Jan 092017

This morning we were up at dawn to grab the car from the local who was allowing us to use his car while he was at work on the barge.  We can’t even say how thankful we are for that.  I had no idea how we would get Aiden to the Tallahassee Airport.  It’s an hour and a half easy drive.  We set him up as an unaccompanied minor on Delta.  They were great for the most part.  They put a tracking device on his wrist , let Scott and I take him to the gate and from there he was seated first and chaperoned to his seat.  His stopover again he would be escorted from his gate to the awaiting connection and then mom was picking him up from the Buffalo airport.  The only thing that should be done by the airline is feedback.  We haven’t had any contact with him since we dropped him off.  I’m making a suggestion that with every unaccompanied minor they should throw in free wifi so that parents have access if needed.  Aiden made it home to his brother’s place safe and sound and ready for his big presentation at school tomorrow.

Scott and I decided to push on to Carrabelle and stay at The Moorings for what will definitely be a waiting game.  As we crossed the Apalachicola Bay we noticed a tow and her double barges waiting.  We were following the buoys when the depths dropped to 3.5 feet.  We slowed down and took a moment to figure out what was going on.  We were in the channel, looking at charts, seeing the barge, and looking at buoys.  Something was wrong.  Relying on our charts instead of the buoys and the tow and her barges we headed toward port.  The depths did indeed get deeper.  We contacted the fellow that loaned us his truck and asked about the situation.  He said that several buoys had been blown off course in a previous storm.  He said follow your charts.  Following charts over buoys is the opposite to what you would normally do.  Now that we were in deeper water we realized that the tow and her barges had run aground following the buoys.  You would think that the captain of the tow would have hailed us on the radio to let us know.  Scott knew something was wrong so he took a moment and realized that he should be following the charts.  We call this the drama for the day.

Now at The Moorings in a lovely spot we wait.  We need to wait for the time to cross The Gulf for 184 miles which is 7.5 hours for us.  It’s very uncomfortable in chop for that long so a window is a prediction that we will be waiting for by watching weather buoy wave heights, weather radar and local forecasts.  We will be traveling with Lady V again as we have now met them in Carrabelle also waiting on that window.  I am certain that other Loopers will be waiting as well.  There is a breakfast served here every morning so I’m guessing that we will partake in that event to meet others waiting on the cross.



 Posted by at 1:24 AM
Jan 082017

We are very shaken up after last night as the wind howled and gale winds were reported in the area.  Both Scott and I woke up around 3:00 AM to check lines and fenders as the wind hit the stern from the north.  Aiden of course, slept through it all.  Today the sun is out but the winds have not let up.  The lines to keep Conductance secure are working hard with gusts reported over 30 mph.  The temps are low in the 40’s.  We have our portable heaters going as well as the internal heaters.  With the back in canvas its a battle that just keeps us warm enough to not be cold.  At least we can use the back space instead of being stuck in the cave.

We went for a brisk walk into town with our parkas on, hoods on and hands in pockets.  Instead of the requirement of the ice cream stop today it was hot chocolate and tea.  Apalachicola is such a cute town.  I think it is better than Panama City.  More to offer for the tourist, a little rustic and lots of history.  The boys tried to fix our “Bruce the Beaver” who lost his lantern and wires breaking.  A little solder and heat shink and its off to the store to find the appropriate rechargeable battery.  We came back empty handed.  Every battery could be found except the standard one we needed.  So Bruce has to wait to see if the fix worked.  Aiden and his work buddy are working on their school presentation to be delivered on Monday.  It’s all being done by wifi, facetime, and imessage.  Good job boys.  Scott is working on some fine tuning for the new electronics that he installed.  Some communication is not being delivered to the screen so he’s looking up info for the debug.  He never stops working.

Lady V passed us today on her way to Carabelle.  Have a very tall bevy.  You deserve it after that journey.

The weather folks are saying that the window for crossing on Tuesday is not looking good.  Hopefully it will be Wednesday but there have been reports that the weekend may be the next opportunity.  It isn’t unusual to have to wait to cross.  It’s approximately 184 miles to the Clearwater area which means about 7 -7.5 hours at 25-28 mph.  It’s a longer haul for those tht only travel about 7-9 mph which a lot of loopers actually go at top speed.

We’ve booked a flight for Aiden to leave in the morning to go home.  We’ll drop him off at the gate (one of us can go in to the gate waiting area to hand him off to the flight attendant), then he’ll go to his connector flight where he’ll be met by a representative from the airline to make sure he gets to his connector where they will hand him off again.  My mom will pick him directly up from the gate in Buffalo from the attendants there.  I told him that he is getting the celebrity treatment with all the attention he is going to get while he travels.  Aiden and his entourtage, we’ll never hear the end of it!

