Huntsville, Lake Guntersville and Chattanooga

Ditto Landing is a great marina at MM334. They have lots of walking and biking trails and great docks. The overnight dockage is free if you get 80 gallons of fuel or more. This is pretty much the only marina in Huntsville and is a great stop. It’s good for taking advantage of the free slip and the perfect place to stretch your legs. While we were staying here Adeline’s brother Matthew drove down from Nashville for the night and brought us dinner! We had a great time grilling out and catching up!

 

Ditto to goose landing anchorage MM377 was 43.5 beautiful miles with only one lock, Guntersville L&D. We started to see more hills on this stretch. Guntersville Lake is extremely beautiful, deep with relatively clear water. We loved seeing all the interesting homes on the lake. The only action on the lake was a bunch of bass fisherman. There was some neat wildlife including bald eagles hanging out on the floating logs. Our anchorage for the night was at MM377 through a narrow 6’ deep channel to a 13’ deep basin in front of The Docks Restaurant. We took the dinghy in for dinner and realized it was part of a big golf course that was pretty cool. There was a great musician playing that we enjoyed talking to who actually used to live in Pensacola! We even met a couple who remembered seeing our boat at Ditto Harbor from their home in Huntsville! We plan to stop and have dinner with them on our way back through Huntsville. It’s such a small world and people are so friendly when you’re out on an adventure.

Goose Landing to Chattanooga MM464 was 85 breath taking miles with one lock Nickajack L&D. Waking up at the Goose Landing anchorage was beautiful but we were totally socked in with fog until around 10am! Once we got going it was smooth cruising. We passed a handful of southbound loopers. Erwin marine is your best option for boat slips in Chattanooga. They run 5 dock sites all in the same one mile of riverfront. We chose the commercial dock that only has one transient slip and two tour boats that share the dock. We liked this because it was more private compared to the other docks. This was my first time in Chattanooga and I thoroughly had a great time! There is so much to do within walking distance. There are friendly people, an active riverfront and beautiful natural wonders to enjoy and explore. Ruby falls, Lookout Mountain, Rock City, Forest Ave Bridge and many more things to see. This will definitely be a place I would like to go again next fall and hopefully will be able to go even further on into Knoxville.

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MM377 anchorage

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American Queen ferry, we saw this boat from Florence to Chattanooga

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looper boats

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Florence Alabama, Muscle Shoals and Joe Wheeler state park

After enjoying Grand Harbor Marina, Adeline and I headed to Florence, AL. We stayed at Florence Harbor Marina, MM256. This is a great marina right before the Wilson Lock. They have a restaurant that is part of the floating docks, a three mile long bike path along the river which goes through a neat little RV park, and a courtesy vehicle. Florence is a quaint town with all types of local food and sites to see. Across the river on the southern side is Muscle Shoals. This is an area filled with music history with several famous music studios that we were lucky enough to tour and learn some history from. The music that came from this area is rich in soul and funk. You can’t tell if the singers were black or white because of the soul they put into every lyric and beat. We have been listening to the CDs we bought here and both agree it is perfect music for cruising the Tennessee River.

            The first lock after Florence Wilson L&D was closed during the day due to repairs so we left around 6 PM and headed through the first lock at sunset. We decided to keep going the 20 miles and make it through the second lock Wheeler L&D.   This was a new opportunity to be driving the rivers at night. I paid close attention to my navigation systems and radar and used my ARC spotlight when buoys were in sight. We made it smoothly through the two locks, luckily this night wasn’t as cold as the night before.  We anchored at Joe Wheeler State Park. This was a quiet anchorage and it was nice to be back with nature after staying at marinas. The anchorage was one from Active Captain called MM275.8 which was the first little cove past the Wilson lock. Depth was 18 feet 100’ from the bank ¾ of the way back with plenty of swing room. Today we are headed to Huntsville, AL. The weather is nice and cool yet beautiful. Enjoy the pictures and we will be standing by ch. 16

