Hello virtual crew members and fellow adventurers!
Self Made Man at the Henry Lay Sculpture Garden outside Louisiana, Missouri. Seems to be a good metaphor for doing the Loop. Just chip away at it one day at a time, and about a year later you might just cross your wake.
Our last Mark Twain quote will be dedicated to Mary and Dan, who the crew has met in the last few weeks. They are truly writing their story from their heart, allowing their imagination to carry them thru this journey we call life. They do not look at their current situation as limiting their life, but dream of what is possible and act to make it happen. They are truly a remarkable and inspiring couple. Wish all the virtual crew members could meet them in person.
Well it has been both a fun and challenging week as the crew made way from 2 Rivers Marina to Paducah. This is hands down the most difficult section of the Loop, and it lived up to its reputation. The crew made the following stops along the way:
Click here to read the day-to-day travel log. This includes weather report, sea conditions, captain’s log, a summary of the day’s experience, and a few pics of the route.
The voyage of discovery did answer the following questions this week:
This week’s video shows Still Waters II watch in amazement as Capt’n Dan lands Gammel Dansk at the Hoppie’s dock, one of the more challenging places to dock on the whole Loop. Enjoy!
To see past videos, click on the link to the Still Waters II Vimeo site. The library contains videos of Still Waters II cruising America’s Great Loop.
One of the fun things about the Loop is finding the hidden gems that are hidden in plain site all across small town America. Today, the crew ‘discovered’ a hidden gem in Louisiana, Missouri, The Saint Louis University Lay Center for Education and the Arts. The crew came to learn of this jewel thanks to some ‘local knowledge’ provided by the area Harbor Host, Clay. Thanks for the suggestion to go visit this treasure!
Self Made Man at the entrance of the Sculpture Gardens
The property sits on a 300 acre natural refuge with lakes, streams, and wooded hills. Within this property is the 20 acre Henry Lay Sculpture Park. The property was initially settled in 1832 by John McElwee, a Revolutionary War Hero. He and 12 of his grandchildren are buried in a cemetery near the walking path in the Sculpture Gardens.
Henry Law acquired the property in 1996. He fulfilled his lifelong dream of combining reading and art with the natural beauty of the out doors. The park is first entered at Story Woods, Children’s Sculpture Garden. The perimeter of the park has 6 sculpture books to read. While near the center a man in a high chair, Meditation Over a Chair.
The main path branches off and returns to the Children’s Garden. Along the path are various sculptures. Some of the more interesting ones:
Wandering Brute, the beast of burden is taking it easy while the man performs all the work.
To Dance as One, wagon train on the trail
More amazing than the sculptures though, was taking a 2 hour hike with a legally blind man, Dan. The skipper may of learned more about life in that two hours than he has in the past several years. Lets start with TRUST. How much TRUST does it take for Dan to go hike with some people that in all reality he barely knows? Well, more than the skipper has. The path was very rocky, where the rock size was anywhere from pea size to walnut size. Then the terrain was hilly making elevation changes from 6-10 feet up and down the whole path. Then there was the bridge with a 2×6 broken plank that Dan could of stepped in and fallen thru. Dan called this “country work” where he walks without sidewalks and roads. He also said the trick to not falling was ‘toes up’. The strategy was successful because he did not stumble or fall a single time. Yes, Dan can certainly teach people about TRUST.
Then how about COMMUNICATION. Many in this world can say many words but never COMMUNICATE a single intelligible idea. The COMMUNICATION between Tori, the seeing eye dog, and Dan is all almost non-verbal, but volumes of information is shared between the two.