It looks like we are going to be shaken for at least the next 24-48 hours.  This cold front coming through is not a fast mover.  At least we are snug at a marina instead of anchored out or traveling.  Our next leg to Carabelle may not be for a bit if the winds stay at 25 mph as predicted.





 Posted by at 12:37 AM
Jan 072017

Up early yet again we set off for an anchor night on the way to Apalachicola. There is a dock with a small park that is about 40 miles away. Aiden is leaving to go home in a couple days so we thought a night on the hook and some plane flying time in calm water would be a nice treat now that temps are cooperating. Crossing the bay and into tight channels to head into a cut in the swamp in calm winds was welcome. Dolphins are feeding and we see several pods just feet away from our boat. As we start into the small channel we see more dolphins in the shallow waters. The swamp is quite nice. The unusual thing we noticed was that the palm trees are green and the deciduous trees are barren. A strange contrast here.

We end up catching up to a tow and its 4 barges with another tow and 2 barges in front of it on this tight channel. Scott asks when or if its okay to pass. The squeeze was closer than we usually get to a barge but we do pass both. At the same time Scott realizes the dock that we wanted to stay at was about 1 mile up from the passing of the two tows. Instead of staying here we decide to make a go to Apalachicola. On this narrow channel there are several boats that have been left to rot on the shores. They do make interesting photo ops. Next we cross Lake Wimico with its notoriously shallow depths. We pass with 10 feet of water at Red marker 10 through 12. After that the water depth opens up to about 12-15 feet. It does seem that the water is high after all that rain that came through on Monday.

So now we are staying at the Apalachicola Marina Inc. It has lots of depths, with ample space on their docks. Diesel and gas, restaurants, showers, restrooms, and an easy walk to town. I spent most of the day arranging on getting Aiden’s flight from Tallahassee. The problem here is no way to get there. There are no rental cars, no shuttles open since its the holidays and no major transportation services. Scott meets a fellow working on the bridge nearby as he pulls up for diesel. They get to talking and the fellow offers us his truck to take to the airport. Now that’s southern hospitality. We also meet a couple from Nautical Dreams U Tube channel. They have put everything into traveling to the Bahamas to wander from island to island. They do have a drone and took some really neat perspectives of this area with our boat and offered us a copy.

While I was searching for transportation and flights Aiden was flying his plane. He was lucky the winds were calm so as soon as the battery needed charging he put it on charge until he could run it again. Scott and Aiden went into town between charging sessions. It’s a quaint little town with antique shops, a museum and lots of shrimp boats. You can get provisions here if you look for it. We’ll be here tomorrow as well. Aiden will work to finish a school project. It is supposed to drop to 40 degrees tonight but for now we are enjoying the windows open and no wind, in Tshirts. Gotta love this!

 Posted by at 2:05 AM
Jan 062017

We were off and running this morning by 7:00 AM. The day would be sunny and warm with calm winds. We are not sure what to expect for speed zones so we want to give ourselves time to travel. We decide that Panama City is the next stop. On the way out we pass through several large bays that do not require us to slow. Similar to yesterday we slow for bridges and shore structures. There are not many fisherman or boats in the water so we can get going easily. We spot a couple dolphins swimming not far off our boat.

We are interested to see on the charts areas that say “danger, unexploded bombs” or restricted area. The Gulf has many air and naval bases that do testing. There are several bases that are large. Eglin Air Force Base, which is in Fort Walton, is larger than the entire state of Rhode Island. The skies are dotted by the sounds of military jets but we don’t always see them as they practice or test. At one point there was a large boom that shook the boat. Scott and I jumped, shut down the speed and then another blast happened. At this point we realized it wasn’t us. We thought someone was shooting at us at first. We look out the window and a cloud of smoke in the distance is billowing up. We conclude they must have been testing some blasting of some sort. It was an interesting feeling to feel an aftershock that literally shook the boat several miles away.

Coming down “The Narrows”, a small canal cut looking area we are welcomed by black and white sand. It does look like snow on the shore. This area is beautiful with its mostly unspoiled lands. This opens up just prior to Panama City. We decide to stop at Panama City Marina because Aiden spots an F14 onsite on google maps. We fill up with diesel and head to our space on the “wall”. I clean up the place because we are still drying out from that storm a couple days ago where the tarps leaked. I think with the warm temps and the fan blowing we are settled again.

