Belly Rub and a Ding

November 2019, Once again we hauled the boat out of the water at Saunders Yacht works in Orange Beach, AL after finishing the rivers. We did a routine bottom wash and inspection of the underside. Every thing looked good until we discovered a ding on the leading edge of the starboard prop about the size of a quarter.  There was no vibration while we were underway but we decided to have it repaired. The local Prop repair shop said they could fix in 24 hours. So an overnight stay in the boatyard was in place. We took advantage to wash and wax the sides of the boat, touch up the bottom paint and replace the sacrificial anodes.

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Reconditioned shiny prop on the right.

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Saunders in a Great Marine Yard to work with very professional help.

Sorry for the break in posting on the blog. I will try to get caught up over the next couple of weeks.

 

 

End of the Rivers

The Great Loop Trip requires every one to transit the western rivers. These various rivers are interesting the first time around because its a fresh experience. This time Dorothy and I just wanted to get south and if Dorothy had her way she would have skipped the river portion of the Loop altogether. So this Blog will highlight some of the things we observed traveling the Tombigbee Waterway from Kentucky to Mobile Bay.

Wildlife

Among the large variety of birds We observed there where many Bald eagles.

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A pair of Eagles fishing the river banks

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Squadron of Pelicans.

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This Heron is one smart bird. He knows when the lock chamber is cycling and waits for the water to lower.

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Then he flys down to the cavities in the gates. He knows there will be small fish trapped in the cavities of the doors.

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Success.

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An otter taking a early morning swim at our anchorage near James Whitten Lock. There were several otters swimming by the boat and every time I grabbed the camera and focused they ducked underwater.

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Tornado Damage near Clifton, Tennessee.

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The Tenn-Tom also provides access to over 34 million acres of commercial forests. Industries that utilize these natural resources have found the waterway to be their most cost-efficient mode of transportation. This is the largest wood pulp terminal we saw on the entire system in Alabama.

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Locking with a group of boats in the James Whitten Lock which has a a drop of 84 feet. In Sept 2019 the lock was closed for 18 days because of a crude oil spill. When we locked through there was no sign of oil anywhere.

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Baking bread  and muffins underway

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We worked on this puzzle as we worked our way down the rivers.

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Snow and ice on the decks in Mississippi

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Fall colors at anchor.

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These white cliffs are located on the Tombigbee River at Epes near Demopolis, AL. They are part of the Selma Chalk formations which were deposited at about the same time as England’s famous White Cliffs of Dover.

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Scenes from Mobile Bay, AL

Your tax dollars at work, The latest in Navy Ship construction. The US Navy’s Expeditionary Fast Transport (T-EPF) program is procuring 14 high-speed transport vessels from Austal for the fast, intra-theater transportation of troops, military vehicles and equipment with aviation support. Top speed 35mph.

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Offshore oil rig

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Early morning start in the mist.

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And a couple of Sunsets

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Roll’in down the River

With the Illinois river behind us we head down the Mighty Mississippi River. The power of this river is amazing. Our full attention is required navigating buoys, steering around debris, spinning in whirlpools, interacting with commercial traffic and negotiating some of the busiest locks in America all while being pushed at 4 to 5 miles an hour.

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The top number on our chart plotter is our GPS speed 16.6 mph. The second number is a paddle wheel under the boat show how fast the water is moving pass our hull. 8.5 mph. The difference of 8.1 mph is the highest current push we recorded on the Mississippi.

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You would think navigating on the river would be easy because it wide and deep. Many times the buoys are moved out of place by rushing water or tow barges hitting them. They may even be missing altogether.

The debris was not as bad this year as last. Its the small stuff we really need to be on the lookout for. A small stick poking up from the water could be attached to something much larger underwater (think Titanic). I bumped something twice when I was driving, no damage though. We have met several boaters who have prop damage from debris and required new props.  A big tree near St Louis.

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There are very deep areas on the river bottom up to 100′ deep. I can tell when we approach these because they create large boiling or whirlpools on the surface of the water. As you drive through them they will spin the boat sideways requiring some quick turning of the wheel.

