happens.


Up the Ohio

First of All –

  • First time cruising on the Ohio River
  • First time eating dinner on the fly
  • First time using the trip line/anchor buoy

Namely Speaking-

  • Cairo
  • Mound City
  • Future City
  • Metropolis – Yes there really is such a place, and they do claim Superman as a favorite son
  • Jappa

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 66; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 787
  • Hours Underway: 10.5 (another 3 hours spent waiting to pass Olmstead Lock construction site and the infamous Lock 52
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.29
  • Wind Speed: 8; Wind Direction: SE
  • Daily High Temperature: 80
  • Water Temperature: 77

We jump off early today for our final day on the big rivers. We’ve been moving fast, and including today’s anticipated run will have cruised 263 miles in just 4 days. That says something about how hospitable this leg of the trip is. These big rivers are a unique combination of wilderness type places, dominated yet by commercial shipping use. The Corps of Engineers has built hundreds of wing dams on the Mississippi, deflecting the current to the center of the channel. Inviting side channels are walled off with piles of rubble, making them impossible to use as anchorages. You can go dozens of miles without finding a single place to safely get off the main channel, unless you risk trying to tuck in behind a wing dam, which invites running aground on the sand bars which develop below them (and with the muddy water, you can’t see a thing in the water).

DSCF7929We quickly run the last 7 miles we’ll travel on the Mississippi and swing a broad turn to port as we enter the mouth of the Ohio River. The Ohio is to the east what the Missouri is to the west. It’s a major artery of commerce, providing water born commercial passage to states as far south as Alabama and as far north as Pennsylvania. The town of Cairo hides behind its massive flood barriers at theDSCF7931 confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, and it has a lengthy history of flooding despite the best efforts of the day to keep waters at bay. Cairo appears to be a major center of barge traffic for both rivers, and we play “dodge the tow boats” for several miles, before getting clear of them. Once the river opens up, we instantly take a liking to the Ohio. In spite of the fact that we’re going against a 1 to 1.5mph current, which slows us considerably from the booming speed we got on the Mississippi, the Ohio has none of the roughness of the Mississippi. No whirlpools, no wing dams, no wind against wave chop, and virtually no woody debris. She’s just a broad, relatively shallow, and today smooth faced river, inviting us upward. The forested shoreline seems prettier, with a nice mix of trees, and the occasional eagle, heron, or pelican to attract our attention.

The Ohio does have some manmade challenges, though. The first is at the Olmstead Lock construction site. We’re told that this lock hasDSCF7935 been under construction for over 10 years, and still with no completion date in sight. It is intended to replace two old, decrepit locks upstream but until it is put in service, old Lock 53 and 52 are still needed. Approaching Olmstead we radio the lock 2 miles below, and get instructions to hold in place until told to move. We putt around for an hour before getting the signal to proceed. We cruise up through the new lock chamber, which is open at both ends, and then are directed on how to pass the clear water channel over the weir. These Ohio locks have a unique DSCF7936 feature, namely weir dams anchored to the bed of the river. They can be lowered when the river is high, thus allowing boats and tows to pass right over them. In lower water conditions, the weirs are raised, and locks must be used to pass the dams. We pass over the weir for the Olmstead, and are also able to bypass Lock 53, since it’s weir is down. A dozen miles above 53, however, Lock 52 is waiting to ambush us. The main chamber of this lock was damaged by a barge, thus knocking it out of commission. This means that all traffic must be locked through the smaller auxilliary chamber. Last week tows had a 36 hour wait to get through. This has recently improved, however we still have to wait 2 hours for our chance to go through. We lock through in the company of 3 large motor yachts, plus us and our sailboat friend of the past couple days. We all line up on the right bank descending wall of the lock. We’ve been instructed to have life jackets on, and a pair of 50 foot dock lines ready for use. We pull in behind one of the power boats and a lock attendant lowers a line, with a wire hook attached, down to Sandy. She loops our dock line onto the hook and the attendant pulls the line up, passes it around a large bollard, and then lowers it back to her. She then wraps the line around our bow cleat and holds onto the line, without cleating it off. I do the same at the stern, and thus our boat is secured to the side of the chamber. When water starts to fill, we take up slack on the lines. The old chamber doors creak loudly as they slowly close, and it seems to take forever for the water to rise. It’s uncomfortably hot down there, since the breeze can’t reach us. At long last, the water fills, the doors open, and we’re off. It’s nearly 5pm and we still have a 2 hour run to our anchorage at the mouth of the Cumberland, so Sandy fixes up cold burritos with some flour tacos and filling made from leftovers. We’re both famished and it turns out to be the perfect dinner. We reach our anchorage just as the sun is setting, after a beautiful 2 hour run upriver, and end up anchoring with 3 of the 4 boats we locked up with.


