Navigating in a ditch is easy…

December 7

Found a marina in Panama City last night. One of the few remaining after Irma. This area was pretty well devastated. One of our boat slip neighbors didn’t fare so well during the storm.

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First light had been arriving around 6:30 in the morning but now since we are traveling east first light (‘bout 30 minutes before sunrise) was at 6 AM. Would have been nice to have used that time for travel. Beautiful sunrise nevertheless. About an hour after sunrise we passed this pretty sailboat moving along at 6+MPH.

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Looks like one cold sailor!

Lots of devastation in this area. Following are quite a few photo’s of what we have come across. Look closely at the first image. This ship must have been blown over on it’s starboard ((right) side. Can you see the mud on the side of the ship? In the other photo of the ship you can see the huge chains the barge is using to anchor the boat to keep it from rolling over.  Whole lotta blue tarps on people’s houses.

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This guy held on like a hair in a biscuit!4F29DBD8-C9B0-457E-85ED-870C5B9B0E25

Debbie calls me crazy. I think it is a splendid idea. The diesel engines generate about 160 degrees of heat on the exhaust manifolds. So, while we are running I will place our lunch or dinner on the top of the engine/s to heat it up. Tonight? Frozen lasagna. There is even a cookbook for cooking this way, Manifold Destiny. Will finish it off in the convection oven. Play on words, remember Manifold Destiny from your US history class? Speaking of the convection oven, when we purchased the boat it was like drinking out of a firehose learning all of the systems and how to operate such a complex vessel. As the captain, I assigned a critical task to the War Department. Learn how to use the convection oven. Go ahead, ask me if she ever figured it out. And you wonder why I am cooking on the engines?

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And since we are discussing the engine room, it is loud as hell down there when under way even running at only 1200 rpm’s. Gotta wear ear protection. Not pretty, but it does the job.

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Turned into quite a nice day. Started out at 43 degrees and now it’s about 65 on the flybridge.

We have been in a canal just about all day. Pretty narrow and not much to look at.

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And then we enter this wide beautiful area and this is where we will anchor. Got here at 3 o’clock and hoping for a clear night for stargazing.

Short video of the Jackson Saul anchorage.

Tonight we will experiment with anchoring.We will be in an anchorage that only has room for 1 boat the size of WB with room to swing when the tide changes. We are traveling with a smaller boat in the 35 foot range, Oar Knot. Yesterday we deployed the large anchor I spoke of in a earlier post. That sucker should hold in a hurricane, but I don’t think I will test it. Jim and Laurie Edgerly are pot lucking with us for dinner on board WB.  I am sure a party will ensue into the wee hours. Maybe as late as 8 o’clock.

WTH, there’s that speedy sailboat again, Serenity. Using all of the daylight he can.

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My first mate Dave figured out how to use the convection oven so we browned the frozen lasagna that I had warmed to 160 on the engines, toasted some frozen garlic bread on the cooktop and Jim and Laurie brought a salad and some baked apples for dessert. Two bottles of wine later, Jim and Laurie head back to Oar Knot as it is close to Looper midnight 7:50PM. Wish I could share an image of the stars tonight. They are all out shining brilliantly. Just beautiful.

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G’night all.

I wanna come home for Christmas

November 6

Left Two Georges Marina in Fort Walton Beach at 6:30 this AM with a new “deck hand”, USCG licensed Captain Dave Heilman replaced my ne’er do well brother who still hadn’t shaved by the time he left the boat. Looked like a homeless person. You may recognize my friend Dave as he and his bride Sue started this journey with Debbie and me. Debbie is still home nursing Jake. Shortly after 6 we start the engines, short tie the boat, short tieing involves a line that is afixed to the boat, making one wrap around a dock cleat and tieing off on the boat’s cleat so the boat can be untied from the dock without leaving the boat. And then we put on appropriate dress:

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Damn, another 30 degree departure! At the time of this writing it is pretty warm on the flybridge but only 50 or so outside.

