Archive for October, 2008

It has been an absolutely wonderful week

October 26, 2008

The Tennessee River has a lot of anchorages, small marina’s, bass boats, and even a few barges.  The barges don’t bother us here, there is full communication, and they are not near as large as the industrial rivers were.

I heard an old saying once, “Old Sailors never die, they just fade away.”  I believe that saying probably came about on this River.  There is an old dockhouse when you come onto the Tennessee, it must have been state of the art in her day, but look at the picture now!  The folks still love to fish around her, though.  There is a barge that was new once, and someone parked it on the side of the river, only to fill with sediment, grass, weeds, and large holes working through it.  In a few years it will probably disappear altogether.  Makes that saying more real than not.

We anchored out all week, behind quiet little islands, once again all on our own.  We could leave lots of swing and not fear getting in someone else’s way.  At Diamond Island we anchored, and then took our dingy to Shiloh, there was supposed to be a large memorial of a huge battle fought here in 1862 where over 23,000 men died.  There was no place to dock, so we missed this.

Our guide book certainly seems outdated, although it was the latest one we ordered before we left, they are listing marinas at fifty to seventy cents a foot, and the folks here are all charging $1.25 to $1.50.  We found a very appealing one at the start of the Tenn-Tom with a good weekly rate, so our plan is to stop there for a week before heading south.  Hopefully the marina is as nice as the brochure!

People have come up with incredible ways of dealing with the high water on the Tennessee.  There are houses on built on stilts.  There are houses built with waterproof basements above ground.  There are homes, usually huge ones built on top of the limestone cliffs.  There are floating homes on the river.  There are folks living in travel trailers under carports, when the water level increases, they just drive it away.  That’s what I call adaptable!

MBA loves statistics (she is a banker after all) and has been keeping a daily journal (unlike my Captain’s Log that gets filled out when I pump out or fill up) and she has been keeping track of the number of days we have anchored, and stayed at marinas.  When we started this trip, we felt we would be in marina’s about 2 nights a week.  The tally to date is:
Marina nights:     :  54
Anchoring nights:  28
Mooring ball       :  21
Tie up at locks    :  14

HA!  No wonder my budget is shot.  (Not counting the exchange rate, which was par when we left, and is now over 20 percent, and the investments we left until January so they could earn money, and instead have lost over 25 percent).
Oh well, we are not stopping this trip, we are having too much fun, I’ll just have to drive a little harder when we get home!

We are now stopped at the start of the Tenn-Tom Waterway until next week, when we meander down to Mobile, Alabama and the Gulf of Mexico.

Love to all,

Joe & Mary Beth Amelia
S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold”

Out of the Rat Race

October 23, 2008

The Ohio River was after the Mississippi, and was very reminiscent of the big old Miss.  Very industrial, lots and lots of barges with tows piloting them in unbelievable spaces.  At Paducah we took the Cumberland River route, although it is about twenty five miles further, it was supposed to be quicker due to a long wait at Kentucky lock on the Tennessee River.  The Cumberland was a canal, with a few barges, certainly not as many.  We reached Green Turtle Bay marina, and spent a few days.  I rested; MBA scrubbed and bleached the boat.  I felt a little guilty sitting in the shade in my easy chair on the dock drinking a beer, watching her scrub in 85 degree heat.  But only a little.

We went to dinner at an 1880’s settlement called Patties.  It takes up a complete city block, and is mostly craft shops, and a huge Christmas (year round) store, with a restaurant that is out of this world.  Their specialty is a 2 inch thick pork chop, so of course that’s what we had, and took most of it home to eat the next day.  Dessert (always room for desert) was a seven inch high peach pie for MBA, and huge butterscotch pecan pie for me.  Presidents and actors eat here; apparently it’s a famous place.

As you can see from the photos, the Tennessee River (and the Cumberland to some degree) is just like being back on the Rideau Canal.  Quiet private anchorages, fishing, and water that is clearer than the pollution we just came through, although I will still not swim in it.

Oh yea, there are Bass Boats.  Shiny, flaked metallic painted twin 200 hp engines on the back of a 500 lb boat that slows down for nothing.  They race each other (generally two in a boat, with heavy coats and sometimes full face masks, they must be cold going that fast) to a spot, fish a few minutes, and then race off to another spot.  There are hundreds of them here, and because they throw very little wake, they like to get close to us, either cutting right in front, or speeding along side.  I suppose they want us to see their shiny paint.  They never wave; they have both hands holding on, probably for dear life.  We wave to them anyway.  Now that I know their wake is small, they don’t bother us, but they certainly keep us attentive.

