Fun Boat Names

I collected these names along our Loop but forgot to post this.  It was fun to see all the clever names people come up with for their boats. Hope you enjoy!

Our boat came with her name and we loved it and never wanted to change it (other than maybe adding an apostrophe or a “g” to make it grammatically correct!).  We are Makin Memories this year, as we believe them to be the best things in which to invest money.

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Memories require no maintenance, dusting, sanding, painting, feeding, walking, fueling or upkeep.  They are easy to share and help forge connections between us and new people we encounter.  Memories are wonderful bridges to the pasts we have traveled with people we love in our family and in our group of friends.  The fact that we embarked on a year-long cruise to raise awareness about Rotary’s CART (Coins for Alzheimer’s Research Trust) program is a fitting irony to our boat’s name!

As we have cruised, we have seen all kinds of boat names. Some make immediate sense and others need to be explained.  Here are some of the ones we have come across so far that are worth noting.



Enough said, right!?!?!  Each of us could have chosen to spend our money differently but our point of intersection is that we didn’t!  Living minimally aboard a boat reinforces what is important in life: experiences and people.


Short story:  The boat is never allowed to go faster than one can hold a glass of wine without spilling it.

Long story: The owners live and have an outboard on Lake of the Ozarks which is long and narrow. They say that during nice weather people zoom up and down this narrow lake and the wakes all bounce off the shore creating a washtub effect.  He says his wife hates the beating she takes under these conditions.  She termed the speed that she likes to travel as “wine-speed,” which she says is a misnomer anyway because, like all good captains, they don’t drink while boating but wait until they return to shore.  Again, this is the speed at which one can comfortably hold a glass of wine without spilling it.

When they bought their 50+ foot trawler (after they had had go-fast boats), he said it took a while to get used to how SLOW it went. So, when they were trying to think of names for it, they were thinking “Turtle” or “Tortuga” or something that moved slowly but then they thought, “Hey, Wine Speed is perfect!” and so the boat got her name.


Our new friends Jim and Allie Cantonis are on the Loop, starting a month behind us, from Tarpon Springs.  They overtook us south of St. Augustine in the ICW, hailing us by name as they passed us – it sure made Jerry do a double take to hear his name rather than Makin Memories coming over the VHF radio!

They have a beautiful trawler named Meràki.  When we asked what the name means, Jim explained that it is a Greek word that is usually used in a phrase about how one does something and it is actually me-meràki or “with Meràki.” Meràki literally translates from the Greek as doing something with love, passion, a lot of soul, in short with everything you have.  What a great name for a boat that is embarked on the Great Loop adventure!


Jim Cantonis aboard Meràki, Allie at the helm.


Courteous captains will radio a boat they want to pass and ask them which side they prefer to be passed on. This gives the other captain a chance to slow or stop his boat, allowing the overtaking boat to make a slow pass and avoid rolling the overtakee.  Not all captains are courteous however and some will just blow by you, in spite of Coast Guard regs that state that you are responsible for any and all damage caused by your wake.

Such was the case with Sarah-dippity (stupid name anyway).  Her captain sped by us in a narrow channel, throwing a huge wake which tossed us all over the place and then he proceeded to scream by the sailboat ahead of us. I swear I thought it was going to roll far enough over for its mast to touch the water on both sides.  I re-christened that sport fisherman Sarah-Dip-Shit!  Pardon the language but as Jerry says, “Dicks come in all shapes and sizes!”  This captain should have heeded this message we saw painted on a bridge just south of Troy, NY.

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 In the first couple of months of our trip, we have met several youngish men who are doing the Loop solo, by choice.  Not wanting to pry, my curiosity is unsatisfied as to whether the Loop is a space between significant chapters of their lives, a bucket-list kind of thing, a conscious seeking of a minimalist lifestyle or something entirely different.

We sit in the Cape Fear River navigation and weather briefing classroom in Southport, NC with a young man who has just bought his boat in Charleston and started on the Loop four days prior to our meeting, with no real boating experience.  He was to have had some training before his departure but an emergency root canal laid him out for the 10 days that he was supposed to have trained and so he is figuring it out as he goes.

His boat’s name is Tyro (Tie-roh).  When I ask about it, he explains that the word comes from the Latin tiro, which means “young soldier,” “new recruit,” or more generally, “novice.” He goes on to explain that Herman Melville used “tyro” to describe men new to whaling and life at sea. He says if he fails in this endeavor, the guys who tow him back in will shake their heads and say, “Eh, it’s to be expected, he’s a tyro.”  BUT if he finishes the Loop and crosses his wake in Charleston next year, people will be impressed that he did it and say “Wow, he’s a tyro and he made it!”  Gotta love a guy who is prepared for the worst but who is expecting the best!


In Mystic, CT we are docked at the Mystic Seaport Museum and have been befriended by Lyn and Bob aboard the Albin 36 trawler named Coast Starlight.  We enjoy a cool but sunny afternoon sitting on their flying bridge, snacking on excellent peanut butter cookies and sharing boat tales.  They are not doing the Loop but bring their boat to Mystic from Rhode Island on a regular basis to visit with friends, always accompanied by their napkin-munching dog named Harry.

When I ask about the boat’s name, Lyn explains that they were not fond of the name the boat came with and that this was the last chance Bob was going to have to name anything the Coast Starlight.  They go on to explain that the Coast Starlight was the train trip (now run by Amtrack) that was the luxurious and romantic way to see the West Coast back when Bob was young.  It is the longest continually running train route in the U.S. and is widely regarded as one of the most spectacular of all U.S. rail trips, linking the greatest cities of the West Coast.  It runs from Seattle to Los Angeles, via Portland, Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay area and Santa Barbara with numerous other stops as well.

Bob claims that the scenery is unsurpassed, allowing excellent views of the snow-covered Cascade Range, Mount Shasta, lush and dense forests, fertile valleys filled with farms that grow much of our country’s produce and then there are the breath-taking stretches along the Pacific Ocean shoreline.

It sounds like the trip of a lifetime and when I do further research, I find that this 36 hour train ride still exists, is not unreasonably priced and that perhaps it is something that should go on our life-list of things to experience!



Just a clever name


I have only seen this boat in a blog about two young women who delayed starting grad school for the life experience provided by doing the Loop.  I really enjoy reading their insights and impressions of the journey but I LOVE the name of their boat.


From her co-captains, Emily and Grace; Elpis, from Greek mythology, is the spirit of hope- specifically the spirit that stayed behind to help mankind when all the contents of Pandora’s Box were released. Hope is one of the most powerful forces in the world, and when there is nothing else left, there is still hope.”  (


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Louise and Dick have a hard time understanding why people ask them why their boat is named Nine Lives (she’s a 44’ Endeavor Power-Cat or Power-Catamaran for those unfamiliar with that term).  If you still don’t get it, email me!


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Another Clever Sailboat Name


When I ask Nick to tell me about his boat’s name, he explains that Kailani is a Hawaiian term that combines the words for sea and sky.  “We are almost always on the sea and we’re always under the sky,” he said, “but there is another twist to it and that is that if you take our last name’s initial it is “C” and my wife owns a virtual store named Sky.  She designs Victorian dresses for avatars in an online virtual world.  So, that’s another C+Sky!

Man, you hear some interesting origins for people’s boat names!


No photo but when asked, “It relaxes and takes our layers of stress away,” say Art and Sue!  I suspect there is more to this name!



Saw this and thought of all our friends who are Jimmy Buffet fans!



This is really the name for all of our boats at one time or another!



We met Wayne (a fellow Rotarian from the Ingersoll Ontario Club) and Lori in Campbellford, Ontario.  We leap-frogged with them up to Orillia on Lake Simcoe.  I asked Lori about their boat’s name and she said that Wayne used to be a frozen meat broker and then when he retired he became an icemaker for the local curling club where he competes.  He has been curling since he was 10 and apparently curling ice is different than hockey ice.  Who knew!?!?!


I also love the fact that during the summer Iceman’s fenders are always deployed for lock navigation and the fender holders double as flower boxes once they hit Ottawa and are done with customs so they can buy flowers!


No photo of this 50+ foot cabin cruiser that blew by us too quickly to get a shot.  Her name definitely reflects her captain’s taste for speed though!


first forty.JPGWe met First Forty in the Keys and then again in Alton, Illinois where we traveled together off and on down the river system.  They put an offer in on their boat and went out to dinner to celebrate their anniversary, hoping their offer would be accepted.  At dinner, Bill toasted Bobbie, “Here’s to the first forty!”  She replied, “If we get the boat, I think we just named her!”  They got the boat!


Folie A Deux

Our friends Mark and Meridee inherited the name when they bought their boat and decided it was suitable enough to keep.  The term is in the DSM-V and is defined as two people having an identical delusion – believing something to be true which clearly could not be.  This is called a folie a deux, or sometimes a “shared psychotic disorder.” This unusual disorder is more likely to occur in a closely related pair, like twins, or a married couple, who are isolated from other people. Folie à deux means “shared madness,” or “madness for two” in French. We decided that all Loopers might be termed  folie à plusieurs (“madness of several”)!


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I put this one in for Paul Donovan!!! Thought it was a pretty clever play on words!

And here’s the last one!  Hope you enjoyed the cleverness of our fellow boaters!

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The Crossing

Sorry, I thought I had posted this and while it is probably not very interesting for regular folks, the point of it is to give the Loopers behind us, a glimpse into what the Crossing was like for us.  So here it is…

Week 51 – The Crossing

It is hard to believe that we are about to be done with this epic journey.  But home is now within a day’s journey, albeit a very long day.

It poured last night and we woke up to find the carpet in the bridge absolutely soaked, which is unusual.  We get as much stuff under it to ventilate it as possible but I know we will smell like a wet dog before long because it is so humid that it won’t dry any time soon.  I throw all the wet towels and stuff in the dryer so that we will have some dry things if it pours while we are crossing the Gulf.

We stow everything that could bounce around, ready our ditch bags


and charge all electronics that we might need during the trip.


We empty the dinghy, getting its spare gas can into it and then we secure anything on the decks that might crash around if the seas get rough.  Even Basil is seat-belted in for the ride home.


10:00  We meet with Kim at the C-Quarters office for a final weather briefing along with Carol and Tom of Desintation ??? and Lucie and Ben of Lulu.  We go back and forth about whether today or tomorrow will be better.  The problem with waiting until tomorrow is that we will still be at sea on Monday and the weather on Monday will deteriorate to dangerous conditions.  Kim feels that either day will probably be fine but we NEED to be gone with enough time to reach Tarpon before Monday’s weather hits.


