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From Ice Pellets to Palm Trees

Posted by on March 20, 2014

After about a five month break, on February 27th we arrived back in Grand Rivers, Kentucky for the third leg of our Great Loop excursion. We had planned an early departure this year to ensure we had enough time for a comfortable cruise from Kentucky to Florida, and to join the PDQ flotilla leaving from Miami for the Bahamas at the end of April.

When researching the weather for Kentucky at this time of year, weather almanac information indicated typical temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s, with the occasional dip into the 30’s (usually overnight). Although cool, we thought we could comfortably manage this for a few days before we departed for the warmer spring weather further south. Well, not in 2014! Like much of Eastern Canada and the north-eastern U.S., the southern states have also had a much colder than normal winter this year. Temperatures were below freezing when we arrived, and overnight temperatures often reached the teens or even lower.  To further liven things up, mother nature decided to give us a big blast of ice and snow just as we were launching and preparing His Idea for the trip south.

Some of the following pictures give an indication of the severity of the storm, which left about 6 inches of heavy ice and four inches of snow over a 24 hour period. The Captain spent many hours into the night repeatedly shoveling the decks to keep the weight down, but even so His Idea was sitting 4-6 inches lower in the water when all was said and done. In the end though we dug ourselves out with no major damage (some of the marina docks were not so lucky), and managed to depart only a few days behind schedule. Such a beginning was sure not what we expected!

Although cool at first, the trip south was uneventful. Other than the occasional tow and hardy fisherman, we had the rivers and lakes pretty much to ourselves for many hundreds of miles (665 statute miles in total for this section). We found delightful anchorages, and the marinas where we stopped were friendly and helpful (especially the electric space heaters). We watched spring reveal more of itself as we moved further south and time passed; by the time we reached Fairhope, native pear trees, azaleas, camellias, and magnolias were in full bloom.

We will spend a full week in Fairhope, a very lush and picturesque place with a robust and active historic downtown (something of a rarity these days). As a result of a recall, when we arrived we picked up brand new, replacement folding bikes at the local West Marine, and we’re looking forward to using them to explore the local area. We have also had a very enjoyable visit with our cruising friends John & Marsha Belford (Kadadi), of Gravenhurst, Ontario. Their beachside condo at nearby Gulf Shores was a delightful change from His idea for a few days, and their assistance in driving us around has been greatly appreciated. Thanks John & Marsha!

We hope you enjoy the pictures….

His Idea returning to Barkley Lake after four months ashore; we had a sunny but cool day for launch.

His Idea returning to Lake Barkley after four months ashore; we had a sunny but cool day for launch.

The morning after the storm; the crew spent hours removing thick chunks of ice from the decks and canvas, often with the help of a hair dryer to loosen things up.

The morning after the storm; the crew spent hours removing snow and thick chunks of ice from the decks and canvas, often with the help of a hair dryer to loosen things up.

The ice was very hard on the canvas, which required a few repairs when we reached the warmth of Mobile.

The ice was very hard on the canvas, which required some repairs when we reached the warmth of Mobile.

After waiting a few extra days for the weather to improve, we finally departed Green Turtle  Bay on March 5th;

After waiting a few extra days for the weather to improve, we finally departed Green Turtle Bay on March 5th; it was still cold, with daytime temperatures in the mid-thirties. but warmer climes beckoned.

Approaching the Kentucky/Tennessee border at the south end of Kentucky Lake.  cool conditions

On the Tennessee River approaching the Kentucky/Tennessee border at the south end of Kentucky Lake. 

Besides than the odd tow, the only other creature we saw on the river during our first day.

Besides the odd tow, this deer swimming across the river was the only other ‘cruiser’ we saw during our first week.

Our first destination,  was Pebble Isle Marina, 75 miles south of Green Turtle Bay; still cold and snowy!

Our first destination was Pebble Isle Marina, 75 miles south of Green Turtle Bay; still cold and snowy!

We saw many wintering American White Pelicans along this section of the trip; they are large birds and majestic gliders.

We saw many wintering American White Pelicans along this section of the trip; they are large birds and majestic gliders.

A  typical river scene; the snow finally disappeared by mid-day of our second day heading south.

A typical river scene; the snow finally disappeared by mid-day of our second day heading south.

Day 3 - it finally became warm enough to con from the upper helm when we reached Pickwick Lake, about 200 miles south of Green Turtle Bay; this was a very pretty section of the trip.

