MemoryMaker is Back in the Water!

Monday night – August 1 – Carabelle, FL
We finally left Panama City about 1 p.m. We made it to Carrabelle – 94 miles from Panama City. Had a great trip. We were both so ready to leave Panama City. It’s a nice marina…lots of fishermen, cleaning lots of fish. MemoryMaker did really good. Water was calm for our trip – almost glassy; rain stopped after about an hour out; markers were easy to find. Traveled through mostly narrow waterways protected by land with the exception of a couple of bays (St. Andrews Bay, East Bay and Apalachicola Bay)…but even the wider bay waters were smooth. By the time we got to Apalachicola, the sun was out and we decided to just keep traveling.

Enjoyed a dip in the pool when we got here. Used the marina’s bikes to take a ride to the Riverview Restaurant, where we had an excellent fresh grouper dinner. Probably won’t have Internet access for a couple of days….but weather permitting we will cross to Steinhatchee tomorrow.

Monday, August 1st – Panama City, FL
Still here…now we are waiting for the low-pressure system off the coast to move. It keeps pumping up moisture, giving us a continual barrage of showers with thunder and lightening. Spent Saturday and Sunday…waiting. It was early evening both days before the heavy rains stopped. Today, Monday, the radar looks a little better. We are still hoping to go to Apalachicola later today…

Saturday, July 30th – Panama City, FL
After spending 5 nights away, we were both happy to get back on the boat yesterday. Really, really enjoyed spending some time with the family, but we were up and out of there very early on Friday. Panama City is about a 6 hour drive from the Cove. Paul’s Marine Service had the boat ready to be launched when we got over here. They ended up having to take the motor out in order to replace the transom housing…so it was a pretty major job to have been completed in the few days that we were away.

After putting MemoryMaker in the water, Dave drove it back to the marina and gassed it up. We then rode it around for a little while in the bay to check it out…all seemed ok. Did some last minute re-provisioning Friday night and turned in early. We will return the rental car this morning, wait for some thundershowers to pass, and then hopefully shove off for Apalachicola, which is about a 60-mile trip fairly short trip. That will give us a chance to make sure MemoryMaker is ready for the run across the Gulf.

Looking forward to getting back on the boat…

Thursday, July 28th – Hermits Cove (Satsuma, FL)
Heading back over to Panama City in the a.m. to get back on the boat to continue our cruise. We were told it would be ready for us on Friday… At Volvo’s request, they replaced the transom housing in addition to the broken out-drive cradle.

Had a great week! After a quick trip to Jacksonville on Sunday, we drove down to Satsuma to spend the week with Barbara’s family. They had traveled to Hermits Cove from Kentucky for the week. Really enjoyed the nephews, Justin and Tyler…Barbara’s only sister, Brenda’s two boys. We did lots of Sea Doo’ing, swimming, and fishing with them. Took one day and went to Silver Glen Springs and tried to stay cool in the crystal clear springs water.

To Be Continued…

Saturday, July 23th – Panama City, FL
Still here…Rack and pinion system was not all of the problem. During the test run, as soon as the boat went on plane, the steering wheel froze. We rode around for a while with the technician lying on the floor, with the motor hatch raised, listening and watching the steering mechanism. He seemed stumped…When we came back to the marina, David got back in the water with his mask and this time he found a crack in the carriage housing that holds the outdrive. The boat will need to come out of the water to repair it. Unfortunately, the shop where the technician works does not have the capability of getting the boat out of the water.

We had planned to rent a car and leave the boat to take care of some business on Monday. Barbara’s family will also be traveling from Kentucky to Palatka for a few days…arriving on Monday. So, we will get a chance to see and visit with them while we are there. We had hoped to be further south when all this happened, but…

We are moving the boat to Lighthouse Marina, a few miles from St. Andrews Marina, on Sunday morning to have it lifted and sat on a rack so it can be repaired. We were able to get lots of weight (cold wear gear and charts) off to take home. Hopefully, they will get it fixed by the end of the week and we can continue our adventure next weekend.

