Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Final Push to Mobile

Sorry for no photos or map not being updated. Adequate bandwidth is an elusive commodity.

We finally left Demopolis to make our final push to get out of the western rivers, which if you remember started way back in Calumet, IL at the mouth of the Calumet River just south of Chicago. On the first day out of Demopolis we made our way to an anchorage at the mouth of a big-ish creek called Bashi Creek. It was a pleasant stay-over being completely calm and not as cold as it has been in recent nights.

“Damn Beautiful!”

Sometimes its small things that make your day. The morning that we pulled out of Bashi Creek was one of them. Bashi Creek is exactly as it says it is - a creek. But a big creek. It’s maybe fifty feet wide and about ten feet deep. To anchor we just pulled straight in, positioned ourselves smack dab in the middle and dropped our bow anchor, and for there setting a stern anchor as well so we wouldn’t swing. In the morning when we decided to get under way it was dead calm which was helpful in that as we pulled straight in bow first it seemed that the best way to get out would to reverse straight out to the river. But for those of you who know Why Knot and as mentioned previously in this blog going in reverse can be an adventure. But that was the course of action to take. I manned the stern anchor and Lisa the bow. I first pulled up the stern anchor and scampered to the fly bridge helm. Lisa then pulled up the bow anchor. The stern was not pointing exactly in the direction that it needed to be. I did a quick starboard bow pivot which swung the stern around nicely to port into the correct direction. I straightened the rudder out and put it into reverse. She moved out very smartly and quite predictably the stern started swinging to the port side. On the one hand this was good as it pulled the boat out and away from the starboard side shore which had some snags in the water that I needed to avoid. On the other hand the entrance of the creek kind of went in the opposite direction. I did a hard right rudder and she straightened out very nicely directly into the main river channel. (That doesn’t always work. Sweet.) Upon seeing how all of this was going Lisa, now on the rear deck, yelled up to me, “That was damn beautiful!” Yes it was.

Our cruise was a short one, only twenty-eight miles down to a rugged little marina called Bobby’s Fish Camp. We had the dock to ourselves and went to their little diner and had a great lunch of fried catfish, grilled shrimp, fries and really tasty hush puppies. Better yet we made some new friends: Jeff and Lolli of the boat “Knot So Fast” showed up later in the afternoon. They are new boaters from Florence, AL and were on their way to the Gulf of Mexico themselves. We went to dinner with them and chatted incessantly about all things boat-ey.  It was a good day.

However the next morning, our planned get-away day, we woke up to very dense fog which just would not clear! So much so that by the time we figured it was ok to go, about 10:30ish, with the time delay and a backup of commercial vessels at the lock, the numbers did not look good to make our next anchorage some 66 miles downriver before sundown. So we stayed an extra day. We were joined by two other boats. The diner wasn’t open but we managed to squeeze in some good dock talk.

We woke up on Tuesday to more fog. Dang the fog! Even though it was not as dense we still had to delay our start. We finally pulled away from Bobby’s at 8:30 am, through the lock by 9:30 am and we started screaming down the river. By “screaming” I mean 9.8 to 9.9 statute miles per hour. We had 66 miles to cover with rain and possible thunderstorm forecasts. Plus we were racing the clock to get to our anchorage, the Alabama River Cutoff, before dusk. (Early dusk + cloudy skies = CHALLENGE!) Fortunately, and let me emphasize VERY fortunately, all of the factors effecting our cruise lined up perfectly for us. The lock was open and waiting for us, we were able to get up to speed and keep it there for the entire day (we even had a bit of a following current which nudged us up to 10 mph for awhile) and the rains never came. The clouds even conveniently broke up for a short while as we arrived at our anchorage so we still had some daylight to drop and set the anchor. All in all it was a successful cruising day.

On Wednesday morning we of course woke up to see ourselves in fog once again. But it wasn’t very thick and it was obviously going to break up early. We pulled up our anchor at 7:30 and with Lisa at the helm we pulled out into the Tombigbee Waterway for our last day on the western river system. The forecast was a continuation of Tuesday’s: warm, low to no winds and an ever present chance of rain and thunderstorms. But the cruising was good. The downward current was pushing us along. And as we were at sea level and with no more locks the tides were now a factor. Fortunately there was only one tide for the day and it was heading out pulling us along with it.

So we cruised on down the waterway on what was now called the Mobile River into the upper commercial harbor of Mobile and on past downtown. Several looper friends told us to keep on our toes during this stretch as the harbor was a bustling and busy place. We found that not to be the case. The only other boat on the waterway was a tow boat sans barges heading down the same direction as us. We quickly overtook it and headed out into the open water of Mobile Bay to our final destination, Dog River Marina on the western shore of the bay. As we approached we saw our good friends Ross and Laura of The Zone waiting for us dockside. Laura even made a little “Welcome Why Knot” sign to great us in to the transient dock. It was great to see them again. Later we all went out to dinner and we couldn’t talk fast enough to catch up on all the skinny with them.

We will be staying here at Dog River with them until the shipyard at the marina finishes some repairs to their boat. Then we will all set off together to Florida and the ends of our respective Great Loop adventures; theirs in Hollywood, Florida, ours in Pompano Beach.

So here is the final river tally: The total miles traveled from the marina in Hammond, IN down the Calumet, Chicago, Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland rivers, Kentucky Lake, The Tombigbee Waterway (Yellow Creek, Tombigbee River and canals, Black Warrior River and Mobile River) to Dog River Marina in Mobile, Alabama – 1315.26 statute miles. 168.0 hours underway (including idle speed time for waiting for locks). 25 cruising days. (For any number gronks out there – 7.82 mph average, 52 miles traveled per day. Whew.) But we made it.

And our opinion of this long leg of the Great Loop? We loved every mile of it, but with a caveat. As I said in a previous blog entry, this part of the loop is a wonderful and exciting part of the entire Great Loop experience, but the waterways on their own are pretty much un-scenic with limited facilities and opportunities to explore this part of the country. There were some wonderful spots to be sure namely Kentucky Lake. But all in all this western reach of the Great Loop is just a big watery road to get from Lake Michigan down to the Gulf of Mexico. On the positive side it was very challenging with the large locks and on making plans to safely and successfully navigate the route, especially where to stop each night.

We are once again at the Gulf of Mexico and Alabama was our last new state to transit into. We’ve been to Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, The District of Columbia (sort of, but we're claiming it.), Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Ontario Canada, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama (a couple of times between the last two). That’s eighteen states (counting DC) and one Canadian Province. We will cross back into Florida during our first day out from Mobile. 4762 total statute miles so far.


Sweet Pea said...

congratulations on completing the inland river system and hooking back up with The Zone. Enjoy the Florida panhandle, we certainly did, I think Jim even left a few oysters for you !

Tell Lisa it's time for an update. Keep blogging!

Jim and Dale

m/v Erika Lin said...

Hi Darrel & Lisa! Met you in Norfolk,been following your blog for some time and see that you are heading our way. We moved to Cape Coral, FL in October. So if you have any plans of stopping in Ft. Myers, let us know. We would love to visit. Let Ross and Laura know also as we spent a short time with them in Cape May!! Safe travels crossing the Gulf to the four of you.

Bob and Lynda