Jan 152022
 

It is a slow run to Panama City, FL through the canal. The winds are picking up and a large storm is coming in. We will not be anchoring as it is calling for 50 Mph winds from the west. We found Emerald Bay Marina had 1 available spot for us. As we trek along to the slip the dolphins make appearances at our stern and jump in front of us as we travel about 8 knts. The current becomes in our favour and we run a couple knts faster for awhile.

We entered the canal from Choctawhatchee Bay and traveled about 20 miles along the canal. Entering the West Bay the chop is getting more prevalent. The storm is still predicted for later today and full bore overnight. Tomorrow the storm is at its worst but at least we will be awake for that. We head into St. Andrews Bay and stop at St. Andrews Marina for a fuel stop and top up, along with a pumpout. Then continue throgh St. Andrews Bay to the bayou.

We stayed at the Panama City Municipal Marina in 2017 but it is gone, completely gone due to Hurricane Michael. The construction is continuing but they are a long ways off for completion. So many homes destroyed in this area as it was close to the eye, which hit City of Mexico Beach, just a few miles east of here. The trees are barren in some areas. Tops of palm trees are starting to recover.

We head up Watson Bayou to Emerald City Marina. There are great folks that just purchased this marina. It is not on Navionics but we would recommend this marina every day. The docks are in good shape but aqkwardly cut. They are working on what will work for future but for now this is one of the only marinas still in operation in Panama City. We meet up with 4 other Loopers here.

The mairna has free laundry, restrooms, showers, 50 and 30 amp power. We pull out every fender we own to get ready for the storm. It takes us the next 2 hours battening down the lines, getting the right spacing for the fenders and tying down anything on deck. Seth, the owner, then offers to drive us into town for groceries and provisions from the liquor store. It’s going to be a long night folks.

The night sets and for the next 24 hours we battle against heavy westerly winds, rain and fender positioning. We were both up for a few hours just fixing the changes of the boat from the swirly winds. In the morning the rain had passed but the winds stayed. By tonight the winds will pass and we will all come out of our boats with a sigh of relief.

This was one of the worst wind storms we have been in while on the boat. The only other one was in Tobermory, Ontario in 2015.

Jan 142022
 

I will apologise for such a delay in posting. No internet and no wifi make it more than impossible to stay up to date. However we are back at it.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year and hope that you remain healthy, wealthy and wise.

We are heading off the dock finally after a much desired break with family and friends. Making our way east along the Panhandle and then a crossing of the Gulf in the next few days. Weather is very unpredicable in these waters, in January but hoping for a weather window as we get closer to the staging.

Hurricane Michael came through these parts in 2018 and you can see the prgress as well as the destruction. Many marinas are still not open. Combine that with the shortage of material due to covid and construction is taking longer than usual. The trees are fallen, dredging is still in operation, as it usually is anyway, and shorter standign trees. There are more houses and boats that were destroyed too.

The anchorage is a safe and easy place to drop the hook. It is just prior to the canal heading to Panama City by the Bay Bridge on the east side where water is at least 12 feet. Lots of room to swing but open to westerlies and south westerlies. They are calling for easterlies to we will be tucked in nicely being on the east end of the bay.

A nice start for the journey to Carrabelle, FL.

Dec 092021
 

We will be here at The Wharf over the holidays. The marina has all we need for a long term stayover. The downfall of this location is that no grocery is available anywhere close. You must Uber or rent a car to head to the store. Floating docks make for an easy tide change of about 1 foot too. Lots of Loopers and seaonal boaters here as well. The temps are nice right now with a day high of around 65-70 and a night in the 50s. With those temps comes some humidity though which is not a problem for us as we enjoy the warmth.

The light show has been fun seeing it a few times now and having a glass of wine watching sunsets. We did have some artisan pizza on the patio at Villagio enjoying a couple local craft beers. Unexpected date nights come far and few as we cook onboard most of the time. The sunsets are nice but nothing compares to those mornings on the Tombigbee River.

The pod issue has not disappeared. Scott is going to dive today to clean off the only zincs he didn’t replace on the trim tabs. We is hoping that a coating of fresh water slime since being in the water for 7 months has built up. Then he will check the mercathode system again. Turns out that a button on our joystick has stopped working. So he is looking at a new joystick which will require programming as well. Unfortunately you cannot buy just the button. As we have said boating is just doing boat work in exotic places. It is just the way it is. Still better than shoveling snow. Our girl is getting a bath today as well. I’ll be heading out to give her a really good scrubbing. We have a couple quotes coming in for a wash and polish over the holidays so that she is protected against the UV of Florida and The Bahamas and the salt water.

