Jumping Into the Mix

2/28/2013

By Jim & Lisa Favors

We enjoy boating in our home waters of Michigan and Canada during the summer months, it’s one of the reasons we sold our bigger, 40-foot trawler and bought a trailerable boat, we wanted to have more flexibility in choosing where we spend our cruising time. After a full summer cruising in the Great Lakes, a few inland lakes and Canada’s North Channel, the first season we’ve had, in this area, over six years, we were ready to head out again with truck, trailer and boat. We drove to Kentucky to join the Looper procession currently in progress as many make their way south on the river system. After cruising the river system twice on both our “Loops,” we developed quite a fondness for the Tennessee River.

Cloverdale RV Park felt more like visiting a nice State Park than a typically crowded RV Park.

We decided to start the water part of our journey from Green Turtle Bay Resort and Marina in Grand Rivers, Kentucky. After two days and 700 miles trailering our boat from our hometown in Michigan, it would take just two days of driving, but would still be a piece-of-cake by comparison. The comparison I’m referring to are the logistics of how long it would take to cruise to Grand Rivers on our boat’s bottom, roughly a 897-mile cruise. We would have to boat down Lake Michigan, the Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, and Cumberland Rivers to Lake Barkley. Traveling at trawler speed, of say 8 mph, and when cruising 8 hours per day, it would take a minimum of 14 good travel days to make it to Grand Rivers, Kentucky. Because we’ve cruised these waters before, we didn’t feel we were cheating ourselves out of a new experience. By arriving in 2 days versus 14, we garnered a huge savings of time and money.

We tow our trailered boat with a Duramax Diesel powered GMC 2500 HD truck, which we’ve found has more than enough pulling power. Since choosing this mode of boating we’ve logged 25,000 miles on our truck, towing it through 19 states and parts of Ontario, Canada. While towing we’ve found our best highway fuel economy is between 60 and 65 MPH, where we get an average of 11.50 MPG. This is also the speed I feel gives us the best margin of safety for sudden stopping or for making potential emergency decisions, without putting us or our equipment in undue harms way. With that said, we typically cap our travel day, when towing our boat, to around 400 miles. On our first day out we were true to form and stopped for a little “Boater Homing” at an RV park in Cloverdale, Indiana, a distance of 427 miles from home.

It felt good to be back on the water. Kismet sat proudly at the launch dock preparing to head to her assigned slip at Green Turtle Marina.

Boater homing, the act of camping out on your boat in an RV park, can be a bit of a crapshoot. We research potential RV Parks from two apps we have on our iPad. Although the descriptive information is relatively accurate, often times we are surprised at what we find upon arrival. The surprises have been mostly positive with an occasional negative, but overall our stays have been good experiences. Pulling into Cloverdale RV Park, we could tell we were in for a pleasant night.

Heading around the fuel dock you can see the Commonwealth Yacht Club sitting high above the water, just one of the many amenities available at the marina to transient boaters.

Most of Indiana’s topography resembles a flat cookie pan, so when we arrived at the Cloverdale RV Park, our first surprise was the slight rolling hills that surrounded the area. The park had a small fishing lake (no swimming allowed) and the owners treated us like long lost friends. Because our combined truck, and trailered boat, measures 55 feet in length, we like the convenience and ease of pull-through campsites when entering and exiting a park. Cloverdale had generous and spacious pull throughs as well as a pleasant atmosphere; we were in hog heaven.

Green Turtle is only another 273-miles south of the RV park; even though it was a short driving day, we decided not to linger. Once we arrived at the marina we had to prepare Kismet for launching, unload the truck bed contents into the boat and set up house for our three-week cruise (we would spend another week at the AGLCA 2012 Fall Rendezvous in Alabama). The described preparation and chores are all part of the trailering experience – for a three week trip the initial set up takes about three hours. I mention this not as a negative but as a big positive because if we had cruised down from Michigan we’d still be on Lake Michigan!

The marina office is also a well-stocked ship’s store and boater’s lounge, a comfortable place for boaters to congregate.

We choose Green Turtle, as our starting point, because it sits on Lake Barkley – it’s just around the corner from MM 26 on the Tennessee River, this is were we would start when we left Green Turtle. Launching at Grand Rivers gave us maximum exposure to the charms of the Tennessee River as we made our way to our final destination, Joe Wheeler State Park Marina in Rogersville, Alabama. Although we are constantly in search of new and interesting places to visit, we choose Green Turtle Marina because it’s one of those places we enjoy returning to, this our third visit. Nice marina, town, not to mention friendly people and beautiful surroundings.