For instance, that bridge with the broken 2×6 plank also had started with about a three inch step up from ground level. The skipper was not doing a very good job of COMMUNICATING the hazard to Dan, mostly because he was gabbing about something else. However, Tori recognized the hazard and stopped. Initially, Dan noticed that Tori had stopped, but Dan tried to continue walking. Tori was having none of that so Tori stepped in front of Dan to block Dan ‘s path. Dan felt Tori on the front of his leg so he stopped walking. He gave Tori a command, and Tori took her paw and tapped the top of Dan’s shoe. This signaled Dan that there was a step up to get on the bridge. Dan asked the skipper how high he needed to step up and the skipper finally clued into what was going on. The skipper told Dan about three to four inches, and then added, “oh you probably want to stay to the left side of the bridge since there is a hand rail on that side. On the right side there is no hand rail and you could step off and fall in the lake.” Dan, “thanks for that little bit of info.” Pretty sad when the dog is doing a better job of COMMUNICATING hazards than the skipper.
Dan also is a student of history like our skipper. While out hiking, Dan asked “Who was the first president of our country?” Well like most people, the group responded with George Washington. Dan, “you would be wrong.”
Some of the natural beauty of the site, true golden treasure
Dan then went on to explain that the Declaration of Independence was signed July 4, 1776. George Washington did not become president until April 1789. There were actually 8 presidents before George Washington. So the answer you ask? None other than John Hanson, a man lost to history.
John Hanson, encyclopedia Britanica
While the crew was out walking with Dan and Doreen, Mary stayed back at the Story Woods to sketch some of the artwork. When the group got back to where Mary was working, she had the Admiral sit down and Mary sketched out a drawing of the Admiral. She added color to the sketch when they returned to the boat and offered the drawing to the Admiral. Mary is a very talented artist.
Mary drawing the Admiral
And the finished masterpiece
Our three boat flotilla left the protected harbor of 2 Rivers Marina and made way down river. The flotilla had two locks to navigate as they progressed south. And the good news is the clouds cleared and the crew should be getting some sun today. With the sun shining, it did make the fall colors vibrant.
The flotilla was joined by a fourth boat named Aurora in Lock 24. The Captain announced that he was a Looper and requested to join the group. This makes seven boats that the crew has seen that have launched their Loop Adventure from the upper Mississippi River.
The flotilla continued down stream and found a tow just leaving Lock 25 when they arrived. With minimal delay, the tow pushed out of the Lock and the pleasure craft all entered the Lock on the green light. Still Waters II was the first boat in the Lock, and was surprised to see a large 3×5 array of barges on the down stream side of the gate.
Not much room to squeeze out of Lock 25.
Squeezing out of the 30 foot opening, in a 15 foot wide boat
Blurred Lines making the escape
After all the boats were safely out of the Lock, the Captain of Blurred Lines, Greg, came over the radio and announced that he thought about closing his eyes while shooting the gap coming out of the Lock. Capt’n Dan countered with an “I didn’t need to.” That caused a round of deep belly laughter from all the other boaters.
The crew enjoyed some fine scenery as they navigated down to Port Charles where they stayed for the night.
It was early to bed to rest up for what the skipper believes is the worst section of the Loop, 291 miles from Alton to Green Turtle Bay.
From Port Charles it was only a few miles before the crew was back at the junction of the Mississippi River and Illinois River, signaling that they have completed their 660 mile side trip on the upper Mississippi River. This also means that the crew is back on the normal Looper route.
Junction with Illinois River, Gammel Dansk coming down the Mississippi River left of the point, and a tow moving upbound on the Illinois River to the right of the point.
As they passed between Grafton and Alton, the limestone bluffs were on fire with their fall color show, Some of the best that the crew has seen this year.
Legend has it that there was a large dragon named Piasa Bird that ate people who tried to navigate these waters south. The Native Americans painted the dragons on the limestone bluffs above the river. When Joliet and Marquette plied these waters in 1673, they saw the dragons on the cliffs and captured this description:
“While Skirting some rocks, which by Their height and length inspired awe, We saw upon one of them two painted monsters which at first made Us afraid, and upon Which the boldest savages dare not Long rest their eyes. They are as large As a calf; they have Horns on their heads Like those of a deer, a horrible look, red eyes, a beard Like a tiger’s, a face somewhat like a man’s, a body Covered with scales, and so Long A tail that it winds all around the Body, passing above the head and going back between the legs, ending in a Fish’s tail. Green, red, and black are the three Colors composing the Picture. Moreover, these 2 monsters are so well painted that we cannot believe that any savage is their author; for good painters in France would find it difficult to reach that place Conveniently to paint them. Here is approximately The shape of these monsters, As we have faithfully Copied It.”
