Florence Al to Aqua

October 26th, 2008 john

Miles Today:  44  Total Miles:  128

The morning came up with a beautiful sun and off we went.  We had a pleasant cruise for about 6 hours and we were back in our home slip.  Barbara packed up and drove back to Germantown and I stayed with the boat.  I still had some uncompleted work to be finished on the boat.

On Wednesday afternoon, the boat was “done”, including the slipping cable on the fly-bridge .  That’s a joke, a boat is never done.  I drove home to finish up some loose ends there.  The plan was to spend about 3 days and then take off on our journey south.  Well, after thinking about it we decide to stay one more day and celebrate Halloween with Jason, Heather and the grandkids.  They were so cute in their “Jellyfish” costumes that heather had made.  Barbara and I were both glad that we stayed.

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Joe Wheeler to Florence AL

October 26th, 2008 john

Miles Today:  22   Miles Total:  84

Saturday morning was brilliant.  What a change the weather can make.  We woke up early and took out time getting the boat reading to leave.  We were only about three miles above the first lock, so I turned on the VHF marine radio and soon learned that there was a tow boat scheduled to arrive at the lock within the hour.  

A bunch of other boats must have been listening also because in a few minutes, about six boats took off, trying to beat that tow to the lock. Remember Commercial traffic gets priority through the locks and in this particular case the tow was too big to go through the lock in one piece.  So it had to be broken down (barges separated) and then would make multiple passes through the lock and then reassemble the combined tow on the other side.  This would be about a two hour procedure.  It was very interesting to watch the boats leaving, but since our scheduled day was a short one, only going to Florence, about 22 miles down stream, We decide to have breakfast and wait for the next go round.

At about 10:00 we casually pushed off, saying goodbye to our new friends and headed for the lock.   Would you believe the tow was still “making up”.  We were happy though, we only had to wait about 30 minutes, until the tow cleared and we got the green light to enter.  We pulled up on starboard side, just like pro’s.

No problem going through the lock.  When you are riding the lock “down”, they just have to drain the water from the lock to lower you.  So the ride tends to be a lot smoother.  Not so turbulent.  We shared our down lock with five other boats from the rendezvous.

Now we had to cruise the length of Lake Wilson and then go through the locking procedure once again.  This was the big 94 ft lock that we had transited the week before.  There was no problem, the lock was waiting for us.  However, due to the great speed at which I cruise, we were the fifth boat in (not last anyway).  But this meant that we had to pull up to the port side wall, something we had never done.  But as it turned out, it was not to be a problem.  We just pulled right up to the wall.  Starboard side locking is still our favorite because we have and extra lower side door on the starboard side, right where the mid cleat is that we use to tie to the lock bollard.  That just gives me easier access to help tie us securely.

Soon after leaving the Wilson Lock, we turned to starboard and entered the Florence City Marina harbor, our goal for the night.  I normally do most of my driving from the pilothouse, nice and warm, and all of my instrumentation.  However, upon entering a marina, where you have to slowing make several 90 degree turns in order to get to your assigned slip, it is customary to drive from the fly-bridge.  From there you can see all around the boat, which makes backing a whole lot safer.  As I went up and took control of the boat from above I started my first turn and I felt the gear shift slip when I moved it.  Quick decision, back down to the pilothouse and continued from there.  Barbara had to be my eyes backing up.  By the way Barbara and I wear headphones when we are docking or locking.  Our boat is too big to communicate by yelling, but the earphones really work well.   So she was my eyes and we did just fine.

Tied up and secure, it was time for a brew.  When I checked in to the marina, I learned that tonight was the Alabama/Tennessee football game so they were expecting a large bar crowd for the evening game.  Barbara and I talked about it but quickly decided that it would be nice to have a early dinner and miss some of the bar crowd.  This we did and by 7:30 we were cuddled in our salon with books in hand.

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Joe Wheeler State Park

October 24th, 2008 john

Miles: 0   Total Miles: 62

Well we arrived on Sunday at the Fall Rendezvous of the American Great Loop Cruisers Association.  It is being held at Joe Wheeler Sate Park, near Rogerville, TN.  There are approximately 60 boats and many others who have arrived by land.  The facility is very nice with good dockage, good rooms, and excellent conference services.  So Barbara and I have been going to meetings each day, Monday through Thursday, learning about the different navigational challenges associated with the southern part of the loop.

We have met a lot of couples.  There are those who have completed the loop, those who are in the looping progress, and those who were still “want-to-be’s” .  We were included in the current “loopers” category by two days.

But what an interesting group of people.  As a whole, they are very outgoing, dedicated to taking care of each other, just very nice people.  The meeting was very enjoyable, and it was interesting meeting people that we are likely to encounter on our first leg south.

Today is Friday.  Originally we were planning on a day to tour the Huntsville Al area, about 35 miles away.  But this turned into a rainy day, so we decided to lay low, and catch up on some chores on the boat.  Just a very nice lazy day.  I decided to update the web site loading pictures, and this blog.  And we got Barbara going on her Blog also.  Make sure you check in to the website periodically for the picture scrapbook, etc.


And for those of you who may be reading this on the web site, I am also sending out a weekly blog email update to make it easier for you to share in our adventure.  To get included, just click on the Contact Us link on the website or send an email to

john@emeryel.com   and ask to be added to the mail list.  We plan to leave tomorrow for our trip back down the Tennessee River.

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Florence AL to Joe Wheeler State Park

October 19th, 2008 john

Miles: 19  Total Miles: 62

We took our time in the morning, but by 9:00 we were ready to explore.  We said goodbye to our friends and pushed back from the slip and were on our way.  When we got out to the river, Barbara took the helm while I put dock lines away and then placed the big fenders in preparation of going through our first lock.

