This page contains all stories posted since 2003 in reverse chronological order starting with the most recent. Use the indexes found under tabs RV TOURING and BOAT CRUISING to find where trips begin. Use the search box to locate specific information contained in any of the over 775 posts. Subscribe
Meander left at 8:00AM for Pensacola. We won't see them again until spring when we will dock at their home in Vero Beach. We left at 9:00AM with tens of diving pelicans. The crossing to Fairhope was pretty calm with east winds not exceeding 10 mph. I had plotted a course for the GPS which worked perfectly bringing us to the exact point the channel into Fairhope starts. A dingy was sent out to guide us into the harbor. This weekend is the beginning of the AGLCA (America's Great Loop Cruisers Association) Rendezvous. It is very well organized with activities every day. A yacht club and two marinas are participating and 26 boats are expected. We used the courtesy car to visit Fairhope briefly. This is one of the towns ranked in the top 10 retirement communities in America. There are lots of fancy shops catering to grand parents. We had dinner aboard. Not our usual Halloween, I doubt if any kids will visit the boat. The sunset photo is from the Katy Leigh in the harbor at the Eastern Shore Marina.
Out again at 5:45am we left Bates Lake for the ocean at Mobile Bay. The river changes from cypress groves to marsh and then the great harbor at Mobile. The channel has been dredged from 9 feet to 42 feet deep so ocean going freighters can get to the harbor. There were boats of every size going in every direction.
Soon we were out in the open with 10 miles per hour winds and chop with 3 foot waves. It was as rough as Kentucky Lake on a windy day. The Katy Leigh handled it easily. Just like everywhere the fishing always seems to be best in the main channel (see photo). Just so you know, that is not dirt in the photo it's seagulls looking for scraps.
We headed south about 10 miles then west for 3 miles to Dog River and Grand Mariner Marina. As if reaching the sea were not enough excitement for the day, a panel truck caught fire on the bridge over the harbor entrance. We had a perfect view from our fly bridge. The fire department arrived and put it out in seconds with foam. We used the courtesy car to visit West Marine, then dined at the dockside restaurant here. A 52 foot Grand Banks is also on our dock. It looks exactly like the 36 foot, just a whole lot bigger. Tomorrow we cross the bay 10 miles or so to Fairhope.
It was an early day again. Leaving at 5:30AM we got to the Coffeeville Lock at 6:00AM. Coming out of the lock, we found thick fog for the next several miles. Radar and GPS really help in this situation. The river is now wider and the banks rockier. We are in one of the wildest parts of the southeast. You have to go 10 miles in either direction to find a road. There are no marinas and few places to anchor since the river has silted in the entrance to most of the creeks. We got to Bates Lake about 1:00PM and were able to get across the bar. It was too shallow for Meander and they went on a mile or so to the Alabama River Cutoff. We rafted to Barron, a 45ft Bayliner pilot house cruiser. Two more boats came in later and we all rafted together. The dingy was launched for a tour of Bates Lake. Lots of cypress and Spanish moss but no alligators yet. The best time to email now is in the morning since we go to bed before the cheap rates cut in at 9:00PM but we have lots of time before 7:00AM.
We left Demopolis at 5:30AM with 8 other boats in thick fog for Bobby's Fish Camp near Coffeeville. The GPS, radar and boat ahead really help keep to the center of the river. The locks have lots of lights so are easy to see. Around 7:30 the fog lifted and the fast boats took off for Bobby's only to arrive 4 hours ahead of us. We did 97 miles in about 10 hours arriving at 4 pm. What a sight! Bobby's marina is nothing more than a 80 foot dock tied to the shore of the river. Boats were rafted 3 and 4 deep. The boaters that arrived early figured out how to get 11 cruisers and 3 sail boats on the dock. We apparently set a new record with 14 boats in total. Bobby sits behind the cash register and collects 50 cents per foot. The restaurant is only open Thursday to Sunday so we ate aboard. The oil pressure gage was acting up. I had called American Diesel for advice and spent the evening tracing wires. I have concluded that the sender is bad and will order a new one to be sent to Fairhope. It was early to bed at 8:30PM for another 5:30AM departure.
