FL Panhandle (Sandestin) to MN - 4/09-26/02
Our initial Great Loop concept didn't consider the possibility of buying our dream boat in Florida. While we were on vacation in Destin, in the FL Panhandle, we "stumbled" into the deal that was "meant to be." We took delivery of the boat in Ft Walton Beach on March 6, 2002, and conducted the "sea trial" acceptance trip by driving it to the Baytowne Marina, in Horseshoe Bayou, on the Choctawhatchee Bay at Sandestin. There we lived on it for six glorious weeks. It was a chance to get acquainted with the boat and all its equipment, while having the dealer nearby to work on the traditional "punch list." It also allowed us to do our homework for the trip up the Tenn-Tom Waterway and the Mississippi to our home port in MN.
We had a boating friend from MN who "wintered" in Destin, and offered to fill the role of 2nd Mate, though he was not a veteran of the trip. Part of his offer included keeping a journal. So we now have the following 26 page story of our Practice Run. We've been amazed at the interest in the journal, facilitated by e-distribution in "chain letter" style. I hear from people I don't even know who have read it. So it was also a "practice run" for this Web site. Here is that story:
SOUVENIR ADVENTURE – SPRING, 2002
Background: After 20 years of "houseboating" on the St. Croix River, Dick & Diane Hanson had a retirement dream of cruising The Great Loop (MN to FL, then up the East Coast & back across the Great Lakes). With Dick’s retirement from 3M in mid-2001, we decided we needed a different boat for the Big Adventure, listing Mind Sweeper IV (a ’94 SkipperLiner) for sale in LaCrosse, WI, and planning a winter vacation in the FL Panhandle in a condo in Destin for the month of January. While there, we unexpectedly stumbled into a deal with Ship & Sail, the Carver dealer in Ft. Walton Beach, which was good for both of us. It was a leftover, new 2001 Model 506 (described later in The Journal), and the deal included the trade of our old boat.
Diane suggested that a new name of "Souvenir" would be appropriate for a boat purchased in these circumstances. Her punch line is, "Better Than a T-Shirt." I agreed that it was time to move on from our beloved Mind Sweepers, which had become our identity back home in the St. Croix Valley. So we returned home by auto as planned for the month of February to "shuffle papers" and do taxes, while Bob Faulkrod of Ship & Sail prepared Souvenir for delivery the first of March. The plan became reality when we spent a beautiful month of March at Baytowne Marina in Sandestin, FL, exploring the local waters, and becoming accustomed to operating our new boat.
We also made preparations for the trip north, purchasing all necessary supplies, including spare parts, electronic and paper charts, and gained all possible wisdom from the many veteran boating friends made at Baytowne Marina. So this became a bonus "practice run" for long range cruising, and we were joined by a long-time boating friend from MN, Bruce Abrahamson, as 2nd Mate. Beyond assisting with all the duties of the cruise, we gratefully accepted his offer to document the experience as we progressed. Thus, the following Journal, which we will always cherish as documented memories. This is the unabridged version intended for our private records. But we have found it useful in communicating with friends and family. We acknowledge a wide spectrum of interest levels (much like our trip was a wide spectrum of experiences, ranging from boring to exciting!). So the reader is encouraged to scan it as quickly or as slowly as you wish. I’ll be putting together an album of digital photos taken during the trip, and would be glad to share them with anyone who lets me know of their interest by e-mail reply.
We now anticipate the launch of our real Great Loop experience this fall when we head back to Baytowne Marina to enjoy their spectacular Oct/Nov season. Then after a Holiday visit home, we’ll continue on our way to South FL and beyond…….Livin' the Dream!!
This voyage covered 1660 miles from Destin, FL, to Afton, MN, over 16 days in April, 2002. We cruised across the Intracoastal Waterway (ICWW) to Mobile Bay, up the Tenn-Tom Waterway (Mobile River, Tombigbee River, & Tenn-Tom Canal and Divide) through Alabama and Mississippi, down (north on) the Tennessee River through Tennessee and Kentucky to Paducah. There we entered the Ohio River "down" to the Upper Mississippi River at Cairo, Illinois, where the Mile Markers start at 0.0. Then just above Mile 811, we entered the familiar St. Croix River for the short, final leg to our home port at Afton Marina & Yacht Club.
Record of Travel:
*Note: Lots of waiting at locks & "no wakes" for fishermen & high water.
The Journal; by Bruce Abrahamson:
Tuesday 4/09/02, 7:00 AM, 69 degrees, and raining
This is the day we scheduled as our departure, however; it is quite obvious we are going nowhere, as the winds are 25 mph and we have 12-foot seas on the Gulf. Rain predictions of several inches. It is a day of watch and wait, with dinner at Tibs’ Restaurant. The food was excellent, reasonably priced, and the service pleasant. Dick indulged in Jambalaya and Fila Gumbo, in addition to the normal spice level of the restaurant makings; Dick added some green sauce, which almost burned a hole in the tablecloth. Rain, rain, and rain it doesn’t seem to want to stop. We have heard reports of two to three inches, and it is still coming down. We hope for a better weather day tomorrow, winds have subsided somewhat, but we still have seven- foot seas, too heavy to venture forth. Neighbors have been more than generous in sharing their advice for our trip North, uncharted territory is somewhat daunting, and receiving tips and knowledge from past trips will certainly help in this adventure. Anticipation is eased somewhat, by the fact that Sandestin is still a wonderful place to be.
Wednesday 4/10/02, 7:00 AM; Skies are clearing
The rain has subsided, it is clearing, and the wind is dying, however; the Gulf still has five to six foot seas. The boat is fully prepared to go and Diane has purchased the groceries necessary to supply the crew through the Tenn-Tom waterway, a distance that could take about six days. It is apparent we must wait another day, which is difficult, because the sky is turning to bright sunshine, clear skis and very light wind. Captain and crew are antsy and hope tomorrow will be launch day. The trip to the grocery store, led to a side trip to Destin Sea Food Store. The purchase of three pounds of Trigger fish and a pound and one half of fresh boiled shrimp led to a tasty meal of Trigger in the frying pan and shrimp in the refrigerator for a later morsel. The sunset is magnificent, worthy of a National Geographic cover. It is difficult not to have started our journey, when the day is so mild and sunny, eighty degrees.
Thursday, Day One: 4/11/02, 7:10 AM; Overcast, misting, 69 degrees, Three foot seas.
The Captain decided to take the Intracoastal Waterway (ICWW), rather than venture out on the Gulf. The weather channel predicts thirty percent rain in the morning and 60 percent in the afternoon with storms blowing in from the Gulf. The decision proved correct, as we had rain most of the day. We still had four to five miles of visibility and the wind had little effect on "Souvenir" in the boundaries of the ICW. We started our journey at 7:10 AM from Baytowne Marina; our exit from Horseshoe Bayou led to a comfortable cruise across Choctawhatchee Bay, saluting the Mid Bay Bridge for the last time this year, and Westward bound. We reached Brooks Bridge at Fort Walton Beach around 8:00 AM, continuing through the Narrows past Santa Rosa Island (separating the ICW from the Gulf of Mexico), past Gulf Islands National Seashore, Santa Rosa Sound on the starboard and Santa Rosa Island on the port.
It is said, that most of this land was donated by a family to the U.S. Government many years ago and was designated as U.S. Air Force land, and will never be used for private property development. Navarre revealed many new high-rise condos. developments and somehow has escaped the private vs. U.S. Air Force property issue. The weatherman may have done us a great favor by encouraging us to take the ICW as we have been able to see the lovely properties, marinas, restaurants, and condominiums along this stretch of our journey.
We now enter Pensacola Bay, it is high noon, and welcome to the world of the Big Boys. The large ships have their own shipping lanes, and the rules of the road can very easily become confused. They have ‘Red Right Returning’ from the ships coming home from sea and we have the same thing going on with our boat, going in an opposite direction on the ICW and all within the same waterway. Bottom line, you can have ‘Red Right Returning’ coming and going and they are both right. Thank God for GPS.
We enter Big Lagoon on Perdido Key and the navigation lane for us returns to normal. We have lunch on the run as we pass the lower west corner of Perdido Bay and Wolf Bay. We now enter Portage Creek, which is a ditch that runs about ten miles and dumps into Bon Secour Bay and that is part of Mobile Bay. Waypoint at approximately three miles west brings us within thirty miles (to the north) of our destination for the day. At 2:00 PM we headed north to Point Clear, AL., with a reservation at Marriott Grand Hotel Marina, on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. Our trip north experienced three to four foot seas off the stern, our directional turn east now produces the same sea on the beam, a much more uncomfortable ride to say the least. It is very easy to see why Mobile Bay can be a deadly killer, as it is only eight to ten feet deep, and when you throw a good wind at it, very bad things can happen.
A short three-mile ride brings us safely to the Marriott Marina. We evidently didn’t impress their staff, as we had no help in securing Souvenir and after trying to secure on our own, two young staff showed up to lend a hand. We secured the boat and promptly heard from one of the dock people that we would have to move the boat to a different slip as the owner of the slip we were in had just informed the Marina that they would be occupying their slip for the evening. The Captain informed the Marriott associates who told us to move that "We are not going to deal with this anymore". We promptly unleashed Souvenir and left for another Marina, which at this point was unknown.
