This is update #16 as we cover Fred and Sidonia St. Germaine's trip along The Great Loop in their Nimbus 405 Coupe. Links to the other updates are below.
Sidonia and Fred enjoyed their extended stay in Alton, which gave them a chance to explore the interesting sights of St. Louis, such as the zoo and Anheuser-Busch. As has been their standard practice, they like to get off the boat and see what there is to see at every new destination.
On that note, a common question we’ve received of their travels is how they find such interesting places to visit, whether they are museums, manufacturing plants, local attractions, or simply nice-to-see spots that help define an area. Sidonia was quick to respond to my inquiry.
“Bill, for the most part, we ask Google ‘what is there to do in such-and-such city.’ Sometimes we hear about things from locals or other loopers. A few marinas print out information of local interesting sites. We particularly like touring places where they make things as well as historical places.
“I think some people are in too much of a hurry, and/or they don’t want the added expense of a rental car. A car has allowed us to venture much farther from the boat and see so much more, since it’s very doubtful we will come this way again.
“And our little electric bikes have been very helpful taking us away from the boat when we don’t have a rental car. Sometimes we happen upon a treasure we did not even know was there. —Sidonia”
After finishing their tour of the Anheuser-Busch stables, and visiting up close with a Budweiser Clydesdale, the couple returned to their Nimbus cruiser, fueled up for the journey ahead, did some last-minute grocery shopping, and returned the rental car.
It was time to continue their Loop.
“On Wednesday, September 21, we took off from Alton at 6:45am, cleared the Melvin Price Lock by 7:30, and passed the Chain of Rocks lock by 9:30. The name Chain of Rocks seemed rather ominous ever since we heard that last year a boater mistakenly followed the river rather than diverting into the canal to the lock. His sailboat got stuck on the Chain of Rocks dike and sank. Even though the two people aboard were rescued, we were glad to get past there.
“After leaving the lock, we had a long stretch of the Mississippi River in front of us. Once past the St. Louis industrial area, it became miles and miles of uninhabited riverbanks. Other than having to slow for the occasional barge or other boats, we cruised at 27–28 knots aided by a three-mph favorable current. We flew down the river, covering 128.7 miles in 8-1/4 hours.
“There was soon a 208-mile stretch in front of us with no place to refuel, so Fred arranged for a fuel truck with Charles at Kidd River City Fuel in Cape Girardeau, MO for what is considered an emergency fuel stop. There is a 150-gallon minimum. The company maintains a small barge to tie up to and the fuel comes to the barge from his truck. He said it was premium price, but at $4.88/gal, it was 70 cents less than the last time we filled up, so we were thrilled. He also gave us permission to spend the night here and told us where the key to the gate was hidden, in case we wanted to go to town. If it hadn’t been so awfully hot and muggy, we would have enjoyed getting off the boat, but all we wanted to do was sit in the air conditioning.”
Cape Girardeau is a city in Missouri originally established as a trading post around 1733. It is located about 100 miles southeast of St. Louis and 150 miles north of Memphis. Today, the city has a population of approximately 40,000 people, and is the economic hub for Southeast Missouri. Cape Girardeau is home of several universities and colleges and provides first-class medical facilities for three surrounding counties.
“On Thursday, September 22, it was a nice relief to wake up with much cooler weather. Everyone has been complaining about the heat.
“After leaving Cape Girardeau, we soon said goodbye to the Mississippi River as we made a hairpin turn to the left into the Ohio River. The Ohio is every bit as wide as the Mississippi, at least where we were, but we lost our three-mph push as we were now going against the current.
“When we reached the Olmsted Dam & Lock, the lockmaster told us we had to wait about two hours for barge traffic to clear through. We anchored off to the side and were pleased that we only had to wait an hour and a half. We went in the small lock alongside a tow in the large lock. The large lock is 900 feet long and this barge and tow filled the entire lock. (Back in Illinois, when we saw our first tows, we were amazed that they were pushing up to nine barges at a time. Now we have seen as many as eighteen barges being pushed together.)
“As we approached Paducah, Kentucky, we called Paducah City Marina. We were originally told they had no room for us. As we went by, however, we saw open slips, so I called again and they let us come in. The marina normally has room for about a dozen average Looper-size boats which seems small for a town the size of Paducah.