The sun is shining and we make a unanimous  “GO” decision.


We will need to top off our tanks with “comfort fuel.”  Realistically we have enough fuel to reach Tarpon with plenty to spare but we know we will feel better if we are completely topped off.  We kill a half hour and then warm up the engines and head over to the fuel dock, which is right next to where Destination??? is docked.  As we finish fueling, I look up and no kidding, there is FOG rolling in.  Are you kidding me?!!?!?  This is NOT what we want!  Tom calls that he is rethinking going.  Jerry and I tell him that we are going to go ahead and we’ll text or radio back what the conditions look like once we get out of the harbor.  We will return to our slip if things do not look comfortable.

11:45  Makin Memories departs alone in the fog with Jerry at the helm.  We have about 30-40 feet of visibility and so can pretty much see from marker to marker.  Of course we have radar and AIS so we can see anything that might be out there.  The water is much calmer than it was when we came into Carrabelle but the proof will be found once we clear the cut by Dog Island and get into the Gulf.


12:28  We radio to our buddy boats that we are clear of Dog Island and waves are as forecast, mostly 2 feet with a couple of 3’s thrown in for good measure.  The direction of the waves is also as forecast, from the southeast, which is the best direction for us.  The period between waves is about 6 seconds which makes for a gentle up and down rather than a constantly pounding ride, so that’s a positive also.

Visibility is up and down between 40 feet and 40 yards but the sky is bright.  Our buddy boats decide they will follow us and should depart within a half hour.  We are glad they are coming and try to reassure them that the ride looks decent though visibility is an issue.

No matter what else happens, we are going to be doing about 11 hours of this passage in the dark so, to me, fog is good practice.  You can’t see a lot but you can see something and we have radar and a good chart plotter so we can and will have to go on instruments anyway once the sun sets. The fog will prove a good transition.


13:08 We get a text saying that Destination??? and Lulu are returning to the marina.  Dang!  I get it, you shouldn’t push if you aren’t comfortable and they are not comfortable.  Maybe they will come later in the day or the next day but we are now out of cell phone range and won’t know what they decide until tomorrow morning when we are close to shore.  Our prayers go with them whatever they decide to do.

13:45-16:00 We have lunch and I take the helm.  We have decided to take 2 hour shifts and mine is uneventful.  The sky brightens a bit and visibility comes and goes. We are in 40-80 feet of water and it is the beautiful blue-green of the Gulf again.  I am so happy to be out of brown water!!!

 Jerry reads a while and relaxes but I can tell he’d rather be driving!  A sweet little tern flies circles around the boat, traced in gold by sunlight.  He stays with us for a half hour or so but I can’t get a photo as the swells make focusing on anything impossible plus I AM driving! 😉

16:00-18:00 Jerry takes the helm and all is calm for about a half hour when he tells me to check the dinghy.  It isn’t good.  The waves are pulling on the rear outside pontoon and have loosened the back line to where the little boat is being pulled off the cradle.  I take the helm and Jerry dons his pfd and goes astern where he tightens the loose line and adds another one to keep the dinghy closer to our stern and up out of the swells.  He resumes control and guides us through conditions that are about the same.  The wind is still out of the southeast and the waves are still 2’s and occasional 3’s.  We can’t really see the sun through the fog but we can tell it is lowering toward the horizon.

18:00- 20:00 I take the helm and the sun is definitely setting or has already set.  I can make out the horizon but just barely and eventually what little light there is fades, disappears and all visual cues are completely lost.  This has now become an exercise in trust and endurance.  I can tell that Jerry doesn’t like this non-existent visibility by his pacing around the boat but eventually he calms into acceptance and relaxes to read for a bit.

I like to drive standing up and even now, I am more comfortable that way.  I loosen my knees and allow my body to become one with the motion of the boat.  It is much easier than staying stiff and fighting the lift, drop and tilt.  In the darkness, I can see my instruments and the faint glow from our running lights on either side of the bridge.  Through the glass, I can see absolutely nothing but I am amused that the light from the I-pad reflects off my face, painting a ghostly image on the strata glass that resembles Munch’s The Scream.

We have made enough progress that I can enlarge the I-pad map and can actually see the Anclote River on it.  Now I have something definitive to aim for rather than just a general direction and it makes steering much easier.  We have opted not to head for the Red 2 buoy, which most folks take as the most direct route.  As we are early, we want to stay out as far off shore as possible to avoid the crab traps and so we take a heading directly to Anclote Key.


At the end of 2 hours my ankles, knees and lower back can feel the stress of the constant motion of the bridge and I am glad when Jerry takes over.  I grab us a snack and settle in to read for a while.

20:00-22:00 – Jerry’s watch is uneventful.  The waves seem to calm a little bit and ease us into a steady rolling pattern.  I am constantly thinking of our buddy boats and wondering if they ever left Carrabelle or if they will go Sunday.  If they don’t, they will most likely be in Carrabelle for New Year’s Eve.  Either way, it’s all good.  You have to make a choice and be okay with it, forcing it doesn’t work well.  Jerry had really done the homework on conditions and was good with the forecast.  I guess the decision was easier for us; one of us has had extensive experience flying an airplane in zero-zero visibility and has also flown under the hood, relying on instruments alone.  The other of us kind of believes that historically the people who obeyed when instructed to “Fear not…” generally had some pretty cool things happen to them!

I read for a while and then make us some dinner before we switch roles again.  I am glad that I have prepared meals ahead so that food is easy.

22:00-12:00– 2 hours goes fast when you are relaxing or reading but steering without seeing stretches the time out unbelievably.  It is like playing the world’s most boring video game, trying to keep your little arrow on the chosen target.  Let your mind wander for even a nano-second and your course is off by 45 degrees and then panic has you over-steering to the point where IF you could see your wake, you would see nothing but S turns!  Relaxing into a zen-like focus is the best way to deal with the ennui.

I am happy to see Jerry relax, read and then sleep for a good part of the two hours.  I am sitting down to steer now and I can’t wait for him to take over. I am going to get an Aleve, my neck and shoulders are feeling the strain and my eyes could use some drops to alleviate the gritty feeling.

12:00 – 2:00 – I read and nap throughout Jerry’s watch.  The moon and stars are playing hide and seek with us through fog which must be less dense now but which is still billowing around us and is completely drenching the boat inside and out.  The clammy feeling is not pleasant but at least we are making forward progress.

2:00-4:00 – I can now see Anclote Key on my I-pad! HOME!!!  This is now exciting.  I can see some fish havens between us and the Key and know I will need to navigate between them.  These are easy to miss until you have your charts blown up to a detailed level.

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Photo Credit: Alamay

Fish havens are artificial shelters or reefs constructed of rocks, concrete, car bodies, and other debris which are placed on the gulf floor to attract fish. Fish havens are often found in the vicinity of fishing ports or major coastal inlets and can be hazards to navigation because they are marked with small yellow buoys (which we aren’t usually looking for) and can also create shallow areas that can be a problem.  The moon shines through the fog and I can even see it reflected on the water’s surface which is now glass smooth.  There are some gentle swells but there is no wind at all and the peace is amazing.

I keep marking off the distance to shore because I know that once we get 25 mile out, there will be crab traps.  We do not want to snag one and have to go under the boat with a knife to cut the line away from our props, especially in the dark!!!  A little while later, Jerry is doing his business over the side and sees a float slide by us in the dark.  Now we have to be especially alert but shining the spotlight doesn’t do much good as it simply bounces off the fog. Prayer covers us from aboard and ashore and we thankfully manage to avoid them, only seeing two but knowing there is probably a minefield of them out there!

4:00-6:00 – The sandbar off the north end of Anclote Key is now visible on our chart plotter and we stay as far out as we can, away from shore and crabpots and then angle in, working our way safely between the fish havens.  We get to the red marker at the tip of the sandbar, angle around it and drop the hook on the east side of the sandbar.

We could probably take the boat home in the dark and fog but we prefer to wait.  We are now in a spot that we come to anchor out on the weekends and we want to savor this last little bit of our journey, plus we are exhausted.  Fatigue battles with the high of having completed this epic journey and we are punchy reminiscing about having stayed at “the pits, the ritz and everything in between” as Jerry put it.  We retire our sadly, gray and well-worn white burgee for a crisp new gold one and Jerry proudly installs it on the bow of the boat.


The sun comes up and starts to burn off the fog and the world melts into view. We are home!


A few hours later the two of us pull up the anchor and bring the gold home to Tarpon Springs.


A dear friend is waiting for us to take a photo of Makin Memories sporting her new gold burgee.  It is a little sad that the trip is over but it is truly good to be home!

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We love living by the wisdom of this quote: “When life gives you choices, choose the path that will lead to a better anecdote!”  Boy, has this year been all about that!

As We Finish Our Loop

Today, 12/30/2018, a week earlier than planned, Makin Memories faithfully returned her captains, Jean and Jerry Coleman, to their home port in Tarpon Springs, FL after having successfully completed 7300 miles of the Great Loop.  We soloed 19 hours and 166 miles of the Crossing from Carabelle to Tarpon Springs.

We suffered no major injuries (a couple of cracked ribs) to person or property, no major illnesses (one case of flu), only minor mechanical challenges and no damage to shafts or props, so common on various parts of the Loop, especially when rivers are flooded and debris is rampant.  We were blessed by so many people, places and events during our Loop experience. Here are just a few for which we will be eternally thankful: (hopefully in the rough order of their occurrence):

Makin Memories at Cabbage Key Inn near Jimmy Buffet and Randy Wayne White’s photos IN OUR OWN BOAT.

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Seeing the amazing shades of blue of the waters around the Keys, Marquesas and Dry Tortugas IN OUR OWN BOAT.


Watching our boat pull anchor while we were ashore on Islamorada having a beer at the Lorelei resort and being able to get out to it, get it started and get into a slip there.


Having friends, Tom and Faith stay with us in Key West ON OUR OWN BOAT!


Taking part in the Archbishop’s Blessing of the Fleet in Saint Augustine IN OUR OWN BOAT.


Our friends not forgetting us and letting us Skype into book club from OUR OWN BOAT!


Re-visiting the wild horses and beautifully pristine National Seashore of Cumberland Island for the first time since I was 20 IN OUR OWN BOAT

Waking up to celebrate Easter morning in Savannah, starting with the half dozen donuts that were delivered daily to our boat at Thunderbolt marina!

