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My Friend

 
 

As we go through life we cross paths with many people. Some we like. Some we don’t. Some who make a little impression on us and some who make a big impression on us. We make many acquaintances but only a few who we can consider as true friends. Donnie Schmeisser was an individual who I considered a true friend.
 
For most of my life I didn’t even know Donnie existed. But that all changed in 2008 when we pulled Tourist into a slip on B-Dock at Legacy Harbour in Ft. Myers.
 
The days passed while we got settled in. My parents wintered some 20 miles south of the marina and were frequent visitors. But when they weren’t there we got to know some of our dock mates. All were friendly but one guy stood out amongst the crowd. One that looked like he had been baking in the sun for months. One who spent his winters at Legacy with his wife Marilyn and dog Chloe.
 
Each day Donnie would pass by several times while taking Chloe ashore to do her business. (And catch up on marina happenings!) Each time stopping to talk if Pam or I were outside. I’m pretty sure that it was at one of these impromptu meetings that we learned about “Docktails”. Seems Donnie and I both had a liking for Rum!
 
Time passed and we got to know each other better, often times offering our limited knowledge to the other about life and it’s complexities. (Better known as bullshitting). On trips to West Marine or China Town (Harbor Freight) Donnie would ask if I wanted to ride along. He and Marilyn even offered their car for us to use if we needed it. Pretty nice and much appreciated.
 
Over the years I learned a lot from Donnie about the surrounding area both on land and water. I’m not sure who was happier about the times we were able to get away from the dock and anchor out at Cayo Costa, Keywadyn Island, or travel to the mooring field at Ft. Myers Beach and bitch about “Capt. Poop” who somewhat managed the moorings and ran the pump-out boat.
 
Every day better than the last and every day ended with “A drink of Rum” as Donnie would say.
We had some good times for sure.
 
If you didn’t take the time to get to know Donnie he could be misconstrued as somewhat of a curmudgeon. And I’m sure to this day that a few still hold that impression. He suffered no fools.
But once you got to know him you realized that he was just a big teddy bear hiding behind that gruff façade. I think Pete, one of our dock mates said it best when describing Donnie.
 
“I’ve never met a man who tried so hard to hide a tender heart”.
 
I could go on and on about the good memories that Pam and I have about our time at Legacy. And when I think about those times most of them include my friend Donnie.
B-Dock and Legacy will never be quite the same for us without you.
 
 Waldorf & Astor (Muppet Show) solving the world’s problems.
 
 Marilyn, Donnie, Mary, & Harry @ Legacy X-Mass Party
Always posed well for a picture!
 
Gordy, Donnie, & Mike deciding the days agenda.
 
A rare family picture.
 
Gone but not forgotten.
 
Rest In Peace My Friend
 
 
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Marilyn, Chloe, and the family and friends who grieve your loss.

Day Dreaming in Winter about Summer

As I sit here at the kitchen counter looking out at the falling snow I’m wondering just how long it will be before we can chop a hole in the ice and get Tourist back in operation. Not anytime soon from the looks of it.

So as I often do when faced with reality, I space off into my happy place…..On the water!

Here are a few random pictures of some past happenings.

A colorful meal being prepared by Mike.

Checking on the neighbors.

Nancy & Pam solving the worlds problems.

Eirean heading out. (Mike & Nancy)

Bill, Pam, & Barb relaxing on the bow.

Mike lookin patriotic on July 3rd.

Raft ups waiting for July 3rd fireworks.

Setting a stern anchor to keep the armada in place.

Captain “Fiddle F…” trying to figure out his camera.

The start of the air show.

The highlight of the show. An F-18.

Trouble comes in fours.

What’s for dinner? KFC of course! It’s tradition.
 
Princess Chair raft up.
 
Southbound tow.
 
It’s been a few weeks since I started this posting. In that time we have accumulated 39 inches of snow and recorded a low temperature of -29 at our home. The river is frozen all the way across and Tourist is resting comfortably (although cold) inside a building at Island City Harbor in Sabula, Iowa. With more snow predicted it could be awhile before we’re floating again. It’s enough to make a guy take a drink!


Wake Up Blog!!!!

One of the things that I always question when a blog I’ve been following goes quiet is “I wonder what happened. Did they quit cruising or maybe worse have health issues or get a divorce?” Any number of thoughts pass through my mind as I ponder what could have happened.

Well I’m happy to report that in our case the answer to all of the above is NO. Although our cruising has been curtailed quite a bit since we made that left turn onto the Tennessee River.

As well as Tourist making a left turn so did our lives as we’d known them for the previous few years.
The passing of my Dad was the beginning of our directional change. That was followed by Pam’s Dad being diagnosed with cancer and her Mom’s on going battle with arthritis. That combination prompted the selling of their multi-level house and moving into an independent living facility. A hard move to make but a good one for them and peace of mind for the rest of the family.

A few months later we moved my mother into the same facility when she was diagnosed with dementia. She had been living at home alone and in general not taking care of herself. Getting her to move took a little convincing but once the move was made she hasn’t looked back.

We now have my Mom and Pam’s parents not only in the same facility but across the hall from one another. No one can make a move without us hearing about it!