Day 3 – it finally became warm enough to con from the upper helm when we reached Pickwick Lake, about 200 miles south of Green Turtle Bay; this was a very pretty section of the trip.

In Tennessee we visited the site of the Battle of Shiloh , where almost 24,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were lost over two days of battle; a very sad and moving place.

In Tennessee we visited the site of the Battle of Shiloh , where almost 24,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were lost over two days of battle; a very sad and moving place.

Sunset from our berth at Grand Harour marina, Pickwick Lake.

Sunset from our berth at Grand Harbour Marina, Pickwick Lake.

A peaceful sunrise from our anchorage at the Natchez Trace Recreation Area, on Big Springs lake, Mississippi.

A peaceful sunrise from our anchorage at the Natchez Trace Recreation Area, on Big Springs Lake, Mississippi.

Getting ready to do a 'one toot' pass of the Patricia M. Neal; because these tows go 24 hours a day (and we do not), we passed this tow multiple times on our way down to Mobile.

Getting ready to do a ‘one toot’ pass of the Leslie M. Neal; because these tows go 24 hours a day (and we do not), we passed this tow several times on our way down to Mobile.

We had both clear and damp nights along the way; an evening's rain usually brought a  misty morning to ur anchorage.

We had both clear and damp nights along the way; an evening’s rain usually brought a misty morning to our anchorage.

Being in the heart of Coca-Cola country, Ria couldn't resist a shot of this original billboard; based on the price it could be almost a 100 years old!

Being in the heart of Coca-Cola country, Ria couldn’t resist a shot of this original billboard in Demopolis, Alabama; based on the price it could be more than 100 years old!

Coffeeville Lock, the last of the thirteen we traversed on the Tenn-Tom Waterway this year; only 100 miles to the Gulf Coast!

Coffeeville Lock, the last of thirteen we traversed on the Tenn-Tom Waterway this year; only 100 more miles to the Gulf Coast!

Another misty morning on the hook, shared with the ghost of old Lock Number One on the Mobile River.

Another misty morning on the hook, shared with the ghost of old Lock Number One on the Mobile River.

Mobile, Alabama, riverfront; although not seen in this picture, this is one busy port.

Mobile, Alabama, riverfront; although not seen in this picture, this is one busy port.

Approaching the entrance to Eastern Shores Marina, in Fairhope, Alabama, on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay.

Approaching the entrance to the marina in Fairhope, on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay.

From ice and snow to tropical downpours; we  made it to Fairhope just prior to the arrival of a major storm which packed high winds and lots of rain.

From ice and snow to tropical downpours; we made it to Fairhope just prior to the arrival of a major storm which packed high winds and lots of rain.

Finally, the palm trees; this is the Gulf Shores resort where we stayed with our cruising friends John and Marsha Belford of Gravenhurst, Ontario.

Finally, the palm trees; this is the Gulf Shores resort where we stayed with our cruising friends John and Marsha Belford of Gravenhurst, Ontario.

The sand dunes, beach and rollers from our balcony at Gulf Shores.

From our balcony at Gulf Shores, the sand dunes, miles of beach, and high rollers from the gulf ; note the double red flag – no swimming today!

More palm trees and beaches to come over the next few weeks as we head east along the Gulf Coast Intra-Coastal Waterway (ICW).

8 Responses to From Ice Pellets to Palm Trees

  1. Roy and Sue

    Brrrr!!! Not for the faint of heart! Good luck with the rest of the season. RD

    • john-and-ria

      Good news – we’ve stopped shivering now! Thanks R & S.

  2. Les & Grace

    Wow, glad to see you make it out safely, great pics it almost feels like we are there too, looking forward to the rest of your trip.

    • john-and-ria

      Thanks for the feedback on the pics. Hopefully what comes next will give you a warmer feeling!

  3. Charlotte Kerr

    So glad to see u r back on His Idea just as we left Marathon FL and headed north. Love the blog and pix – you do a really nice job. Have a wonderful trip with the PDQ group in the Bahamas. Wish we were going – maybe next time. Best to you both, Charlotte and Doug

    • john-and-ria

      Great to hear from you. Wish you were joining us in the Bahamas too. We’re planning on spending a few more seasons in Florida and the Bahamas over the coming years, and hoping we’ll have a chance to catch up with you then.

      Safe travels and all the best….

      John & Ria

  4. Elizabeth Kabush

    Hi. Great photos but glad that you are in warmer waters. Safe journey and we look forward to reading more of your adventures.

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