Reconnecting with Colin in Charleston after hearing the Canterbury Boy Choir sing at Grace Episcopal Church.


Celebrating our anniversary at the Southport Marina in a VERY valuable briefing about weather and conditions from Cape Fear north to Norfolk.

Going up the Potomac on the way to D.C.,  and visiting George Washington’s home Mt. Vernon IN OUR OWN BOAT!

Getting to visit DC on Embassy day and see 5 different embassies with Andrea!


Weaving around the Staten Island Ferries, tugs and barges and freighters, in New York Harbor, to anchor behind the Statue of Liberty, IN OUR OWN BOAT.  And then getting to see Hamilton on Broadway!

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Watching Eric Clapton live at the Greenwich Town Party from the back deck of OUR OWN BOAT. (thanks, Tog and Doreen).

Being boarded for the second time by the USCG in New London with our cousins Tog and Doreen aboard, on our way to dock at the US Coast Guard Academy!

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Having Leland aboard to ride the Hudson River up the west side of Manhattan and past the Palisades in OUR OWN BOAT!

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Getting to do the Ausable Chasm ropes course when we were on Lake Champlain.

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Crossing into Canada on Canada day and spending two months in Canada, seeing Quebec City during the Fete d’Ete, whale watching in the Taddousec Bay and then being part of the International Fireworks Competition at La Ronde in Montreal mostly IN OUR OWN BOAT,

Going up the Flight of Eight locks to enter the capitol city of Ottawa and into the amazing Rideau Canal IN OUR OWN BOAT.

Getting to see Niagara Falls and visit Niagara on the Lake.

Getting to swim in the gorgeous, clear water of the Thousand Islands and see Boldt Castle IN OUR OWN BOAT.

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Visiting Hans and Keith at the Trenton Rotary Club and then having them and past RI President Wilf Wilkerson join us for drinks aboard OUR OWN BOAT!

The various marine mechanics and electricians who helped teach us more about our boat, especially David and Danielle.

Experiencing the Trent Severn Canal and riding the Big Chute and Peterborough Lifts IN OUR OWN BOAT.

Meeting up with dear Tarpon Friends, Bob and Diane in St Ignace, MI

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Having Blake and Zack visit Milwaukee and ride through Chicago with us ON OUR OWN BOAT!

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Taking a break from the boat to do the “Western Loop” through the Badlands, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Flaming Gorge (where we saw a pair of moose!) and Dinosaur Park.

Having Annelise explore St Louis and then freeze with us along the FLOODED Mississippi and seeing a pusher with her name on it!

Seeing wild deer and turkeys along the banks of the Cumberland River and then getting to see the Grand Ole Opry and visit my high school roommate Kathy in Nashville,

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Having a reunion dinner with Looper friends in Clifton, IL L->R  Bob, Jackie, Nancy, Sean, Jean, Jerry, Laura, Glyn, Cat and Gilles aboard Sadaya 2.

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Playing dodge ball with the trees in the FLOODED Mississippi and Ohio Rivers

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Enjoying a concert during docktails in Columbus MI where Prof. Tom Sparks played a violin that he had made!

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Tying up at Hoppies and Bobby’s Fish Camp and praying for the wind and current to take the debris to the east side of the river – enough said!  Loopers will get the reference here.

Sharing a Looper Thanksgiving dinner with great friends at Turner’s Marina in Mobile (and we have so very much to be thankful for)


Having BJ aboard to explore Pensacola and The Wharf and waking him up to help avert the great barge bash with us!


Getting to reconnect with college buddy, Evelyn and share Christmas Eve together in Panama City!

Making 166 miles of THE CROSSING from Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs safely as a solo vessel in zero-zero fog most of the way and coming home!  Now I get to wear the T-shirt!IMG_8397

And Makin Memories gets to wear the Gold!


Photo credit: Sue Thomas who was there as we arrived!

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There are so many more memories, but I don’t have enough room or attention span to share them all.  Jerry and I have a lifetime of conversations starters like: “Do you remember the time we (fill in the blank)?  And “Where were we when…(fill in the blank)? ”  It takes a village of Loopers to remember the names of all the places we have been, though maybe not at the same time.  Loopers, we are a little jealous of those of you who are just starting your Loop and to those who we have traveled with along the way, we have enjoyed our folie à plusieurs  (shared delusion)!

Jerry and I thank our family and friends for your support.  We could not have begun to undertake this without your blessing and encouragement.  We thank the 18+ Rotary Clubs we visited, especially Columbus and Trenton, who proved that Rotarians are an awesome group of people no matter where they call home.  Thank you to Coins for Alzheimers Research Trust for appointing us ambassadors on our “Cruise for the Cure.” (We will be the Tarpon Springs Rotary Program 1/31/19 and we hope you will join us then – bring your cons, checks etc!)

We thank the harbor hosts who turned many ports into homes-away-from-home for us.  We thank Kim at the AGLCA for keeping the forums up to date with great advice and information about everything nautical.

Thanks go out to Boat US, for the discounts and fortunately for the fact that we never needed to call them for a tow!

The experienced Loopers who allowed us to make our own mistakes but who were there when we needed help were invaluable and we send all of them a special thank you.  Our new Looper friends from all corners of the world, thank you for sharing this amazing experience with us and friends at home, thank you for bearing with us through 52+ blog entries and I have no idea how many FaceBook posts, you amaze us with your friendship even when we are apart.

We look forward to the next chapter of Makin Memories but for now we…

thank you from the bottom of our hearts,

Jean and Jerry

Aboard Makin Memories

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Week 50 – First the CROSSING and We’re Almost Home!

Leaving Niceville, Florida we cruise eastward in the ICW, which here is a series of connected lakes, and then into a 30 mile man-made canal which connects the lakes to West Bay and into the Panama City region.


The ride is lovely and calm and when we hit West Bay, we were accompanied by the BEST dolphins of the trip.  While we had 11 ride our bow wave as we entered Key West, and have always had dolphins rush to accompany us, these guys act like they want us to play with them.  They jump completely out of the very dark, tannin stained water and smack down on the surface almost like they want us to notice that they are riding along beside us.  Some ride our bow wave, looking a little like this photo

dolphin bow

and others leap and surf in the wake waves.


Either way, they roll and make very obvious eye contact with us and we enjoy their company for miles.

dolphin bow look

Coming into Panama City area is sobering.  Hurricane Michael has left its mark everywhere.


The blue tarps are more evident than are intact rooves and salvaged boats are being lifted by cranes onto the shore.  It is so sad, it reminds us of what we saw in the Keys earlier this year.


As we dock (next to the Sea Dragon pirate ship!) at the Lighthouse Marina (the only functional marina in Panama City) we can see the piles of debris that dwarf what we experienced after Irma last year.


The city has been devastated, losing hospital beds, jobs of all sorts and so many trees.  The Live Oaks still stand but the canopy created by their leaves is gone and the water oaks and pines are scattered everywhere like matchsticks.  We wanted so badly to get here to volunteer but arriving during Christmas week has not offered us that opportunity.

On Christmas eve we get to meet up with my college buddy from Oxford, Evelyn.


We choose a nondenominational church that is pretty close to the marina and attend Christmas eve service there.  Evelyn’s Catholic and we are Episcopalian and this is a much livelier service than we are used to but the spirit is wonderful.  Half of this church campus has been destroyed by Michael and lies in ruins beside the small chapel which will hold 3 Christmas Eve services.


It is an alive service that finishes with all of us raising glowsticks (safer than candles) symbolizing the Light of the World who came to us on Christmas day.


We leave with ears ringing from the decibel level but I think we are all happy that we chose to do this.

From there we try a couple of places on the beach that we frequented as young college students but they are either closed due to damage or for private events.  We end up at Saltwater Grill and have a great dinner while we catch up.

Evelyn shares what it was like to live through the hurricane and how eerie it was afterwards with twelve foot mountains of debris alongside the roadways.  She remarks on how HOT it was after the storm because the shade canopy from the trees is no longer there and how big an adjustment it is to lose all those beautiful old trees.

She has a great perspective though, knowing how fortunate she is to still have a home albeit damaged by the storm and still be able to work and travel when so many have had that choice stripped away from them along with their homes and all their possessions and jobs.  It is a lovely evening which ends too soon and we swear that it won’t be as long between visits as this one was from our last.


The next morning, we celebrate Christmas with small gifts and brownies for breakfast and then we get under way.  The trip today is downright grim.  Coming into Panama City, we traveled through the area that had been merely brushed by the western edge of the hurricane.  Today we travel through the areas that bore the full brunt of its fury and our hearts are heavy.  Buildings are damaged or just plain gone.


The remaining oaks are stripped of their foliage and stand mangled beyond recognition and the pines are either snapped in half or are bent and broken, lying in whichever direction the wind cast them last.


In some areas, not one pine is left, only pencil points of broken trunks reach skyward.  In others, only the slenderest and most supple stand starkly against the sky, with but a token number of needles still intact.


Boats lie scattered along the shores like a child’s broken toys and devastation is everywhere.

By the time we reach our anchorage in Saul Creek, we are mentally exhausted and ready to put the day behind us.


We sit alone in our peaceful creek anchorage, listening to the current gurgle along our hull. We hear a combination of strange swamp sounds and bird calls and give thanks that we have heard (via phone, text or WhatApp) that our loved ones are all safe and have enjoyed their Christmases – even Annelise sends a video of herself boarding down a sand dune in Israel!  As the sun sets on one of the most unusual Christmases we have ever shared, we KNOW that we are truly blessed.

The next morning, we make the short hop past Appalachicola to Carrabelle. It is a little rough but fortunately the wind and waves are all coming at our bow, which is the direction our boat and her crew handle best.and we pull into a slip a C-Quarters around noon, business end away from the dock as the tide is pretty substantial here and it looks as if it might be a little shallow near the dock.

As we are checking in at C Quarters we run into Tom from Destination??? who we first met in Columbus and then again in Panama City.  He invites us to docktails and when we arrive and introduce ourselves to the other couple, it turns out Dan and Lucy were aboard Lulu in Mobile and they watered our Basil plant when Cat and Gilles, who had been caring for it, left for France.

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 This plant has made it the whole trip, through customs illegally 4 times, lashed down against waves that wanted to give it a burial at sea a couple of times, provided countless fresh pesto pasta dinners for Jerry and me and has blessed many of our Looping friends with fresh basil along the way.  I think some people even rooted the cuttings we gave them and planted them so they would have fresh basil too! So, we thank Cat and Gilles and then Lucy and Dan for making sure Basil didn’t die while we were gone for 2 1/12 weeks earlier this month.)  I dropped the power cord on it by mistake yesterday and broke half of its branches off and it is still more of a tree than a plant!


