Elevation ZEE-ro!

Coffeeville Lock brought Shellerina back to elevation zero = sea level which we left in May as we started on the Erie Canal.

This Egret, foraging on the lower gate of the Coffeeville Lock, probably had no idea of the significance of this lock bringing thousands of vessels back to sea level, day in and day out.

The current shown here is not likely TIDAL, as there is still a lot of fresh water flowing south. It may be 24 hours or so before Shelly gets to smell salt water!

I have an app that tells me our elevation. It is fun in planes too.

When the Alabama River converges with the Tombigbee River, they both evidently become the Mobile River. Knowing the name of the river you are on helps! <wink>

Very interesting geology and geography with lots of twists and turns in the Tenn-Tom River here.

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Bobby’s Fish Camp – mm 118.9

Last place to get fuel ‘till Mobile AL

This up-bound tow delayed the early-risers this morning, as did the southbound one shown in the previous post.

Reportedly this was a “no-brainer” stop for ALL Loopers until the restaurant went out of business.

Maybe it still is! Rafting up is still common, as this spot is very close to Coffeeville Lock… the lock that’ll bring you down to sea level! How cool is that?!?!

Below is more on the history of this stop from one who knows!

Thank You Ed!

Ray:

FYI, as the local to the area (Kingfisher Bay Marina in Demopolis has been our homeport for the past 8 years, no other AGLCA members are long term regulars there)… with many, many trips up and down the river to the Gulf Coast, including upbound in March 2020 at the beginning of the Pandemic… I can state emphatically, that Bobby’s Fish Camp had served it’s last meal in January 2020, long before the word Pandemic or Covid was on anyone’s mind in the USA.   Covid had NOTHING to do with her closing the restaurant.

We stopped there in March 2020 (a rushed trip North to get back to home port as we were being refused transient services along the coast), and had a long dockside conversation with Laura Jean (the daughter of the late namesake Bobby), who described to us the struggles that she had with trying to make any money at the restaurant business.    Her words, not mine… we had plenty of customers, just couldn’t make any money, so I decided to shut down the restaurant for good… I’ve tried everything.   We asked if there was any chance it would reopen, and she said no, I’m done with it.   The conversation didn’t touch on the pandemic at all.

We just shook our heads… as the one thing she didn’t try was to simply raise the prices to reflect a reasonable profit.   Now… if that would have killed the business and driven off customers… so be it… but she never even tried to see what would happen.   I can tell you the vast majority of boaters who stop there wouldn’t have blinked or noticed a couple dollars extra for the catfish dinner (it was underpriced… even for the local West Alabama area, she was cheaper than same meal at any restaurant in Demopolis).

BTW… if you like a fried catfish dinner… it was excellent.   We always made it a point to be through on nights she would be open, and always ate in.   We even drove in to the place once by Jeep (pretty crappy road down there) to eat there.   

Very few of the original “fish camps” remain… Ezell’s in Lavaca (also on the banks of the river… you may or may not have noticed it… just before you crossed under the Alabama state highway 10 bridge near Butler Alabama… about halfway between Demopolis and Coffeeville) is one of the few, and is probably the best one left operating.   Unfortunately, they have no docks, and there are none nearby.   An intrepid boater could anchor in the lee of the bridge pilings (safely protected from where tows go), drop a dingy and pull into the shoreline and climb up the bank nearby and walk to the restaurant.   

Ed Offshack,   ITSOK2,  1999 Sealine F44,  Homeport:   Demopolis, AL

Okatuppa Creek mm123.3

Escape makes the turn into Okatuppa Creek.

Secured!

There was plenty of room for more Loopers in this creek. But Best Mate, experienced in these waters, chose a favorite spot on the river out-of-channel.

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Pics below show 12 hours later:

Watch closely! This time lapse shows one of the tows (Colby Quebodeau) that held us up a bit this morning. Commercial tows get priority through the locks.

