Sept 12 Fuelin’ Around by Cap’n Nick


Today was an easy day from a distance point of view as we decided to only travel about 50 miles to Louisville, Kentucky and stage ourselves for a huge day tomorrow as we may try to do up to 200 miles. We took advantage of the relatively short distance and multiple fuel stations to do a little miles/gallon benchmarking in the hope Barb might accept full speed ahead was our most efficient run rate. There was good news and bad news! The good news is running at 22 knots is about 40% more efficient than running at 15. The bad news is that running at 7 knots is even MORE efficient getting us up to 2.5 miles/gallon. While that latter number is interesting to know for emergency purposes, a friend of mine once said he had more money than time. I agree, so we’ll not be doing a lot of 7 knot cruising! Not to mention driving an I/O at 7 knots is a pain.

Taking pictures of instruments is what you do at 7 knots! Doesn’t even register on the speedo


The barge traffic is picking up in both volume and size. Biggest so far is a tug pushing a raft of barges four wide and five deep. I have no idea how they control the load,

This big boy was pushing barges into the lock

but we weave around and between barge traffic as we go, monitoring the radio. Today we heard Barb getting called out for “sneaking around” one down bound barge as that barge captain talked to an upbound captain to warn him of the “pleasure craft” coming around his stern! Can’t leave the helm for a moment!

Biggest load so far…20 barges! Is this really better than a pipeline?

We have yet to figure out riverside construction. This huge river apparently can get up to 20′ higher than it is right now. Some people own rv’s they drive away, others have homes right on the current riverbank while others build like this.


Of course the boat is not the only thing in need of refueling at the end of the day!


Day 9 Sept 11 Un-Lucky Lock 13

We lightheartedly cruised out of the 4 Seasons Marina  feeling great after last night’s dinner “out” and the spirit at one of the boats near our slip.  GO HAWKS!

We didn’t stop IN Cincinnati but enjoyed the view from the river:























We merrily proceeded past some very remote and pretty state parks (lots of people out fishing) and then the next lock loomed on the horizon.

Perhaps if we’d realized that it was to be our 13th Lock, we would have been more on our toes. We weren’t.  First, the Lockmaster called us out on the radio to put on our life vests (something NO ONE has done in the prior 12 locks.  Although we did wear them thru the first 2, but then noticed no one else doing so and had grown confident in our locking skills anyway). Ok, so that’s not that big of a deal…they are hanging up at our side throughout the boat and at our immediate reach, so it was easy to comply.  It was our longest wait to enter a lock yet…probably about 25 minutes (which isn’t bad compared to what I hear from others). Again not that big of a deal.

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This is from another day but here you can see a “bollard” –that grey post on the right. Normal tie off is to loop the line (aka the rope) around the bollard and tighten both ends down (one at mid-ship cleat (which is off the picture but you can see the black line(aka rope) going off to the bottom right) and the other at the stern cleat (which is hidden behind my head. As the water drops so does the bollard (it’s a floating bollard) and the boat drops too.  So there is no need to “manage the lines” (ie hold the ropes and loosen or tighten –which you would have to do if it was NOT a floating bollard like in some of the other locks)…at least that’s the theory!

However,  TODAY we entered behind 2 other smaller boats and as we cruised forward to the evenly-spaced bollards along the wall of the lock and as Nick expertly maneuvered the boat closely along the edge without touching the wall toward the next bollard for me to do the trickiest part (loop the bollard as we passed by….like roping a cow) just as I could see where the bollard should have been, it was clear it wasn’t there.  Ok no problem: “Let’s go to the next one up the wall.“  Again, no bollard.  “Gee, Lockmaster! You could have radioed THAT to us!” (perhaps w/ some expletives thrown in there)

Since the other 2 motor boats had taken the other remaining bollards, we had to turn around in the lock, go backwards and take a bollard at the far back.  Again not THAT big of a problem…just aggravating (in 90 degree heat) and a needless waste of time for everyone (including the boats on the other side waiting to go UP river after we got out).