We headed WNW towards Mobile, AL. Enroute we called Dog River Marina and Boat Works, (Mobile Bay, Mobile AL). They reserved a tie-on at the gas docks and informed us that their dock manager, Ricky Johnson would assist us. What an understatement, this man knows how to spell customer service. He filled the tanks with Diesel fuel, gave the Captain volumes of information on the up-coming Tenn-Tom Waterway, charged a whopping $25.00 for the tie-on slip, $1.059 per gallon for the fuel, and gave us directions to a restaurant, the keys to a mildly aged Ford Crown Victoria, let us hook up to the internet, (even though he was finished working about one half hour previous) and said "if their was anything more he could do, please ask". What a bargain, and what a joy to experience such pleasant treatment. We made reservations for dinner at the recommended Nan Seas restaurant, and as expected, it was even better than what Ricky said it would be. We met a retired NY City policeman and his wife; they were celebrating twenty-six years of marriage and provided some great conversation during our meal. We acquired his card and bid farewell, with the possibility of a visit during Mardi Gras next year. The day was long, and sleep was welcome. Tomorrow we start our journey up the Tenn-Tom.
Friday, Day Two: 4/12/02; Light breeze, mild chop on Mobile Bay, overcast with light mist, 69 degrees, forecast light rain all day.
We left Dog River Marina around 7:00 AM, and carefully exited our way in a channel plastered on both sides with fishing nets. We reached the ship lane taking us north to Mobile approximately five miles out. Mobile was a comfortable twelve miles north and we soon found ourselves viewing first hand, the industrial and downtown area of Mobile Alabama, (population 200,000). This is a very busy place, and the statistics are quite impressive. Each year more than 40 million tons move through this port. It ranks 8th in the U.S. in exports, 16th in imports and 12th overall. And it is the Nation’s leading port in the movement of forest products. As we pass Mobile’s convention center, we pass the foot of Government Street. That is the official beginning of the Lower Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway. We are at mile 0.0 and our trip begins up the Tom Bigbee, (or as we will refer to it as the Tenn-Tom Waterway). Congress in the River and Harbor Act of 1946 authorized this waterway. After great weeping and gnashing of teeth, in May of 1971, the Army Corps of Engineers got the green light on the still controversial project, grabbed its shovels, and began digging and building its way toward the completion of the waterway that it is today. More dirt was moved to build the Tenn-Tom than was moved to build the Panama Canal. At no time in history has man moved this much earth. This project was finished in 1985, at a cost of $2 billion. The connection of the Tennessee and the Tombigbee Rivers was complete, and it is known as the Tenn-Tom Waterway.
As we pass the downtown area of Mobile AL., we view monster ships and cargo vessels, navy ships, tugboats and all other types of vessels being worked on and repaired in the many shipyards along the river. Sparks fly, and immense flashes of light beam as the welder’s recreate. This mass of monster boats is immense, and as "Rhapsody Of The Seas’ (a Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Ship) stands tall, out of the water, it looks like workers trying to fix a city. The city, in our rear view tells us we are leaving the largest city we will see for almost one thousand miles.
Discussions turn to one whistle, two whistles. This refers to passing a tow on the river; you must communicate with the Captain of the Tow (pushing, not towing barges) and ask, "Captain, do you want us to pass on one whistle or two?" The Captain will advise. Diane wanted clarification. According to one river Captain, "One whistle means go right, that’s all you need to know". Which means if you go right on one whistle you automatically go left on two whistles. Which also means, if you are ‘Aft a tow’, one whistle means you pass port to starboard. If you are heading ‘Bow to Bow’, one whistle means you ‘pass port to port’. If that doesn’t work for you, go back to ‘one whistle means, go right’. Diane (a south-paw) now has it down perfectly.
The Tenn-Tom suddenly turns into a river that resembles our Mississippi in several ways. It has for the most part, sand on it’s shores, wall to wall trees without interruption, quite non-descript, and unlike the Mississippi, it is very winding in its lurch to the North, often traveling one to two miles back and forth to go one half mile to the north. Land and water have been fighting with each other for eons, and it seems neither have won. We are told that alligators love this swamp country and we shall see some enjoying themselves, as we venture north. The curves between Mobile and Demopolis are so tight we need one of the old Guffer Knobs on the steering wheel, (like we had on our 57 Chevy).
Our journey will encounter a total of forty-two locks and dams, twelve of which are on the Tenn-Tom. These locks are referred to as ‘The Dirty Dozen.’ They will collectively lift us a total of 415 feet at normal pool. Our Tenn-Tom river itself will give us average depths of 20’ to 30’, with the deepest parts in the 75’ range. Our day is progressing quite well and we are able to maintain a cruise speed for the most part, fifteen knots, at about 2300 rpm.
We have encountered few Tows, and they seem to average 8-9 barges, and if that were the norm, it will be quite comfortable as we amble north. Our view to the port is the entrance to Big Bayou Canot. The railroad bridge, a short distance up the bayou, is the site of the Amtrak wreck in which 48 people were killed and dozens injured when an engine and several cars left the track and plunged into the bayou. At mile 19.0 we see the curved trusses of the I-65 Bridge. It is noteworthy only because we will not pass another bridge for seventy-one miles and it is also called "The Dolly Parton" bridge. I guess we can figure out ‘why’.
It is at this juncture that we find out the second mate is BRAIN DEAD. Spotting a black/green can buoy at port, he advises Captain to take it on two whistles. The Captain disobeys and thankfully we are still floating, as taking a can buoy two whistles, no matter what direction you are going, could make for a very bad day.
The bridge at mile 114.7 tells us to make the preparations for our first lock on the Tenn-Tom Waterway. It creates some unknowns as the locks on this waterway differ from the locks we are used to on the Mississippi, as they use floating bollards or (cans), recessed into the lock wall. It is to these bollards that we secure the boat. When we have safely locked through one lock it should be less tenuous. After a call to Coffeeville Lock and Dam we arrive at mile 116.6, and our lockmaster gives us the go ahead to enter the lock and prepare for the lock thru. We prepare the boat with placement of fenders and a center rope to tie on the bollard. Our guess on the first lock was a little shy on the length of the rope for the bollard, other than that it was a successful and safe lock thru (lift 34’).
We called ahead to Bobby’s Fish Camp for an overnight slip or tie-on, and we were told we would be welcome, however; we would have to raft to another boat (46’ Grand Banks, Sea Turtle). We agreed and a short time later we arrived at mile 118.9 to settle for the evening, secure the boat and refuel. The Sea Turtle was asked to take the outside tie-on, as they were the smaller boat. ‘Souvenir’ tied on the gas dock and ‘Sea Turtle’ rafted to our starboard. The gas dock was only about 40’ long and seemed tenuous as a mooring for an overnight stay. The refueling was painful, as the equipment was slow. We greeted and thanked the neighbors for allowing us to share their mooring. The alternative would be to anchor at some location and sleep with one eye open and palpations of the heart. Dinner resolved itself with polishing off the fresh boiled shrimp, cocktail sauce, and we were too tired and full to think any further for anything additional to eat. Good day and good night sleep tight.
Saturday, Day Three: 4/13/02: 70 degrees with high 82, cloudy, partly cloudy, sunshine and clear skies, and rain. The whole nine yards.
We depart at 7:15 and it seems the next curve looks like the last one etc. etc. and so it is possible that the highlight for today will be keeping the boat in the middle of the Tenn-Tom, having a successful lock thru at Demopolis Lock and an early arrival at Demopolis Yacht Basin. We have zero stops in between. Our starting point is Bobby’s Fish Camp, (118.9) and today we are clipping along at 15.6 knots, which puts us at Demopolis Lock -at (213.2) around 1:30 pm and with a 25 minute lock (40’ lift). Without a hitch we headed for the Marina, (Demopolis Yacht Basin 216.1) and with a reservation, we fueled, moved to our slip, and secured ‘Souvenir". Shortly after the boat was resting comfortably, Diane had a Mac Attack. Fortunately, the marina gave us permission to use its lender vehicle, a blue (pale and worn) Chevy Van. The doors hardly opened, the inside looked like several folks lived there, and when we fired it up it sounded like it was a 1.5 Gen Set trying to start an air-conditioning unit. We didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, headed directly to Golden Arches, and placed our orders at the counter for dine in. A sigh of relief, a quick tour of the town, a heavy rain, and back to the marina we went. They didn’t want us to lock the doors on the van, I suppose nobody would ever be able to get in it ever again, it would be entombed. The rain subsided, and the Captain and First Mate washed the boat, She was starting to show the effects of several days of rain. After boat clean up, baths, and we all needed showers and afterward the crew seemed ready to call it a day. The suggestion of dinner didn’t raise many eyebrows, so we headed to our T.V. sets and called it a day.
Sunday, Day Four: April 14,2002: 70 degrees with high 80, cloudy to partly sunny. Hot.
