Saturday, March 25, 2017

Well, it has been a few years since our last post!  Alexis and I have re-entered the work force since completing the loop over two years ago.  We sold Moondance to a couple, who completed the loop themselves.  So Moondance is now a double loop veteran.  Their loop blog can be seen here: http://lilysmoondanceramblings.blogspot.com/.

We bought a 60' Jefferson Marquesas motor yacht, that was a project.  Serenity is about complete and is moored at Longboat Key Club Moorings in Longboat Key, FL.  Her refit has been taxing and costly, but she is nice and roomy, and can accommodate more grand-kids.  This is Alexis' last tax season, as she retires the end of April.  We plan to immediately set sail for the Bahamas for two months.  Stan and Claiborne and families both plan to join us there.  That is the plan-we will see!  In the interim, here are some pics of Serenity.

After a hard days work.

Master bedroom.

Office.




Salon.

At anchor.


Waterspout in Mobile Bay.

Helm.

Alexis on the flybridge.



After completing the loop, we went into a post loop funk, as we re immersed ourselves into work.  Besides working on Serenity, and moving her from Gulf Shores to New Orleans, and then to Longboat, we have not used her much.  We have had some vicarious pleasure following loop blogs of friends, and occasionally meeting up with friends we made on our loop.  So we are looking forward to taking her to the Bahamas and who knows, maybe back up the east coast to Canada in a few years!




Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Loop ruminations.

Well, we made it to Seabrook Marina in New Orleans.  We will leave the boat here to have the yard chip away at our running repair list.  It is a truly weird feeling to get behind the wheel of a car to drive home.  So, here are some final thoughts about the Loop.

Both Alexis and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, and would recommend the Loop to any boating couple who both want to do it.  We saw parts of America (as well as Canada and the Bahamas) that we would not normally have visited.  The people along the way were friendly, accommodating and fun (even the non-boaters who hang out on city docks).  The fellow boaters we met along the way were super, and we have made new lifelong friends.  I know it sounds corny, but we have a renewed sense of pride in our country.  People are largely good, and while there are certainly regional differences, our country is much more cohesive than we thought.  Stepping out of our bubble, and turning off 24 hour news was exhilarating.  We experienced the country for ourselves, rather than forming opinions from the news, which invariably slants to the negative.  So the best part of the trip was the people.  And those who know me will find that strange as I was not exactly a “people person” before the trip, having become somewhat of a cynic. 

The best advice we received before the trip was to untie the lines and go.  Don’t wait for the optimal time, as it will never happen.  Five years ago we set 2014 as our target date, and joined America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association (AGLCA).   We kept to the plan and set sail Jan 1.  Of course life did not stop for us, and we had some knocks during the year.  But that is life, and who knows what next year will bring?  So we whole heartily give the same advice to those who want to do this or any other life event.  Do it while you are physically able.  Set a date and go for it!  

The hardest part of the trip was missing family and friends.  Strangely, the blog was very cathartic for me, and the comments you sent back were heartwarming (even the nasty ones!).  I wish we could have had more visitors during the year, but scheduling trips was a moving target as our destinations varied with weather, repairs, etc. 

My biggest surprise was my deficient knowledge of American history.  I thought I was fairly knowledgeable-not.    We learned so much about the demographics and history of the Bahamas, US and Canada.  It was fun and enlightening! 

My favorite region was the Exumas.  Alexis’ was the river system from the Hudson through the Trent- Severn Waterway.  There was no part of the trip we did not like. 

For those of you considering the trip we offer this free advice.  Join AGLCA and follow the discussion board, read the recommended books, and go to a rendezvous to meet and hear from Loopers.  Take everything you hear with a grain of salt, as your Loop will be, well, yours.  Some people take years to complete it, others months.  Some like certain regions over others and will linger at their favorite place.  If you want to start an argument, ask several Loopers what is the best boat for the Loop.  We won’t shut up and debate the merits of big vs small, single vs twin, walk around vs full cabin, pilot house vs aft cabin and on and on.  The best boat is your boat!  We met one Canadian couple doing the Loop in canoes, and one guy single handing on a 60 plus foot Hatteras, and everything in-between (including several sailboats).  Go with what is comfortable for you. 

