After spending this past winter holed up at home in northern Michigan remodeling our kitchen, we feel we’re more than ready for some new cruising adventure, so we are preparing, planning and packing to head west soon to begin another fun boating season. First we’ll visit the Flaming Gorge Reservoir on the Green River in Northeast Utah/Southern Wyoming, then we’ll continue on to Puget Sound in Washington State, there we’ll put in at Anacortes and cruise north into Canada’s Gulf Islands, Desolation Sound and more. Check back often, the fun is soon to start.Continue reading...
This is the end point to our 2012 Tennessee River cruise. Our trip’s mission was to spend some time on the Tennessee River, traveling it’s length along with this years crop of Loopers and commence the cruise by attending AGLCA’s (America’s Great Loop Cruisiers’ Association) 2012 Fall Rendezvous held at Joe Wheeler State Park and Marina. To get to Joe Wheeler we had to lock through the Wheeler Lock and Dam, the last lock for us on this trip.
We always try to get this spot at the Joe Wheeler Marina because it’s perfect for our tug and it’s located in the middle of all the activities of the rendezvous.
We meet some of our favorite Loopers here at the AGLCA Fall Rendezvous and right at the top of our list are Patsy and Tom Conrad, on True North, the Conrad’s share the job of MC for the rendezvous at Joe Wheeler. This year Patsy added this cute parrot to their boat and apparently he is already a Looper.
We had briefly met Jack, Denise and their daughter Beatriz, on Jade, at Pebble Isle Marina in New Johnsonville a few weeks ago. The Beraha’s are from Brazil and have completed three-quarters of their Loop trip. We were neighbors at Joe Wheeler and we made a point of getting together to hear about their journey. They have an interesting story… after being childless for many years they moved onto their boat full-time to start cruising and a miracle happened… Beatrice. She has lived her whole life on a boat. What a great story.
Here is a link to their BLOG.
Liz and Bob Stagg (above), are two of the friendliest people we ever did meet while doing the Loop. Since the Stagg’s live near Rogersville, they are almost always in attendance at the AGLCA Fall Rendezvous.
Our first Happy Hour began on the main transient dock of the marina where most of the Looper boats were tied up. A lot of boats had arrived ahead of us, so we were a little behind in the meet and greet aspect of the evening before scheduled activities began. All these friendly faces with big smiles greeted us as we stepped onto the dock, with drinks in hand, we immediately felt right at home amongst them.
We first met Charlotte and Stephen, on Jackets II, in our hometown of Traverse City, Michigan last summer as they were making their way through the Great Lakes, during their Loop trip. They had needed some assistance from an AGLCA Harbor Host and Jim was more than happy to help them out.
We did several portions of our second Loop, in 2008 with Robert and Kay Creech, on C-Life, and were so happy to run into them again at Joe Wheeler this year. Robert and Kay are attending the event to receive the award for Harbor Host of the Year. If you are ever cruising the East Coast ICW and visit Southport, SC, make sure to look up Robert and Kay, they’ll welcome you with open arms.
We also got to make new acquaintances during the rendezvous such as Barbara and Craig, on Blue Heron (above) and Bob and Madeline, on Betty L (below).
We also got to tour some unique boats like the one above and the one below.
When Halloween arrived, near the end of the rendezvous, little Beatriz really got into the “spirit.” We all tried to help make the trick-or-treat night special for her by getting presents and candy to fill her Halloween bag. Halloween is not celebrated in Brazil but when Breatriz saw all the costumes and decoration in the stores she had to go all out with her costume and see for herself what all the fuss was about.
We sometimes joke that the only reason we go to the AGLCA Fall Rendezvous is because shortly after we get tied up at the marina, a jar of Pookie’s Sweets shows up on our back deck courtesy of Pookie and Evan, on Pookie II (below), and to top it off Pookie and Evan are fellow Ranger Tug owners.
In all we spotted four Ranger Tugs at the rendezvous, including Kismet.
Lots of people lined up for a tour of Kismet during the boat crawl, and that’s okay she likes the attention.
We enjoyed dinner last night mostly due to the company at our table. New acquaintances Larry and Anne, on Great Laker and Paul and son John, on Memshahib (whom we met at Green Turtle at the beginning of our trip) joined us for dinner and end of rendezvous festivities.
Robert and Kay received their Harbor Host of the Year Award and we got to help them celebrate the recognition they received. And last, but not least, is a group shot of this year’s attendees of the AGLCA 2013 Fall Rendezvous.
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After leaving Grand Harbor Marina, we made two anchorage stops before we got to Joe Wheeler State Park. The first, Little Bear Creek (above and below), was a new spot for us while our stay at McKernan Creek was our third time at anchor.
