Sunday, October 31, 2010

Signs of the Times

Morning fog at our anchorage  on Dry Creek
Friday night, returning from the Looper Rendezvouz along the Tennessee River, we anchored out (as we had on our way upriver) at the mouth of Dry Creek.  During the night, Bill got up to check the anchor.  Our boat was wrapped in a thick blanket of fog.  But looking straight up, he could see a clear sky and a thick sprinkling of stars, blazing in a velvet black sky.

We say that this trip around the Great Loop is like an "endless summer," as we follow the warm weather south.  But lately we can't deny the signs of autumn. During the day it can be warm--up into the 80s.  At night, though, the temperature drops to the high 30s. The collision of cold air and (comparatively) warm water makes for pea-soup fog that lingers till mid-morning.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Tallest Lift-Lock East of the Rockies

Putting it in perspective:
(which measures 9 feet from waterline to canopy) exits the Wilson Lock (which has a 94-foot lift)
This past week we made a side trip east on the Tennessee River, to attend the annual fall rendezvous of "Great Loop" boaters at Joe Wheeler State Park, near Huntsville, Alabama. To get there, we had to transit the "Tallest Lift-Lock East of the Rockies."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Attacked by Pirates!

Your candy or your life!
The Great Loop is hardly the coast of Somalia.  And yet you have to be cautious of pirate attacks--especially at this time of the year, in late October.  

The brave crew of the Dragonfly has already survived one onslaught of pirates, in Canada, on the Trent-Severn Waterway.  

Last night, peacefully docked at Joe Wheeler State Park, we were attacked again.

Luckily, we had our defenses ready: A bowl of Snickers bars and some pie.  

The pirates are Morgan, Ryann, and Jaxon Parrent, three siblings who may possibly be the youngest people completing the Great Loop this year.

The Parrent Pirates are not sailing solo.  For crew they have impressed (captured) their actual parents, Craig and Danielle.  This family's story is inspiring (check out the link!).  About a year go, they walked away from a successful business and a beautiful home in a quest to spend more time with family, pursue adventures they had dreamed of, and lead a simpler life.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Floating Cities

My brother Scott Berger and his wife Jan are spending a few days on board the Dragonfly. Scott is a chemical engineer whose work involves helping chemical plants to pollute less . . .  while saving money.  This is his guest blog:

Engineer on deck!
Jan and I have had three great days aboard the Dragonfly.  Today we will be doing a land voyage with Cynthia, while Bill attends the "Looper Rendezvous," a conference run by the American Great Loop Cruisers Association at Joe Wheeler State Park

Spending some time on the river has given us a good appreciation of how the boating lifestyle, which one might consider to he pretty unsustainable--especially in terms of fossil fuel consumption--can be made more sustainable.   

Certain aspects of “Looping” are already more sustainable than staying put.  By following the seasons, Loopers require less heating and air conditioning than those who stay at home, and they can also have access to fresh local produce that doesn’t have to be transported from great distances.  Also, people who live on boats generally occupy a smaller space than those who live in suburban MacMansions. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Alabama Getaway

Brave guest boaters Scott and Jan Berger
"You're going WHERE for a vacation?"  

My brother Scott and his wife Jan are Yankees, sort of . . .   they live in New Jersey.  When Jan told work colleagues she was headed to Alabama for a getaway, not everyone was convinced it was a glamorous destination.

But actually, this neck of the woods makes a fine place to vacation in autumn. Daytime temps are in the 80s, and at night it's refreshingly cool.

Meanwhile the leaves are turning colors--bright red sweet gums, orange maples, rust-colored oaks--adding interest to a shoreline already ornamented with narrow coves and crenallated layers of limestone cliffs.

Scott and Jan flew in to Huntsville and joined us in Florence, Alabama (just across the Tennessee River from Tuscumbia and Muscle Shoals).  This region has a bunch of attractions, not the least of which is the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard (est. 1937).  

Friday, October 22, 2010

What IS It?

The sign for the cattle company in Lonesome Dove also
specifies: "Goats and Donkey's Neither Bought Nor Sold"
The October 14th  What Is It? turned out to be VERY educational. 

