Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Demopolis, AL to Grand Rivers, KY

Total Miles Traveled 3460

After waiting at Demopolis a couple of days to let the river levels drop, we continued north on May 8th to an anchorage at Cooks Bend.  This section of the Tenn-Tom waterway has less current and debris than our cruise to Demopolis.

The white cliffs at Epes, Alabama

Although we only had a 10% chance of rain, the clouds were building about 3 miles from the Stennis Lock at Columbus, Mississippi. Luckily we only had a light sprinkle after exiting the lock and anchoring at Waverly, Mississippi.  We could hear thunder southeast of us so we just caught the edge of it.

On May 10th we made it through 4 locks without any delays and anchored just past the Fulton Lock.  The next morning we continued on to the Rankin Lock.  I called the lock on the radio about 3 miles out and was informed that a southbound tow was approaching the lock so we reduced speed and arrived at the lock with only a 30 minute delay before entering the chamber.  After exiting the Rankin and Montgomery Locks, we approached the Jamie Whitten Lock, the last lock on the Tenn-Tom waterway and the largest at 84 feet. 

My best mate is getting a little nervous.

That small white speck on the top right of the photo is a full size pickup truck.

Hooked to the floating bollard, I always keep a razor knife handy in case it sticks.  Fortunately we haven't had that happen in any of the hundreds of locks we have passed through.

If you look close, you can see a man walking across the lock door on the left.

After exiting the lock we entered Bay Springs and decided to make a short day of it and anchor in a cove on the lake, the temperatures have been around 90 degrees since leaving Demopolis.

We haven’t seen water this clear since leaving the Gulf and had to celebrate our last lock with swim and a steak dinner.  You can’t beat Florida in the winter, but we really enjoy the inland lakes and rivers in the summer.

No wonder I have been sneezing so much, you can see the pollen on top of the calm water the next morning.

We left our anchorage May 12th and stopped at Iuka, Mississippi at the Aqua Yacht Harbor Marina to visit our friends Charlie and Robin on “The Lower Place”.  They were a few days ahead of us and have a new house near the marina.  We had a great visit with them and are looking forward to meeting them again this fall.

On May 13th we left early to get through the Pickwick Lock, about 9 miles from the marina.  This is the last lock we will go through before reaching our home port at Grand Rivers, Kentucky.  I contacted the lock by radio and was informed a tow was in the lock and another southbound tow was approaching the lock.  We were instructed to go to the auxiliary lock and tie up close to the lock doors.  It would be about an hour and a half before he could lock us through, it ended up being a 3 hour delay from the time I called to the time we exited the lock. 

The lock chamber is currently empty, a 55 foot drop on the other side of the lock doors.  My best mate is taking advantage of the delay by swabbing the deck.

The lock wall was covered with muscles.

We’re now on our home stretch on the Tennessee River and we anchored at mile 149 behind Double Islands.

There are some nice homes built along the waterway.

This contractor didn’t plan very well.

On Monday May 14th we continued to an anchorage at Richland Creek at mile 88.5, the temperatures are still hanging around 90 with very little breeze........ and I was worried about getting back too soon before it warmed up.  When we were at Mobile, the lows back home were in the 40’s.  

The river is now opening to form Kentucky Lake; this ferry is crossing the channel ahead of us.

Hundreds of ducks are in taking a break in the channel.

Arriving at Green Turtle Bay May 15th.

This will be our last blog until we start our next adventure this Fall.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Roberts Bayou, AL to Demopolis, AL

Total Miles Traveled 3030

After a relaxing anchorage at Roberts Bayou, we set course for Mobile Alabama April 29th and arrived at the Dog River Marina.  We met our friends Charlie and Robin on “The Lower Place” and also met our other looper friends , Byron and Cynthia on “Bright Angel”.   