“Our timing was good as Paducah was hosting its Family Fun Days. There were lots of vendor tents set up all over the open area near the marina, as well as a stage where a band was setting up. We perused most of the tents and settled in one of the many bbq tents where we got a rack of ribs to take back to the boat for dinner.
Several of the boaters staying at the marina were local and brought their boats here to attend the Fun Days BBQ. It was a great local event.
“We woke to a chilly morning, the first time it really felt like fall. After breakfast on the boat, we hopped on our bikes and went to explore the town. Paducah was founded by William Clark (of Lewis & Clark) after he inherited the land grant from his brother. There is a questionable story that he named it after an Indian chief.
“Paducah is a ‘walled city’ and the first thing we came to was a long section of the wall. Two years after a disastrous flood in 1937, work began on a wall to protect the city. Sections of the wall are removable and only put in place when a flood threatens. Much of the wall is now covered with wonderful murals depicting the history of Paducah and surrounding area. It is hard for us to imagine the Ohio River reaching the height of the walls as the steep bank leading up from the river is at least fifty feet high. The bank on the opposite shore is low and one would think all the water would run out over that side.”
Paducah was in fact, settled some years before William Clark, but he is responsible for surveying the area and renaming the settlement Paducah in 1827. Contrary to local lore, there is no historical connection to its name commemorating a Native American chief or tribe.
Given its location on the Ohio River, it was only natural for the town to evolve into a center for the developing railroad and steamship industries that supported each other and brought a thriving economy to the town.
The Paducah Wall to Wall project began in 1996 to put murals on the flood walls in downtown Paducah, to illustrate local history of all aspects of river life and Native American history.
Today, Paducah is an artist and craft center, with international recognition by UNESCO and art organizations for its impact on the world’s art. Music also has roots in Paducah, home for the Luther Carson Center for the Performing Arts. Many musicians grew up or lived for awhile in the Paducah area.
“As frequently happens, we are asked about our electric bikes. After chatting about our bikes with a man setting up his booth near the wall, he suggested we have breakfast at The Gold Rush Cafe. We told him we had already eaten but he said we should at least go there for their ‘dessert’ of bread pudding waffles.
“Naturally, we had to try them. There was a lineup at the café, but we ordered personal-size portions of the waffles to go so we didn’t have to wait long. We continued our ride through the nice downtown area, enjoying the architecture of the old buildings. Back at the boat, we ate our bread pudding waffles, covered in sweetened butter and syrup. Mmm-mmm-good.
“We got under way again a little before 11:00. Very shortly, we passed the entrance to the Tennessee River. Instead of turning into the Tennessee, however, we continued a little farther up the Ohio River and then turned into the Cumberland River. We saw fishermen aiming bows and arrows into the water. We pulled over to talk to a couple of them and learned they were shooting carp. One of them reached down and lifted a good-sized carp to show us.
“We could have continued down the Tennessee River but there is a lock where pleasure boaters usually must wait. The Cumberland route is a little longer, but as it turned out, we also had to wait at the Barkley Lock and Dam for nearly two hours. Almost immediately after exiting the dam, we were in Barkley Lake and made the turn into Green Turtle Bay Marina in Grand Rivers, Kentucky.
(Above: Nearly all boaters have a social/party area at their slips at Green Turtle Bay.)
“The first boat we spied at one of the docks was ‘Uncle Wiggly,’ with our friends Roger and Marilyn. We had not seen them since the Trent-Severn Canal but had kept in touch. We docked right next to ‘C-Marie,’ with Kathy and James who we also met earlier.
“Originally, we were told we could stay here only one night but somehow, one of the marina staff worked his magic. He got us a second night though we would have to change slips, which was no problem. The marina gives a discount to Loopers and our cost for 45’ was only $136 for two nights.
“The weather on this Saturday, September 25, was still warm in the mid-80s. Air conditioning is definitely needed on a boat doing the Great Loop in season.
“All along the Loop, people tell us about the places we should visit. In Grand Rivers, that place is Patti’s 1880’s Settlement. Patti’s runs a four-seat golf cart shuttle that picked Roger, Marilyn and us up at the marina. After about a ten-minute drive along a shady road, we arrived.