We depart a little late this morning, as Souvenir needed water. Our departure was 7:45 AM. At mile marker 217.0 we see the mouth of the Black Warrior River, we are now leaving the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway and entering the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. Our shot past 225.0 brings us exactly half way between Mobile and the Tennessee River. We now are experiencing the sights of chalk cliffs and the scenery is much better. A short three hour cruise and we arrive at Heflin Lock and Dam (mile 266.1; lift 36 ft.). Our preparations are not taking as long and our lock thru is working better. This lock thru is quite flawless, and once again the lock was open, and we locked thru in about twenty minutes. Lunch on the run and three hours later, we lock thru Bevill Lock and Dam (306.8)(lift 27 ft.) Once again we had zero wait time, the lock was open, we eased on up to the front of the lock, secured the bollard, and bang we were through in about 25 minutes. Our last Lock of the day is Stennis Lock and Dam at mile 334.7, which we reached ahead of two tows. (pronounce that fast five times) We enter an open lock at 4:30PM and are headed to Columbus Marina at mile 335.0. We fuel, hook up lines and are secure for the night at 5:45PM. Sea Turtle, and Free Spirit are neighbors tied on the same fuel dock. This is a fine Marina, with wonderful equipment, excellent slips, fifty-amp service, cable, gas grills, patio tables and chairs, a wonderful view and very helpful and friendly help.
Dick and Diane call home on the Marina phone and later fire up the laptop to Email our journal to Hanson and Abrahamson family and friends and bring every one up to date. Our trip has gone quite well so far and we are grateful for a smooth journey. Today we traveled 119 miles and look ahead to a long day tomorrow. Diane fixed delicious lasagna and garlic bread, and our beds told us to retire.
Monday 4/15/02: Day Five: INCOME TAX DAY (so who cares?) 74 degrees, beautiful sunrise, clear skies.
We rise to a beautiful sunrise and realize that our goals today are rather ambitious; we plan on traveling 119 miles, and lock thru seven locks. Even on a good day that would be a big accomplishment. We cast off from Columbus Marina at 7:10 am and at mile marker 336.0 we enter a maze of islands and sloughs that will last the next thirty miles. We are advised to be very careful of watching the markers and pay close attention to the channel.
Mile 357.5 sneaks up on us at 8:20 and we immediately enter Aberdeen Lock and twenty minutes later and a lift of 27 ft. we exit and are on our way to lock number two for the day.
At mile marker 366.0 we leave the river section of the Tenn-Tom and enter the canal section, so in terms of scenery, things will change. The canal is man made and straight as an arrow, with riprap on each side. The foliage has grown as the time has passed, and at least the rocks have green cover. Mile 371.1 has Amory Lock wide open and it looks too good to be true. It is 9:30 AM and as it turns out it is too good to be true. Free Spirit (our neighbor at Columbus) is limping on one engine, (just south of us), as they have a screw that needs attention and they are stopping at Midway Marina (Mile marker 394.0) for repairs. They have contacted Amory Lock and we are advised we must wait and lock thru with them. Thirty-five minutes later they arrive and we lock thru, with a 30’ lift and exit at 10:15. We hope we won’t have to do this the two remaining locks before they drop off at Midway Marina. We hustle to Wilkins lock as it is only 5.2 miles and Free Spirit can only limp at 10 knots. We arrive at Wilkins (Mile marker 376.3), we enter at 10:28 AM and lift 25 feet; we exit at 10:45, and it appears we have left Free Spirit for the duration of the remaining locks.
We meander along the canal and as we read about the many areas recommended for anchorage, it almost makes you want to stay over a night just to have the experience. However; first time travelers versus barge traffic all night, it seems prudent to attempt the protection of a marina. Fulton Lock waits wide open, as if we had a reservation and we were late, (Mile marker 391.0). We enter at 11:50AM, lift 25 feet, and exit at 12:15 PM.
We must be missing something; things are going a bit too perfect.
We have three locks left, about twenty miles of canal and we will have completed a mighty ambitious day. The short seven miles to Rankin Lock (mile marker 398.4) did not take much time, but when we arrived, we received word that we will have a major delay. The reason, three tows, one headed north and two headed south. Our current journey companion, Sea Turtle, has been in contact with Rankin Lock and found out we have a long, long delay. Rankin will probably be a two- hour delay. We tread water until 1:30 PM; lift 30 feet and exit at 1:55 PM.
There certainly isn’t any rush to our next lock, Montgomery. It is less than seven miles (mile 406), however; the Tows ahead have priority and take a long time to lock thru, so what’s the rush. It is a beautiful day, 90’s, clear sky, sun, and a nice light breeze. We can’t do anything about it, so enjoy. We arrive at the lock at 2:30PM but we do not lock thru until 4:20PM, almost a two- hour wait. We exit at 5:00PM after a lift of 30 ft. and head to Whitten.
A short six miles puts us at the lower end of Whitten Lock and Dam (mile marker 411.9, lift). We are concerned, as it is 5:20, we can’t make it to Aqua Marina at the top of the TennTom, and the thought of trying to find the closer Bay Springs Marina in the dark is rather daunting. Sea Turtle was kind enough to make reservations at Bay Springs and offered to guide us to the Marina, as it is off the main channel about one half mile. We enter the Lock around 6:00PM and have to wait 15 minutes for a Bluewater with a load aboard, CHILLEN AND ALL. It took 40 minutes to lock thru, as this lock has a lift of 84 ft. that’s correct, EIGHTY -FOUR FEET. The third highest lift, East of the Mississippi; a white-knuckle ride to say the least.
We safely enter Bay Springs Marina at New Site, Mississippi, (mile 412.0) around 7:30PM, secure Souvenir, and prepare to call it an evening. What a day, 77 miles, 7 locks in twelve and one half hours. The last three locks took us seven hours over 15 miles. We are grateful to be safely in a marina, secure before nightfall. Diane fed us meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and gravy for dinner. Dick and Bruce did dishes, and the sack sounded very good to end this day.
Tuesday, Day Six: 4/16/02: Mid.- 70’s, partly cloudy, quite warm for early A.M. once again, a beautiful sunrise.
Our morning begins at 6:50AM, as we are at the Gas Dock to reload Souvenir with diesel fuel. We start the day with fuel belching out the fuel filler neck and running down the side of the boat, it’s bad enough that it belches on starboard, but to start the morning on the happy side, it spits on the port as well. In addition, the fuel hose makes pitch-black marks on the aft-deck carpeting as it is passing to the port fuel filler nozzle. Diane is not a happy camper. Dick is confused with the smaller quantity of fuel, and the dockhand smiled at us with no teeth. Well, all we can say is, "No one got hurt". We are off to end our journey on the Tenn-Tom Waterway, as this is the last leg of this part of our trip. The Tenn-Tom ends at mile marker 450.5.
The river texture looks completely different from our previous days. We have much clearer water. It has the clarity of a Minnesota lake on a clear day. Mile marker 419.0 brings us to the Tenn-Tom’s Divide Cut section. For the next 24 miles, there will be riprap, straight lines and only 280 feet of water from bank to bank. When the Waterway opened, this section was about as lovely as a strip mine. Since then, Nature has done a great job of erasing and hiding the scars of construction. And she’s still at it. It is illegal, dangerous and stupid to anchor on the Divide Cut section. If we were to have an emergency we would have to pull over, anchor, and call on the radio, or cell phone.
Mile 425.9 We are now at the divide and in the widest and deepest part of the cut. The cut is 1,300 feet wide and 175 feet deep. Every bit of what was once here, all 150 million cubic yards of it, had to be dug out and hauled away.
Mile 448.2 finally gives us a view of the Aqua Yacht Harbor at Iuka Mississippi. This is where we had planned on staying last night. It is beautiful and quite expansive, the largest since we left Mobile. The width of the lake at this point is wider than the widest part of Lake St. Croix, we are certainly in a much different water surrounding. We have cabins, another marina, people fishing, humanity, YEAY!!!!!
Mile marker 450.5: The end of the Tenn-Tom waterway and the beginning of a new journey. As we look in our rear view mirror we recap our travels as follows; we started in Mobile Bay as we idled by the down town area of Mobile Alabama, entered the Lower Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway at mile 0.0, the River Section of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway at mile 217.0, the Canal section at 366.0, and the final leg of the Divide Section at mile 412 ending at the Junction Buoy at 450.0 at the Tennessee River.
Our navigation skills are going to be tested as the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway joins the Tennessee. We were going North on the Tenn-Tom and up stream, we are still going North on the Tennessee, HOWEVER WE ARE GOING DOWN STREAM, so our Black Can Buoys are on the Starboard and The Red Nun Buoys are on the Port. (The exact reverse of the Tenn-Tom) GO FIGURE!!!!! You want to add to the confusion? The Tows (commercial barges) call any downstream vessel "south-bound" (even when the compass says North) and any upstream vessel "north-bound)." Soooooo, even though we are going north, the Tows say we are south-bound, and even though the Tows are going south, they are north-bound. Sometimes it is difficult to know if we are coming or going.