We took the dinghy to the Turner Marina and met Tom and Marsha West on “Faith”.  I met Tom several years ago when he was building his 60 foot, 35 ton, sailboat on his tennis court in Poland, Indiana.  Yes, he built this sailboat almost single handed from scratch.  A feat in itself, but Tom also cut timber from his land and made the cabinetry for the boat.  We were lucky to catch them as Tom and Marsha were packing to go home the next day.  They gave us the grand tour, what an amazing accomplishment!  When I saw this boat last, the outside structure was almost finished but the inside was just a shell.  If you Google Tom West Sailboat, there are several stories about “Faith”

We left the Dog River Marina April 30th with “The Lower Place” and planned to visit Fairhope, Alabama across Mobile Bay for a couple of days.  We had a mix up in communication as we were both going to the city marina and had called ahead for reservations.  We found that Fairhope has two marinas operated by the city, we went to one and The Lower Place went to the other.  I could not get a response from the marina by radio or phone when we arrived and saw two sunken boats in slips.  The Lower Place arrived at the other marina and the dock attendant couldn’t say how deep the water would be in the slip they tied to.  The sailboat next to him said he would be sitting on the bottom the next morning.  We decided to cancel the Fairhope visit and continued north to a dock at the Mobile Convention Center.

When crossing Mobile Bay we were approached by a low flying plane, it appeared the Coast Guard was practicing supply parachute drops to targets in the bay.

Entering Mobile harbor

We always see unique vessels here.

Our plan to leave the next morning May 1st was delayed by fog.  We planned to leave at 7 a.m. and at 6:15 we had clear skies, 30 minutes later we were fogged in.  Fortunately it cleared out about as fast as it came in and we were on our way by 8.

Rain up north has caused the inland rivers to exceed flood stage in some areas during the past few weeks.  The levels have returned to below flood stage but are still higher than normal.  We have been monitoring the pool levels, and flow discharge rates from the upstream locks before heading up the river system.  The biggest problem that we have encountered is floating debris.  We may travel a mile or so with very little, and then hit an area that has several pieces.

This is the one that can ruin your day, floating just under the surface. 

We have encountered a few long days, not because we are in a hurry, but anchorages from Mobile to Demopolis are far and few between.  There are no marinas, fuel, or docks between Mobile and the first lock at Coffeeville, Alabama about 117 miles.  From Coffeeville to Demopolis is another 100 miles without services. Since passing through the Coffeeville lock, we are now in fresh water.  The first thing I noticed was my hands are not sticky from salt water after pulling up and cleaning the anchor and chain.

Our entourage after leaving Coffeeville Lock, "The Lower Place", "Bright Angel", and "Huckster"

Boat-tails anchored in Bashi Creek, pretty much the middle of nowhere.  Cell phone and television signals are non-existent except for an occasional text that will make it through. 

I sure like the AIS I installed before leaving on our loop in 2015 (Automatic Identification System). We are a couple of miles from a southbound tow, both of us heading into a bend in the river with hills and trees between us.  I can see him on the chart plotter and he can see me on his and he tells me which side of the river he would like for me to be on when we pass.  He tells me by radio that he would like to see me on the two, which means two whistles, passing starboard to starboard.

We passed this wild boar on the way to Demopolis, the first time we have seen one during our travels. 

Demopolis Lock and Dam May 4th.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Steinhatchee, FL to Roberts Bayou, AL

Total Miles Traveled 2737

On Tuesday April 17th before leaving Steinhatchee, we had heard about a waterfall a few miles up the river from the marina.  We decided to go exploring with Charlie and Robin in our dinghy’s to see if we could find it.  There are several private docks, condominiums, restaurants, and marinas along the shoreline.  

Hungry Howie"s Pizza

 River Haven Marina, we stayed here last fall.

 Fiddlers Restaurant and Motel

The farther up river we traveled we noticed the current increasing.

We passed this sign “Do not enter Rocks 100 feet”.

After rounding the bend it was obvious the Steinhatchee Falls were rocks in the riverbed and the previous day’s rain raised the river level above the rocks.  We turned around before approaching the turbulent water and risking prop damage.

