Wednesday, December 24, 2008

This post is for pictures.

This is the fog looking down the trans Florida Canal the morning after we anchored there. The second photo shows how cold Muriel got, she put on a KU sweatshirt. The following photos show how clear it can be out on the Gulf and how foggy is was at times. The boats are about the same distance from us.

Muriel has been wanting me to include some of her pictures of the fog we delt with. This blog entry is primarily to get some more pictures on the blog.

Tarpon Springs to Marco Is, via Manatee River, Naples & others

Something went wrong with the selection of pictures. The second photo is some of the development we began to encounter along the waterway as we moved south of the "forgotten coast of the panhandle and the northern gulf coast of Florida. The third photo is some of the contrast along the same part of the waterway. The last photo is a daulphin jumping and flipping along side our boat. It seemed that when Carlie barked and Shelly and Muriel clapped and laughed the daulphins would continue to play and run with us. Sometimes for 10 to 15 minutes.

We were a little slow getting out of Tarpon Springs this morning because we were uncertain of our destination. We knew we had several draw bridges and a lot of no wake zones to deal with. Some local advice in Tarpon Springs indicated that we would not be able to make it across Tampa Bay in day light. Bill and I met this morning and selected three possible anchorages from which we would choose as we learned during the day how we would progress. We never had to stop for a bridge. The only bridge which we needed opened was listed as a 25 foot clearance which we can make but as we approached I thought It looks low and the gage at the bridge indicated only 17 feet clearance. I stopped and backed away and as I did the bridge began to open for a sailboat going the other direction. We decided to continue on and cross Tampa Bay. We got to our anchorage on the south of the bay in the Manatee River near Bradenton about 3:30. We talked briefly about calling Guy and Peggy because we are so close but they were having a party for their neighbors tonight so we dropped that idea. We hate to be so close and not get together with them. Bill and Shelly and I dingyed ashore with Carlie and while Shelly searched for shells Bill and I walked Carlie through the Desoto Monument Park. It is very nice and includes trails with displays of Desoto and his explorations around the southern area of what is now the US. We decided we need to slow down again after Christmas and begin to enjoy our surroundings more than we have since we started down the rivers.
It looks now like we will be in Ft Meyers on Sunday evening. This will leave a one day trip on the outside down the Gulf coast to Marco Island where Bill and Eileen will spend Christmas with some of their family. We will continue on to Everglades City but the weather looks questionable for the outside travel after Sunday. We will see how it goes.
We got a slow start this morning. It was so foggy when I took Carlie ashore that I thought I might have trouble finding the boat again. We just headed out into the fog and were able to find the boat by guiding on a piling out In the little bay we were in and then on to the boat. Bill had a problem with a bilge pump so he worked on that while we waited for the fog to lift. We finally got under way about 8:00 in some fog and it filled back in worse than before about the time we turned out of Tampa Bay into the waterway. It got kind of dicey when we were running a channel only a few yards from shore and the fog was to dense to see the next markers. It finally cleared and we enjoyed another beautiful day cruising down the waterway and enjoying the sights. Some mansions and in some places mangrove islands which seemed like there should not be any development anywhere near. We arrived at an anchorage about 36 miles north of Ft Meyers late in the afternoon and quickly got the dingy down and Bill, Shelly and Carlie and I went about a mile back up the waterway about a mile and entered a state park through a narrow channel through the mangroves. The park has a small dock where we were able to tie the dingy and get ashore to walk Carlie while we enjoyed the paths and the beach. We got back to the boats about dark. We are discussing whether to get a slip at Ft Meyers or try to get on down to Naples tomorrow. We will see how quickly we get away in the morning and see what we can find for marina slips.
We got away from the anchorage about 7:15 and started south. Before long we realized we could make Naples by mid afternoon and with good seas so we talked with Chip, who lives in Naples, and got the phone number for the Naples City Dock. We had another beautiful trip down the waterway to Ft Meyers Beach and then outside for about 27 miles to Naples. We were in and secured before 3:30. Chip and Michelle invited us to their house for pizza and beer. They have Chip’s family visiting for Christmas so they had a house full of people. It was great to see them again and relive some of the good times from last summer. We hope we can get together with the four boats, Ithaka, Southern Comfort, Blue Max and us, before we leave this area. Guy and Peggy are gone to Texas for Christmas but will return before New Years so we might work it out.
Anne was able to come to Naples and join us at Chip and Michelle’s. We were happy to have her meet them. We have hoped to get them to meet since Anne often shops here in Naples. When we talked to Anne earlier in the day she asked if she might take Carlie home with her if she got to come here. I told her she could not take Carlie until she crossed her wake at Everglades City. Anne said Carlie had crossed her wake at Ft Meyers so she has completed the loop. She went home with Anne last night. Seems strange getting up this morning without Carlie and no one to take out for a walk. Carlie was very excited to see Anne last night.
We are undecided at this point whether to move on today or stay here for a couple of days. The weather is best to move today but our destination is so uncertain in Everglades City.
Well,… Michele called this morning to offer her car since she would be in the office all day so we decided to stay and do some shopping and we drove down to Marco so Bill could see where he had to go with the boat to get to the house which Tracy and Ed, their daughter and son-in-law had rented. It works great for Bill, it is very near the waterway and has a great dock for their boat. After we returned to Naples we did some Christmas shopping and then went out for a great dinner.
Today, Tuesday, we got a good start and I got a shower and got the boat rinsed down and then left at 9:00 with Blue Max to help them get into the dock at the house. It was fun to meet some of their family because when you spend so much time together you begin to feel that you should know some of their family members. We enjoyed a nice lunch at the house with them and then left to return to Naples. This afternoon Muriel and I walked around old downtown Naples and tonight we are going to eat with Chip and Michele.
We are still uncertain whether we will move on down to Everglades City on Wednesday or wait until Thursday. Jeff has to work until after Christmas so we may stay put here until we can spend some time with Anne and him.
Wednesday…Muriel started to do some laundry and we talked about where we would go for church on Christmas Eve. Eileen called and said they wanted us to come on down to the house on Marco so we agreed and when Muriel finished the laundry she had started we prepared to leave. By the time we had the lines in and ready to cast off the wind was so strong on our beam that I told Muriel I was not going to try to maneuver out of the slip so we waited about an hour and the wind died enough to allow us to get out of the slip so we headed on down to Marco. It was about two hour run with most of it on the outside. The Gulf was good to us again. We had a pleasant ride in 1 to 2 foot seas on our bow. Muriel and Shelly have gone with Tracy and Eileen to do some last minute shopping, grocery and Christmas. This is going to be a very nice place to relax. Jeff and Anne plan to come either tonight or in the morning.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs via Steinhatchee and Canal Anchorage