Dan and Lucy of Lulu with Basil and us!

The Loop is a funny place where the world collapses into a series of common experiences made up of places and events.  No one really talks about the good times they have had aboard their boats, except in passing. It is always a sharing of disaster stories and learning experiences that always end with “What the hell were we thinking!?!?!”

And so we plan the next phase of our adventure together since we are weathered into Carrabelle for a couple of days.  We had thought that we would trace the western coast of Florida, hop scotching our way home through the little towns along the nature coast.

The local knowledge here says that this is not a good plan because this time of year the predominant wind is from the north and is pulling the water out of the already shallow accesses to these towns. So now we are contemplating doing the Gulf crossing with Lulu and Destination???

It is about 160+ miles from here to Tarpon which will mean a minimum of 20+ hours, some of which will be IN THE DARK, AMONG CRABTRAPS!!!! Pray for us! I have the T-shirt and now we are making final preparations to leave hopefully this afternoon (Saturday 12/29/18)

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Preparations are things like:

  • Consulting with locals here who know the conditions to call it a “go” or a “stay and wait for the next weather window” which could be a week from now.
  • Consulting all weather, wind and conditions websites to make sure we have as safe a predicted crossing as is possible, given the time of year.
  • Resting as much as possible last night and this morning.
  • Filling fuel and water tanks.
  • Making meals ahead so that we will have GOOD food without a lot of prepping during the trip since part of it will likely be rough.
  • Making sure the handheld radio has full battery charge.
  • Backing up files and photos to an external drive and making sure all essential electronics and valuables are in a waterproof bag on the back deck.
  • Getting all foul weather gear, including boots, out and ready should it be needed.
  • Preparing a waterproof ditch bag that has food and water, flashlights, hand-held radio, flares, knife to cut dinghy loose and other survival necessities.
  • Unloading the dinghy (we’ve been using it as a trunk for extra storage) and making sure we can cut it loose and go on a moment’s notice.
  • Checking the engine on the dinghy and making sure the extra gas tank is full and aboard.
  • Making sure Kindles have good books loaded and we have enough podcasts to keep us awake for 24 hours!
  • Stowing everything below decks that could crash around and get broken. Not sure what I’m going to do with our Christmas tree yet!
  • Lashing all movable objects above decks so that nothing will get broken or be a distraction should the seas become rougher than we anticipate.
  • Making sure we have a slip in Tarpon to dock the boat upon arrival.
  • Consulting with our buddy boats to make sure everybody has accurate cell and radio contact information and that we are all of accord that it is time to go.
  • Making sure our Gold AGLCA burgee (pennant) is ready to put on our bow when Makin Memories’ crosses her wake!

I am going to go ahead and post this even though we will not make the final “go” decision until this afternoon and will post on Facebook what time we will depart and our anticipated ETA in Tarpon given our “go” time.  Thanks for staying with us, friends and family – please pray for a safe crossing for us and our friends no matter what time we end up going?


Weeks 47-49

What a busy couple of weeks!  We drove home from Mobile to Tarpon Springs and were immediately enveloped in Herb Seaton’s Looper welcome committee!


We had dinner with several Loopers who had just made the crossing and later in the week were reunited with our friends from Moon Dance and Bella Blue who had also successfully made the Gulf crossing from Appalachicola.  It is heartwarming to see new friends really embrace the town you call home.  Rusty Bellies was a HUGE favorite, as was Dimitri’s and I know a lot of Looper relatives will be getting Tarpon Springs sponges for Christmas this year!

Family kept us busy with the arrival of our beautiful granddaughter, Presley James Coleman.


Her mom and dad are a little sleep deprived but are doing well and big brother, Walker seems to be adjusting to and accepting his new little sister with lots of “Awww’s” and kisses on the head.


I’m pretty sure they will be the dynamic duo in no time, keeping their folks on their toes.

Our nephew Joe married his beloved, Toni and the wedding was lots of fun with reunions with family members who we hadn’t seen in a while.  Joe and Toni are a devoted and beautiful couple and we wish them a long and happy life together.


My kids gave me the best Christmas present a mom could ask for by being all together in the same place for the last time in the foreseeable future.


Kristopher and Rachel will be moving to Pittsburgh at about the same time we return from our Loop (ETA 1/6/19) and Annelise is headed to Israel and then Morrocco and from there no one really knows but she doesn’t plan to be home any time soon.  Leland is now in Miami and seems to love the southeast coast of Florida, for the time being at least.   The photo of all three of them together will be a treasured keepsake for years to come.


We were able to spend time with my mom and reunite with dear friends while home but the time raced by and very quickly it was time to return to the boat.  Jerry’s brother BJ came with us and brought nice weather for almost his whole stay!  The first day back in Mobile was rainy but after that, it was actually sunny and even a bit warm while we were together.


We used that first rainy day and the fact that we still had the rental car to drive to Pensacola to see the National Naval Air Museum.  I had visited it when my kids were very small and the only thing I remembered was the Blue Angel simulator because we were all aboard and lifting off when Annelise panicked and hit the punch-out button which stopped the ride. I thought her brothers just might kill her that day!  The rest of the museum has grown and been drastically updated and is really a marvel to explore.


The guys had a blast playing pilot in the simulators and we spent most of the day there.  Later we found that the Pensacola lighthouse was closed for lens repair but we were able to walk around the keeper’s cottage, which was quite grand compared to some of the ones we have visited.


We returned the rental car and had dinner aboard the boat, turning in early.  The next morning dawned clear and sunny and warmed up quickly as we left Mobile to cross Mobile bay and into the ICW.


We spent the night at Orange Beach at the Wharf Marina which was very reminiscent of the National Harbor Marina outside of Washington DC.  There is a multi-storied time share along the marina which opens in an arch in the middle, leading to a main street that was decorated for Christmas.


There was Christmas music playing and all of the palm trees had lights which pulsed in perfect time with the music.  It was fantastic to see.  We enjoyed a pitcher of beer together and then had some outstanding barbeque.  Strolling the avenue afterwards treated us to more lights and Christmas decorations.


The next day we waited for the wind to die down and left the Wharf around noon.  We only had a little way to go to anchor out at Red Fish Point which is right near Pensacola.


 The anchorage was just off Perdido Key beach and we could see the Pensacola lighthouse from the boat as the sun set.


It was a quiet and calm night until about 4 AM when Jerry began stomping around on the deck.


“Hey, you might want to see this barge out here,” he called to me.  I was incredibly irritated as it was cold and too early to get up and I couldn’t imagine why he wanted me to get out of bed to see a barge in the dark.  He stamped around for another 30 minutes and then came below declaring, “We may need to pull up the anchor and get going! This guy is adrift, moving towards us and I can’t get him to respond on the radio!”


At this point BJ and I both came topside to find all of our Christmas lights and every other light we have brightly lit and sure enough off our starboard side was a barge that was definitely drifting closer and closer to us.  Jerry repeatedly tried to raise the guy on the radio and contacted other ships in the area, to no avail.  He started our engines and just as we were about to pull the anchor, the guy finally came over the radio stating that they had just changed tugs and that he did see us and that he wouldn’t hit us.  SHEESH!  That would have been nice to hear an hour earlier but we were all up, the boat was running and there was a gorgeous sunrise breaking over the beach.


Nobody was going back to bed so we went ahead and got under way.  Again, it was a short run and we pulled into Palafox Marina in Pensacola at 10 AM which was great!  Not only is it a really nice marina but it is situated right in the middle of the Seville area of Pensacola and is central to a lot of nice shopping, quaint neighborhoods and tons of restaurants and bars.   And to make it even better, all of it was decorated for Christmas!  We explored for a while and then returned to let the guys nap and then we had a fabulous dinner at Jaco’s right next to the marina.


Afterwards, BJ found an Irish bar he wanted to explore and Jerry and I went walking.  Pensacola does Christmas up big time for the kids (SO mad I didn’t take my camera along).  We came across a little train that was packed with children and a few parents that did a loop around the city streets and then delivered its occupants back to city hall where there was a HUGE tree and lots of activities for the kids to do and of course Santa was there, in his sleigh, noting Christmas wishes.  There were also tall candy-caned pipes that were spouting a fine mist of snow made out of bubbles and the kids were dancing underneath it trying to catch it as it fell.  It was a really nice evening and so wonderful to be able to stroll, arm-in-arm, without freezing to death!

We said good bye to BJ the next morning and were sorry to see him go but ran into friends and ended up taking a couple of hour walk with them through new neighborhoods up to the Publix to reprovision.  It is a small world, we were coincidentally docked right next to Glyn and Laura on Peregrine, who we have leapfrogged with since they started their journey in Milwaukee from the slip next to ours.

The first night we were in Milwaukee, we returned to the boat, after exploring, to see a HUGE party on the boat next to ours (it turned out to be their going away party) and then fireworks exploded across the sky for a good half hour.

The next morning, Laura and I introduced ourselves and I asked her what the fireworks were for, since it didn’t seem to be a holiday of any kind.  She won a place in my heart when she looked me right in the eye and declared soberly, “Those were for you, to welcome you to Milwaukee!” We have met up again with them in Joliet and Clifton as we came down the wretched river system and we got to catch up by sharing some war stories.  It is always fun to reunite with friends and while it is sad to leave them, we hope that the part they need to make repairs arrives soon and that we will see them when they hit the west coast of Florida.


That evening we went to the old Seville Quarter to Rosie O’Grady’s and attended the Rotary meeting there.  The Seville Rotary is the newest Rotary club in Pensacola, at almost 10 years old and is a nice group of younger professionals.  It was an informative meeting and we got to share our CART mission with them, which garnered a good bit of interest.

The next day we were under way early, headed eastward to find a hidey hole that would protect us from a predicted, gale-force storm bringing yet another cold front with it.  We decided to by-pass the Ft. Walton town dock as it was too early to stop and conditions were good to continue.

We made our way to Bluewater Bay Marina in Niceville, FL.  The marina was tucked away and so enjoys perfect protection from wind and waves.  We bowed in so we could clean some of the river stains off the bow, giving ourselves a back deck that faced out into the Choctawatchee Bay.


 There was a family of loons fishing the waters behind the boat and every once in a while a dolphin would blow pfffft  as he corraled fish into the weeds, creating feasting opportunities for the vigilant pelicans who surveyed his progress and then splashed down to share in his success.


