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Day 1 – June 20th Great Loop Adventure 

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20170620_203018This is the blog of Greg & Doreen Youngberg’s great loop adventure 2017 – 2018.  We departed this morning, June 20th, 2017 from the Isle Casino Marina in Bettendorf Iowa on the Mississippi river at mile marker (MM) 486.2

We plan to spend the Summer traveling the entire Tennessee River before dropping farther South to join the rest of the loopers this Fall.

Greg’s Dad and our boating friend Gary Melton were waving to us as we passed by 31st street end of sunset marina.  Dave & Deb Pollitz came up to us in their runabout boat near barge beach (formerly known as crystal beach) to send us off with a wave also.  Lots of well wishes posted on FB as we chronicled the first few lockages.

We got a slow start by having to wait nearly 2 hours to lock thru LD15, but made up for it with no wait and quick in-out at both LD16 & 17 where rollers were wide open and only a 6″ drop.

Greg loves his AIS feature that ties his VHF radio to his new chartplotter.  He hails the towboats by name and checks their positions ahead at locks so he can throttle up or back to coast into locks with minimal  delays.

We are throttled back now waiting for a tow to exit LD18 above Burlington IA.  We will anchor for the night somewhere below Burlington.

We anchored at MM 402 just below Burlington RR bridge for the night.

We traveled 84 miles today and got thru 4 locks in 12.5 hours.  A very nice little boat ride!

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Days 20 to 23 – November 13th – 16th, 2018:  Demopolis AL/Kingfisher Bay Marina MM 216.9

Winds picked up overnight at our Sumpter rec area anchorage as predicted and by 4:45am we were awake and noticed Claude checking lines and his anchor using a flashlight.  He expressed concern about his anchor dragging and it was holding all 3 boats.  Greg thought his chain just straightened out a bit with the wind and we weren’t really dragging at all.  By 6:05am we had pulled anchor with enough light to see and took the lead leaving the anchorage.  At first we thought the tug wasn’t joining us and then they came into sight as we were getting secured in the Heflin lock.  The lockmaster of course waited for him and all 5 of us locked thru and were heading to Kingfisher Bay marina.  The river was very swollen now that we were below the Heflin lock and the amount of debris, big stuff, was significant but for the most part could be avoided.  We hit a few things we couldn’t see to avoid, but with no apparent impact (no vibrations).

We arrived at Demopolis just before noon after traveling 53 miles and 1 lock.  We decided to pay for a full week to give plenty of time for the water levels to return to normal and for the mass numbers of boats to leave here and get thru the debris and anchorages and leave room for us.  We signed up for the 5pm shuttle to town for dinner and Walmart grocery shopping.  Jacklyn and her kids came to visit shortly before we had to leave to catch the shuttle.  We got word that Wendy, Bob and their 4 kids were about to enter the marina (they topped off with fuel before coming into the marina)…but we had to catch the shuttle so didn’t get to welcome them.  We joined several others on the shuttle and had dinner together with 7 of them at the Red Barn restaurant before getting groceries. We got back to the boat with a load of groceries and checked FB to discover Lauren and Jim from Oar Knot (a 34 Mainship) and Al and JoAnn Barr were here in the Demopolis marina too.  We met Lauren and Jim on the C&D Canal, then they followed us to Cape May NJ,  and we met once again at the Trent Port Marina in Ontario Canada.  We met Al and JoAnn in January and February 2010 thru Jim and Cyndi McKay at the Orange Beach Marina when were were in the process of buying our 39 Mainship!

Day 21 – November 14th, 2018:  Remained at Demopolis AL Kingfisher Bay Marina

Slept in and then made a huge pot of chili.  Jim McKay called us to advise his son-in-law Joel Jenkins was asked to dispatch a Tow BoatUS to assist a stranded trawler above the Heflin lock and wondered if we happened to know them or see them when we were in route.  We assumed it was the Skolmate and gave name and contact info to Jim to pass on.  Jim called back to us know it was a different boat named Meridian Star.  We hadn’t seen it.  We let the Chili simmer and went to visit Lauren and Jim after leaving a voice message and boat card for Al & JoAnn.  Lauren and Jim have already been here a full week and were going to wait a while before leaving.  They thought the same way we did about the large numbers of boats trying to get into the same small anchorages or pile up at Bobby’s fish camp dock.  Neither of us wanted anything to do with that shit show.

We got a text/email from the Nimble Nomad, Sutters Ann, stating they arrived safely at Bobby’s fish camp (we joined them for dinner at the Red Barn restaurant last night).

We were invited aboard Compass Rose around 4 and told them we would be there but couldn’t stay long because we were meeting Al and JoAnn at 5 on their boat on C dock. Margaret and Claude Fuller were leaving early in the morning so we enjoyed seeing their Mainship and chatted over a beer in their boat.  We then visited with Al and JoAnn Barr on their 44 DeFever for a couple hours and said we would see them again before we leave.

Day 22 – November 15th, 2018:  Wilsons texted to say they were among 4 boats that left early this morning and they would arrive at Bobby’s Fish camp by 2pm.  Debris was visible but not terrible.  Fullers texted to say they were doing 10.5 mph and then texted later to say they were anchored in Okatuppa and there was no where near as much debris as the day we left Sumter in route to Demopolis.

