Thursday, April 08, 2010
Home for Easter. Happy Day!
I"LL ADD PHOTOS LATER!
After a very pleasant evening at Bay Springs Marina, we took a leisurely run to the mouth of the Tenn-Tom Waterway and found ourselves once again on our lovely, lovely Tennessee River. These are our home waters, and they made our spirits soar. After spending the night at Florence Harbor, we felt nostalgic as we passed the Muscle Shoals Sailing Club. The new clubhouse looks wonderful, and we are mighty proud to have been a part of making it happen.
Just as we entered Wheeler Lock, our last lock on this adventure, the cell phone rang. It was Peggy, telling us that we needed to come home and look at the beautiful wild flowers, redbuds, and dogwood trees in Huntsville. Joy of joys! We were almost home. Peggy and Paul offered to pick us up at Joe Wheeler State Park, where we are leaving the boat for a week. We were happy to take them up on their offer. Many pounds of luggage later, we were home in Huntsville in the company of dear friends.
My goodness, we feel blessed this Easter Sunday. Our Keys adventure was a delight. We will be reflecting on the laid-back lifestyle of the Keys, the joys of One Palm Court, our Gold Looper friends, visits with dear friends and family, dinghy rides, and sunsets for years to come. Those coastal birds in Florida will always hold a special place in my heart. We will go back! But it is also wonderful to be home -- nothing like it! New adventures are just around the corner.
Lotsa Locks! Getting Closer to the Mouth of the Tenn-Tom.
We haven’t had reliable Internet access in days and days – I’m suffering from withdrawal. That’s why nothing has been posted recently.
I had forgotten the number of locks that occur on this section of the waterway. We’ve seen only a few tows, so we’ve been able to pass right through each lock. After a pleasant evening at the Aberdeen Marina last night, we pushed hard all day today, passing through SIX locks. That’s a lot of hauling fender boards! But we are making great progress. The Waterway dips in and out of Mississippi at this point, and the landscape looks more like the beautiful Tennessee Valley. The Bay Springs area, south of Pickwick Lake, is one of my favorite spots, and I want to come back here soon. The lake is huge, the water is clear, and the land is undeveloped because it is owned by the Corps of Engineers. Lots excellent anchorages beckon us around here, and the folks at the marina are warm and friendly. We hope to be home Sunday or Monday.
On the Waterway To Demopolis and Aliceville, AL
Bob and I keep reminding ourselves that traveling alone, mile after mile on the lower Tenn-Tom may be mind-numbing, but it is a small price to pay for our great winter in Florida. We are now putting in long days of slogging along the Waterway so we can get on home as soon as possible. At this point in the journey, spotting a tow pushing a bunch of barges is a welcome distraction. “Awrightcaptainyoucanmeetusontheonewhistle” means “pass us to your right.” This jargon seemed novel when we made our first trip down the Tenn-Tom, but it is old hat now.
The landscape on the Tenn-Tom is still gradually changing. Now we see more hardwoods and much more contour along the banks. The river hasn’t decided where it wants to go, so there are an unbelievable number of hairpin turns and many areas where raw clay banks indicate serious erosion. We marvel at the number of people who have built homes along the edge of the Waterway, now a few feet from destruction.
On Tuesday we were really happy that Jim and Martha could meet us in Demopolis for the night. We enjoyed looking at several ante-bellum mansions on our way to an excellent restaurant downtown. Bob was also able to buy two new engine starting batteries. We were sorry to bid Jim and Martha farewell Wednesday morning, but we all had to keep moving. They brought us some excellent literature about our upcoming summer adventure out west.
Today we passed several fascinating white chalk cliffs, including the well-known Cliffs of Eppes. Spring is clearly here. The weather is sunny and warm, and it is nice to see some redbuds and dogwood trees in bloom. Between the two of us, though, I’m sure we’ve inhaled at least a pound of pollen. Today we made a long, tedious run. We had to transit two locks, with the goal of getting to Pirates Cove Marina in Aliceville by late afternoon. All went smoothly until around 3 p.m. when we arrived at Tom Bevill Lock. Wouldn’t you know . . . we had to wait on two tows to pass through. This meant we locked in the dark, then we had to grope our way to the marina in the pitch black. Fortunately we spotted the appropriate marks, the folks at Pirate’s Cove Marina were expecting us, and the staff helped guide us to the dock. Whew! We were exhausted by the time we made it, but we are now more than half-way up the Tenn-Tom. If the weather continues to be this clear, we could be home in four or five more days!
Adventure on Bashi Creek Near Nowhere, Alabama
As we slogged 83 miles along the many hairpin turns/horseshoe bends in the Warrior/Tombigbee River part of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, I was thinking about what to write in today’s blog. It went something like this, “The wind blew very hard all day, Glad we aren’t on an open bay. River, river, river, river, river, river, river, pass through Coffee Lock, river, river, river, river, get fuel at Bobby’s Fish Camp, river, river, river, river, river, river. Stop for the night at Bashi Creek at 5:30 p.m.” You get the idea that the Tenn Tom at this point is pretty mind-numbing.