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It seems I can only get one Sirius station on Whisky Business.

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Sunrise over Choctawahatchee Bay as we were leaving the marina.

Coupla pretty shots along the Intracoastal Waterway.

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Salty Dog makes a slow pass and then cranks it up to 26 mph. Fella is burning some serious fuel.

Getting close to Panama City. Ever wonder how all that stuff from China gets here? Each one of those “containers” is the size of a semi truck trailer. And there are a lot of them on this particular ship and it is small by container ship standards.

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Take a look at the large spools in this port. Water is smooth as glass in West Bay.

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This is an image of one of my chartplotters. Using the autopilot, I set a waypoint to the center of the channel. The autopilot then reads this line and using GPS it takes the boat to that exact spot. When we make the Gulf crossing next week (160 miles of open water in the Gulf of Mexico) this device will pay for itself.

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Our staging point for the crossing is Carabelle, Florida, about 100 miles from our current stop in Panama City. Can’t quite get there tomorrow so we have selected an anchorage about 65 miles away. We could go further but we are traveling with Oar Knot, a single engine boat that can’t go faster than 9 mph. It is a much more pleasant journey when you have a “buddy boat”. Plan for departure is 6:30am. We are expecting a veritable heat wave with temps in the low 40’s tomorrow morning. Jeez, dark by 5, skipped lunch today and had Deb’s sloppy joe’s for dinner and ready for bed. AND IT’S ONLY 6 O’CLOCK!!!

Our anchorage tomorrow night is a small one, best for only one boat. Unless you are rafting up with another boat. Oar Knot only has a 35 lb anchor so Dave and I deployed my beast of an anchor, a 65 lb Manson Boss. This sucker will hold our combined 80,000 lbs of boats just fine.

There was a crossing opportunity today and we just could not get that far. Hopefully a window will open up for us on Tuesday or Wednesday. That will take 2 days and then another 2 days to get to Burnt Store Marina. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

Florida!

December 2

Left Dog River Marina at 6:15 this morning. I was a little concerned due to an issue I had with starting the port side engine. Few days ago when starting that engine, the starter turned for just a moment, stopped and then the engine turned over and it started fine. Day later the engine started just as it should. After fueling the boat, restarted the engine and same issue. Thinking the worst (new giant 8D battery or worse a starter motor) I called my mentor Dave Shaw at Kentuckiana Yacht Service and he suggested loose battery terminals. Cleaned and tightened them and this morning she fired right up.

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Keith Sheffel at KYS had suggested a few months ago that I install these devices on the batteries to connect the 4 cables to each battery but I never got around to it. Unfortunately they don’t fit quite right so I will have to postpone installation.

We stayed at Dog River Marina for the last 2 nights at the top of Mobile Bay. Got an early start and took some pretty cool photo’s along the way.

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And finally we get to Florida!

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And these guys show up! Beautiful animals and so fast!

Our initial planned stope was Pensacola tonight but talked with Steve and Kathy Parnell who also drank the Bob and Pam Shircliff Kool Aid and met up with them in Navarre, Florida.

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Image of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway just before we turned off to our stop for the night at East River Smokehouse and Marina.

 

 

Mobile Bay…and 70 degress!

November 30

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Up at 5am. Debbie doesn’t think I make the bed when she is not on board. Here’s proof.

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Sent this photo in a text to Haley this morning. She had STOLEN this coffee mug from a Waffle House. Perfect size for me as the coffee doesn’t get cold. Really pisses her off when I send her pictures of me and MY (possession: 90% of the law) favorite coffee mug. Read her response. Such a smartass. Gets it from her mom.

Sunrise at our anchorage. You can see our “buddy boat” Chrysilis to the right of the image and farther back the channel is Sabatical. We ran 60 miles from Bobby’s to get to the Tensaw River. Great place to drop a hook.

