Friday, December 28, 2007

Demopolis to Fairhope, AL

December 22, 2007 - Left Demopolis and traveled all the way down to Bobby’s Fish Camp. We had hoped to anchor out alongside the channel of the waterway at a recommended anchorage…but, again, too little water and too much wind. Bobby’s offered a dock that ran parallel to the channel, no electricity. $1/ft. But…the restaurant was open and we enjoyed carry out catfish dinners. We felt the barges coming along during the night but at least knew we were attached to the dock. Here's a picture of one of the prettier tow boats we saw on this trip.

December 23, 2007 – Sunday night found us anchoring successfully for the first time this trip. We made it down to MM 52.8 and the Alabama River Cutoff. Nice spot. Got “buzzed” by a number of fishing or hunting boats, but it was a good anchorage. We set both a bow and stern anchor. The photo below was taken the next morning...can't get enough of these water and sky shots....

December 24, 2007 – We traveled down to Daymark 12.2 anchorage at the Tensas River Cutoff. Great anchorage. We had wondered whether we could make it all the way down to Fairhope…but decided not to after seeing weather reports calling for some wind and rain. We've gone through lots of locks at this point, but only had to request passage under (or around, in this case) two railroad bridges. At around MM 14 we went through the Mile 14 railroad bridge as the bridge swiveled around to accommodate us.

Christmas Day, 2007 – After waiting at Daymark 12.2 until about noon, we left for Fairhope. It rained that morning and looked like it would not clear off, but as we approached Mobile going under the “Dolly Parton Bridge” (from a distance the bridge structure forms two large humps pointing skyward) you can see the clearing sky coming in from the West. We made it through the downtown Mobile area with all the big boats. Mostly quiet that day, thankfully.

We did see some tugboats working to move a large vessel...

Mobile’s new convention center in the foreground and Alabama's tallest building, the RSA Tower.

We've logged around 880 miles so far in this 5000 mile trip and made it down the TennTom. It has been a real adventure so far, to say the least. Working our way around each curve, straining to see if a towboat was coming...and difficulty in anchoring out the first couple of tries...were the main sources of stress. And, of course, we're still learning what we and the boat can do so we feel challenged. Speaking of towboats, our friend Harold Stanton caught this image from our web tracking site and sent to us with the label, "Beep, beep. Passing a doublewide on the TennTom."

Got into Fairhope around 3 PM after an uneventful trip across the Bay. The waters were maybe 1-2 ft. with only a few whitecaps showing. We stayed at Eastern Shore Marine, a few miles north of the center of town. Getting into the marina we had a stiff wind to fight getting lined up along the dock. Vicki and Bob Riggs saw us coming in as they were taking a walk and drove over to the marina to help us dock. They are from Memphis, TN, and moved to Fairhope about 8 years ago having traveled here and liking it. Fairhope has been dubbed an excellent place to retire. Vicki and Bob kindly offered to come back over during our stay to share their experience cruising the Florida Panhandle and Gulf Coast.

December 26 - 28, 2007 – Three days off in Fairhope. Took care of provisioning and laundry on the first day…and did some boat work. The 27th was our 39th wedding anniversary so we planned a light day. Our internet and telephone connections were intermittent at Fairhope so we set out on that Thursday to find a wi-fi somewhere in town. We ended up at the Grand Harbor Marriott Resort thinking they might have wi-fi in the lobby. Not so. Turns out we could get a strong signal in the middle of a shopping center parking lot nearby so we checked our email.

Thursday afternoon Vicki and Bob came back over and gave us some great information based on their having boated around here and the panhandle for years. They plan to begin their loop cruise this March.

Friday we had planned to head south to the ICW, but the weather looked windy and stormy so we decided to wait until Saturday, December 29. Our internet connection is working great today, though, so the blog posts I've been saving up will finally make the web!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Making our way to Mobile...

December 20, 2007 - The trip from Columbus Marina down to Demopolis will forever be ingrained in our memory. The weather reports we saw as we left Columbus that morning were calling for light rain with occasional thunderstorms. It rained lightly for a while…then started pouring. As we were going thru Bevill Lock I was outfitted in Goretex jacket and pants and water was pooling on the top of my boat shoes. Nasty stuff.

But, we thought that was our last lock for the day and we’d be warm and dry soon at the anchorage we’d selected, Sumter Landing. As we approached Sumter Landing, around 2:30 PM, it began to storm with lighting and thunder. The winds were whipping around from every direction, it seemed. We aimed for the center of the entrance and found very shallow water. We actually had to enter more from the downstream side to get into the pool…but when inside we had around 10-12 ft. Wayne let out the anchor while I struggled to keep the boat “in place” while the wind was doing it’s thing. @#$%^^^@#$&&& !!!

The anchor set…but after watching the position for a few minutes we decided to pull it up and reset a little further out in the center of the area. As Wayne was retrieving the anchor the winch seized up and quit. Wayne pulled the anchor on up…and found about 2 feet of sticky black mud packed around it. With the winch acting up…and time a-wastin’ with the wind playing havoc with the boat…we decided to abandon the anchorage idea and go on down to Demopolis. But, as Wayne says, the water gods weren’t through with us yet.