Bluewater Bay Marina is a terrifically friendly spot.  We were greeted at the fuel dock by Eddie, who we haven’t seen since Savannah.  He is kind of a Looper legend.  As a retired Air Force pilot, he now provides a weather service for boaters, which is relied upon as boats prepare to make the Gulf crossing from the Panhandle to Pinellas County.

Once we pulled into our slip, we were immediately invited to docktails with new friends, Patty and Jack on Nearly Perfect.  They are the harbor hosts here and we had a great time sharing experiences and snacks.  There is a Christmas decorating contest going on so many of the boats are done up for the festivities.  If we could, we would vote for Nearly Perfect and hope their snowman will withstand the coming winds!  It was hard for me to get this picture, he was doing so much ducking and weaving!


There are a lot of live-aboards here and I can definitely see why.  The restaurant and oyster bar have something going on almost every night and the food is excellent.  We tried the roasted oysters and they were amazing!  I can still taste the garlic though!


It must be a really fun place when the weather is nice (how many places have I made that same remark about over the last year?)  There are picnic tables under ancient live oak trees right next to a little sandy beach.  Pelicans dive for fish just feet away from where the kids play on the beach.   We had to duck to avoid being hit by an incoming pelican yesterday.  Fortunately, he chose to dive just short of hitting us!

We were on our way to do laundry which is always interesting at marinas.  We have had fancy marble laundry counters, outdoor laundries where the cats stay warm on top of the dryers, and everything in between.  Sometimes they are outrageously expensive and other times they are free (a boater’s favorite thing because then you can do a load of beach towels and boat rags).

According to our waitress, the laundry in this marina was built around the owner’s favorite oak tree and sure enough when we went in, there was a hole in the floor and the roof through which a giant live oak grew.  This is all very charming until you are doing laundry in the rain and there is no dry place to put your clean clothes!


We are on the home stretch now, waiting for weather to allow us to move towards Panama City.  From there, we plan to trace the panhandle and the west coast of Florida to arrive home on Epiphany.  We know better than to believe this is cast in stone but that’s what we will be shooting for.

Week 46 Giving Thanks

It amazes me that we have been on this journey for 46 weeks and that we are coming down the home stretch. The past couple of weeks have been some of the most difficult, psychologically.  As we traveled the Loop in Florida and up the east coast, we saw Loopers here and there, had docktails with some of them and shared experiences upon occasion.  There are just so many options for places to visit and explore that we end up pretty well spread out due to our individual preferences.  Once we hit Chicago and came down towards Joliet, we became part of a flotilla.  The members of the flotilla change daily owing to: the top speeds each captain is willing to push his/her craft, to the number of days the crew wants to stay in a particular town, or heaven forbid due to mechanical issues that must be addressed, which can sometimes be lengthy.


This pack mentality can be trying.  We like to travel through undisturbed waters hoping to catch glimpses of wildlife along the way and have been rewarded with deer, turkey, beaver and eagle sightings.  In a flotilla, we have been first a lot of the time because as Jerry says, “If you ain’t the lead dog, the view never changes!”  The odds catch up with us though and often a faster boat will overtake us and become leader until he disappears around the bend of a river.

IMG_7978.JPGMoon Dance

We leave Columbus marina at dawn with just two other boats and lock through at dawn without a hitch.


The journey for the day is pretty easy; there’re only patches of debris rather than great islands of it and there are sticks as opposed to whole trees in the water.  We find out that we cannot lock through the last lock that we wanted to because the anchorage below it will have a dredge working through the night, making it impossible for us to anchor there.  So, we pull into Sumpter anchorage with our two buddy boats and it is a calm and lovely place to spend the night, just a few miles up from the lock.

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Catalina Jack

We call the Hefflin lock the next morning, acting as point person for our three boats, and the lock master informs us that he has a barge in the chamber and another one coming up river in a bit.  “Call me back in 20 minutes and we’ll see whether we will be able to lock you through or not.”

That isn’t very heartening and we relay the disappointing news to our friends.  When we call back, the lock master says, “Come now or wait 3 hours, your choice!”


Dang!  We all scramble to get our anchors up, get the glass cleared of fog (at least it isn’t ice this morning as it has been the past couple of mornings) and get into the river, knowing that there is a barge that will be coming out of the lock towards us.


 The fog is so thick we really can’t see much.  We contact the barge and he says he can see us but we can’t see him until he emerges, like a ghost, from the fog.  It looks like he is going to mow us down and he’s telling us to take him on the two which means starboard to starboard but we can’t see any room between his starboard and the bank.


He keeps saying that he is moving over for us and finally daylight appears between him and the bank though fog is still swirling around it.  We quickly move to that side and pass him safely.  Creeping along, we are able to get into the lock and we lock through as the fog lifts for good.


The rest of the ride is serene and pretty, with gray clay hoo-doos and interesting white cliffs beside parts of the river.


After a long day, we pull into Demopolis Marina and it looks like homecoming.  We recognize 99% of the boats here either from being with them or from the Meets app that shows where Looper boats are.  This is not good because it means that we will all be trying to get out of the marina and through the lock at the same time in the morning.

We meet up for docktails, appoint a spokesperson to coordinate with the lock master and call it a night.  We are not looking forward to the next couple of days because they are LONG river days with no marinas anywhere along the ride, which means at least a dozen boats all trying to fit into the small and limited anchorages that do exist.

The day dawns with thick fog and the lock master says to wait until he calls us.  He can’t see the lock from his building that is right beside it and his lock is closed due to fog.  He estimates a 7AM lock through but repeats that we are to wait.  At 7 the marina comes alive with engines roaring to life and a mass exodus is immediately underway, even though we haven’t heard from the lockmaster.  The fog is thick but we can see about a quarter mile and then it lifts.  The lead boat calls the lock and he is NOT happy that we already have 9 boats on the river. “I guess y’all didn’t understand what I said when I told you to stay put until I called you!” he says.  After some moments of radio silence, I guess he feels that we are less safe on the river because he tells us to come ahead and he will lock us down but he insists on each boat giving him its name and registration number before we enter the lock.


 The fog thickens even more and now all that we can see is the boat ahead of us as we approach the lock.  The lock master comes on the radio instructing us to stay on the left descending bank or we will miss the lock and go over the dam in the fog and we wouldn’t be the first boat that has done that!   Can this get any more fun!?!?!?

The answer to that is a resounding YES, it can!

We lock down and exit, nine boats in single file.  Coming around a corner there is a tug side-pushing a barge into the bank, meaning his prop wash will and does throw our boats sideways towards the bank but we are now all pro’s at dealing with this situation and adjust accordingly.  Then we proceed into literally zero visibility as the fog swallows the boats ahead of and behind us. We can see NOTHING.  Well, I can see that my eyes are deteriorating because I can see a LOT of floaters against the fog but that’s it!


We slow down and Jerry is steering by the I-pad chart plotter without any visual cues. It is reassuring that he has done this many times while piloting an aircraft on instruments alone but it is still unnerving driving forward into nothingness. I go up on the bow to watch for debris and the boat ahead of us until I can finally point him out to Jerry.


 We follow him about 3 miles until the fog lifts for good and we have a nice day – even warmer than yesterday when we put on shorts for the first time in over a month!  We are happy campers again!  We take the lead and travel almost a 10-hour day, making it to Bobby’s Fish Camp just as the sun is setting.  We have decided to run long days to get to Mobile in two overnights rather than the usual three.


Even though it is now dark, Jerry adds “comfort fuel” because, while we have enough fuel to reach Mobile, we have been having to run faster than we normally do because of the short days and fewer hours of sunlight that we have to reach our destinations.


Bobby’s is a fun old place, founded in 1956 and full of old Coke memorabilia and taxedermied wonders.  It would have been nice to arrive early enough to enjoy “the world’s best fried catfish” but the kitchen is closed and we opt to lift a glass with our friends to celebrate the fact that we will encounter our very LAST LOCK of the trip in the morning!


We get a very early start because there is no fog at all the next morning.  We are all doing the happy dance as we go through the LAST lock of our Loop at Coffeeville.


We are now in tidal water again and so must account for tidal movement as we plan how far we can travel in a day. The day we left, our friend, Steve gave us this advice, “Don’t ever drive where there are birds walking,” which has stood us in good stead.  On this river it is a little tricky because it appears as if the birds are walking in the middle of the river channel.  Upon closer inspection though, they are actually standing on floating flotsam and fishing from there.  We figure it must be like hunters in duck blinds.  The prey can’t see you if you are camouflaged!


The tide and current are a constant two knots with us and so we are able to make good time to our last anchorage at the Tensaw River.  We toss our anchor in and it immediately grabs fast against the current.  We monitor its hold for a while to make sure we are secure and when we don’t move at all, we breathe a sigh of relief and relax.  We end up with 3 other boats anchored in the river behind us and the current makes it look like they are under way and throwing a wake – that’s how fast it is.


Moon Dance at anchor!

This is why I love anchoring out.  It is quiet and so peaceful as the water gently moves the boat back and forth against the anchor rode.  We sit on the front deck in the warmth of the setting sun and an orchestra of crickets warms up, punctuated by the haunting “who-who’s” of a pair of owls calling to one another.  The three-quarter moon is rising and life is good.

After a sound sleep, the final 6 hour run into Mobile is a piece of cake.  We are so excited to see cypress trees swinging with Spanish moss and palmettos around their bases.  FINALLY, we are back in the land of civilized climate! We have now enjoyed three sunny days in a row, with no rain for a couple more and I think that’s a record for the last couple of months!


We enter the Port of Mobile and are overwhelmed.  We didn’t expect it to rival Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Norfolk but it does. There are container ships from almost every continent in the world, naval vessels galore and some things we have never seen before like a mobile dry dock for repairs to BIG boats!


We clear the port and enter Mobile Bay – we are back in the Gulf of Mexico and dolphins arrive to make us welcome – we haven’t seen any in half a year and it is thrilling to be back in the Gulf!  Shrimpers are everywhere, followed by clouds of hopeful pelicans and seagulls.


We arrive at Turner Marine with perfect timing.  We pull into our slip and get secured and set up just as a shrimper arrives across from our slip.

IMG_8069.JPGHe is selling fresh caught shrimp to people who are on a list.  They have come from restaurants all over the area.  I ask if there might be enough for me to get some and the old man directing the operations assures me that there should be enough once the pre-orders are filled.  We hustle back and grab our cooler and I buy 7 pounds of HUGE shrimp for $6 a pound (IF you could get these at home, they would be at least $15)!  I am so excited!