Stuck in Panama City

Friday, July 22th – Panama City, FL
The “new and improved” rack and pinion system just arrived (1 p.m. Central time)…we were told that the overnight package missed the airplane in Memphis on Thursday…

From the marina, we have been able to ride along the bay for miles in both directions. Caught the fireworks last night that kicked off their billfish tournament; caught up on laundry; done lots of exploring by bicycle and trolley. It’s very hot, but we have enjoyed ourselves. Hoping to still be able to head toward Apalachicola today…assuming everything tests out ok.

Wednesday, July 20th – Panama City, FL
Beautiful trip to Panama City from Destin. Went through an area called the Canyon- a narrow man made canal… made by cutting through the sand hills. As we exited the Canyon into East Bay, the steering on MemoryMaker got stiff. Stopped to investigate, but could not find anything wrong. Ran another two or three miles and it got worse. Stopped again… dropped the anchor, found some things that looked suspicious…but could not figure out exactly what the problem was. Saw no fluids leaking…everything appeared to be ok except for some movement in the rack system. Closed it up and tried to go again. At this point, the steering system completely froze up. When we brought it up on plane, the steering wheel could not be moved. At idle, it was like driving a car that’s supposed to have power steering, but no power there. We were about 10 miles from St. Andrews Marina, where we had reservations for the night. Idled it on in…took a couple of hours.

As we neared the marina, a yellow Sea Tow vessel passed us. Dave radioed and asked if he’d recognize our Tow Boat US insurance. He said no, that there was a Tow Boat US towing service right at the bridge, just a few miles away. He said it would be $175 an hour (cash upfront) for him to tow us the rest of the way (another 5 or 6 miles). Our tow insurance covers unlimited towing anywhere…but, we decided to just keep idling and not bother to call for a tow or pay him the extravagant charges. When we got to the marina, David radioed the dockmaster to say we’d need help getting tied up. They made room for us by moving a boat and we got in safe and sound.

Spent the afternoon and much of the morning trying to get someone lined up to come take a look. We are very fortunate that we have a wonderful contact at the actual Rinker Manufacturer…Gainer, that calls us regularly and even visited us in Michigan. He contacted the Volvo Service people and had them call us. Rinker and Volvo are both of the opinion “do whatever is needed to get it back up and moving.” When we called the local dealers around here, they all have the attitude, “since you didn’t buy it from us, we can’t help you. We’re tied up doing service on our own.”

We had one guy come out about 5:00 yesterday afternoon. After he looked at it, he said he’d never seen one like it before and so he was no help. Just now (2:00) we had a Volvo technician come out and he thinks it is the rack and pinion system and that the entire system will need to be replaced. He’s gone back to confirm his diagnosis. So…guess we will be stuck here until we get it fixed. Could be worse…we’re in the historic St. Andrews area of Panama City. We’ve been off on the bikes exploring, already found a couple great restaurants and The St. Andrew Trail, which is a historic cycling tour of old St. Andrews. They also have a trolley service that takes you around town and to the Panama City Beach area…we plan to check that out this afternoon.

Great Day on the Water…

Tuesday, July 19th – Destin, FL
Had another great day on Monday. Re-provisioned, went by and saw Kimmie’s horse, got a chance to visit some with Matt, had a great dinner at Steve’s and Brenda’s, swam in their pool, and just enjoyed hanging around with them. Days are starting to go by way too fast on our trip. Pulling out this morning to head toward Panama City to do some exploring.

Sunday, July 17th – Destin, FL
One of the best days of the trip…very relaxing, but very hot. After getting off the boat for breakfast, we headed to Crab Island to meet with some of our oldest boating friends, Steve, Brenda, and Kimmie on their boat “Every Other Day”. When we first met them, they lived in the Jacksonville area. Their final tours of duty with the U.S. Navy ended them up in the Destin area. We have always enjoyed boating with them…so we have been looking forward to catching up with them along this trip.

Crab Island was less than a half hour ride from the marina. Dolphins played around us, fish were jumping and the water was full of pleasure boaters heading to the island. Crab Island isn’t really an island, it is a big sand bar where all the local boaters go to anchor out and play in the water. As we neared Crab Island, the water turned a beautiful color. It was not the turquoise color that we’d remembered seeing there before, but it was still beautiful. The remnants of the storms still have it murked up a little. We took both boats and rode out to see what the storms had done to that area. We saw several boats, large boats, completely beached and several sailboats under water.

