Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tenn-Tom to Panama City

We stayed at Fosque Creek for 6 days waiting out the weather from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Ida.  The day before we left we hiked down to a spot below the lock at Demopolis and watched Martha Ann come through the lock.  With the amount of water flowing over and rejoining the turbulance was fairly high at the lock exit. 

Stacy took a picture of our boats anchored as we walked back and we determined that the next day would be our day of departure before the crush of boats from the marinas upstream started down and we were all jockeying for space at the few anchorages available below this point. 

As we headed through the lock we saw the amount of water heading over the dam.  Demopolis is not a flood control dam in that they do not control the water flow but just let it flow over the dam when it gets high. 

We still had lots of debris in the river and had to keep a constant lookout to steer through it .  Some of the channel markers were also under water or almost so.  The current was running about 3 mph so we were able to make better than normal time. 

We anchored at Okatuppa Creek and Bates Lake and left early for our run to Mobile.  We had a beautiful sunrise as we headed out.

We came through the "Mile 14" railroad bridge and then started seeing the industrial parts of Mobile, Alabama.  Mobile is a very industrial and busy seaport.  It has been awhile since we have traveled with the large cargo ships.

We took advantage of an offer by Dog River Marina for a free night stay with a fill up of fuel.  Since we would be buying fuel anyway and the price was competitive we opted to stay for the night.  Our car had been delivered there from the rendezvous at Wheeler so Just Us used it to go to the grocery store.  Ken & Darcy also had a client there so we went to dinner with them.

The next day was a perfectly calm day for crossing Mobile bay so we struck out as soon as the fog lifted enough to see.  We started seeing the sights of salt water as we traveled and we anchored in Ingram Bayou. I took the opportunity to dive on the boats to check the bottom paint condition and add new zincs to my shafts while Stacy and Darcy took off in the dinghy to check out the bayou just east of us.  They found a great little place called Pirate's Cove and planned for us to stop there for lunch the next day.

The next day we headed for Big Lagoon after stopping at Pirate's Cove for lunch and anchored at Redfish Point.  This was near the Naval Air Station at Pensacola and we thought we were sleeping on an aircraft carrier with all of the planes coming over us.  On the way there we officially entered Florida.

At Redfish Point we dinghied to shore and walked a sandy beach for the first time in a long while. 

While at Redfish we had the opportunity to have more planes fly over from Eglin Air Force Base.  A unique plane (an Osprey) flew over a couple of times.  These planes take off and land vertically and then rotate the engines forward to fly conventionally.

We crossed Choctawhatchee Bay the next day and went in to Bay Point Marina in Panama City.  Along the way we saw a tow pushing two tugs and were greeted again by dolphins playing in our bow wake. 

We arrived at Bay Point Marina and got settled in to our slip.  We were greeted by Roy & Elvie Short who were already there and we had dinner on their boat that first night.

The next two days were spent getting everything settled and relaxing before driving home to Athens for Thanksgiving.

We will be in Athens for a week or so and then return to SEASEA and enjoy the cruising around the panhandle.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

AGLCA Rendezvous & Tenn-Tom Waterway

After we left our friends at Kentucky Dam Marina we made a long four day run up the Tennessee River against a 2+ mph current to get to Joe Wheeler State Park for the America's Great Loop Cruisers rendezvous. 

We came in a week early so that I could go back to Athens, GA to help with painting at my mother's house.  Stacy stayed with the boat and, since we had volunteered to help manage the marina during the rendezvous, she directed all of the boats coming in to their correct slip and helped with docking and line handling.  It was a very busy time since this rendezvous was completly filled and there were somewhere around 80 boats attending.  I came back the weekend before the rendezous started and was able to help some with the final boats coming in.  We reconnected with boaters that we knew and made new acquaintences with others that we will no doubt see as we travel to Panama City.

We remained at Wheeler after the rendezvous to wait for our friends on "Just Us" to arrive from Goose Pond Marina with other friends Steve & Sandy.  They arrived on Saturday and we planned for an early departure on Sunday.  Steve & Sandy were being picked up by their son on Sunday.  Since it was Halloween, Sandy brought devil costumes for Darcy & Stacy and they wore them that evening.

We departed Sunday and made a run down to the entrance to the Tenn-Tom Waterway.  This was new waters for us and we were excited to be off on another adventure.  TWINS joined us for our next anchorage and would stay with us for a few days after.


