Well here we go again. Lately I’ve been thinking real hard about doing the Mississippi again. It was such a great experience and a great way to just unplug for a month. My brother Richard followed the blog from the 2009 trip and he told me later that it would be great if we could do it again sometime. Well that’s all the excuse I needed. It’s on now! I worked out a deal with Tom (bacshortly.com) to purchase the “bird” for a nominal fee. Yep, I’m gonna sail her again. With a few minor adjustments I will rebuild her to almost the same specs as the 2009 trip. Afterall, how can you mess with perfection? The only concern I have is with the motor. Tom assures me that it will make the trip again but when you’re runnin’ with the current heading towards a large barge, you better have some dependable power to guide you through. I’m still thinking about a back-up motor but then weight is also an issue that you have to deal with. I would like to be on the water by May 26th. As soon as I can make the purchase, I will begin the re-build, probably over the winter. I have plenty of time. This time, instead of getting out at Memphis, I will make it all the way to New Orleans. This is going to be great!


Dec. 8, 2010

Today I decided to run down to South Carolina to see Tom (the guy I’m buying the boat from), and check on the condition of the boat. My brother Richard is 100% into doing the trip and we’re ready to make the purchase. It’s always enjoyable for me to visit with Tom because we envariably talk about the trip we did in 2009. His place on Lake Cherokee is kind of a safe haven away from the rest of the world where I can enjoy a beverage or two and talk about the river.

I’m really picking his brain at this point about preperations he made before the trip and possible enhancements I can make to improve the next run. You see, I feel like I was a passenger, more or less, on the 2009 trip. I’m not saying that in a bad way and I was actually glad that I could rely on Tom to make all the arrangements. Other than the initial design and construction of the frame, which we worked on together, I didn’t do much else. I flew up to Minnesota, got on the boat and rode down the Mississippi. All the research, planning and logistics were completed by Tom. It was his trip, his “baby” and I was just glad that I could enjoy the journey. Thanks again Tommy!

Now, with that said, it’s my “baby” now! I get to enjoy the journey of basically starting from scratch and seeing it through to the end. So here’s what I’m starting with…….

It looks a little rough but that’s the fun of it, watching the transformation, the metamorphosis into a true Mississippi sailing craft. I can’t wait to get started. As soon as Tom can get the trim fixed, I’ll be back down to pick it up and haul it to Candler where I can begin the transformation. It’s possible that Richard will visit in a couple of weeks for Christmas and I hope to cunstruct the frame at that time. Until then…


Richard came down from Texas for the purchase of the boat. We headed down to South Carolina, where Tom lives, and hung out for the night. It was cold outside but it didn’t matter much to 3 guys who just wanted to enjoy a beverage and talk about “the river.” After an evening of planning and discussing the different aspects of getting down the river safely, we got up early and hooked the boat up for the trip back to Asheville. It is, in respect, the beginning. The purchase was made and we are bringing it back to Asheville to begin the metamorphisis.

We made it back to Asheville without incident. As a matter of fact, you couldn’t really tell it was being towed. That’s a good thing. Now it’s time to begin work. Looking at pictures from the 2009 trip, we were able to recreate the frame with a few modifications that we thought would suit our needs. It was fun being outside in the cold mountain air with my brother building what would be our home for a full month in June. It’s coming together.

12/25/2010 Christmas Day

Today is Christmas Day. It was a wonderful morning of controlled chaos as my grandkids ripped open their presents from Santa. It began snowing early in the morning and it hasn’t stopped as of this writing. There is a good 6 inches of beautiful white snow outside and Richard and I are dreaming of hot sunny days cruisin’ down the Mississippi. As Tom would say, “it’s only a thought away.”

April 13, 2011
Well, we will hopefully be on the river in 6 weeks from today. I’ve been keeping an eye on the hydrologic forecast for the Mississippi River Valley. With all the snow and rain this past winter, there is major flooding expected when the icepack melts. Hopefully that will occur before we arrive. If not we may have to back up our start time by a few weeks.

I’ve been working on the boat recently, since time is short. The frame is built, the roof is on as is the windshield and the bunks. I will add the smaller stuff in the next few weeks. I’m getting excited! The other day I was working on the boat when a fierce thunder storm rolled in. It reminded me of the storms we went through on the river in 2009. The memories flooded back, “storm world.” Anyway, I think I’ve made all the necessary purchases, marine radio, propane tank and adapter, mosquito nets, etc. I still need to purchase a solar panel big enough to handle the laptop. That was one issue Tom and I had on ’09 trip. Yes, we plan on blogging this trip as well, hopefully not to the point that it becomes a burden. Afterall, the “Black Water Run” is all about unplugging!