We left Sumter at 5:45AM with the first daylight. There has been no cellphone service for the past 2 days. The lock 4.5 miles away was ready and waiting when three of the four boats at Sumter arrived. The lockmaster was closing the gates when the fourth boat called. Although he said he was two miles away he must have been still at Sumter. We had to wait half an hour for him to arrive. Meander did a good job of disciplining him, but he said he had slept in and had no remorse. We passed this tow at the White Cliffs of Epes, aboout mile 250. It was a relatively short distance (55 miles) to Demopolis, AL. We got to Demopolis Yacht Basin around noon, and filled up with 160 gallons of diesel. There is a good laundry there for Mavis and I changed the generator oil. The only cell service was roaming so there was no email. We used the courtesy car to go shopping and had dinner at Pizza Hut. It was early to bed to be up at 5:00AM to make a 5:30AM departure. This kind of boating is strictly sunup to sundown.
The time changed this morning to standard time, so daylight comes an hour earlier. Meander called Demopolis at 7:00AM to see if they would have room for us. They said they were jammed because of the storms and that we should stay put at Sumpter. Activities for the day are computer stuff, reading, and watching movies. I have 167 Great Loop emails to go through and sort into information pertaining to each leg of the trip. There is no Cingular cell phone service here so I cannot access the Internet. We are only 200 feet from shore so we can launch the dingy and go for a walk in the Corps of Engineers park we are in. Dinner with the Coopers from Meandor was aboard Katy Leigh. Two other boats came into the anchorage at sundown.
Day 9 Oct 25 We left at 7:00am and cleared the Stennis Lock by 7:30AM. It was all river travel with one more lock before we got to the Sumpter anchorage at 3:30PM. Around noon we crossed into Alabama. At the Bevill Lock there is a handsome resource center with the old snagboat Montgomery mounted on a platform beside it. Snagboats are used to remove fallen trees or snags from rivers. The entrance to the cove at Sumter is a little shallow (4-6 ft) but once inside there is lots of water in the totally enclosed cove. We used the chain anchor for the second time with little difficulty. Launching the dingy we went over to Meander for drinks (Gentleman Jack) and barbequed turkey breast. The weather forecast called for thunderstorms. We had some rain but the storms went around us.
We left Rankin early and cruised to Columbus. In hindsight I wish we had stopped at Aberdeen. There is a marina there and many historic homes. However, after a quiet evening we decided to stay in Columbus for a whole day. AWe rented a car and toured the downtown which is in relatively good shape. Lots of lawyers' offices and clothing stores. We had milkshakes at Zachery's which was right out the 50's. The guy put about 6 scoops of ice cream in each; and those were the small ones. The welcome center is in the home where Tennessee Williams was born. We were told there were two antebellum homes open on Friday's for tours. We chose Waverly Plantation which is on theTombigbee River about 5 miles outside of town. Completed in 1852 it's came complete with an octagonal cupola and ghost story. The largest magnolia in Missisippi is on the front lawn. The house sat for 50 years unused and was restored by the Snow family starting in the 1960's. Mr Snow still lives in the house. The tour guide was very knowledgeable and talked steadily for over 2 hours. Dinner was shis-ke-bobs aboard. We leave tomorrow for an anchorage at Sumpter. We may have to wait there a day or two because the weather
We left Aqua at 7:00AM in another bright but chilly morning with only a little fog on the water. You are now traveling downstream so the red buoys are on the right. The first 24 miles are in the ditch; a canal 230 feet wide. Then the river widens into a small lake with a lock at the end. We got to the first lock about noon. There was a tow coming up and another ahead of us. We anchored and waited 2 hours with 4 other boats. Then we got locked through without incident. A little farther on was a pulp mill and wouldn't you know it another tow boat started up from there. So now we had two tow boats infront of us. Another 2 hour wait at the next lock. One more lock to go to get to Midway. However, it now became clear we would not make it in daylight. The other 4 boats decided to anchor out and lock through in the morning and skip Midway.