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Cool feature of our electronics package is Active Captain. It’s a user based site that gives user reviews of marina’s, anchorages and waterways. Now that we are in southern climes the wildlife changes a bit. Folks who travel with small dogs heed this type of info when taking their pets to shore to relieve themselves.

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It takes a great deal of love to bring a pet on board for this type of journey. Every day’s plan revolves around taking the aminal to shore a couple of times.

Image of the Tennnessee Tombigbee waterway from it’s start in Iuka Mississippi which is just south of the Pickwick Landing Lock and Dam. From this point it’s a 450 mile journey to Mobile Bay. The little rectangles denote locks and dams. Our journey started in the 30’s. It is now 70 degrees!

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OH! The best Great Loop song just came on the Jimmy Buffet channel. Here’s to Debbbie Rogers, Sue Heilman and Pam Shircliff – Knee Deep by Zac Brown and Jimmy Buffet.

Entered the port of Mobile. Not many boats here, lot of SHIPS though!

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Saw one of these boats. Would you get on one??? Called Diesel Ducks. Imagine if there was any wave action…

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Look at all that water in the bay. Sonar indicates a depth of less than 7 feet.

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Entering Mobile Bay the chartplotter got real busy.

So glad I had big brother Jim on board, scurvy bastard that he is. Damn face looks like a Chia Pet. Won’t shave till he gets home.

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Arrived at Dog River Marina and filled up with 184 gallons of fuel and made it to our covered slip. Sort of. Tried to back in to the slip but at low tide there wasn’t enough depth so we had to pull bow in.

Went to a pretty good BBQ joint in Mobile tonite with Gill and Debbie Patton and their grandson Alex. These were the folks on Chrysilis, our buddy boat for the last 2 days

Just got back to WB having had “docktails” on Farfromwurken with Brian and Sue Ramsey who we met at Green Turtle Bay outside of Paducah.

 

Bobby’s Fish Camp or Bust

November 29

Last 3 days have been so darn cold getting in the hi 20’s at night and highs n the 40’s. Miserable conditions but clear and dry. Encased in our plexiglass bubble on the fllybridge and a black bimini, the temp got to the 60’s if the sun was shining.

On the night of the 26th we stayed in a great anchorage but the next morning it was so cold the windows on the flybridge were coated with frost. That took a while to clear but we were able to depart that anchorage by 7am.

Below are some photos of dredging equiment on the TenTom. This equipment pumps  out the bottom of the channel. Another vessel then pushes it through 4 foot wide hoses up on shore in the 3rd photo.

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I would call this a serious case of erosion!

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One of MANY tow arrays we passed. This waterway is so narrow we were almost trading paint with these guys.

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Pretty cold in the mornings and the fog made some interesting shapes. I think I saw the Virgin in the photo below.

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This is why there are locks and dams on the inland waterways. Boats don’t fare so well when traversing waterfalls.

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On the 28th the plan was to run about 60 miles to an anchorage called Bashi Creek. Those plans changed when we ran into a couple other boaters who were gonna run fast for a 100 miles to the famous Bobby’s Fish Camp. Went through one lock and made Bobby’s by 2PM. Burned a LOT of fuel but saved a day.

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Finally made it to the legendary Bobby’s Fish Camp. I have read about this place for years while doing research on the Great Loop. A must stop on the Loop. While you won’t find Bobby’s listed in the Michelin Guide for fine dining, it is certainly unique. There is one dock that 4 medium size boats can tie up on. So how do you get 8 boats PLUS replica’s of the Nina and Pinta, the boats that accompanied Columbus’ Santa Maria to the New World. These are true replicas in that they were built on a beach using no power tools. Making this task even more daunting, these replicas are made out of ironwood. Probably never heard of it as it is extremely hard so it is not used in furniture making. Matter of fact, the cross supports in the hull of WB are made from this hardwood and then fiberglassed in place for the big diesel engines to rest on.