The Tennessee River is a welcome change, and reminds us of the St. Croix and Upper Mississippi in the area of Red Wing, Lake City, Winona, La Crosse, Prairie Du Chien; in many ways similar in width and certainly the shoreline. We are also leaving the state of Tennessee and entering the state of Mississippi. It is our goal to reach Michael’s Perryville Marina, at Parsons, Tennessee this evening, so we have 80 miles to go.
Mile 206.7 brings Pickwick Dam, our only lock of the day, however; we must have said something, as we have to wait and idle for one and a half hours to lock thru and another 30 minutes for the ride. The Pickwick has a drop of 54 feet, It seems strange to go up 80 feet on the last lock and down 54 on this ride, but when we are on a new river we have new rules.
Mile 197.8 is the beginning of Shiloh National Military Park. It parallels the river for almost a mile. This park is one of the most historically significant sites on the river. Here on 4,000 acres are 151 monuments, 217 cannon and more than 450 historic tablets that detail the Civil War’s first major battle in the western theater. Many visitors to the site say the Civil War becomes far more vivid to them here than at any other battlefield.
The battle of Shiloh, named after a church on the battlefield, was fought April 6-7, 1862. More than 103,000 Union and Confederate soldiers plus the Union gunboats TYLER and LEXINGTON were involved. Among the casualties was General Albert Sidney Johnston, the highest ranking American ever killed in combat. By the time the battle had ended, 23,000 men were dead and dying. At such quickly named places as Bloody Pond, Hell ‘s Hollow and the Hornets’ Nest, much innocence and enthusiasm was replaced by grim reality as those who had come to defend their cause discovered the horror of war.
Mile 152.5 one of the sharpest hairpin turns on the Tennessee River. You could leave the river here and return to it by traveling less than two miles across land, a distance that will require about nine miles by water. Mile 135.0, we approach Michael’s Perryville Marina at Parsons, Tennessee, and feel we have enough sunlight to make an additional 20 miles to Cuba Landing.
Mile 115.5 is Cuba Landing, in Blue Creek, Waverly, Tennessee. We have excellent help in securing Souvenir, fueling, hooking up electric, and pumping out the holding tanks. Geneva, Toby, and Billy Bogus, all gave us great help, while an old gent sat next to the diesel pump and smoked a heater. Dick added to the scene by overfilling the starboard tank and once again belching fuel down the side of the Souvenir. After securing Souvenir for the evening, we were presented the keys to a tired van, with directions to ‘The Old Log Inn’. Diane drove, with power steering by "Armstrong," and front wheels that shook hands with each other, we ventured about ten minutes to the restaurant without complaint. We were not about to look a gift horse in the mouth, and we were so hungry, we could have eaten the menus. Dick had Chicken Fried Steak. Diane had Filet, and Bruce had baby Ribs. A great meal, good service, and reasonable price helped us fold our tent for another evening and wonderful day on the Tennessee River. Tomorrow, Geneva has promised to make breakfast.
Wednesday Day Seven: 4/17/02: Bright sunrise, 81 degrees at 6:00 AM, clear skies.
Breakfast at Cuba Landing included Biscuits and gravy. The gravy is molasses. It is good, but very rich. A true Southern every day requirement with breakfast. We eat at leisure, as today should be fairly short. Our goal is Green Turtle Bay Marina at Grand Rivers, Kentucky. We cast off around 7:45 AM.
Running on top of the water at 15-17 Knots makes a short list of the chart. The scenery of the Tennessee River and more specifically the Kentucky Lake (which we are currently a part of) is quite pristine, and most beautiful. What more could you ask for on a glorious, bright sunshine day? A part of the morning is spent going thru the Tennessee Wildlife Refuge, and it repeats the beauty of this wonderful Waterway.
Mile 94.0: Pilot Knob rising more than 200 feet above the river, served as a landmark for early steamboat pilots. Today, it’s part of the Nathan Bedford Forrest Memorial State Park, which includes the Tennessee Folk Life Center. But Pilot Knob was also witness to a most unusual battle, the only time in military history that a Calvary force defeated a naval force.
Mile 24.8 brings us to the Barkley Canal that connects Kentucky Lake on the Tennessee River with Lake Barkley on the Cumberland River. We arrive at Green Turtle Bay Marina, Grand Rivers, Kentucky around 2:00PM. Our great dock crew help secure, and fuel Souvenir, and we had no trouble belching fuel as Diane was in charge. We moved Souvenir to an empty slip next to the gas dock, secured it for the night, hooked up the electrical, water, cable and feel the boat safe and sound for the evening.
The next venture involves the service department. Stan (mechanic) and Ollie (Dick) change oil in the two Diesel engines and the Diesel Gen Set. No easy task, the engines have 142 hours and need to be changed.
The afternoon slips away as Diane goes grocery shopping in down town Grand Rivers, Stan and Ollie finish the oil change and Bruce works on the journal. Hunger calls us to the Commonwealth Yacht Club, located directly above the marina. The setting is wonderful, the view of the river and marina spectacular and all with the ambiance of a private club. We can spot a boat that belongs to an old neighbor from Afton Marina and Yacht club. ‘Northern Comfort" is moored at one of the slips at Grand Rivers with a For Sale sign. We must be getting closer to home.
Dinner arrives with a New York steak for Dick, Tornados Beef for Diane and Bruce, and everything tasted as good as it looked. After dinner we have a new arrival at the Gas Dock, a 57-foot Ocean Alexandria Motor Yacht. The owner and two crew are piloting their vessel up from Panama City Florida to Charlevoix Michigan. They are also taking the Ohio to the Mississippi, up to the Illinois to the Great Lakes and on the Michigan. They will have to dismantle part of their Bridge and Radar Tower, as the bridge in Chicago has clearance of 19 ft. 3 inches. The owner of this craft is a "piece of work". He calls his beautiful Yacht, "Butt Ugly", and of course it is far from it, the Ocean Alexandria is a premier Yacht Builder and it stands out in any crowd. The Captain said he bought a brand new 52-foot Grand Banks two years ago and when he went to take delivery; he found everything wrong with it that a boat owner’s nightmare could bring. To make a long story short, he refused delivery, ended up in litigation and has a gag order against him. We asked why he was talking about the litigation if there was a gag order, he said, "They still owe me nine grand". After refusing delivery on the Grand Banks, he bought the Ocean Alexandria and aptly called it ‘Mulligan". The clock says 8:30 PM but the drowsy yawns say "much later". Shower and bed can’t happen quickly enough. Tomorrow starts at 5:00AM
Thursday, Day Eight: 4/18/02 5:00 AM it is dark, calm, and warm, 74 degrees, much hotter later.
We had the quickest cast off of the trip, as Captain of "Mulligan" called ahead and finally received word that Kentucky Lock would lock us thru. We will be chasing ‘Mulligan’ all day today as we do not have Charts for the Ohio, and we have fifty miles of river to navigate on the Ohio. Mile marker 22.5 Kentucky Lock on the Tennessee River. We enter on a green light as we approach with no wait at 6:20AM; with a 50’ drop we exit at 6:50AM and pilot the final 22.5 miles to enter the Ohio River. At 8; 30AM we find Souvenir ending its journey on the Tennessee, entering the Ohio River at mile marker 933.0 and once again we are South Bound and heading north.
The Ohio looks like a minefield, debris everywhere, large branches, dead heads, trees, stumps, you name it, we are in it. The debris is so thick, that multitudes of birds are roosting on the clutter of mass. ‘Mulligan’ is leading the way and creating a path as if he has a snow plow, thank-you ‘Mulligan’.
We have a brand new event, today; we drove over and through lock 52 and didn’t even know it. I know it is hard to believe, (especially you boaters), but it did happen. Lock and Dam 52 and 53 (on the Ohio River) are Wicket dams, and are totally under water due to spring water, (very high water). There is more than enough clearance for our vessels and over we go. It is quit wide at this part of the river, so the Locks themselves are hidden. As we approach Lock 53, we are advised to go through the dam as we have sufficient clearance. The wickets are down and we are cleared to putter on through. We ended up being correct on lock 52. (Well, we knew that!!!!!). As we pass lock 53 we see a whole city being erected on the descending right shore, the Corp. of Engineering is building a brand new Lock, which will be named Olmstead, as in Minnesota Swedish.
Mile marker 981 (11:15 AM) marks a half way point in our journey and also brings an end to the Tenn-Tom, Tennessee, and Ohio rivers and the beginning of the Mississippi. What a pleasant surprise, the Mississippi marks as clear a distinction from the Ohio as the Mississippi and St. Croix. We do not have debris and junk and mine fields we have water. Our trip past Cairo Ill. is a new beginning, and once again we must adjust our piloting skills hat, and remember to keep Red on the right as we return and are now North bound with 826 miles to go, and still heading South.
We have traveled a distance of 835 miles, and are in the process of completing day eight, but we are definitely on the back nine. Mile marker 0.0, on the Mississippi River, is hard to comprehend, when you started in Destin, Florida. We spoke too soon about debris; The Mississippi is just about as bad as the Ohio, just not as coffee, and muddy. The Missouri, and the Illinois dump into the Mississippi, and the recent heavy rains have given us much more junk than we deserve. We will have to deal with it until we pass both river junctions.