Getting anchored was hell. First we were too close to the channel on the west side so we pulled up and went over to the dam side but now there were stumps to hit, and anchors that wouldn't hold so we went farther up stream and anchored again. However, the lockmaster said we were too close to the channel again. It took about three more tries before we felt reasonably safe. It's now 9:35PM but no one wants to sleep under such precarious conditions. Watch this space tomorrow for the outcome.
We decided to stay in Aqua for a day, rent a car, and see the Civil War Battlefield at Shiloh. This was one of the decisive battles of the war. The South won the first day with a fierce fight and captured 2000 Union soldiers. However, this just gave the Union time to move in thousands more soldiers. A union river gunboat fired shots all night to keep the Confederates awake. In the end Grant brought in more troops from Nashville, who crossed the river in dozens of steamboats and the Union won. Over 100,000 soldiers were involved with 23,000 casualties. On the way back we went through Savannah and toured the Tennessee River Museum. They have some interesting exhibits on the steamboat era. Tomorrow we will leave early (if there is no fog) with Meander 54 miles to Midway Marina at Fulton, MS.
We were able to pull ourselves out into deeper water pulling on the anchor line. We left at 7:30am in thick fog using the chart plotter and radar to stay in the middle of the river. The fog soon cleared and it was another beautiful clear warm day. The Tennessee gets much narrower below I40 and the current much swifter. By the time we neared the Pickwick Lock it was running at 4 miles per hour. Since we go 9 miles per hour, our speed over the bottom was just 5 miles per hour. We were passed by 5 other boats at various times. When we got to the lock some of them had waited almost 2 hours. The lockmaster had put them all in the auxiliary lock entrance to wait for the next lockage. The "tortoise" it seems won again. We went straight into the lock with not wait at all and the others followed us in. We tied up at Aqua Marina at 5:45PM along with Tin Man, Meander, and two other loopers. We will stay here 2 nights.
Meander also stayed at Pebble Isle. We had met the Coopers, in Green Turtle Bay at the ice cream shop last May while they were waiting for the floods to recede on the Ohio. It was agreed we would watch for each other on the cruise. We would not travel together because our speeds were slightly different. Breakfast was at the caf?. As soon as the fog cleared we left our Kenlake friends at 9:15AM amid tears (of joy?) and headed south while their 5 boats left soon after. It was another cloudless warm day. We agreed with Meander to meet and anchor at Double Island. We arrived about 4:15pm and dropped the hook just upstream from Meander. I put the dinghy down and cruised over to the beach on the island we were behind. While the sand looked firm, my first step went in mud up to my ankle. So much for a walk on the beach. The current kept us straight, however, that night the current virtually stopped and we wound up touching the bottom.
Breakfast at Cindy's Restaurant on the Barge, then a tour of Estes' new 60 foot Nautilus sedan cruiser. As a result our flotila was about 1 hour late leaving. It was a beautiful cloudless day, 70 degrees. Accompanied by 5 other boats we set "sail" for Pebble Isle marina a distance of 55 miles south. As soon as we arrived in the channel we were passed by "Tin Man" a 65' Sea Ray sedan cruiser which is also doing the loop and was on my list of boats to watch out for. A little later a 42 foot Grand Banks passed us, Meander. They were returning from a trip up the Ohio to Cincinnati and were headed for Vero Beach. We all stopped and rafted together for lunch just below Paris Landing. This took another hour. The result was our other boats became nervous that we would arrive after dark, so they pushed the throttles forward and left us to arrive after sundown. That night there was a great farewell party with a cake that had a photo of the Katy Leigh on it in sugar. Unlike other parties everyone was worn out and settled down around ten.
We arrived at Kenlake at 4:00PM and installed the new chain anchor rode. Stripes were painted every 30 feet so we can tell how much rode is out and stop before the end is ripped out of the boat and into the water losing both the anchor and the rode. Rick Nance, our master mechanic came by and explained all the work he had done to prepare the Katy Leigh for the trip. In particular he pointed out how I had been overfilling the oil in the injection pump for the past 4 years.
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