We won’t be posting as much over the holidays as we all celebrate family and friends. However we may pop in to give any updates.

Dec 032021
 

Fog advisory, ugh….however, Mobile Bay is glass. So we wait out the 2 hour advisory and head due south through the remaining portion of the Port of Mobile. We pass the manufacturers and repair/service areas for the military along with the huge ocean cargo ships moving their wares. Dry docks service the cargo ships here where they willl get the deserved TLC before their next task. The USS Alabama is here for a tourist attraction but we did not partake.

Leaving the comfort of the river and into the Bay we have glass for our trek south, then east to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. The Bay is quite shallow with 10 foot depths usually but the moving sand can create unapparent shoaling. We will stay in the shipping channel until we have to swing to the east for the entrance to the GICW.

Dolphins, lots of dolphins. They follow us occasionally but are photo shy. Everytime I go out back to take the pic they leave. I do manage to get a few photos of some of them following the fishing boats. The dolphins and seagulls are hungry this morning. There are pelicans too. The southern ones that like the warmer temps unlike their cousins the white ones we have been seeing on the rivers. Oil rigs everywhere too. Standing majestically on the water looking like mini cities on this flat water. We are running the engines at 22 knts for about an hour to give them a chance to blow out the carbon. It’s been over a month since the last big high speed run. Then we will do our usual 8 knts to the GICW as we go off the shipping channel. Depth gauge is back too. The fault in the pods is still unknown however Scott did some research in the manual and it says that it can act up if there is too much change in the environment. So I guess never being in salt could be a reason. He will monitor it for the next few days and see if it corrects itself as the manual says it should.

Now settled in our temporary slip at The Wharf, with a fabulous Looper discount, the slip is a bit small. There is a 60 ft slip available so we will be moving there. We meet some loopers beside us. The Journey is staying here for 3 months and has given us the short verbal tour of the area. There is a looper info session at 3 which we visit and find that there are at least 5 other loopers here staying a week or more. It’s a great stop after running the rivers. Everything you need is available right by the boat. Shopping is a dream if you like that sort of thing. Designer shops everywhere along several blocks. Now all decked out in Christmas charm we wander through the streets to a musical light show, palm tree display, an ice rink, and the finale the laser show on the buildings.

Dec 022021
 

Up early this morning to a heavy fog surrounding us that was so thick you couldn’t see the shoreline.  We had company last night as Highlander III joined us in this spectacular anchorage.  We couldn’t see her even though she was at our stern about 500 ft away.  So we kicked back, had an extra tea and waited until the sun would show her face to evaporate the cloud around us.  It would turn out to be another hour.  Not too bad because we are on the last of the journey on the rivers for only 40 miles.  No more locks to the Gulf of Mexico.  We will be staying at a city dock at Mobile Convention Center in downtown Mobile.  There are no facilities here for the boater.  However, you can explore the city and watch the 24/7 marine and shipping industry do its thing. 

The final run down the Mobile River was much easier than yesterday.  Still passing at least 6 tows and barges, yet again, but the water isn’t as narrow and as twisty as yesterday.  Buoys are still not available but with room to spare it is an easy pass of tugs.  The shoreline has no more bluffs, no more hills.  It gives way to sandy, bog here in the Delta.  The Delta refers to the runoff areas of wetlands, bog, marsh or whatever you wish to call it that alligators like.  No we did not see any today.  We did see the short palm trees though which brought a big smile to our faces along with the 72F temps that we will have to cruise with.  Our pods are throwing a fault code and we lost our depth finder.  Boat work in exotic places yet again. 

Entering the Mobile River near Mobile we see a lot more barges off to the side waiting for their tow to pick them up and bring them north.  It becomes more industrial as you leave the sounds of nature behind you and hear the hum of cranes, gantrys, ships, barges, tows, welding and men working.  It changes rather quickly.  We pass some ocean cargo ships waiting to be filled or emptied here in the Port of Mobile.  There are war ships being manufactured here as well.  We will see more of those tomorrow as we approach the mouth of Mobile Bay where there is more being built and serviced. 

The Convention Center dock is a wharf with permanent rubber fenders available.  We place ours between them and the boat for added protection.  No power or water.  Lots of construction and manufacturing noise but it is good to stay for one night before heading out into the Bay.  It is the only way to see the city from downtown unless you head down the Bay to Dog River and rent a car. 