We tied off here near the back gate.  Fun Fact: one million gallons of water per minute drain out of this lock!

While I was negligently taking this picture of the empty lock and the up-river back gate to show you the close=up view (since we were in the back for the first time….so maybe it’s YOUR fault??)  and who knows what the Captain was doing,  suddenly it became clear to me that the bollard had stopped floating DOWN and was stuck higher than the water line. This meant that the side of the boat that was tied off was higher than the other side. In fact technically we were dangling tied to the wall (although the other side of the boat was still resting in the water).  The rope ( ok, ok, I know it’s a line…but in extreme moments of stress, I revert to baby-talk) was so taut that it was impossible to un-loop it from the cleat so by the time I had absorbed the intensity of the situation, I yelled for the knife and the Captain came down to the stern faster than I’ve ever seen him move and sliced our nice long 75 foot rope into two (nearly) equally nice sections (one 15’ and the other 60 ‘).  So something good DID happened, right?…we got two nice lines!  Haha.  But it could have been much worse. So a lesson was learned without the loss of anything irreplaceable (or that can’t be solved w/ the Visa card as the Captain always says). And also may well explain why the Lockmaster demanded the life vests–it’s a hazardous lock!?!?

In addition to this lock leaving our boat the dirtiest ever, two other weird/different things at this lock:

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The inside wall of the lock with a fashionable plant wall!


Big barge waiting for us to get out of his way as we left so we had to go backwards and wait on the side. (Note how it barely fits the lock!)





I will wrap up by saying that while our marina last night was nice in many aspects, we also think he doubled the price on us city folks.  Another lesson learned.


Marina morning with raising fog–almost worth double the price. ( Note the height necessary on the marine pier posts for the river height potential)

P.S.  Look!  The same hotel we stayed at in 2012 after Alex and Lauren’s wedding in New Harmony while we did our East Coast Harley Loop! Random, small world!

Madison, Indiana

Day 8 Sep 10 First big rain

After a week on the river we’ve begun to develop a routine revolving around the dog’s exercise needs (read bathroom breaks) and the boat’s seeming constant need for fuel! Most people on this journey seem to take months and some cases years before getting on the water. We basically flew in, got on the boat and opened the chart book. Let’s face it, it’s tough to get lost going down a river and we’re not exactly going down the Amazon. VISA and conveniently located ATM’s make up for a lot of planning gaps! We’re basically doing about 100 miles a day and staying at small riverside marinas within short walks to small towns. B is chomping at the bit to anchor out (and use our fancy new anchor), but it’s been so warm we’ve opted for docks with power so we can fire up our AC.

We’ve replaced West Virginia with Kentucky to our left and Ohio is still there to our right. Last night we stayed at White Oak Creek Marina. It was basically an RV park with a dock. It was a little oversold by the guidebook we’re using. RV set ups like this are really popular along the river as people are able to have “river cabins” in the summer which they can then move to way higher ground during the flood season. The shower facilities were not good, but gave Nick an incentive to fix the boat’s  shower which we then used. Yay.

We were expecting thunderstorms today so we decided to get up early and try to beat the weather to Cincinnati. Of course, Nick was also trying to get to someplace to watch some college football! We made it to Four Seasons Marina (not THAT Four Seasons) just outside of town in warm sunshine and with plenty of time to enjoy the pool and watch the ominous clouds roll in from the northwest. Pretty cool how you could watch the weather moving in. Better yet, you could see it all from a dockside bar stool while drinking beer, watching football and eating bbq’d ribs.

After and Before (yes, wrong order! Haha) View of the marina from bar during rain storm and later at sunset.


The winds were strong and the rain intense, but this was a nicely protected spot and while we had some leaves blown onto the boat, the rain actually did a nice job of rinsing the deck. This was the first Marina since Pittsburgh to sell diesel (we burn gas) and you could see the difference at the dock; many more big boats versus what we’ve seen this past week.

