We have been in Columbus, MS for the past few days. The weather has been 60-80 degrees. We’ve had a little rain and a little sun. We’ve caught up on a few things while waiting until Nov 1 and our insurance deadline. Tom’s had a chance to really clean the boat, we’ve done the usual laundry, grocery shopping and checking out the produce section at whatever grocery store we are at to see what the dressing selection is 😊.
We’ve met a few more loopers. As I mentioned in my previous post, there are many loopers arriving and departing all the marinas on the Tenn-Tom. We had dinner with Southern Style (NC) and cocktails with Hardwork (MN). Both couples have sold their dirt homes and are now living aboard their boats full time. It’s always fun to hear their stories about the Loop and we look forward to seeing them again as we continue down the Florida coast.
We’ve also been filling our time with charting out our next few weeks. It’s impossible to lock anything in on the calendar since weather plays such a big role in when we travel but at least we have an idea of where we’d like to stay anchorage/marina and it makes me feel a little more comfortable having some kind of plan. It’s also a great feeling knowing we only have 5 locks remaining before we reach Mobile Bay. Even though we’ll be dealing with tides then, I’m looking forward to the blue water.
More later -
We are getting use to the hum of engines and the buzz of bow thrusters at the crack of dawn every morning and evening as Loopers arrive and depart all the marinas we are staying in now. It’s a constant flow as everyone is moving south down the Tenn-Tom. Some Loopers will stay at a marina for weeks at a time and others will stay only one night. Everyone is on their own schedule on the Loop and that’s what makes this trip so unique. Some buddy up with other boats and some travel separately, however, we’ve found out first hand that the locks would rather fill the chamber for several boats instead of just one.
Monday we had wanted to get going early from Grand Harbor. We had 3 locks and 55 miles to get to Fulton, MS (Midway Marina) but the fog didn’t lift until 9am, so we waited. The fog had cleared the area in front of the marina so we thought it was ALL clear. As it turned out it wasn’t, so we pulled over on to the side of the lake and waited until we felt comfortable to proceed. Even though we have radar, it’s not fun traveling in full on fog.
So the Tenn-Tom Waterway. It’s easier to give you the Wikipedia definition…..
The Tennessee–Tombigbee Waterway (popularly known as the Tenn-Tom) is a 234-mile man-made waterway that extends from the Tennessee River to the junction of the Black Warrior-Tombigbee River system near Demopolis, Alabama, United States. The Tennessee–Tombigbee Waterway links commercial navigation from the nation's midsection to the Gulf of Mexico. The major features of the waterway are ten locks and dams, a 175-foot-deep cut between the Tombigbee River watershed and the Tennessee River watershed, and 234 miles of navigation channels. It was under construction for twelve years by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Tennessee–Tombigbee Waterway was completed in December 1984 at a total cost of nearly $2 billion.
We got to our first lock Monday and ended up waiting for an hour and a half at the lock for 6 looper boats that had called ahead to the lock before us. The drop in this lock was 88 ft. and it takes 50 mins to fill the chamber, so the lockmaster had us wait. We ended up traveling with that group the rest of the day and met a few of them when we arrived at Fulton.
Yesterday we did some chores in the morning and then headed out for a bike ride along the Tenn-Tom. They have a beautiful commemorative underground railway bike/walk path. Later we met some new looper arrivals, did “docktails”, had dinner and hit the hay early (8:15pm). I know, pretty boring aren't we 😉.
We were up at 5am, TM’d, prepped the boat and left by at 7:20am with a group of five other Loop boats all on our way to Columbus, MS. We have four locks and 60 miles today. As I write this, we’ve just gotten out of our third lock and it’s 11am!!! Yaahh!!! All the locks so far have been open and had the green light waiting for us. Now just one more lock and 36 miles.
Below are a few pics from the Tenn-Tom~
All for now~
From Captain Tom
We decided to take our rental car to Memphis for some sightseeing. First stop, Graceland. As we are driving down Elvis Presley Blvd., I asked Sue if she punched in the address for Graceland. Sure enough, the voice came on and said your destination is on the left. I looked at the gates of Graceland and said to Sue "The gates aren't nearly as big as I thought they would be" they were open though and I decided to drive in.
