Grand Rivers, KY to Mobile, AL

 Our stay in Grand Rivers at Green Turtle Bay Marina (GTB) was familiar as we had spent a month there last year getting Heartbeat ready. It was nice to be in a place that was familiar. We stayed an extra day to be sure we got in a visit with our favorite canvas guy Mark (Creative Canvas) and his wife Susan. It was fun to catch up with them and hear what had been going on in Grand Rivers since we left. 

While our stop at GTB was a celebratory one the boat projects never end. Kent sold our old electronics (yeah!), changed the oil and installed a new heater (in anticipation for cooler temps). I got some serious laundry/grocery shopping done and officially completed cleaning and waxing the boat (minus the hull). It often can feel that as you cross one project off the list you add two more. 

Heading out with our new Looper flag, gold looks good on Heartbeat! 

Our next “chunk” of The Great Loop consisted of more rivers but less commercial traffic than we had seen on the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers. By the time we get to Mobile, AL we will have traveled ~655 miles, pass through 12 locks and several rivers/waterways: Tennessee River > Ten Tom Waterway > Black Warrior – Tombigbee River > Mobile River.

I’ll admit it – this section of The Great Loop is not my favorite. In fact it is my least favorite portion. There are of course some lovely remote anchorages but limited shoreline for the dog and people to stretch their legs. We wake up, spend 8-10 hrs driving, stop for the night and then repeat it all over again. As this was our second time through we stopped at some old places and also found some new ones. Buddy boating with Scaliwag (Parker & Leslie) kept the long days at bit more interesting and it was nice to switch off leading and following. 

Our route through Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri and Alabama looked one night at each of the following places: 

Green Turtle Bay > Dry Fork Bay anchorage > Pebble Isle Marina > Eagle Nest anchorage > Dry Creek anchorage > Aqua Yacht Marina > Fulton Recreation Area anchorage > Columbus Marina > Lower Cooks Bend > Kingfisher/Demopolis Marina > Bashi Creek anchorage > Sunflower Cut Off anchorage > Mobile Convention Center wall (a few nights here due to weather). 

View of Dry Fork Bay on Kentucky Lake from the top of Scaliwag. 

Heartbeat with a full moon rising over Dry Fork Bay, KY. 

 While on a dingy ride on Kentucky Lake we came across a weather buoy. 

Morning fog giving way to sunny skies. 

Pebble Isle Marina is 37 miles down the Tennessee River from Dry Creek. They had the best diesel prices last year and also again this year. We filled up the tanks, watched Sunday football with Parker & Leslie and even got in a little history at the local Johnsonville State Park nearby (where we learned about the civil war battle at Johnsonville). 

Crocket Cemetery within Johnsonville State Park. 

Pebble Isle Marina bakes fresh (and free) cinnamon rolls for boaters. Delicious. 

Its fall y’all and the spiders are out in full force. 

General idea of where we are traveling to get from Chicago, IL down to Mobile Bay, AL. Check out our “Track Us” button for our actual track and more specific details. 

Our stop at Eagle Nest anchorage for a night was interesting.We thought this was a great location protected by an island and away from the main channel where the commercial tows travel.  Kent even called a tow nearby and asked the captain if he thought there would be any concerns anchoring there. The response – no issues tows should not be traveling through there. Well, a few hours later when it was dark Leslie looked out the window to see a tow going by between us and the nearby shore. Keep in mind that these tows are huge, longer than a football field and several barges wide. As we were not anchored in the channel it did not make sense to us what we were seeing. And of course it was dark so the tow looked like it was passing a few feet away. Kent called the tow on the VHF radio and asked if we were safe to stay the night as we were not expecting commercial traffic where we had anchored. The captain relayed that we should be safe but we still have no clue why he was not in the channel where he belongs. 

Eagle Nest anchorage, we anchored by the anchor symbol and behind the island. The main channel is the upper bend with the green and red channel markers where the tows SHOULD be traveling. Perhaps the tow who slid by us at night was cutting the corner on the channel (?). 

Scaliwag  overtaking a tow. Scaliwag is is a longer version of our American Tug but wow do they look small against the size of a tow with barges. 

This stretch of the Tennessee River is interesting, we can go several hours not seeing anything on the river and then out of nowhere a large RV park. 

Or we see a few scattered houses in what appears to be the middle of nowhere. 

A night at Dry Creek, TN. Once we anchor we take some time to make sure it is really set. Kent’s favorite part of anchoring is the Anchor Watch Beer (AWB). Once the beer is consumed enough time has lapsed to ensure that the anchor is holding. Convenient strategy.

We have now been through 100+ locks but there is always something new to see or learn. 

Close up view of one of the large cells where tows can tie up and wait for a lock. 