On the move again early the next morning we passed the bridge at Florence, Alabama (below).
To get to McKernan Creek we had to lock through the Wilson Lock and Dam. At 110 feet high the Wilson Lock is the highest lock east of the Mississippi River and relatively easy to lock through. Cruising the Tenneseee River during this fall’s Looper migration south brought back a lot of fond memories of our two previous trips south on the Tennessee River during our 1.75 Loops.
We had to wait a bit for the doors of the lock to open, this is the second to last lock we will go through before we get to Joe Wheeler. If you’ve never been in one of these big locks, the photos (below) will give you a reference and perspective as to their size. To tie up inside one of these huge locks for the first time can be a little intimidating but everyone get’s used to them after a couple of lock-throughs.
McKernan Creek is always a fun stop. We find this creek well-protected if you can get far enough in. We always feel like we’re in a small lake and enjoy the many cottage that dot the shoreline.
After being on the hook a lot lately, a visit to Grand Harbor Resort and Marina, located where the Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama borders come together (we’re officially down south at this point), hit the spot. It has all the amenities a long-distance boater appreciates including a well stocked ship’s store, an elegant boater’s lounge, laundry facilities located right on the dock where you can sit by the water as you wash and dry your clothes, they also have several loaner vehicles and they almost beg you to use one to explore the nearby towns. But first we had to go through the Pickwick Landing Lock and Dam to get to Grand Harbor.
We left early in the morning due to weather reports of high winds, we wanted to get through the lock before they picked up much. Good call because we had an uneventful lock-through.
The marina at Grand Harbor provided us an opportunity to run into a few of the Loopers we’ve met while cruising the Tennessee River. There must have been about ten boats tied up by the end of the day and of course, a happy hour was organized and fun was had by all.
We met Paul and his son John (below), on Memshahib, just as we put the boat in the water at Green Turtle Marina to begin our Tennessee River cruise. We like the idea of a father/son boat trip, they will have made some great memories together while sharing the adventure of doing the Great Loop boat trip.
The Rib Cage is a folksy BBQ restaurant fairly close to the marina. We always make a point to stop there for the good food, fun decor and friendly atmosphere.
We don’t see this very often… a sprout of a tree (below) growing right out of an old decaying line attached to an old sailboat.
We have to rate this spot as the most unusual thing we’ve seen in awhile. Just a few miles down the road from the marina is this creative musician who, when not rented out for a special event, will perform for the neighbors right in his own backyard, complete with seats and a fire pit. We didn’t get to see him in action but we like this idea very much.
And then there is this “Olde Tyme” hardware store close to the marina. The thing we loved most at this store was the train track set up just below the ceiling of the store, which the staff went to great lengths to fire up so we could be amused. While out and about with the loaner van from Grand Harbor, we sure got a taste of rural America at its finest.
After a couple day’s stay we had to move on downriver. Two more anchorages to visit before we arrive at Joe Wheeler State Park and Marina.
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A beautiful fall day presented itself to us as we headed out, from Clifton Marina early the next morning, with a plan to anchor out at Diamond Island. With bright blue skies and a pleasantly warm day, we basked in the scenic beauty along the Tennessee River during our cruise. Lots to see with many boats on the water, some Loopers passing us and people fishing or relaxing along the sandy shoreline of the river.
The houses along the river are interesting to look at and we enjoyed seeing this herd of cattle grazing along the river. (Above)
We met Bill and Bonnie, on Elissa II (above) during our stay at Clifton Marina, they are from Northport, Michigan, not far from our hometown. Small world isn’t it?
This was our third time anchoring at Diamond Island, this was “home” for the remainder of the day after we left Clifton Marina. We knew there was a number of boats leaving Clifton the same day, so we were surprised to find we had the entire anchorage, on the east side of the island, to ourselves.
Diamond Island (the entrance to the anchorage – above), and the surrounding area, is called Pittsburg Landing where, in 1862, a large force of Union Soldiers stationed themselves for the Civil War’s Battle of Shiloh. On this day, however, it was hard to imagine anything so horrific as a war taking place in this serenely beautiful spot.
As we settled in for a peaceful night on the hook, fellow Loopers, Joel and Debbie, on Watermusic (below), arrived just before dusk and dropped anchor downstream, behind us. The weather the next morning had changed and high winds were expected. Since we had the Pickwick Lock to negotiate, we decided to leave early before the wind had a chance to build and, as luck would have it, we were relieved to have gotten through the lock without a problem. By the time we made it to Grand Harbor Marina, with the weather quickly deteriorating, we were happy to be tied up to a dock. We were more than pleased to see a lot of Loopers there already, with more headed in later in the day. Of course a happy hour on the dock was organized and we got a chance to meet several more of this year’s participants in the Great Loop boating adventure.