The first photo is the view as we entered Tarpon Springs. It is just packed with working commercial fishing boats. The next photo is our view of the sunset from the Trans-Florida barge canal. The third photo is one of the "Florida looking" islands as we entered the canal. The fourth photo is what the sky looked like most of the way down the "forgotten coast" of Florida. The clouds seemed to be supported on columns of white and the shoreline was obscured by the haze. The fifth photo is Shelly being comforted by Muriel while Shelly was a little sea sick on the crossing from Carrabelle to Steinhatchee.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008, we finally got to cross the gulf to Steinhatchee. After 10 days in Carrabelle waiting for good weather for our crossing we were more than ready to get back to traveling. We enjoyed Carrabelle be we need to get on the way to Everglades City to see Jeff and Anne. We were up at 4:45 and on the water at 5:30. We have never traveled in darkness but we were able to follow our track back out as far as the pass out into the Gulf. We left early to allow plenty of light to get into Steinhatchee and to try to get out of the channel and into the Gulf before the fog set in. We made that but we did encounter some fog on the Gulf, not bad enough to cause concern but enough to make it interesting. The water was clam because the winds were light today but it still had quite a roll to it from all the unsettled weather. Shelly was sick most of the day and we thought Muriel might get sick for a while but she ate a little and felt better. It is great to be on the move again.
After we got situated in the marina we all walked around the marina area and looked around and then returned to the boats to share drinks on Blue Max and then we each went to our boats and dined on our boats. We probably missed some fun in Steinhatchee but we needed to get to bed. We planned to get out early again in the morning to beat the fog. Yea, right! The fog beat us by several hours. We waited until about 7:00 for the sun to provide some light and we left in the fog. We could barely make out the running lights on the boat behind us. We were the lead boat, which I enjoy. The fog lingered past mid-morning, at times so dense we barely had time to see the crab pots to avoid them. We ran our fog horn for some added safety to avoid other boats. One larger boat, about 50 feet, crossed out path just ahead of us. Shelly was first to see it and just as she pointed it out to me the fog horn sounded. I feel certain the boat had not seen us because when the fog horn sounded they instantly changed course. After the fog finally cleared we had another beautiful day with very light winds and smooth seas. We passed a few miles off shore from Cedar Key and it looked so pretty and inviting in the sun that we were temped to divert our course and anchor there tonight. Instead, we continued on to the trans-Florida barge canal. This is a canal which was started and abandoned in the ‘70’s. It is still very well marked and has plenty of water. It makes a beautiful anchorage which is very seldom used. The area is now a Florida State Park.
We started out of the anchorage about 7:30 in fog which seemed to lift as we entered open water, only to set back in with very dense fog. It did not last over an hour and cleared again. The rest of the day was very calm with a lot of haze. We arrived at the Tarpon Springs channel at about 3:00 pm. It takes a while to come up the channel to the town at idle speed. This is definitely a commercial, sponge, fishing village with a bit of money, and large homes, beginning to move in. As we were talking to the marina on the radio we heard from Phantom of the Aqua. We have not seen them since Grafton, Il. They spent a month in Panama City and just crossed the Gulf a couple of days ago. They walked over and we had a nice visit with them. They live in Fort Meyers so they are familiar with this coast and had some good suggestions for anchorages. We learned from them that Wanderin’ L&M bent a prop shaft when they hit something entering Crystal River. This is part of the reason we did not go in there. Going There crossed the Gulf with us and ran with us until yesterday when they left us to go into Crystal River. They said it was quite shallow but they got in OK.
The Municipal Marina here does not have good access to and from the boats so Eileene was unable to get on and off Blue Max. Bill went out and got take-out Greek dinners for them and they ate on the boat. We hated that they could not join us for dinner. We wandered around town a while and picked a place to eat. Muriel and Shelly bought some sponges and we wandered back to the boat. Bill and I will meet this morning to decide where we will try to get to today. We are uncertain how far to expect we can run due to many no wake zones and several bridges which we will have to get opened for us to pass.

Monday, December 15, 2008


The first photo is the Christmas boat parade. The second is Sunshine where she has set for the past week. The building in front of us is the laundry, bathrooms, and upstairs to the right is the lounge we have used so often. The third photo is Muriel and Shelly at the world's smallest police station in Carrabelle. The last photo is Muriel getting off the boat at low tide. She and Shelly say they do a pole dance getting on and off.