Sea Hag Marina

At daybreak on April 19th we left Steinhatchee on our last leg of crossing the Gulf of Mexico to Carrabelle, Fl an 85 mile cruise.  Every time we cross this section of Florida’s Big Bend, we see spotted dolphins, this time was no exception, we had seven travel with us today.

We also picked up a hitchhiker, we’re not sure when it came aboard, but we were out over 10 miles at one point during the day.  I clapped my hands to see if it would fly off but it was obvious it was exhausted and not going anywhere.  We had no idea what it was but it was very colorful, a brilliant purple with a bright red and yellow bill and really weird looking feet.  At first I thought it had fishing line tangled up in its feet but not the case.

When we arrived at Carrabelle we were greeted by our good friends we completed part of the loop with, Hamp on “Gracie”, and Jeff on “2 Infinity”.  They are returning Hamps boat “Gracie” back to Melbourne from Panama City.  Kim the dock master said they had a local man that took in injured birds and nursed them back to health before releasing them.  Hamp placed the bird in a cardboard box and took it to the marina office for us. 

This is what I found on the net about the Purple Gallinule:

Swims on the surface of water like a duck and walks on floating plants rather like a chicken.
Dark Purple head, neck, and underside.
Green Back
Red bill tipped with yellow
Light blue forehead
Bill triangular like a chicken’s, not flat like a duck’s
Legs are yellow.

We all met at Fathoms Raw Oyster Bar and introduced Charlie and Robin to our looper friends.  We had a great visit talking about our experiences together on the Great Loop.  I’m sure we’ll cross wakes again during future adventures.

We departed Carrabelle April 20th and made the 30 mile cruise to Apalachicola, the wind has picked up again so it’s nice to be back in the protected waters of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.  Florida and Georgia have been in a battle over water for 30 years, Florida’s complaint is that the cities and farmers of Georgia are not managing the fresh water efficiently reducing the amount needed for oyster production downstream and killing the oyster industry.   Apalachicola used to be the oyster capital of the world providing 90 percent of Florida’s oysters and 10 percent nationwide.  From what we are told most of the oysters come from Louisiana and Texas today.   We stopped by our favorite Oyster Bar “The Hole in the Wall” and got the scoop from the owner.  He said they still serve Apalachicola oysters as they have been a family owned business for decades and know the local oysterman.  He showed us a tag that comes with every box of oysters sold that shows the date and location harvested.  He confirmed that most restaurants now get there oysters from other states and oyster farms. 

After one night at Apalachicola we continued north to White City, we have stayed at the free dock several times while passing through and planned to stay here a couple of days while another storm front approaches.   We usually don’t leave the boat, but Charlie walked off the dock and noticed a sign indicating no overnight docking permitted (the sign faces away from the dock so when you tie up you don’t’ see it).  He talked to a local fisherman and was told the local authorities will ask you to leave, and could impose a $500 fine for ignoring their request.   White City is not an incorporated town and there is no local police or town marshals available to contact.  We decided to continue on to Port St Joe.

We left Port St Joe April 23rd and anchored at Smack Bayou, across the bay from Panama City.  This dolphin was jumping next to the boat in East Bay, it didn't turn out in the picture but the entire underside of the dolphin was pink.  When it would jump, it turned upside down. 

On April 24th we continued on to an anchorage at Choctawhatchee Bay.  Our friends from back home Brad and Nancy live close to here and a nice waterfront restaurant is also located here.  It was nice visiting with them over dinner.  We also got a peak at Nancy’s new ride, a sharp two seater Mini Cooper.

We left our anchorage and planned to stay at Fort Walton Beach City dock but decided to continue on to Pensacola.  We planned to anchor at Ft McCray but when we arrived dredging equipment was scattered everywhere as they were working on the channel close to the island.  We decided to push on to Roberts Bayou, one of our favorite stops when passing though this area.  We’ll anchor here for a couple of days and let a weak front pass through then continue on to Mobile on Saturday April 28th.