Since we left Chicago at the end of September, we’ve been surrounded by trees and cliffs as we cruise the Great Loop down the inland waterways. The air is a little crisper, water a little colder, and every day we wake up hoping to see a little more color in the trees. They’re finally starting to pop and it only took us traveling an extra 476 miles on a side trip to and from Chattanooga to see them. But while we were waiting for the leaves to change, here’s what else we’ve been up to.
Tested our anchor in an overnight storm
The 4 day trip to Chattanooga has a decent amount of marinas and anchorages along the way, but with limited daylight and locks that can take hours, it still requires planning and backups. Two days into our trip we knew a nasty storm with 40 mph gusts was coming and wanted to be sure we could be in a safe place to wait it out overnight. We confirmed with the lockmaster a few miles ahead of us we could tie up at one of the locks overnight, however, once we got there, we were told we couldn't. The plus side is we got through the lock with no wait, but we only had a few minutes left of daylight once we locked through. So we tucked into a protected anchorage around the corner right as the sun set. There was a large tow tied up nearby that warned us of the storm, but we didn’t feel comfortable traveling in the dark to a marina after hours. So we told the tow we’d look out for him if he looked out for us and dug our Mantus anchor in with some extra rode (chain/rope) for the night. We swung around and didn’t get a ton of sleep with the wind howling around us and were ready to start the engine if we dragged. But, our anchor held like a champ just like it was made to do. (We don't get any money from Mantus, but one of the best purchases we made for the trip and the reason we've gotten some great night sleeps on the hook!)
Had a fire with new friends
Crisp air, changing leaves, and tall trees, sitting by a fire is just part of the fall package. We’re lucky we had two nights where we were able to bring out our Solo campfire (thanks Dad!). It was so fun to watch the sunset ver happy hour with new looper friends circling our firepit. Plus it kept us warm a little longer during those times with no heat on the boat.
Learned a lot about the Civil War
During the first part of our trip traveling up the East Coast and through New York, we learned a lot about the Revolutionary War. We docked at Mount Vernon and the Herkimer House and listened to George Washington’s biography as we cruised. As we travel through the inland waterways, we’re hitting a lot of important places from the Civil War. We took a private tour of Shiloh National Military Park, home of the bloodiest battle at that point of the war, and learned how 100,000 Union and Confederate soldiers crisscrossed the three-mile region over 2 days for claim over key transportation routes. We biked through Johnsonville State Park next to our marina and learned how Union soldiers transported goods and weapons to service soldiers along the Tennessee River. In Chattanooga, we hiked around Point Park on Lookout Mountain where Union soldiers fought and won for control of Chattanooga, the "Gateway to the Deep South."
It's been pretty moving spending time in the actual places where these battles for the soul of our country took place. We are constantly reminded on this trip how much our lives today are impacted by decisions, actions, and sacrifices taken by those that came long before us and how we’re all woven together in the fabric of the US of A.
Talked to coyotes at anchor
There have been some beautiful anchorages along the rivers. When we drop the hook, it is always hard for us to comprehend the remoteness of where we are, often with no other boats in sight. On Kentucky Lake, we decided to stay an extra night in the same cove enjoying the hikes along the shore and serenity reading on the bow at sunsets. On our way to Chattanooga, we pulled into a cove where we howled back at coyotes onshore, as we shined our flashlights trying to spot their eyes (while googling if they can swim...they can). Anchoring continues to be one of our favorite things to do with Sweet Day, and the rivers in the fall have been some of the best areas to do it!
Found one of the best bakeries on the loop
Having gone almost 2 weeks with only eating on the boat (the longest we’ve gone without prepared food...ok we know it’s not that long, but coming from living in NYC, it’s a long time for us), we were ready to eat our way through Chattanooga. From fall cocktails at the Flying Squirrel, to local meats at Main Street Meats, to cold beers at local breweries--it’s been fun.
But the culinary highlight was Niedlov’s Bakery. We ate toasted sandwiches on fresh bread followed by a pistachio cruffin (yes a croissant made as a muffin) by a toasty fire. And of course, got a loaf to go.
Took Free Showers from Friends and Family
Like most things, the people make the place. We were lucky to catch Aunt Sheila and Uncle Mike coming back north from their Texas roadtrip to share a tasty meal together (and even luckier to shower at their hotel, as our marina didn’t have showers and it was a tad cold for our standard outdoor hose washdown). Former colleague and friend Anne Marie came all the way from Atlanta and was so fun catching up over breakfast sandwiches and showing off Sweet Day. And as a bonus, we got to see our looper friends, Kittiwake, who we hadn't seen since Sweet Day broke down a few months ago.
And we got to meet the most incredible Harbor Hosts, Bruce and Maggie. (Harbor Hosts are volunteers that help loopers with local tips and needed help when they pull into port). They’re getting their Ranger Tug ready to begin the loop in January and went totally above and beyond to make our stay in Chattanooga so great. Not only did they let us shower at their beautiful river-side home, but let us do two loads of laundry, treated us to dinner, and picked up much-needed dish soap for our journey. It was so fun to spend time with them and hear about their journey to the loop. Check them out on Instagram @currently_the_boat!
And in case you missed it--one of our blog posts was published in this week's Waterway Guide newsletter. So fun!