Yes, we know our readers from home (the Great Pacific Northwest) know what rain on windows looks like…but as always still felt good to be dry and cuddly inside listening to the thunder boom by, lightening striking, and even the wind knocking us about in the nice marina.

Days 6 and 7 Sept 8/9

Just when we thought we’d cracked the 2 miles/gallon mark (non-boaters: it is what it is!), we were pushed down below 1.5 as winds picked up and we punched through chop. Nothing like the Sound, but who would have thought a wide river could have whitecaps?! Of course each bend brought different conditions so we were constantly fiddling with throttle and trim tabs. Despite all that, we are way faster than most people cruising the river although I suspect we’re pounding our Visa card a bit harder at the gas dock too!

Major coal territory here. Hence another coal powered energy plant shot at the top of the page!  Although Ohio state is still on the right bank, Kentucky  (as opposed to West Virginia) is now on our left as we go downriver.  Several navigable rivers flow down out of the Kentucky hills into the Ohio River but they all appear to be quite commercial/industrial so we won’t be venturing up (besides THAT would kill our MPG!)  At the junctions with these rivers, barge traffic increases.

It’s hard to capture the immensity of these.  Nick is always counting how many barges are being pushed at a time. The top one has 4 across and  3 long…but there have been some with 6 or more longer.  It takes them a mile to come to a stop and very little turning/maneuverability…so we have to stay out of their way!
“Ice Piers” for barges and fleets of barges to tie up to while waiting to load, off-load, or go to next destination.

Despite all this commerce and industry there are major swathes of quiet, green peaceful zones.  The River has local, state, national parks of various sizes dotting its shores as well as zones with houses of all types: from fun campgrounds with campers and tents to mcmansions.

There hasn’t been one morning that it has been below 72 degrees  at 6 am.  The highs have been above 99.  The big news is we have AC. Yes, our budget Bayliner has AC on board capable of cooling the cabin to 70 degrees when it’s 90 outside! Just like walking into a room at the Hyatt!

We planned to anchor out last night, but we got to the spot too early and since it was so hot, we cruised on to Shawnee State Park Marina in a nice picturesque cove….with a golf course just up the dock ramp. (Yes, Nick brought golf clubs at B’s insistence).  Nick was up early today to play golf and returned quite content with his game.

One of the most scenic golf holes in Ohio (per pro shop). If you zoom in on the flag stick, you’ll see our boat just to the left.

While Nick golfed, B and Ziggy had a great, long morning walk through the woods and along the river  alone for most of the time but crossing paths with several different friendly locals who loved to chat about the dog, the Great Loop, and the unseasonably hot weather. 2016-9-9-z-trio-walk













2016-9-9-cubby-discoveryDuring Nick’s golf outing, B (and Z) made use of Nick’s discovery last night: another “cubby” and reorganized things, swabbed the deck, caught up on reading  with Ziggy snuggling by,  and took this pic of the interior so that our readers (aka Henry) can see our “fornt” (aka fort)  (both “words” are family words)

For scale: the width at the “head” of the bed (which really seems like the foot of the bed) is actually wider than a king size bed! The actual head (aka bathroom) is on the right (hence “there’s a bathroom on the right”–sorry CC&R!)) and to the left is a large storage area as well as a LONG “cubby” with a mattress (under the dinette area) that could sleep two 20-somethings who were really in love or just one not so-crazed-person comfortably….but we just have a bunch of stuff stowed there!

Parting shots from White Oak Creek Marina, Ohio:

Captain Nick received training back at our first dock on Beaver River from Dockmate Damian in artistic dock-line management and it has become a staple….and notice Fall is coming!

A dad net fishing for shad while one of his sons got a ride on our novel (for him and most others around here) inflatable.

Ohio River at White Oak Creek, Ohio



Day 5 Sept 7 View from the Bridge -Guest Blog by Captain Nick

Doing a blog is a lot of work so we’re going to split drafting duty as we try to catch up the posts to where we actually are. Did 100 miles today and passed through two locks with little fanfare although it’s an effort to look capable! It’s pretty amazing to realize the river tug captains get through these locks pushing 15 loaded barges (3 across and 5 deep) although I think they split the load in half to go through the locks. Still…’s much more than a 30′ i/o to handle. What’s more amazing is this massive lock infrastructure kicks into gear just to let our little boat through.