The original paintings are long gone but a duplicate now has been painted above Alton based on written reports of early voyagers.
The modern reproduction of Piasa Bird
To lighten the mood of the day, the skipper sent the flotilla a message about the myth of the dragons and cautioned everyone to keep a sharp lookout on the cliffs and report any sightings. He also said that if a Piasa was spotted it would be every boater for themselves. He then thanked Blurred Lines for leading the way today and mentioned that they might be the first attacked.
Blurred Lines responded that they were not afraid of dragons and in fact had evidence that the dragon had been captured and was presently being held in captivity.
The crew started to notice tows stacked along the shore 10 miles out from Lock 26, Mel Price Lock. This is never a good sign. About this same time, a Looper boat in the Alton Marina contacted the skipper and reported that the lock master had told the boat to join the flotilla for a 1000 opening in the Auxiliary Lock.
Tows above Mel Price
About the same time, Blurred Lines sent a text announcing that they had just talked to the lock master, and assigned the flotilla a 1000 opening. What a deal! As the group passed the Alton Marina, the fifth boat, Kailani, came out of the inlet and joined the flotilla. When they arrived at the lock, the gate was open and the boats entered and floated down about a foot.
Blurred Lines and Gammel Dansk in Mel Price Lock
When the small Armada left the lock, Gammel Dansk jumped out to lead the boats for awhile. However, it did not take long before the little green turtle was back at the end of the line. But hey, Capt’n Dan has lead the Armada.
Next obstacle was the Chain of Rocks Lock, # 27 and the last lock on the Mississippi River. The lock tender was named Carol and made the lock experience memorable. The humor and way she interacted with the tow boat captains was fun to listen to.
Just before the Armada entered the lock, a tow boat called and requested to go thru with the pleasure craft. Carol asked him if his large tow was now considered a pleasure craft. The tow boat responded that his peers all said it was a pleasure craft so it must be a pleasure craft. Carol then said since you are a pleasure craft I guess you can enter with the pleasure craft.
Gammel Dansk and her big brother in the Chain of Rocks Lock
After pushing out of the lock it was time to start catching some more current and speed by the Arch at St Louis.
The flood conditions have swept mounds of debris down river. The crew have begun to talk about abandoning their plans to go all the way down the Mississippi River. The conditions are worse than normal and may not be conducive to safe travel.
Debris lodged on the barge
The crew was glad to finally see Hoppie’s and get safely tied to the barge that acts as the dock. After all the boats had taken on fuel and safely docked, the crew met with the marina staff to get a safety brief on the conditions down river. The brief only solidified what our crew was already thinking, it might not be a smart play to ply the lower Mississippi River.
Debbie providing a safety brief
Remember that boat, Kailani, that joined the group at Alton? When the crew went thru the Mel Price Lock the Admiral made a comment that it sure looked like the boat our crew looked at back in 2015 when they were first thinking about buying a boat.
She went down and found the literature on the boat the crew had looked at back in Ft Myers. They sure looked similar. Once the boats were docked at Hoppie’s, the Admiral went over to the Kailani and confirmed her suspicions, yes it was the same boat. Tracy gave the Admiral a tour of the new and improved 44 foot Tollycraft.
Mary also completed a sketch of the skipper and added some color to the sketch and presented the completed work to the skipper. The skipper is honored to have the artwork.