Loopers come in all shapes and sizes.  Alexis and I are probably the average age (59).  There were younger and older couples, some well to do, others on a shoestring budget.  We met one guy single handling, and one gal also single handling.  While most Loopers are couples, we met a few who would have a family member or friend on board helping.   There are Loopers of different races, religions and sexual orientation.  We met English, German, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand Loopers.  All in all Loopers are an eclectic bunch! 

 Besides diesel, the biggest expense for us was dining out and marina fees.  Many choose to cook on board more and save money.  While we cooked on board a lot, we also experienced the local fare.  We anchored out about 40% of the time, and stayed at marinas or city docks the rest of the time.  Obviously, the big cities such as New York take a chuck out of the old budget, but what an experience doing them on your own boat!

Boating experience, or the lack thereof, is always a big question.  We met couples who read about the Loop, bought their first boat and set sail.  Usually, the first part of the trip was very stressful for these couples, but they then would learn the routine and settle into a groove.  The couples who had some boating experience usually fared better in the beginning.  The biggest stressor (and surprise for some) is that this trip is work.  You are not on a cruise ship.  You are the captain, crew, navigator, mechanic, galley hand, travel agent and radio operator all in one.  There is not much time for sitting on the beach.  The most common complaint was from Loopers who expected more free time.  Not to blow our own horn, but this is not an average trip.  You must know the rules of the road (Coast Guard regs), seamanship, navigation, and proper ship to ship communication procedures to do this.  We had cruised our boat for several years before embarking on the Loop, so were familiar with how she handled.  Still, when entering an unfamiliar waterway, we had our moments of stress.  Never, ever, make fun of a fellow boater who crashes into the dock, as the very next day it will be you.  God has a sense of humor!  All that is part of the experience so expect it and enjoy the ride. 

The biggest question I now get is how will you go back to work?  Well, I have to, and my new persona will kick in-don’t worry, be happy. 

Alexis and I thought that a good way to close out the blog is to list some of the boaters we met.  Most all boaters have “boat cards” our substitute for business cards.  Here are a few we collected along the way:

Boat Name- Homeport

Lucky Us-League City, TX.
Lady KK-Zumbro Falls, MN.
S/V Wanderful-?       
Limelight-Cato, WI.
Freya-Rockport, TX.
Kristen Noelle-Baton Rouge, LA.
SaSea Sally-Louisiana, MO.
Second Wind-Shearborn, MA.
Connie B-Lapeer, MI.
LeryLynn-Austin, TX.
Companion-Madeira Beach, FL.
Knot Home-Baton Rouge, LA.
Easy Going-Houston, TX.
Cronos-Riverside, CT.
Carpe Diem-Oriental, NC.
Pisces-Lake of the Ozarks, MO.
Tiger Sea- Bellaire, MI.
M/V Southern Cross-Madisonville, LA.
S/V Too Chez- Portsmouth, NH & Cross Village, MI.
Gabriel-Gloucester, MA.
Blue Heaven-Lancaster, PA.
Southern Belle-?
Moondance-Baltimore, MD.
Calypso-Annapolis, MD.
Bobcat-Manteo, NC.
Prime Time V-?
Vendange-Suffolk, VA.
Lil’ David-Holden Beach, NC.
Our Time-Severna Park,MD.
S/V Second Option-Fort Belvoir, VA.
S/V October-Maine.
Let’s Drift-Toronto, Canada.
Allison Leigh- Iuka, MS.
M/V Fet-Esch-Carrollton, TX.
Field Trip-?
Lindy-?
Sojourn-Southlake, TX.
Carried Away-?
Secret Spot-North Myrtle Beach, SC.
Traveling Soul-Bahamas.
Spindrift-Boston, MA.
Sojourn-Gulf Harbour, FL.
Sunny Days-?
Queen Ann’s Revenge-Jackson, TN.
M/V Untide-New Zealand.
Chicaboom-Dunedin, FL.
In My Element-Fox Island, WA.
Daybreak-?
Peapod-Ottawa, ON.
Good Idea-London, Ontario.
Blue Chip-Big Pine Key, FL.
Terrapin-Petoskey, MI.
Potest Fieri-Kelowna, British Columbia.
With-A-K-VIII-Wilmington, IL.
Gran Vida-?
Lady Shenanigan’s-?
Our Last Boat IX-?
Balderdash-Charlevoix, MI.
Hotei-?
R & R-Long Island, NY.
Midas Touch-Richmond Hills, GA
Roxanne-?
Sundowner-Seminold, FL.
Quo Vadimus-Dover, DE.
Knot So Fast-?
Mas Bueno-Chattanooga, TN.
Greek’s Folly-Chicago, IL.
Seaveyor-Edisto, SC.
Jet Stream-Nevada.
Bright Angel-Grand Haven, MI.
Allez-?
Loophole-Holland, MI
M/V Sweetwater-?
Bushrange- Sydney, Australia.
M/V Fruitcakes-Little River, SC
Gypsea-Holland, MI
Seahorse-?
Corkscrew-Nashville, TN.