Anchored Just Below Gainesville-Heflin Lock…mm266

This spot worked for our itinerary and puts us 50 river-miles from Demopolis. Cat Sand Dollar had the same idea (as seen above).

Waterway Guide calls it “Tombigbee Oxbow”. State route 39 passes nearby, and a nearby cell tower means modern civilization is in-reach!

Don’t bother if you don’t have confidence in your ground tackle. There is a noticeable current running through here that’ll make you wonder all night long.

But if you anchor out frequently enough to know “it works!”, come on in, there is plenty of water here. (The inside curve may be slower current than the outside curve.)

This lock uses VHF 16>14.

Anchored – Tom Bevill Lock

We anchored with Silver Jubilee just north of the lock. We were in 20 ft of water. A little bit more to the east, that 20 ft goes to 5 feet all at once in a hurry!

Lock operates from 6:00am to 8:00pm. VHF 16>14.

Below, a bit of rain came through. Loved ones from all over the east coast called with worry. Evidently this system went from Mexico to Canada. Nat’l Weather Service had issued a severe wind warning for our area. We survived the ordeal.

Leaving Columbus Marina.

We left reluctantly this noontime, as we just met Sam of Here’s to Us. Part of us wanted to stay another night to socialize with the many loopers in-port including “Sam” and wife “Rev” who publish a VIDEO series on Youtube entitled What Yacht to Do. We have been fans for a year or more.

Here is a pic of us leaving Columbus Marina. Note yellow cell. Note green marker. When entering this marina keep this green marker to port, and follow normal red-green protocol. Free advice: CALL the marina and let them talk you in! 16>9

See our other post in by the fuel dock.

Good luck!

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Columbia Marina MS (mm335). Final Approach

[Please] Let Steve or Jimmy talk you into Columbia Marina from the river. The working/nav channel of this part of the river is 16 (not13), hail them there and they’ll probably move to 9.

These appropriately colored PVC “day markers” on your final approach should be taken right down the middle aiming for the fuel dock. If you stay in the middle you’ll be able to ignore the scary things your depth sounder is telling you. There’s 5 ft of water but only room for 1 at a time. So wait your turn if its busy. Once you are inside… past this spot, your depth sounder will relax.

Your rewards follow:

There are TWO courtesy vehicles to get to Kroger grocery and “Tough Guys” barber shop. Paige Hitt did a nice job on my mop. (The OTHER barber shop (which you’ll pass on the right into town) will ask you to download an app to make an appointment?!?! … That’s a first for me.)

Tough Guys, on the other hand, takes Walk-ins and gives you a free beer with every cut (but bring your own lime if you choose the cold Corona).

No lie. Free Beer with a haircut. I love this place!

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Tombigbee River Anchorage mm366.3

We and Radian Journey dropped the hook at the first bend in the lower Tombigbee River last night. The water was deeper than I thought it would be and the bottom was rock. Nonetheless, it was perfect for a good weather anchorage.

If it were a day or two after heavy rain, I would guess the current coming from up stream would make this spot unusable. But it was great for us last night. Our pile of chain on the rock bottom held us just fine.

Night Time

Here is what we could see coming into our anchorage tonight. Notice the iPad in the lower left showing what our Wyze CAM v3 can see. Below is a screen shot from that iPad!

Look at how much more we can see with the Wyze CAM v3 and an iPad!

OK… nuff night cam action. Let’s talk STARS!

We used to live in Maine. It has been many years since we have been able to see this many stars! There is so much residual light pollution in built-up areas like Long Island NY. We have missed seeing this many stars that we used to marvel at afloat in Maine at night.

I pointed one of our cameras at the night sky. Here you can clearly see Jupiter! and Saturn!

Unfortunately, I was initially disoriented as I could not see my friend, the Big Dipper. It was way too low in this Mississippi sky this hour… and hidden by the trees.

I am going out again now as the moon is rising soon, which will curtail our star gazing.