Enlarge this and look at clearance on either side (and this is the “big” lock)!
Small boat in big lock (but this is the “small” lock)

We’re on more open river now and able to maintain a steady 20 knots.

B at the helm. Notice WN flag!

Still gauging fuel consumption because we have a 215 mile run with no gas available coming up and that’s close to our range. We have a “hillbilly” solution, although the boaters reading this will probably shudder. Hey, we’re Bayliner owners!

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Spent night in Gallipolis, Ohio at some ramshackle Marina off the River. It was a narrow 4′ deep channel to get in marked by pvc pipes….nice. The good news is we re-stocked at the local Piggly Wiggly and bought barb a camouflage folding chair to use on the dock. Now we ARE local.


If you’re a reader of this blog and worried about global climate change, be very worried as there are MASSIVE coal burning power plants all over the Ohio River fed by an amazing number of coal barges floating up and down the river. Cannot see how that changes quickly without massive economic disruption.

“Well, that’s really not the best picture” B

Barb’ s last word(s):

He’s right, there really are way more intense pix o those coal powered energy producing plants.  But oh well.  A few tidbits to wrap up the day:

Nick at the “poop deck”….moments before I helpfully squirted a bunch of fresh water down the outtake to try and dilute it…and gross remnants blasted out onto Nick.  Not good,  Very not good!  




93 degrees + 3:30pm + McDock = chocolate milkshake                                                                           In the town of Pomeroy, Ohio-check out its 2 Guinness Book of World!)





Day 4 Sept 6 Marrietta, Ohio-A Surprise

Surprisingly great little city with a lot going for it: active waterfront scene with long, picturesque waterfront walk/bike path, college town, touristy-historical events and a staunch abolitionists movement and beginning of the underground railroad system.  But since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll let these do the work (well, with a few explanatory captions!) :

Launched in 1918 –last link between the steam-powered, stern-wheel towboats and diesel powered propeller barge. Retired from work in 1954. Took 20 people to operate her.

The tops of the poles mark the high water line at various flood years. You can see the actual river in the picture at the right–the dark black way in the back down a steep hill.  Pretty intense!


A modern stern-wheel house boat!

Marrietta was named in honor of Marie Antoinette for France’s support of our independence.  Better in real life! Same guy that did Mt Rushmore!

Not sure why the guy with the camera was flipping me off…but it made me laugh.  Maybe he thought I stole his photo?  (Sky was way better in real life! So frustrating!)


2016-9-6-wood-tree-carving    I liked this guy carved into a dead tree…friendlier than the guy who flipped me off…altho not as amusing!

Sunset over the stern-wheelers lining up for the  Stern-wheel Festival this weekend.



Day 3 Sept

Prima Marina in lifting fog.  Note the grey cinderblock repair/replacement at the end of the building?  the water rose to the top of that line in 2005 and filled the restaurant.


Great travel day. Early start after deciding to not leave Beaver River yesterday because the next lock had a 3 hr traffic jam/wait   One of the two chambers was closed/broken. Less than a 10 min wait for each of the 3 locks we did today though so that was the right decision–especially on a hot day and with potentially impatient travelers. (FYI now the locking tie-up system is is different… Easier but different which means learning a new method!

Tonight at “mile post ” 102 of the Ohio River at Moundsville, West Virginia .  The state of Ohio is on the right bank (down-bound ) and West Virginia is on the left bank . Docked at “Prima Marina” which amounts to a gas dock w some extra  cleats to tie up to, a questionable power outlet and a smoke-filled restaurant /bar up the bank  — not very prima.