Needless to say our focus has changed.

As far as the blog is concerned I’ll try to do a few recaps over the next few months of what’s been happening in our lives. There could even be some boating involved.

I covered 2016 in previous posts so I’ll start randomly in 2017.

Since we’ve been home most of our time has been spent locally. We were able to sneak away in June of  ’17 for a few days to Las Vegas where we met Rick & Sarah (M/V Private Affair) and Mark & Kate (M/V Mar-Kate). Of course what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas so sorry, no incriminating pictures. Let’s just say we had a good time!

Pam and I did take a one day side trip to the Grand Canyon where we were able to take pictures. So here are a few.

Our first stop out of Vegas was at the Hoover Dam.

Looking out at the low water of Lake Mead.

One of the Lake Mead marinas. Notice where the water level used to be on the mound in the lower part of the picture.

Looking down river from the Pat Tillman Bridge. The old road is visible on the right side of the river.

Pat Tillman Bridge that took traffic off of the dam .

Hoover Dam and Lake Mead from the bridge.

From  Hoover Dam  we continued on and picked up I-40 at Kingman, Az.

Who could resist stopping at the Road Kill Café in Seligman, Az.

Grand Canyon
 
Bright Angel Lodge lobby
 
 
Of Course we found the bar at Bright Angel
 
 
The big ditch
 
 

 
Back in Vegas the temps outside were HOT! I know. It’s a dry heat so it’s not that bad right? Bullsh-t! 100 degrees walking across concrete and asphalt. You can feel the soles of your shoes melting away if you stop moving.
We did however have a few fleeting moments of insanity to get a couple pictures of the Strip.
 
 
 
 
 
We stayed at Mandalay Bay which is on the lower end of the strip. Our room had a nice view of the airport and of what looked to be an outdoor concert venue directly across the street. Little did we realize that a few months later it would be that venue that made headlines when a shooter opened fire on the Jason Aldean concert goers who packed the grounds.
 
Looking south at Mandalay Bay Hotel (gold building)
 
One thing that struck us while we were in Vegas was the huge number of families who chose to drag their kids with them to this largely adult oriented playground. So many so that it was almost annoying. You had to keep a sharp lookout when you walked around the hotel and the town. At any moment you could get run down by a non-supervised RugRat!
 
All in all it was a good time. We saw some sights. Took in a show. And oddly enough, won a little money. And the best part was being able to re-connect with some boating friends.
 
 
Until the next time Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

When Turning Left is Right

You may remember last spring when Tourist pulled out of Fort Myers and headed north. Our intention was to work our way back over familiar waters to the Tennessee River and make a right turn with a final destination of Tellico Lake in mind for the summe…

Merry Christmas!

Navigation has come to a close on our part of the Mississippi. The lock at Dubuque officially shut down on December 13th. Maybe they knew something when that date was scheduled because by late the following week there was ice on the river, snow in the air, and temperatures heading to below zero. It’s comforting to know that Tourist while still cold, is escaping the harshness of the winter winds and snow tucked safely inside the building at Island City Harbor. 
 

Merry Christmas!!

Last tow of the season. M/V Wisconsin southbound in the snow.

Are We really Doing This!?!

So about this time in years past  Pam & I have been getting ready to return to Tourist for the winter months. This year we’re preparing Tourist for a long winters nap instead of getting her ready for another season. WAIT! D…

Topless for a Day!

I’ll bet that heading got your attention! Well it’s true…..but not in the way you may have hoped. Not wanting to dive into the winterization of Tourist too quickly we jumped at the suggestion from Nancy to go topless touring for a day to check o…

Other Happennings (Fun and not so fun)

One of the events that kept us from getting one more week-end on Tourist was my 45th year class reunion. I haven’t been to a reunion since my 25th so I wasn’t sure I’d recognize any of my classmates. In most cases it took me only a few second…

One Last Weekend

For some reason as we progress in years it becomes harder to schedule times when there isn’t something else already on the calendar. It was for this reason that we enjoyed our last weekend on the hook in early October. The river was still high but rece…

Mississippi Flooding….Let’s go Boating!

For the past couple of weeks the Mississippi has been swelling as a result of the heavy rains in our area and upstream as far as the Twin Cities. Flash flooding along the streams feeding into the river brought trees, tires, barrels, and plenty of topsoil into the main channel of the river to start it’s journey to the Gulf of Mexico. For boaters venturing onto the river it can be like playing dodge ball. There’s room to move but you better keep a keen eye or you’ll end up with a bruise. Or worse.

Earlier in the summer we had made plans with Kim & Lu and Mike & Nancy to travel north by boat during this time. Kim and Mike had taken time off work never dreaming that our plans could be thwarted by an autumn flood.
As the time approached we weighed our options and decided to give it a try. The current in the river really wasn’t any worse than we’ve experienced before on our travels. The challenge would be the amount of junk that we’d be facing. Let’s go!

Our first stop wasn’t far from home. We anchored below Lock & Dam 11 behind some islands that are normally inaccessible with our boats. The current was minimal and the water relatively free from debris thanks to the filtering effect the islands around us created.

Following are some photos from our flood time.