Saturday morning came clear and cold, near 40 degrees. We have gotten so sorry from just hanging around here that we seldom get out of bed before 8:00. But, we are staying up later than we do when we are traveling. Last night we stayed up in the lounge until about 11:00 playing dominos and Muriel was reading a book. Shelly has gotten quite proficient at the Caribbean horse shoes, where you swing a metal ring on a string and try to hook it on a hook on a column. The first night she started playing the game I told her I would give her $5 for Christmas spending money each time she hooked it. After 20 hits the first night I cancelled the offer.
The piers here at the Moorings Marina are all fixed piers and the tides have been unusually high and low due to the winds and the full moon when the moon is at its closest to earth at any time in this year so Muriel and Shelly have had to struggle to get on and off the boat at times, particularly low tides. They say they have taken up pole dancing because of the way they have to hug a piling while getting on and off the boat.
We shared pizza last night in the lounge while watching the Carrabelle Christmas boat parade on the waterfront. It was a lot of fun watching and cheering for the boats going by. There were fireworks across the river also. Sunday morning dawned overcast. Three boats left to cross. None of them have returned yet. They were all over 50 feet, however, one was a harbor cruise boat bound for Miami Beach. It is very shallow draft and flat in the bottom. We suspect they are getting banged quite a bit out in 6 foot waves. We are planning to go to a local BBQ restaurant for a buffet lunch.
The lunch was fun. We all ate too much. It was just wholesome food but it was good. For dinner we went with Tony, who works at the marina and was born here, to a local oyster processing plant and got the owner out of his house to get ½ bag, crocker sack, of oysters which we shucked and ate on the half shell, steamed, and as oysters Rockerfeller. We shared dinner with Blue Max and Going There.
This morning we met with Buddy at the marina at 6:30 to evaluate the weather for our crossing. The consensus was to leave Carrabelle at 6:00 Tuesday morning to cross to Steinhatchee. This is the plan as of noon on Monday. From Steinhatchee we will work our way down the gulf coast of Florida and hope to get Blue Max together with their family at Marco Island and us on to Everglades City by Christmas. Everyone has told us that it is a cardinal sin in cruising to set a date to get to anywhere. This is the first time we have set a date and we realize the truth in what they say.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Panama City to Carrabelle

The first photo is part of the group at the pot-luck dinner last night. The second photo is from our walk on the beach last Monday. The third photo is Bill and Eileen on the beach. The fourth photo is the small fishing village of Carrabelle. The last photo is Appalacheecola.

We got up Friday morning at 6:15 to get ready to leave for Apalachicola. It was another cool and cloudy morning. Several boats were preparing to leave when we got up. Several others planned to leave about mid-morning and anchor in the Apalachicola River a little short of Apalachicola. We took a little time to get free coffee at the marina and discuss our plans for the day and we got underway about 8:00. The winds were much lighter than the day before. We crossed East Bay and entered the GIWW canal for 30 miles. The trip through the canal was different scenery from the rivers we have traveled of late. This was low country swamp. We saw several bald eagles but not much else in the way of wildlife. As we exited the canal into a broad but very shallow lake a couple of the boats nearly got into shallow water because the channel markers were widely spaced and the wind was on our port beam, making it easy to let it set you off course to starboard without realizing it. We all made it without incident but it took some attention to keep on course, especially after 30 miles of just following the canal. We entered the Scipio Creek Marina at Apalachicola and Muriel and I took off to walk through the town which was just a few blocks away. We had been here once several years ago and I remembered an old hardware and ship’s chandlery which I thought I saw on the way into Scipio Creek. I could not find the store in town. I think it has closed and there is now an antique store in its place. We did find the liquor store to buy wine for several of the boats. As soon as we got back the others were ready to go eat at the Oyster house at the marina. Bill and Peggy were especially excited because the oysters were only $6.50 per dozen. The food was good and Muriel did not have to prepare it or clean-up afterward. We plan a leisurely departure in the morning because we have only 30 miles to go. We are hearing that fuel in Carrabelle has dropped to $2.35 per gallon. That is the least we have ever paid since we owned the boat. Unfortunately we recently filled up for $2.69 per gallon.
On Saturday morning we left Apalachicola about 9:00 for the 30 mile trip to Carabelle. It was a nice trip in light winds but overcast skies. The sun was beginning to peak through as we arrived in Carabelle. We came in from the bay and up the channel into the small fishing village. It is old and reflects a weak economy. Shrimping has mostly died out because the shrimp boats can not make a living. The Moorings is a nice facility with excellent bathrooms and showers and a nice boater’s lounge with TV, nice seating and a pool table and a game table. As usual, the staff is very nice. The boat Sojourner, which ran with us from Pensacola, had arranged to meet a delivery captain at Carrabelle for the crossing to Clearwater. There was another boat at the marina with a captain from the same, Sea Sense, school to take them across. Southern Comfort decided to go along with them and cross on Sunday directly to Clearwater. Southern Comfort will cross their wake at Tampa so they were anxious to get done with it. This is going to be a mile point for all of us. This is the first time since late May that we have traveled without Southern Comfort and Blue Max. We still have the company of Blue Max. The weather forecasts look like the weather will be unsettled and windy through the entire week so we are expecting to be here until the weather favors our crossing. We have routes laid out for a couple of routes to Steinhatchee and on to Crystal River and on to Tarpon Springs when the weather allows us to get out on the gulf.
Muriel and Bill and Eileen and I went for a walk in town this afternoon. There is not much town here but we found a restaurant which has 12 oz New York strip steak on Wednesday and Sunday for $8.00. Muriel and I went in to check out the place. It was a biker bar today, just because a Harley Davidson club had cruised in and stopped in.
Yesterday when we arrived here we really enjoyed the two marina staff people, Tony and Patty. Bill was asking where to get oysters and Tony told him he would have oysters here at the marina on Sunday and Bill said he would supply the drinks and snacks. Tony got about 3 quarts of shucked oysters so Eileen made an oyster stew with some of them and we ate the rest with crackers. We had our dinner in the little lunch room in the marina office with Tony and Patty. We all enjoyed the food and the company. A couple walked into the marina and said they were just looking around the marina and did not want to alarm anyone. We invited them to join us and they turned out to be boaters who purchased their first large boat in the summer of ’07 at Green Bay, Ws and took it home to Corpis Christi, Tx. So they had shared many of the same river experiences we had. We failed to take the camera with us so we did not get any pictures.
Peggy and Guy called about 7:30 am on Monday. They were in Tampa Bay and had crossed under the bridge which meant they had crossed their wake and finished the loop. They were within sight of their house. They were very tired after nearly 25 hours underway. They said their passage had been a little uncomfortable but not “bad.” We are happy for them that they have closed the loop but we hate very much to loose their company in our lives. They will be missed over the next few months as we continue our loop.
We are still in Carabelle waiting for our weather window to cross. This morning we walked Carlie and then Muriel made pancakes which we shared with Bill from Blue Max. We decided to go to the beach on the sound and enjoy the good weather today. It was beautiful and Shelly found many shells and some coral. We found one whole sand dollar and a piece of drift wood which had been eaten by something to create spherical holes over the entire surface. We then got the marina’s shuttle service to take us from the beach to a restaurant across the river for a late lunch. The hamburgers were outstanding. We got back to the boat late in the afternoon. The day was so pretty it is difficult to believe it was a day when we could not have crossed. The next several days are forecast to be much too windy to venture out on to the gulf.
Tuesday has been a beautiful day, a little windy but mostly sunny and warm. I serviced engines and changed heat exchanger zincs and then we walked around town. We got malted milk shakes for lunch and snooped around the hardware stores, two of them in town. I got a replacement zinc for the gen set and we ran into Roy and Ella from Our Turn at a marina down the road. They have a bag of fresh oysters and a boat was at their marina with stone crab claws so we all bought some and we are going back to their boat this evening for oysters and crab claws, that is Blue Max and us and them. The forecast has not changed except that the bad weather now extends into the weekend. At the shower this morning I met the man from the Blue Water Yacht which came in yesterday. They have cruised the Caribbean for nine years and twice circumnavigated the Caribbean as far down as Venezuela aboard a 54 foot sailboat which they lost to Katrina in New Orleans. They will probably be crossing with us when we go. Another boat, a PDQ 34 foot cat, came in today but we have not met them yet. Boats are gradually stacking up here awaiting good weather to cross.
We slept late on Wednesday morning, 7:30. We spent the rest of the day doing laundry and cleaning on the boat. A restaurant in town has a steak special on Wednesday nights so we took advantage of it with some other boats here in the marina. The weather was warm, overcast, and misty all day. The wind is supposed to pipe-up tonight with the possibility of heavy rain. One of the boats here has a hired captain on board and they are talking about the possibility of leaving on Friday morning. We will watch and see how the weather goes.
The heavy rain passed here last night, we had gusts to 65 mph with it which drove rain through between the sliding panels of our windows on the windward side of the salon. That was definitely the strongest storm we have experienced on the boat. All is fine this morning. We are planning a pot-luck dinner tonight with the seven boats here in town. We will get together in the boater’s lounge which is a nice room with tables, chairs, TV, and game tables.
Friday morning, it is much cooler than the past couple of days but still windy. We reviewed the weather forecasts on the internet for coastal waters and discussed them with Blue Max. We thought perhaps we could leave about 3:00 am on Saturday and get out far enough before the winds increased as predicted so that we could get some cover from the east shore. The people at the marina advised against it. They predicted that the heavy seas of the past couple of days, and nights, would still be unsettled enough to prevent us from crossing. It looks like the first possibility will be some time next week. Bill and I decided to work on a diesel leak he has had since back in Canada. We finally found that the source of the leak to be a cracked bronze fitting. A short walk to the hardware store and we had the new fitting and fixed the leak. Tonight we are going to get together in the lounge for some Mexican Train Dominos. We have played back in Michigan with one of the boats that is here with us. Tomorrow Carrabelle has its Christmas parade on the water with boats decorated for Christmas. They also have a concert and free hot dogs. This should be our excitement for tomorrow.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ingram Bayou to Panama City via Ft Walton Beach