As we pulled past the guard house, I think Barney Fife had his feet up on the table and fell off his chair as I passed by. He came RUNNING out with his hands waving over his head.
I stopped and he asked "Where do you think you're going?" I said, "I'm going to Graceland" He said, "Not this way you aren't, go across the street and park with the other 1000 or so people." He was NOT happy... I had to chuckle a little bit after I apologized and backed out of Graceland as I never thought I would ever drive through the gates of Graceland.
We proceeded to join all the others and had an interesting tour. It didn't disappoint and was full of all the glitch, shag carpet, planes, cars and more you would expect from Elvis. Thank you, thank you very much...
Memphis is rich in music history and we continued the roll by going to legendary Sun Records where Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and so many more were first recorded by Sam Phillips, who was the owner and well ahead of his time by recognizing the emerging talent at Sun that would eventually create Rock and Roll.
The building and studio have not changed from the hey day and it was really fun and interesting to see the old equipment and you could just feel the vibe being there... very cool.
Our insurance restricts how far south we can travel prior to November 2nd, unofficial end of hurricane season. That is Demopolis, AL., about 230 miles from our present location.
We are leaving in the morning to travel about 55 of those miles down the Tenn Tom waterway and continue to take our time moving south.
It's been great checking out the area here in TN. We saw our first harvested cotton, saw Bigfoot and had our first piece of Colby pie (I'm calling it Colby Distad pie!) I'd have included a pic of the pie, but we ate it!
We checked out the Pickwick State Park and hiked the trails and then headed to Shiloh for the afternoon. Congress established Shiloh National Military Park on December 27, 1894 to commemorate the April 6-7, 1862 battle that raged around Shiloh Church and Pittsburg Landing. Producing more than 23,000 casualties, the battle was the largest engagement in the Mississippi Valley campaign during the Civil War. Shiloh was a sobering experience for us. Neither of us remembered this from our history classes and we learned a great deal about this bloody battle during the start of the Civil War.
Today we got in our little rental car and drove all over Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi!!! Serious! We are literally right on the state line for all three and as we drive Google Maps welcomes us in and out of each state about every 20 minutes!
So originally, we had signed up for the Looper Rendezvous at Joe Wheeler State Park in Rogersville, TN on the Tennessee River. When we got to Grafton we looked at each other and decided to take the pressure off and cancel our reservation. We went to a Looper conference last year in Charleston, learned a lot and didn’t want our time on this portion of the Loop to be all about getting to the Rendezvous.
As it turned out, our location at Grand Harbor put us within a hour and a half drive, so this morning we got in the car and drove to Joe Wheeler to take in a couple of the morning seminars. It was a beautiful drive and who would of thought there was another Stewartville or Stewartsville? We probably would have driven right by but when it came up on the Google Maps we had to find a sign.
The seminars were helpful at Joe Wheeler and we got a couple more Waterway Guides, looked at a few looper boats and were off to Muscles Shoals. What is Muscles Shoals you ask??? It’s a town in Alabama made famous by the Swampers (named from the Lynard Skynard Sweet Home Alabama song) and recording guru Rick Hall. The Swampers are four musicians from Muscles Shoals that had a unique sound and eventually notable groups like the Rolling Stones, The Staple Singers, Wilson Pickett, Bob Segar, Willie Nelson, Rod Stewart, Linda Ronstadt, Aretha Franklin, Cher, The Allman Bros. and the list goes on and on used as back up studio musicians and recording techs for their albums.
A few years ago Tom and I watched a documentary about the Muscle Shoals sound and the impact it had on the music industry. Since that time, we’ve been a bit obsessed with the story and knew if we got close to Muscle Shoals on the Loop that we were going to make it a side trip.
We toured the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and FAME studios as well. Ironically, the tour at FAME was partially given by Rick Hall’s widow, who gave all the background info about Rick and how he got started, who he worked with and their married time together. Their youngest son now runs the business and is currently working with Jason Isabel on his new album. It was all so COOL!
I won't bore you with any more details, but if you like music and would like to watch the Muscle Shoals documentary by Greg "Freddy" Camalier, you can find it on Amazon Prime and a few other apps. Below are ALOT of shots from our time at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and FAME.
It was a fun day experiencing all the great music history in this little town in Alabama.