Commercial Traffic rules the river. Boaters are referred to as Pleasure Craft which includes sailboat, power boats, fishing boats and anything else that is small and floats.  We are just something for the Tow Captain’s to be annoyed by. Most of the Captains are very professional and great to talk to on the VHF marine radio. Down-bound (tows heading with the current pushing them) have right of way over Up-bound traffic. This photo shows a Up-bound tow pulled over on the river bank while a down-bound passes him. We had to wait until the pass was complete so we could pass the large tow with his permission.

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One of the larger tows we passed on the river. Rock and gravel barges 6 wide by 4 long for a total of 24. This equals 1382 Semi truck and trailers on the road. End to end they would stretch for 58.8 miles.  And best thing is if a rock bounces off the barge it does not hit your windshield.

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These Captains really have their hands full driving these filled barges. Its a little hard to tell, but this set of barges is sliding sideways around a curve in the river.

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St Louis has no Recreational docks for pleasure boaters. The commercial marine companies own most of the shore line.

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Eads Bridge is the oldest bridge on the Mississippi river still in use. Built in 1867.

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Here is a video of us making a left turn from the Mississippi River to the Ohio River. We make the turn at about 25 sec into the video. Notice the water calm down and our boat speed drops from 12 mph to 7 mph, because we are now going upstream with a 1 to 2 mph head current.

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Video with sound this time.

 

Glow effect around the sun from our anchorage on the Ohio River.

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Engine Woes

Boats like cars are mechanical devices. On a 30 year old boat which is maintained well things can still break once in while. While cruising down the river Dorothy noticed a strong oil smell when I checked the engine room, I found oil sprayed all over the port side of the engine room. I shut the port engine off to stop any damage from lack of oil. I wish I had taken a picture to show how bad it was. I finally found the oil fill cap had blown off. But what caused it? Checking the oil level in the engine it was way over the full mark on the dipstick and it was like water with a red tint and it smelled like diesel fuel. I determined diesel fuel had gotten into the oil so much that the crankcase pressure caused the oil cap to blow off.

I called an engine expert and he said the most common cause was a bad fuel pump. Great, I carry a brand new spare and it was easy to get to on the engine. We limped to a marina on the starboard engine. The next day was spent cleaning and replacing the fuel pump. I also had to remove the fuel oil from the crankcase. We took out 7 gallons of oil and fuel mix. The engine normally holds about 3 1/2 gallons of oil. Added new oil and ran the engines for a half hour. All seemed good. The next day while continuing down the river I shut the port engine down and checked the oil level. much to my dismay the level was way over the full mark once again. UGH!

Another call to the engine expert, he said the next place to look was the fuel return line on top of the engine.  I removed the rocker arm cover and inspected the steel line running from injector to injector. I discovered a leak on Injector number 1. OK great just tighten up and we will be good. Nope, it did not work, still leaking. I took it apart and inspected the fitting and I cleaned the surfaces and reassembled. Still leaking fuel. Call the expert, and he suggested sanding the surfaces with fine emery cloth. Take it apart, clean, reassemble, still leaking. Keep in mind I am doing all of this while Dorothy drives the boat down the river on one engine. I tried a copper washer at the fitting. Copper is soft and should conform to any uneven surfaces providing a tight seal. Still leaking fuel. We reached our next Marina and both of us were so discouraged,  we decided to sleep on it and get a fresh start in morning.

The movement of liquid in the bottom of the video is Diesel fuel dripping into the top of the head where oil should be.

 

After taking the fuel return line completely off I discovered that some where along the line I had cross threaded the top of the injector fitting. After some more phone calls we took the injector to a machine shop in the scary van and they tapped the threads straight. Back at the boat I carefully reassembled the engine and gave it a test run for an hour. No leaks, YIPPIE! Another oil change. The next day we did a short run of 2.5 hours down to the next marina. No leaks, YIPPIE!

Stripped threads in injector head.

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We have been traveling for several days with no issues. So we are regaining confidence the problem is corrected. Back to enjoying the scenery and sunsets.

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Running from the cold and *SNOW*

Running from the cold and snow, YIKES

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There are no snow shovels onboard SEASONS

Since this our second time around, we are working our way south down the river systems at a fairly steady pace. Our travel days are a little longer and the stops are shorter.