A big Moon comes up at 9:30pm.

Midway Marina & Fulton Anchorage

Not Impulsive makes the turn into Midway Marina at mm393.8 with the guidance of the Midway owner/dockmaster on VHF68.

Pass south keeping the green markers to port to avoid these tree stumps.

Above, Radian Journey also got talked-in just before Not Impulsive.

Shellerina decided to exercise her anchor light and drop the hook along with three other cruisers just a little bit south in the Fulton Anchorage mm393.1 (Aka Fulton Recreation Area… it sports a busy launch ramp and hiking trails).

This nice anchorage’s entrance from the river is well marked with small red and green buoys, between which is plenty of water.

The long wood pier is what you’ll see first; the channel markers show up soon thereafter, just south of a pair of appropriately colored day markers on the main river. (That pier is seen below from our anchor; Midway Marina is in the distant background.)

We believe this boat’s name is GRACE, we know the captain’s name is Jason. We hope to see him again soon.

Above, Hobie Gal out of Mobile AL exits our anchorage this morning, splitting the small red and green markers to avoid the mess just south of us.

As seen below, she then headed NORTH; she was not flying an AGLCA burgee but she may looping. As you know, some Loopers do The Loop clockwise, aka “backwards”.

Shellerina does not go very fast backwards, so we chose the more common counter-clockwise route along with most other loopers!

Float Plan for tomorrow…

(From mm449.7 Grand Harbor Marina.)

Fulton (MS) Anchorage – Fulton Rec. Area mm 391.2 on the Tenn-Tom. (59 miles+3 Locks.) Ambitious.

Plan B: Montgomery Lock&Dam (south side). mm406

Plan C: Bay Springs Visitor Center Anchorage mm412.1

I guess we’ll miss the football games!

The “mile marker” system here on Western Rivers uses statute miles instead of nautical miles. I learned this week that many mariners set their “units” on chart-plotters to statute miles because so many references are to “sm” instead of “nm”. I wish I knew that before I started all my fuel logs and running calculations along the way!

For this section of our trip, the mile marker “zero” is in downtown Mobile AL. So, tonight we are 449.7 statute “river miles” from downtown Mobile, very close to entering the Gulf of Mexico. That is 8-12 days away.

ADDENDUM (Sunday night)

We successfully made it to Fulton MS Anchorage mm391.2 at 5:30pm, just before sunset.

Well marked channel, 3 other boats anchored here tonight.

Three locks / 50 miles. Lost about 90 minutes at the last lock: Rankin L&D mm398. But we have been beating all the average wait times!

Ray & Diane on the bridge of Radian Journey in-chamber at Rankin Lock as the sun gets low in the sky.

(AND both of our NFL teams won today… without our help!)

We were in 3 states at the same time today!j

See the yellow circle above?

34° 59.738′ N

88° 12.004′ W

This point in the middle can only be reached by boat, and we crossed it today at 4:31pm (CT). It is the 3-way intersection of TN, MS, and AL. We went near it last week on the way to the www.greatloop.org Fall Rendezvous conference.

The lime green line shows our path for tomorrow and next weekend until we reach Mobile AL and the Gulf of Mexico.

ADDENDUM!

Our one night after crossing this 3-state point was at Grand Harbor.

They are technically/geographically in MS. But they take their mail in TN! So their website says Counce TN 38326.

(I won’t ask who gets the property taxes! <grin> )

But the point of this addendum is to say “Thanks!” to this marina establishment for offering a prime experience to us… even if for a short time.

The “packet” they gave us included a laminated guide for our trip down-river which has been invaluable each day.

Flower pots and riverside gliders on the dock demonstrate their willingness to go the extra mile for US!

Lastly, last spring my admiral and I decided to burn half of my nautical hat collection. We simply did not have room on the boat for so many dozens of hats on our Loop trip. Therefore, I have subsequently passed-by many new hats for sale in new ports since MAY 2021 when we started our Loop… for obvious reasons <grin>.