“Patti’s started in the late ‘70s as a hamburger and ice cream parlor. Today, the restaurants of Patti’s include several very large sections of buildings, divided into different sized rooms, some small and some larger. There is a big gift shop with a great variety of items.
“Patti’s claim to fame is their 2-inch pork chop which everyone says will feed at least four people. We did not try it, but our lunches were very good and our dessert was the ‘mile high lemon meringue pie’ with six inches of meringue on top.
“After lunch, we strolled along the lovely, wooded pathways which connect different shops and buildings, all part of the Patti’s sprawling property. We sampled several specialty liquors in the Moonshine Shop. There is also a small petting zoo, a putt putt golf course and much more. They have nearly 250 employees, which is almost the population of the town.
“In the evening, Roger, Marilyn, Kathy, and James came over for happy hour. Because it was so warm outside, we sat around our saloon table in the cool cabin. Kathy invited us to later tour their 47-foot Great Harbor trawler. So, after happy hour, we strolled over to their boat. It is always fun and interesting to view other boats. Their trawler was very nicely done, comfortable and roomy, perfect for living aboard, which they do.”
The next stop for Last Item would be to continue in the connecting lakes and rivers and stop at the well-known Paris Landing State Park in Buchanan, Tennessee. Situated on Kentucky Lake, it is an 840-acre park on the western shore of the largest man-made lake in the U.S. east of the Mississippi. The park has been developed to be a perfect family playground, complete with all matter of watersports, a golf course, a lodge, and hiking and walking trails throughout.
The lake was created in 1944 by the Tennessee Valley Authority for flood control and hydroelectric generation.
“After a good breakfast at the marina restaurant with Roger and Marilyn, we fueled up, pumped out, and left Green Turtle Marina at 10:30. Within just a few minutes, we had turned out of Barkley Lake into Barkley Canal and popped out in Kentucky Lake, known as Ken Lake by the locals. There was no sign of habitation on the eastern shore and very little on the western shore as we traveled the 40 miles to Paris Landing State Park Marina.
“After arriving, we rode our bikes across the highway to the Lodge at Paris Landing for lunch. The 91-room lodge is very modern looking, has a nice restaurant, swimming pool, and is right on the lake. There is an 18-hole golf course nearby.
“Near the marina, the parks department also maintains a small aviary which we stopped to visit. They had three owls and a red-tailed hawk. They had all been injured. Though rehabilitated, they are not able to be released, so they are part of the education programs offered by the park.
Last Item has been running well for Sidonia and Fred, and the Nimbus 405 Coupe stands out as they travel along the Great Loop with so many other boats. So, it is no surprise that she attracts attention among those curious about this style of boat on a trip that is traditionally aligned with displacement trawlers and slower motoryachts.
“On numerous occasions, people ask us questions about our boat. Usually, the first question is ‘How do you like it?’ We can honestly answer, ‘We love it.’
“When I first got aboard, I mentioned to Bill Parlatore that I thought it was tender. He reminded me that I was used to a 62-footer. He was right. I now don’t notice at all what I thought was ‘tenderness.’ I think the Swedish designers of this boat did a fantastic job of incorporating comfort, great use of space, the inclusion of large overhead windows which open, and the dining table that swivels in any direction as well as folds in half. One of my favorite features is the end section of the sofa that flips over to become a forward-facing two-person-size seat.
“Just this morning at breakfast, Roger asked whether we would use this boat if we ever did The Loop again and if we’d had any problems with it. The following is what Fred told him of the extent of our problems since taking delivery and after 186 engine hours and over 2,200 miles:
“We had a very piercing alarm, the source of which we could not find. It required a call to Seattle Yachts who guided me to the propane alarm which obviously malfunctioned since we have no propane aboard. Another issue was the light indicating a 3/4 full blackwater holding tank which did not go out after the tank was pumped out. I accessed the top of the tank where there is an 8-inch screw cap and just inside was a float switch. After a sharp tap on the switch, it has not been a problem since. These are the only real problems we’ve had.
“We have had a couple of anomalies, however. One was the generator touch screen which is used to start the generator. One morning it was blank, and I couldn’t figure out how to start the generator without the control panel on the screen. I could do an emergency start on the generator but elected to wait until the end of the day’s run. At the end of the day, everything was back to normal and has been fine since.