As river time approaches, I will be adding other posts. Until then……..

The Crew

Carlton Denning

Carlton Denning is my given name and “River Dog” is my Raftin name. Originally from Miami, Florida, I moved to the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina 34 years ago to experience all that I can. With 392 miles left to complete the Appalachian Trail (2175 miles long) I must now make a detour to the Mississippi River and what lies ahead. I am currently a Division Chief with the City of Asheville Fire Department and I am currently seeking new adventures.

“Being with my brother Richard aka Gator on a little floating platform for a month will be an adventure in itself, yet one that I am eager to begin, stay tuned”…………

Richard Denning

I was born into the sand, surf, and palm trees of Miami, Florida. I grew up with the help and guidance of my favorite mentors Joan and Charlie Denning, two brothers and one sister. I love my family.

My career spans 40-plus years in theatre, dance, film and television as a technician, designer and director. I retired from Tarleton State University after 23 years of service, long enough for the Texas A&M University System to award me the title Professor Emeritus (old guy title).

I have a son, a meteorologist in Tokyo, Japan. My incredible, beautiful marriage of 28 years ended prematurely with the untimely passing of my wife. She encouraged me to go on the Black Water Run with my brother. This one’s for you, Jen.

My river name is “Gator.” River Dog and I will be laughing together for 1800 miles.

May 22, 2011

Well, here it is after almost a year of waiting and preparation, zero hour. Now is the time when I start wondering what I’ve missed, what have I not planned for, etc. Then I think to myself that part of the adventure is the unknown and there are deffinately a lot of those. I think a big unknown is the flooding condition that has been happening. Will we even be able to make it to New Orleans? I think the “Black Water Run” may prove to be a more somber experience than expected. Most folks we come into contact with along the river will more than likely have been affected by the flooding, a sobering awakening to come for us perhaps.

Richard is arriving today from Texas. I’m treating him to an evening spent with me at the fire house, a mini adventure to say the least. I’m a little aprehensive though, seeing how he just came from Japan where one of the worst earthquakes had just occurred and now running the Mississippi where one of the worst floods since the Depression has occurred. Will we have a “barn-burner” tonight? Hopefully not, please Lord.

Anyway, in reference to this blog, we will try to maintain a daily entry with photos and an occasional video assuming it does not become a chore and we have a decent signal. Also, we will try to reply to any posts that come in again assuming it does not become a chore.

So sit back and enjoy the ride with us, a trip down the Mississippi River on the “Joanie Belle.”

May 25, 2011


14 Responses to “Black Water Run 2011”

  1. rusty Says:

    good luck

  2. Tom Haynie Says:

    I thought you were going to paint it pink Carl, for a “save the ta-ta’s” mission…..

    Looks good.

    1. livinlif Says:

      What can i say??? Grey is the best color.

  3. Bad Alien Says:

    You say you’re going to have a Gator on your boat? Should be exciting!

    1. livinlif Says:

      All gators are welcome…………….some aliens

  4. Bill Farrens Says:

    We are looking forward to checking in on your progress daily. When and where do you begin? Send description and photos of your “accomodations” on your yacht. Terry and I may follow you next year!!

  5. Tom Haynie Says:

    When will it stop raining?

  6. Tom Haynie Says:

    Do yo have a trash bag to spare?

  7. DJ Says:

    Hey Guys, I will be following you down the mighty Mississippi!!! Enjoy the ride. DJ (EY)

  8. Pat Pollard Says:

    I hope you got a good night sleep,after the storms and getting stranded.It was an adventure getting your boat back to the mainland of Illinois,Lisa and I were glad to help.when time permits I will be happy to explain to your followers,just where you ended up.some call it the bermuda triangle of pool 13.WE got real lucky

    1. livinlif Says:

      Thanks Pat. You guys were our true saviors. I will be catching up on the blog today so stay tuned.

  9. rusty Says:

    day one,pay close attention,things the whole world get to see.

  10. lucy Says:

    poppy,you are a river snake not a dog;says Lucy.glad you can swim,watch allgators.

  11. Ann Brumback Says:

    Not the way I wanted to meet you both but it has been fun. You guys are awesome and I really respect you for what you are doing. IN a way I am a little jealous in that I would love to do a trip like this one day. I know you will be successful. Can’t wait to keep up with the advetures here. Hey Captain, you are doing a great job with the website. 🙂

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