Our friends from France arrive shortly afterwards and we discover that it is Gilles’ 61st birthday.  We make a date to celebrate together.  I will bring the shrimp and Gilles declares he will cook them! I marinate the shrimp in some olive oil, garlic, salt and cayenne pepper and when Gilles pulls them off the grill they are succulent and fresh and fantastic!


I made a coffee cake for our breakfast and it doubles as a birthday cake since we are all too tired to make anything else.  It is a marvelous celebration with very good friends.  I think it was a good birthday for Gilles especially since he celebrated his 60th birthday sailing in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean (they are on a 4 year, around-the-world journey!


The day before Thanksgiving dawns bright and chilly but warms up quickly which is great because Turner Marine is throwing a fried turkey Thanksgiving feast for their staff and all who are in the marina.  While many boats are here while their crew have gone home, more are here with full crews aboard and we join about 3 dozen other Loopers for a fantastic meal.  All have brought sides which are excellent and the man who made the eggnog is truly a master. I don’t even like eggnog but this was delicious!

After a week of great meals with friends, we are ready to go home to meet our new granddaughter, celebrate the wedding of our nephew and catch up with friends and family.  The boat is tidied and we will rent a car tomorrow to drive home for a few weeks.  The plan is to return to the boat in mid-December and bring her home to Tarpon on Epiphany if weather and mechanical allow.  We are truly thankful for the people and places we have gotten to know this year and for the blessing of being able to take this trip at all.  We are also thankful for the family and friends we will reconnect with when we are home.


More in a couple of weeks as we resume our final leg of the Loop!


Week 45 Weather Stops Us AGAIN and Keeps us in Columbus, MS!

We’re back in the locks again!  Have I mentioned how much we HATE locks on this river system!?!?!  (We have done 134 locks during the 6,500 miles we have traveled so far) The locks on the Tennessee and TennTom are much smaller than what we have been dealing with and there seems to be less barge traffic, so these are not as stressful (though the first lock is an 80’ drop, our largest drop to date).


The challenge is that we are hitting them on a holiday weekend and there is a schedule in place for when they will lock boats through; the first lock goes through on the even hours, the next on the odd hours and so on.  As you can see, timing is pretty critical to success, or so we think!

We are designated to call the lock master at 5:30 AM (most likely because we are the only ones up that early) and then text everybody else the departure time.  We find that he wants us there for the 10 AM lock through.  It will take us 3 ½ hours to get there and so off we go as dawn as dawn is peeking over the horizon.

We pick up a few boats along the way that have anchored closer to the lock to be in ready-position, since they don’t travel as fast.  We are constantly hearing this one sailboat on the VHF discussing how slow his boat goes and that he wants the lock and all of us to wait for him AND he wants to make sure there is a starboard side tie since he is carrying a stepped mast aboard and a starboard tie will make his life easier.  Mind you, this is AFTER we are all already inside the lock and tied up (mostly on the starboard side!)  He wants to be last AND to have it exactly the way he wants it.  We just shake our heads.  I am going to omit the name of the boat in the interest of political correctness because this story continues.


Arriving at the lock at 9:45, we are instructed to enter the lock chamber and secure ourselves to a center-tied bollard.  The wind is directly from the stern and is blowing to beat the band.  Jerry has become very adept at getting us right on the pin and I am now an expert bollard lasso-er so we are successful in tying on right away but it is rough.  Usually once you enter a lock, it is pretty protected and wind is not too much of an issue but with the wind coming directly from astern we are getting beaten up inside the lock as the waves toss us against the lock wall over and over again.  We have every fender we own deployed to good use and we are okay but it is very uncomfortable.

We just want the lockmaster to close the damn doors so this will settle down! And to make it worse, the lock master decides he will wait for the whiny sailor to arrive.  We all groan.  We get being efficient with the resources and all of that but to penalize the 8 boats (5 power and 3 sailboats) who managed to plan a timely arrival for one guy who delays us for 50 minutes is disconcerting, especially because this may jeopardize our ability to make the next lock on time vs. waiting 1 ½ hours for the next lock-through.


We try to make the best of it and are heartened to hear the lockmaster comment that because we have so many boats together, the next lock will probably open immediately for us rather than making us wait for the schedule, IF there is no commercial traffic.  This actually ends up being the case but we spend all day waiting for the whiner at each lock along the way.  SHEESH!

We all end up in the same marina and the game plan is identical the next morning.  The first lock is nearby and he wants us there for the 7AM lock-through so off we go again, as dawn breaks.  It is 29 degrees and I am wearing three shirts, a fleece vest, a sweatshirt and windbreaker on top, and then 3 pairs of socks, leggins under my jeans AGAIN, two pairs of gloves, a scarf and boots to try to stay warm. I feel and look like the Michelin Man and it is a nifty trick to get my PFD (which fits fine over a bathing suit) loose enough to strap over all these clothes!  Have I mentioned how much I HATE winter clothes?!?!?  There is ice on the docks and decks and this is getting old!


All of the 6 power boats are in the lock at 7 AM sharp and the lockmaster asks if anyone has heard from (insert name of whiny sailboat here).  We all groan and answer that we have not.  The last boat in says that he left the marina and not one of the sailboats was stirring at all.  The lockmaster thanks him and says, “Well, let’s get this show on the road then.”


The cheer that goes up from all the power boats is deafening!  No sailboats for a whole day that will include 4 locks and cover 60 miles is magical and we feel like we’ve drawn the get-out-of-jail-free card!  WOO-WOO!

Jackie exit midway 4.jpg

Photo Credit: Jackie Carlson-Hayes

The day turns sunny at noon and the temps climb to a balmy 50 degrees, which finds us shedding layers and turning our faces up to the sun’s warmth.  We pass a majestic Bald Eagle, which is very fitting since it is Veteran’s Day today.   It has been really uplifting to see so many of these birds especially the numbers of juveniles flying along the rivers.


As we get close to the marina around 3 PM we pass lots of white pelicans who have come south but I think they probably need to keep going; this is NOT warm!  We enter Columbus Marina to see Mia and her sister, Ella (see Week 43 Post if you don’t remember Mia and her story) waving at us from the office.  Their sweet little faces shine with happiness to be reunited with friends that are in our group of boats but I don’t think they have enough clothes on!

We plan to remain in the Columbus Marina for a few days as the weather is dismal and we want to try to visit a Rotary Club here.

I contact the Rotary Club and receive an almost immediate response, along with an invitation to dinner and we are thrilled.  Many times we message a club and get no response.  Bob Raymond, a French teacher here in Columbus picks us up and take us to the Welcome Center where the CEO of Visit Columbus, Nancy Carpenter has come in on her day off to welcome us and give us a gift bag of city must-do’s.  We are so warmed by her southern charm and hospitality and feel instantly welcome in this city.  Bob takes us on a driving tour of the historic district of Columbus and is very knowledgeable on architecture, history and the people of his city and we gain a real feel for the evolution of Columbus from being a civil war hospital town (for both confederate and union soldiers) to the very vibrant city that it is today.


We enjoy a wonderful dinner with Rotary President, Stacy Madison and his wife Heather and Major General (ret USMC) Tango Moore and his lovely wife Lee Ann.  Tango was chief of staff of MacDill AFB for a year and so is familiar with our area.  The evening is delightful with great stories and witty repartee between Bob and Tango that cannot be taken as anything other than an enduring fondness for each other.  Again, we feel like family here!


The next day we grab the marina courtesy car with our Moon Dance friends.  We take a tour of the home where Tennessee Williams was born and our friends drop us at Rotary where we enjoy a wonderful lunch and a great meeting.


Our friends pick us up again and we tour the Friendship Cemetery where many union and confederate soldiers are buried


and where Tennessee Williams’ grandfather Rev. Teasdale is buried.  He was the priest at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and was so beloved, it was said that when he died, the angels wept, hence his grave marker.


From there we tour the Tom Bigby waterway museum which has a fun display where you sit in the pilot house of a tug and get to see how the controls work and some of the scenery from a pilot’s viewpoint.  It is a nice little museum.


The wind is up and temps are dropping rapidly as we come back to the marina in time to do docktails and a planning meeting. Five more Looper boats come in. One is a sailboat whose captain has been outside all day at the helm of his boat and he looks painfully cold. “Ain’t no way in Hell, I’m leaving tomorrow!” he declares.


There is a lot of discussion about leaving tomorrow or staying.  Because of the amount of rain this week, the river is flooding (expected to crest at 60 feet above flood- SHEESH, here we go again!) and is carrying a lot of debris, according to some of the Loopers who left yesterday.  We had planned on going tomorrow but there is no marina until we get 100 miles and 5 locks down to Demopolis, AL. This means we will have to anchor out at least one night.  And if the flooding and debris weren’t bad enough the lows for the next couple of nights will be in the 20’s with freezing rain and/or snow expected.  Jerry and I decide we are going to stay put at least one more day.  We just don’t think that venturing out under the current conditions would be prudent or safe.

We spend most of the next day on the boat (I don’t think I got out of my pj’s until around 3 PM).  Since we will be back in salt water soon, Jerry replaces all of our zincs, which are the sacrificial metals in the engines.


Later that evening, we meet with many of our fellow Loopers for a concert by a university professor and fellow Looper, who taught violin making.


He has made his own violin which is impervious to the humidity on a boat because the wood he used was soaked for a couple of months in water and then dried before he even began creating this instrument.  He says that you could throw it in the water, let it all come apart and then glue it back together and it would sound every bit as good as it does now.

Sorry this video is sideways, I can’t figure out how to right it but it is here more for the sound than the visual anyway!

The music is amazing, especially considering the fact that Tom broke all of his fingers, which now have pins holding them together.  He is soft-spoken and kind and oh so generous in sharing his gift of music and knowledge about the history and evolution of the violin music that we enjoy that evening.  What an experience this is for all of us!


After the office closes and the concert is over, we head out with our group and enjoy a wonderful dinner at Huck’s Place.  On our way home, after dinner, we see bits of snow in the streetlights drifting down around us. REALLY!?!?!?

Today we will tour some of the historic homes but I am going to go ahead and post this because we will leave at dawn tomorrow and have been told that we will not have any internet until we get to Mobile on Tuesday, if all goes well.

Week 44 We’re FREEZING! We add Mississippi to our List of States visited!