We left the transient dock and out of the bay around the corner to the fuel dock and topped off with 110 gallons of diesel fuel.  Greg had coordinated with Anna Marie and she told us we could relocate into Slip B16, so we were able to pump out right at the dock (no pump out available on the transient face dock across from the huge docks with slips ranging from 40 to 70′.  We are backed in to a 50′ slip (they only charge by the size of the boat, not the size of the slip).

Laundry day – got it all caught up while Greg took the golf cart over to the boat works side of the marina complex.  He checked on Phil and how his boat repairs were coming (Fire Spray II) and asked if there were any plow style anchors and chain available for sale…nope.

We were invited by Al and JoAnn to join them on Friday night for dinner at the Red Barn…looking forward to it.

Day 23 – November 16th, 2018:  We took the marina courtesy car to Walmart once again for a few more items before we depart tomorrow.  Anna Marie processed our refund for 3 nights since we previously paid for a full week.  Phil got his boat launched and are just a few slips away from us now.

 

Day 19 – November 12th, 2018:  Columbus Marina MM 335 to Sumter Recreation Area Anchorage MM 269.9

At 6am, the Stennis/Columbus Lockmaster confirmed our planned 7am lockage and we tossed lines by 6:30 to slowly leave the marina and wait at the lock for the gates to open.  A small tug had also tossed lines and was going to be joining us in the lock.  We lost the tug after the first lock as they could not keep up with us.  We traveled 65.1 miles thru 2 locks on this cold rainy day.  My shrimp boat boots (Royal Whites) and rain pants have come in very handy.  In route to our anchorage we passed an older trawler that appeared to be beached on the downstream end of an island at an exiting oxbow.  They did not hail or request assistance.  An hour or so after we got anchored med style with Compass Rose, that older trawler arrived and asked if they could tie up to their port side (we were on their starboard).  They said they were stuck on a sandbar upstream overnight after trying to turn into an oxbow to anchor and two big boats came by and waked them enough that they were able to get off the bar.  They didn’t realize it was us or that the water level had risen significantly overnight enabling them to leave.  We all traded boat cards, they are the Skolmate.  Another boat named Seasons was already in the anchorage upon our arrival.  The little tug arrived shortly before dark, and we read its name as it pulled in past us, it was a little green Nimble Nomad named Sutters Ann.

We had little if any Verizon cell signal, let alone data.  We were grateful to get a text message from Jacklyn advising the river was going to continue to rise significantly.  She included a picture of the rivergages chart showing levels rising from 38’ to over 60’ within 72 hours!  Greg used our VHF to communicate with the Heflin lockmaster to advise there were 5 of us in the anchorage looking for an early morning lockage.  The lockmaster also confirmed the increase in water levels would not impact locking operations.

Day 18 – November 11th, 2018:  Midway Marina to Columbus Marina on Tenn Tom (MM 394 to MM 335)

I called the Lockmaster 3 miles away at 6am and then texted the only sailboat, Lulu, that I got a boat card from to advise of a planned 7am lockage for a group of upto 10 boats.  I then texted the other cruisers after texting Jacklyn on Fire Spray II.  Most already knew of the time set by the lockmaster and were tossing lines by 6:30.  The lockmaster told me I was the 5th person to call him.  Told him we were sorry it wasn’t a better coordinated effort.  There was no sign of activity on the sailboats as we left the marina and no response from Lulu to my text.  The 7 of us cruisers were secured in the locks and the lockmaster had the doors closed already when he saw one of the sailboats beginning to leave the marina.  He locked us down and advised them he would turn the lock around for them as soon as he could.  He told us if we got an hour ahead of them, the next lock 15 miles away would scoot us thru and not make us wait on them. Boats in our floatilla today included Fire Spray II who took off after the first lockage to get that hour ahead of the rest of us slower bigger boats (they can do 40+ mph), Makin Memories, Moon Dance, Plumbfun, Tango Papa II, Compass Rose and us.  The Columbus marina gave us an option of a covered slip so Compass Rose and Blurred Lines were contently secured under cover (it was going to rain overnight and all day the next day).

We met Wendy and her family (we’ve been following Wilsons on the Water on FB since Jacklyn told us about them) and invited Wendy and Bob to tour our 38 Bayliner after dinner (they are traveling with their 4 daughters aboard their 32 Bayliner).

We coordinated with Claude and Margaret Fraser (Compass Rose the 2005 Mainship Trawler 400) about possibly traveling in the rain tomorrow vs waiting for rain to clear and then dealing with 10-20 mph winds on Tuesday.  We invited them to join us for a pre-dinner beer aboard Blurred Lines and gave them a tour.  We agreed to leave together in the rain the next day and had a plan and a back up for anchorages half way to Demopolis.

Coordinated with others in the Marina and all we were able to reach advised they were staying one more day and would not be traveling with us in the rain.

