October 17-24, 2012
We arrived at Joe Wheeler on Wednesday, and the Rendezvous didn’t officially start until Sunday evening. This gave us a few days to relax, get some boat projects done and enjoy the beautiful park. It was very peaceful the first few days, until the masses of Looper boats began to arrive.
The State Park and nearby dam. lock, lake and wildlife refuge are named for a guy with an interesting history. Joe Wheeler was a graduate of West Point, but when the Civil War began, he joined the Confederate army, where he rose to the rank of Lt. General. After the war, he became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Alabama, and later rejoined the U.S. Army, where he reached the rank of Brigadier General during the Spanish-American War. He is one of only a few former confederate Generals to be buried in Arlington Cemetery.
The park has several hiking trails, which the dogs loved and so did we.
Our boat was in the number one slip, so all the Loopers on our dock passed by us several times a day. Joey and Bailey got lots of attention, and one afternoon Cathryn and three other Looper ladies asked if they could take them for a walk.
One day Betsy Conrad, Lisa Favors and I drove in Lisa’s car to Athens, Alabama and beyond to have a day of shopping in regular stores – not Walmart! – and a girls’ lunch. We had a wonderful time, and I found a lamp for the boat salon and a few other things. We considered it a very successful day, and a welcome change of pace.
Another afternoon, we watched a wedding taking place right next to the docks. The bride and groom were both from Louisiana and the bridesmaids wore Mardi Gras masks. The bride also wore a single elbow length, royal blue glove on one hand. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was covering a sleeve tattoo. The whole ceremony was a little unusual, but everybody loves a wedding, and all the boat horns saluted the newlyweds when the groom kissed his bride.
On Friday and Saturday the Looper boats began to arrive en masse. Each time the downstream Wheeler Lock opened, several more boats emerged from around the bend to pull into the marina. A Gold Looper couple jointly called SeaSea (after their former boat), covered the VHF radio and guided everyone into their assigned slips with minimal chaos. Eventually, every slip was full and there were still boats on the waiting list. And then the party started!
It was wonderful to meet new friends and reconnect with friends we hadn’t seen for months, since Canada or before, like Stephen and Charlotte on Jackets II and Joe and Edie on Seaquel.
Stephen and Craig: Charlotte, Bob and Joy
Edie and Joe: Docktails on the 600 dock:
Jim and Lisa Favors:
The next several days were busy morning til night with informative seminars covering navigational and recreational tips for every upcoming leg of the Loop from Joe Wheeler to Norfolk, where the Spring Rendezvous will be held. There were also seminars covering practical aspects like boat electrical systems, safety preparedness, buying and selling your boat, and on and on. It all made for long but very worthwhile and enjoyable days.
After the first night’s dinner, where the only beverages offered were water and ice tea (it was Sunday in a dry county), Tom and Patsy Conrad, Jim and Lisa Favors and Rick and Betsy Johnson gathered on Blue Heron for a glass of wine or beer or whatever. Wolf’s Wine and Cheese is always open to friends!
Another night Jack and Jane Conway from Guntersville joined us before dinner, and this time we remembered to take a picture!
On Tuesday night, Audrey Stehle organized the annual musical night out on the lawn of a bed and breakfast in Rogersville, where a really talented local band, KGB (Kerry Gilbert Band), played, sang and entertained the Loopers under the stars. It was a fantastic evening and a great time was had by all!
On the last afternoon, while many of the boats were open for visiting, we had a pre-Halloween trick-or-treat fest for the sole child in this year’s group, four-year-old Beatrice, from the Brazilian boat Jade. I believe Beatrice speaks three languages – Portuguese, Spanish and English. Here she is the day before, in her Snow White outfit, which she told us was NOT her Halloween costume.
Here’s the real deal – little witch Beatrice followed by her mom and dad. Dad Jack says he needs to find a bigger boat to house Beatrice’s many outfits. She’s a real cutie.
All through the week we watched the fall colors becoming more and more vivid. Against the blue water, it was a beautiful sight.
On the last night of the Rendezvous, after the awards dinner (where Loopy the Weather-Parrot made his debut appearance), we joined the traditional post-Rendezvous sing-along in the Fireplace Room. Ron and Eva Stob, founders of the AGLCA, always bring their assortment of interesting instruments, including an autoharp and dulcimers, and anyone else with a musical instrument is invited to join in. The rest of us sing, clap or just enjoy the talents in the room. It was a magical way to end a terrific Rendezvous.
The next morning, we were part of a group of ten boats who pulled out at first light for the first lock opening. There would be an armada of boats leaving Joe Wheeler and we wanted to get a head start. Tom, Patsy, Stephen and other friends came to cast off our lines and share one more hug. I hated to leave, but the Tenn-Tom beckons, and we must go!
Next; Experiencing the fabled Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.
(Real-time update: On November 4 we are in beautiful Fairhope, AL, on Mobile Bay, where we should all retire!)