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When we’re cruising day after day and anchoring out overnight, we get to a point where we’d like to take in the creature comforts a marina will afford. Most marinas offer the essentials of power, water, fuel, laundry and showers, but every once in a while we are “wowed” – our second stay (first visit was during our second Loop trip in 2008) at Clifton Marina in Clifton, Tennessee was exactly that. The welcoming reception and unique experience we received while in Clifton could just well be this part of the country’s well-known southern hospitality or maybe it’s a business owner who really cares about his customers. In any case, transient boaters, cruising the Tennessee River, who are lucky enough to have turned toward the eastern shore at the end of a cruising day to enter the narrow channel at Clifton Marina, get an experience above and beyond the norm. This is Gene’s (the owner) little piece of paradise, but we learned fairly quickly that the marina is really run by his more recent manager, Sonja.
Gene (above), the owner of Clifton Marina, knows he’s got a good thing going at his establishment.
The wow factor comes into play because of how well Sonja manages it all – juggling different tasks always with a big smile and friendly disposition. Everyone agrees she’s a Loretta Lynn look-alike (and sound-alike) with a beautiful smile to enhance the effect. Sonja was always there, sun up to sundown, making sure everyone was taken care of with dock and slip assignments. She’d run out to take care of her marina duties between preparing and stirring the gumbo, and bantering with the rest of the marina staff, who we think enjoyed watching her multitask as much as we did. When we arrived Sonja had just begun to prepare a huge pot of gumbo, it would be offered later in the day to whomever showed up for at the marina for dinner.
We first met Sonja (above) as she was dicing ingredients that would go into her famous gumbo.
Clifton Marina’s attractive building, directly situated in the thick of things at the marina, houses the office, small necessities and marina store, TV, kitchen/restaurant – all in one big open room, along with a combo laundry room/shower facility and a large outdoor, covered porch providing an airy boaters lounge fully equipped with TV and eating area.
Minutes after we arrived we noticed this boater helping out the marina by dragging a huge log out of the fairway with his dinghy.
Sonja’s husband and brother are regulars in the marina office/boaters lounge, we enjoyed their humor and friendliness during our stay.
We borrowed the marina’s courtesy car (above) for a quick trip into town.
We thought the above photo was interesting since it’s probably the only time we’ve had a shot of our Ranger Tug next to a Fathom 40 which is the same model as our previous boat, only with a grey hull. Great shot for size comparison between the two boats.
We met our dock mates, Mark and Jo (above) on Truant and enjoyed a short chat with them on their boat after which Jo and I exchanged some old books.
Jim is checking out (above) and signing the guest register, shortly after adding our info, he flipped a chunk of pages back to 2008 and found our entry in the register from that year, it was when we discovered this little slice of heaven years ago, we were on our second Loop trip, on our Fathom 40.
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Staying in the travel mode of leaving late and quitting early we only cruised 15 miles today, stopping to anchor out in Lick Creek. This was our first time in Lick Creek, a new experience in a natural setting. We worked our way into the unmarked serpentine channel with the aid of our GPS, traveled past a few deadheads and very shallow water to an area with 5 to 9 foot depths. It was well away from the river barge traffic, so we settled in for a cozy afternoon warm and dry inside our cabin as it lightly drizzled outside.
We had made prior arrangements to rendezvous with the crew on 0 Regrets, they were heading north on the Tennessee River at the same time we were traveling south. We hardly ever miss an opportunity to talk with someone about boating and Lick Creek provided a great spot to tie off each other for a short visit. After swapping boat stories and experiences they were off to Green Turtle Marina, their homeport and we were left to swing on the hook in Lick Creek by ourselves.
Leaving Pebble Isle Marina we had our sights set on an anchorage we’d never been to before. Twenty miles up river at MM116 of the Tennessee River is Blue Creek, Cuba Landing Marina is located there. (The photo above, and below, shows the entrance to the marina and the cove we anchored in.)
Having just left a marina we inched our way past Cuba Landing to a shallow, relatively open cove. We found a few more boats anchored there for the night in 5 to 8 feet of water. We’ve never anchored in Blue Creek before, we liked finding such a well-protected spot. We enjoyed a pleasant evening on the hook and felt it is has all the characteristics of a good layover stop as one works their way up or down the Tennessee River.
Our anchorage (below).