It’s been a lovely day, except for one thing. Our persistent problem with battery charging just won’t go away. Both ignition and house batteries refused to charge off the engine today. I got some charge into the house batteries with the solar panels, but the ignition battery stayed static until late in the day, when it started receiving a charge. These problems bewilder me, so I placed a call to Todd, and I’m hoping when we get to Green Turtle Resort Marina tomorrow I can dive back in and finally fix things.


Up the Cumberland to Greeen Turtle Bay on Barkley Lake

First of All –

  • First day cruising on the Cumberland River
  • First time seeing fireflies

Namely Speaking-

  • Clay Lick Creek
  • Paddy’s Creek
  • Harp Hollow Creek
  • Dooms Landing

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 34; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 821
  • Hours Underway: 6.75
  • Fuel: 32 gallons, $108
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.20
  • Wind Speed: 5; Wind Direction: S
  • Daily High Temperature: 80
  • Water Temperature: 79

DSCF7969We sleep in 45 minutes later than usual, probably reflecting the toll which long cruising days is taking on us. We’re off our anchor by 8am, about 20 minutes behind our sailboat friend, Talisker. The big motor cruiser Job Site II and the trawler Harmony are still rafted up and at anchor when we depart. I set the engine at 3000 rpm, which gives us around 6 mph of speed. This is enough to enable us to overtakeDSCF7979 Talisker after 8 or 10 miles. At the 15 mile mark, Harmony passes us by, and I can see Job Site II on my AIS, about 5 miles back but gaining on us fairly rapidly. Without discussing it in advance, it would appear that our departures were orchestrated perfectly, with the slowest boat leaving first, us next, and then the two faster boats similarly staggering their start. This allows all 4 boats to cruise at their most comfortable rate, and we should all arrive at the Barkley Lock close enough to all lock through together. I talk with the lockmaster and he encourages us to go through in a group.

The run up the Cumberland offers a mix of attractive forest, scattered farm fields, picturesque rock bluffs, sand and gravel miningDSCF7977 operations and small towns. The river is only 100 or so yards wide, sinuous, and more interesting to navigate than the broad, big rivers we’ve recently been on. We see many bald eagles, along with cormorants, black vultures, crows and the ever present great blue herons. Barge traffic is much lighter, and we only encounter two small tows along the way. On the twisty river, the AIS is a real help in knowing they’re coming.

DSCF7972 DSCF7982

At river mile 30 we round a bend and the Barkley Dam looms into view. It’s a substantial structure, probably 100 feet or so high, and the lock chamber will lift us around 60 feet above the outlet stream elevation. This dam impounds a very large reservoir, which is directly connected with the Tennessee River’s Kentucky Lake, which extends into Tennessee, and impounds the flow of the Tennessee River all the way up to and past the Alabama border. It’s hard to relate to the flatness of this country. Here we are, probably 800 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, and we’re only 300 feet above sea level. We’re pleased to see the green light at the lock, and we’re instructed to tie up on the starbard side. The 4 boats in our group will be 2 on each side of the lock. Because of the 60 foot lift, we’ll be securing to floating bollards, which we’ve had the most difficulty with in the past. Today, however, conditions favor us with little wind, and that on our nose. We have no trouble getting lines over the bollard, and the chamber fills slowly enough that current is negligable. Even so, the enormous chamber fills quickly, and soon the gates open and we’re motoring out onto Barkley Lake. It’s only a couple of miles around to Green Turtle Bay Resort Marina where we’ll spend the next several days.


