Days on cruise: 216
Distance traveled: 21.3 miles
Travel time: 4 hours, 42 minutes (incl two locks)
Total trip odometer: 4,630 statute miles
Tuesday and Wednesday we attended a number of Rendezvous seminars. Some provided detailed information about upcoming segments of the Loop we’ll travel. Of particular interest was the overview of the Gulf of Mexico crossing, describing alternatives, weather conditions, cautions and other information related to this 170-mile trip, 50 miles offshore at the greatest point. This, along with the stretch in the Atlantic Ocean off the New Jersey shore seem to be Looper’s greatest areas of concern.
We also attended technical seminars on Boat Electrical Systems and Maintaining Your Boat’s Structure. We were astonished at some of the things we learned, even though we’re 75% (geographically, not in terms of time) through our Loop! It was extremely useful.
We continued to have folks drop by the boat to take another look or ask questions, and just as we were extremely grateful for all the assistance and information Loopers gave us when we were Wannabes, we tried to give this year’s Wannabes all the help they sought. What goes around comes around!
Late Wednesday afternoon we had fun watching Looper Dinghy Races (above) off the back of our sundeck, though we didn’t participate. We learned that dinghy motor size doesn’t matter! We had thought our 4hp dinghy motor couldn’t possibly participate in a dinghy race against dinghies with 10 or 25 hp motors. Turns out the rules were: each dinghy must have two people aboard; the one at the tiller is blind-folded and must operate the dinghy only by following voice instructions from the other person on board, while operating in REVERSE! They only had to travel about 200 feet, round a mark in the water, and return – one dinghy at a time, and the results were timed, as dinghies were not racing simultaneously. But it was hilarious to watch, and you could tell some of the crew found it frustrating when their captains seemed not to understand or follow their instructions, or the captains felt their crew gave poor instructions. What a hoot!
Later still we went aboard Jackets II, our friends Stephen and Charlotte from Jacksonville, for cocktail hour along with folks from 3 other boats docked near them (above). Charlotte makes Killer Margaritas; probably the best we’ve ever had! The ten of us proceeded to sit together at the final Rendezvous dinner, and we laughed so often and so hard our sides hurt. What a group!
We enjoyed meeting the folks on this converted lobster boat, below, Betty L. We took a tour and it is a marvel!
Thursday morning at 8:30 Jack and Sara, the folks from Indiana who plan to buy our boat in March, arrived onboard. Bob and Jack dropped into the engine room to do a “daily fluids check” and Cathryn and Sara reviewed lofty issues like how to operate this marine toilet, how to set up the stove to operate properly and how to start the engine.
An hour later we slipped our lines, and the four of us began a journey down the Tennessee River. Along with 5 other Looper boats, we made it through the Wheeler Lock (48-foot drop) with little delay, then traveled almost 20 miles to the Wilson Lock (94-foot drop, the biggest of the Great Loop), with six other boats this time.
Jack and Sara were interested in EVERYTHING about this journey: boat operation details, driving and navigating, locking procedures, sights along the way, you name it! These are smart, inquisitive folks (she’s a college professor; he’s a helicopter pilot), and we enjoyed answering all their questions to the best of our ability. We’re pretty convinced Jack will find operating this boat lots easier than flying a helicopter, and Sara is completely game for whatever comes!
Mid-afternoon we pulled into Florence Harbor Marina, had lunch together on the sundeck, then said our goodbyes so they could drive back to Indiana and home. What a fun and special day it was! We were sad to say good-bye after such fun together the past few days.