A nice guy  hanging around the bar named Tom gave us a ride to the laundromat with some tourist sites along the way: a modern (aka a building built in the last 20 years — a now closed telecom center  and the also now -closed, but certainly more historically interesting the original state pen (built in 1866 (remember when the Civil War was? ) and closed in 1995 as well as the definitely historical namesake Mounds ( largest ancient burial grounds of the Adena dating back to 250 BC.) Tom even picked us up after we finished at laundromat and swung by the grocery store with us for a a few things… including a 6 pack for Tom !

The State Penitentiary entrance–actually occupies about 3 x 6 blocks;  the Adena mound; and Tom, in the car, not cooperating with a photo-op in front of the State Pen.

We did miss going to the Paranormal After-life Museum though! Seriously –it’s number 3 on Tripadvisor in Moundsville.

Since we had a nice taco salad on the upper deck as we boated along and since it was so hot (90+ degrees) , when Nick offered to “take me out to dinner” at the restaurant/bar to take in the locals, I jumped on the opportunity to get bathed in smoke.

Remember the Forrest Gump scene with Bubba talking about shrimp about 1000 different ways? Well we had a similar Saturday night live type performance  at the bar as we eaves-droped on four people talk about how they like their hamburgers cooked: medium rare or medium. The conversation lasted, and I kid you not, 25 minutes. Can’t imagine how long the conversation would’ve gone on if they’d added in discussing rare and well done too.   But we enjoyed ourselves and chatting with a few other people at the bar as well. My medium rare mushroom and Swiss cheeseburger was perfect!

             You know you’re not in Washington when:

All I can say to that is: GO HAWKS and GO M’s!

DAY 2 Sept. 4 Sunday


Nick fixed the lines on the fenders. Gone now are all the scraggly, hard, old ones….I guess one comment on that was enough! Yay! Also special surprise kudos to Nick for super calmness in the light of the near-fiasco-esque locking episodes, the power to the lighting in the boat not working until he calmly and measuredly sourced the problem and resolved! And a perfect flank steak grill last night. Not to mention all the great docking: Double Yay!  

We had planned to push off the dock late morning, but one thing led to another and we spent the night at the same marina again! Nick got the dinghy successfully launched for the first time off the davit (w/ some help from Dockmate Damian who not only provided some clues and moral support but also a ride to the store to pick up some oil for the new little engine.)

Some shots of us dinking around up and down the Beaver (River)  — from up to the first dam and down to the grocery store (we had to walk up and across the bridge but otherwise, very handy little trip!)

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Waiting for Godad ( with apologies to Eugene Ionesco)




Family shopping venture

















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I’m a good balancer!



2016-9 4 chile dinner beaver river.jpgEasy dinner tonight:

Leftover flank steak chile, grilled corn and stuffed mushrooms

Chatting dockside until after dark w/ Jeff and his wife and Karen and Dockmate Damian. Got lots of river, gas and marina hints! Woo hoo!  And woke up to some yummy leftover special root beer on our back deck.

Dropped from two scoops to one at the ice cream spot up the hill. (Nick held steady on course with 2).

Bitter—sweet: We did successfully stay away from the neighboring burger drive-in (kids: look that up…ie NOT a drive THRU!) with this fun, sexy neon.

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Broad Picture and Plans of Attack!

For more Land and Sea Adventures:




We’re starting this  blog to facilitate sharing our latest adventure –the Attack of the Great Loop–with family, friends, and apparently strangers lurking on the internet (welcome, btw!). Out of the chute, it’s felt almost as nerve-wracking and strange as the locals must have felt as the Brits pressed in to their towns. But we’ll see how it goes and perhaps add other adventures on land too–hence the name of the blog! ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY SEA.  (Well, technically anything involved with water will be under the “By Sea” category.) So tip of the hat to Longfellow for coining the phrase that we’ve picked for more trivial and fun communications than rebelling against taxation without representation.

For the current adventure, here’s the general map; however, we aren’t starting close to the main Loop route.  The prologue to The Loop for us is to approach it via the Ohio River (beginning at The Point in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania).  Well, actually we started a few miles up river.  (See Red Dot for starting point)   Hope you check in often and enjoy the posts! xo

THE GREAT LOOP: Over 5000 miles long (depending on side-trips…did you say Cuba?….well, we DID say it ( as well as the Bahamas!)….but that will have to be another trip!)