The historic area of the town of Panama City is a walk from the marina. There is a 911 memorial that is well done right here at the marina park. Small shops, antiques, pawn, that sort of thing is the main staple here. It’s quaint and quiet. We head back to the marina where Aiden feeds the birds. It’s quite a site having the terns and seagulls at the ready for any dropping of food. The best part is we meet Fred the local celebrity heron. He’s very interested in humans and isn’t afraid to be within a few feet. These birds are notoriously shy so seeing one up close is exciting.

Panama City Marina is a clean and welcoming facility. Restrooms, showers, a ship store, and just about anything you need is here. There is a lot of structure and cement at this marina. A park and a small beach are within a couple minutes walk. It is a sleepy town so if you’re looking for excitement at this time of year it won’t be here. I bet its crazy busy in summer.

 Posted by at 1:10 AM
Jan 052017

Heading out just after sunrise this morning from Grand Mariner Marina the winds are calm but the Bay is rocky. The rustic ambiance of the Grand Mariner is left behind as we make our way approx. 27 miles south in Mobile Bay to the GIWW channel which is another 15 miles heading east to the ICW. The shipping channel is narrow due to the bay being shallow and shoaled over in so many areas. You must stay in the channel. We have our winged buddies following us out for a few miles to where they hop on a larger barge or a shipping vessel with more service area to land. It’s a rocky go only because the winds are coming from the southwest and causing the side waves which tosses the boat around. The extremely narrow channel leading into the GIWW is about half the size of the shipping channel.

Calm waters begin as we approach the entrance. We are slow moving now as we pass homes, docks, and boats. It become obvious that we don’t need to slow as the no wake zones are marked but as a boater you must be aware of your wake. So we slow down a lot and go when we can. We pass the odd barge and its tow. There is a lot of open area on this leg of the ICW so going 28 MPH is often. Most boats are out of the water on rails and the open area is quite rocky. We pass crab pots outside the channel and the odd fishermen. As the time passes the marinas are significantly larger with the larger yachts. Then the sign….Welcome to Florida. We leave Alabama behind.

The crystal white sand of the panhandle greats us a short time later. Then the swaying palm trees. The temps go up to around 75 degrees but the wind keeps it cool. Scott is baking in the sun and puts on shorts and sunscreen. Welcome to Florida indeed.

We decide we’d like to stay at a marina for the night near the beach. The boys think they want to boogie board int he 60 degree water. No surf. Flat water. We stay a Sabine Marina in Pensacola, Florida along the ICW which has showers, restrooms, restaurant and provisions can be supplemented anywhere. It’s off season but most stores are open We took a walk on the board walk, on the beach through the small stores and picked up some quick supplies. This marina is tight to get into but well marked. We came in at low tide but the tide is small here. We had 4 feet clear at the entrance but they are dredging as we speak. It has a yacht club as well as Sabine Marina. There is a large enough pool that you can turn around in and not be shoaled. The sunset was amazing with a beautiful view of the west.

 Posted by at 3:13 AM
Jan 042017

We had a day off of moving today. The main reason was to change the zincs from magnesium to zinc that helps to prevent corrosion of the hull due to salt water conditions. Magnesium works best in fresh water and now that the Gulf of Mexico is upon us it’s time to change. Also the bow thruster that we had put on and used about a dozen times stopped working about the second lock down the Tennessee River. It turns out that the shear pin was perfect and the blades on the prop are fine. Upon further inspection the gear box has failed. We called the installer and its under warranty. So now the question of whether another haul out in Florida is covered because the boat needs to be out of the water to work on it. A little bottom paint and a quick wax of the water line and shes ready to go back in.

The afternoon was hot and sunny, around 75 degrees. Aiden was able to fly his plane until the batter ran out. Scott and Aiden took a trip to West Marine in the dingy to pick up fresh water flush parts for the dingy motor. You should flush your outboards after use in the salt water. Actually just about every day or other day you must thoroughly wash your boat to remove the salt from spray of driving or wind. I did the laundry, picked up groceries, cleaned the boat and tried to dry out everything that was soaked from yesterday’s storms. The locals say that the storm was a bad one and short of hurricane it was one of the worst.

Grand Mariner Marina is a full service marina with laundry, restrooms, one shower, boat services and fuel. If they don’t have what you are looking for they can get it rather quickly. West Marine is a short hop across the river. They do have a courtesy car and a restaurant.

We are starting the journey to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in the morning. New territory with manatee speed zones and much slower speeds.

