Sunday, October 30, 2016

10/30 Demopolis to Mobile Bay back in salt water

Demopolis is the last vestige of civilization until Mobile.  At Demopolis, everyone talks about where the best anchorages are along the way.  One of the staff at the Demopolis Marina, had gone out and sounded the Bashi Creek Anchorage and posted it in boaters lounge.  Because we were planning a stop there, I took a picture to help us at the end of the day. 

The Demopolis Lock is less than 2 miles away from the Marina.  David on Miss My Money coordinated a group to leave at first light.  He talked to the lock master and everyone was set to pull out, when.... a tow popped up on AIS.  Tows always take precedence over pleasure crafts going through the lock.  So, we made more coffee.  Everyone was up and ready to go so there was a lot of visiting on the docks for the next hour and a half.   When we heard from the lock master that we could approach the lock, David coordinated getting the faster boats in first.  The boats that had planned to go later now got going with us too.  We filled the lock with looper flags.

The BWTW, the Black Warrior Tombigbee Waterway, slowly turns more and more brackish.  It becomes tidal but the tide is not really noticeable.  John had his eyes out and spotted the first alligator swimming to the side of the river. 
Many of our companion boats had great alligator sightings.  The river is still narrow here with cliffs and rolling hills on the sides.
It was a long day as we did 61 miles and three locks to the Bashi Creek Anchorage.  While it was narrow, there was a sailboat already in it and Time Out and the Hydrophilic fit snugly in there too.  It was hot dogs and beans for supper.  Dark came quickly and the stars were out.  It was cooling off at night, which was good for sleeping.

The next morning was chilly and there was fog on the river too. 
We started the day in jeans, hats and gloves and ended the days in shorts and short sleeve shirts.  There was no cell phone service.  Neither John nor I had service.  Occasionally, we would see a bar or two but it would quickly lapse.   Our first decision was to go 26 miles to Bobby's Fish Camp or  92 miles and one lock to the Alabama River Cutoff Anchorage.  Bobby's is famous because it is the only non-anchorage stop until Mobile.  Bobby's is known for having a face dock that will accommodate 4 boats.  If more boats come, they must raft up to the other boats.  The kicker is that the boats that raft up pay the same price as those on the dock, but have no electricity.  Also the area does not offer wave protection from the tows.  The restaurant there is open Thursday to Sunday and serves catfish.
We knew we were looking at a long day and left our anchorage at first light.  As we passed Bobby's, Dan on Time Out commented that if we stopped it would be for brunch, so we kept going.   We went went through our final lock on the Tombigbee.  There will be more locks between here and home but none of the big Army Corps of Engineer Locks that accommodate tows.   It was dusk as we pulled into the Alabama River Cutoff.  This was the best anchorage we had been in on the Tombigbee.  It was wide, deep and protected from the wind.  We set a stern anchor to keep us straight in the anchorage.  We could see the tidal changes in the river now.  But 92 miles makes for a long day.  We grilled Italian sausages and had them with pasta.  Once again the sky was beautiful and we slept with the windows open.

Finally, it was Friday and we awoke to fog and the narrow BWTW.  The fog cleared though.
The narrowness of the river was about to change.  We were 67 miles from Mobile Bay and our plan to head for Dog River Marina. We headed down the river.  The river had many twists and turns still.  Here is what it looked like on our chart.
One could go around the bend and be less than 1/2 mile from where you started.  We began to see more sand on the shore.
The river was running faster and became the Mobile River.  Finally, we saw palm trees on shore. 
 We began to see industry again like this big steam and steel plant. 
As the river widened, we saw all sorts of AIS indicators ahead.  Each one of those triangles is a ship.
There were very new, sleek and powerful looking Navy vessels being built.
We saw this working platform hanging off the side of one ship. 
This purple hulled ship was appropriately named the Gigantic.  Most of those cranes are on the ship.
Ocean going vessels were here too.  In this picture of the ocean going Autoliner, you can see the tow with barges on the right for perspective. 
The city of Mobile beckoned us forward.

And finally, we entered Mobile Bay.  It was about 2 in the afternoon.  The sun glistened on water.  The bay was filled with dolphin coming to check on us.  The shrimp boats were trawling back and forth.  Most of all the aroma of the ocean was intoxicating.  I was so excited to be back in salt water.

Dog River Marina was our stop for the night.  The crew from Diva Di welcomed us as cruised into our dock space.  Not quite time to relax just yet.  Our front eisinglass zipper blew out and John called the canvas lady so she could come to the boat and get it.  We are going to get work done on our chart plotter at Turner Marina and John made sure we were on for that.  We had been traveling these long days with Dan and Jean from Time Out.  They would be leaving the next morning, so we headed out to dinner.  When you stay here, they give AGLCA reciprocal privileges at the Mobile Yacht Club.  It was founded in 1847, making it one of the oldest in the country.   It is just a short walk there too.  The food and the company was excellent!  The shrimp was very fresh.

