How this all started
Well sit right back & I'll tell a tale,
Pat & I had been talking about taking this trip for a long time. It's been a dream of Pat's probably since he was a child & learned that his Grandfather had boated down the Mississippi as many as 3 times selling artwork that he created along the way.
A few years back Pat had a house boat that he kept at a marina in Freemont, WI on the Wolf River near Lake Poygan, we took a few day trips & an overnight cruise to Oshkosh which I enjoyed very much. So when Pat bought this 26 ft. Imperial Cabin Cruiser in 2008 & asked me if I wanted to join him on his trip down the Mississippi I said "sure" thinking this trip might be a lot like those trips on the Wolf river.
I started looking into the Mississippi & what we would need to know. The barge traffic is certainly a concern but I wasn't too worried about that, they move slow & its a big river, right? I knew there were locks that we'd have to go through but when I saw that there were 29 locks on the upper mississippi ( thats just the ones north of St. Louis) I started to think this trip could be a long grueling fight.
I mentioned this trip to a client of mine who I learned has a 50' yacht on Lake Michigan & his first reaction was you'd have to be crazy to go down the lower Mississippi in a smaller boat like ours, " the barges will eat you up!" he said. " I've always wanted to take the Tom Bigbee". And so this is how I learned about our alternate path through the south. Thanks Ron!
We would have a much more pleasure boat friendly trip by taking the Mississippi to the Ohio River & traveling north to the Tennessee River then south on the Tennessee through Kentucky lake to Yellow Creek where the Tenn Tom Waterway takes us to the Tombigbee and merges with the Black Warrior & Alabama Rivers before flowing into Mobile Bay. A little FYI the Tenn Tom was just opened in 1985, it was the largest project ever undertaken by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
So there it is, we have a plan! Now "about the boat"
Before we left I wanted to name the boat "The Three Hour Tour" you know, what could go wrong?
Pat got the boat from a marine dealer in Madison, it was a Repo Boat that was previously titled in
Connecticut. He got it for a very fair price & was shown several things that were updated on the engines & lower units, it seemed to be a great find for what we wanted to do. Pat had a custom canopy made that would keep us comfortable even in nasty weather. But even before the boat saw water it was starting to show its dark side. The following is a list of just the things I can remember that needed fixing before we left.
1) The pump for the power trim on the starboard motor was leaking & needed a new fluid tank
2) Electrical connections were corroded causing no cabin lights or radio
3) Drain hoses for the plumbing were bad causing leaks
4) Bilge pump wires were broken off
5) the trailer needed an extension designed & welded on to position the winch & bow roller properly
6) windshield wipers were missing & we repaired one motor
7) The power leveler tabs on the stern weren't working so Pat fixed them in place with clamps
8) Marine radio, depth finders & GPS needed new wiring & power connections
9) When launching the boat at Okauchee Lake for the first time an axle broke so two new axles with hubs were replaced on the trailer
10) Port side motor ran rough so new plugs & wires were installed
11) Engine timing for both motors needed adjustment when engines were run under load for first time
12)The starboard motor ran very lean & needed carburetor work so the carb was removed & rebuilt at a local marine shop
13) an oil leak was discovered that turned out to be a rusted out oil pan, so the boat was pulled out & towed to fox lake for engine removal & patch panel welded to oil pan, the former Mercury Marine Teacher also claimed to tune up both motors.
14) The port side motor which had a new starter from the original dealer needed a new starter again & pat drove to Fond Du Lac to pick up a new one
for the Merc teacher to install
15) upon running the boat again in Okauchee the timing was once again messed up on both motors and the port side starter broke in two "AGAIN"
16) The boat was once again towed to a Marine servicer in Ixonia to diagnose the starter problem, the motor was removed & it was discovered that the ring gear on the flywheel was eaten away from salt water rusting so instead of waiting another week I had one 2nd day aired from out east.
17) The starboard motor was running rough due to an electronic ignition problem so we switched it back to the original points & condenser
18) Oil was mysteriously disappearing from the starboard motor
But we're ready to go now !! ?