Mile marker 46.2, we have to deal with three separate tows, two north bound and one south bound. The largest (42 barges) which is 6 wide and 7 long is the biggest barge any of us has ever seen, much less try to avoid.
Mile marker 51.6 brings us to an appointment with Kidd River City Fuel. We called ahead to this fuel company, for a visit to the dock with a load of diesel fuel. Without this stop we would have had to journey to mile marker 158.5 Hoppies Marine Service, and we would be placing ourselves at risk. The fuel stop was quite a challenge, as we had South East winds at 20 MPH, strong opposing current, and six tows going by to make our re-fuel a real tense moment. In addition we were chastised from a Tow Captain for our wake, as we motored to our appointment. Our frustration led us to ask forgiveness instead of permission. The tanker on the hill sent it’s fuel to a pumper on a small floating gas dock and out to the Souvenir. Our exit was tense with the circumstances, but we were on the road again, we spot another Tow with 42 barges, it will be wonderful when we pass St. Louis and also the Illinois River and get rid of some of this monster traffic.
Mile marker 99.8 brings us to Rockwood Island, and we rejoin ‘Mulligan’ for an overnight Anchorage.
Souvenir is a brand new vessel and has not spent a night on the hook. We have a first for the boat and the crew at Mile Marker 100. The anchor gets plenty of rode, a double hard reverse hit on the chain, to back down, and we are secure for the night. The day consumed 175 miles, and at 6:25 PM we call it a day. We rest approximately 200 yards starboard of ‘Mulligan’. Diane fixed delicious ham, macaroni and cheese, banana, and peas. The meal was great, the boat was peaceful and at 8:30PM the pillows beckoned. Dick and Diane watched (on satellite TV), forecasts of very bad storms for our area, so instead of crashing, they took turns on watch, while Bruce snored his brains out.
Friday, Day Nine: 4/19/02: 5:00AM Cloudy, hazy, 76 degrees with high 80’s expected.
The bad storms have missed us. Souvenir’s first anchorage was peaceful, even though several tows went past during the night, we stayed on the hook, and our exit at 6:10AM was our fastest departure to date. Mulligan pulled anchor and we pulled Souvenir’s shortly after and started our ninth day of our journey. Barring an emergency, we should not have to experience another anchorage on the remainder of the trip, as there are sufficient marinas along the way to accommodate us.
Our morning is not producing good times as our distance traveled is constrained; we are encountering large tows in each direction, debris that is indescribable, and tows on dry dock and shore in amounts never seen before by this crew or maybe in a lifetime. Our average mph is very frustrating. 1200-1300 rpm’s is just not cutting it.
Meanwhile, our "debris plow" Mulligan developed some engine trouble and had "limp on one" to Hoppie’s at Mile Marker 158 for repair. We moved past them and arrived at Hoppie’s for fuel at 11:40 AM. We took on 400 gallons of diesel; we were advised of a change in the river chart relating to the Chain of Rocks Canal at St. Louis. The chart we have is outdated and we MUST go up the canal and lock through lock 27, instead of following the Corp of Engineering Chart, which takes us up the main channel. We departed at 12:10PM, with our goal Alton Marina at Alton Illinois. The debris looks like a war zone, our speed continues to make us impatient, it almost seems like ‘Souvenir’ is also complaining. Mile marker 172.0 brings us to St. Louis, Mo. With scenes of downtown St. Louis, we struggle with the very low RPM’s we are able to give the engines as we traverse by the wall-to-wall barges and Tows. They seem to go on forever. We pass the Arch and plead for Mile marker 183.0 to take us out of this holding pattern. If the sun were out, maybe this whole scene would be much more enjoyable. After all how many times can you view a large city from it’s waterway?
At 3:55PM we go thru lock 27 and behold a brand new wrinkle in this lock. We witness something we have not seen before; the gates to the lock disappear downward completely out of site, right in front of our eyes. The gates were gone at 4:15 pm and so were we.
As we exit Lock 27 we confront the Missouri River and all it’s nasty current, as it spews it’s volumes of trash at us. The water boils and almost tells us we can’t pass, but Souvenir has something else in mind. With the Missouri in back of us we can immediately see a monster change in the complexion and quantity of debris on the river. We have entered a whole new world. Maybe we can finally cruise a decent speed without threat of destruction. It is too bad we have only a short distance to go.
Mile marker 200.8 soon brings us to Melvin Price Lock number 28, as we pull in at 4:30PM, tie on a bollard, and have a speedy lock, and exit at 4:45. Mile marker 202.7: Alton Marina, Alton Illinois. 5:00PM. We are experiencing a strong (20 plus mph) southeast wind. With instructions from dockhands, (by radio), the Captain backs Souvenir into the slip. The wind is too much to hold. Souvenir ends up beam side to the slip, with temporary floats marking dredging pipes allowing no room to maneuver, the bow gets it’s first scar from the corner of an unprotected finger, and the air is quite blue!
In addition, after finally getting secure in the slip, we find out we have thirty amp electrical instead of the promised fifty amp. The effort to move Souvenir is greater than the inconvenience of 30 amp service. We extend fifty feet to the main fifty-amp cord and run to the pier extension, (we adjust). Dinner reservations are at 6:15, a short distance away. Alton casino shuttle delivers us to within one block of the restaurant and we find ourselves seated at a top rated restaurant. Dick ordered their specialty, Pepper-loin; Diane ordered Chicken Kiev, and Bruce, Filet Mignon. All had a fine meal and wonderful service. Our exit finds a down-pouring rain with green sky, lightening and thunder, and a rush to the entrance of the Alton Casino. We decided to wait out the rain and ventured into the main entrance of the Casino, where-upon we found a vacant bench to spend some time people watching. It is difficult not to be stereotypical in an environment like this, we just can’t resist, it is quite hilarious, but the rain is giving up and we must head to bed. Alton Casino shuttle delivers us to our Marina and the clock says goodnight at shortly after 9:30PM.
Saturday, Day Ten: 4/20/02: Rain, Rain most of the night, rain at 6:00AM and temps. In the low fifties.
The cold front has definitely set in for the day and the rain predicted has come and stayed. Our departure is delayed in order to defog the glass in the enclosed fly bridge. We cast our lines at 7:30AM,and say good-by to a beautiful marina, with wonderful facilities, clean, well furnished bathrooms, outstanding docks, slips, and electrical. But the ambiance of a wonderful facility was spoiled by the bad docking experience and the promise of fifty-amp service. The Alton Marina accommodates approximately 210 boats; it is quite obvious, that our experience is not the norm. Recapping some trivia on our trip to date: we have traveled 1040 miles. Souvenir has consumed 2039 gallons of diesel fuel, and we have 81 hours on the engines. Average 12.9 miles per hour, two gallons of fuel per mile, and nine hours of engine time per day to date. In addition, we locked thru 18 locks, and refueled 9 times.
Mile marker 241.4 brings us to Lock #25 at 9:45AM, Winfield, MO. A tow is locking thru and we wait one hour for the Tow. Our entry to the lock is 10:45AM and we exit at 11:05AM. This lock had bollards, the lift is 2 ½ feet and it looks like our climb up the Mississippi Valley is going to be in small increments and maybe long delays with the amount of barge traffic. The quantity of barges coming and going is quite active. A Tow every 10-15 minutes seems to be the norm.
Mile marker 273.5 allows us to enter Lock #24 (Clarksville MO.) without waiting. We enter at 12:50PM and lock thru and exit at 1:10PM, a lift of 3 ½ feet. This is the first lock with ropes, and it looks like the balance of the locks up the Mississippi will provide ropes instead of bollards. This method of securing the Souvenir to the wall is what we have been used to our entire boating lives on the Mississippi within our travels. The bollard, (a floating can with a large upper post) is uncomplicated, and quite secure. It involves wrapping a rope (two to three wraps) around the vertical post and securing the rope to a cleat on Souvenir. Once we got used to it, this method was really preferred. The rope method involves the lock-hand dropping ropes at the bow and stern of the vessel locking thru. We have become proficient at arranging fenders (bumper cushions) so we can lock thru with one rope at beam center. If the rise is a small number, (2-4 feet) we snug the wall and do not use any ropes. Captain Dick takes good care of Souvenir with the bow-thruster and engines, and "knock on wood" we have not had any incidents in the locks to date.
Mile marker 283.2 sends us in to visit the fuel dock at Two Rivers Marina. During our brief visit we spotted a brand new Bayliner ‘4788’, Pilot House Motor Yacht. A very stunning vessel. It turned out, the marina is also a Bayliner Dealer and the vessel is theirs for sale. We received brochures on the Bayliner and departed with the ‘4788’ in the rear view. Bruce was drooling and his eyes were dilated.