We met many others, but didn't get their cards.  It has been fun sharing our adventure via this blog.  Thanks for staying tuned!  C’est tout!  For now……




Saturday, November 15, 2014

Stats.

Stats from Sarasota, FL to Mobile, AL:
  •       Nautical miles-5045 (5802 statute miles).
  •       Engine hours-762.
  •      Genset hours-536.
  •      Diesel used-4,985 gallons.
  •       Diesel price-high $5.83 (Eleuthera); low-$3.61 (New Jersey).
  •      Nautical miles per gallon-1.01.
  •      Gallons per hour-high-15.45 (In Atlantic running full throttle); Low-2.63 (Mississippi River running with current).
  •       Mayday calls recorded by AIS-one-Georgian Bay Canada (we were too far away to help, but reported it to Canadian Coast Guard).
  •     17 US states visited, 2 foreign countries. 

Repairs along the way:
  • ·        Changed port raw water pump (In Bahamas with help from mechanic).
  • ·         Changed Genset fuel pump (In Bahamas, I did it with spare).
  • ·         Changed Genset 8 amp fuse (Had to have specialty fuse delivered to the Bahamas by Stan.  I now carry spares).
  • ·         Genset impeller (I changed it with spare).
  • ·         New auto pilot (Raymarine mechanic in Daytona, FL).
  • ·         New spotlight-Jacksonville.
  • ·         New aft bilge pump (I changed with spare).
  • ·         Another new spotlight-Grafton, IL. (West Marine gave me new one since old one was a West Marine purchase).
  • ·         Starboard raw water pump (I changed with spare at Green Turtle Bay).
  • ·         Engine synchronizer-I ordered part and fixed on Great Lakes.
  • ·         Had starboard engine aligned in Chicago.
  • ·         Props balanced at Green Turtle Bay.
  • ·         Had hole in dinghy repaired in New York.
  • ·         I performed three oil and filter changes along the way and changed the engine zincs. I had spare filters and engine zincs on board.
  • ·         I had to change the bottom zincs in the Bahamas, and had not brought spares.  Stan brought them when he visited.  I used my SCUBA equipment to change them.  Spares are readily available in the States, but rare in the Bahamas.  


Friday, November 14, 2014

Moondance has crossed her wake!



The last 200 miles on the Tenn-Tom have been completely rural.  We have been traveling 70 miles a day, and anchoring at night.  Besides being cold, the ride has been pretty, but somewhat monotonous.  We have been driving from downstairs in the comfort of our heating system.  Winter is early!  We have been travelling the last 200 miles with Todd and Debbie on Seaveyor, along with several other Loopers.  Seaveyor’s anchor winch has been on the fritz, so they raft to us at night, and we enjoyed their company on this lonely part of the Tenn-Tom.  Last night we watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles with them.  I had forgotten how funny that movie is. 