The first photo is Carlie helping me get the blog done. The second is Carlie looking for dalphines from her seat on the fly bridge. The third and fourth photos are some of the canal routes we followed today. The last phots is some of the pelicans Muriel likes to watch and photograph.

We awoke this morning to cold weather and the boat covered with frost again. After Carlie’s walk we got the flybridge cleared of frost and got the anchor up and got underway about 7:30. The sun soon warmed the flybridge enclosure and we had a pleasant day cruising from the anchorage at mile 164 to Ft Walton Beach Yacht Basin at mile 222. When we arrived the wind was blowing about 20 mph from the east and there was about 1knot of current flowing westward. We backed into the first slip then realized that was the slip where Blue Max should go so that Eileen could have the finger pier on the starboard side of the boat. So we pulled out of the slip to back into the next slip to the east. This required a go around and another approach. We finally got docked and then helped Southern Comfort and Blue Max get situated. It is still quite windy tonight and the forecast is for strong west winds with showers and thunder showers tomorrow. We will evaluate this in the morning and decide whether to go or stay put. Everyone is getting anxious to move on to get to where we can cross the gulf around the elbow and make progress going south along the west coast of Florida.
Last night was the warmest night in quite a while, low in the mid-fifties. We rolled quite a bit in our slip and I had to go out about 2:00 am and add another spring line. We all got up early and checked our weather sources. The forecast seemed better than it did yesterday but still called for some strong winds and we had to cross Choctawhatchee Bay which is 30 miles long and 5 miles wide with the wind coming down the bay. We decided to get started and consider the options when we got about ¼ of the way out into the bay. There was a marina we could enter if the wind proved too much. We had a nice run across the bay with only a moderate chop. Then we had about 17 miles of canal before we entered West Bay for the final run to Panama City. The sun finally came out and it turned out to be a beautiful day. As we entered the last bay where Panama City is located the wind was strong but the marina is protected so getting in was not too much of a problem. As soon as we got situated and shared our drinks with the group we were going to walk into town to eat dinner but it started to rain so Muriel prepared dinner on the boat. This was a 70 mile day, one of our longer days, but it did not seem too bad. Tomorrow will be a 60 mile run to Apalachicola with a lot of the distance in canals which will not be affected by the wind. From there it is a 30 mile run to Carrabelle which is the jumping off point to cross 80 miles of open Gulf to Steinhatchee. Everyone is getting anxious about the weather for this crossing. Sometimes boats wait for over a week to get the weather window for the crossing.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


These are photos from the Tombigbee River the day Bill hit something and picked-up a bad vibration. Guy put on his SCUBA gear and dove under Blue Max. What he found was a large piece of the 2" diameter rope the tow boats use. It was bound together in the center and loose on both ends. Bill was so happy it was nothing serious with his boat that he grabbed ir from Guy and and put it on his head like a wig. He also announced that we were all having dinner on Blue Max to celebrate.