Day 17 – November 10th, 2018:  Aqua to Midway Marina on Tenn Tom (MM 448.8 to MM 394)

It was a cold crisp 29 degrees when we got underway just before 6:30am with a little smoke on the water.  We saw a Mainship (Compass Rose) leaving just before us and followed them thru the ‘ditch’ section as it is referred to on this narrow section of the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway.  We soon found were in the middle of a parade of 9 boats all headed to Midway marina:  3 sailboats, 1 catamaran, and various cruisers most much larger than us.  The Lockmasters on the Tenn Tom are the great equalizers…they make the faster boats wait for the slowest boats so they lock us all together.  We looked forward to getting to Midway to meet up with Phil, Jacklyn, Carlson and Aubry.  They were waiting for us on the dock upon arrival and were waving and smiling and happy to help in any way they could.   The kids entertained us in the boaters lounge that evening and we enjoyed catching up with Jacklyn.  Phil had his boat to himself for a few hour of peaceful TV watching.  We exchanged several boat cards with the floatilla we traveled with today.  I tried to coordinate a departure timeframe with the pack leader, Makin Memories.  They were planning to leave at first light.

Day 15 & 16 – November 8th & 9th, 2018: Aqua Yacht Harbor Marina, Iuka MS

Day 15 – November 8th, 2018:  Nearly 70 miles away from Aqua Yacht Harbor Marina and only 1 lock at Pickwick to get thru today.  We awoke in the middle of the night to the wind blowing the burgee at the bow and knew we had gotten some NE wind gusts that pushed us against the current.  Greg got up and confirmed we were now stern into the sandbar but the anchor had held.  Nothing we could do at 2:30 in the morning, so we went back to sleep until the alarm got us up at 6.  We got dressed and went directly to the bow to haul in the anchor line to pull us off the sandbar before Greg could start the engines.  No worries and no problems…we  were underway once again.  No delays at Barkley lock so we got to the fuel dock to top off with diesel at Aqua by 3:30.  We requested a covered slip on G dock (where we stayed twice last year; once in July for a few days and again in late September for a month while we drove home for 10 days).  We only paid for one night, thinking we would leave in the rain the next day, but advised we may stay a 2nd day if that was OK and would pay the next morning.  No worries said Tony the Harbormaster we remembered from last year.

Greg  wanted to get the oil changed in both engines and the generator while they were still warm.  He loved the oil exchange system on the Mainship and had made a similar pumping system himself.  Well it didn’t work so good and he struggled with it on the Starboard side oil change.  I made him stop and clean up at 7 for dinner at the Aqua Grill (Pizza and wings were just what we needed).  He kept at it after dinner and I don’t know when he finally finished (I went to bed just before 10pm).

Day 16 – November 9th, 2018:  Decided to remain at Aqua Yacht Harbor

I was awake at 7:30 and quietly left with the laundry (including his dirty maintenance clothes) so Greg could sleep in.  I returned at 9:15 and he was just getting up!  We agreed to remain at Aqua and just relax, so I found Tony at the fuel dock office and paid him for a 2nd day.  We contacted Midway Marina to make a slip reservation rather than anchor anywhere because of the overnight/early morning freeze warnings for the next two days!  We didn’t get far enough South to avoid it…but it was snowing back home in Iowa!!!  We enjoyed free Wifi at Aqua and planned to binge watch the newest series on Netflix for the House of Cards.

Day 14 – November 7th, 2018:  Traveled 67 miles to Double Island Anchorage TN River MM 148.5

Awoke to calm conditions that persisted overnight and saw a partial rainbow/sundog almost just before the sun came up.  Sun light the tree lined bank on the opposite shoreline before it cleared the hilltop on our Eastern side of the bay.  Then the clouds quickly arrived and obscured it all…gorgeous while it lasted!  Rain began an hour or so after we pulled anchor but was forecast to end by noon.  Since we were off the grid overnight, we had no idea of the mid term election results (we mailed in our absentee ballots well before we departed the Quad Cities two weeks ago).  Republicans retained the majority in the Senate, but Democrats now had the majority in the House (or will in January upon swearing in).  Lady Finger Bluff had more limestone exposed now with the Fall colors making it even more beautiful than it was last Summer (even in overcast conditions today).  By 4pm we were securely anchored near the sandbar section of the Double Island.

Day 13 – November 6th,2018:  GTB to an anchorage on Kentucky Lake/Tennessee River

Awoke to calm clear conditions with the sun coming up.  We planned to leave at 7 and Dan and Tori stopped by to advise we could not leave before then because Mary was working on our portrait in the laundry room!  Wow what a nice surprise.  I captured the artist at work and the finished portrait turned out absolutely amazing.  We are parting ways for now and planning to anchor as much as possible before we get to Aqua Yacht harbor marina at the top of the Tenn Tom.  We will see them again eventually…even if it takes until they reach the Keys!

We decided to anchor in White Oak Bay after traveling nearly 60 miles.  The winds were calming and would remain that way overnight, so we opted to stay on the outside area of the bay near the island.  The channel curve to the opposite side of this wide part of Kentucky lake, so wakes would be minimal if any overnight.  Verizon service was spotty and intermittent at best, so we just relaxed.  Greg broke in our new grill and made unbreaded pork tenderloins (from Meatheads—the best!).  We had a spectacular sunset!