That would have been accurate until we did stop for the night. To be fair, the landscape has changed from yesterday. Instead of pancake flat shoreline, we now see some decent hills and a few bluffs. But there was truly very little scenery to brag about. Soooooooo when we arrived at Bashi Creek, located somewhere in Clarke County, Alabama (mile 145.2 on the Tenn Tom), we saw a large tow boat named “Biloxi” pulled up to the bank where we wanted to enter. They were having a problem, and maintenance workers were on the scene. The tug captain encouraged us to slip behind them, which we did. Then they left.
Unfortunately, significant wind was blowing hard right down the mouth of the creek. We had difficulty getting a bow and stern anchor set so that we were parallel to the shoreline. The wind kept blowing Second Wind catawampus. Then it happened. The stern anchor line got caught in the propeller—and it wrapped tight. No cell signal. No one was around--anywhere. Not a good prospect. After some strong profanity, Bob donned his wetsuit and jumped into the muddy creek. My hero! After Herculean effort, he eventually untangled the line from the prop, re-spliced the anchor line, and we were set for the night in this remote spot. Surprise of surprises, “Biloxi” came back. Their problems weren’t fixed after all. We were happy to have company here in The Boonies, even though they were off again by 9:30 p.m. Assuming our prop isn’t damaged too badly, we hope to get to Demopolis by Tuesday afternoon. Jim and Martha are joining us there for the night. It will be great to see them.
P.S. Bob did some limited tests that night, and our prop seemed fine. Now that the boat is running well, we can focus on the sulfur smell that Liz noticed before the anchor incident. Turned out to be a failed starting battery. Fortunately the boat configuration allows us to start both engines off one battery.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Fairwell to Fairhope--and Salt Water
I'm posting this quickly on Sunday morning as we make our way across Mobile Bay, where we will pick up the Tenn-Tom Waterway. We had a wonderful visit with Terry and Herb, long-time friends from home on Friday night. Dinner at the Live Bait restaurant, part of The Wharf Marina Resort complex. Where was my camera? I don't know! I had taken a picture of the ferris wheel and shops earlier in the day, but I simply forgot to take a photo at Live Bait. The meal was quite delicious and the entertainment, excellent -- both the live combo and the conversation with friends. Mother Nature nudged us Saturday morning to continue heading home. A weather system was on its way, and we needed to get to Fairhope before it hit.
Soon after we arrived in Fairhope, we had a quick but delightful visit with Doug and Sarah, who can see our boat from their back deck. They are "sort of" cousins because we shared my much-loved Aunt Virginia. Again, where was my camera? We wanted to stay longer and visit a day or two, but another weather system is on its way. It's no fun crossing Mobile Bay when it is stirred up. Before we left I took a few photos from the boat, just to remind myself how much I love it down here. I'll post them later. I'll miss salt water and coastal living -- until we return to North Carolina anyway.
We plan to anchor out tonight, somewhere between Mobile and Demopolis. There are several possible anchorages, and we'll pick one when the time comes, probably about 50 miles up river from Mobile.
P.S. We made it to the anchorage at Three Rivers, about 12 miles from Jackson, AL, as the crow flies, but longer on the winding Tenn Tom. Larry, our Lat/Long is 31 degrees 17.276' North /87 degrees 57.000' West if that makes sense. We turned off at Mile 64 on the Tenn Tom.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Sweet Home Alabama
Thursday-Friday, March 25-26.
When we got up yesterday, the forecast predicted several weather fronts that could ground us for three or four days. We decided to take advantage of the existing good weather and go as far and as fast as possible. That meant cruising west on a course several miles out in the Gulf, running parallel to the Panhandle. This "outside" route allowed us to leapfrog two stops along the longer but prettier and more protected waters of the ICW. After 10 fairly monotonous hours, we were mighty happy to turn into the Pensacola Cut. It was great to see that black and white lighthouse on sandy banks again. Because we still had several hours of daylight, we passed some nice beaches and pretty scenery and chugged on until we arrived in Orange Beach, ALABAMA! Home, sweet home.
Lucky for us, Terry and Herb, friends from Huntsville, are already in this area on a mini-vacation. We look forward to dinner with them Friday night. Second Wind is docked once again at The Wharf marina in Orange Beach until the weather clears again. With any luck we will be in Fairhope on Saturday, with plans to head up the Tenn-Tom Waterway on Monday. As always, Mother Nature will call those shots.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
If It's Tuesday, It Must Be Port St. Joe
Tuesday, March 23
We had great fun with Scott and Anne in Tallahassee last weekend. Somehow we never got a single picture! Now we are moving right along. Bob and I had an easy, easy run from Carrabelle to Port St. Joe today. The weather was calm, and we enjoyed watching the oyster fisherman as we came out into the Bay. Tonight we are staying at the "friendliest marina on the Panhandle." We had heard and read that this was true, and it really is! Maybe we will come back to the Port St. Joe Marina and spend a month or so during another spring. Nice, friendly marina, and the town is fun and attractive too. This is one of the primary fishing communities along the Panhandle. We love looking at the colorful fishing boats on the way in.