The Tenn-Tom is a canal from the Tennessee River to Mobile, Alabama.  It is part river and part dug canal.  Some people refer to it as the ditch but we found it somewhat serene and the fall colors made it a nice cruise.  The weather could not have been more pleasant for this trip.  The canal is controlled and any streams running into it are controlled to prevent silting.  The built retainage ponds with dams to break up the water flow into the canal.

From our Bay Springs anchorage we traveled to Blue Bluff where we saw "Patsy Ray" and "I Love Lucy" and anchored for the night.  From there we headed for Waverly, a small anchorage very near an old mansion that offered tours.  We dinghied over to the road and walked about 1/4 mile to the mansion to see it.  It is still a private residence but an interesting place with an interesting history.

In the first couple of locks we noticed two small sailboats with AGLCA burgees attached.  These guys were traveling the loop on these boats.  I do not envy them in any way.  It will be interesting to see if they make the entire loop.

Since there had been so much rain prior to our leaving Wheeler we had higher than normal currents in the canal.  At the locks we could see the water being released from the adjacent dam.  We would generally pick up speed after the lock from the increased current.

On Thursday after departing Waverly we anchored in Cochrane Cutoff with a number of other boats.  The next morning was foggy an as soon as the fog lifted we all headed to the lock.  We arrived at about the same time as 6 other boats and we ended up with 13 boats in the lock.  We rafted off so that we could all get into the lock together so there would not be any delays.

Friday, 11/6 we left Cochrane to go to Demopolis, Alabama.  Not too long after leaving Cochrane, Darcy received a phone call that her dad had had a heart attack that morning.  Not knowing the severity, they contemplated stopping at Demopolis and renting a car to drive to Lousiana.  Along the way we passed one of the few notable landmarks of the Tenn-Tom, the White Cliffs of Epes.

We decided to hold up for a day at Demopolis to wait for further news before they made a decision on whether to go home.  We anchored at Rattlesnake Bend just 7 miles above Demopolis and the news came back that it was a mild heart attack and that they had put in two stents and that he would be returning home probably on Sunday so she decided to keep her original schedule and go home to visit for Thanksgiving.  We also decided that we could use a day of break from running.  We also knew that this would give all the other boats that we had locked with a chance to move on ahead so that we could get into the anchorages that followed (the Tenn-Tom has few good anchorages and they hold very few boats)  We did not, however, anticipate taking as long a break as we have.  We moved the next morning and stopped into Demopolis Yacht Basin to take on some fuel and water and then proceeded another two miles to Fosque Creek to anchor.

Once we settled into the anchorage we took note of the weather and noticed that tropical storm Ida was forming into a hurricane and was projected to come into the gulf and affect the panhandle of Florida.  We then made the decision to remain here until we could find out what the storm would do.  There was no reason to head south and get into a jam if the storm would indeed make landfall.  "I Love Lucy" was already in the anchorage and we changed our anchoring to stern tie to some trees on shore to wait out whatever weather we would receive. 

I dropped anchor and Just Us rafted to us.  I went out and attached my snubber to my anchor chain so that I would have some shock load protection from wind gusts.

We felt that we had made a good decision when the storm did intensify and we knew that we would be getting wind.  Even though we were 200+ miles from the coast, we were to get some decent wind gusts. 

The rain started Monday afternoon and the wind picked up quite a bit.  During the night we had shifted over to where Just Us was almost touching ground and we feared that with the rising water he would bang into the park bench on shore.  On Tuesday morning the worst of the winds and rain came in and we decided to rig additional stern lines and a second anchor directly into the wind to hold us off the shore line a little better.  Ken dropped his dinghy and we took our secondary anchor out and dropped it.  We did the same for I Love Lucy as he was having the same difficulty we were.  By the time we finished we were completely drenched but felt much more secure as the winds tried to push us around.

We have been sharing meals and killing time waiting on Ida to clear out.  Ken & Darcy came over and played "Mexican Train" and we have done a good bit of reading.  We are anchored at an RV park and they have a coin laundry here so Ken & Darcy have done laundry as well.  Since the sun has come back out  today Stacy has hung out all of the towels we used in our anchoring adventure.

The water has risen 6 or 7 feet in here in the last 24 hours so we are waiting to see what the river does before heading further south.  The park benches that were behind Just Us are now just about under water.

Our current plan is to depart here on Friday morning.  As usual, however, our plans are written in pencil on sand.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cumberland River 10/1 - 10/14

We went above Nashville for a few days after the currents had subsided a bit and anchored in Drake's Creek.  We noticed activity on the other side and found out that there was a "Camp" being set up at the house of Daniel Smith, the oldest stone house in Tennessee.  We dinghied over the next morning and found out that there was a large group of "reinactors" camped there in period gear and attire.  We saw many displays of period work including musket ball making over a wood fire and lace work that we hadn't seen since our visit to Belgium. 

