Saturday, September 27, 2014

Green Turtle Bay

We are definitely enjoying our week at Green Turtle Bay Marina in Grand Rivers, KY. The amenities here are plentiful and the weather has been absolutely beautiful! We have taken advantage of the laundry facilities, the loaner van, ships store, and various restaurants. There are dozens of Looper boats here as we all catch our breath after surviving the Mississippi and preparing to head up the Tennessee River.
Several boats had to be pulled out for repairs, but fortunately not us- yet. 

  Many Loopers are headed for the American Great Loop Cruising Association rendezvous at Joe Wheeler  Park near Rogersville, AL which starts in about 2 weeks. We were there 4 years ago when we first started dreaming about this whole adventure. This time it will be even more fun since we are on our boat! The rendezvous offers seminars, presentations on the next segments of the Loop, the chance to tour other boats, and of course lots of Loopers to meet.

We plan to leave here Monday with a few other boats and take the nearby canal that connects Lake Barkley (part of the Cumberland River) with Kentucky Lake, which is the Tennessee River. The two Rivers are very close together here, and the area between them is called Land Between the Lakes or LBL. We will anchor out a few nights and then head for another marina. 

As I mentioned yesterday, Mark, with the help of Steve from Island Time, installed a wifi booster/router. This helps us pull in the free wifi provided by many marinas. Up until now we've been frustrated that the free wifi was just to weak to work on our boat. What a world of difference this thing makes- it's a "Groove" made by Island Time PC -no connection to the boat by that name.  Today Mark is tidying up the wiring inside the salon. Yesterday the installed the antenna up on the bridge, drilled a hole to get the wires down here, and configured the router. The process has been tedious and time-consuming. 

The new antenna for the wireless router. 

Seems like everything is in a hard to reach spot on a boat!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Commonwealth Yacht Club

Another great dinner with good friends. 

Today Steve from Island Time helped Mark install a wifi booster to improve our Internet reception. More work to be done on it tomorrow. 

Mark underneath the bench in the fly bridge running wires to the new router in our salon. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Green Turtle Bay, KY

What a trip! 110 miles, anchor out, 96 miles, anchor out, 40 miles,  and we are here! I cannot begin to describe the mess on the Mississippi- 4-5 mph current and tons of floating debris. We were zig zagging more than a destroyer evading a submarine! (We watch a lot of WWII movies.) The water was the color of  a latte and as thick as a milkshake. We did the last 2 locks on Old Man River with no delay, but tones of stress due to the above.

Our night at Hoppie's was pleasant- we were rocked to sleep by the wakes of passing towboats. The next night we anchored in Little Diversion channel- it was peaceful and safe from passing tows.

The next day (yesterday) we entered the Ohio. As several people remarked, it looked like the Caribbean after the nasty Mississippi. We did 2 locks again with no delay- just short of a miracle! Our anchorage last night was at Cuba Towhead, just where the Tennessee joins the Ohio. Another serene night- although I did dream that our anchor pulled loose and our boat sunk. Not much sleep after that.

Today we were on the Cumberland. The river was narrow but scenic and quiet- until the Barkley Lock. We went up 53 feet- very intimidating going in. A mile later we entered Green Turtle Bay Resort on Lake Barkley- we will soon be enjoying restaurants, spa, gym, and much more. Many, many Loopers are here.

Jim and Connie on "Patriot" led our group up the Cumberland.

The Olmstead lock and dam under construction on the Ohio.

The St. Louis Arch

Friday, September 19, 2014

Finally on the move

Left Grafton this morning. Mel Price lock at Alton was difficult! The entrance was blocked by huge logs and we got caught in a vacuum along the starboard wall. Had trouble getting out of that and scraped the side of our boat a bit. 

After that we had an easy time getting through the Chain of Rocks lock. We zig zagged through the St. Louis area dodging debris and dozens of towboats. It was stressful all day- we didn't dare take our eyes off the river. 

Our hardy little fleet of 6 made it safely to Hoppies in Kimmswick, MO. 

We all enjoyed a late lunch at the Blue Owl-- good home cooking. 