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Some of the boats we spent the night with at Bobby’s in the last of a dozen locks on the TenTom. We are now in tidal waters.

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Very thankful that my brother Jim helped me move the boat to Florida, especially in this cold weather. Had to make some adjustments to the navigation equipment though. Had to Use BIG numbers on the chartplotter due to his advancing years. He wanted a Diet Coke. Needed a caffeine fix, he said. See photo’s below.

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Back in Business!

November 24

Day after Thanksgiving my brother Jim and I rented a car one way and drove back to Whisky Business after the port shaft had been replaced. Shaft being the operative term here. Dave Shaw at Kentuckiana Yacht Services quoted me a price of $1500 + shipping for a new shaft. Boat yard I ordered it from charged me over $4,000 just for the shaft!!! When Debbie reads this, the only thing saving my bacon is it is bloody damn cold at this anchorage so I know I am safe here for now. She’ll never find me. Jake the dog is in a declining phase now so that is why my brother, able bodied sailor that he is, is my deck hand for now.

WB has this horn, I use the term loosely. Two horns actually with their own compressor and seperate 10 gallon air tank. The horns are just the other side of where he is… resting his eyes. Gave that sucker a long blast…he did not even stir… a bit.

We left Aqua Yacht Marina on Saturday after Thanksgiving and have been underway for 3 days now. The Tombigbee Waterway is not much more than a ditch in places. Breathless beauty in others. Check out these photo’s

The color is spectacular, right!

Yesterday, we went through 5 locks and 2 today. Here is a photo of a “bollard”. This device is located along the walls of a lock that a boat must tie off on. I cannot take credit for this, but the previous owner made this loop with a line and clear hose that loops over the bollard and ties off to the mid cleat on the boat.

This is how we look when tied up to the wall of a lock.

Look closely at the above photo. There is a device used by many a mariner but eschewed by many seasoned captains. In the bottom of the photo you see a fender (bumper) hanging from a line. Notice the device the line runs through after looping over the hand rail. One of my training captains who shall remain nameless, but many know who he is, gives me untold amounts of s@#t for using this instrument in lieu of simply tying a knot. I like it. Debbie likes it. So….

In this photo there is a plant which grows everywhere here. Water Hyacinth. It grows on the surface and the roots reach into the water. They are hell on boat water intake systems.

When we purchased WB we found the burgee in the photo below. The AGLCA is an organization that I have mentioned previously that is made up of similar minded people that are circumnavagating the eastern US. As you can see this burgee that has been on WB for 3 years now is pretty beat up. At Debbie’s urging, we purchased a new burgee at the Great Loop Rendezvous we attended in October.

Hung the new one today!

Gotta tell ya, it is pretty damn cold here. Tonite we are anchored out 60 miles north of Demopolis, Alabama and the forcast is 29 tonite with a high of 44 tomorrow. It is 37 now. Running the generator to keep the boat warm. WB is equiped with a cooling/heating system that, as long as the water is above 55 degrees, it will heat the boat. At this time (9pm) it is quite toasty. Soon as I am finished writing this I will shut the system down along with the generator. And proceed to freeze my…off.

The upside to the low temp is the beauty of the milky way in all it’s glory tonight. Simply outstanding!

Following are a few photo’s of our anchorage for the night. Hope you enjoy them.

Oh yeah, my favorite photo of the entire trip…

God Bless America!!!