All for now~
We headed out early this morning from Clifton enroute to Grand Harbor Marina in Counce TN. We knew the weather was going to be gray and rainy, but wanted to get to our next destination. As we pulled out of the marina, we were greeted by a beautiful sunrise on back of the boat and ominous clouds ahead of us.
We weren't long on the river this morning when we came upon more loopers getting an early start. We ended up following Baytripper (also from MN) and Parrot Bay to the Pickwick lock. We were in luck at the lock. There was no barge traffic around and we got right in. The lock doors closed and then we heard another southbound looper on the VHF radio, a few miles out requesting a passage. The lock master decided to wait for them and opened the lock doors up again and within about 20 minutes they appeared and locked thru with us. They appreciated our waiting. It would have taken at least a half an hour to fill the lock chamber again for them so our waiting saved them about an hour.
The Pickwick Lock is HUGE! We rose 55 ft. and when we got near the top of the lock, the wind came up and all four boats were teetering back and forth on the wall. I was happy to get out when they blew the lock horn!
More photos above of the trip down the Tennessee.....actually it's up the Tennessee. Even though you are traveling south, the Tennessee runs north, so they say you are traveling upbound on the Tennessee against current and all. Beautiful homes, stilt homes and more gorgeous rock formations line the Tennessee.
After the Pickwick Lock, it was a short 4 mile ride to Grand Harbor Marina. We tied up. Met our new neighbor, a 30 yr. old guy from Michigan, doing the loop on a sailboat with his dog. It was still wet and rainy so we stayed in for the night and planned our stay at Grand Harbor. We are hoping to rent a car and check out the tri-state area: Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama for the next few days.
We left Green Turtle Bay Friday morning and have been cruising down the BEAUTIFUL Tennessee River the last couple of days with stops at Pebble Isle Marina in Johnsonville, TN and Clifton, TN. Both days have been about 65 mile runs. The scenery has been extraordinary and other than fisherman (a lot), a few small barges and Looper boats we’ve had the river to ourselves.
We arrived in Clifton, TN yesterday afternoon and did our "gotta get off the boat" walk. We checked out downtown Clifton. Not a good surface to walk if you have sea-legs!
I told the captain last week that we WERE NOT going to travel on Sundays when the Vikings are playing. Tom bleeds purple and looks forward to Funday Sundays and the Sundays that we have traveled the last few weeks have been a harried, no, a CRAZY race to the next port. With that said, we were woke up this morning (7 am) from a call from Sam, one of the other Viking fanatics in my family. He had tickets to the game and was just calling his dad for a little pre-game. So we got up and made a little game day breakfast on the boat.....
A little while later we received this from Sam and his buddy Alex Kurth on their way to the game. GO VIKES!!!
We’ve spent the last four days at Green Turtle Bay Marina, Grand Rivers, KY. It’s been hot – 90 degrees, and we’ve been enjoying the marina/resort. The break from traveling has been nice and we’ve had a chance to meet quite a few Loopers. Many of the Loopers spend at least a week or two here at GTB. Two Looper boats celebrated crossing their wake and shared their excitement and wisdom with us. The Looper community is very supportive of one another. Wednesday evening they organized a “docktail” gathering so we met even more Loopers.
Tom had the chance to wash Bella and catch up on maintenance. They have a really nice ships store, so he’s visited it a couple of times. Of course we’ve also had the chance to do laundry and get groceries. We rented a golf cart to do our groceries run and had fun tooling around the resort. They have activities like water Zumba (yes, Leann Amos, I finally tried it!), liked it and have been attending all week with other Looper ladies. We’ve biked a lot, walked a lot, played Pickle Ball (I brought our paddles/balls) and toured the town of Grand Rivers. Yesterday we biked to town, did lunch at Patti’s, a local favorite and then biked to Lighthouse Landing. The folks down here are super friendly, their southern drawl is pretty thick and I’ve never been called honey so many times!
We are getting use to the space on the boat and I don’t wake up any more wondering where I’m at. Although I did wake up the other night and there was a naked, tan man dancing around our state room. I thought I was dreaming at first, but then realized it was just Tom. He had a Charlie horse in his leg and was up hoping around to get rid of it!