DSCF7986I pull in at the fuel dock first, eager to fill my tanks and see how much gas I used on the 250 mile run from Hoppies. I end up taking 32.5 gallons of gas, which means I had a mere 6.5 gallons remaining. That’s cutting it a bit close, but really not that close. We end up getting 7.85 miles per gallon for the run, which includes the big current push of the Mississippi and the lesser opposing currents of the Ohio and Cumberland. I’m happy with the fuel economy, and it has worked out just about as I’d expected. We get our slip assignment, with is ideally located, close to office, restrooms and laundry, and in the afternoon shade of the yacht club restaurant. As we’re tying up Sandy is hailed by Cindy, our friend from the Illinois River. They got here yesterday. Also here are Firebird and Marquesa. It seems that Green Turtle is the place to reunite with cruising friends encountered on the loop.

We dine at the yacht club, taking advantage of the complimentary guest cards given to us when we checked in. Dinner is good, and afterwards we go for an evening walk, up towards town. In the deep shadows below the road I spot an intense flash of light, and immediately recognize it as a firefly. Commonplace enough to folks from these parts, I’m sure, however for us Northwesterners, they’re quite a novelty. We pause on our walk to watch the show. They’re truly amazing little insects.

Layover at Green Turtle Bay

First of All –

  • First time feeding turtles
  • First time watching a movie on the laptop on board

Namely Speaking

  • Grand Rivers

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: 0 (Layover day)
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 821
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 13.2 (plugged in to shore power)
  • Wind Speed: light ; Wind Direction: southerly
  • Daily High Temperature: 85
  • Water Temperature: 79

For the first time in a week, we get to sleep in. Leisurely breakfast in the cockpit, clear sky and bright sunshine. It’s going to be warm today. I walk over to the Ship’s Store, to see what they have on hand here, and while I’m there I’m able to get a pin to my anchor bracket straightened at a repair shop behind the store. I’d managed to bend it when I bumped the anchor coming in to dock. It works good once again. Sandy takes the computer over to the office to work on her geneology project while I dive in on my charging problem. I do a series of diagnostic checks, which end up pointing the finger at the battery combiner. It’s allowing a charge to go to the ignition battery but not to the house battery. I talk with Todd and he says I can either replace the combiner or wire the two batteries togethere, with a switch that I can manually throw once I turn the engine off. He tells me the name and number for the replacement combiner. Another trip over to the Ship’s Store, and I order a new combiner. It should arrive tomorrow afternoon. I also check to see if the refrigerator temperature display, which failed early on the trip, has arrived. I’d ordered it on Monday, and it is supposed to arrive today. That actually doesn’t happen. I’m hoping I have better luck with the combiner. Since I’m on hold with repairs until parts arrive, Sandy and I head into town on the folding bikes after lunch. We stop at Patty’s restaurant and make dinner reservations for tomorrow night. They have legendary 2 inch thick pork chops and outstanding desserts. They also drive in DSCF7994 to the marina, pick you up, and then return you to the marina after dinner. We also got tickets for the Branson style theater show which is presented tomorrow night. It will be a night of dinner and theater. After a stop for ice cream we peddle back to the marina. I go for a swim while Sandy puts in a little more computer time. Before dinner we go over to the dock where the turtles congregate to beg for food. It’s pretty amazing to see 50 or more turtles paddle over to the dock, hoping you’ll toss them some food. I chucked in a stale dinner roll, and it was like a pirahna feeding fenzy. They climb all over each other chasing that dough ball around, until it’s completely gone. And it’s gone in a matter of seconds. For our dinner we grill steaks, and we dine in the cool evening air, out in the cockpit. Earlier today I picked up some DVD movies, and we’ll try watching one on the laptop tonight.