This evening Fern Hopkins taught us a LOT about the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers that we will be traveling in the next few days. She is amazing! She and Hoppie have been running this marina for almost 41 years- and before they took it over they worked with Hoppie's father- this marina has been family-owned since the 1930's. We are tied to several barges which are tied to 2 sunken Civil War era gunboats. How cool is that?

We will be up early tomorrow to reach our anchorage 110 miles from here. No locks and a hefty current will help us get there. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

We Are Ready to Leave Grafton

We plan to leave tomorrow at the crack of dawn. It's been a fun 12 days in Grafton, thanks to lots of rain, high water, and floating debris. Hopefully we will be at Hoppie's Marina in Kimmswick, MO tomorrow. After that we will be on the hook for three nights before we arrive at Green Turtle Bay. 

John and Pat just completed the Loop on "Satisfaction" and are on the same dock we are.

We thoroughly enjoyed having our first guest on board for 2 days. Thanks for visiting, Judene!

We Meet Again!

We saw this team of rowers glide past our house in Guttenberg during Labor Day weekend. Unbelievable that we would meet up with them last night at the Aeries restaurant in Grafton! They are rowing the entire Mississippi in Victorian-style wooden skiffs to raise money for Right to Play. They are delightful people. Check out their website at

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Piasa Bird

We took a short drive to Alton, IL today, home of the Piasa bird legend. (Pronounced pie-a-saw) The story involves a bird/monster that devoured Native Americans, canoes and all. Father Marquette reported on this legend in the 1600's and noted the drawing on the rocks as he traveled through this area. Obviously the painting has been retouched over the years, but it still a curiosity. Our friend Judene is here visiting and taking pictures with me- fun times!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Update from Grafton

The sun finally returned yesterday! We are still waiting for the water level to recede south of us, but the river looks better here in Grafton. The number if loopers waiting here keeps growing. There are at least 30 boats here. We can't all leave at once because the only stopping place within a day's travel can only accommodate 5-6 boats. 

The parasailing boat was out and about, although the sailors are not wearing swim attire this week.

Meanwhile we drove our rental car across the river to the St. Louis area. I wanted to go to the Container Store and Whole Foods in Brentwood - a very exclusive part of town. We oohed and aahed over the gorgeous homes. 

The Container Store is my all-time favorite store! If you love organization this place is heaven!  They have containers of every size and shape, closet systems, and just plain cool stuff I didn't even know I needed. These stores are only located in the biggest cities, so for me they are a rare treat. I've been to them in Minneapolis, Chicago, Miami and now St. Louis. Even though I hate the traffic and crowds, to shop here is worth the hassle. I wanted an efficient way to organize my spices- all those jars take up too much of my tiny cabinet space. The storage system also had to be air tight and protect the spices from heat and light. After searching for ideas I came up with this:

I used 3x5 zip-type bags that are 4 mil thick. I made labels with my beloved label maker and placed the spices - alphabetically of course- in this container. 

The box was designed as a Japanese first aid kit- note the picture of nurse Yuki on the latch. It happens to be the perfect size, and has 3 rows in it. My 20-some spices are a good fit. Things like this excite me- but then I am a nerd.

After the Brentwood stores (including Whole Foods and Trader Joe's) we headed back.  We saw a Walmart at exit 29 on I-70 and decided to pick up a few more things. Little did we know we were in Ferguson, MO. We should have known something was up since we were the token white folk. We did find the powdered milk needed to make yogurt, and cheap beer. We didn't stay to look around. It was a totally weird feeling to be the minority.

What else have I been doing? Making yogurt! Who knew this was even possible?? It can be hard to find decent yogurt so I decided to give this a try. I don't have the required 3-cup thermos on board so Mark suggested using our 2 Contigo coffee mugs. The yogurt has to be kept warm for several hours, so these work great. When we put coffee in them, it is usually 45 minutes before I take a test sip. They are awesome!

The yogurt is actually good! Sometimes I amaze myself!