“Another anomaly was the Volvo Penta display which indicated a low transmission pressure warning. I acknowledged the warning and proceeded to dock, fearful all night that we might be down to one engine. The next day, when we took off, I monitored the transmission’s pressure closely but there was never another issue.
“As far as maintenance is concerned, at 135 engine hours, I elected to have the oil and oil filters changed as well as the fuel filters, both primary and secondary. I have scheduled a 200-hour engine service when we get to Mobile, Alabama.”
“Roger is a very experienced boater himself. He and Marilyn have sailed the Bahamas and completed The Loop. After telling him all the above, he said if he were to do The Loop again, he would choose a boat like ours for the speed as well as functionality. We were quite surprised at this comment, because they have a comfortable Krogen 42, so we consider this to be the ultimate compliment.”
Paris Landing Marina is a large marina with almost 300 slips. And it is an ideal protected place to leave the boat for a few days and rent a car to explore the area. And that was the plan for Sidonia and Fred, to get off the boat for a bit and see what there is to see.
“On Monday, September 26, we arranged for a rental car. Unfortunately, Enterprise couldn’t pick us up at the marina, so we called a taxi to take us into the town of Paris which is about 20 minutes away. Our driver was a real character, and one would have thought he came right out of the hills but he was actually from Detroit. The taxi was a junker, but it got us there.
“After getting our car, we played nine holes at Paris Landing State Park Golf Course, which was very nice. We then took Ron and Linda (‘Gypsy Soul’) into Paris to pick up their rental car.
“We later had Brian and Loral from ‘Port-a-gee’ and Ron and Linda over for happy hour and good conversation.
“It has been quite windy the past couple of days and on Tuesday morning the winds continued. There are even whitecaps on Kentucky Lake. Safe and secure in its slip, we left the boat and took off in the rental car at 9:00 and drove into Nashville. We booked a motel close to downtown and then walked to a tour trolley stop for which we already had tickets. The trolley makes 13 planned stops, and you can hop on/hop off as much as you want.
“We hopped off on Broadway, which is Music Row, a most appropriate name. There were throngs of people on the sidewalks and music coming from every restaurant and bar along the street. The musicians who play in these places do not get paid. They do it for tips and the hope of being discovered.
“After a bite of lunch, we toured Ryman Auditorium. First known as Union Gospel Tabernacle, it was renamed for Thomas Ryman who had it built. It was where Grand Ole Opry first started performing their radio shows.
“We hopped back on the trolley again and got off at the Hermitage Hotel to see its beautiful lobby. Gene Autry used to stay here and would not only rent a room for himself but also rent a room for Champion, his horse. Supposedly, Champion cracked a couple of the marble floor tiles with his hooves, but we couldn’t tell as there were cracks all over the place. We finished our trolley tour and went back to have a quick rest before dinner and the Grand Ole Opry.
“We drove to the Opry grounds and had dinner at The Aquarium right across the street. Our table was right next to a huge tank full of a great variety of tropical fish. We sat mesmerized watching them swimming around and through the nicely done fake coral. It didn’t really matter that the food was just okay, as the atmosphere more than made up for it.
“The present Opry venue holds 4,400 people and even at this time of year and on a Tuesday night, it was close to capacity. There were seven performers, I was familiar with three of them. Two were from the ‘50s and ‘60s, and the third is contemporary. We enjoyed an act by a comedian who had everyone in stitches.
“The next morning, Fred wanted to see the Knights in Armor exhibit at the Frist Art Museum, while I wanted to go to the Country Music Hall of Fame. So, we parked in between the two locations and went our separate ways.
“The CM Hall of Fame is full of memorabilia, clothing, and musical instruments of nearly every big-name country singer there ever was. Elvis’ gold-plated Cadillac was there as well as Webb Pierce’s 1962 Pontiac Bonneville, with pistols for door handles and other custom additions. There were many videos showing singers from as far back as the 1920s.
“I could have spent much more time watching the various videos but, when I checked in with Fred, he said the Frist Museum was closed on Wednesdays, so he was just waiting for me. He had used some of his time to visit the beautiful lobby of the Union Station Hotel which had originally been Nashville’s train station.
“After leaving Nashville, we drove to Clarksville to visit the Old Glory Distillery.