This week  starts with some backtracking and more engine challenges.  We retrace our route from Nashville, TN  to Grand Rivers, KY by going down the Cumberland River.  Having the current with us is a nice change and we make good time, clearing the one lock with no delays or drama, YAY!  Being back at Green Turtle Bay Marina sort of feels like a homecoming even though all the boats we know are long gone.

More than 200 hours have elapsed since our last oil change and so we borrow the marina’s courtesy car and make a run to Walmart where we re-provision and buy all the oil and other junk for optimal engine care and feeding.

On the way home, we comment to each other about how well the engines have been running and about how we have come in well below budget for two months running since we have had to make no repairs.  BIG MISTAKE!!!  The karma gods strike quickly!

Jerry warms up the starboard engine and changes the oil and filters in record time. He is getting to be quite the diesel mechanic (he brags that he can even spell diesel now!).   When he goes to warm up the port engine – nothing – nada- zilch!  He tries everything he can possibly think of, fearing that it may be a bad solenoid or starter in which case we might be stuck here for days waiting on parts to be delivered.

 He goes to the Boat Works part of the marina and the guy there takes one look at him and says, “Don’t even sit down, I’m telling you right now that I can’t help you!  You guys (meaning Loopers) have been nothing but trouble this year…busted shafts, nicked props a record number of tows off groundings out in the lake. I am way behind in winterizing boats and I can’t spare any of my mechanics.  If we don’t get these boats finished, I’m liable for the damage a freeze might do.  I gotta tell you, I am Loopered-out!”

Jerry explains that he is pretty sure the problem is not mechanical but is electrical and the guy softens, saying that he CAN help with that and get an electrician to us first thing in the morning.

Jerry watches YouTube videos and the next morning we work together and are successful in literally hotwiring our boat, starting it by bypassing the solenoid!  We are very proud of ourselves but don’t tell anyone that we are now in possession of the kind of know-how that would allow us to actually steal a boat!  To us, the fact that we are able to do this means the solenoid and starter should be okay.

The electrician actually shows up when promised and confirms that our parts are fine but we have a broken wire between the starter switch and the solenoid.  He rewires it and off he goes after the engine starts up with a roar, YAY!!!  And the best news is the bill doesn’t break the bank.  Jerry changes the remaining filters and oil on that engine while I use the first really sunny, warm day in an eternity to super clean the decks and polish the stainless rails and stanchions.   The boat looks better inside and out by the time we are done.

The time has changed now and it gets dark early but we throw a dinner party anyway since the weather is nice.  We have our friends from Sadaya II (a powercat on a three-year, world tour that began in France) and from Moon Dance (a fellow Florida Looper) over for a candle-lit dinner on the flying bridge.  We laugh for hours, really enjoying each other’s company and it is sad when we all decide we’d better get to sleep since we plan on an early morning departure to get onto the Tennessee River.


It is hard to believe that we are now really and truly on our way home.  The Tennessee river is very wide but our channel hugs the eastern shore where the trees wear their glorious fall foliage.  It is unfortunate that we have a gloomy gray day here but thankfully it isn’t raining, which was forecast.


We are traveling upriver but there is little to no current, thankfully. We have an uneventful 73 mile run to Pebble Isle Marina in New Johnsonville, TN, where we pick our way carefully in through a VERY narrow channel and dock.


It turns out that the reason the channel is so narrow and twisty is because we are actually driving through/over the main streets of the old town of Johnsonville, which was literally flooded when the Tennessee Valley Authority built the Kentucky Dam in 1944.  Some of you might recall the George Clooney movie Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” that was set in this area at about that time.

The forecast is for a low of 27 in a couple of nights and I am now ready to get moving further south.  We are more than ever confirmed Floridians – hating the cold that makes our hands not work well and the constant gloomy skies.  We need lots of light for optimal functioning apparently!

We cruise most of the day with no locks and arrive in Clinton where we reunite with 2 sailboats we have been with off and on and our whole crew of 9 enjoys a fabulous treat of homemade French cuisine aboard Sadaya II.  Thank you, Cat and Gilles!!!!



Photo Credit: our new friend, Jackie (second from left) who is doing the Loop with her dad and 2 kids who are “boat-schooling” this year!



The morning dawns really COLD AGAIN! UGH!  We actually have ICE crystals on the strata-glass!



We are SO happy to have brought our heating pads which work well as seat heaters, foot warmers and which draw so little voltage that we can actually use them any time.  Have I mentioned how much I HATE winter clothes!!!?!?!?  The constant layering of socks and sweaters and having to wear leggins under my jeans! UGH!! I HATE THIS!!!


This is us trying to hover in the current near the lock!

Photo credit: Catherine Szpirglas Toulo

We made it through the Pickwick Lock, after jockeying against a 5 mph current for over 2 hours (the hydro electric plant was really cranking to provide heat for the coming frosty temperatures) waiting for a tug that couldn’t get his barges in or out of the lock – sheesh – I think he had his learner’s permit!  The delay there after a 7 hour ride caused us to have to come into Aqua Yacht Marina in Luka, Mississippi in the dark, which we are not big fans of but all went well and after today, we will have fewer than a dozen locks left to get to the Gulf and hopefully some warmer weather!  Sorry for the whining 🙂

Week 43 – Music City!

We relax into the atmosphere of Green Turtle Bay Marina. We have heard about it for months and it doesn’t disappoint.  The marina is lovely with lots and lots of Looper boats. There is a well appointed ship store and everything that isn’t a boat part is 30% off so we have a great time browsing but not so much buying.


We connect with new friends and say goodbye to some of those with whom we have traveled for a while now.   It is funny how you can tell where people are in their Loop journeys by looking at their burgees.  Some that we see are brand new and crisp, others are well worn and are beginning to be a bit tattered like ours and others are barely discernable as AGLCA burgees. These are the folks we envy.  They are taking their time, going back and forth home to work or just visit and then returning to continue their Loop.  Some have been at this since 2011 and while some smell the barn now and are hurrying home, others don’t want this experience to be over and are finding any excuse to side trip anywhere just to prolong their journeys.


We enjoy a fantastic potluck dinner with Looper friends before we bid all a fond farewell and leave GTB at first light to start the trip to Nashville.  It is a gorgeous day that starts with a lot of fog but shortly sees us shedding coats and scarves as the temperatures climb.  The Cumberland River is a really nice change in that the water is tranquil and free of debris and all of the markers are exactly where the chart plotter says they should be. What a nice change from our recent river experiences on the Illinois, Mississippi and Ohio rivers.  Fall is touching the leaves with color and it is a long 11 hour trip to Clarksville (Yes, I can hear the Monkees’ song in the back of my mind) but it is a peaceful and pleasant journey.


We pull up to the town dock just as the dude is turning on the power for us and we ask for a restaurant recommendation.  We follow his direction to Strawberry Alley Ale House and have a fantastic dinner of chicken picatta for me and a home made vege burger for Jerry (his was good, mine was exquisite!).  We stroll the river front after dinner and turn in, ready to travel to music city tomorrow!


The trip is long but even prettier than yesterday because we travel through fall foliage that works its way up and down small mountains.  We see deer and turkey along the river and after a long day we come into Nashville at sunset.


We get the boat secured and crash for a bit but the draw of the city is too much and so we stroll Broadway and sit at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge listening to two bands simultaneously.  It is amazing the sheer number of musicians in this town and we only really walk about 8 blocks before we are really done and return to the boat.


The next day we play tourists and do the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.  We are not really country music fans, not that we don’t like it, we just haven’t been exposed to enough of it to really know much about it so our expectations for this museum are modest.


Boy, are we pleasantly surprised!  We travel back in time, tracing the roots and expansion of country music through the ages.  It is a blast to see Willie Nelson with short hair and performing in a suit and tie back before Willie became the Willie we all know and love today, grizzled and twinkling at the camera.  We love that there is an exhibit dedicated to the Outlaws Era (Waylon, Willie and Kris) and a lot of information on the Armadillo World Headquarters which we didn’t know before.


It is really neat to see my old school mate from Princeton Day School, Mary Chapin Carpenter honored here.  Mary Chapin has won five Grammy Awards and is the only artist to have won four consecutive Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, which she received from 1992 to 1995.  She has sold more than 12 million records worldwide. On October 7, 2012, Mary Chapin Carpenter was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Maybe the biggest shocker, after seeing that Shel Silverstien (author of the Giving Tree) writes successful country lyrics, is to see Kris Kristofferson’s military uniform!  He attained the rank of captain, was a helicopter pilot and an Army Ranger. He was offered a scholarship to Oxford and a teaching position at West Point but turned both down to focus on his music.  Never would have guessed that in a million years!  This museum was a great way to spend a day.


The next day is rainy and windy so we stay in to work on paperwork and do some light housekeeping.


By noon is dry enough to walk into town and we visit the Frist Museum of Art which has a wonderful exhibit called Paris 1900.  We are lucky enough to catch a docent lead tour and learn about the Belle Epoch (1875-1918) through the art of that time.


The museum also has a fantastic children’s room where lots of materials are set up for art exploration.

IMG_7784.JPGAfterwards we walk across town to the Tennessee State Museum which is an extensive and well curated history of the state from prehistoric days through the present era.  We like the Bicentennial Park which leads to the museum.  It traces state history through the ages in a series of stone pillars and walls that mark historic events in Tennessee history along with famous quotes that are applicable to the happenings of each decade.  It is really well done.


This one was Jerry’s favorite!

IMG_7800.JPGWe wish we had more time here to explore the Farmer’s Market and other areas near here but I am excited to spend some time with my old roommate who I haven’t seen since a class reunion in 1990 or 91 (?) and we need to get back to the boat and cleaned up.

Kathy and her husband arrive for a tour of the boat and we catch up over drinks and appetizers and then head out for a wonderful dinner near where they live in East Nashville.  It is a fun evening and it seems like just yesterday not 20 some-odd years since we have last seen each other.


The next day, Kathy is kind enough to use her day off to shepherd us around Nashville, showing us city and suburban neighborhoods and making sure we see her alma mater, Vanderbilt University. We got to see Kathy’s gorgeous home and neighborhood, did a little shopping and went back to the boat.  It is easy to see why Kathy and David stayed right where they went to school. Nashville has so many diverse and wonderful draws, I know we will come back to see some of the sights we missed due to lack of time.


Somehow our tickets for the Grand Ole Opry were for 9:30 not 7 as we had thought and we killed some time listening to an amazing band called The Skeleton Crew at the Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie bar on Printer’s Alley.  Thankfully they were more rock than blues and we really enjoyed the performance and the venue which had a more intimate feel than did some of the venues we saw on Broadway.