Mile marker 301.2 springs Hannibal, MO. to our port and Lock #22. Lock #23 does not exist, but stay tuned, more about lock 5 and 5A later. We arrive at 3:45PM and must wait 45 minutes for a Tow. Our entrance to the lock is at 4:30PM and we were on our way out at 4:45PM. Hannibal MO. is most widely know because of its most famous native son, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). The debris seems lightened to a degree, and Souvenir is making better time. If the Tows weren’t such busy bodies today we could really make some miles.
Mile marker 343.3 has us breathing directly into Lock #21 at Quincy, IL. Our day has been long, it is 6:25PM, and darkness is soon to come. Our luck is not holding very well today. A double tow is locking thru. The lockmaster said it would be at least one-hour wait. It seems like an eternity as nightfall drops in on us. We only have 3 miles to go to our reserved tie-on slip for the evening, but in total darkness, that could be a long trip. The Tow is now dilly-dallying. The wait is painful. We finally lock in at 7:55PM and out we go at 8:10PM. The lights from the dam and lock glisten on the river as we search for our harbor. The rain is pounding so hard it is difficult to see. We have reserved a slip tie-on at Adams Landing/Pier Restaurant. We can overnight at no cost if we eat dinner at the restaurant. We luck out, the restaurant/pier is directly off the main channel and we are home for the night. We secure Souvenir, and head up to the restaurant for dinner. We do not have any additional hooking up for the evening, as we do not have the normal amenities of a marina. We will run on the generator, and use our own water.
The Pier Restaurant was an elegant place to dine, overlooking the harbor and elevated two stories above the water. The menu was diverse and above average in price, the ambiance special, and we looked like drowned rats. Maybe we can come back some day when we have a fresher look. Dick ordered Texas BBQ Chicken, Diane had Alfredo Fettuccine, and Bruce had potato, bacon, cheese, soup and crab cake. Everyone’s meal was extra fine, and the service very good. Our walk down the ramp thru the pounding rain brought the end of a long day, and the anticipation of a good night’s sleep.
Sunday, Day Eleven: 4/21/02: 6:00AM: The rain did not let up all night; morning brings even more rain and fog. The weather forecast is not good, possible storms with fifty mile in hour winds. We will remain in harbor until it is safe to venture out on the river.
As the rain subsided at 7:30AM, we released Souvenir, and with a late start, began our exit from Quincy Illinois. The river greeted us with Tows north bound, Tows south bound, and the thoughts of long delays in the locks. This trip reconfirms the premise, if you are in a hurry, don’t venture a trip on the Mississippi River, you could burn a hole in your stomach. We also realize the reliance we have on weather that will permit us to motor up the river safely.
Mile marker 343.3: Lock # 20, Canton MO.: We arrive at 8:40 AM. And find a north- bound Tow, with it’s second lock, bobbing in the well. Our wait will be about one hour, so we hurry up and wait. The diesel smoke ascends around 9:15 AM and we enter the lock at 9:35AM for a two- foot lift. We snuggled next to the port side-wall and didn’t use the lock ropes. Souvenir, idled, and didn’t complain about the inconvenience of two-feet of lift for such a big fuss. As the lock door opens at 9:50 AM, our exit seems mundane.
The weather is not clearing, if anything, we have more fog than when we left Quincy. Our visibility has definitely been affected and we could be in for a long day, regardless of the number of miles we travel. The water is moving past a bit more fluid, as the Tows seem to have vanished for a few moments. The sun seems to be fighting with the fog. If we had a slight breeze the fog would disappear.
Mile marker: 364.5: gives us a downtown view of Keokuk Iowa. We have arrived in a border state to our home and it brings a realization that our journey is winding down. We arrive at lock 19, at 11:00AM: this is the last lock with floating bollards, and although we have not been told the ‘WHY’ of bollards, it is possible that the lift distance has something to do with a lock having bollards or tossing ropes. Lock 19 has a lift of 30 plus feet, and most of the other locks on the Mississippi, have short lifts i.e. 2-10 feet. Keokuk scoots us in the lock and we take the 30’ rise at 11:20AM and witness the disappearing act of the lock upstream door, as the door evaporates downward into the bowls of the Mississippi. We lockout at 11: 50AM: and face a wall of fog that tells us today is going to be short and sweet. We combine the radar with visual sighting of the markers and determine a positive distance of sight to be one quarter of a mile. That is not the time to be running on top of the water. Souvenir is running about 1300 RPM and that means we are headed north about 7 knots.
Our attention turns to fuel, which is only a problem if we don’t have any. Quimby’s (cruising guide) lists two possibilities: North Shore Marina at Fort Madison, Iowa: and Bluff Harbor Marina, at Burlington, Iowa: After placing a call to North Shore Marina, we are informed that the normal depth of their channel is too shallow to accommodate the draft of Souvenir. Our second call assured us of proper depth, but no diesel fuel. Bluff Harbor Marina offers diesel fuel, however it is trucked in and dispensed directly off the truck to the boat. It is Sunday and we will not be able to have a fuel truck until sometime Monday morning. Sunday will be a short day on the water as we motor on by the sleepy town of Burlington, Iowa. It appears as if the town has taken the day off, or maybe we are looking at a canvas, completed at some distant time ago. Vehicles are motionless, and our passing doesn’t seem to awake a soul. A second call to Bluff Harbor Marina produces directions into the harbor and Souvenir comes to an early rest this day at 3:00PM: Mile Marker 404.5: This nasty day is not going to allow us to rest easy, as we have heavy winds and a monster green steel girder structure (at the aft of the boat) as Souvenir backs in to the gas dock.
With the aid of the bow-thruster, the Captain carefully inched Souvenir against the wind to a beam slot at the gas docks and we called it quits for the day. The dock line set that Bruce concocted looked like a hodge-podge of non-systems. The available cleats on the gas dock were limited and we had to use cleats designated for a boat, one slip further to the starboard. As a result, it looked like a Rube Goldberg job, however; if a wind were to get frisky and decide to move the boat, the dock was coming with it. The boat secure, Dick and Diane descended to the dock and were greeted by a couple, who immediately asked, "Can we drive you anywhere?" Diane responded that "a grocery store would be great," and the offer was very generous. Our crew was immediately introduced to Tom and Sally Parrott, whose kindness and hospitality capped off the afternoon in a manner quite unexpected and most gracious. After providing us with refreshments, they gave us a tour of The Shoquoquah Boat Club and it’s entire facility. The ‘Club’ includes a two- story building with an attached pole building for dry storage of (member) powerboats. The two-story portion has a kitchen area and bathrooms on the main floor and the second floor has pool tables, card tables and a social area for it’s members. The outside area has a wonderful deck, with barbeque, and the entire facility overlooks the marina.
The dry storage boats are resting on dollies that carry the boats to a launching ramp that is constructed of huge steel beams and a ramp that provides a launch for the stored boat. It is a very unique method and a wonderful concept of a group of fellow boaters. Tom and Sally said they had recently been inducted into the club and were quite pleased that they were able to be a member. The tour was followed by introductions on the second floor to Greg and Cheryl Ewinger, Mike and Sammie, and Marlene, who was there with her two children. The discussion seemed to center on the journey aboard Souvenir and after an enjoyable visit, Tom and Sally offered to take us to the grocery store.
We thanked this generous couple and they insisted that they return to pick us up and deliver us back to the marina after we shopped; they could visit Tom’s parents a short distance away and return in short order. Diane, Dick and Bruce made a quick walk-thru at the Hovees’ Grocery Store and arrived at the curb about the same time Tom and Sally returned. Upon our exit, Tom suggested a brief tour of Burlington of which we found some interesting facts about them and this town. This couple farms 2400 acres (of which 25% is third generation) in Danville, Iowa, located about 16 miles west of Burlington. They have two daughters and one son, of which the son farms with mom and dad. That makes three people running 2400 acres, quite a feat. Tom also teaches at the local Community Colleague and they both host and visit exchange farm programs with at least two other countries.
Amidst our conversation, we received a tour of Burlington, Iowa and saw highlights including the new hospital, Martini’s, and finally they dropped off Diane at Big Muddy’s Restaurant, continued to Souvenir, so Dick and Bruce could dispose of our groceries, and insisted on bringing us back to the restaurant to join Diane. What a couple, it is difficult to just say thank you for such generosity; however, we may have that opportunity this summer, as they are coming up to the St. Croix River and spending a few days boating at our home port. Just having the opportunity to meet this couple was a reminder that this country still has some real gems that sparkle above all the rest. They take your breath away.
Big Muddy’s Restaurant, was just what this crew needed for the evening meal. We were located about ½ mile from Souvenir, the dress was quite casual, the view of the marina and the river was a delight, and the menu offered many choices. With a dose of hamburgers, a turkey sandwich, soup, and French-fried onion rings, we ate, paid our fare, called home, and headed to the boat. The walk was more than brisk, as the rain, wind and cold front has definitely brought some really, really cold weather. Temps around 40 and tomorrow the same. Dick and Diane watch a Clint Eastwood movie on their VCR, and lights out for another day.
Monday, April 22, 2002; Day 12: Overcast, very cold, late 30’s early 40’s, strong SE wind, forecast in the50’s, with some sun.