Dinner and a Show

First of All –

  • First time receiving a part ordered general delivery for the boat
  • First time going out to a live stage show while on the cruise

Namely Speaking-

  • Patti’s 1880’s Settlement
  • Badgett Playhouse

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: 0 – Layover Day 2
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 821
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 31.0
  • Wind Speed: Light; Wind Direction: Variable
  • Daily High Temperature: 86
  • Water Temperature: 79

Today’s a day for minor repairs and washing of the boat. Sandy prepares a grocery list in preparation for a trip in the courtesy car to Walmart. We had planned on going shopping this afternoon, but revise plans so we don’t get in a pinch for time getting ready for our big night out. We join up with our friends on Harmony and Firebird for the ride into town via Patti’s Restaurant courtesy van. Patti’s 1880’s Settlement restaurant is known far and wide for their 2 inch thick one pound pork chops, as well as their desserts. We all shy away from the huge chops, selecting other tasty 20150918 183648 entree’s from their menu. We all save room for dessert. Sand and I share a huge wedge of mile high chocolate cream pie. We’ve timed dinner so that we’ll be done in time for the start of the variety musical show at the Badgett Playhouse, which is almost directly across the street. We got tickets for the show yesterday. The show is billed as a Branson-style musical variety show, and it’s outstanding. A great live band provides the music, and many of the musicians sing as well. There are 3 featured singers, in addition to the emcee, who also sings. They perform music from the 50’s, 60’s 70’s as well as country, gospel, and disco. One of the band members has a great voice, and specializes in Elvis songs. We are all greatly entertained.

Tomorrow will be a big work day. First thing in the morning we’ll take the courtesy car on our shopping run. After we get back, Sandy will do laundry while I help Ron raise his mast, and then install my new combiner, which arrived today. Hopefully that will resolve my charging problems. Then we’ll do a final organization of the boat, in preparation for a planned Sunday morning departure. At least, that’s the plan.

Chores done; ready to go again

First of All –

  • First time using a marina courtesy car on a grocery shopping run

Namely Speaking-

  • Wal-Mart

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: 0 – Layover day 3
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 0
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 13.0
  • Wind Speed: light; Wind Direction: variable
  • Daily High Temperature: 72
  • Water Temperature: 78

I wake up to the sound of rain, the first we’ve had in quite a while. I remove the bug net from the companionway and close the hatch. We eat a quick breakfast and are ready for our trip to town by 8am, which is when we’ve reserved the courtesy car. Many marinas back here have courtesy cars, which eliminates the need for costly car rentals. At Green Turtle Bay, they take a photocopy of your drivers license, and you leave a $20 deposit, which you come back and present them with a receipt for a gas purchase. Because we went together with our sailboat friend, Ron, we were able to take the car for 4 hours. We drove in to the Wal-Mart in Paducah, and were able to get almost everything we needed. We stocked up on groceries, disposable batteries and kerosene for the stove. Ron also bought groceries. The only extra stop we needed to make was at a liquor store, to replenish my supply of rum. After a stop for gas, we got the car turned back in 1/2 hour before it DSCF8019was due. Next chore is stowing all the groceries on the boat. In the afternoon I help Ron raise his mast. It’s much heavier than mine, and he uses a homemade mast raising rig. It’s quite a project, and we even had to recruit help a couple of times from another guy, but after several hours, we meet with success. Ron’s boat once again looks like a sailboat. In mid afternoon I turn my attention to installing my new combiner, so that my house battery will once again receive charge from the engine. I remove the ground bus bar to gain access to the old combiner. I undo the screw which attaches it to the boat, and start manipulating the wires, to see where they lead. As I’m doing this I notice that the red wire which serves the house batteries is loose, and upon closer examination, I discover that the ring connector at the end of this wire is dangling in space, not connected to anything. Apparently when the guy at St. Charles worked on the system and cleaned the terminals on the positive battery post, he failed to reconnect the wire from the combiner. Naturally, the thing doesn’t work worth a darn if it’s not connected. I hook the wire back up and sure enough, the engine charges the house battery just fine. I decide to leave the old combiner in service and take the special order new one back to the Ship’s Store. They accept the return and credit my charge card. I’m delighted at the prospect of having a healthy electrical system, perhaps for the first time on this trip. While I’m helping Ron raise his mast and working on the electrical system, Sandy is doing a sizeable laundry. We both finish up about the same time. Final chores involve filling both water tanks, putting the folding bikes away, and straightening things up in the boat. I grill pork chops for a quick dinner. We both grab showers, and really feel ready to resume our cruise tomorrow.