If you are wondering about Mark, you will not be surprised to hear that he has made friends with everyone in his path. He knows everyone's name, their boat, their life histories, etc. just like at home. He's doing well.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Maybe we need an ark

There are 6 Looper boats that planned to leave Grafton Harbor Marina Thursday 
morning for Hoppies and then continue down the River. After conversations this
evening with Fern of Hoppies Marina at Kimmswick, we are not leaving Grafton. Fern says that
she is just 3 feet from flood stage and she did not recommend that we
travel on the Mississippi and Ohio until flood waters recede. She says
conditions are not safe because of increased current and large amounts of
logs and debris.  Her recommendation is that If we are in a safe place, we
should "stay put". The river is rising 3 or more feet per day around here.

Fern also said that even if we were able to get to Hoppies, conditions
would not be good at anchorages downriver. When we asked how long she
thought these conditions would continue, she estimated it will be 5-6
days before conditions improve.

The Lockmaster at Chain of Rocks said the locks and canal there are Ok. He also said that flooding on the Missouri would be dumping large amounts of logs and debris into the Mississippi that could
be dangerous. 
The good ole Mississippi is at it again!

So we remain at Grafton. Fortunately this is a great place to wait it out. There are restaurants, shops, a bike trail, etc here. And there are also boat projects on the to do list.  We might even decide to rent a car and drive over to St. Louis. It's all good!


We, along with other parts of the Midwest, have been inundated during the last 24 hours, and more rain is headed our way. The Mississippi is forecast to rise dramatically here, and we Loopers have been advised not to go out on the river 3 days from now.  Flooding in July was unthinkable, and now here it comes again.

Loopers are piling up here at Grafton, as well as upstream from here on the Illinois. 6 of us boats plan to leave at dawn tomorrow and travel to Hoppie's in Kimmswick, MO. The last 2 locks on the Mississippi stand between here and there- Mel Price and Chain of Rocks. We will leave Hoppie's on Friday on travel to the mouth of the Kaskaskia or to Little Diversion.  We will be anchored out 2-3 nights, so no Internet. We might have to anchor somewhere on the Ohio- our next destination-  Green Turtle Bay, KY, is full until Monday.

This is one of the scary parts of the trip.  The towboats are huge below the Chain of Rocks dam- up to 35 barges!! Yikes! That plus anchoring- we are the greenest of rookies at that, plus we have a brand new (hopefully better) anchor.

Today we borrowed the marina's 15 passenger van, and 9 of us made a run to Jerseyville for groceries. Gotta run- thunder is getting close and it's a long walk back to our dock.

Monday, September 8, 2014

To the Back of Beyond

Today we took our window screens to have the screens replaced. This involved an "adventure" in the marina's loaner car- actually a huge cargo van. We took the screens to a man who worked from his home near Batchtown, IL.  Batchtown is a mere 25 miles from here and a 50 minute drive. For starters, we had to cross the Illinois on the state-run Brussels ferry. Bridges across the Illinois are few and far between in these parts. 

Having successfully crossed the river we traveled on narrow unmarked roads through the hamlet of Brussels. Interesting town. 

From there we went through the even smaller village of Batchtown. Our screen repairman lived just outside town and re-did four screens while we waited. His work was excellent. On the return trip through this wonderland we purchased a bag of local apples "Ozark Gold" at a roadside market. They are good, but I am missing the Honey Crisp apples from Gays Mills, WI. 

While we were exploring the countryside, more Loopers arrived at the Grafton marina. I counted 23 at tonight's potluck. I have not seen this many Loopers in one place since we attended the Fall Rendezvous in 2010. 

Did you know that only about 100 boats complete the Great Loop each year? More people climb Mount Everest in a year than do the Loop! 

And So it Begins (or continues)

We are officially looping!! Finally! We arrived in Grafton, IL yesterday and immediately met up with other Loopers. "Young at Heart," "DeDe," "Island Time," "Snail Mail," and "Halcyon" are here. More boats are expected tomorrow. Apparently there's a huge traffic jam at Lock 52 on the Ohio where over 40 towboats are waiting to lock through. By traveling together, we loopers may be allowed to lock through in a group when we get there. So we are all staying here in Grafton till Thursday when we will move on.  We will probably get to lock 52 sometime during the weekend. 

Meanwhile we enjoyed a potluck last night featuring homemade enchiladas and egg rolls- so delicious !