Our day starts off in a hurry up and wait mode, as the fuel truck carrying our diesel fuel does not arrive until 9:55AM and it takes another 40 minutes to fuel. The wait was consumed with Dick and Diane catching up on E-mails, and sending a revised addition of Souvenir’s journal. Our exit needed assistance from the Marina as the wind was nasty, the time was 10:50AM, and it seemed like half the day was shot. (It was!!!!)
Mile marker 410: arrived quite quickly at 11:10AM only to find out that Lock #18 (Gulfport, Illinois) had a double tow (barges) in the well and we would have a 2 hour wait. The river is churning with high water and it is going up more each hour. The heavy rains have channeled tons of water to bring several of the most recent locks to be wide open, with zero or very little lift as we pass thru them. We wait two hours, enter the lock and raise a couple of inches (or nothing at all) and exit the other gate on our mission to the north. What an exercise in futility, and participation in waste.
Our commercial traffic is beginning to look like old friends as we pass several Tows today that we passed yesterday and the day before and the day before that. The reason, we stop at night, the Tow keeps going at about 5 knots. We catch up the next day and perform the same drill again that night. Bruce can even remember the commercial Tow, ‘New Dawn’. Our trip towards Lock #17 is slow, as with the high water comes the risk, of damage from our wake. We run above the water when we can and when homes and cabins line the waters edge we run at closed throttle.
Mile marker 457.2: brings us to Lock #17, New Boston, Illinois; With a call ahead, we find a lock waiting on us and we enter the lock at 3:00PM and with a whopping 3" lift, we exit at 3:10PM. I guess we deserve at least one break this day.
Our 20-mile journey to Lock #16 seemed like it took forever as we slow for all the cabins, homes, private developed property, and tows parked on the banks.
Mile marker 457.2: Lock #16 at East Muscatine, Illinois. Our arrival at 4:30PM was greeted with a 30- minute wait, and compared to our recent experiences, we can handle ½ hour. Our lock in at 5:05PM and Lock out at 5:20PM required zero lift, GO FIGURE!!!!
If it would be possible to lock thru Lock # 15 this evening it would help the progress of this very slow day. We call two marinas’ on the cell phone to try and get reservations for a slip or tie-on for the night. Fairport Landing/Chart House Lounge, (mile marker 463.0), is all but closed due to high water. They advise a try at Sunset Marina at Quad Cities, (Rock Island, Illinois) we call Sunset Marina and do not receive an answer. This is a marina owned by the city, and is not in full operation this early in the spring. As we approach mile marker 479 we need to make a decision. That process is cut short with a quick call to Lock #15, as they inform us of a two-hour delay, with a double load in the well. We decide to call it quits for the day and head to the harbor of Sunset Marina, at Mile marker 479.8, only to find nobody home in the form of employees or help of any kind. We decided to tie up at the end of a pier and secure the boat for the night. As we finished the dock line drill, a marina resident boater, (Al Coates, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa) paid us a visit. He thought we would be, "just fine", where we were tied up and we could check with the marina in the morning. With the boat secure, we started the process of hooking up electrical, and soon found we had no power. Al tried to help us with the main circuit board that has the master switch and meters on it, however; it was all in vain and we decided to leave the generator on for the night. Dick asked Al, "how far to the nearest restaurant?" and Al told us it was about four miles to a good restaurant. He immediately offered his truck and told us to take it and go eat, and keep the keys, as they also have a key for the restrooms and showers. We have only met this person ten minutes and he offers us the keys to his brand new multiple passenger pick-up truck. We have found another gem on the Mississippi, Al and his wife Sandy, have been boaters on the Mississippi for thirty something years and currently live aboard a 38’ Carver, Aft. Cabin Motor Yacht in the summer months, and this was the first time out this year for this couple and we thanked Al for the offer. However, Diane had already started dinner. And we were treated to stir-fry shrimp, a tasty meal and a wonderful way to end a somewhat unproductive day. We only logged 75 miles today, but the Tows, trains, and flood- waters, held us down and we hurry up and wait. Tomorrow is another day.
Tuesday 4/23/02 Day 13: Cold is the word, we definitely have a total different feel in this air. The day is forecast 40’s 50’s; and sun, with strong SE winds in the 20-25 MPH range. The foliage is diminishing, quite a change from the south, which was in full bloom, both trees and flowers.
We begin our morning at 6:50AM, with a call ahead to Lock and Dam #15 to check on a lock thru time. The answer was not kind, they are locking a double thru and we will have a 1-½ hour wait. Once again, any urge to get antsy is in vain as the Tows have priority and they take what ever they take to lock thru and as they say "Shoot-out" the other side.
Al Coates stopped over to see if there was anything else he could do to help us and we seemed OK and ready to go if we didn’t have to wait for the X@#%*&?>Z Tow.
The name often used to describe the area we spent the night is referred to as "The Quad Cities". They include on the Iowa side, Bettendorf, and Davenport; and on the Illinois side, Moline and Rock Island. It is a mildly popular destination for Twin City boaters, although; this is a first visit for all three of Souvenir’s crew.
We cast our lines and arrive at Davenport/Rock Island RR Swing bridge only to learn of a soon to arrive train, once again we hurry up and wait. Mile marker 482.9; Lock and Dam #15; Rock Island, Illinois; our delay brings us to the lock at 8:10AM and we still wait until 8:45AM and we lock out at 9:05AM. With Quad Cities in our rear-view mirror, we "Shoot out" northbound with a two- hour delay. The travel this day is, once again, slow on the river due to high water lapping at the base of homes and the current throwing trash, deadheads and branches of all sizes at our bow. We will just have to adjust and take whatever miles we can make in stride.
Mile marker 493; Lock and Dam #14 and #14 A; LeClaire, Iowa. Our late start puts us in the down stream mouth of the lock only to find yet another tow in the well. We arrive at 9:50AM, tread water until, 10:50 AM we lock in and with zero lift, lock out at 11:05 AM. What a waste of taxpayer dollars, there must be a reason for this exercise, short of going directly over the open dams. The trip north today is definitely going uphill and Souvenir is working hard. The current is logging 6 MPH and the debris is causing the crew, eyestrain in their constant watch of the river’s mess.
Mile marker 522.6; Lock and Dam #13; Fulton Illinois: We arrive at 1:30PM, with hopes of making Dubuque, Iowa, however; we once again have a long wait ahead as we have a double north bound that has just dumped it’s first load in the well. Our wait is 2 hours and at 3:30PM we lock in and once again with zero lift we lock out at 3:45PM. A short, 12- mile jaunt brings us to Island City Harbor around 4:30PM and our day ends with 55 miles under our belt. It is frustrating to spend so much time in the wait, and end up with so few miles behind us, and so many hours of hurry up and wait.
Mile marker 534.5; Island City Harbor, Sabula Iowa; Our radio contact and instructions for entry in the marina brings a welcome from Jerry (owner) and Jesse (his son). The wind is nasty and makes it necessary to secure extra spring lines on both sides of the boat. Jesse pitches in to help with lines, the water hook-up and the electrical. Jesse seems like a fine young man, eager to please, well mannered, and beyond his young 13 years. We reward Jesse for his fine efforts and a big smile and sparkle appears in his eyes. Jerry returns to ask if we are planning to go to town (about 1 mile) for dinner, we reply in the positive, but we have no wheels. Jerry said," Let me see what I can do". Shortly, Jerry returned, and informed us that, Paul and Linda Sue Schindel, a boating customer who rents a slip for their 44’ Gibson, is going to let us use their Jeep for the evening. How different it is in small town USA. We have the owner of the marina we have just met ten minutes ago, who asks one of his customers, who we have never met, if they would lend their car out to some folks for the evening, so they can go to town for something to eat, and they reply, "no problem". Is there something missing in our world up north?
With keys in hand, we pile in the Jeep and find the back seat missing, as Paul was hauling quantities of ‘stuff’, and needed the extra space. No problem, Bruce set his large frame in the back and all you could see thru the back window was his head above the door jam. Dick and Diane decided to ask Jerry and Linda Sue if they could join us for dinner and they accepted. The restaurant choice was the Islander Restaurant in downtown Sabula, as the choices were limited. Inside the Islander we immediately felt the warmth of a small town café. Everyone knew each other, the meals were hearty and complete, like mom used to make. Rib steak, pork chops and hamburgers filled the moment, and Dick ordered pie and ice cream. The entire tab was $31.55, plus $1.68 for Dicks’ pie. So the final picture looked like this: Jerry (the marina manager) talked Paul and Linda Sue, into letting complete strangers use their Jeep; Dick and Diane decided they would treat Paul and Linda Sue to dinner, and took them in their own vehicle, and Bruce paid the tab, all $31.55 plus tip. Dick paid for his own pie. The evening wound down with comments of Paul and Linda Sue’s kindness and how refreshing it is to see the warmth and the trusting nature of the people we have met and spent some time with on this journey. The evening produced a chill that seemed to say October. April would be at some later date. But we were with warm people.