In 2005, while doing our first Loop, Green Turtle was the first marina we stopped at once we got off of the Mississippi River. It was a welcome sight after navigating the mighty and often unpredictable Mississippi and experiencing a few questionable anchorages for several days. We had been more than ready for a few days of downtime and rejuvenation once we locked through the Barkley Lock and Dam. We know this is how most Loopers feel by the time they get to Green Turtle, it seemed a great place to meet some of this years participants and hear their stories of their time on the big river. Green Turtle is a big draw because it is, as its full name implies, a “Resort and Marina.” A massive piece of real estate encompassing 450 boat slips for vessels, many large houseboats, up to 100’, a restaurant and bar, spa, pool, condo and boat rentals as well as a nice ship store – a boater’s paradise.

Settled into our slip, alongside Bruce’s sailboat, Tango, on the transient dock.

Because Green Turtle is a magnet each year for those boaters heading south, we expected to meet more than a few Loopers during our time there. As we pulled into the marina compound we saw the familiar American Great Loop Cruiser Association (AGLCA) burgees flying from no less than 20 boats docked in the transient section of the marina. We had barely begun to unload the contents stowed on our truck before a few Loopers stopped by to introduce themselves with friendly “hellos” and offers of assistance. Paul was whizzing by on a gulf cart when he stopped to introduce himself, making us feel right at home like we were long lost friends he had not seen in years. Our plans were to stay at Green Turtle a couple of days so we could get settled in, provision our boat and take time to get to acquaint ourselves with a few Loopers.

With the truck contents emptied into a chaotic looking jumble onto Kismet’s cockpit, we proceeded to quickly launch her. Once at dock it took us a while to get things sorted out and stored properly, it felt good knowing we were floating again, only two days removed from Northern Michigan. Among our immediate chores was to find a suitable place nearby to store our truck and trailer, the marina couldn’t provide a spot for us, but was able to suggest a place in town that might work. Jim made a few phone calls and before we knew it our storage problem was solved.

Paul (left), and his son John on Memsahib, our paths crossed several times as we both worked our way south on the Tennessee River.

After freshening up from our day’s busy schedule, we poured ourselves a glass of wine and proceeded to walk the docks. We ran into Paul again, and learned he was on the sailboat, Memsahib. He introduced us to his son John; they are doing the Great Loop boat trip together. We learned that John had taken a year off college to join his father on this father/son experience. They will certainly complete the 6,000-mile trip with more than mileage under their belts, they will gain a bank of memories of a time shared – closeness and time, as all parents of young adults know all too well, that may never happen again. When we met them they were five months into their trip and seemed to still be getting along quite well.

Continuing our walk down the dock we continued to meet more of this year’s participants in the Great Loop adventure. The lettering on boat sterns indicated people had arrived at Green Turtle from Wisconsin, Michigan, Connecticut, Minnesota, Florida, Alabama, Ontario, and one boat from New Zealand. Joel and Debby on Water Music were there; we first met them in Key West a few years ago when they were just in the planning stages of doing the Great Loop. It felt good to see a familiar face and know their dream had become reality.

A view of the marina, just up the hill from where Kismet was docked.

Docked next to us at Green Turtle was Bruce on his boat Tango. Bruce is from the St Johns River area south of Jacksonville, Florida. With a big smile and happy disposition, Bruce was easy to get to know. We started up a conversation from our respective cockpits and we didn’t notice at first that Bruce has an artificial leg. Bruce is doing the Loop singlehanded on a sailboat and this was not his first go round having completed the Loop boat trip once before. After getting to know him over the next few days, I thought to myself, here is a guy, living out his dream of doing the Great Loop and not letting his artificial limb hold him back, which is living proof that if you want something strong enough, it’s possible to accomplish whatever you desire. We found Bruce to be an inspiration and example of strength for everyone, boater or not.

The transient dock with many Looper boats, to the right of the houseboat, also present in the background is the marina’s full service repair yard and travel lifts (top of the photo).

At the end of the day we decided “Day One” of our Tennessee River cruise had been a big success. We accomplished all our goals and experienced another example of how flexible our current mode of boating can be. The ability to jump into the mix of boaters currently doing the Loop and relive some of that excitement through them was a thrill for us. Though we fully acknowledge the fact that we aren’t doing the Loop right now and we couldn’t possibly fit in with the current crowd entirely, we didn’t expect to. Just a taste of their excitement is what we craved and to gain a friend or two on the way would more than suffice and satisfy our passion to experience this “Loopy” lifestyle again during our three-week Tennessee River cruise.