We are casting off today for Birdsong Marina, about a 75 mile run down Kentucky Lake/Tennessee River. We’re looking forward getting back out on the water. Our plan is to continue on down to the Tenn-Tom and evaluate the situation on the panhandle of FL and the destruction from Michael. It may or may not impact our ability to continue on the Loop. Not sure. Our hearts go out to all those affected by this catastrophic hurricane.
Below are some shots from our time at Green Turtle Bay.
All for now~
From Captain Tom
I have always had a ton of respect for the Mississippi River, but it has grown after cruising it to Cairo and the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The Mighty Mississippi is MIGHTY! After you pass St. Louis, the river takes on a new personality and she can get angry real quick! There were times when it felt like we were in a washing machine. Keep in mind, the boat weighs about 30,000 lbs. and at times, she tosses you around like a toy. I was happy to get off the Miss and onto the Ohio, where there was no debris and less barges.
The Ohio River was about 50 miles and we then got on the Cumberland River and traveled to our current destination of Grand Rivers KY. On the way along the Cumberland, we approached an aggregate quarry that was loading boulders into barges. Came around a bend to find a barge anchored in the middle of the river in front of said quarry. Giant trucks were dumping and rolling these boulders in to empty barges on shore when I was summoned by the Tow Captain. "Ya Bella, ya got room on my two whistle to fit by?" It was about a 30 foot wide opening and we are 14 foot wide... "Sure Cap, we can make that work" as we passed, the boulders are close and making a hell of a racket tumbling into the empty barge a few feet away. Needless to say I "puckerd up" and after passing called the Captain on the radio and thanked him. "Ya'll have a nice day from the Samuel Jackson" was his reply in a thick southern drawl... I needed to use the bathroom.
With the help of the current on the Miss, we were getting the following mileage-
At 800 rpm, 9.5 mph and burning 5 gallons of diesel per hour.
At 1270 rpm, 12.7 - 13 mph, 9 gallons per hour.
At 2400 rpm, 32 mph, 35 gallon per hour. It's going to be a slow trip!!!
We thought Paducah was charming. Loved the vibe of this little river town. We wandered around on Monday before we left for Grand Rivers and took some shots to share with you.
After the Vikes game Sunday, we headed downtown for a little dinner. This trio was playing in the town square and we enjoyed a little Johnny Cash.
Our morning walk in Paducah was incredible. We walked the Paducah Wall to Wall Floodwall Mural Project. Along the river they have constructed a flood wall overlooking the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers and on the city side of the flood wall there are these fantastic murals painted by renowned mural artist Robert Dafford and his team. Each mural captures a snapshot of the history of Paducah. The mural project was started in 1996. We came upon Robert Dafford working on one of the murals, he is pictured above painting away. We asked if we could take his pic and he obliged.
The Mississippi Queen was docked in Paducah. We commented to each other about why the Mississippi Queen would be on the Ohio with a full tour group aboard. When we got back to our boat on the Paducah Transient Dock and our neighbor said that this particular Miss Q tour got diverted to the Ohio because the Mississippi River was too flooded and running so high that the river boat couldn't make it under some of the bridges.
After our morning tour, we cast off our lines for Grand Rivers, KY and Green Turtle Bay Marina. We had decided to do the alternate route up the Ohio and then the Cumberland River and the Barkley Lock instead of the Tennessee and the Kentucky Lock. We'd heard that the Kentucky Lock and Damn was not locking Loopers thru in a timely manner - 4 hour waits and longer. Even though the alternative route up the Cumberland is twice as long, the Barkley Lock was cooperating with rec boat traffic better. So up the Ohio for about 12 miles and then to Cumberland River for about 30 miles. The Cumberland was beautiful and much smaller than any of the rivers we've been on. Tom said, "I feel like I'm on the Root River!" We didn't realize though that there would be so many barges on the Cumberland and big rock quarries. We had some narrow turns with oncoming barges - Yikes! But we made it to the Barkley lock and Green Turtle Bay Marina by late afternoon. Below are photos from the Barkley Lock. It was another bollard lock and we raised 53 plus feet.
More from Green Turtle Bay this week.
All for now~
Tom & Sue Slightam
Read along as we circumnavigate the eastern half of the United States and southern Canada on the Great Loop on our boat BELLA, a Cruiser 460 Express.
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