Because we did not have good cell recpetion I could not always publish photos. These are two I really wanted to get in and I missed this photo of Bill Maxwell on the blog.

Photos from trip from Bobby's to Mobile

The first photo is the Mobile skyline from the Mobile River north of Mobile. The second photo is downtown Mobile from the river. The third photo shows some of the ship building industry in Mobile. The fourth photo is our anchorage in the Alabama River Cutoff north of Mobile. The last photo is the dock at Bobby's Fish Camp. It was really quit pretty.

We are adding this blog post just to show some photos we like and have not been able to get on the blog. We are anchored in Ingram Bayou just off the GIWW very near the Alabama/Florida line.

Fairhope to Ingram Bayou

The first photo is looking northwest from the marina across Mobile Bay at the skyline of Mobile. The second photo is looking into the Eastern Shore Marina at Fairhope. The marina is even more crowded and tight than it looks. The third photo is Carlie getting her bath on the pier when we arrived at Fairhope. The fourth photo is a shrimp boat just off our starboard side as we went down the Bay. The last photo is some pelicans in our anchorage in Ingram Bayou.

We left Mobile about 9:30am on Wednesday, November 26, to go to Laurel, Ms to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends there. Our first stop in Laurel was to see Bill Wallace at work. He runs a family owned drug store which has been in his family since 1898. We visited briefly with Bill and he told us that some friends we had wanted to see while in Laurel were headed to the beach for Thanksgiving so we went directly to their house and caught Gene Mulloy just getting ready to leave. His wife Libby was already gone. Gene said their place at the beach is very near where we will pass probably on the first day out of Mobile so we said we would call when we were in that area. Gene called later to suggest we might get together on Saturday for lunch if we are still in Fair Hope, this is where we are in the Marina.
We went from there to Bill and Ginger’s house and met Ginger. We had only just met her about 15 years ago when Bill and she were dating and Bill’s daughter, Amy, got married. This might seem odd to go to the house of someone we had met so briefly and so long ago but Ginger is such a nice person we instantly felt as though we had known her for ever. We enjoyed visiting with her and immediately felt comfortable is her house. Bill is so lucky to have found such a great person for his wife. Soon after Bill got home from work Ginger left to run some errands and Bill and I lit a fire in the fireplace and he and Muriel and I sat down to visit. After a while I became aware that it was becoming quite smoky in the house. The fire was obviously drawing well so we were uncertain why so much smoke was coming out of the fireplace into the house. The fire was so hot that it was difficult to get close enough to see that the damper was only slightly open. After we found this it the next question was how to get it open with the intense heat. I finally just jabbed at the damper itself and knocked it open.
Ginger prepared a great meal for Wednesday evening. The main dish was a pork loin roast with a crawfish sauce over it, a delightful treat. On Thursday morning Bill and I left the house about 7:30 to go check on his car wash and a man he had doing some cleaning. We did not get home until just a little before time for Thanksgiving Dinner. Muriel would have been furious, Ginger seemed to accept that Bill is just like that. The dinner was great, turkey, ham, dressing and gravy, sweet potato casserole, baked apples, corn pudding casserole, deviled eggs, you get the idea! Then pecan pie for dessert. Both of Bill’s brothers and one cousin were there. After dinner we took a tour of Laurel to see some of the new developments in the area. We thought the residential areas of town looked great, the houses were just a pretty as we remembered from 30 years ago. The downtown is hurting but the town has grown remarkably in the outlaying areas.
On Friday morning we headed back to Fairhope via the Mississippi gulf coast. We wanted to see some of the change since Katrina. US highway 90 runs along the coast and used to be lined with big homes. There was not a single home left for most of the way through Gulfport and very little has been built back. It is sickening to see how little has been done in the years since Katrina. We got back to the boat just before heavy rains arrived. We ran to the drug store for Muriel’s meds and a little grocery shopping
On Saturday morning we messed around about the boat and I attempted to help Guy with some work on his motor. I had to leave to meet Gene and Libby Mulloy, some old friends from Laurel. They are in the area because they now have a beach house near here. It was great to get to spend some time visiting with people with whom we shared many good times over 30 years ago. We have not seen them to visit with them in over 30 years. By the time we got back Larenzo and Guy and Bill from Blue Max had accomplished the repair. I only helped Guy with the last details. Muriel and Peggy from Southern Comfort had decided to prepare another Thanksgiving dinner from leftovers to share with Blue Max since we were not all together for Thanksgiving. It is pouring rain again so they decided to delay until tomorrow. The weather forecast is for continued rain until tomorrow afternoon. We will probably stay put until Monday and then head down Mobile Bay for the Gulf Coast Intracoastal Waterway and the Florida panhandle.
Well, Monday was as windy as Sunday so we used the courtesy car and went to the USS Alabama Battleship and toured the ship. It was very interesting, largely because Bill Maxwell from Blue Max had spent time on navy ships and could explain much of what we were looking at. We spent nearly three hours aboard the ship and then stopped and Felix’s for a seafood dinner. We all had oysters on the half shell which were delightful.
Tuesday dawned sunny and calm but cold. We got away from the marina in Fairhope about 8:00 and had a beautiful cruise down Mobile Bay in smooth waters and sunny skies. Soon after we turned east and entered the GIWW, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, we began to see dolphins playing in out wake. We came to Lulu’s, Jimmy Buffet’s sister’s restaurant on the waterway so we stopped to buy fuel and get some lunch. The restaurant is open seven days per week except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Employee Appreciation Day, today was Employee Appreciation Day. But the marina was open so we bought the least expensive fuel of the trip yet, $2.66. Just a few miles further down the waterway we came to Ingram Bayou which is the last good anchorage until you get nearly to Pensacola. We could not have made Pensacola by dark so we chose the anchorage. This gave us time to get the dingy down and explore the shore line and get Carlie ashore for a couple of walks.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Demopolis, Al to Mobile via Bobby's Fish Camp and two anchorages