As you'll remember, we spotted a sign outside Murray, Kentucky, that read, "We don't rent pigs."  The hand-painted sign was a casual addendum beneath a more formal sign for a business offering artificial insemination of cattle.

The Cap'n and I figured the business owners were letting customers know they were fresh out of champion stud pigs.  

But Colin Burgess has the true answer: The pig sign is homage to the iconic cowboy novel Lonesome Dove, whose heroes advertise their business, Hat Creek Cattle Company, with a similar set of signs. 

(Read on for a new challenge!)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In Lieu of Boat Cam

Where we stayed:  At anchor off Swallow Island on the Tennessee River.
Some friends and family members have requested that SlowBoat do more on Facebook. Your wish is now granted.  Check this page for a photoessay on our travels along the Tennessee River.  Then--well, you know the drill:  Click "Like" at the top of the page. And let us hear from you!

With permission, I thought I'd share a email we received recently from another person who is interested in solar-powered boats. Carter Quillen is an engineer who has developed a solar-refrigerated ice cream cart.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Southern Comfort

Apple's next i-pod ad?
(When you're on a boat all day, you need some exercise!)
We docked Saturday night at Pickwick Landing State Park, where we got to stay for free at a run-down, weed-covered dock that's due for renovation (but not this summer). We needed a leg stretch, and we'd heard the park had a restaurant, so we set off in search. Walking up the dock, we ran into a tiny white-haired woman in a windbreaker, walking an equally minuscule white poodle. The Captain asked for directions.

"Ya'll want me to carry you there?" the woman asked.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Food and Fuel

We paused in our travels this past week to do "his 'n hers" meetings, one for the Cap'n and one for the crew.  The first meeting took place while we were docked at Birdsong Marina last weekend; we turned our vessel into a mobile convention center! 

Welcome to our mobile convention center!
Two of the Cap'ns colleagues attended this meeting--Penn State's Liz Goehring and Steve Kerlin of Northern Kentucky University. The subject of the conversation?  A program that turns schoolkids into collaborators with scientists.  

Friday, October 15, 2010

Press Release

What's a blog post without a pretty picture?  Here's the new moon over Birdsong Marina.
The Dragonfly's been getting some  press, and we know Mom wants to hear the stories!

1. Last week, at Paris Landing, we had a visit from Jacque Day, public radio reporter for WKMS-FM in Murray, Kentucky.  We took her for a quick--ahem, I mean, a slow spin in the boat, and she filed this story.                       

2. Earlier this week, we scored a rental car and zoomed north, ironically burning fuel to attend a meeting on "Food, Fuel, and Society" in Columbia, Missouri.  At the meeting, ag journalist Pam Fretwell recorded an interview with the crew for the radio show, "Living a Better Life."  

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What IS It?

When you're traveling 6,000 miles in a slow boat, you see lots of stuff.  Sometimes you see stuff that's funny or perplexing or just plain weird.  So periodically, this blog includes photographs of oddball sights, and we invite you to take your best guess:  What IS It?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

American Pearl

Floats support metal baskets full of mussels
The October 10th installment of the SlowBoat "What IS It?" quiz showed what look like skinny little logs, floating in neat rows on the water.  We had some highly creative guesses, and the envelope, please . . . . 

The winner is Doug, who correctly identified this scene as a freshwater pearl farm. (Honorable mention to Phil Mac and Cindy Mitchell, who were on the right track). Doug, send your snailmail address to slowboat@emailias.com to claim your prize, an honest-to-gum tacky postcard.

Monday, October 11, 2010

What IS It?

Periodically here on SlowBoat we post photos of the perplexing stuff we've seen and ask you to guess:  What IS It?

So here's a tranquil sunset scene on the Tennessee River.   What's all that stuff in the water? It looks like floating logs . . .  maybe an old-fashioned log drive!  But, what the . . .  those logs look incredibly skinny! 

What IS It?

Sunday, October 10, 2010


The Cap'n just pointed out that today is Oct. 10, 2010, AND we are on the Tennessee River. That makes it 10/10/10 on the Tenn.

