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.