We head into the city for a walk on Dauphin St.  The old style, early 1900’s buildings rest along the Main Street of Old.  It is mainly bars and restaurants now with a few legal offices.  We found a park where some folks were feeding the squirrels.  The squirrels by the hundreds.  Where are they supposed to go but in a park full of oak trees dropping their acorns.  Folks feed them peanuts with the shells directly from their hands.  We continue wandering around find a few more parks, but no squirrels.  Eventually we happen upon a replica of the old Fort Conde.  Again wandering through the old fort and reading about how the French, Spanish, British and the Indigenous people worked and created war to determine the current status of the United States.  It is very different reading about US history from an American perspective. 

The fort guarded Mobile and its citizens for almost 100 years, from 1723-1820. The fort had been built by the French to defend against British or Spanish attack on the strategic location of Mobile and its Bay as a port to the Gulf of Mexico, on the easternmost part of the French Louisiana colony. The strategic importance of Mobile and its fort was significant: the fort protected access into the strategic region between the Mississippi River and the Atlantic colonies along the Alabama and Tombigbee Rivers. A crew of 20 black slaves and 5 white workmen performed original work on the fort. During 1763 to 1780, Britain was in possession of the region, and the fort was renamed in honor of Queen Charlotte. From 1780 to 1813, Spain ruled the region, and the fort was renamed Fuerte Carlota. In 1813, Mobile was occupied by United States troops, and the fort was renamed again as Fort Charlotte. It stands now as a small replica of its origins along the waterfront of the Mobile River. I was today’s year old when I found out that Mardi Gras began in Mobile, AL and not New Orleans. Every year there is a Mardi Gras here on the streets of Mobile to celebrate.

Dec 012021
 

Bobby’s hasn’t changed much. No restaurant now but the scene is still the same. A trailer camp with friendly folks in their pick up trucks and confed flags. Such an interesting place. The dock has 50 and 30 amp power, no water. The kittens running around camp are really friendly too. I get my pet fix as several come up and visit. Apparently “Garfield” may choose to jump aboard your boat but we were not priviledged to have that happen. One night at Bobby’s is really all you need. Not much around but it is on the Choctaw Wildlife Refuge that sits adjacent to the camp.

Scott saw his first alligator today too. Swimming across the river between us and a tow/barge. We had to slow to allow him to dive. We passed a lot of tows and barges today too. I think there were 5 at least. The most we have seen in a day has been from Demopolis going south. It has been a challenging day for the Captain today. Markers/buoys are missing, water is at least 10 feet lower than on the charts and this part of the river is a constant turn in every which way. Along with passing tows that communicate when they see us on AIS because of the narrow channel we both must pass through and pass each other. We had to stop many times prior to passing because of the lack of buoys and tight channels on turns. Scott was exhausted by the end of this trip with a headache. It was a long day of 8 hours starring into and out of the sun, maneouvering through tight channels with no buoys and constanting relying on looking at charts and landscape. The anchorage was a welcome retreat at the end of the journey.

The Tensaw River flows into and parallel with the Black Water/Mobile Rivers running south to Mobile, AL. The natural path for boaters is to stay on the Black Water river system to Mobile. The Mobile–Tensaw River Delta is the largest river delta and river in Alabama. It encompasses approximately 260,000 acres in a 40-by-10-mile (64 km × 16 km) area and is the second largest delta in the United States. The delta’s northernmost point is the confluence of the Tombigbee and Alabama rivers and follows a southerly direction that ultimately opens into the head of Mobile Bay .The delta lies in a river valley which began forming several million years ago. Many separate inland streams joined as they flowed southward across land which was once covered by the Gulf of Mexico. By the end of the last major ice age (approximately 18,000 years ago), when the sea level was much lower and Alabama’s coastline was about 60 miles (97 km) south of its present location, the waterways of the delta valley extended much farther than their current-day southern termination at the head of Mobile Bay. As the ice age ended and global temperatures increased, sea levels began to rise again to their present-day level.

The anchorage has enough room for several boats with lots of swing room and a good depth. It is an area rich with owls, crickets, the sounds of night and a million stars. Completely recommend this anchorage for small and large vessels.

Nov 302021
 

We had a drivers meeting the night before we leave. Looks like 6 Looper boats are planning the departure in the wee morning hours to get through the Demopolis Lock together. The plan is to decide which side fenders go on for which boats, who is faster and should go into the lock first, and the designated time of 6:30 AM. The news of any alerts is also communicated.