Saturday, we started in with boat cleaning.  We helped Time Out cast off their lines.  Then we moved the boat less than a mile to Turner Marina where they will do our Raymarine work and we will get an oil change.  It was afternoon, as I was checking into Turner and heard our friends, Tom and Carolynn, on Su Sueno call to Dog River for their dock space.  When John took a nap, I walked over to Dog River to see them.  They are staying a few days to rest up from the rivers too.  For dinner last night, we went back to the yacht club and I had the best fried oysters I have ever had.

John got this picture of the sunrise here this morning.  It is just that nice. 
The courtesy car here broke down on Thursday and is in the repair shop, so we rented a car today.  That was good because we went to church, got some things at Home Depot and picked up some medications at CVS.  We had lunch at a Five Guys.  You know how they have signs about their burgers winning best burger in some city or another.  Imagine how we laughed when we saw this?
I really love the breezes off the bay here.  It is warm but the breezes make it bearable.  I told John I could live here and he could come visit.

Lat 30 degrees 34.02 North
Long 88 5.26 West

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

10/25 From Columbus, Mississippi to Demopolis, Alabama

So it is time for another geography lesson.  The Tombigbee Waterway runs generally to the south southeast.  I say generally because parts are very winding.  We left Columbus Marina in Columbia, Mississippi for an early lock through.  Another Mainship, Time Out, headed out early with us to go through the Stennis Lock.   While it was cold,  is was a beautiful morning in the lock. 
Time Out took this picture of the Hydrophilic in the lock. 
Once through the lock the fog on water under this bridge made for a good photo op.
At this point the Tennessee River is what makes up the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway.  It wasn't long before we had crossed state lines and were surrounded by Alabama on both sides.  One never knows when you might need to make a phone call on the edge of a river in rural Alabama, but we found one just in case. 

We cruised easily down the Tenn Tom, the views were terrific.
This is a picture of our boat going down the Tenn Tom. 
But one cannot lose sight of the fact that these waterways were made to make it easier for the tows and barges to get to the Gulf of Mexico. 
After the Helfin lock, both the Time Out and the Hydrophilic anchored in an oxbow to the right of the river.
Once the anchor set we were snug for the night.  The weather has been cool at night with temperatures in the low 40's.  By the end of the day though, temperatures have been in the high 70's to low 80's.  John took a swim off the back of the boat but put me on alligator duty.  We are getting to alligator country and another looper, Barbara on Miss My Money said she saw one the other day.  The stars were beautiful overhead and reflected in the water.  Time for a good nights sleep.

So today, we were up early to head down the Tenn Tom.   We passed the White Cliffs of Epes, Alabama.  They are part of the Selma Chalk formations that were laid down at the same time as the White Cliffs of Dover.  As we rounded the corner on the river, the cliffs were stunning in the sunlight.

Today was an easy day with no locks and we arrived at Demopolis, Alabama about 3.  That was plenty of time for a long shower and 2 loads of laundry before the BYOB docktails at 5 pm.  The captains have decided that the first flight of boats will leave at 6:30 and David on Miss My Money will communicate with the lock master for all of us.

Demopolis is where the Tennessee Tombigbee meets the Black Warrior River.  So from here down to Mobile, it will be the Black Warrior Tombigbee.  We will be anchoring out the next one or two nights so do not expect updates to the blog in a couple of days.  Soon the water will become tidal and progressively more brackish.  I miss the smell of salt water and look forward to the aroma soon.

Lat 32 degrees 31.86 North
Long 87 degrees 50.51 West

Sunday, October 23, 2016

10/23 Rendezvous to Mississippi-so much to tell everyone.

Hi and sorry to be so long without blogging.  We have been busy!!!
On Wednesday, the AGLCA Rendezvous and the Rogersville, Alabama Chamber of Commerce hosted an evening of polo and music.  For a modest fee, we took school buses to the local polo grounds.
 Once there, we were treated to a hayride to see the new stables for the race horses. 
The race horses were so lovely.

Then, the grounds put on an exhibition polo match.  It was fun to see the polo ponies.
The woman who did the announcing was very good about teaching us the rules and strategy of polo while they played. 
After the match, dinner was served and the band began playing Muscle Shoals music.   After dinner and dancing, we headed back to the boat for a good night sleep.

Thursday was the last day of the Rendezvous.  The day focused on crossing the Gulf of Mexico and circumnavigating Florida and heading up the east coast.  In the afternoon, the Hydrophilic was on the Looper Crawl.  We signed up to open our boat for tours.  We were amazed at the large number of folks who came aboard to see our little home.  We had about 40 visitors.  At dinner, our friends Rod and Susie Busbee had many of us in stitches.  Some of us have Yeti coolers.  They do not.  But they don't need one; they have a full sized refrigerator.  It has become a running joke.  They made knock off Yetti T-shirts and insulated cups their Yetti knock off logo.  It was a big hit.