It is a very new distillery and, at present, only sells to a few local liquor stores. But the distillery intends to expand its market. We had essentially a private tour as we were the only ones there and we learned about the difference between bourbon and whiskey. After the tour, we were able to taste the difference between the two, plus a few more samples of their products. We did not come away empty handed.”
Back in the marina, the winds continued to blow but the temperatures moderated to the mid-70s, ideal for this time of year. So, the next day, they drove the rental car an hour south along the lake to the Tennessee River Fresh Water Pearl Farm and Museum. It was a disappointment, as the operations is much smaller these days, and the farm, for the most part, only raises mussels and sends the shells to Asia. They learned that the pearly parts of the shell are cut into the desired shapes, round, potato, triangular, and these pieces are poked into oysters. The oyster then forms the pearl around the inserted shape.
On the drive back to Paris Landing, they enjoyed the winding, scenic route through the countryside, with very few houses and no cars. Just fields of feed corn left to dry in the fields before harvesting.
“We decided to stay in the Paris Landing Marina an extra day on this last day in September, as Roger and Marilyn on ‘Uncle Wiggly’ wanted us to meet them for dinner at Cypress Springs Resort. We had nothing else planned for the day, so we played golf again at the state park course which we both liked very much.
“Roger and Marilyn are still docked back at Green Turtle Bay and drove down with another Looper couple, Chris and Cheryl on ‘Nautic Venture.’ As always, we had a very enjoyable dinner with the two couples, though both Fred and I decided we aren’t fans of cornmeal-dipped fish, which is how it is served everywhere around here.
“After doing a thorough boat cleaning this morning, we returned our rental car. As it was Saturday, we timed it so that one of the Enterprise employees would drive us back to the marina just before he got off work at noon. We really did not want to take the clunker taxi again.
“We rode our bikes over and had a nice lunch at the lodge one last time and then took off at 1:00. The plan was to go down Kentucky Lake, about 40 miles, to an anchorage Fred had found on Navionics. The ride down the lake was lovely, although I had been hoping for a little autumn color in the trees but only a few have started to turn.
“We started to ease our way into the little inlet where Fred had planned to anchor but when the depth under the transducer got down to 2.5 feet, we quickly backed off, leaving a cloud of mud. We continued and tried another inlet that looked promising but found the same situation. The river is lower than normal but on our third try, we got into a nice inlet 50 miles south of Paris Landing near Bunker Hill and anchored in 6 feet of water. While we could see some houses from our peaceful vantage point, we mostly felt totally alone with only a great egret as our neighbor and a beautiful crescent moon overhead.
“On Sunday, we woke to another gorgeous morning. We raised anchor and left at 9:30 and leisurely cruised down toward Clifton. Along the way we saw trees growing in the river, still alive after the Kentucky Dam, built in 1944, flooded the area now known as Kentucky Lake.
“Ken Lake narrowed down and became the Tennessee River with some lovely rock formations along its banks.
In anticipation of high water, most people along the river with vacation property build tall, sturdy open sheds where they park their RVs, while others have their homes on stilts.
“We stopped at the Clifton RV and Marina Bar & Grill for lunch.
The marina is tucked into a tiny inlet and has a cozy restaurant alongside. We could hear good country music coming from the bar and grill, performed by an older couple. The woman had a wonderful voice, a little like Patsy Cline, and he played the guitar. What a treat, a good burger and good music too.
“We continued and anchored behind an island in the middle of the river. The nearest landmark was the town of Savannah, TN.”
See you next time.
Here are links to the LAST ITEM's previous Great Loop updates:
Update #1: Let's Go On The Great Loop!
Update #2: "Last Item" Begins The Great Loop
Update #3: Up The Hudson To Waterford
Update #4: Last Item Heads To Rome
Update #5: Big Water Ahead As LAST ITEM Heads to Oswego
Update #6: A Taste Of The Thousand Islands
Update #7: Into The Trent-Severn Waterway
Update #8: Deeper Into The Trent-Severn
Update #9: Georgian Bay
Update #10: The North Channel
Update #11: Into Lake Michigan
Update #12: Gunkholing Down The Wisconsin Coast
Update #13: Visiting Kenosha
Update #14: Great Loop Trip Continues Into Illinois
Update #15: Exploring The Heartland
Update #16: This Post
Update #17: Cruising In The Tenn-Tom
Update #18: On To The Gulf Of Mexico