Sep 23-25; Days 274-276 We Got Looped!

Ok, so the spoiler-alert title is a bit ahead of the preamble, but for those who know me and accuse me of taking forever to get to the point of a story, I thought I might change tactics with this post. Read on for the details.

After a morning jaunt on shore and breakfast, we left the Little River Diversion anchorage muddy banks behind us and ‘chased’, at 7mph, the few other boats that had left at dawn.

2017-9-24 miss to right ohio to left
Just about to turn left, say goodbye to the Mississippi, and head UP the Ohio River.  See the chart?  We’re going over 26 mph and we weren’t really “supposed” to do that until farther up the Ohio!

About 10 miles before the first lock, we received a text from one of the group.  With a warning that it would be the only opportunity for pleasure craft to pass through and that we had 20 minutes to get there, we hit the pedal to the metal (well, fiberglass)……and hoped that our good gas mileage and adherence to our gas/speed plan from the prior day would hold out with the extra push at a bit earlier and more than the 23 mph than we had authorized ourselves to do.  We reached the group of boats in time….but, needless to say, still wondering about our gas situation.


We didn’t have any waiting at the first of three locks– which one could argue isn’t quite a lock yet: the partially-constructed  Olmstead Lock system.  It will eventually replace the next 2 locks (with the non-descript names of #53 and #52).

2017-9-24 olmstead drive thru and new
Here we go on the tails of the whole group in the distance as we are about to enter through the “lock ” that is currently under construction (ie water is same level on the up and the down side). So no door….but it is a narrow passage way so it adds to the delays up river at #52 and #53.  The big behemoth structure to the right will be the main part of the new Olmstead lock. It’s due to open next year (after nearly 30 years of planning/construction) and will relieve tons of shipping pressure and traffic jams caused by the 2 oldest dams in the system that still use wooden wickets,  etc and are not only small but also infamous for breaking down for big blocks of time. 

We tied up to a wall to wait an hour or so for the #53. Lockmaster was nice, friendly and encouraged a dog walk! Always a way to B’s heart!

2017-9-24 lock 52 on decaying wall waiting
The herd of pleasure craft (mostly loopers) corralled together for the day on the crumbling wall. 
2017-9-24 lock 53 measurmts up and down sides
Lockmaster house with river height measurements up the road (which aligns with  the actual dam) and 2 different measurement sets up the building wall–one for the upriver side and the other for the down river side (I guess??…or global warming/modern science required a re-measurement??).
2017-9-24 lock 53 fr above
Nice to be able to stretch 4 dog legs and 2 human legs with a climb up to the high ground above Lock #53. Doesn’t look like much…but boy does it cause problems.

Within a few short miles, the final lock of the day, # 52,  loomed  and was surrounded by waiting barges on all shores on the up and the down sides. We all tossed anchors off the downriver dam side; at least we saved gas by not having to circle and battle the current. The lockmaster told us to sit tight for a couple of hours.  Sunset came and went.

2017-9-24 dark bow 52
Despite hearing horror stories abound among the Looper crowd, the lockmaster did basically follow through; however…. we didn’t get into and out of the lock until it was pitch black dark  No tie ups to the walls.  N’s view from the flybridge past the bow as he maneuvered us in: We were in the middle of the pack floating in a small churning pool with a bunch of other boats.  
2017-9-24 better stern dark low
B’s view from the cockpit as the lock fills up and we get squeezed from the back too.

We haven’t really boated in the dark other than at dusk for a mile or so and certainly not locked in the dark (nor floated with no tie ups on top of that) let alone in the oldest lock with THE WORST reputation in the entire country AND on top of that when: 1) we had NO idea whether we had enough gas to go the remaining 4 miles; 2) the charts don’t actually show where the dock we want is because it is so new (and, by the way,  neither did google earth when we checked earlier in the day);  3) despite trying every light combination available, it was so dark we couldn’t see any channel markers (yet they loomed in abundance on the charts); and 4) likewise, we couldn’t see the infamous debris known to be lurking about.

2017-9-24 dark see
Seeee!?!?  There’s nothing to see!  But we made it!

This made for our longest boating hours in one day and latest arrival time ever! All of which was on the last full day of our entire Loop journey! (gee….what’s that final message supposed to tell us??)  11 hours and 5 minutes of boating and arrival to the Paducah dock at 9:10 pm—10 minutes past our bedtime!

2017-9-24 may flies lamp post
After the exhausting day, we awoke to have the entire boat COVERED with may flies!  N was in such a hurry to spray the hose that we didn’t get a pic. Here’s the nearby lamp post–We snapped this pic a bit later—but you get the point! REALLY gross!  Miles later we were still dealing with partially dead flutters and carcasses! (but at least they don’t sting or bite!)
2017-9-24 paducah dock
Look how high these piers are for the high water flooding!

Paducah, Kentucky dock just opened this week actually and now provides travelling boats a much needed fuel stop. We knew we needed to fuel…..but the pump was SO slow that we couldn’t stand our own impatience to fill it all the way up. So after 60 minutes of fueling, we left with just 60 added gallons knowing it was enough to get us to our next stop.  SO….we had to wait for our final fuel calculation a few more hours.  But obviously we did NOT run out of gas in the dark on the long stretch from Hoppies to Paducah!

2017-9-24 cute paducah
Paducah is a pretty nice little stop with nice restaurants, museums, and quaint streets. We had been here last year in the courtesy car from Green Turtle Bay.  Quiet Sunday morning downtown.  

With our late arrival last night and our hard-to-get marina slip reservation at Green Turtle Bay, we couldn’t stay an extra night in Paducah to enjoy the restaurants. So we just stretched our legs in the coolish air (aka 75 degrees at 8 am) and spent time looking at the cool big mural and repeating a few pix that we took last year at about this same time.