So romantic: a pickup in Paris
Tennessee? Or is it Paris? The small town of Paris, Tennessee ("Home of the World's Biggest Fish Fry") has its very own Eiffel Tower, which we visited earlier in the week. 

On Wednesday we said "good luck" to the bass boats at Paris Landing and, following in their rooster-tail wakes, we lumbered on south.  

We anchored out behind a little cluster of islands.  On Thursday, checking the maps, I was interested to see that we were approaching Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park. 

In case you don't remember your Civil War history (I didn't!) the following fun facts are cribbed from Wikipedia. Forrest is the intrepid Confederate cavalry leader who was the nemesis of the Union's William T. Sherman . . . the guy who gave Ulysses S. Grant fits.

Forrest was not only a gifted tactician (motto: "Get thar fust, with the most men,") but quite the colorful character.  

Saturday, October 9, 2010

American Bass Anglers

Bass boats at dawn
We stayed at Tennessee's Paris Landing State Park for three nights. Wednesday morning, around 5 AM, we were awakened by the sound of men talking softly, right outside our boat.  We threw on sweatshirts against the chill, clambered out, and discovered that the marina docks were swarming with bass boats, each one manned by a couple of anglers in insulated coveralls.  We had docked in the middle of the kick-off for the American Bass Anglers 2010 American Fishing Tour Championship.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Cap'n and Duroboat owner Larry McPhail check out a Duroboat
that made it all the way around the Great Loop!
We've been dawdling our way south on Kentucky Lake, anchoring in pretty coves, watching the leaves start to turn red and yellow.

We spent a few days at Paris Landing State Park, and while we were there, we toured the Duroboat factory, in Huntingdon, Tennessee.

This small company makes small, aluminum boats.  Owner Larry McPhail invited us to visit because Duroboat bills itself as a good choice for the fossil-fuel conscious.

The trim, colorful boats are unusually light for their size, which means, if you strap on a gas-powered engine it will burn comparatively less fuel to push the boat through the water.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dragonfly's Future Travel Plans

Dragonfly at dawn, KenLakes Marine, Kentucky Lake
As we've mentioned, we welcome visitors! The question is . . .  where will the boat be?   . . . and when? 

After gazing at maps, calendars, and our crystal ball, the Cap'n has put together Dragonfly's rough-draft schedule for the months ahead (subject to change, of course). Just click onward to the next page. 

Click here to eyeball a map of the Great Loop.  (Some segments below include a regional map.) 

Let us know when you'd like to visit. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Hybrid electric vehicle leaves the dock under emissions free
sustainable power. (Photo courtesy of Bob Duthie)
Yesterday, I wrote about one city's problems with vehicle-generated air pollution.

Look what's in the news today:

Package-delivery giant UPS just purchased 130 hybrid-electric vehicles.  (That's an ADDITION to the company's existing alternative-fuel fleet.)
Read more

Not to mention last month Frito-Lay announced its intention to build the largest fleet of commercial all-electric trucks in North America
Read more

And have you heard that the U.S. military is going solar?  

Monday, October 4, 2010

Spinning Our Wheels

I called a friend at home and asked, "What's new?"   "I'm totally into biking these days!" she replied.

Us, too.

We Have a Winner!

Thanks to everyone who sent in an entry for the Sept. 26th "What IS It?" contest.  This was a particularly tough quiz, and we received a large number of highly creative guesses.

And the winner is . . . . Doug, who correctly guessed that the original photo showed a thundering herd of turtles.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Where Can I Get Me Some Solar Panels?

So far, we've escaped the rainy skies that are deluging the East Coast.
Today, less travelogue and more information.

You've been following our slow, solar-powered perambulations, and you've been thinking to yourself, "A solar boat is very nice, but how about my HOUSE?
Can solar power run a TV? Air conditioning? Garbage disposal? None of which that crazy boat has! If I put some panels on my roof, what's it going to cost me? Those puppies are expensive! What's the payback time?  Is it worth it?"

Here are a few resources to help you explore those questions.