It is warm here, the mid eighties are gone for now, it’s in the low seventies during the day, and cools into the fifties at night.  Makes for a lot of fog, and condensation.  We plan to get to a marina at the start of the Tombigbee Canal, and then stay there for a week.  Our insurance has a clause about being below 35 degrees north latitude during hurricane season (I believe its November 1), and I don’t want to risk that.  So we get as far south as we can, then relax until we can move to Mobile.  It’s too bad we are just going to miss the rendezvous at Joe Wheeler State Park, but we’ll probably see everyone coming out.

Just a couple of notes to finish previous discussions.  There are a couple pictures of the high water levels on the Ohio River; you can see how high it was.

The raft that with the four teenagers heading to New Orleans is now a duck blind.  The Coast Guard boarded it in Grafton, Illinois, and issued a Port Order that it was unsafe for the Mississippi.  So they sold it and each headed on their way.  It is kind of a shame, but after seeing the River, completely understandable.

Love to everyone,

Joe and Mary Beth
S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold

The mighty Mississippi

October 15, 2008

This week began with relaxation.  Grafton Harbor Marina was a wonderful place, run by wonderful people.  Jan and Joe made sure we had everything we wanted, including a courtesy car; the facilities included a swimming pool, and downtown was about 2 minutes away.  We ate catfish for the first time, and actually enjoyed it.

Our new tiller arrived at Grafton, along with a much better pair of binoculars, and a new impeller for our raw water pump.  I don’t need it yet, but feel sure I will before these rivers are finished, there is so much sediment in them.  The tiller installed at Drummond was great to get us going, but was not the proper tiller for the boat, so my auto pilot wouldn’t fit without lifting the cushions, and my arm has been getting sore from reaching (poor me!!).  The new tiller is the proper one, came finished, and is working like a charm.   Our old 7 X 35 binoculars were great for around home, but it was getting hard to read numbers off buoys and see things further away, so we ordered a good set with a built in light, compass, and rangefinder.

Our first night on the Mississippi was spent at Hoppies, a barge on the side of the river where most recreation boats stop.  There is no protection from the wakes of the barges and tows, so we rocked all night, but at least were safe.  Fern (the crusty lady who runs the place) held a Skippers meeting (she does this every night) to review the charts and stops further down the Mississippi.  The river changes almost daily with the currents, and she stays abreast of the changes, and updates the boaters.  What a useful service.  We topped our fuel tanks here, we will now have no place to get fuel for about 250 miles, and close to 100 miles of that will be upstream, and so it will be close.  We went 270 miles downstream (from 3 Rivers) to Grafton without stopping for fuel as a test, and had 15 gallons to spare, an all downstream trip.  The Ohio River, the Cumberland River, and the first part of the Tennessee River will all be going against us, so I expect the gas mileage will not be as good, however the Mississippi has a 3 – 4 knot current with us, so perhaps we will gain it there.  We will see.  We passed through Chester, Illinois, the home of Popeye!  I wanted to dock and go through the city, surely there is a visitor center there, but alas, there were no docks or anchorages to stop.  So I will not be able to sing “I yam what I yam” with Popeye himself.

We anchored the second night, behind Rockwood Island.  It was at a bend on the River, behind a weir, which is just a rock wall just below the waters surface.  Had it not been for a large dredge that worked all night, and a small motor boat that went right beside us and threw a huge wake all night, it would have been a nice night.  As it was, we were on edge for most of the evening.  The next night we anchored in Little Diversion Channel, the first place we have found that is actually off the river, so no current, no towboat wake, just a quiet night.  Mary Beth and I have survived over 30 years of marriage.  We have survived raising 3 independent children, we have survived being in business together for 12 years, we have survived me quitting my job and completely switching careers, and we have survived her retiring and living together in a big truck for over a year.  I am not sure we are going to survive anchoring on the Mississippi in a 3 – 4 knot current.  One more night may be the breaking point.  I guess we’ll see.

A lot of the rivers edge on the Miss appears to be sand.  Beautiful beaches that apparently the world has not yet discovered when they do, the commercial aspect of the river will go, and it will become cottage and tourist country.  Of course, they will have to do something about the horribly polluted water, but I suspect importing Zebra Mussels will clean it up fast, once they stop the pollution from entering.

I can’t say enough about these huge barges and tows.  These guys are the true professionals on the water, truckers of the river.  They move grain south, and coal north.  They have to pull over to the bank and wait in a small channel when another tow is headed downstream, there is not room enough for both in some turns (pleasure craft fend for themselves, but if you call the tow on the correct channel, and let them know exactly where you are from the correct chart, they will give directions where to be).

