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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
After a leisurely morning walking around and at the Paducah dock, we pushed off for our last (first?) loop day.
And here we are boating over our prior “wake prints”!!
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.
Our last (first?) loop lock!
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)!
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!
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