The Great Loop Resumes
Little Rock to New Orleans
Stuck in Little Rock, Days 184 to 272
In our last update in mid November, we told of Richard being ill. We didn't know his illness would be as serious as it turned out to be, or that it would cause us to remain in Little Rock until February 10th. He had to have a lobe of his right lung removed in December, and was hospitalized for 8 days. He now is recovering and it was not cancer, thank God.
We are looking forward to leaving Little Rock and heading to Florida on February 10th. After the big relief of finding that the mass was benign, we have enjoyed the time spent with family and friends. We were able to re-establish our regular status at Julies. It is the local "Cheers".
We are ready, however, to now head to Florida. We had planned to go to Europe in mid March and visit Richard's middle Daughter, Claire and her husband, Thorsten. That trip will be postponed due to the time constraints to start the Great Loop.
We will be continuing our updates to the web site after our departure on February 10th and we look forward to your continued emails and suggestions.
Sunday, February 10, 2002, Day 272
The big day is finally here. We finished up the last of our to do things and said bon voyage to our friends and family who came to see us off.
My Dad was there with my Uncle Don to take our Jeep to his house while we cruise. Our friends, John Sparks and Suzanne Kenyon were there to help with lines and Gypsy was running around like a mad dog because of all the excitement.
We left Little Rock Yacht Club around 10:30. We are so thankful to finally be underway. Richard's surgery and illness are behind us now and the outcome was good with no malignancy. We can now look forward to our dream and continue our Great loop adventure.
The weather was overcast, cold and very windy but we didn't care. We waved goodbye to Little Rock and were able to Lock right through in Lock 7. I packed the crock pot full of roast and potatoes, carrots, celery & onions. (a new tip about the crock pot - If you put your food in one of those plastic baking bags, then put it in the crock pot, there's no clean up.) We were just as lucky at lock 6 and 5 and were able to get in and out immediately. The lockmaster called lock 4 to tell him we were heading their way but our luck ran out. There were double tows coming from both directions so it looked as if we might as well stay in Pine Bluff tonight because of darkness.
I heard an expletive from the bridge and found out that the generator wasn't working. That cinched the decision to stay at Pine Bluff for the night where power was available.
We were unable to raise anyone by phone or radio at the Island Harbor Marina, but when we arrived at the fuel dock, there was someone there to help with lines. The wind at this point was really gusting and it was cold with a wind-chill factor of 23 degrees. Burrrr.
Richard worked on the generator and cleaned the filter. It started up and seemed to be working ok. We had a candlelight dinner then off to bed early to prepare for our long day tomorrow.
Monday, February 11, 2002, Day 273
Up early for the Long day. We headed out around 7:00am. It was just a short 5 miles to lock 4 from the Marina. When we arrived we were told it would be about an hour before we could get into the lock. At this point the generator went dead (more expletives from the bridge). Richard got on the phone to see where and when he could locate a diesel mechanic. We had to make a decision whether we should head on without a generator (no Heat) and hope to find one in Greenville, or go back to Pine Bluff and try to find one there.
The lock was opening for us so we decided to take our chances with Greenville or tough it out until New Orleans.
It was another cold and very windy day. We were lucky with locks 3,2 & 1 and locked down in each fairly quickly.
Once again we were on the mighty Mississippi. As usual there were lots of tows and it was very rough going. Several items down below were being thrown about. The only thing that was broken was a picture frame.
We really wanted to get to New Orleans by Friday to meet two couples who are joining us there. That's what we get once again for trying to cruise by a schedule.
We pulled into Greenville yacht club around 5:45pm just before dark. A small man was there to help and he also helped us fuel up. He later told us that his name was Little David and he helped out part time here at the yacht club. He is quite a character. When we were settled in and tied down, Richard went up to the bar to have a drink with Little David and Gail the bartender. They have a nice down home yacht club that was formerly a barge used to haul cars for sale on the river. All the people at Greenville Yacht Club were so nice and generous. They made us feel right at home.
Tuesday, February 12th, 2002, Day 274
We decided to stay in Greenville another day and take our chances on getting a mechanic out to fix the generator.
Earlier that morning Little David had called the generator mechanic for us and Richard talked to him and made an appointment for the mechanic to come to the boat after lunch.
We thanked him again for all his help. We had a nice lunch then Richard headed to the boat to await the mechanic and I headed to the 2 casinos that were on either side of the yacht club.
You find lighthouses in the strangest places. I was excited about once again being able to photograph a lighthouse even if it was the Lighthouse Point Casino.