 Posted by at 2:52 AM
Jan 032017

We woke up this morning and tried to get cell service and internet. Both were not available. The marine radio called for thunderstorms, severe at times, so we decided to push forth to Mobile. Our first stop was Coffeeville lock where we traversed through quickly. No rain and little fog. The problem was that the amount of rain from yesterday over 3 inches has created the smaller creeks to swell and the river to swell. That causes a huge amount of debris in the water. Trees, logs, and water hyacinths everywhere. The fog was still there but not as bad as yesterday. We were able to move but it was slow with the debris. That went on for over 50 miles of debris and slow moving. I told Scott that I felt like the frogger game of yesteryear.
Finally we get cell services. It was overcast all day with spatters of rain. When I look at the radar I realize we have traveled out on a day we probably should not have. The yellows and greens of radar have a luminous glow of red and purple. I let Scott know we are in for some weather and Lady V is aware now too. Glad we are traveling together. We devise a probable anchor spot and hope that we make it to that spot. You can’t just drop anchor here in the inner rivers due to the tows and barges. Next thing that starts up is the weather station on the marine radio that tells us that we are in a tornado warning, not a watch, but a warning. For the next hour we are told to take cover in a lower level of our dwelling away from windows. Mmmmm, what do you do in a boat?

I’m watching the radar, skyping my family to let them know where we are and letting them know our plans. We are continuing to hear on the marine radio to watch for debris flying through the sky, including trees and other debris. We decide that if the weather turns that bad we are dropping anchor where we are and waiting it out down below. We did put on our life jackets some time ago. We see beautiful lightning and loud thunder which indicates the storm is close. As I watch the radar I see some breaks and let Scott know to get going when we can. The good thing at this point is that we are ahead of the debris so we can go 28 mph. As I watch the port side for debris and Scott watches the right and keeps his eye on everything else needed to get through this rain the storm rages on. It’s a battle between losing the cell service to keep up on weather and finding out where exactly we are for the tornado warnings and watching for logs and trees.

Sorry folks not many photos today. This was a tough long day. We went through fog, debris, tornado warnings with take cover now blaring out the radio, incessant rain at times a hard rain, and watching the radar with luminous reds and purples everywhere. We made it into Mobile, Alabama, through the shipping yard (which would have been so great to see), down through Mobile Bay where we have to go south passed our marina to find the channel into the marina and then back north to get into Dog River to Grand Mariner Marina. Dog River Marina is just across the river for those that need that info. That wouldn’t have been bad if we weren’t rocking about with lightening, thunder and darkness to the southwest. A hug storm was coming and we had to be docked before this one hit. It would be a bad one. I added a screen shot from the Ipad. There is a lot more yellow than earlier today. the red and purples were everywhere.

So here we are at Grand Mariner with Lady V. We haven’t talked much with them due to the insane rain, wind, thunder and lightning. I think we are all decompressing over this day.

 Posted by at 1:07 AM
Jan 022017

Rain and fog. Lots of fog. We started the day out traveling with Lady V who is also heading to the Gulf. The Demopolis Lock was uneventful. It had rained but the winds again are on our side. As we dawn our locking attire it is the first time that the parka is not a necessity. Sitting in only our rain gear going through the lock was easy.

After that the weather changed and we encountered fog. Dense and foreboding fog. The BWTB river is a meandering river with large bends. At one point you are heading south and with the next bend you are heading north and then the next bend its south again. It is fairly wide but with those bends comes shoaling on the inner portion of the bend making it narrower to go around. With that fog we were down to a crawl speed and watching the AIS for oncoming barges. AIS is an indicator on our electronics that allows us to see other boats and barges that have a transmitter. We only have a receiver so we can see them but they can’t see us. I think that will change in the near future. It was nice that Lady V has a transmitter so that at least the barges know there is a boat there.

The fog didn’t let up for over 50 miles so the driving day was longer than hoped. After we made it through the fog we had open cruising, passing at least 6 tows and barges. Aiden has a favourite tow named Sea Lion with its load of electrical stuff (technical term) where the Sea Lion is pushing and the Sea Bull is pulling. So these 2 tows work together to navigate the rivers several barges attached. We’ve also passed them 3 times. We were thinking we would get to “Bobby’s Fish Camp” and settle in around 11. It was after 1:00.

I’ve talked about sizes of tows and barges. I took a picture of our friends in the 48 foot Searay with a bridge beside the tow and just 4 barges. Lady V is not a small vessel. Note the size difference. We’ve passed tows with over 45 barges. Amazing!

The plane that Aiden built is now complete. Waiting for a fair weather day to go fly!