Getting the final details just right
The completed piece of work
With a chill back in the air, fog on the river, and rain falling, the flotilla did not shove off today until almost 1130. They were only going some 40 miles and at 12 mph it was less than 4 hours to their designated stop at the Kaskaskia Lock wall just off the Mississippi River at mile 117.
Running in the rain
After landing Dan and Mary tried walking Tori, the seeing eye dog, up and down the wall to encourage her to do her business. She was a reluctant participant and has yet to learn to use the artificial grass as her designated spot. The skipper volunteered, with Admiral nudging, to take Tori on a dinghy ride to shore to do her business. The skipper dropped the dinghy in the water and with help from Greg and Mary they were able to place the 70 pound German Shepard in the dinghy. She did not seem too thrilled at first, but she quickly settled down as the skipper rowed away.
When he landed over on the shore near a boat ramp, she had no problems exiting the dinghy and jumped right out. She made a bee line for the nearest grass and relieved herself. She then wandered over to the woods and dropped a pile. Pleased with herself, she headed straight back to the dinghy. The skipper patted the seat in the dinghy and she loaded herself and took her place behind the middle sit.
Then the rain decided it was time for a little deluge action and soaked the skipper as he rowed back to the mother ship. Once again proving, no good deed goes unpunished.
The day got off to some wonderful news. Tori, the seeing eye dog, decided dinghy rides were not that exciting and in order to avoid another traumatic experience, she decided to use the green artificial grass for the first time ever to do her business. The skipper sure appreciated that news. He was not looking forward to another rowing event in the rain.
The winds decided to pick up overnight and blow for most of the morning. But around 1000 the winds started to drop and become tolerable for cruising. With the wind out of the north, the 25 mph gusts would help push the boats down the river. After consulting with the other boaters, it was decided to make the run down to the Little River Diversion Canal and anchor for the night.
At 1100, four of the boats shoved off the lock wall and proceeded down river. It would be a 68 mile run, but with the current helping push the boats downstream it would take just over 6 hours to arrive and drop anchor in the canal.
Blurred Lines went into the Canal first and dropped their anchor. Gammel Dansk went in second and rafted to the port side of Blurred Lines. Still Waters II went in third and dropped an anchor and then backed up towards Blurred Lines on the starboard side.
Unfortunately, the skipper misjudged the distance and ran out of anchor chain about 20 feet above Blurred Lines. They were able to get a stern line over to Blurred Lines so they could hold the stern secure. Then it took a dozen or more throws before the crew successfully got a breast line over to Blurred Lines. Once the line was over, Greg was able to pull Blurred Lines over to Still Waters II and then secure the two boats together.
Rafted three across for the night
Later that evening the crews of Blurred Lines and Still Waters II strategized on how to make the 95 mile run to Paducah. There was conflicting information about the two locks on the Ohio River. Some information was reporting that the dams/wickets were up and all vessels would have to traverse thru the locks. Other information claimed that the dams/wickets were down and that boaters could bypass the locks and motor over the dam due to the high water levels.
It was finally decided that the group would raise the anchors at first light and head out as close to 0700 as possible. Then, Blurred Lines would set a speed to arrive at the locks as soon as possible to determine their actual status. Then move on to the Paducah marina and wait for Still Waters II and Gammel Dansk and help them dock when they arrived in the dark. This plan was selected because Blurred Lines would be able to set a speed to ensure a safe arrival in day light hours, and they do not have radar which would make night travel unsafe and difficult. Still Waters II would run with Gammel Dansk and help ensure safety by running with the radar after dark.
Well the plan got off to a good start as the boats were all out of the canal and back on the Mississippi River by 0702. The first 50 miles went by quickly as they cruised with the current. By 1120, everyone had completed the turn onto the Ohio River. Unfortunately, the Ohio River has also now reached flood stage and the current was ripping around 3-4 mph. Not good!