At Crab Island, boats of all sizes throw out an anchor and then just hang out for the day. Some people get off their boats and socialize with other boaters, much like what happens at Silver Glen Springs. We anchored next to Steve, Brenda and Kimmie and then tied the boats together. Enjoyed swimming and wading around in the waist deep water. Kimmie did some snorkeling and netted shrimp, hermit crabs, baby crabs and quite a few little fish. Dave spent some time brushing the bottom of MemoryMaker… trying to free up some of the dirt and growth that seems to have started building. There was a nice breeze and we thoroughly enjoyed a relaxing day on the water.

We tied up at a marina close to Steve and Brenda’s home for the night. They came by the marina and picked us up and took us with them to an “all you can eat buffet, with crab legs”. On their way to get us, they brought one of their cars for us to use tomorrow. We need to do some re-provisioning before winding up the Panhandle and heading down the Gulf coast of Florida.

Made it back to Florida today!

Saturday, July 16th – Fairhope, Alabama
Greeted by a thousand tiny ants running along our lines into the boat. Killed bunches and decided we needed to get untied and out of the slip at the Eastern Shore Marina. Friday, after we had the oil changed on MemoryMaker, we ended up with a free slip under a covered dock. But, it wasn’t worth all the trouble of dealing with the ants…

Pulled away about 7:30 and headed back out in Mobile Bay following our charted course down to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW). It was about 20 miles to get out of the Bay and back into the ditch. The water was much smoother than it had been on Friday. It was also prettier and there wasn’t the floating debris that we had seen the day before. Our first stop was at LuLu’s in Gulfport, Alabama. What a neat stop! LuLu (Lucy Buffett) is Jimmy Buffett’s youngest sister. She has a restaurant on the water complete with all the ambiance of Margaritaville, but much better food. We pulled in behind the restaurant at the Homepoint Marina…a new marina with floating concrete docks. After lunch, we rinsed the boat and then took the waterhose to ourselves and rinsed off the salt. We were both feeling about as crusty as the boat felt.

Had a great ride across the GIWW. Passed by beautiful white sandy beaches. Saw lots more pleasure boats moving around today than we’ve seen since leaving Chicago. Also passed several towboats with barges, a couple sailboats, and some shrimp boats, but mostly weekend warriors. Saw some of the devastation that the hurricanes have caused to this area. There were lots of docks torn up, many homes with blue temporary roofs and a lot of white sand moved around in places where it looked out of place.

We traveled 98 miles today. Stopped along the way in Pensacola to visit with one of Dave’s landlord friends, Dan. Saw the boat “My Way” pass by while we were talking with Dan and later caught up to them coming into Fort Walton Beach. We’d been with them in Demopolis, Bobby’s Fish Camp and again at Fairhope. They tied up at Brooks Bridge Bait Shop. We went under the bridge and tied up at the marina. Both places were closed but had room for one more boat. Walked across the bridge and met up with Ed and Barbara from My Way and we all went to dinner at Hightide Restaurant. While we were eating, our good friends, Steve and Brenda pulled up. They came inside and sat while we finished eating and then went back to the boat with us. They will bring their boat out tomorrow and meet us at Crab Island in Destin.

The Last of the River System — Chicago to Mobile, The Final Leg

Tuesday, July 12th – Fulton, MS
We woke early on Tuesday and pulled out of the marina before 6 a.m. One of the local boaters, Kojak, had come by MemoryMaker on Monday evening to bid us farewell and wanted us to be sure to blow our horn as we left the next morning. So, as we passed by his boat, Dave gave the horn a couple of quick blows. We saw him waving from inside his boat; he yelled a “good luck…have a safe voyage” as we passed him.

We were both excited about leaving, but unaware of what we would find when we headed on down the rivers. As it would be, luck was with us for the entire day. We went through 7 locks, each of which dropped us about 30 feet. The locks on the Tombigbee are large and easy to transfer through. They have bollards to loop a line around; then the bollards and the boat float together as the water is released from the chamber. With the exception of a couple locks, we were able to drive into the locks as soon as we arrived.