Anchored with ATV’s

First of All –

  • First day cruising on the Tenessee River/Kentucky Lake
  • First time swimming off the boat

Namely Speaking-

  • Turkey Bay

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 20; Sail: (motor sailed 15 miles)
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 841
  • Hours Underway: 4
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14
  • Wind Speed: 8mph ; Wind Direction: N
  • Daily High Temperature: 73
  • Water Temperature: 76

DSCF8020We awake to a clear, crisp, bright day and ideal conditions for resuming our cruise, with a light breeze out of the north. One last trip to the office for a block of ice and we’re off. We motor up Barkley Lake for 2 miles before reaching the Barkley Canal which links Barkley Lake with Kentucky Lake, on the Tennessee River. Once we clear the canal I raise both sails and we ease along at 5mph, motor sailingDSCF8022 with the engine at 2000rpm. We don’t plan on going far today, so I don’t need to push up the speed. I’m pleased to see the battery voltage way up as we motor, well into the 14 volt range. On our port side is the area known as Land Between The Lakes, the narrow strip of land lying between the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers. This land is federally owned, and devoted to recreational use. I’m trying to figure out which anchorage, among the many inlets on our port side, we should plan on staying at for the night. One of the two bison and elk reserves appears to be situated fairly close to an inlet named Turkey Bay. My map shows a dirt road, less than a mile long, leading out to the highway, and then only 2 miles to the reserve and visitor center. I’m thinking we could anchor in Turkey Bay, dinghy the folding bikes ashore, and then bike over to the reserve. The one catch to this plan involves the designation of land adjacent to
Turkey Bay as an ATV use area. I figure they can’t be too obnoxious, so we head for Turkey Bay. We see a few 4 wheelers and dirt bikes as we ease into the bay and set the anchor. The ATV activity quickly picks up as we prepare to dinghy ashore and scout the area out. The noise level spikes as a couple of completely unmuffled 4 wheelers roar around. One big guy tries blasting his way through mud flat and nearly buries his ATV in the mud. He revs up and wildly spins his wheels, but simply digs in deeper. He’s buried almost to the tops of his tires before he shuts the engine down. Buddies gather to ponder the situation. Finally one guy digs out a tow strap and hooks on. After several tries he finally drags the stuck rig DSCF8026 out. I confess I’m a bit disappointed. We row ashore and go for our walk, but it’s a crazy scene there, with dirt bikes and 4 wheelers roaring around all over the place. We talk to a few, asking if they know how to get out to the highway. Amazingly, it seems no one knows how to get to the highway. Makes me wonder how they found their way out here. We quickly conclude that hauling our bikes ashore in search of elk and bison here is really not a very good idea. We opt instead to return to the boat. We consider pulling out and seeking a quieter anchorage, but end up deciding to stay, figuring that by the time we got reset, this place would have quieted down. It works out that way, and by the time I fire up the barbque to grill hamburgers, the last of the ATV’s has left. We dine in peace, enjoying the beauty of this place as the low angle light illuminates the forest edge. As dusk descends, 3 deer emerge from the forest to drink from the lake. A heron flies in, to hunt for small fish in the shallows. Little fingerlings squirt out of the water in such numbers that it almost looks like raindrops hitting the surface. Bass thrash after them with dramatic splashes. After the raucous engine noise of just a few hours ago, it’s refreshing to see this place come to life again.