But this new Grand Harbor embroidered hat (above) made the cut, and is now in the collection! ((And the admiral did not object!))

Thank you Grand Harbor.

Google this place folks. It is civilization in the middle of … well… a natural paradise.

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Wilson Lock to Florence Harbor in 30 seconds!

Some have had to wait FOUR HOURS or more to get through this troublesome lock. We got instant service both up river last Thursday, and down river this morning!

Pictured below a partial list of today’s fleet: Dawg Haus 3 rafted with SLO Dancer. Long Recess rafted with Now or Never. Remedy was behind Shellerina. ((The rest of the boat names will follow!))

93 feet of lift! Impressive.

Also in the lock and time lapse from today’s fleet: Silver Linings, Toscana, Varlabania, Cheryl Ann, Side Piece, and Lolli Pop.

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Below, Shelly demonstrates a floating bollard in the Wheeler Lock just an hour earlier than Wilson Lock this morning.

Under a near full moon at sun-up, some of the fleet leaves Joe Wheeler State Park – AGLCA Fall Rendezvous 2021

We look more bunched up on the AIS-equipped chart plotter.

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Waiting at Locks…

Above, five Loopers are seen on AIS waiting for their turn to lock through the Wheeler Lock.

Radian Journey

Bucket List

Wine & Roses

The Wright Choice

Flying Colors

Below, three Tugs await their turn along with their barges… this commercial traffic takes a lot longer to lock through, AND they have priority over PC-s, pleasure craft.

Crown Jewel

Sandy Point

Addi Belle (actually in the lock)

Below, the venue for the Fall Rendezvous can be seen on the right with dozens of us having already arrived. The lock and tugs are in the middle, and the five Loopers are on the left.

These screen shots are taken from our iPad Pro using the AquaMap app, connected to our Em-Trak B924 AIS transponder via its WiFi connector.

ADDENDUM

About 4 hours later, the PC-s are let out of the Wheeler Lock! Radian Journey leads the way.

Next the whole crowd comes out!

Tug Sandy Point waits on the right wall with her barges, to go into the chamber for the ride down.

Above… minutes later, the Looper “PC-s” arrive at Joe Wheeler State Park for the AGLCA Fall Rendezvous conference! ((Monday night I learned that the two tan colored Loopers that do not have boat names showing on AIS were Side Piece and Remedy. I had not toggled them ‘on’ as “friends” earlier in the day inside my app, because they were not yet waiting with the other five. Evidently, the boat names only appear for “friends” in the AquaMap app.))

At the dock, after they secured, Ray & Diane of Radian Journey tell us that the prior Wilson Lock passage was a “breeze” for them.

So, the reputedly troublesome Wilson Lock was the easier (faster) of the two, for this flock… at least for them, at least for today.

In the end, it is just another day on The Great Loop!

Low Light Cameras Help!

Above, what humans and our smart phone sees, and what our Wyze CAM v3 sees, as shown on the phone on the “dashboard” on the lower left.

Look at the lights on shore and dark skyline above the tree line and compare it to what we can see with the camera-fed smartphone on the dash.

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Below is a close up of what we were seeing on our phone (or tablet!)

(Un retouched pic from the CAM’s memory.)

OK… now:

Below is a video of us underway that same night showing what we could see after dark with the help of our cams. Note our friend, Rusty’s, spotlight pointing at the trees ahead of them. Make no mistake, it was dark by this time.

We could see more!

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These inexpensive Wyze CAM v3 cameras are very helpful underway at night.

This is a great safety enhancement… (+waterproof), and its not a lot of money! <$40 each

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We could have anchored out. But we also had an unresolved fresh water pressure “issue” that cropped up underway during the day today. So, we decided to poke-in a little further using ALL of our ‘tools’, (e.g. cams+chart-plotter+depth sounders) to “see what we could see”.