The first time we had to wait was in Columbus. The lockmaster said he had just lowered the chamber for a northbound dredge outfit and that it might take 3 or 4 cycles to get him through…but the towboat wasn’t even at the lock. David asked if we could tie up to wait. We were instructed to pull in behind a big round concrete structure. It was a challenging spot to tie to…but we got in. There was a set of steps that led up to the locking area. If you walked up the steps, you could only walk a short distance until you reach a locked gate. David got back on the radio and asked if he could get off the boat, and walk up the steps to watch the locking process. It’s a big ‘no, no’ to get off your boat at a lock. Surprisingly, the lockmaster ok’d it and even ended up coming over and unlocking the gate and talking with David. It was starting to rain by now and after some conversation with the lockmaster, he agreed to take us down after the first transfer.

Our second wait was even shorter. About 4-5 miles from one of the locks, we caught up with a tow pushing 6 barges. We passed him…and he came on the radio talking to the lockmaster saying “doesn’t that captain know the rules. He’s just going to have to wait.” David came back on and said he was just trying to get out of the towboats way…and that we’d wait by the lock for a transfer. When he asked the lockmaster how long it would be, he replied, “unless you can get the captain of the towboat to let you go first, it will be a couple of hours. Dave then proceeded to “beg”, not really, but the towboat captain said it would be ok for us to go first. That’s very uncommon since commercial vessels have top priority in the locks, recreational vessels have the least.

Demopolis, the next largest town, was 185 miles from Fulton’s Midway Marina. We did not expect to be able to make it in one day. When we left, we planned to stay at Marina Cove, which was about ½ way to Demopolis. We arrived at Marina Cove about 12:30. However, almost as soon as we tied up at Marina Cove on their fuel dock, we made the decision we were not staying there. There were only 5 or 6 boats tied up, room for lots more. The owner met us and literally jerked the midship line off the boat. He said “that line won’t work, there’s no cleat to tie it to”. Dave told him the line would be fine, but he just kept ripping at it…We kind of stood back and did not argue. Then, there was this cat on the dock. While David was fueling, the owner kept pulling handfuls of hair from it…the cat was sneezing, rubbing against our legs, not a pretty sight. Then to cap it off, as David was finishing filling the gas tank, it did its normal spitting of a little fuel. It always does this as it’s getting near full. The guy yelled, “that’s it…stop”. When Dave told him that was normal for the boat, he did not seem persuaded and said with an assertive voice “stop fueling now”. He was not a friendly person. So, we paid him for the fuel and left.

Marina Cove is located right before the Bevill Lock. Right as we were exiting their channel, we passed by the steamboat Montgomery, a paddle wheeler that was used at one time for removing debris and downed trees. The boat has now been restored as a working steamboat. Sitting on the banks behind the Montgomery is a beautiful mansion that houses the Bevill Visitor Center. It is filled with historical exhibits about the waterway. We had planned to visit both places…if we’d stayed at the Marina Cove.

As we traveled further south, the water was up from the rains from Hurricane Dennis. The current was strong…in our favor. There was a lot of floating debris that was being washed in from the creeks and other waterways that were spilling into the Tombigbee. The challenge of traveling the waters littered with trees, limbs, half-submerged logs, and other floating debris took most of the enjoyment out of the ride. Water hyacinths were floating with the current and you were never sure what else might be attached to the weeds. The water was extremely muddy.

The banks of the river along the Alabama shoreline were pretty. The trees stood very tall. We did not see many homes. Most of the ones that were there were built on stilts. There were still a few mobile homes and a few older river cottages. We even saw mobile homes erected on stilts. But, for the most part, the homes were newer and quiet large.