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the Yamaha piano freebird was recorded on, plus many more
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Fall cruise up the Tennessee

When hurricane Maria was bearing down on Florida in early September, Adeline and I decided to take Pura Vida up to Demopolis, Alabama. This kept us out of harms way during this active hurricane season. We rented a slip for a month and decided when we went back up to bring her home we would first cruise up to Pickwick Lake and then enter the Tennessee river to do some sight seeing. What a great way to see the leaves changing color. Today is our first day on the Tennessee. I must say it’s beautiful. The temp is 60 and it feels refreshing out. We stayed two nights at one of my favorite marinas, Grand Harbor on Pickwick Lake mm450. We met some cool people there and also enjoyed some good food. We stocked up on provisions and completed a service on my hard working engines and generator. Life is a blessing and I couldn’t think of anywhere I would rather be. Tonight we will be stopping at Florence Harbor Marina. We plan to check out the famous Muscle Shoals music studio! God bless you all and thanks for being a part of the journey.

Homecoming, life back in Pensacola

My first Great Loop is complete, this was truly a life changing experience!  It has made me realize the good that is always around us.  There are helpful people everywhere you go willing to give you a hand.  For the most part when you put out good vibes, you get good vibes in return and this is humbling.  When no one is around its natures beauty that keeps everything on a even keel.  The experiences, stories and courage this trip has given me will forever help make me a better person in my daily works.

I proudly flew my Pensacola Yacht Club burgee into every marina I stopped at.  PYC was so gracious to recognize me at a couple events for being one of only four members to complete The Great Loop.  They also granted me with Power-boater of the year!  2016 was a incredible year, Thank you so much to my family and friends who have helped make this trip a success for me.

Dog River Marina helped me with a few things I wanted to get done before I brought Pura Vida home.  Which include a bottom job, sending my propellers off for a balance, applying prop speed to the props.  Installed a new refrigerator/freezer and installed a front deck box.   My raw water impellers had right at 1,000 hours on them and still looked good!  This is very impressive because they have pumped tens of thousands of gallons of water through my cooling systems.  Its best to be safe than sorry and change them every 3 years.  Impellers go bad faster from lack of use because the rubber they are made from drys out and gets memory in the blades, affecting how well they pump water.  Chris with Expert Boat Detail got the hull shiny and protected for me once the boat was hauled out.

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“You do not grow on a secure path.  All of us should conquer something in life.  It needs a lot of work, it needs a lot of risk.  To grow and improve you need to be there at the edge of uncertainty.” -Francis Mallmann

134 miles to Mobile Alabama

We had a great night at Bobby’s Fish Camp.  From Bobby’s to the Tensaw River anchorage it is 79 miles, with the LAST lock of The Great Loop Coffeeville L&D at MM 117.  The Tensaw river anchorage is at MM 39 on the Tom Big Bee waterway, this is one of the few anchorages between Bobby’s and Mobile Bay.  We motored about a 1/2 up the Tensaw river and it is around 12′ deep where we anchored just around the bend.  We saw a few alligators swimming around when we entered the Tensaw.  We cooked some fillets and joined Inspiration for dinner.  Phil made home-made pasta sauce and we brought the steaks.  What a great feast!

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The Tensaw River anchorage to Dog River Marine is 55 miles.  Going through Mobile ship channel was very cool,  many ships from other countries, and new state of the art military ships being built by Austal.  Mobile has a neat skyline, handful of tall buildings and the beginning of the salt water !  Dog River Marina had a welcoming for me and my mom when we arrived 2:30PM on Monday October 31st.  Technically Pura Vida has been to Dog River Marina a few times and well she’s completed the Great Loop in under 1 year.  I will let her rest at Dog River a couple of months, do some maintenance to all the hard-working machenery and get some fresh bottom paint.  Hoping to bring her home to Pensacola after Christmas!

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Legendary Sonny Middleton and I after arriving at Dog River Marina where this whole dream got started with Pura Vida back in 2014.