For the most part the rivers and locks have been pleasant with short wait times at the locks. Locking through with “Club Ed”.

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Passing a large tow and barges

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One advantage to the little later start this year are the fall colors along the shore line.  These  are the cliffs near Grafton, IL. This area is know as the winter home of Bald Eagles. It was a cold day as we passed and we didn’t see any activity.

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The changing landscape rolls by and is very enjoyable to watch.

Some Marinas offer a courtesy car to use to run into town for provisions, etc. Most are fairly nice, but this van at Grafton Harbor was a bit scary. The headliner was falling down and the steering was very very squirrely. No real complaints though it was free to use.

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Food highlight alert, for me this was a throwback to my childhood. When my Mom traveled out of town my Dad would be in charge of meals. I really liked fried bologna sandwiches with yellow mustard. This was on the menu at a little restaurant in Grafton. Smoked fried bologna sandwich, so I just had to have one and it was fantastic.

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Sunset at Hurricane Island anchorage on The Illinois River.

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The next photo was actually a sunrise from  several days ago. I wish it was just a little sharper. But the light cloud through the lens of the lighthouse is interesting.

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Chicago Industry and the Waterways

For SEASONS the Loop Adventure starts when we enter the CAL- SAG Waterway. Since Dorothy and I have sailed and raced all over Lake Michigan it does not feel like we start the trip we are working our way down the Illinois River.

First off a nice sunrise over the steel mills of Indiana.

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The Cal-Sag Channel (short for “Calumet-Saganashkee Channel”) is a navigation canal in Illinois.  It is 16 miles (26 km) long and was dug over an 11-year period, from 1911 until 1922. (Wikipedia)

This is one of the most industrial sections of the entire Loop trip. The Go pro is mount on the front of SEASONS and takes a picture every 5 seconds.

 

I am working on the videos. Its a learning curve. I need to add some cool sound tracks.

The lowest bridge which every boat must go under is the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe railroad bridge. It will not and has not opened for many years. The height from the water is 19′ 7″.  We cleared it by about a 1 1/2 feet.

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As you look at these photos keep this statistic in mind, A standard barge tow carries the equivalent of 1,070 truckloads or 216 rail cars of product. Some of these products are  corn, soybeans, chemicals, petroleum products, fertilizer, ethanol, cement, styrene, sand, gravel, wood products and raw materials for steel mills.

Chemical or petroleum dock

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Red flagged barges carry hazardous cargo.

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Scrap aluminium for recycling.

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Mulch for the city of Chicago

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Sand and salt dock. the black pile is salt covered with a tarp.

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This is a barge and towboat repair facility.

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Another chemical facility.

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After this section the river will become more scenic, However our interaction with the commercial tows will continue.

 

Second Voyage

Blog Title credit to Jill for recently serving a bottle of wine with the same label at a neighborhood get together.

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As you may have read in our last blog we are doing the Great Loop trip again.

 

We spent some time in Milwaukee visiting family and friends. It was great to see everyone and sorry if we missed you. We had a long list (4 pages) of projects to complete onboard SEASONS before we ventured off again. Dorothy and I prioritized them and finished most of the major items. Some of the big things were New dingy Lift system to accommodate our new bigger dingy, new freezer top, some varnish work, rebuilt the engine injectors, all oils changed, all filters changed (12), reworked anchor chain, Prop shaft coupler replaced ( this was a big project) and some electrical upgrades. We also checked off quite a few minor items on the list. It seems the boat project list never ends especially when there is so much to varnish.

 

A beautiful sunrise started the day. However the old sailor phrase states “Red sky in morning, Sailors take warning” so we were extra careful leaving the dock.

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We left South Shore Yacht Club on a beautiful morning. Our parting photo and yes I am wearing shorts. It is the goal of the Loopers to wear shorts around the entire Great Loop, which means we have to keep moving with the warmer weather. I did not make last year and had to put pants on in Mississippi. The temp got down to 32 degrees.

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Lake Michigan has been a bit rough lately, so we found a favorable weather window to head south on Thursday October  17, 2019. The Chicago skyline from the water is always impressive.

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We are happy to be underway once again and headed towards warmer temps.