The Black Warrior River comes into the Tennessee Tombigbee at Demopolis and increases the towboat traffic. We reached the fuel dock about 5:30 – 11 ½ hours after we left Midway. The last hour we traveled in light rain…which made dodging the debris even more challenging. We fueled…got almost 2 miles per gallon…with the aid of the current. Went to dinner at the restaurant at the marina and spent some time talking with one of the dockhands, who strongly suggested we not try to travel any further south, because of the debris and high water for the next couple of days. We were also told that the water was up 34 feet at the next lock and that the currents would be stronger. Jimbo, the young dock guy had personally hit something with his new boat a couple years ago when the water was high and the boat had taken on water. We were also reminded of the next storm, Emily, which is now part of the picture. We came back to the boat. Dave spent some time looking at charts and we went to bed, unsure of whether we’d travel on Wednesday or not.

Wednesday, July 13th – Demopolis, AL
Wednesday morning David called “Bobby’s Fish Camp” …the ONLY place where fuel can be purchased in the 200+ mile stretch between Demopolis and Mobile. Turns out, they still do not have electricity…due to Hurricane Dennis. So, we couldn’t get fuel…the decision was made. Bobby’s was hoping they would get their electricity back on in the afternoon. Until they do, we can’t go anywhere. Dave spent the morning in the clubhouse watching the weather channel and found out Emily is not going to influence our trip. About noon, we took the courtesy car into Demopolis. Rode out to the dam and to a bridge well beyond the dam so that we could see the water. The debris was still very heavy…but we think we can slowly pick our way through as soon as Bobby’s Fish Camp gets electricity.

Keith, one of the dock hands, told us about a farm on the outskirts of town that decorates their fields using round hay bales. They create different characters every year. We found it and thoroughly enjoyed seeing what they’d been able to do with rolls of hay. We were told later that Southern Living had done a feature article on it. David got another treat while he was hanging around the fuel dock. Towboats fuel, take on water, and other provisions at the dock in Demopolis. He hinted around about touring one of the boats and was told by one of the crew that security measures prohibited them from letting anyone board. After that guy left, Allen, off the Edith Tripp towboat offered a tour of the engineering area of the boat he was working on. It was quiet interesting. This particular boat just had a single engine, 16 cylinder supercharged diesel cranking out over 1800 horsepower. The oil filtering system for the engine alone was almost as big as a 55 gallon drum. The boat had a dual rudder system and single propeller, probably a little over 6 feet in diameter. He explained that the crew worked three weeks on/three weeks off. While on the boat, they work continuous 6 hour on/6 hour off shifts. Each boat has its own cook aboard whose duty it is to have meals prepared at 5 a.m., 11 a.m., and 5 p.m. Without being specific he said the pay wasn’t all that bad considering you really only work ½ year with the 21 day on/21 day off system. It was nice to get to know a little bit about how they worked. The Demopolis Yatch Basin sells a lot of fuel to towboats. There is almost always a towboat at the dock filling up and taking on supplies. Jimbo, who works the fuel dock evenings here has been a wealth of information. If he doesn’t know the answer, he knows who to call to get it. He told us his largest fill up was 15,000 gallons and that guy was just topping off his tanks. Some of these towboats carry over 30,000 gallons of fuel. Almost all of their underwater area is taken up with fuel tanks.

Later in the day, Dave called Bobby’s Fish Camp and they now have electricity. We made the decision to go on down the river tomorrow. Come to find out two other boats were planning to leave the next day also.

Thursday, July 14th – Demopolis, Alabama
It was 9:30 before we left and this day would be one of the most challenging days we have had on the trip. The debris was much worse than what we’d traveled through to get to Demopolis. We had the currents in our favor, but the water was so high that in many places the markers in the river were totally submerged. It was truly an obstacle course. Bobby’s Fish Camp is 96 miles from Demopolis. It took us over 6 hours to travel. The last 40 miles we had to travel at nearly an idle. The last hour or so we also had to travel in the rain, which made dodging the limbs even more challenging. We had some help from the white egrets in terms of seeing and identifying the floating debris. The current was so stiff, that they rode the larger pieces. Apparently, it was an easy meal for them. They were able to free the logs of the bugs and ants that couldn’t escape because of being in water.