We called the lock from the marina at about 7:00 this morning and he said he had a tow coming up right then and there was a downbound tow in the area but he did not know when he would move. He said come on and he would get us down as soon as possible. Just as we approached the lock the down bound tow called the lock and said he was starting down so we had to wait. It was 10:00 am before we got through the lock. We had planned a 71 mile day to one of the only anchorages for miles on the river. After we got below the lock we estimated that if we made good time we could get to the anchorage just at dark. The Bashi Creek anchorage is at mile 145. There is an anchorage which can be used in emergencies just below a highway bridge at mile 164. We decided we would make the final decision on which anchorage to use when we got to mile 164. At about mile 170 Blue Max got something caught it their prop which was causing severe vibrations. He tried to reverse it off which reduced the vibration but was still experiencing heavy vibrations. We decided he could limp along to the anchorage at the bridge and once there Guy from Southern Comfort would get into his SCUBA gear and investigate. We rafted up just below the bridge and along the river’s edge. The cruising guides say that if you use one of these anchorages in the river to call the first tow which comes along and tell him you are on the side for the night and ask him to tell any tows he encounters.
When Guy got under Blue Max it was impossible to see much because of the color of the river water. He could tell there was something near the prop so he grabbed it and shook it and it came off easily. He surfaced with it in his hand and a big smile on his face. It was a huge jumble of nylon rope which the tows use to tie to the bank and to tie up the boat. This piece had probably been about 18 inches long and two inches in diameter but now it was just a wad of small strands all jumbled together. Rarely does something like this come off so easily. Often it takes a lot of cutting with a sharp knife to get it off. We decided that Bill was unlucky that he picked it up but very luck that it came off so easily.
The weather today was much more like we would have expected for this time of year. It was cool this morning but with the flybridge closed up we were in tee shirts this afternoon. It was just cool this evening. We all ate together on Blue Max to celebrate our good fortune to have gotten the thing off so easily without damage to Blue Max and that we had any place close to anchor. Thank goodness for Guy’s SCUBA gear and ability. We will get started about 8:00 in the morning and go about 48 miles to Bobby’s Fish Camp. This is not a marina, just a fuel stop and a place to tie-up for the night without having to anchor, no electricity or other facilities.
We left the radio on channel 16 all night just in case a tow tried to contact us. We were amazed at the amount of chatter between tows all night. We heard a couple of tows talking about being aground on sand bars and struggling to free themselves. We were both awake at 2:30 am due to the turbulence from two tows passing us. In the morning Bill said he was up and watched them. They were traveling in opposite directions and passed just up stream of the bridge we were below. No wander there was so much turbulence.
In the morning when I took Carlie ashore I noticed Southern Comfort’s stern anchor was not there. I worried that it had come loose and lost. But Guy said he had already pulled it. When we broke up the raft-up I was unable to pull in the rope portion of our rode by hand so we untied from the other two boats. I was then able to get the rode in easily but the other two boats drifted back and swung into the bank. They were able to apply power and get away from the bank without their props getting anything. We had not tested Blue Max’s vibration last night so we were all relieved when Bill reported that everything was performing well without vibration. We had a fairly uneventful cruise today to Bobby’s Fish Camp. We are now tied to the small floating dock in the side of the river. This can not be much better than were we anchored last night when tows pass. We plan to eat catfish here tonight for dinner just because we are here and will never be back here. We plan to run about 60 miles and one lock tomorrow and then we can probably make Mobile the next day.
This was the coldest night yet, 22 degrees outside and 47 degrees in the boat. It only takes a few minutes for the heat to warm the boat back to 72 degrees inside. The windows on the fly bridge were covered with heavy frost, as were the decks and the docks. We were getting ready to get under way when Peggy came to the boat and said Guy had a problem and needed help. He had broken a bolt which holds the coolant tank on top the engine. By the time we had evaluated the rate of leaking and determined he could run with it by keeping a check on it and refilling as required we called the lock and the lockmaster told us it would be past noon before he could get us in the lock. Decision time again. We decided to that there were no anchorages we would be able to reach before dark if we did not get into the lock before noon. We decided to stay put at Bobby’s Fish Camp and leave as early in the morning as possible. This will be determined by the traffic at the lock and the fog on the river. We can still make Mobile by Monday evening. This will be fine. We plan to rent a car and drive to Laurel, Ms. Where we lived 30 years ago and have Thanksgiving with old friends there. Guy and Peggy plan to drive to Jackson, Ms. To have Thanksgiving with Peggy’s son. Bill and Eileen from Blue Max will be left on their boat and we hate that but I guess it is what it is.
Muriel made a cake for Shelly’s birthday which is tomorrow but we hope to be at anchor and it may be awkward for us to get together so we will celebrate her birthday to night on our boat with the crews from Southern Comfort and Blue Max. Actually we kind of enjoyed the day spent here. We went for a walk out to the highway which is probably about a mile on a dirt road. We saw a man working on a bulldozer near the highway and asked where we were and what was close. He said we were in the middle of now where and there was no town close. The weather was cool but nice for a walk, Carlie enjoyed the opportunity to run free in the woods. Two brothers came in late today on a 62 foot sport fishing boat. They are on the way from Knoxville to Key West. This is their tenth time to stop here at Bobby’s. The rest of the boats we have traveled with lately made it to Mobile today. We got to see several tows we had met and passed along the trip down the river pass here today.
On Sunday, November 23, 2008, it is Shelly’s 35th birthday. We got up before 6:00 and began trying to contact the lock, two miles down stream. We could not get a response on the radio or the cell phone so as soon as I walked Carlie we got underway and headed to the lock. It was open with a tow just leaving so we went right in and locked down our last lock! It was not as cold as the past couple of mornings but it was overcast so it felt quite cold. We got to witness something we had not seen before. Two tows were headed downstream in front of us and the front tow kept going aground, he has been struggling since we left Demopolis, so he offered to let the rear tow pass in some very tight bends in the river. We had already idled along behind them for a while so as the rear tow passed we followed him. They were coming into another bend and the passing tow could not make the bend without shoving his rear starboard corner against the side of the other tow. This shoved the tow being passed into the bank. He was backing off as we went on past. The river has become a southern looking river, with swampy looking banks and Spanish Moss hanging in the trees. Tomorrow will probably be even more swampy and then become quite industrial as we enter Mobile. We anchored rafted with the other two boats tonight because the small stream we pulled off into is quite narrow so we would have had to set bow and stern anchors so it was easier to raft and let one boat set it’s bow anchor behind us so we cannot swing. We have rain in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow, at least we do not have any locks to contend with in the rain.
The morning dawned overcast but pleasantly warmer than previous mornings and very pretty in the anchorage. The weather forecast called for “rain likely in the afternoon with increasing winds reaching 30 to 40 mph near rain storms.” As we motored down the river each time we got into a portion of the river which ran due south we encountered strong southerly winds and white caps. This made us concerned over the conditions we might encounter in Mobile Bay. We saw several of the tow boats we had seen repeatedly coming down the river when we got to Mobile. The river was very industrial, with a lot of cargo shipping and a surprising amount of ship building and repairs. When we headed out onto the bay the water could not have been better but there were rain storms starting to move out onto the bay from the west. We hoped we could beat them to Fair Hope but it looked doubtful. We started to get into light rain about a mile out from Fair Hope. The marina, Eastern Shore Marina, is quite small and very tight. We arrived and got into a slip just before heavy rains began. We have arranged a rental car for tomorrow and we will drive to Laurel, Ms. on Wednesday to spend Thanksgiving with Bill Wallace and his wife Ginger.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Columbus to Demopolis via Pirate's Cove and anchorage