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150 miles to Coffeeville, Bobby’s Fish Camp

Heading to Demopolis was smooth we had only one lock to go through called Heflin Lock.  This leg was 54 miles, Demopolis sells lots of diesel fuel so I fueled up here with about 224 gallons.  This will be the last time I fuel until I make it home.  We saw some beautiful limestone bluffs on this section of the river, and lots of big alligators.

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Passing a tow on the inside of a turn.

Passing on the “1” whistle

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Clotilde signed this bollard a few weeks ago and our friends behind us in their boats happened to see it and added on to the signatures.

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Demopolis water-tower

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Demopolis Yacht Basin fuel dock, there is also a nice man made basin owned by the same people with about 100 covered slips adjacent to here I wasn’t able to find a photo of

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Demopolis to Coffeeville AL, Bobby’s Fish Camp.  This was a long day at 97 miles and one lock, Demopolis L&D.  Bobbies is the last stop on the river until the Mobile Convention Center 119 miles south of here, and the first marina is Dog River which is another 14 miles past the convention center.  Bobby’s is a land mark on the river, the tows slow as they pass the small marina to keep from waking anyone.  The ladies in the restaurant make the best fried catfish around, people stop just for this!

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When I first bought Pura Vida Bryson and I came down these rivers from Nashville and I found my entry in Bobby’s guest book from 2014

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Marcus, Mom Caroline, Phil, Pam and I at Bobby’s getting a late dinner.  Connie, Marcus’s wife was nice enough to take this picture!

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Reggie, my friends Marcus and Connie’s dog from “At Last”

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Leaving Bobby’s “At Last” and “Inspiration” about to depart the dock

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Arial of Bobby’s, small joint with a huge heart .  Sometimes they tie the boats up 4 and 5 wide when there are lots of people passing through.  They also rent out camp sites.

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180 miles to Aliceville, AL

Our first let was from Grand Harbor Marina to Midway Marina, MM394 (662) 862-7306, This was a long 56 miles because we caught up with the other 14 or so loopers that were making their way to the gulf from the last big rendezvous.  We had 3 locks on this leg Witten, Montgomery, and Rankin.  Having this many boats we had to wait for all the vessels to make it into the lock to lower us all at once.  Everyone travels at different speeds so this part takes a while to get everyone to lock through at the same time.  Arriving at a marina with 14 other boats is quite the exercise of patience as well.  We noticed one boat with the bilge pump running non stop, they realized they had a raw water leak on the engine and the boat was taking on water.  Scary to think about loosing a boat in this dark river water.  That’s why you have to keep on top of all your hoses as soon as they get brittle they can split or burst at anytime.

Beautiful morning before we caught up with the flotilla

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There are only 10 bollards in each lock, some boats had to raft off to one another to accommodate everyone in the lock.  This is the biggest lock on the system at a 84′ drop

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From Midway Marina we went to Columbus Marina MM335 (662) 327-8450 this leg is 59Miles with 4 locks Fulton, Wilkins, Amory and Aberdeen.  Columbus is a great marina, they have a store, fuel and courtesy car.  Owner T Caldwell ordered some BBQ for all the loopers and we all had a great dinner celebration.  KC and Steve were here from “Jetstream” they are going to be Platinum loopers once they make it to Jacksonville.  And Cynthia and Byron from “Bright Angel” were at Columbus relaxing after crossing their wake and becoming gold loopers!  We celebrated with all the other cruisers this evening and some good stories were told.

leaving at 0700 from Midway Marina,  first wake of the day

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The last leg was from Columbus to Sumter Recreation area in Aliceville, AL.  MM270 this was a 65 mile day with 2 locks Stennis and Bevill.  Sumter Rec area is a good anchorage and there is a launching ramp here too.  I chose to do a Mediterranean Moore where you use your bow anchor and then secure the stern to the land to limit the boats ability to swing.  Our good friend Rusty and Frances invited my mom and I over for dinner at their home in Aliceville.  Rusty came and picked us up at the launching ramp.  We had a great time visiting with them and they are such great cooks and hosts!

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