Post Rendezvous and on to Aqua Yacht

October 24

Loop Group Photo

This is a group photo of all (but Debbie) who attended the America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association Rendezvous. Whisky Business is the 3rd boat from the left and yours truly, not to be lost in the crowd, is in the back row with arms extended and fingers raised in peace signs ala Richard Nixon departing the White House.  Unfortunately, on the second morning of the event our daughter Haley called with news that our dog Jake had a night of vomiting and the resulting visit to the vet revealed he had a number of masses inside him that will probably prove fatal. Finding a rental car in Rogersville, Alabama was impossible. Closest rental car was in Florence, about 30 minutes away. A very fine gentleman in the employ of the park was gracious enough to drive Debbie there to pick up a car and drive home. Turns out this wonderful fellow is the beverage manager at Joe Wheeler Park, a fan of “dirty water” and also a Maker’s Mark Ambassador. His kindness earned him (other than financial) a hefty dose of Rip Van Winkle 12 year. IMHO, the finest of the Van Winkle family of bourbons.

The many seminars were concerned with different sections of the journey. Once we get to Mobile, Al, we will follow the Intracoastal Waterway past Michael ravaged Panama City to Carrabelle, Florida, a trip of about 90 miles by water. At this point we will make a crossing of the Gulf of Mexico to Tarpon Springs, Florida. The “armpit” of Florida, where the panhandle ends and the land turns south is a boaters nightmare. Very shallow waters and a brazzillion crab pots make this area off limits to deep draft boats. Leaving around 2PM we will cross open water making land around 10AM the next morning in Tarpon Springs. Timing is important as we will be traveling in a eastern direction and mariners want to arrive when the sun is a bit high on the horizon so there is no blinding glare that might cause you to miss those pesky crab pots which are everywhere. An overnite trip of 160 miles which will take us somewhere around 20 hours. The ideal crossing would involve fellow boaters with the same destination on a cloudless, moonless night so the stars and Milky Way will show themselves. One just has to wait for the proper weather window.

Which brings me to Eddy’s Weather Wag. A fellow looper has taken it upon himself to research possible weather windows for the aforementioned Gulf crossing. Eddy Johnsen aboard “Spiritus” reviews NOAA weather sites late at night and sends out a report around 1AM. Captains at that time will make their plans for departure.

Since Debbie had to come home to nurse Jake, I needed a deck hand to help me get WB from Joe Wheeler Park in Alabama, thru 2 locks and 60 miles to Iuka, Mississippi on the Tom Bigsbee Waterway which starts on Yellow Creek just off the Tennessee River. The second lock we encountered is the Wilson lock that, in this direction, is a whopping 94′ drop. Interesting feature of this lock is the upstream end of the lock has no doors that swing open. The “door” actually drops down about 10 feet allowing boats to pass over it. A little unnerving when you have big propellers hanging beneath your boat.

An sonar image of the gate as we pass over it.

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At the top of the photo you can see the top of the gate that we drove over to enter the chamber.

I attached an iPad to the windscreen of WB and made a time lapse video entering, dropping and leaving the 94′ Wilson Lock. The entry and lock through probably lasted 40 minutes or better but the video is only 30 seconds long. Notice how Deck Hand Dave dances during the video.

Couple of photo’s leaving the Wilson Lock.

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There is also a mount for my GoPro but it seems to have recorded its last video.

When entering a lock I have to aim the boat to a bollard which resides in the chamber wall. These bollards are placed along each side of the lock so that multiple boats can tie up at the same time or in the case of a tow array, there are multiple places to tie to. This image shows the bollard and the Lock Loop used to grab the bollard and pull the boat to the wall. We have large fenders to protect the boat from the wall. By placing line through the plastic hose it makes it really easy for Debbie to grab that sucker.

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After leaving the Wilson Lock we had quite a push from the downriver current and we were FLYING!

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In water with no current we would probably be going about 9mph.

After traveling around 60 miles we came upon Yellow Creek which is the beginning of the Tom Bigsbee Waterway which will take us to Mobile, Al. avoiding the Mississippi River.

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The Tennessee River was certainly the most scenic portion of our trip thus far. We hate to leave it, but new adventures await as we make our way south to Mobile Bay. Back to Louisville while we have a new prop shaft made and installed on WB. Looking forward to long showers, sleeping in a REAL bed and seeing friends that we miss so much.