Here at “Fish Camp” there are restrooms and showers along with a restaurant. The restaurant welcomes locals today on New Year’s Day and open til 6:00. We may mosey on in for some grub later. We are settled in on a 150 foot dock along with Lady V hooked up and listening to the rain. It’s great not having on our parkas anymore

 Posted by at 10:39 PM
Jan 012017

We started the day out waiting for a tow to get through the lock which got us going an hour later than we expected.  So we watched the tow go by and prepared the boat to lock through.  It wasn’t as cold a morning as we’ve had but with a bit of rain it seemed chilly.  We still wear our parkas.  No hats and mitts anymore!

Locking through by 8:00 AM the rain held off.  It was cold and the winds were non existent.  I forgot to mention that we had put in a bow thruster last year to make this trip through these locks and the next ones to come easier.  The thruster stopped working when on the 3rd lock a stick had become lodged and the shear pin broke.  No thruster till we get a new one.  So it is back to the skill of our Captain to keep the pressure off the lines as we lock.

We passed these beautiful white cliffs of the Town of Epes.  As you travel down the river that is low lying with trees and shrubs you will turn a corner and a massive cliff that is entirely white lines only one side of the river.  It’s stunning and so unexpected.

The Tenn-Tom river comes to a close for us today as we head into the Tombigbee River and Black Warrior River junction leaving the Tennessee River in our rear view mirror.  From this point the river is the TBBW and only 216 miles to go to Mobile and the coast.

Setting up in Demopolis Yacht Basin under a covered slip while the rain pounds on the roof is a welcome retreat.  We filled our diesel and was asked to settle into the Kingfisher Marina for the night.  The place has several boats not from here that have traveled from both the north and the south.  We met a couple from Toronto, Canada who are doing the loop in segments.  They have traveled the east coast to the Keys on past trips but decided to do the entire loop, “cause it’s there”.  I think we’ll be seeing more of Lady V as we are traveling to our destinations in the south.

Demopolis Yacht Basin offers one of the nicest laundry and restroom facilities we’ve seen.  It has an outdoor pool, restaurant, courtesy car for that quick trip into town to replenish supplies.  They are dredging the basin so it looks like they are expanding.  The marina offers a reprieve from the rustic marinas that have been the norm here in Mississippi and Alabama.

It’s New Year’s Eve and we know we won’t be ringing in the new year like most folks.  We decided to treat ourselves to pizza and board games.  Aiden fixed his light that fell off in his berth.  He also started to put together his RC plane.  So where do you put a 5 ft plane that has to travel home in a 200 sq ft space that homes 3 people.  You suspend it!!

 Posted by at 2:26 AM
Dec 312016

Howdy Y’all. We’ve made it to Alabama. Today was a day of locks, 5 locks. All went well and a special thanks to Dillan at Glover Lock for pushing us through just before an oncoming barge. They didn’t have to wait but he could have made us wait. It would have set us back so a very welcome thank you to Glover Lock.

Not much to report on this day where 5 locks down the Tenn-Tom was in order so that we could make our NYE stop at Demopolis, AL. The day was bright and sunny with little wind. Warm temps have been a nice reprieve for us during the nights and days. We still sport the best Lock attire with parkas and other winter staples. The sun makes it so much more inviting.

The Tenn Tom offers an interesting view when traveling south. It has the canal section which was built by the backs of men, the divide section which is the connection between the river and the canal and, of course, the river section. It is its own entity with beauty and tranquility. Very shallow for most of the way. You can see the stumps left after the locks were in place which creates a welcome but beware if anchoring sight. Fishermen were sparse but hard to see those that were there dressed in their camo. It must be hunting season as well as we see several boats pulled to shore with no one onboard.

Entering into Pirates Marina Cove is a bit hairy. It’s narrow and shallow but the marina is a rustic beauty after being in those locks and traveling 87 miles and 6.5 hours. The marina is rather rustic with the operator living in the 2nd trailer. Old T bird cars, trucks, and relics spatter across the open area. The main store and restrooms are a trailer but its great. We have a place to stop. The marina will be undergoing major renovations with new 8 ad 10 ft docks, new power and upgrades. The docks are being made now so Loopers will have a new home to stop to on their way to Demopolis, AL.

We had a walk to the Bevill Lock Museum where the Montgomery Snag boat has been retired. The boat was the last steam snag boat used on the rivers here in the south. Since the Tenn-Tom has only been opened since the 80’s she was the last steamer to clear all those possible “snags” that hindered navigation for both pleasure and commercial barges. She sits at the museum with a replica 1860 home with antiques of that era.

Scott bypassed the relay for the heater so now the heat works better than it has since forever. Tomorrow we tackle 2 locks to make it to Demopolis for New Year’s Eve. I wonder what they do in small town southern USA for such a special night?

 Posted by at 12:55 AM