We’ve been cruising the “Rivers” for about 6 weeks now and are nearing the end of that phase of our journey. We have learned much, enjoyed many fair weather days, met new friends and endured a few hiccups requiring some boat maintenance.

Our confidence in picking good anchorage spots and our anchoring skills have greatly improved as we’ve had to “drop the hook” a considerable number of nights on these rivers. The shallow water depths on the Illinois, the heavy commercial boat traffic on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers and the rural, remote location of much of the TomBigee Waterway has meant marinas were often scarce. The Land Between the Lakes (Kentucky Lake) and upper Tennessee River were exceptions – there are great state parks with marinas on those stretches in addition to beautiful coves for anchoring.

Pickwick,TN state park marina near Shiloh

We spend a minimum of 12 hrs per day outside..its where we eat most of our meals, drink our morning coffee, have an afternoon beer and/or evening glass of wine. We always drive the boat from the fly bridge and have only been driven to the inside lower helm by short spells of rain on 2 occasions. On nearly a daily basis we’ve enjoyed sunrises, sunsets, and moonrises. We’ve passed through more than 2 dozen locks (one with an 87-ft drop), rolled past the “Arch”, tugs with our names, the White Cliffs of Epes, wanna-be castles, a variety of landscapes, and today in Mobile AL…cargo ships too large to fathom.

Sharing the lock with a tug. This was the only one in which they told us to “float” rather than tie to the wall.

Old feedmill still standing out in Kentucky Lake.

Along the Tennessee River south of Clifton.

White Cliff of Epes in AL. Formed at the same time as the White Cliffs of Dover in the UK.

Each “box” is the size of a semitailer.

Our favorite surprise on this leg was a chance to meet up briefly with our friend Bunkie who was traveling back to Cable from visiting family and friends in TN. She texted us to say she was stopping in Paducah for gas, were we in the area? Indeed!! We were about 2 miles away from pulling up to the city docks for the evening after 4 nights of anchoring out on the Mississippi and a hard upstream pull on the Ohio. It was a brief, but spectacular visit as Bunkie had to drive to Milwaukee yet that night!

Our worst surprise was finding out we had a leak or disconnection in our fresh water system 2 days before reaching Paducah and all of our fresh water (200 gallons) for dishes, flushing, washing up, etc had slowly emptied into our forward bilge and been pumped out into the Mississippi. Fortunately, we always fill and carry along 8 gallon jugs with fresh water for drinking. So we survived, used buckets of river water for flushing and some dishes stacked up in the sink until Ned quickly replaced a hose connection after a bike ride to the local Lowes in Paducah.

Zeke, our ever present companion, probably misses his daily runs in the Cable Woods or North End trails, but he is adapting to boat life too. He knows the anchoring out routine and pleads with us to lower the dinghy and head to shore once we’ve set the hook. He prefers river water over our clean water for drinking and has mastered the descent to the dinghy and reboarding the boat without knocking Ned or I in the water (so far). People in marinas and outdoor restaurants all love him and will remember his name and friendly manner long after they forget us! In fact, he made many new friends last nite when he broke out of the boat by opening the lever handle door and met us at the marina restaurant where we we were enjoying a patio dinner. Needless to say, he was invited to stay by the staff and received pets (for his naughtiness) by several other diners!

Tomorrow we move onward to the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway! A new landscape, to be sure. We’ll get a crash course in learning how to read and use tide/current charts to avoid running aground, smacking other boats while docking (Dave and Kasse T!!), Or tipping our boat over during the nite if we tie off too tight and the water drops 3-4 feet! And Zeke will learn that salt water is not for drinking!