This is a long day of 100 miles. We will go approximately 10 knts or more, even getting up to our comfortable 20 knts to get in during the daylight. There are no real anchorages for this size of boat. Smaller boats pull over just out of the channel but for us our depth and length make this not a safe option for if, and when, a tow and barges come through. Perhaps even a wind change would put us to shallow. So we must head to Bobby’s where we will our friends with the larger vessels. A long windy river with many, many hairpins. Scott calculated “the as the crow flies” mileage and it is 43 miles but by boat it is 100. There are lots of bald eagles flying overhead. I keep trying to get a close up but they are not taking my photo ops seriously.

It seems that there are more barges today. That would be number 5 and it is only 10:30. Water levels are finally at the levels as shown on our electronic charts. The current is running between 1 and 2 knots so we are getting a good push to help our long day seem shorter. The temperature changes swing here. Last night it was 0C or 32F. Today a high of almost 70F or over 20C. The swings in temperature are normal for this time of the year but rarely do they get snow and rarely does it stay at freezing for the day. They will shut off marina water for a couple weeks in January if needed.

Nov 292021
 

Waiting on the haulout for the Thanksgiving Holiday has been trying.  We wanted to get a haulout on Friday, yes Black Friday, but the marina gave their fellas an extra day off.  It has been extremely busy this fall with us Loopers coming in significantly more than past years.  So many so that not only was the marina completely booked but the bay was full of anchored vessels as well.  The fellas have been working non stop.  So we wait until Monday.

In the time we have til Monday Scott changes filters, gen oil, and gets ready for haulout.  When we haul out we will change out our fresh water mag anodes for zincs.  While she is in the sling Scott will change out the pod gear oil which is due.  She has been in the water since late April so she will get her booty scrubbed with the power washer to get off some of the grime before we head to the salt.  The job went so well that we were ready an hour before the fellas were so we had a quick lunch waiting to return to the water.  Then fuel up, pump out and get some water for the remaining river journey south to Mobile, AL. 

Satisfied Frog caught up to us as well.  We also met some folks going from a sailboat to a 46 Searay Sundancer called Highlander III.  Wine & Roses a 36 ft Catalina sailboat also are looping.  Corkscrew is waiting on some parts for a hydraulic hose and with us.  We also met some other Canadians aboard their new to them boat called My Girl.  They are from Vancouver, BC and will be continuing their loop later this week.  We are on the tail end of this journey.  I can’t imagine being on these rivers with the  mass that was here a few weeks ago, literally up til last week.  There were over 20 Looper boats here before we landed and it has been like that for weeks.

Kingfischer Marina is a well kept, clean facility.  There is a courtesy car, a Walmart nearby, full service yard with a large lift, laundry, showers and restrooms, and great owners.  The entrance is narrow but opens up into a fully protected bay.

Nov 252021
 

Boring but beautiful as we cruise south. There isn’t much change in the scenery. Every once in awhile a “home”, some damage from the floods or the wildlife shows up. A deer crossing the frigid waters (55F) in the morning sun to reach the other side. All we see is a cute nose and some antler buds sticking out of the water as it knowinly crosses our path. We always slow the speed for the critters. However, sometimes there are just some things that make you go “Huh?” Take the floating refrigerator. The person was cautious enough to remove the doors. That was nice of them. Then there are the places that is home for some while it is falling off the sand rocky bluff. Folks still living inside. The most picturesque beauty on this portion are the White Chalk Bluffs of Epes.

These white cliffs are located on the Tombigbee River at Epes, AL. They are part of the Selma Chalk formations which were deposited at about the same time as England’s famous White Cliffs of Dover. On the state’s western edge, an alabaster memento of central Alabama’s former underwater life rises 50 feet above the Tombigbee River. The White Cliffs of Epes, formed around the same time as their famous Dover cousins, are made up of microscopic algae shells that drifted to the seafloor around 80 million years ago to become a massive chalk formation that spans three states. To give you an idea of the size of these shells, a sugar-cube-sized piece of the chalk contains between 4 and 10 billion shells. The striking, 2-mile stretch in Epes offers visitors gorgeous photo ops and a scenic backdrop for boating. Find the best viewpoint on the bluff side of the Highway 11 bridge or push up your small boat to one of the river’s many popular sandbars along the opposite bank. The cliffs are not open to hikers. Access to these White Bluffs of Epes is very limited to a railroad bridge or being on the waterway.

We are now getting close to Demopolis. We had planned to be at another anchorage tonight but the winds coming in are not pleasureable. Again a narrow Ox Bow, as they are called, with a stern anchor and no space for error. We make the decision to head into the marina.