We headed in to Blackjack Cove Marina for one night to pick up our friends Bill & Gail Stuenkel and Chuck and Chris Hewitson from Gig Harbor and Vancouver Washington.  They will be traveling for 8 days down to Kentucky Dam Marina.

The people we met on the houseboat at Nashville had offered their car for us to go to the airport to pick them up.  Some of the finest people you care to meet live along this river. 

We celebrated their arrival and the reconnection we felt by seeing them again.  We first met them on our "Loop" trip and the three boats traveled together for a few months.

Stacy had Chris driving almost immediately and we headed downstream back to Nashville.  They had visited Nashville by car during the loop and were interested in seeing the city again so we docked at the downtown docks and walked into town. 

They had visited the Wild Horse Saloon on their previous visit so we headed there after hearing some local talent in some of the other honky-tonks.  Chuck and Chris tried learning a new line dance while those of us with no rhythm just watched.

We left Nashville and headed down to the Riverview restaurant for lunch and then to Harpeth River to anchor for the night.  The Harpeth River anchorage is probably the prettiest anchorage on this part of the Cumberland river.  Everyone independently explored the river by dinghy while others just relaxed.

On the way there we passed a waterfall that was not there on our way up.  This just shows how much rain had fallen in the area while we were upstream.

From Harpeth River we headed back to Clarksville and spend one night there in the rain.  We still got out and explored the town.  After Clarksville we anchored at Dover Island and the four of them dinghied to town and to Fort Donelson.  We had once again escaped the heaviest of the rain but we could see the effects of it in the change of water color and current. 

To pass the time in the evenings or rain or just to do it, we played Mexican Train dominoes.  Bill thought it a "stupid game" since he didn't win but it is a good way to spend an evening with friends.

Our next stop was Lake Barkley State Park where we once again docked in front of the lodge.  Chuck had been wanting to fish so we picked up lures at the marina and he fished from the dock.  He caught one small Largemouth Bass.  Notice the water color in the photo.

Since they all like to hike, we sent them on the trail to the beach area.  On the return we noticed that Chuck had only one pant leg.  We soon found out why.  They had found a quantity of geodes along the shore and had no bag to carry them so Chuck zipped off his pant leg and made a bag.  Lake Barkley State Park is a good stop.

We had a surprise in store for everyone after Lake Barkley State Park.  We headed back to Kuttawa where we sent everyone to the local museum for local history.  Stacy and I had visited the museum on the way up and made arrangements for them to open on a Monday for our guests.  We had met some local people on our trip up and they had asked us to stop back in on our way back down river and we would have a fish fry.  We told Bill, Gail, Chuck & Chris that we were taking them to a special place for dinner that night and that "no, they could not pay for it".  They were quite surprised when we walked up to the park pavilion and everyone was there to greet us.  We had fish, spaghetti, slaw, chili dogs, beans, corn pudding, and unbelievable desserts. 

The girls walked up to town and looked at houses.  Stacy picked one out that she likes.  As Chuck said, the houses and setting made him think we were on some movie set.  The setting was just that but it was the people that made it such a great stop.  We could not have met any more hospitable and gracious people than we met at Kuttawa. 

Along the way we once again saw our rare white pelicans.  Only this time there were quite a few more.  I have not seen pelicans fly as a flock and did not realize that they flew in formation similar to ducks and geese.

After a great evening in Kuttawa we headed for our final stop at Kentucky Dam Marina.  One of the early highlights of their loop trip was a stop at Green Turtle Bay and dinner at Patti's 1880.  We got the courtesy car from the marina and drove over to Patti's for a late lunch/early dinner.  We all had the same thing we had before - 2" pork chops (a specialty of Patti's) and it was just as good as we remembered.

Later that evening Bill prepared Margaritas to evoke memories of time together in Cabo and the next morning we said goodbye to our friends.

We left as soon as they were away and headed upstream for a long day to Pebble Isle.    We had a wonderful visit with our friends.  We so enjoy their company and fellowship and hope to see them again in the not so distant future. 

We are making a few long day runs to get to Wheeler State Park so that I can drive back to Athens to take care of some things. We are currently pushing against a flooded Tennessee River with close to 3 mph current. We plan to be at Wheeler on Saturday and I will drive back to Athens on Sunday.