Wednesday 4/24/02; Day 14; Cold, mid 40’s AM, with high in early 50’s.
The morning produces sun, wind, and a November chill. It is hard to remember that this is April, (springtime). Souvenir is unleashed from it’s slip and Dick heads to the gas dock. Yesterday afternoon, Dick contacted Island City Harbor Marina, and requested diesel fuel. We were advised that they had a load coming in the afternoon and we could refuel Wednesday morning. Our fuel reload takes longer than normal, as the hose from the pump is smaller in diameter than all the other marinas. We requested a pump out on both holding systems, however; the pumping station is not functional as yet and that is not good news, as the holding tanks need attention. The Corps of Engineers is waiting on us to finish our fuel load so they can fill their ‘Sweatt’, a survey boat. It was quite interesting that the crew of three didn’t mind the wait of one hour as they were on the clock. They mentioned, "it was no big deal, it was just taxpayer money". We wave good-by to Island Harbor Marina at 9:20:AM and head north into a stiff northwest wind and hope for a good day.
Mile marker 556.7; Bellevue, Iowa; we arrive at 10:55AM and immediately lock in with no wait. After a zero lift, we exit with a brand new twist. To add to the tremendous task of fighting a 25 MPH, NW wind, Dick has to maneuver around and under the boom on a cement crane that was stationed right in the middle of the lock. This crane was lifting loads of cement from the land, side of the lock, over the lock and into an area under construction. Dick has been a superb Captain and once again his skills shine.
Mile marker 583; Dubuque Iowa: We arrive and lock in at 1:00PM and once again we have zero lift. The river is flooded and a crest is expected on Friday, 4/26/02. It is certainly a treat to lock thru without waiting two plus hours, especially when they open one gate and close it, then open the front gate, without raising the lock even one inch.
Mile marker 615; Guttenberg, Iowa: We arrive and lock in at 3:10 PM and believe it or not, we have a 6" lift and exit at 3:30 PM. The last 20 miles is a breeze as we have completed a full day without delay in the locks and we have finally had a 100-mile day. We have place several calls to marinas in the Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin area, and we receive no answer as all the marinas list their first day open as May 1st. Marquette Marina at Marquette, Iowa did answer the phone, as they are located in front of Isle of Capri Casino and Hotel. They told us, we could tie up to their gas dock for the evening. They are located across the river from Prairie Du Chien, and have a restaurant in the Casino.
Mile marker 634.7; brings the end to a productive and enjoyable day. Actually all days on the water are enjoyable, just some more than others. Our attempt to dock at the gas dock of Marquette Marina was a real white- knuckle affair. We had a northwest wind in the 25 MPH range, a southbound current in the 10 MPH range and we had to secure the bow of the boat first in order to hold it from the wind taking it back out to the river. That means jump off the swim platform, run to the bow and grab a line and secure the bow and than run to the stern and secure it. We took four passes, and with the help of Dick’s expert Captain skills we had a soft landing. It didn’t take long to secure Souvenir, as we did not have electric hook up or water. We would have to run the generator and use the ship’s water. We located the shuttle for the Casino, after calling on channel 16. The police department of Marquette responded and relayed the message to the Casino and lo and behold two minutes later a shuttle arrived and delivered us directly to the Casino. Somehow that just doesn’t seem possible in the Twin City area. The delicious buffet in the restaurant was a treat from Dick and Diane. As always a buffet has more food than the average person can eat or deserves, but we took a hard run at it. We all toured the Casino. Diane tried a few slots, and Bruce sat at the poker table. We called it an early night and the boat was quiet at 9:15 PM.
Thursday 4/25/02: Day 15: Cold, beautiful sunrise, west/northwest wind, the cold seems much more miserable than upper 30’s.
Waving good by to Marquette, brings the realization that our journey is coming to an end. We have less than 200 miles to go, and eight locks. With good luck getting thru the locks, and debris that will allow us to navigate, we will be home in two days. Today could be a long day with the locks. Mile marker 647.9: Lock and dam #9: Eastman Wisconsin: we arrive and enter the lock at 8:45 AM and lock out at 9:00 AM with zero lift. Our day begins on a good note, as we do not have to wait for any tows. We are not used to such a luxury, let’s hope we have more.
Mile marker 679.2: Lock and dam #8: we arrive at 11:15 AM, and they are waiting with an open lock. Our exit at 11:30 AM brings a big smile on our faces, even with zero lift we wave good- by. Mile marker 697.4: La Crosse Pettibone Boat Club: we arrive at 11:50 AM, Dick had called ahead and ordered diesel fuel, with an appointment for delivery at 1:30 PM. It is very difficult to secure Souvenir, with the winds at 25 MPH out of the west/northwest. Diane snags a cleat at the stern and we have a hook. We are able to secure the bow, and we have Souvenir at rest and thirsty. We are early for our appointment, and there is a restaurant on site, allowing us to get some sandwiches to go in time for our fuel appointment. The Mobil fuel truck arrives at 1:20 PM and the dock crew of Matt, Al and Tom deposited 300 gallons of diesel fuel. Dick & Diane had a nice visit with Dan Nelson, their friend from SkipperLiner, and we are on our way at 2:00 PM with full fuel tanks and bellies. We hope our good luck in the locks continues.
Mile marker 702.5: Lock and dam #7: LaCrescent, Minnesota: we arrive at 3:00 PM, the well is wide open, our lock thru has zero lift and we exit at 3:10 PM. We are on a roll; if our luck holds we will be able to make up for past days of long lock delays. Mile marker 714.3: Lock and dam #6: Trempealeau, Wisconsin: our arrival at 3:50 PM, once again finds an empty well as we lock in, float a 1’ lift (believe it or not) and exit at 4:05 PM. It is becoming more obvious by the mile, that spring has not sprung in the back-stretch of our trip. The buds are hardly visible, the color is quite like winter, and the air is moist and cold.
Mile marker 728.4: Lock and dam 5A: Winona, Minnesota: we arrive at 5:10 PM and without wait we lock in, float a 6" lift and lock out at 5:20 PM. Quite uneventful, considering we are on our last locks. We have three more to go on our entire journey. The wind just will not let up and the lockmaster told us the current this AM was 10.7 MPH. We have everything pushing Souvenir backwards, and we are still making good time and the locks like us very much today. Mile marker 738.2: Lock and dam #5: Minnesota City, Minnesota: we arrive at 5:45 PM and once again we lock in without waiting and the well empty, our lift of 1’ gives us an exit at 6:00 PM and we are out of here. Today is quite amazing, and we are going to try for #4.
Mile marker 752.9: Alma, Wisconsin: Dick calls ahead and learns there is a southbound Tow approaching. The Lockmaster "inspires" a race that we lose (he knew that!), and the prospect of another two hour wait is discouraging. This means an overnight in Lake City is out of the question, and we’ll be after dark finding space in Wabasha.
But as luck would have it (ours is "good" this day), the Tow broke a rudder entering the lock and suggested we go ahead! We lock thru a 1’ lift and we are motoring at 7:05 PM. Souvenir, is not tired, but nightfall is on it’s way shortly and Captain Dick is looking for a place to rest. Mile marker 760.5: We secure Souvenir for the last time this trip at Mississippi Parkside Marina, in Wabasha, Minnesota. We are all happy to have a very productive day come to an end. The boat is secure in a marina, we have electric power and will not have to run the generator, and tomorrow we will end our trip together. It is bittersweet. Sixteen days of travel on Souvenir, many miles behind us, and yet we all are anxious to get home and see our loved ones. Maybe it is befitting that Jim Carey makes us laugh with a final movie on the dish, and off to bed. Tomorrow is coming early.
Friday, April 26, 2002: Cold, Cold, and temps in the 40’s, sun, and more Cold. No wind, Let’s go!!!
We depart at 6:10 AM and begin the final day of our journey, the wind is presently calm, and we hope it will remain that way for our crossing of Lake Pepin. The sun is rising brightly and highlighting the banks in their naked splendor. Spring has not visited this valley, and it could be many more days to come. Lake Pepin is kind and gentle this morning, allowing us to traverse at any speed we wish. Red Wing says "Good Morning", and the Lock and Dam #3 says, "We’re waiting for you". Mile marker 796.9: Lock and dam #3: Red Wing, Minnesota: We lock in at 8:50 AM and the well is wide open. It is hard to believe we have had 11 locks without a wait, and on the backside of our trip. The lock is uneventful and quick as we wave good-by to our last of 42 locks of this wonderful journey. The trip from Red Wing is a nine-iron from here, and the short two hours will bring the final chapter to this Journal. A short wait for a train at the Prescott Railroad Bridge, and we’ve cleared our last hurdle. The St. Croix looks gorgeous in the crisp morning sun, and Afton Marina is going to have Souvenir as a brand new resident; and a veteran of a spring adventure from the Florida Panhandle.
To all who have had the patience to read our journal:
Thank you for your interest in this experience. Please excuse the author for his errors in punctuation, sentence structure, and poor composition. He has not finished his own work for 35 years, and fortunately, had a very competent assistant.
Respectfully submitted for the Record,