To leave Joe Wheeler, all of the boats have to go through the locks either upbound or downbound.  So that the lock masters would not get a call from each of the boats, boats could sign up for leaving Friday or Saturday and certain times.  John signed us up for leaving at 6 a.m.  We were with three other boats leaving in the dark.  The lock is only a couple of miles way.  As we entered the lock, I was pretty sure we woke up the birds nesting along the lock walls.  Boy, did they squawk. 
The rest of the day, we headed down the Tennessee River to the start of the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway.  At that point, you can see Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi.  Along the way, we saw this drive down a hill to the dock.  It looked challenging. 
 We stayed a Grand Harbor Marina that night in Counce, TN.

The next morning, we were up early to head down the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway, called the Tenn Tom.  The fog on the water was very thick and we opted to wait about 2 hours until we could see through the fog.  The fog was really pretty though. 
The sun burned off the fog once it got high enough in the sky.  This crane made the shape of this red marker vey unusual in the fog.
On the Tenn Tom,  the highest lock is the Whitten Lock.  We locked down 84 feet.  The back gate of the lock looks really pretty with the water flowing over it.
The Tenn Tom was manmade to make an easier faster route to the Gulf of Mexico.  The first section is very straight.
When they made the Tombigbee River straighter and deeper, the rivers that ran off of it reversed direction and flowed into the Tenn Tom.  To prevent the rivers from silting up the Tenn Tom, these barriers were placed to allow the water to flow but inhibit the silt.
Shortly after leaving in the morning, both sides of the river are now in the state of Mississippi.  We went through three locks and 56 miles for a full day.

Saturday night, we stayed at Midway Marina, which is not midway on the Tenn Tom by any stretch of the imagination.  Sunday morning was foggy but not as bad as Saturday morning.  We did get an early start because the lock master said he had tows coming and could lock us through if we could get there in 20 minutes.  So we threw off our lines and headed for the lock.  The Tenn Tom becomes much more winding in this area.
The geese are heading south and so are we.
I didn't know that Mississippi was so beautiful.
We did 4 locks and  59 miles.  We landed at Columbus Marina in Columbus, Mississippi.  Look at these gorgeous water hyacinths in the water here. 
The courtesy car was available to go to town, so we signed up and went to dinner and Kroegers. 

From here, the Tenn Tom is more rural and we will be anchoring out some. 

Lat 33 degrees 31.29 North
Long 88 degrees 28.89 West

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

10/19 Rendezvous in full swing

The Rendezvous is in full swing.  It is so nice to see so many loopers that we have hopscotched with along the way.  There are many people who are just starting to plan their loop.  We were those folks in the Spring of 2015.  We signed up to be mentors and met the nicest planning loopers.  A special session was held before the big kick off meeting so we could guide them through the rendezvous, too.  They had many questions and I was surprised at how confident I felt answering their questions.

On Monday, a session was held where the loopers in progress introduced themselves and told a short story.  John told the story of our crossing of Lake Ontario and how he asked, "Are we Gloucestermen?" to break the tension.  He had everyone in the audience laughing, when he suggested that might not work.

We had the nicest thing happen to us.  This Giving Plate was given to us from our friends, the Busbys.  They knew we loved the cherries in Michigan and sent to Michigan to get the cherry jam and candies for us.  This plate has been passed from one boat to another with the boat names signed to go along with the plate.  How nice is this?  Now, to get ready to pass it on.

There are lots of good laughs and camaraderie.  I had to get a picture when our friend, Mike, walked his dog up to the pool.  Both Mike and the dog were wearing the same outfit.  Loopers show no mercy when a good laugh is to be had.

The classes and vendor displays are very good.  I particularly enjoyed the class on Crossing the Gulf without Drama.  The lecturer was so good, I know we will have a good crossing now.  There are lectures on what to see and do in Mobile, and along the Gulf Coast, and where to go in the east and west coast of FL and so much more.  I am ready to do it all. 

At the Ship's Store for AGLCA, I bought our gold burgee.  We can fly the gold burgee when we complete the loop.  I felt a little sad as I sat in the lecture for the east coast of FL.  Technically, because we bought the boat in Fort Lauderdale and cruised it home to NC, we will cross our wake in Fort Lauderdale.  But I want to wait, and do it officially in NC.  The time has just flown by.

Tonight, the Rogersville, Alabama Chamber of Commerce has a tour of horse stables, a polo match, dinner, and Muscle Shoals music.  It looks like  a fun evening.  Tomorrow, there are more classes and our boat will be on display on the Looper Crawl.  The Looper Crawl is a session where you can look for ideas on other people's boats.