It is interesting to see how the tows and barges came out of this lock. Due to their long length they must be separated/split up. In this case the tow came out first, powered up against the wall to stay in one spot while the barges were locked down next (a full 30-45 min later). The tow then went over and retrieved the barges and once all were connected they headed up the river. 

Heartbeat riding a lock down. You can see by the wet wall how far we have been lowered thus far. 

Video – Whitten Lock is 84' and the tallest lock on the river system that we went through. It is like pulling the plug in a bathtub and riding the water level down. 

The locks along these waterways use floating bollards. You keep the boat secure by looping around a bollard which will either raise or lower with the water level. It is important to hold the line tight, not tie it off on your boat. In the event that a bollard stops moving you can let go of the line vs having a tied line tear a cleat off your boat. 

 From the bottom of a lock looking up the shaft where the bollard rolls down on tracks. 

A few white egrets welcome us into the last lock at Coffeeville. 

While at Aqua Yacht Marina, MO we rented a car with Parker & Leslie and drove out to see Shiloh National Military Park. This would be our second visit, having visited last year. The battle of Shiloh took place on April 6 and April 7, 1862 and resulted in  23,746 killed/wounded/missing.

Shiloh National Cemetery. 

 Shiloh National Cemetery.  

Of the 229 pieces of artillery in the park all but 2 are authentic. We walked this row of over 50 cannons. The park layout is done well where you can envision what the battle was like. 

There is not much else to do around Aqua Yacht Marina but we made the most of it – 

Abe’s Grill for lunch. This place has been here since the ’60s and is a classic roadside diner. The 1/4 fresh ground burgers and fresh cut fries were delicious. Good thing we were leaving the next day, this place could be dangerous. 

Inside of Abe’s, same menu and flare has been hanging on the wall for years and years.

Great advertising by a local excavation company. 

Leslie was in baking mode again while at Aqua. This time she spoiled us with pumpkin cheesecake muffins. 

The main reason we stopped at Aqua Yacht Marina was to see Jay & Barb (The Blessing). After meeting them a year ago and traveling on/off with them it was hard to believe they were putting their boat up for sale here and heading home to Canada for the winter as Gold Loopers. 

One great part of meeting certain people is that you do not say goodbye because you know you will see them again, even though you are not sure exactly when or where. We will miss Jay & Barb on the water but we know we will all keep in touch. 

Heartbeat anchored at Fulton Recreation Park. After leaving Aqua Yacht Marina we put in a 57 mile/3 lock day (~10 hrs). 

Views on the river are never dull. A ton of trees are/where growing offshore here. 

Sometimes the deer we see are not just on shore but are actually swimming from one side of the river to the other. 

Columbus Marina which was a great stop for us last year when we spent a few days there. We had picked up Glenn who joined us for a few weeks, we walked through the neighborhoods admiring the Antebellum homes, we wandered the Friendship Cemetery and we toured the birthplace home of Tennessee Williams (pics and commentary are found in an entry from October last year). The town offers quite a bit of history despite it's size of just around 24,000 residents. This time through we opted to just spend a single night and visit one of our favorite restaurants on The Loop (Hucks).

Underway Kent (and Penny) try to figure out why we have a significant amount of water in the engine room. Water is not a good sign. 

Scaliwag turning into Bashi Creek anchorage. This is a very narrow creek off the Black Warrior – Tombigbee Waterway.

Scaliwag and Heartbeat anchored for the night in Bashi Creek. Our bow to their stern, their stern to our bow. 

At anchor one night Parker & Leslie reminded us how to play Uno. Don’t laugh, the game can get very competitive.

We stopped for fuel at Bobby’s Fish Camp (which is in the middle of nowhere). While we could have made it across Mobile Bay without filling up they offered a decent price and we like to support the smaller local businesses when we can. 

Big brother Scaliwag and Heartbeat tied up at Bobby’s Fish Camp. Scaliwag is a 41′ American Tug while we are 34′.

 Morning fog on the river system was very common. We would simply wait for the fog to lift a bit before pulling up our anchor. When commercial tows encounter fog they run their barges up on the side of the river (intentionally) and wait for the fog to clear. 

Heartbeat passing by a tow with their barges. 

 The curvy route of the rivers means we travel north, west and east when all we want to do is get south.

Even Penny is a bit tired of the long days on the rivers. 

Video – Last 10 or so miles of the rivers. It is a long video but look for the tows along the waterway and for the scenery change from lush greenery to the busy working port of Mobile. 

With the rivers behind us (yeah!) we will spend a few days hunkered down in Mobile while a windy and wet weather system passes through. We will then make our way across Mobile Bay and over to Florida.

As always a lot more occurs and a lot more pictures were taken. This post especially feels like it just scrapes the surface. Thanks for following and a big thank you to those who we have traveled with who continue to provide us with some great pictures of Heartbeat along the way.