The first photo shows some of the white stone bluffs along the Tombigbee River upstream of Demopolis. The second photo is the visitor center at the Tom Bevill Lock. The third photo is looking down the stairway from the widow's walk inside the visitor center. The fourth photo is the snag boat we toured at the center. The last photo is Captain Bill at Pirate's Cove, what a hamm.

On Sunday we relaxed in the morning and ate a leisurely breakfast of sausage, eggs, biscuits and grits, prepared by Muriel. Afterward we enjoyed a brief visit with Peggy’s son and daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Then we took the courtesy van to town to get a dessert at a cafĂ© famous for its desserts. To our surprise we missed them by a few minutes so we rode to a cemetery which had about 3,000 civil war graves. It was quite sobering to see so many graves marked “Unknown”. Afterward we made the usual WalMart stop. We enjoyed drinks on Blue Max with them and Southern Comfort. It was so cold that we all sat inside the salon. It think that is a first. For dinner we enjoyed a great bean soup, or white chili, which Muriel had prepared.
We planned to be prepared to leave the marina about 8:oo am after a call to the lock, which is just below the marina, to make sure he could lock us through. At 5:00 am the mega yacht parked right behind us began to load supplies and started its engines. There was no sleep after that so we got up and showered and were ready to leave. Several other boats had planned to leave early so we waited until they and gotten in the lock then called. We were out of the marina and into the lock by 7:30. It was tricky getting the power lines stowed and the dock lines off and stowed because the decks were covered with frost which was quite slick. When we got out into the river channel we only waited a few minutes before the lock opened to lock us down. This was our only lock for today. The rest of today’s run was easy cruising down the river under clear skies which allowed the sun to warm us enough to be in short sleeves by the time we arrived at Pirate’s Cove Marina. This is a very small marina tucked back into a small cove just above Tom Bevill Lock. The docks are not in the best condition of any we have seen and they are very low to the water but there are several barge loads of new galvanized truss type docks parked around the outside of the cove. They are about to begin a major renovation of the marina. By next year this should be a very nice facility.
Soon after we arrived Muriel prepared a lunch of hot dogs and then we got the marina manager to take us about a mile and a half down the road to visit the visitor center and the snag boat Montgomery. She took us because the courtesy van was tied-up taking a 72 year old woman to the emergency room. She is single handing her 44 foot trawler down to Florida for the winter and she got her fingers mashed between the boat and the lock while securing the boat in the lock.
The visitor center was amazing to us. The Corps of Engineers built it to resemble the style of the Waverly Mansion we visited in Columbus and two other plantation mansions in the area. Everything in the center is authentic, the moldings, the balconies, the winding staircase with beautiful railings, and heart pine flooring. Even the brick walkways and gardens around the house fit the style. There were video tapes describing the history of the snag boat Montgomery and the development of the Tennessee Tombigee Waterway. There were also exhibits of stuffed animals representing the wildlife of the area and rocks and fossils from the area. Shelly did not go with us and we hated that she missed this part of the museum. She would have loved it. We climbed to the top of the widow’s walk and were able to go outside onto the walk around the outside of the peak. The view of the river and the Bevill lock was great.
We were able to tour the snag boat on our own. A snag boat is a large boat with a crane on the front 1;was the last steam powered paddle wheel boat in the service. It was built in 1926 and decommissioned in 1985. The Corps got it placed on the national register and restored it be on display here in 1989. We were able to walk through most of the areas on the boat.
After dinner Muriel and I put up the Christmas lights Ron and Connie brought to us at Joe Wheeler. We hung them around the back of the sun deck roof. They look good. Thanks Ron and Connie.
We got away as planned at 7:30 on Tuesday morning. The lock was ready for us shortly after we got out into the river channel. There was a priority tow coming but he was far enough back that the lock master took us in first. It was a cold morning, temperatures just above freezing, but the sun was out and quickly warmed the fly bridge to comfortable temperatures. We saw two deer swim across the river just in front of our boat and leave the river on the other side. We passed a downbound tow a few miles above the Heflin Lock and thought the lock master might make us wait on him before we could lock down. We were just far enough ahead that he took us on down before the tow got there, We entered an old channel of the river just below the lock to anchor for the night. It was only 1:00 pm but there were no more good anchorages along the river for too far for daylight today. As soon as we got anchored Muriel and I got the dingy down and took Carlie ashore. We went ashore at a boat ramp on the COE land near the lock and walked over to the lock, they will not let you near the locks since 911. On the way there we say three deer in one group and another larger deer feeding separately. Tomorrow we plan to get underway about 7:30 and get to Demopolis, Al which will be our last place to do laundry and get provisions for about the next week until we make it down to Mobile, Al. They saw not to expect any cell service along that stretch either. I hope to get this on the blog at Demopolis and the next chance will be Mobile.
The overnight low was 24 degrees. We woke up to a cool cabin, 52 degrees, but after starting the generator and the heat it takes only a few minutes to bring the cabin back to 70 degrees. Carlie and I had a cold but quick dingy ride to shore for her walk this morning and then we had to get the motor up and the dingy up before we could go onto the frosty decks to get the anchor up. We ended up getting under way about 7:50 but that was about the time the fog was cleared to allow us to go. We had an easy cruise down river to Demopolis. A beaver swam across the anchorage this morning and a flock of wild turkeys flew across the river right in front of our boat. I did not realize they were turkeys until they landed on the beach. A couple of miles upstream of Demopolis we came around a bend and an Alabama Marine Patrol boat was coming the other way with red and blue lights flashing. I stopped but could not imagine why they would be stopping us. They just wanted to let us know that they had reports of boats being swamped by large wakes and asked us to be courteous and slow down if we encounter other boats.
We plan to run 71 miles tomorrow to an anchorage. This will be about the only safe anchorage choice for the run. We hope to make Mobile in about five days. We will not have cell service nor wifi until we get to Mobile.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Midway, Ms to Columbus, Ms via Aberdeen