I have heard of the Grand Ole Opry for decades and always thought it was a place.  So it is a lesson for me to find out that it isn’t a place, it is a live radio show which can take place in different venues.  Our tickets are for the Ryman theater and the experience is amazing!


We hadn’t heard of most of the performers except for Larry Gatlin, who emceed the first segment and Ricky Skaggs (inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame just a few weeks ago) who emceed the last segment.


The show is fast paced with performers doing 1-3 songs and then making way for the next act, as an old time radio announcer does the ads for the sponsors in between.  The talent of these people from bands, to comedians to a capella septet called Home Free (my personal favorite) is absolutely stunning (  The audience is totally engaged, clapping and cheering and we were all sad when it was over.


Nashville was all that we expected and more and we hate to leave but it really is getting too consistently cold for these poor Floridians and we need to be moving south towards warmer weather!  Thanks again to Kathy for a wonderful introduction to her home town!

Week 42 – Missouri and Kentucky!

Leaving from Alton Marina, we contact the lockmaster at 6:30 AM to determine when he thinks we will be able to lock through.  The past few days they have taken groups of PC’s (pleasure craft) at 9 one day and 11 yesterday.  We have two other motor vessels and two sailing vessels accompanying us but when he says he wants us there at 7:15 a mad scramble begins.  Some of our friends race to get their dogs walked while others are just wiping the sleep from their eyes.  This is way earlier than we had anticipated being taken but we are happy because it means our travel day will be impacted less by commercial traffic through St. Louis since it is early on a Sunday morning (we chose this day with that in mind).


We all exit the Alton Marina under the bridge that looks like a mini Sunshine Skyway and move toward the lock.  When we get there, the lockmaster says that we will have to wait on a tug and barge which we can now see coming down the river. This is irritating because he had to have known that this guy was on his way and putting him through first will mean we have to wait, burning fuel for at least an hour before we can get through.  The lockmaster comes over the radio, directing us to get on the wall outside the small lock, which isn’t being used due to piles of debris, where we will be out of the barge’s way as he approaches the lock.

Looking at how fast the water is running makes my stomach tie up in knots.  I put on my PFD thinking that this can’t be safe. We are the first boat and Jerry gets us right to the wall and I am able to get a line on the bollard but the current is running so hard and fast that I can’t hold it and it is whipping our stern away from the wall which means the bow will be pushed into and scraped along the wall  if we don’t reverse out and get away quickly (have we mentioned how much we HATE locks!?!?!?).  I cast us loose which pushes the bow away and stern closer to the wall.  I yell to Jerry to give it throttle FAST so we don’t scrape the dinghy and swim platform against the wall.  Unfortunately, we now have two sailboats ahead of us who have also abandoned the idea of getting on the wall safely as well.

We are all being swept sideways towards the wall but thankfully each captain sorts himself out and we play dodge-boat trying to get back upriver and out of harm’s way.  We are angry that a lock master would direct us into a situation that he had to know was unsafe.  When the tug and barge get into the lock, we hear the tug captain remarking to the lock master how exceptionally strong the pull from the current against the lock wall is and this is from a guy that is piloting 8 barges long and 3 across and must weigh thousands of tons!

They lock him down and eventually come back for us. I am now gun-shy and scared to death to go into this lock but we do and as we hoped the current abates as we move further into the lock until we secure ourselves without incident.

IMG_7675.JPGOur group convoys out of the lock and through the next one without a problem and we round the  riverbend to catch sight of downtown St. Louis and the Gateway to West  Arch.


We rocket through the bridges and past the Arch and are almost immediately playing dodge-boat with commercial traffic.  Some of these barges are 5 across and as much as 7 long.  One boat pushing 35 fully loaded barges (called a fleet) is not to be messed with and we talk with them via VHF radio to make sure we are passing them on the side they prefer.


It isn’t a long day and we are tied up at Hoppies Marina (I use that word with tongue in cheek) which is 4 barges tied together along the side of the riverbank.  Because they are floating, the barge-docks move as the river moves, which means they are quiet and calm until a pusher goes by.  The incredible power that these guys exert is reflected in the mountains of water they leave for half a mile in their wakes.  They don’t leave a V shaped wake the way displacement hull boats do.  They throw a straight line of 4 foot water mountains behind them.


Hoppies Marina is now run by the third generation of family members who are following in their parents’ and grandparents’ footsteps.  The grandfather, father and uncle were all river lamplighters.  In the old days, there were kerosene-lit mile markers all up and down the river that the barge captains used to navigate and the Hopkins men used to travel to refill the kerosene in the lamps every other day, no matter what the weather was.  Kerosene ceased to be used years ago and the mile markers are becoming obsolete now as well, with GPS noting the mile markers clearly on the chart plotters and paper charts as well.


We help the other two boats, we’ve been traveling with, tie up and we venture into town to check out Kimswick.  It is an adorable little town but everything closes at 5 and doesn’t open again until Tuesday.  So we share a fabulous dinner at the Blue Owl and head back to the boats.  I love sleeping here.  The passing barges provide a steady hum and keep the water stirred up enough that we are rocked to sleep and are subconsciously aware of the boat moving in gentle rhythms all night.

The next day is more of the same only the commercial traffic is even more dense.  As we travel the Mississippi, we not only have barges voyaging up and down the river but we have fleets of barges anchored smack in the middle of the river with pushers going back and forth across the river, bringing more barges to add to the fleet.  It is a little unnerving but we manage to stay out of everyone’s way and make it to the Kaskaskia River where we tie up along a lock wall for the night.


 There is no power or water so we are glamping but that’s not a problem.  Once we are all settled, we bring our chairs and appetizers out on the concrete wall and enjoy “locktails” together.


It is gorgeous as the sunsets and the almost-full moon casts her reflection across the darkening, calm waters.


We depart early the next morning with a soft mist rising from the water.  When the weather is cold, we really make more of an effort to eat well, doing much more cooking than we do  when it is warm.  This morning, breakfast of banana pancakes with fresh strawberry topping is eaten under way and is a pleasant way to start the day.


This section of the Mississippi is mostly wide and pretty calm unless you are passing barges.  There is a hint of fall in the trees along the bank and thankfully we have had a rebound in temperatures.  We are able to be in shorts and t-shirts again for the first time in months and we use the warmer temperatures to clean the boat – sweeping floors and cleaning the strata-glass and other housekeeping items for which it has been just too cold recently.  Working while we are underway makes the day pass quickly and we spy Little River Diversion which is our goal for anchoring tonight.


First Forty is in the lead today and they do recon as it looks like the mouth of the creek is choked with large debris.  They inch in, move up the creek and drop the hook near the bridge with us and Moon Dance (who has been running mostly on one engine today due to a failing engine water pump) following along behind.  We navigate the logs and branches to cleaner water and all drop two anchors as this is a narrow little river.  We relax into an Indian Summer afternoon and listen to the wood peckers and robins call to each other. There are turtles on the shore basking in the sun and it is so nice to be warm without a million layers of clothing on!  We have our Octoberfest dinner of Bratwurst, sauerkraut, salad and spaetzli and call it a night.


We get an early start as we will have a long day to get to Paducah, KY the next day.  It’s interesting to note that the barges never stop but run 24/7.  We are starting to be able to understand most of what they say but if you weren’t born in Mississippi or Alabama it takes a while to train your ear.  You might hear something like this:

“Is is da Crimson Rose. Yeh, will be movin on sout tru da bridge naw.  Iffn yeh wanna cumonbye, take me on da two whistles and steh unner da Ilnois span.”

Translation: The Crimson Rose is moving south through the bridge and if I want to pass I  should stay on his left side under the span of the bridge that is on the Illinois side of the river.  Mostly we just look at each other and ask, “What the %#*&# did he just say!?!?!” But we are getting better at it.

Photo Credit: Gary McMichael

We cruise for a few hours before we turn from the Mississippi onto the Ohio river and the water changes from muddy brown to the green river color that we are used to.  The number of barges anchored in the middle of the river is just astonishing and I note an important life lesson from the experience.  Looking far ahead of us is overwhelming, we can’t see which barges are under way, which are anchored or how many of them we need to interface with to avoid trading paint.  But as we move slowly and steadily  forward, our way becomes clear and we proceed along the path that we planned with increasing confidence.

We luck out with all the locks we should have had to navigate being flooded so we get to cruise right on by them without stopping and we do the happy dance!!! NO locks today!!!!


We pull into the dock at Paducah and marvel at the pylons which are 53 feet high.  The dock man tells us that just a few weeks ago the water was at 51 feet and almost came into the walls around the city!  And none of this seems to faze these people, they seem to just take it in stride but they do have a wall along the river that can be sealed off if the water rises too much.

We find an excellent Italian restaurant and the eight of us enjoy dinner and stories of each other’s experiences before strolling back to the boats.  It was a long day of cruising (97 miles in 9.25 hours) and we are all happy to be fed and tuck into bed early.


We head out early the next day, headed for Green Turtle Bay.  It is drizzly and gray and we travel from the Ohio to the much smaller Cumberland River.  Fall has started to sprinkle flecks of orange and gold along the way.  The water is way down on this river and the roots of trees have been swept bare along the river banks. It is a wonder that most of them are still standing and haven’t been swept into the water.


Arriving at Green Turtle is like homecoming!  There must be at least 15 or more Looper boats here. Some we have met in past travels, others we have seen on the Meets App that shows where Loopers are on a map of the Great Loop and others we have heard about in “docktail” conversations.  We arrive at 4 PM and are immediately invited to docktails aboard Endless Loop, a GORGEOUS Endeavor Power Cat.

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And here is the highlight of the day.  We finally meet Mia, whose story I have heard since we left the Keys.  This family of 6 is now living, homeschooling and traveling on a 33’ boat – one dad, one mom and 4 daughters, one of whom, Mia, has a severe congenital heart defect and needs a feeding tube plus over 40 medications a day.  Mia is amazing, bubbly and outgoing, this 7 year-old passes out boat cards and swipes everyone’s pop-tops for the Ronald McDonald house in which her family lived for almost an entire year of her life while she was hospitalized.


This is an amazing story and I will leave the link here for you if you are interested in learning more about this family that is living life NOW on their second trip around the Loop!

We will stay here through Sunday, enjoying friends and doing some maintenance and will head for Nashville, TN on Monday where I hope to rendez-vous with my highschool roommate, Kathy Haines.  This is the last photo I have of us together as 17 year olds, playing for parent’s weekend at Chatham Hall!  Hope to add a newer version next week!

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