We ultimately were able to secure in a slip at an non-illuminated marina dock.

The Wyse v3 CAMs absolutely helped to give us more safe options underway. We have one mounted forward, and one aft that run in any light conditions 24×7. We have ours set to non-infrared! They give full color from available light.

Tomorrow night we will likely be on the hook!

We are on our way to the Looper’s conference, aka “Fall Rendezvous”!

We are looking at these two places to drop anchor just before getting to Florence AL. It puts us within VHF radio range and AIS (Automatic Identification System) distance of the Wilson Lock’s traffic. That lock has been experiencing delays due to mechanical difficulties.

The closer proximity will help us coordinate with the Lock-master… we hope.

A special “Thank You” to Tom & Bonnie Bayer of Nex Adventure for sharing all their local intel, cruising tips, and the fresh Basil leaves from their on-board herb “terrarium.”

I think I need to coin a new word for a “floating greenhouse.” I’ll start looking up my Latin roots.

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Once we got here…

We talked to the skipper of Shangrila about his choice of anchorage for the night. I could tell that he has anchored here many times in the past by the sounds of his confident description of his choice. He was somewhat out of the current below Buck Island at mile 249, shown below.

As it turns out, when I called the Lock-master of Wilson Lock, he basically promised instant service this late afternoon and evening, as all the commercial tows had passed for the day!

The Admiral said, “Let’s go for it!” So we did… knowing there were many anchorages to pick from in Wilson Lake once we got past this troublesome lock.

Nice dock!

Pickwick Landing State Park Marina. No reservations, first come first serve.

Transient’s and rental pontoon boat dock. (They have many more than shown here.)

Office as seen from the dock.

Below is the 200 foot fuel dock!

If you need a place to tie up late in the day, you’ll probably find room here. But no shore power hook ups (at the gas dock). Pump out works, but fuel stops at 4:00pm in the off season.

Bathrooms are clean, but no showers nearby.

Chain of Rocks

This is the sign not to miss (heading south) just north of St Louis on the Mississippi River!

Unfortunately, the crew of White Widower recently followed the main river and took a right here. (Believed to be Oct 5). A few miles later they hard grounded on the “Chain of Rocks” as shown in this remarkable drone video:

Youtube.com/watch?v=rDhDqHSLvRU

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Above: where the left should have been taken down the canal.

Below: you can see the canal, and red “X” shows where the 44 ft Hunter sailboat went aground having missed the canal entrance upstream.

This man-made “Chain of Rocks Canal” gives all boats access to a safe way down the Mississippi. At the south end of the canal is Lock 27 in Granite City IL.

We safely transited there on September 20. Click on link:

Shellerina on Chain of Rocks Canal Sept 20

As for the less fortunate White Widower, at least there were no injuries. The rescue was performed by St Louis Fire Department. The incident happened last week (Oct 5, we believe.)

Local news report with more video: https://fox2now.com/news/missouri/boaters-rescued-after-vessel-stuck-on-chain-of-rocks/

Addendum October 13, 2021:

Local scuttlebutt is that the sailboat has still not been recovered. The cost to remove it may exceed its salvage value. If the environmental impact of leaving it is not too severe, perhaps no one will endure the costs (and risks) to have it removed.

Unrecovered shipwrecks have occurred for millennia. Might this be the latest? Time will tell.

The fact that this one happened in shallow waters so close to an urban center makes this one more intriguing to be sure.

While the crew of White Widower is not a part of the Looper community, we all feel a mixture of both relief for the safe rescue of the crew and remorse for the mishap of fellow mariners.

Clifton Marina Anniversary Dinner (continued)…

Did I neglect to mention live entertainment at Clifton Marina tonight?

Https://www.cherryavenuemusic.com/

I LOVE when there is a fiddle in the band!

Big thanks to Marcy and Bryan of Elenor Grace for helping us celebrate, and to Jim Antonacci of Spinning Dreams for recommending Clifton Marina!!!