Gammel Dansk up bound on the Ohio River
When Still Waters II made the turn her speed dropped from 12.2 to 4.8 mph. Gammel Dansk set the pace and made between 4.8 and 5.2 mph into the current on the Ohio River. At this pace, the skipper calculated that they would not arrive in Paducah until around 2130. There was some discussion of trying to find an anchorage somewhere along the Ohio River, but it was finally decided that three hours in the dark was better than overnight on the river in the present current.
During the conversation to decide to anchor or soldier on to Paducah, Capt’n Dan said he would TRY to make it to Paducah. The skipper asked Capt’n Dan if he had seen the Star Wars movies. Capt’n Dan responded in the affirmative. So the skipper then asked if Dan was familiar with the character Yoda. Once again Capt’n Dan responded in the affirmative. So the skipper said, “there is no try, just do!” Dan said he was committed to do the Paducah run. With that settled, it was time to endure the long grueling run to Paducah on the Ohio River.
Blurred Lines was able to confirm that the dams/wickets were still down and that the crew could motor over the dam and bypass the lock. That was certainly good news.
The new Olmstead Lock and Dam
All that is left of old Lock 53
When the sun began to set, the Admiral set a lamp out on the sun deck and turned it on. This would allow Gammel Dansk to come in closer and help them follow once it got dark. The skipper also turned on their spot light so they could watch for debris in the water and help him play dodge-a-log in the dark.
Those last three hours in the dark were some trying times. At one point a tow came up from behind and requested the skipper to move to the port so he could overtake them on the starboard. Then another tow called that was a few miles ahead and requested that the skipper maintain course and speed and that he would go by on the port side.
The skipper mulled it over for a few seconds and decided it was not safe to stay on course and allow one tow to go by on the starboard side while the other tow went by on the port side, in the dark no less. He called both tow Captains on the VHF radio and announce he would move way north of the sailing line and then come to an all stop to allow them to pass. Then once both tows had passed by he would move back to the sailing line.
The next obstacle was to find the marked channel over the dam at Lock 52. A down bound tow captain told the skipper that the reds were under water because of the flooding. The tow captain said he only saw one of the green buoys. The skipper asked the tow Captain about the sailing line and how it lined up with the marked channel for the dam. The tow Captain responded that they were not the same but the sailing line would allow safe passage over the dam. With that info in hand, the skipper just stayed on the sailing line on the chart plotter and cruised over the dam. He only saw one green buoy as he navigated the channel.
Now it was time to get under the last bridge and turn towards the dock at Paducah two miles up river. The new dock was well lit and easy to find. The crew announced their pending arrival to Blurred Lines and they came out to catch lines and guide the two boats in.
Safely docked in Paducah after a 14 hour run
These last few days were the most challenging sections of the whole Loop route. The crew had plenty of challenges to overcome and navigate but were blessed to do this section with the crews of Blurred Lines and Gammel Dansk. It was long and hard but the spirit of the crews was positive and fun, a true team effort. Thanks for the memories!!
After a long and harrowing day yesterday, the crew slept in and mostly relaxed. In the late afternoon, Ruth and Al came over from Green Turtle Bay, and joined the crew, Dan, and Mary for dinner. It was a wonderful way to end a long week on the water.
Inn-CaBoots, the crew met this boat at the Kaskaskia Lock wall. They plan to move down to the Panama Canal, transit the canal, and then make way to Alaska.
The crew has decided to abandon the plan for the lower Mississippi River. Some of the spots that they would anchor in were already marginal anchor spots due to the depth. Because of the flooding, these spots would be unsafe to stay out in, in these conditions. For example, when the crew anchored in the Little River Diversion Canal back in 2016, the depths were 8-10 feet. The other night the depth was 23-25 feet in the exact same locations.
With that decision made, the skipper is recalculating their moves south down to Mobile Bay via the Tenn-Tom Waterway. So the goal for this next week is to make Green Turtle Bay at the north end of Kentucky Lake, make their way down the Lake, and then arrive at Aqua Yacht Harbor at the top of the Tenn-Tom for the weekend.