After playing the slots for a while, I walked down to the Jubilee Casino. There's a nice little park in front of the yacht club that lies between the 2 casinos. It was a beautiful day. Not a cloud in the sky and the temperature about 62 degrees. This is a fun place to visit and we recommend spending some time here if you make it down the Miss.
When I arrived back at the boat, the mechanic was still there and Richard was shaking his head and laughing. It turns out that the only thing wrong with the generator was a broken fan belt. The belt was behind the generator and not easily seen so Richard had missed it. He felt a little embarrassed about not finding it himself but hey, I was just glad it was nothing major and we were able to get it quickly taken care of. The cost was $130 for replacing a fan belt which we supplied but it could have been much worse.
Richard's comments: When the generator quit, the first thing I checked was the water flow and it was good, I also checked the oil and the level was good. The fuel filter was fine. The Kohler tech and I felt it may be a stator problem. I had looked at the generator but did not see the second belt.
We watched TV then headed to the bar around 5 for happy hour. Our plan was to have a couple of drinks then head back to the boat and I would broil pork chops. We were having so much fun with the locals and all their stories, that we stayed until 8:00pm. I took Gypsy for a walk when we returned to the boat she loved running because she hadn't been off the boat in a couple of days.
Richard and I decided we were too tired for dinner so we just went to sleep so we could get an early start tomorrow.
Wednesday, February 13, 2002, Day 275
Up at 6:00am and checked everything out. The generator seemed to be working fine. The water tank was full and once again we headed to the big Miss. It was a nice traveling day with lots of sunshine. A little nippy in the morning but over all a beautiful day.
Again, lots of tow traffic which for us meant a very rough and bumpy ride. We made very good time and cruised 183 miles. We made it to Natchez by 3:30pm and contacted the Vidalia boat dock (Carla Jenkins). They allowed us to tie up for the night at one of their barges. They met us and helped tie up which was quite a chore in the wind and current. There was a restaurant within walking distance called "The West Bank Eatery." I had pork chops in the crock pot so we passed on the restaurant.
Carla arranged for a fuel truck to come to the boat and fuel us up. Michael drove Richard to the local convenience store for some ice. All in all, the folks there were very helpful.
Since we were docked right on the river, there was a constant sideways rocking like a baby cradle and it made for very good sleeping. We hit the hay early and planned for tomorrow to be another early day.
Thursday, February 14, 2002, Day 276
Up at 6:00am and the Captain very skillfully got the boat away from the barge. It was tough cause the current was pushing the boat into the barge.
Our plan for this day was to make it to Baton Rouge and hopefully find someplace to tie up for the night. We called around a couple of days ago and found there to be no fuel in Baton Rouge so it's a good thing we were able to get fuel in Natchez.
Richard surprised me on this Valentine's Day with a beautiful gold lighthouse charm for the charm bracelet, which my Dad gave me for Christmas. What a sweet guy.
It's a nice sunny day and a very happy Valentine's Day to be doing what we love most, cruising.
We made good time and were in Baton Rouge by 1:30pm.
Richard called ahead to the Baton Rouge Port Authority to ask about anchorages. They told us of the Baton Rouge Harbor which is on the Eastern bank just before you reach the first Bridge in Baton Rouge. We were able to run about 3 miles up and anchor in a nice quiet spot in the middle of what's called Devil Swamp. Richard is so romantic and knows just where to take a girl for Valentine's Day. Ha! It was a nice quiet evening off the Mississippi though.
We did have a couple of problems. Richard had a sewage treatment system installed while we were in Little Rock and just after we dropped anchor Richard heard the water pump running all the time so started looking for a leak. Sure enough he found it at one of the new connections the pipe had 2 holes in it. He was able to clip that piece of pipe off and reconnect it. Mr. Fixit strikes again.
I broiled some Chicken breasts and made some stuffing and a salad and we toasted almost being off the Mississippi on Valentine's Day.
Friday, February 15, 2002, Day 277
Up at 5:30am for our last and roughest day on the Mississippi.
We pulled up anchor without problem and headed out. It was cloudy and cool slightly misting.
As we were preparing to leave, Richard came down from the bridge and said, I must be a jinx and I asked ok what is it this time? He said as he was zipping the strataglass on the bridge, it was cold which caused it to crack and now there's a good size rip in the windshield portion in the front. So we hauled out the duck tape and patched it to keep the wind out. That's how I always patched things in Arkansas and it works on the boat as well. Ha.
The commercial river traffic increased dramatically and it was very very rough! Even Gypsy with her short little legs was losing her balance and looking at me with a pitiful, "when will this be over", look.