As we were trying to thread the needle out of the area…leaning towards the downstream side…the wind slammed us up close to the bank and we got mired in the mud. We tried to move and couldn’t. Tow Boat US, we thought. No cellular coverage. We hailed Heflin Lock, the one downstream, and ask the lockmaster to call them. He did and came back with the info that there was NO coverage for 50 miles either way. Our option was to have someone from Columbus Marina or Demopolis come and get us out. We chose Demopolis and he said he would contact them. Meanwhile we decided to try again to get out. The wind had died down some. We made it out!! We called off the cavalry…and decided to go for Demopolis, one lock and 50 miles ahead. Didn’t seem to be much choice…

We made it to the lock by 4:00 PM. The lockmaster said that a towboat, Chippawa, was headed downstream behind us and had priority through the lock. We should wait for it to go down. We sat there for a few minutes and Wayne decided to ask if we could go ahead of the tow. The lockmaster said he’d be glad to ask if the towboat captain wanted to relinquish his right…and he DID! We got through the lock by 4:30 and headed out at max speed (read: 20 mph).

A night run was never in our plans. We had one hour of light and two hours running in the dark. We made it to Demopolis Yacht Basin by 7:30 PM and were both completely wrung out from adrenalin rush. A day off on the 21st was much needed!!

December 21, 2007 – Day at Demopolis Yacht Basin. We got a few supplies with the courtesy car, did a little laundry, cleaned up the boat, received oil that Wayne had shipped in… It was nice. We were tied up against a dock just across from the fuel dock. This afternoon Wayne spotted a towboat fueling up and decided to go over and ask for a tour (he’s wanted to do this for some time now.) The captain gladly took him aboard and here’s a picture of Wayne in the towboat pilot house. I was shooting it into the afternoon sun, but if you look closely up in the pilot house the outline of a person you Wayne.

December 18 we did 3 locks and stayed at Midway Marina. The guy that helped us tie up was so helpful. One December 19 we were at Columbus Marina after 4 locks. Very nice place. We borrowed the courtesy car and did a small run into town.

Lucy spends warm days on the bridge with us...but when it's chilly outside we let her stay in the salon. She's not wild about rough waters or faster speeds(well, 20mph, for us.) So far she's holding up well. We still haven't anchored we haven't had her try out the Poop Deck.

They don't call it Goat Island for nothing.

Grand Harbor Marina at the top of the TennTom was a lovely spot to spend an extra day. We borrowed the courtesy van and went in for provisions before we caught up on laundry. Our day off was gone before we knew it! We've learned already that we do not want to do a big provisions run AND big laundry load in one day. It's good to check out the laundromat facilities ahead of time, too. Grand Harbor had one working washer and several dryers so the process took a little longer than we would have liked.

Goose Pond sunset December 13. Goose Pond was a beautiful area. We met a couple who had attended the Loop conference with us in October. They have stopped at Goose Pond for a while before returning to their home in Alabama.

December 13, 2007. Water and sky for a beautiful scene leaving Hales Bar the next day.

Hales Bar Marina, December 12, was a dreary site. The picture above is a shot of the abandoned Hales Bar Electrical plant. The river channel is on the left of the picture and the marina in the foreground to the right. The colored roofs you see belong to a line of floating cabins that the marina rents. Getting into the marina was a real scary deal. We were having a hard time communicating with the person in the office. We thought we saw what needed to be done...but at one point she said, "turn now!" We did...and weaved our way into the north side of the fuel dock. Not the way you want to do it. We fueled up and then made our way gingerly back out and along the front of the cabins to the correct entrance. A very helpful guy came out and assisted our tie up. It had begun to rain.

Friday, December 14, 2007

ZZZRRRPPP. (Sound of a phonograph needle scratching across a record.)

We’re on our way…a-gain. 100 miles into our trip we developed a fuel leak. Turned out to be a corroded fuel tank and we ended up leaving the boat at Island Cove Marina near Chattanooga for repairs. They actually had to cut out the old tank and replace it with a couple of new ones. Labor intensive deal? Yes. Expensive? Yes. Over with and done? YES!

Meanwhile, Wayne, Lucy and I went on down to the AGLCA meeting and then traveled around Florida and the East Coast for three weeks before going home for the Thanksgiving holiday. The boat was ready for us on December 7 and we took a few days to restock and organize before leaving Wednesday, December 12.

We’re glad to be back on the Loop and will update the blog on down stream.

I’ll end this entry with the blessing my sister, Nadine, wrote for SEGUE. We’ve had our first lesson in improvisation!


Wikipedia includes the following concerning segue:

“In music, segue is a direction to the performer. It means continue (the next section) without a pause. For written music it therefore implies a transition from one section to the next without any break. In improvisation it is often used for transitions created as a part of the performance, leading from one area to another. These transitions often require a seamless change of the music’s time signature.”

I found this definition interesting—especially the part about improvisation often requiring a seamless change in the time signature. Changing a time signature in music is often well thought out by the composer to change the mood, tempo or beat of the piece. Improv, however, requires a seamless, dynamic transition from section to section. The map or travel plan of the performer is often appearing as it is being done—sometimes so dynamic that it is difficult to recreate the transitions later. It is hard to say your Great Loop adventure can be described as improvisation. The amount of time you have spent in preparation and planning is impressive; but I do like to think that everyday will be spontaneous and hold new treasures.

All that to say:

May you and Segue be fit and ready for the adventure ahead.

May the engines hum and the electronics be on their best behavior.

May you face each morning with excitement and anticipation.

May your course be true and your waters calm.

May Lucy embrace her very own spot on the “Poop Deck”—giving Wayne the joy of not being tasked with early shore duty.

May your days be filled with wonder at the river’s life.

May you enjoy the trip of a lifetime with your best friend.

May God hold you in the palm of His hand as you riotously navigate the transitional changes in time, tempo and beat with ease!

May you always feel the love, prayers and good wishes that we all send your way everyday.