  Anchored where we normally can’t go with Mike & Nancy and Kim & Lu.

Mike & Nancy looking for treasures.

Our view looking south.

Kim & Lu disturbing the seagulls at Dubuque Marina.

Just a tree making it’s way down river.

After couple of days at our first anchorage Kim & I decided to give it a try and head upriver. If it was too bad we’d turn around. Mike and Nancy stuck to their original plans to return to their marina. So off we went.
Locking thru 11 was just a formality. Pull in. Grab the lock lines. Lower gate closes and within a couple of minutes the upper gates open and out we go. And that’s how it was except for the lock attendant who moved at the speed of a snail when he made the 600′ walk from one end of the chamber to the other.

Debris in the water a few miles above Lock 11.


That’s a narrow channel between the red and the green!
 
 
We made our way upstream at trawler speed picking our way through the pockets of debris. As luck would have it we came up on a 15 barge northbound tow at one of the narrower parts of the channel. We asked which side he wanted us to pass him on and he said on his port side. Of course once we had a clear shot looking up his port side it appeared as though we were going to be pushing trees out of our way with no where to go. Barge on our right. River bank on our left. Junk coming at us!
Fortunately the debris stayed closer to shore giving us a path to get by the tow.
 
 
Not wanting to bite off too much in one day we decided to call the Municipal Marina in Guttenberg. Pam & I had stayed there last year with Mike & Nancy and knew that it offered protection from the current & debris of the main channel. We just had to get there by 5. We made it by 4:30!
 
Guttenberg Municipal.
 
Vagabond surrounded by duckweed.
 
Tourist livin the good life in the clear!
 
The parking lot for the boat ramp.
 
Usually boats in the marina can not see over this cement walkway.
 
The view looking over Landing 615 fuel dock towards L & D 10.
 
Lu & Pam smiling after a Packers victory! (Or maybe it’s from spending 3 hours in a bar!)
 
We spent a couple of nights in Guttenberg watching the water rise and debris float past.
 
Making it’s way south.
 
I think that’s an island passing by!
 
Trees taking out a red buoy.
 
After weighing our options we decided to abort our quest to keep going north and head back to our original anchorage below Lock 11.
 
Cassville, Wis. power plant a victim of the anti coal movement.
 
The Pride of Cassville ferry idled by the flood.
 
The mostly submerged ferry landing on the Iowa side of the river.
 
Canoeists on their way to New Orleans. And we thought we were nuts!
 
Pirates Pit Stop gas dock near Waupeton surrounded by water.
 
Where the hell is Waupeton?
 
Vagabond above Lock 11.
 
We arrived at the lock just as a northbound tow was exiting which allowed us to cruise right into the chamber. This time it was a different attendant who seemed to enjoy his job and made short work of getting us through.
It was just a mile downstream where we turned in behind the islands once more and dropped the hook.
The water had risen since we were last in here a few days earlier. Now completely over the islands it stirred our inner Huck Finn to get the inflatables and go exploring.
 
There must be a way through here.
 
Kim & Lu waiting to see if we get through.
 
We got through and popped out of the woods near this elevated camp.
 

Just above the camp is Lock & Dam 11 with the roller gates wide open letting the water flow unimpeded to the Gulf.
 
We took a less obstructed route back to the boats and found this red buoy resting in the trees.
 
Tourist resting comfortably.
 
Evening skies.
 
The next day both crews decided to stop in at our respective marinas and take care of some boat needs before moving on to our next anchorage.
 
While passing through Dubuque it was evident that the river was at or above flood stage because the excursion boats were moored outside of the Ice Harbor which closes it’s flood gates when the water reaches a 16.5 stage.
 
 
 Once at the marina I went to take trash to the dumpster and found that our ramp to shore was under water.
 
One of the ramps underwater.
 
Our ramp with the temporary planks spanning the water.
 
With our shore side mission accomplished we headed back out to anchor in another spot that only high water will allow access to for our boats.
 
Hidden deep in the island.
 
Even though the wind was gusting to 25 mph we had barely a ripple on the water where we anchored which made for a great nights sleep.
The next day we were back pretending to be Huck Finn again.
 
Dead end!
 
Maybe not this way?
 
Hmmm. Which way do we go?
 
Backwater statues.
 
How did they get here?
 
Don’t stand in a moving boat!
 
More backwater scenery.
 
Over the transom view.
 
Catfish Bob out wandering around.
 
Catfish Billy making sure Bob doesn’t get lost!
 
Isolated boats at Massey Station.
 
Massey Marina.
 
Massey Marina.
 
Massey boat ramp.
 
Once again we were joined by Mike & Nancy who thought we may be pulling a prank on them when they couldn’t see us anywhere.
 
Dixie had no mercy on Mike and made him run her to shore before nightfall.
 
Here are a couple of random shots taken over the last few weeks.
 
Two eagles on the beach behind our boat discussing just who gets that tasty dead fish for dinner.
 
Northbound American Queen below Dubuque. With the water rising at the time of this photo the Queen changed her itinerary and made a bee line to Red Wing, Mn.. As of this writing it still hasn’t come back downstream as far as Dubuque.