Mile Marker 158 on the Tennessee River, one day’s passage (50sm) north of Pickwick Lock and Dam.

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34th Anniversary

Here is a pic on our anniversary a few years ago… (old boat on right).

Here we are today in Clifton TN at Clifton Marina & RV Park. We asked Marcy and Bryan of Elenor Grace to join us for our anniversary dinner! We had a great meal and a great time. (Rack of Lamb and Quail Bites)

This venue came highly recommended by other Loopers… mostly for the FOOD. Marinas with good restaurants ON-SITE are especially appreciated by Loopers… and they are rarely found.

But where many of the marinas around here are telling us about how slow business is after Labor Day, this place is hopping! Dinner tables filled, slips filled with Loopers and other transients, their fleet of rental pontoon boats are all out, the fuel dock has a steady flow of traffic coming and going… all day.

Who is behind all this?

Stacy & Christopher Huntingford are active owners of this place, are here most every day doing what it takes to make for a very successful marina business. This is their 3rd season as owners.

(above). Christopher’s mom, Susan King is also a stalwart supporter of the cause.

Basically, tell them what you need, they or the staff will do their best to accommodate. One example, Shelly uses a cane and we asked for them to do their best to get us a place in close to civilization (showers, laundry, etc.). We got front row seats!

There are other special things that I won’t detail here; just know… these people and their staff are motivated to make your stay one-to-remember here.

Tennessee! Paris Landing

We have lost count of how many states we have been to on our Loop. But we can add Tennessee to the list as we made Paris Landing at sunset… just in time to meet this welcoming committee!

Left to right: Sue Steven and Craig Blasingame of Nest, Bob Hansen, Marcy Holmes, Diane Hansen, Bryan Holmes, and Pat & Bill Langston of Uno Mas. (The Holmes crew Elenor Grace, the Hansens, Soulmate.)

Also in-port this evening is Michael Allinger of Gratitude, Stephen & Barbara Clausen of What a Day.

Uno Mas had a successful first day on their Loop today!

For them AND us, it was a pretty darn perfect cruising day.

While we all chose Paris Landing (known for its great fuel prices), we also saw many other cruisers taking advantage of the great scenic anchorages on Tennessee Lake and the Land Between the Lakes

The I-79 Bridge marks the entrance to this protected harbor and state park marina. There must be campers nearby too, as Shelly loved the smell of wood smoke campfires!

Tuesday’s Addendum:

Steve & Ann Seltzer of New Adventure fueled up and will stay the night; today was day 3 on their Loop. We met them last week at Green Turtle Bay, plus we were in the same breakout pod during the virtual Spring Rendezvous.

Derive just pulled in … right before the rain started to come down in earnest. A younger couple, both still working… Kirk and Jenna. Out of Tampa, they like their Buccaneers! We showed them our Buccaneers burgee (seen below)! Their Loop started in April and will finish in November. Internet service is a key criteria for them as they choose in which ports to stay and which to bypass.

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BTW: TNT Pizza delivers to the dock here at Paris Landing State Park: 731-407-7491

Good ZA! (Double roni).

Here’s what’s left of it tonight, after we had our fill. Fortunately this “flat” staple fits well into a crowded fridge! (But, it won’t last long there.)

Mail

We love our mail forwarding service by St Brendan’s Isle.

We get an email any day that mail arrives. We can choose to 1) discard-recycle 2) open and scan so we can see the contents, or 3) save it for a future bundle to be sent to a marina where we will be.

The problem is the USPS is not coming through for us. “Priority Mail” is failing us miserably. We are held up in-port today waiting for a package of mail that St Brendan’s Isle sent last Monday! It is overdue by several days. Finally I ended up driving the marina’s courtesy van 15 miles to a post office where it had been mis-delivered to, so we could pick it up there and be on our way.

.Louis DeJoy

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Receiving mail and packages has, by far, been the most difficult challege of this Looper trip.

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