Just to make it extra exciting, we were going through the Wilson Lock on the Tennessee, which is the sixth highest lock in the world and I think will be the highest that we go through on our trip, 90 feet.  This is a good way to break us in.

We pulled up to the lock and had to wait for only a few minutes while they prepared the lock for us.  Then we got the green light and in we went on a crawl into the lock.  There were five “floating bollards” on each side.  The bollards are the places where you tie up too.  You have to reach over and slip a line over it and back to the boat from our center cleat.  We were able to pull right up to within a foot of the wall and stop and Barbara reached out and loop the bollard on the first try and we secured.  The ride up in a lock is much rougher then a ride down.  It has something to do the the pumping of the water into the lock as opposed to the draining of the water.  We had been advised early on to avoid the middle of the lock for that is where the water pumps in.   We went all the way to the end and had a smooth ride up.

This allowed us to enter Wilson Lake on the Tennessee, which was wide and beautiful.  About 20 miles later we were at our second lock, which brought us up to Wheeler Lake.  Three miles later we entered a little bay off to the side, rounded a bend and there was our destination, Wheeler State Park.  A beautiful facility with plenty of slips and big anchorage, and many motel rooms for those who did not bring a boat.

We were attending the national Fall Rendezvous for the Great Loop Society.  There were 57 boats, plus many who came by land.  What a gathering.  All people who were living their dream.  Some of them were on the second trip around. 

We pulled up to the dock and had about 10 people standing there helping to secure our lines.  We are officially “Looping” now.

From the Decks of the Emery El.

Capt John

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Aqua at Pickwick Lake to Florence AL

October 18th, 2008 john

Miles:  43  Total Miles: 43

We are off on our way, finally; he saga begins.  I never thought the day would actually come when we would depart on our big adventure.  And what a zoo, the last few weeks have been.

In preparation for the trip I was still trying to get last minute details accomplished.  Little things like the new Anchor Windless (the wench that lowers and raises the anchor).  Or a small thing like the new Radar Dome and the AIS (Automatic Identification System) installed. 

As you will soon learn there is the concept of “boat time”, just as there is a concept of “boat dollars”.  With regard to “boat time”, people just move “slow” around boats.  I am looking forward to the time when I too, move in boat time.  I did learn that when I stayed on the boat, things seemed to happen a little bit faster. So with the exception of two days, I spent the last two weeks on the boat.

The result is we have a brand new working windless and super Radar.  Now I just have to learn how to use them.  The only thing left are some minor things which we will get done in a week when we pass back thru our home port of Aqua. 

Now, let’s get on to the trip.   After filling my corvette to the ceiling, both in the back hatch and in the front passenger seat, as well as filling Barbara’s SUV to the brim, we arrived at the boat.  We had planned on leaving no later then 10:00 a.m. but at11:15 we were actually ready to depart.

As we ventured out the channel towards the Tennessee River, Barbara turned to me and gave me a big hug. “We are actually doing it!”.  Then after a few minutes, she said, “And I am not going to work on Monday.”     She seems happy to start our adventure, but I have a feeling she is going to miss her job and especially her friends from work.

It was windy on the river today and a bit cool.  I had to change into a long sleeved turtleneck (with bermuda shorts no less). But on this boat we have a raised pilothouse.  That is we can stay inside and still run the boat.  I usually only go to the fly-bridge to drive if I am coming into a harbor, or want a cigar.

But the trip up river was sunny and delightful.  There were occasional small boats fishing, but really very little river traffic.  Barbara relieved me at the helm several times when I did my routine 3 hour engine check, or ran to the head.  She actually held the helm for a couple of hours.  She navigated us under our first bridge, “The Natchez Trace Bridge”, a famous touring road through several southern states left over from the stage coach days.  She also successfully stayed out of the way of our first oncoming towboat.  Towboats are commercial tug boats that actually push barges up and down the river.  This one had 3 barges across and 4 deep, so if the river is narrow, they can present a real danger.  We were fortunate to be passing in a relatively wide part of the river which was fine with us.

I took a few pictures of this leg of the trip, posted on the web site scrapbook under “Aqua to Florence”.

We had made reservations at the Florence City Marina and pulled in right at about 5:00pm.  And what to our surprise, but there, standing on the dock waiting for us, were friends.  Two couples from Memphis, visiting with there own boats.  John and JC are fellow USCG Auxiliary members and good friends.  They have been river running for the last week or so and just happened to be at the marina and heard we were coming in.  After a safe docking we all joined together and enjoyed a dinner at the local marina restaurant.

We decide not to turn on the heat, but climbed into our master bed with a cozy comforter on top.  It was great.  Although in the a.m. I did kick on the heat just to make sure it would work.  Great.

Today we plan on leaving at our leisure.  We will immediately go through our first lock.  That should be an experience.  More on that tomorrow.

From the Decks of the Emery El

Capt John

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Planning trip to Great Loop Society Rendezvous

October 3rd, 2008 john

We are planning to depart on Oct 18 for a short trip up the Tennessee River to Rogersville Al.  to attend the annual Great Loop Society Rendezvous.  There will be a week long series of events, classes, parties, etc.  We will head up-river, that is against the current, however we will actually be going South into Alabama.  The Tennessee River forms up in the mountains above Knoxville TN, comes down through Chattanooga, TN, then on down through northern Alabama.  It then swings North back into Tennessee where we are located then up through Kentucky to join the Ohio River.

Following a week of fun we plan to return to our home port at Aqua Yacht Harbor for a couple of days before we start our Great Loop Adventure.  We’ll keep you posted.

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