Bobby’s is simply a 100 foot floating dock with fuel and a restaurant. When we arrived, Karen Lynn was already tied up. The owner of Karen Lynn, Bud, had left Demopolis earlier that morning. He was traveling with his brother Larry. They met us and helped us secure the boat in the stiff current. After we got tied, Dave got in the water to check to see if anything had got sucked up into the intake openings. He had to put on his life jacket and tie a rope to it to hold himself in the current. While David was in the water, the boat “My Way”, which was also in Demopolis made it to Bobby’s. The six of us went up for Bobby’s famous catfish and thoroughly enjoyed it.

No shore power electricity at Bobby’s Fish Camp…so we opened all the port holes and the cabin door, made sure the cockpit was screened in good, turned on the fan and slept without air-conditioning. We had considered running the generator, but it rained about dark and cooled things off. We slept really good without the air.

Friday, July 15th – Coffeeville, AL (Bobby’s Fish Camp)
Untied about 7 a.m. We were 2 miles from the last lock that we had to do on the Tombigbee. When we arrived, we had to wait for the lockmasters to change shifts. From the storms, the water was up 34 feet…so, instead of dropping 30 feet, we only dropped 4 feet in the lock. When we exited the lock, it was a total nightmare. They had the dam wide open. The water looked like boiling water with debris swirling around. The current was at least 5 knots. With the water being so high, the markers were covered. On several occasions, we saw the markers floating down the river or resting on the side of the shoreline. The current was so strong that the markers were pulled up and relocated or just held under water. Instead of having a 200 foot wide channel, it looked twice that wide. Water was way up on the banks; the trees were in water. You could sometimes see the water rushing over something and occasionally a marker would pop up from the swirl. Birds were still resting on the floating logs.

About the only traffic we saw on the water were the towboats. There weren’t many homes nor businesses along the lower end of the Tombigbee waterway. It was another very challenging day. Lots and lots of drift in the water. Sometimes we were able to get on plane; sometimes we had to just crawl through the debris. It was very intense traveling. For a few minutes, we thought our trip had stopped for the day at the Fourteen Mile Railroad Bridge. It has a 4 feet vertical clearance. When David radioed for an opening the bridge tender told him he was having trouble with the bride and trouble with the trains and he didn’t know if he could get it opened for us or not. David said “Does that mean the bridge is closed indefinitely?”. He replied “I guess you could say that.” After he talked with us for a few minutes and found out where we’d been and where we were going, he said he’d try to get us through after the next train, which appeared momentarily. After the train passed, he was able to get it opened far enough for us to get through.

Not long after that, we entered into the Mobile ship channel…nothing but ships and tugs everywhere. Pretty soon, we were taking spray over the bow from the chop in Mobile Bay. David said he was never so glad to see salt water in his life and he likes fresh water. Our charted course to the Eastern Shore Marina took us about 10 miles across the choppy Mobile Bay where we were luckily able to get in, get fuel, and an oil and filter change before they closed for the day. A shower, some supper and a good nights rest… and we’ll be ready to head across the Florida Panhandle in the morning.

FINALLY…Heading On Down the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway

Tuesday, July 12th – Fulton, Mississippi
We have been at Midway Marina 7 nights! So, we are REALLY ready to leave this rural Mississippi area. It was a great spot to wait out the storm, but Hurricane Dennis has passed. We were lucky…did not get much from him, little rain and some winds. Five locks and about 60 miles and we’ll be in Alabama.

Hunkered Down…

Sunday, July 10th – Fulton, Mississippi
Still waiting for Dennis to arrive. On Saturday, a couple from the marina drove us over to Tupelo to rent a car for the weekend. Decided we’d get out and do some exploring by land. Went by Elvis Presley’s birthplace along the way…stopped and did a little exploring…without paying any admission fees. Drove by a couple locks that we will go through when we leave here. Security measures have been heightened so we were not able to get very close to the locks.

Drove along some of the Mississippi back roads to Columbus, Mississippi, stopping in Aberdeen and Amory. Columbus is the next largest town we’ll be in when we leave the marina…a couple of hours from Fulton. Explored the Columbus Marina and confirmed that we’re glad we stayed where we’re at…we wouldn’t have had cable (the weather channel) there. Found Reuben’s Catfish House, another restaurant we had on our list. It was great! The farmers gardens look like they are doing well this year in Mississippi. We bought tomatoes, cantalopes, and peaches on the side of road.