2017-9-24 Z lewis clark statue
Ziggy’s not 8 months old anymore!  Now she will sit and stay for pictures–especially with Lewis (or was it Clark’s?) big dog! Plus, with morning light, this statue can be appreciated better than last’s year’s pic! For comparison and more Paducah pix  See 

After a leisurely morning walking around and at the Paducah dock, we pushed off for our last (first?) loop day.

2017-9-24 N bow underway rare
It took over 8000 miles and a bunch of spider poop, to get N to dare get on the bow while B is at the helm. A calm river and no channel markers probably had something to do with it too!
2017-9-24 ohio cumberland loop cross
At the confluence of the Ohio (to the left) and the Cumberland straight ahead.  Last year we came down the Ohio to start the Loop.  Last year, as we came down to this point we turned left to go past these metal things and get on the Cumberland.  So here it is….the spot where we  started our Loop, coming up from the other direction and “crossing our wake!!!


And here we are boating over our prior “wake prints”!!

2017-9-24 wake tracking over tracks
We did it!

Oddly, even after more than 8000 miles and only traveling by here once before, this stretch of the Cumberland River with it’s twists and turns and occasional industry interspersed in remoteness feels very familiar.

2017-9-24 truck cumberland

2017-9-24 up cumberland











Our last (first?) loop lock!

2017-9-24 last loop lock B

2017-9-24 bollard loop graffiti
Couldn’t let this last opportunity pass by without an extra special penmanship practice!

We had that weird feeling you get when you drive past your old elementary school as we exited the Lock and headed into the familiar channel markers leading us to Green Turtle Bay. Familiar enough but yet definitely feeling a bit older, more sun-worn, and certainly impacted by the journey.

We did finish filling the gas tank and after some double checking and cross checking calculations, determined that we rolled into Paducah in the dark the prior night with only between 1.5 and 4 gallons of gas left in the tank.  Hahaha…more than just fumes! Yay for excel spreadsheet calculations and living by them (mostly)!

2017-9-24 drinks part of trio
Enjoying our celebratory drinks that were waiting for us from Looper friends Let It Be’s Margo and Jerry who called in the order! Kinda DOES look like we got looped, right?
2017-9-24 boat fr gtb yacht club
As we looked down at our “home” for the past year, we enjoyed a nice dinner at the Green Turtle Bay Yacht club.
2017-9-24 larry part of trio
Another random happenstance surprise—crossing paths with Larry (born and raised in our hometown of Tacoma!) and Sherry precisely where we met him last year—on the ramp up from the Green Turtle Bay dock as we both walked our dogs.    

Those random, fun moments along with recently crossing paths with our first siting over a year ago of a looper, In Deep Ship’s Kelly and Terri; and  texts and calls from our original buddy boat, Panacea’s Joan and Don, offering to help trailer the boat back to the west coast, are what, I believe is literally called ‘coming full circle’— it’s a  LOOP!  Altogether pretty weirdly amazing!

2017-9-24 loop circle us b n z
And no, that’s not an obscene gesture…..B is simply making a circle/loop with her fingers as we crossed our wake!

What’s next? Absorbing, pondering and planning for now!  It’s weird to have a destination (or two), but with no “purpose.”

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned!  We have to live up to the title of the blog with some “Land” posts, right?

Here are our Loop raw stats:

387 days “on the Loop” (minus 68 days at home)

184 travel days underway

8,118 miles total traveled (including the approach down the Ohio and side-trips up the Black Warrior River and the Potomac)

5,748 gallons of gas

587 engine hours

176 locks (including a rail chute)

13.8 mph average speed over the entire trip

2 countries; 2 provinces; and 20 states; uncountable bodies of water


For more Land and Sea Adventures:


9 thoughts on “Sep 23-25; Days 274-276 We Got Looped!”

  1. Hi Nick and Barb, congratulations!! But its like finishing a good book, I’m really going to miss your posts and so will friends and family that I pass them on to. I can’t wait to hear about and read about your next adventure.



  2. I can’t stop here, What!!! I won’t laugh in the morning or late at night after reading your posts and talking with Dave or friends about your latest adventure or boat mishap 😦 . The only thing I “will not” miss is wordpress and trying to find my password to leave a comment. Congrats again you guys! 😦 and 🙂 Alix


  3. Dearest Nick and Barb, Ok, I hate to do this as Nick sees these posts. But, you guys rock! I never thought you would do the entire LOOP. We have so enjoyed your trip and adventures. Bully to you for getting it done! Your energy and great commentary have been huge fun and informative… Crap, What do we talk about in boating circles now? Nicks constantly failing Bayliner filler our mornings at the dock!, Cheers DDD


  4. Wooooeeeeeeeeeh! Congratulations. What a great ride. Maybe Nick can buy some progressive sunglasses now… Really gonna miss this blog… Thanks to both of you for your diligence in writing and sharing your adventure with all of us. Cheers!


  5. CONGRATULATIONS!!! It was great to read about the last push, even though I couldn’t comment until now! Your Loop Journey is certainly the most extraordinary travel adventure I have followed! I loved all of the pictures! The mooring sunsets, the swims, the little towns, big cities, and of course the Ziggy photos. The statistics are impressive. You guys make a great team! Please keep posting!

    I am going to start from the beginning and re-read the whole thing! I am proud of you! Love and safe travels, Jane


  6. Hello to both of you, félicitations, you made it. Thank you for the useful info, I hope to do the same trip in summer 2019.


  7. Hello again, hope that you are ajusting well to your return home. I was wondering if you had any maps (not sure this is the right wording) and if you do have some do you want to sell them?


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