MAP UPDATED::   SEPT 21,2017  !!!!!!

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We started Sept 3, 2016, just North of Pittsburgh on the Red Dot with a 922 mile prelude/side trip down the Ohio River  (all WHITE LINES ARE SIDE TRIPS! — ie NOT technically part of the Great Loop) to get to our official beginning  start point on the Loop (Green Dot at Green Turtle Bay, Grand Rivers, Kentucky).    The GREEN LINE represents our Loop trip. In addition to the Ohio River prelude/side trip, other side trips (WHITE) were: A small leg  up and back the Tennessee River to Florence, Alabama;   leg up and back the Black Warrior River in Alabama past Tuscaloosa (and nearly to Birmingham);  up and back the Potomac to Washington DC; and up and back the Sassafras River (at the north end of Chesapeake Bay).  All DOTS (except the pink one at Chicago) represent times we’ve flown home for 10-18 days (one dot for flight home is missing–right about where the “S” is in the word “Severn” in northern Canada).  As of September 20, 2017 we have traveled 7,827 miles and are a stone’s throw down a section of the Mississippi River and a turn toward the east)  from completing our Loop back at the green dot (Green Turtle Bay, Kentucky!)        [Any route marks that are not GREEN or WHITE are simply the possible routes of “The Great Loop.”]

UPDATE (10-19-16) The  Second Leg:  We left Green Turtle Bay, Grand Rivers, Ky which is just east and south of Paducah on the map below (and marked w/ a big green oval dot on the map above). As of 10-19-16 we are at the top (north end) of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway (in dark purple on the map) where it branches off of the Tennessee River (which flows downstream to Paducah/the Mississipii –hence we were going UPriver from Green Turtle Bay to the head of the Tenn-Tom Waterway…which will then be “DOWN-river”


UPDATE (9-19-16):   THE OHIO RIVER:  Which we have now completed as of Sept 15, 2016! 922.5 miles (We started just north of Pittsburgh on the Allegheny River and we did NOT go that tiny little end knob section to the Mississippi River but rather turned left (aka east) (towards Nashville up the Cumberland River)

UPDATE: (5-15-2017)  Chesapeake Bay Area.  By the way, Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the USA….followed by Puget Sound, Washington.

chesapeake map (2)
The Red Line traces our route out of the ICW through Norfolk, Virginia and up to the Eastern Shore.  Stopped at Cape Charles, Va, Ohancock, Va and Crisfield, Md  Drove to the Red Dots on the Atlantic Coast: Assateague and Chincoteague.  Plan to hit the Orange Dots (and other tbd spots) within this next week: Smith Island, Tangiers…..and then Washington DC!


UPDATE:  JUNE 8, 2017:

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As of June 7, 2017 we were at the Schuyler Yacht Basin (Red Arrow).  Our route  will continue up the Champlain Canal, Champlain Lake and into Quebec, Canada to more canals and finally Lake Ontario, the Trent-Severin Waterway, and Georgia Bay on Lake Huron….following the green dash above. (but… you can see there are a lot of other canals and waterways that remain for future trips!)

At my request, Nick revised Longfellow’s The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere with a little artistic freedom to fit us:

LISTEN, my children, and you shall hear
Of the great boat trip that started this year,
On the fourth of September, in 2016;
Nick and Barb got on the Loop
Knowing not what to fear.

Nick said to Barb, “When running the river
Let’s look out for barges and whatever might be
Keeping red buoys to right while not missing greens,
Failure to do so will leave props obscene
And we’ll finish the trip by land not by sea.

Passing through locks with nary a shiver
Slowly but surely we’re learning the river.
Bollards are watched and lines always kept free
Passing through locks with nary a shiver 
Slowly but surely we’re learning the river.

For the original see:      or     for a live reading and cool old prints