This morning (Sunday) it is drizzling rain. According to local weather forecasts, we should see winds 40-50 mph by tonight with lots of rain for the next couple of day…

Friday, July 8th – Fulton, Mississippi
We are still tied up at Midway Marina in Fulton…under a covered slip…waiting for Hurricane Dennis to make landfall. Fulton is in rural Northeastern Mississippi near the Alabama/Mississippi line about an hour from Tennessee. The marina is a long way from much of anything else except a Walmart store. We are keeping a close watch on the weather channel…

Tuesday, July 5th – Fulton, Mississippi
We’re in Fulton Mississippi under a covered slip at Midway Marina. We may be here for a few days…depending on Tropical Storm Cindy. We have cable (weather channel) and will keep a close watch on the storm. Found a great place to wait out the weather. Have access to a courtesy car, hot tub and spa, and a large covered porch with rocking chairs. We traveled 72 miles and 3 locks today. Stopped early in the morning in Iuka, MS at Aqua Yacht Harbor, one of the largest inland water marinas. They have over 600 slips available. At their offer, we took their courtesy van and went to breakfast at little hole in the wall (Ortha’s). Enjoyed it thoroughly!

Went through some thunderstorms today…no fun…we’ll wait here until the weather clears.

Cruising on down the inland waters…

Monday, July 4th – Pickwick, Tennessee
Untied before 6:30 a.m. Sunshine was already bright by the time we headed out of Green Turtle Bay. Ran about a mile on Lake Barkley before taking the Barkley Canal over to Kentucky Lake. The canal is a mile or so long. The area between the two lakes is referred to as the “Land Between the Lakes”. The Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers are connected by this canal. Our travels today were on the Tennessee River. Even though we were traveling south, we were traveling upstream on the Tennessee River. We had seriously considered a side trip on the Tennessee over to Knoxville, which is close to where Barbara was raised. It would have been another 400 miles over and then that same amount back. We have been told it is a beautiful trip…but decided we really did not want to push that hard…so we will have to do that trip another time.

We saw beautiful homes on the shoreline of the Tennessee and miles of uninhabited mountains. The ride was close to perfect. Brought back memories of being on Lake Cumberland…one of our favorite boating spots. There were no slow zones; we were able to cruise at about 25-28 mph…some boating traffic (since it is the 4th), but it was not too heavy. We really enjoyed seeing the mountains and the beautiful water.

Fueled at Turkey Creek Marina…a quaint little stop that had 93-octane fuel reasonably priced. The owners seemed genuinely appreciative of our business. Said they rarely seen a boat our size…especially one traveling…they get mostly pontoons or fishing boats. The channel was nice and deep…you can see the marina from the main channel. It was a quick easy pit stop without having to run several miles up some slow channel and then back out again…would be a great stop for other Loopers.

About noon pulled MemoryMaker up on a sandy bank and took a swim. While we were pulled up on shore, Dave brushed the bottom of the boat…said MemoryMaker was starting to have some growth down there. Got to the Pickwick Dam Lock about 3:00 to find out that we only had a 5 minute wait…barely time to get fenders ready. Tied up for the night at the state park in Pickwick. We had traveled 185 miles today. After a long wait (which was supposed to be a 5 minute wait), took the shuttle over to the Lodge for dinner. Came back to the boat, rested a bit and then peddled the bikes over to see the fireworks show. People everywhere, big crowd, no place left to park, and we found a side porch at the lodge that still had a few chairs available. We brought boat cushions to sit on…with the availability of the chairs, the cushions made great head rests. We had great seats in the side yard. Fireworks were going off right over us…it was a great show as they rained right on top of us. It is now over an hour later and the traffic is still trying to clear. We were able to get right back to the boat quickly with the bikes. From the looks of the sky at the moment, we will have some more fireworks later tonight from Mother Nature. Tomorrow we will head down to Mississippi where we will pick up the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway for the trip down to Mobile. Mobile is another 12 locks and 450 miles from here.