Friends Mark and Pat drove over from Apalachicola (known to locals as "Apalach") this evening so we could have dinner together. We are mighty glad we met these fellow PDQ owners at the PDQ rendezvous a few months ago. We crossed the Gulf with them the other day, and now we hope to spend some time with them when they come up the Tennessee River this summer. We all ate at an excellent restaurant called Provisions. The mussels were fabulous! We said a reluctant farewell to Mark and Pat for now. Hope our paths cross soon and that Pat has great success in physical therapy for her shoulder.
Because excellent cruising weather is forecast for tomorrow, we are planning to run "outside" in the Gulf rather than taking the winding Intracoastal Waterway. If so, we will cut a day out of the journey home. We need to keep moving while the weather is good, even though I'd love to stay and visit. We hope to make it to Ft. Walton or Pensacola tomorrow, then spend the weekend in Fairhope while another weather front comes through. Having weather delays just about anywhere along the Panhandle sounds pretty good to me.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Second Wind is in Carrabelle, FL
Monday, Monday 22
Our Gulf crossing went well. The waves were really lumpy and uncomfortable the first day until we reached our night's anchorage at Cedar Key (first photo). We were thrilled when friends Mark and Pat on Catrina joined us there. Pat is still recovering from shoulder surgery, but her brother joined the crew for the crossing. We enjoyed rafting with them and comparing notes about PDQs.
Our second day on the Gulf was a piece of cake. Because it was cool, we drove from the inside. The waves had calmed significantly, and having a buddy boat with us made a huge difference in our peace of mind. Waves were from the south, which boosted our cruising rate to a big 15 mph. Still it was a long, long day, even though we were in daylight this time. But this huge milestone is now behind us! We are now enjoying the warm and wonderful hospitality of Scott and Anne (and Boone) in Tallahassee. They are fun! We plan to return to the boat tonight, with hopes that the weather improves and we can head west to Port Saint Joe tomorrow. Pictures later.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
The ICW to Tarpon Springs, FL. Waiting to Cross . . .
Tuesday - Wednesday, March 16-17.
Even though crossing Tampa Bay Tuesday was a bit choppy, the protected waters of the ICW were fine for traveling. We enjoyed brief sightings of a dolphin or two, but the many condos and a pirate ship were our main attractions. We are already missing the Keys -- our friends at 1 Palm Court, that beautiful light turquoise water, dinghy rides through Sister Creek, stone crab claws, and all those big white birds.
Bob and I decided to bypass Clearwater Beach and head toward the Anclote River just outside of Tarpon Springs. That would cut a bit of time and distance when we do decide to cross the Gulf. I took a photo of Anclote Island, which is where many cruisers lay at anchor before or after their Gulf crossings, but it was too cool for us to try it. A small marina called Port Tarpon (I think) was OK for one night, but now it looks as if we won't be starting across until Friday. Today (Wednesday)we moved on to Tarpon Springs. Greek restaurants seem to be calling our names. You may have noticed that cruising and eating well often seem to be synonymous. Second Wind is currently docked at Tarpon Landing Marina, just across the bridge from the main town. The once boisterous Capt'n Jacks bar and grill seems pretty tame right now. We'll see about tonight. . . .
Biding our time . . . if the weather forecast holds and all goes well, Scott and Anne will meet us in Carrabelle, FL on the Panhandle late Saturday afternoon.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Sarasota Interlude with Update
Sunday, March 14
Even though the sky is blue and the harbor is calm, we are sitting tight for a while. The Gulf is still stirred up; we won't be crossing any time soon. Meanwhile, Bob and I are loving Sarasota (sorry, no pictures yet). Marina Jack's has every amenity we could possibly want, and it is located downtown just a block or two from excellent restaurants, art galleries -- and a Whole Foods store. We've enjoyed hanging out with Roger and Erica Boe, fellow PDQ owners from Canada, who shared part of the Loop with us. After the four of us walked to a fine farmers' market yesterday morning, the marina shuttle took Erica and me to an antique show in the afternoon. Of course Erica and I contributed to the charitable proceeds. This evening we met another couple and enjoyed visiting their Mainship 34 Pilot boat. Hummmmmmmmm...... may be a good boat for future river adventures; meanwhile we still love Second Wind for long-distance cruising.
Still keeping our eyes on the weather. We will be move to Clearwater Beach soon, just to position ourselves for the Gulf crossing. Unless the forecast changes though, it will likely be late next week before we undertake this huge two-day milestone.
Sarasota Redux. Monday, March 15.
After a bit of shopping (Bob says more than a bit) on Monday afternoon, we enjoyed our second excellent meal with Roger and Erica at a Greek restaurant in downtown Sarasota. This is a fine place to visit; still lots more to do and see, but Bob and I needed to get ready for a Tuesday morning departure. The photos show the view of the park from the back of Second Wind and a view of downtown from the dock. We now think we'll leave in the morning for the Tarpon Springs area. Still watching the weather.