We made good time to New Orleans (yeah! Finally off the Mississippi) and arrived at the Industrial lock at 1:30. There were two red flag barges (barges caring hazardous material) ahead of us so we had to wait for them to lock down individually.
The entire process took about 2 hours. This is the last lock we will pass through until we get to the Erie Canal.
Next came the 3 lift bridges, which took FOREVER, and 2 of bridge masters ignored our radio calls completely. We were certainly at their mercy. When we got to the last bridge, which wouldn't open, Richard decided to go below and shower. We were running out of time and our friends were meeting us at the marina to take us out to dinner. Just as he got in the shower, the bridge started raising. I didn't want us to be caught again so I took the boat under the bridge and out into Lake Pontchartrain. The lake was smooth as glass thank goodness. The sun was just setting so I headed toward the marina hoping we would make it before dark. There are so many crab traps on the lake and they are impossible to see after dark. A few minutes later Richard came on the bridge. I think he must have been scared out of his wits when the boat started moving with him still in the shower. But he took over and we made it safe and sound to South Shore Marina next to Bally's Casino.
The Mississippi River is not a good place for pleasure craft, especially if you don't have a long-range cruiser. From the Ohio River at Mile 980 to New Orleans at mile 92, there are only two Marinas, Memphis and Greenville. There are very few protected anchorages (only one below the Arkansas River at Baton Rouge).
The only fuel stops are Memphis, Greenville and Natchez. The listed fuel stops in Vicksburg and Baton Rouge no longer sell diesel to pleasure craft.
The anchorage in Baton Rouge is a good one but in 38 feet of water but it is protected from all wind directions.
The Mississippi from Baton Rouge to New Orleans is filled with ships and tows. I think there were more ships here than I saw in the Houston ship channel.
At mile 103 at about the Harvey Lock, you need to contact Gretna Light on channel 67. They then give you instructions as to what to do passing through New Orleans. There are naval ships and facility at the Industrial Canal and you must pass at slow speed and at least 500' from them.
As far as the comments Kathy makes about her driving, I come to my defense and say I was not afraid. I knew she could handle it; I was only concerned that I had not shown her on the chart where we were going. When I got to the bridge, as I expected, she was doing fine and had figured out the chart for herself.
Our friends John and Laura were waiting at the marina for us. We had dinner on Bourbon Street at the Red Fish restaurant where we met up with our Friends Bart and Susan Stacy from Houston. We then moved on to Pat O'Brians for a Hurricane and finally we took a cab back to the boat and the rest of the crew took a cab back to their hotel.
It was a fun night and lots of crazy's were out on Bourbon Street as usual.
Saturday, February 16, 2002, Day 278
We slept in today up at 9:00am. It was a beautiful sunny day. The visiting friends met us at the Casino. We found a great sports bar there.
From the casino we took a cab to Bourbon Street and had lunch in one of the hundreds of restaurants there. The food was pretty good, but the service was slow. We walked over to Jackson Square and all took a mule and buggy tour of the French Quarter. It was a beautiful day and we had a great time. After the buggy ride we were all getting kind of sleepy so we stopped for bailey's coffee and khalua and coffee.
We took a cab back to the boat and decided to stay at the casino for the evening instead of going back to Bourbon Street.
Richard was anxious to get an internet hook-up because I had decided much to the Captain's displeasure, that I need to return to Little Rock and take care of some business with our leased house. Our tenants moved out and left some furniture we were letting them use. Now I have to get a mover and check the condition of the house before the new tenants move in (always something).
Richard was never able to find a phone line that worked so he just phoned and made the reservation.
I will fly to Little Rock on Monday and return on Sunday. Richard will stay with the boat in New Orleans. He will be alone with Gypsy for the first time. That will be interesting.
We had a wonderful evening and went to the Casino Buffet for dinner it was so-so but we were more into visiting than eating anyway. We gambled a little then said our goodbyes to John and Laura. They are leaving in the morning to return to Little Rock. Then we headed to the boat and they headed to their cars.
Sunday, February 17, 2002, Day 279
Bart and Susan arrived and Susan and I went shopping. We all visited with Scott who lives on his Irwin 68 in the next slip. He invited us to tour his boat. Imagine, a sailboat with a hot tub. A very nice boat.
Bart and Susan then left for Houston. We had a very nice visit with them and John and Laura. We will be having them join us again on our trip.
Kathy returned to Little Rock for a few days to take care of the house to get it ready for new tenants. She will be gone for a week.