Today we passed through Mobile, AL where we crossed our wake in Looper parlance.  We have now completed the Loop!  Most of the Loopers will head east to Florida from Mobile, but we turn west to New Orleans and home.  It was refreshing to hit salt water again, and see dolphins, pelicans and sea gulls after being in the river system so long.  However, I can’t wash down the boat with the raw water pump any more!  We are excited to soon see family and friends again, but a post loop depression is upon both of us.  We are at the Grand Mariner Marina on Dog River just south of Mobile for the weekend, and then will head into Mississippi Sound toward New Orleans.  Dog River is off Mobile Bay, so we entered the bay after leaving mile 0 of the Tenn-Tom.  The wind was howling out of the north about 20 knots and we took spray for the first time in a while and I executed a really ugly docking on my triumphant completion of the Loop.  We didn't hit anything, but it was exciting.  Alexis and I use headsets to communicate to each other during dockings.  Loopers call them marriage savers as you are not yelling at each other for all to hear.  It is a good thing that only I heard what Alexis told me over the headset during the docking….  But, any docking that you don’t hit or damage anything is a successful docking!!

 We have a few stops left, and I will post our boating stats for all the boat nuts, so stay tuned. 
Traffic on the Tenn-Tom.


These bluffs were close to Demopolis.
Moondance.
Crews of Seaveyor and Moondance.

Seaveyor.



Our last lock!  Fruitcakes and Arevaderchi, both Loopers and Mainships, are in the lock with us.   

These Bufflehead ducks are striking, and winter arrivals in the south.  


Mr. Bones on front of Seaveyor.  Too much sun....

Moondance and Seaveyor rafted up for the night.  


Mobile is a busy port.  Are these stealth ships?

Mobile.

We entered Mobile Bay and crossed our wake (we had passed here on our way to Florida when we stared the Loop from Houma).  

Salt water and seagulls in our wake.  

We are now "Gold Loopers"!  The white Loop flag indicates you are on the Loop, Gold, completion of the Loop, and platinum, completion of successive Loops.  

Replacing our white flag with a shiny new gold one.  







Sunday, November 9, 2014

Columbus, MS. Slowly working our way down the Tenn-Tom.

We have been at the Columbus Marina the last few days, taking a break from constant running.  We have toured Columbus and Aberdeen, MS via a rental car, and the surrounding area.  Many old homes and that type of thing.  At least Alexis is enjoying it!  We did tour the birth home of Tennessee Williams in Columbus, which was interesting.  Also, we toured the Waverly Plantation Mansion, an interesting antebellum home.   There are about a dozen Loopers here with us, so that has been nice.   Todd and Debbie on Seaveyor arrive today, and we will go out to dinner with them tonight.  Tomorrow we head south.  Demopolis is the only city left before Mobile, so we will be anchoring out most of the five more days to Mobile.  We will spend some time in Mobile, and then start the trek to New Orleans.  The Tenn-Tom is mostly rural, and the anchorages have been secluded.  Great bird watching and star gazing opportunities.  The marinas along the way are nice, but remote.  Nothing like the east coast or Lake Michigan, where there were always towns next to the marinas with lots to do.  So very different, but relaxing, except when Alexis was watching LSU lose last night…..
Loopers headed down the Tenn-Tom.

The scenery is beginning to look like home.  

An Enterprise tow from Houma with a Cenac barge! 



Reportedly  Richard Burton wore this cross while acting in The Night of the Iguana.    



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Headed south down the Tenn-Tom and a side trip to the Shiloh Battleground.

We are at Grand Harbor Marina at the top of the Tenn-Tom Waterway.  Tomorrow we head south.  Officially, the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway is only 234 miles long from the Tennessee River to Demopolis, AL.  The 217 miles from Demopolis to Mobile, AL is officially the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway, but most everybody refers to the entire 452 mile route as the Tenn-Tom.  There are 12 locks on the Tenn-Tom.  The Tenn-Tom is an alternate route (the primary route is the Mississippi River) to the Gulf of Mexico, and is a primarily a slack water system, as opposed to the fierce current of the Mississippi. Besides Memphis, there are very few marinas south of Paducah on the Mississippi so most recreational boaters take the Tenn-Tom as it has many marinas along the way, although commercial tows use the waterway also. 

