Shoaling Around

Ahoy from Muscle Shoals. Welcome back virtual crew members and fellow adventurers.

Summary of the Week

The crew remained at Florence Harbor Marina and conducted shore excursions to explore the surrounding area in northwest Alabama.

Voyage of Discovery

The voyage of discovery did answer the following questions this week:

  1. How did Muscle Shoals get it’s name?
  2. How did commercial traffic navigate around the Shoals?
  3. What replaced the original canal?

Looking down River where the shoals used to be.

By the 1830’s, people began to explore ways to cut a canal around the shoals to make the Tennessee River navigable from north to south. The first Canal had 17 locks over a distance of 14.5 miles. However, Alabama did not have the financial resources to maintain the locks, so the Canal closed just two years after it opened.

This section of shoals dropped 137 feet over about a 37 mile distance. Following the Civil War, a second Canal project was completed and managed to operate until 1918. Today, the Tennessee River is controlled by a series of Locks and Dams managed by Tennessee Valley Authority.

Lieutenant George W. Goethals was assigned to the second Canal project to expedite the completion of the Canal. His work here earned him promotions and assignment to one of the most famous canals in the world down in Panama. Major General Goethal was the chief engineer over the Panama Canal starting in 1907.

Looking upstream towards the TVA Wilson Lock and Dam.

Five Years on the Boat

June 18, 2015 marks the day that the crew moved aboard Still Waters II to start this incredible adventure and boating lifestyle. To celebrate the anniversary of this date, the crew went out to a restaurant and reminisced about all the water that has flowed under their keel in the last five years. What a ride it has been.

The start of this adventure actually predates 2015 by several years though. In what the crew likes to call a pre-ordained God appointment. The skipper had taken a new assignment at work as the Emergency Preparedness Manager in 2008. As part of his on-boarding and training for this new role, the skipper’s boss (Danny Wilder – thank you Danny) signed the skipper up as a peer reviewer on an INPO Emergency Preparedness Review Visit. The skipper was assigned to a team, and the nuclear power plant the team would review was Clinton Power Station located in Clinton, Illinois.

Upon arrival at the Station in 2009, the skipper met the Clinton Emergency Preparedness Manager, Al Darelius. Al seemed rather distracted with some new purchase he had just made and was busy showing everybody he came in contact with a picture of his purchase. (Imagine a brand new grandmother showing pictures of her brand new grand baby.) You get the picture of the enthusiasm Al was displaying.

When the skipper inquired to take a peek at the photo, Al gladly handed the photo over. The photo was a picture of a rather large boat, Al called it a trawler. He claimed he bought it so once he retired, he could cruise America’s Great Loop. (What inspired over the next week was a canny game of cat and mouse as Al continued to distract the skipper with tales of America’s Great Loop, and how he and his wife would cruise this Loop once they retired.) The skipper immediately was intrigued and became a double agent. By day, the skipper was trying to complete the assigned task of reviewing the Clinton Power Station Emergency Program and making recommendations for improvements. At night, he was also sleuthing around the internet trying to learn all he could about ‘The Loop’ so he could ask his new found mentor questions. The skipper got very little sleep that week.

Al and Ruth At Mackinac Island, 2018

Upon arrival back home, the skipper began to share with the Admiral what he had learned at Clinton. ( The ‘Great Loop’, not the gifts of recommendations for improvements he had left Al at Clinton.) They decided it sounded like an interesting endeavor to pursue during retirement, and the idea of navigating America’s Great Loop was added to the Bucket List.

Fine dining at The Woods, Mackinac Island 2018

In an interesting twist, the skipper accepted a job offer to actually work at INPO in 2011, so the crew moved to Atlanta. In addition to the in-house employees (like the skipper) INPO also has a ‘loanee program’ where workers from the different utilities are temporarily assigned to INPO for 18-24 months. Soon after the skipper arrived in Atlanta, he learned that Al had been assigned as a ‘loanee’ to the Emergency Preparedness Division. So they got to work together for just under two years.

Ruth and Al on a rescue mission (provision run) while the crew was stuck in Marquette on the upper Mississippi River

In another interesting twist of fate, the skipper managed to retire before Al. This resulted in the mentee (skipper) earning the Gold Burgee before his mentor and teacher (Al Darelius). Al eventually retired and has since completed the Loop and earned the Gold Burgee.

Al & Ruth celebrating their Loop completion

And in our last interesting twist of fate, Al and Ruth now keep their boat berthed at the Florence Harbor Marina, where the crew just happens to be on this fifth anniversary. You just can’t make this stuff up!

Thanks Al for acting like a grandmother and showing off your ‘new to you’ boat and introducing us to America’s Great Loop. It has turned out to be a wonderful retirement plan.

Boat Name of the Week

Al and Ruth’s Boat

Next Week

The crew will continue to hang out in Florence. They do have a grandkid scheduled for arrival on Tuesday. That should make for a fun week.

Loop On

Where the road ends, The water begins.

The water goes on forever, and the adventure never ends.

Eric the Red

4 Comments on “Shoaling Around

  1. There is a terrific documentary on YouTube about Muscle Shoals and the music industry. If you haven’t watched it, it is a must watch imo.


  2. My David and I came for a visit at the time you were transitioning into your Emergency Preparedness role. I vividly recall you in the recliner studying with a very thick notebook and stopping long enough to tell us about America’s great loop. Amazing that 5 years have passed.


  3. What a great story! And so cool you could be together for your 5th Anniversary!! Continue to enjoy the cruise! And stay safe


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