The first photo is the Waverly mansion from the front gate. The center observation area is 65 feet tall. The second photo is coming out of the small channel from Aberdeen. The third photo shows the baots around the deck at the fuel dock where we all gathered while boats were fueling. The fourth photo shows some of the narrow, winding channel leading into Aberdeen Marina. The fifth photo is two tows passing in a bend of the river while we waited behind the downbound tow before passing him.

It did rain more on Wednesday so we stayed put rather than lock through three locks in the cold rain. We spent the day doing laundry and a few boat chores and then one last trip to the local WalMart. Southern Comfort arrived just before dark. It was good to have them back with us. We all went to dinner at a local restaurant called the Fire House. This was a Mississippi restaurant. We ordered various meals, most of us ordered catfish, and the menu listed salad or slaw and potatoes with the meal. Soon after we ordered they brought out a bowl of pinto beans for each person and corn bread. The corn bread and beans with a salad would have been a fine meal for me. The next morning, Thursday, we left Midway soon after the fog cleared enough to be out on the river. We made good time through the first lock but the second lock was down for maintenance. They told us it would be at least a couple of hours before we could get into the lock so we all anchored and settled in for the wait. When the repair crew took a break they called us into the lock but they left the work barge and the tow boat, a tug, in the lock. This was in the space where we normally tie up with this large group of boats so the lock master radioed us to tie up along side the tug. As we maneuvered into position along side, someone radioed and said they did not want us to tie to the tug. Another boat had rafted to one of the boats in front of us so we had to back away from the tug and back into the lock wall along side the barge. We got this done and the rest of the day was easy going.
We arrived at Aberdeen just after 2:00. They are known on the river for their fried chicken but they stop serving at 2:00 so one of the boats call in an order for all nine boats and they agreed to keep it until we arrived. The channel leading to the marina was very narrow and winding through cypress stumps and trees. The marina did not have space for all of us so it took quite a while for all of us to get secured. This marina has the best fuel prices on the river so we all took on fuel. Since there was not enough space for us each time one boat left the fuel dock it would rotate into another boat’s position as that boat moved to the fuel dock. The process of fueling all the boats lasted well past dark but the people at the marina were very nice about it all. We all enjoyed visiting on the large deck between the store and the fuel dock. The owner also owns the liquor store next door and we heard he is also the mayor of Aberdeen. Some of the boats got to talking to him and requested some shine which he easily produced to share with all. Then Peggy showed up with her bottle of Maker’s Mark and it was so good I had to walk over to the liquor store and get a bottle for us.
The store has breakfast also so we all had breakfast in the morning while waiting for the fog to lift. You could not see across the channel let alone try to navigate it out to the river. We had an easy day with only one lock and about 20 miles to get to Columbus, Ms. We arrived at about noon and again the marina did not have enough space for us so it took a while to get situated. There were two large, over 100 foot, boats along the wall which were supposed to have been gone before we arrived. We ended up with several boats rafted to other boats and Southern Comfort tied up at the fuel dock. We are rafted to Blue Max whom we have not seen for a couple of weeks. Peggy’s son and his family are coming to visit them on the boat over the weekend so we will stay here and leave on Monday morning. This will break-up some of the large group of boats.
Soon after we got secured we got the courtesy van and took off to visit the Waverly Mansion. This is a must see at this point. Bill and Eileen from Blue Max had already been there so they guided us out into the country side to find the mansion. The house was built in 1852 on a 50,000 acre plantation. In its heyday it was self sufficient, producing everything needed to sustain its 1,000 workers and ship many produced goods. The owner died in 1912 and the house stood empty until 1962 when the present owners purchased it. The woman who took us through the house still lives there with her father. She was seven years old when her parents purchased it and began to restore it. She repeatedly points out that the house stood empty and open for years and was frequented by local kids as a ghost house but nothing was stolen or vandalized. The very elaborate chandeliers were still in place as were mirrors on the walls and much ornamental work.
After visiting the house we drove into Columbus to drive through town to see many of the old homes but it was getting dark so we decided to try to see them on Saturday. We plan now to leave here on Monday so we have plenty of time. It rained and blew most of the night as predicted. Now it is forecast to be quite chilly for the next few days. It is cool and grey this morning.