 The creation of the Tenn-Tom was the largest civil works project of the time.  The first federal study was commissioned in 1874, the project authorized by Congress in 1971, and construction completed by the Corps in late 1984.  The system is five times longer and has a total lift 3.5 times greater than the Panama Canal.  Most Loopers utilize the Tenn-Tom instead of the Mississippi, because it is more user friendly than the Mississippi with its deadheads, divers and lack of recreational facilities.  If you will note the Looper map, however, either qualifies as a completion of the Loop.  Having already bent one prop on the Mississippi, we chose the Tenn-Tom.  The authoritative guide, Tenn-Tom Nitty Gritty, by Fred Myers, however, points out that even it has its issues.  These are his ten commandments for the Tenn-Tom (the comments are mine):

  1.          Thou shalt hesitate to journey on these waters during times of flood.
  2.          Thou shalt not bet strongly on where to anchor (water levels fluctuate).
  3.          Thou shalt do whatever possible to get along with thy fellow man, especially those in small boats (Bubba gets upset when waked and the second amendment is gospel in the south!). 
  4.          Thou shalt be wary of dredges.
  5.          Thou shalt accept marinas for what they are, mostly simple places owned by friendly folks (we won’t be going to the opera along the way.  Houma is downright urbane comparatively). 
  6.          Thou shalt honor approaching towboats, and keep them informed (if in a collision with one, you will lose).
  7.         Thou shalt be wary of all debris and unexplained ripples of unknown size, lest they ruin your day (already violated this one).
  8.          Thou shalt not cruise at night.
  9.          Thou shalt watch your fuel gauge.
  10.          Thou shalt not consider the scenery boring (see comment to number 5).

The entire trek will take us about 10 days.  We will stay several days in Columbus, MS (one of the larger towns along the way) and take in the Tennessee Williams house and museum.  Mobile has no marinas in town, so we will stay at a marina on Dog River off Mobile Bay to see the sites.  From there it is only a few days to New Orleans and the end of this journey.  To emphasize how bad things are, I just signed up for a continuing education class in December so I can keep my law license.  That was a truly revolting experience!  Well, I have a few blog posts left in me, so stay tuned. 
 
Loopers come in all sizes.  This 25' Ranger Tug is flying a gold flag, indicating completion of the Loop.  

Grand Harbor receives the warm and toasty award.  It is nice to feel wanted!  

A tale of two boats? The Bullish (the big one) appears in the beginning of this blog.  The captain helped us in at Highbourne Cay in the Exumas.  We meet again!  

These people were not at home, but I wonder about his spelling???


The battle of Shiloh (April 1862) pitted the Confederate’s Army of the Mississippi headed by General Johnston (44,000 men) against Grant’s Union Army of the Tennessee (40,000 men).  At the end of the two day battle, 23,746 Americans lay dead, wounded or missing.  More Americans died in those two days, than the combined total of all previous American wars.  The first day was carried by the Confederates, but the tide turned on the second day due to Grant’s leadership and the arrival of Federal reinforcements.  Most of the dead were buried in mass graves on site.  

The grave site was truly a somber experience.  

Many markers had no other identification, other than the number assigned to that grave.  


The Union troops landed via the largest amphibious assault ever in North America.  

There were many monuments throughout the National Park, which is very well done.  

General Johnston was the highest ranking officer of either army killed during the war.  



Many marinas have "courtesy cars" that we can use on a limited basis.  This is the one from Grand Harbor, and was one of the nicer, albeit conspicuous ones, we have used.  

General Prentiss was the highest ranking Union officer captured during the war.  




A Louisiana brigade fought here.  

Was Lt Gwin a relative?  Stanwood will have to answer that one.