Our last night on the Mississippi was spent in a small anchorage just off the river called Angelo Towhead.  It’s at mile 1.5 where the Ohio joins the Mississippi.  So we made it!  We will be entering the Ohio River this morning and heading upstream (red buoys on right again).  This will probably be the only time we will ever be on the Mississippi River in our lives, and I am sure there are better places on this river to be a tourist.  We saw none of the old Paddlewheelers refurbished and moving, no tourist attractions at all, and this river must be full of them.  When I again get internet, and time, I am going to do a little research on where the interesting parts of the Mississippi River are, who knows, maybe we’ll want to see that part of the river if there ever is a next time 😉

Oh yes, we did survive the anchoring, and are still speaking to each other.

Another successful week.

Love to all,

Joe & Mary Beth Amelia
S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold” getting close to the famous “Green Turtle Bay” marina

Private note to Sally:  we stayed at Little Diversion Channel, with 5 other boats, not one Asian Carp.  There are none.  It’s a hoax 😉

A River of Differing Emotions

October 5, 2008

The Illinois River provides many different experiences, issues, and emotions.  Granted, we are coming down in high water, shortly after flooding of record, and the river has just been opened in places due to it.
The commercial aspect of this river remains the same, whether flooded or not, and the large barges, 3 wide, 5 deep, coming both ways at the same time, and the amazing tow drivers who tell you to “meet them on the one whistle” (pass them on your port, or the “two whistle”, your starboard), and maintain control of these huge monstrosities in a fast current.  Not all of them do however; we heard on the VHF from the Coast Guard that the river was closed at mile marker 158 due to a tow accident.  We were given no details.

The current was fast, and helped us gain a few miles per day, however this led to problems of its own.  Debris would have to be the first, logs, deadheads (logs that lay under the surface, they are so waterlogged, and the current has lifted them off the bottom and on a direct course for our hull), sticks, refrigerators, stoves, and other unseen items that you don’t know until you hit them.  We anchored behind Mortland Island Saturday night, at the south end of the island, and the debris was hitting us all night.  Large logs would get hung up in the chain, and the logs would pound a symphony on the boat.  Occasionally, it would be a large bump and we would jump out of bed, go for a walk on deck, and release the log.  Coming in, our prop chopped up something, we never did see it, but it sounded awful.  No vibration or problems afterward, so we ignored it.

As with the rest of this trip, this week’s story must include the people we have met.  At Beardstown, we tied up for the night at an old Potato Barge, and when we went for a walk after tying up, we saw a bar that had a sign “Boaters, beer for $1”, so naturally, we had to walk in.  It was just a small neighborhood bar, with a pool table, and several locals inside playing pool and talking.  Two of them got up from their seats and gave them to us, then bought us a beer!  We had some fun conversation, then back to our boat for the night.

At Peoria there were town docks with parking meters, so we tied up behind a homemade raft, turns out four teenagers had built it from two by fours, and were going from Chicago to New Orleans.  When I stepped on their “vessel” to get a picture, water sloshed up from between the slats and got my foot wet.  I can’t imagine what its like with a towboat wake.  They sleep on hammocks (two of them, the other two on the floor on cushions), but are really nice kids out for a good time.  Good luck to them.

We have now reached the end of the Illinois River, and are at the junction of the Mississippi.  We will be going over 200 miles on the big River, then turning onto the Ohio River for 60 miles, then the Cumberland River for about 30 miles to the Tennessee River.  We are just beginning the real commercial area, with no marinas or anchorages.  There is a stop partway, that is a barge on the side of the Miss, the current is so strong we will need to turn and come back to the barge to tie up.  There is an old lady that runs it we are told, sits in a rocker and smokes a cigar.  Since it is the only stop, everyone stops there and has stories to tell.  Wonder what ours will be?

We will probably stay in Grafton for a couple days, catch up on our email, blog, washing, showers, and get provisions, liquor, and beer.  Sometime soon we hit a dry county, and we want to be stocked up before we get there.  Jim Beam has become my second best friend on this trip!!

Now, there is one thing that has me annoyed.  Asian Carp were supposed to be on the Illinois River like crazy.  Stories of fish jumping into boats, jumping up and hitting people, getting in the cockpit with their thin skins and getting blood all over were everywhere.  Movies on U-Tube of the Illinois people driving boats and shooting the jumping fish abounded.  Well, it’s all a hoax.  There are no Asian Carp.  There are no fish that jump into your boat.  I’m not sure what the Corps of Engineers are building near Chicago, but it’s not an electric fence to keep the Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes.  There are none.

Fooled once again.

Have fun everyone, I know we are.

Joe and MaryBeth Amelia
S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold”
Currently in Grafton, Illinois, headed for Bluewater