Hello virtual crew members and fellow adventurers!
After sitting out traveling for the first three days of the week due to the cold temperatures, lows in the 20’s and highs only in the 40’s, the crew took off Thursday morning. It was so cold early in the week that this guy took a nap on the dock and got chilled all the way to the bone. Apparently, the Jack Daniels did not help him stay warm.
The crew left Demopolis and made their final jump to Mobile Bay to complete the Tenn-Tom Waterway over four days:
Click here to read the day-to-day travel log. This includes weather report, sea conditions, captain’s log, a summary of the day’s experience, and a few pics of the route.
The voyage of discovery did answer the following questions this week:
This week’s video shows the skipper providing coaching lessons to Dan and Mary as they anchor for the first time on the Great Loop. Enjoy!
To see past videos, click on the link to the Still Waters II Vimeo site. The library contains videos of Still Waters II cruising America’s Great Loop
Today, the temperatures were much more favorable for comfortable cruising with a low of 43 and a high of 59. The crew shoved off and started their four day journey to Mobile.
The first order of business was to get thru the Demopolis Lock, three miles down river. However, when the skipper called, the Lock Master said that a tow was about to enter the chamber and it would be at least an hour before he could lock the three boat flotilla down. He suggested that the boats sit at the marina, and he would call when it was time to head to the lock.
A few minutes after nine the Lock Master called and summoned the boats to the lock. Everyone was scrambling because he also added that there would be a lock closure at ten for some routine maintenance. The three boats arrived at the lock at 0944 with gates open and a green light. That was a good sign.
After entering the lock, the crew could see the water rushing over the Demopolis Dam which made for an impressive site.
After the lock stepped the crew down 40 feet, they exited the lock and got an even better view of the dam and water runoff.
At mile 173, the crew passed under an interesting highway bridge and railroad bridge.
Five miles later it was time to stop and find a place to drop the anchor near the boat ramp at Old Lock #2. The first spot the skipper picked did not work. The anchor set just fine but the wind direction was causing the boat to drift into the shore. The crew weighed anchor and moved to the other side of the river. The skipper found a good spot and the crew once again dropped the anchor. After getting the anchor set, Gammel Dansk came up on the port side and rafted up to Still Waters II.
With the boats secured it was once again time to launch the Tori Taxi Service. The skipper rowed Tori back across the river to the boat ramp. After Tori completed her business, the skipper was glad to see Chip Ahoy waiting at the boat ramp to tow him back to the mother ship.
After Tori was safely back on her boat, it was time to sit back and relax. The skipper turned in early, but the Admiral stayed awake working on a Christmas treasure hunt for the grandkids. Sometime, before the Admiral turned in, a tow went by that rocked the two rafted boats pretty bad. The two boats were banging into each other as they rocked from the wake. The Admiral and Mary went out in the dark and arrested the situation before any damage was done to the boats, while the guys slept away.
The first order of business was to take Tori back ashore. She came out of her salon, noticed the skipper in the dinghy, and immediately turned back around and went back in the salon. To say that Tori does not like the dinghy ride might be an understatement. Mary had to coax Tori back outside. Then to everyone’s surprise, Tori came out and jumped into the dinghy. She must really need to go bad.
The skipper took his camera over to see if he could get some good pictures while ashore with Tori.
With the morning exercise program complete, the flotilla raised the anchors and headed downstream. As they began to move out into the channel Chip Ahoy noticed a tow around the bend headed upstream towards the boats. Everyone moved out of the way of the tow and made way south.
The interesting rock formations along the shore line would come to an end today. So would the smalls hills that have dotted the horizon for the last few hundred miles.
The remoteness of these last two days has meant not much cell service. But to the skippers amazement, as they approached the dock at Bobby’s Fish Camp there was a cell tower within view of the dock. At first he thought it was just a figment of his imagination so he rubbed his eyes and looked again. Yes, yes, that is a cell tower. The skipper looked over at his iPad and noticed four bars of service. What a pleasant surprise.
The three boat flotilla were the only boats to arrive at Bobby’s Fish Camp. The crew did not get to eat at Bobby’s back in 2016 when they stopped because the restaurant was closed. Tonight though, the restaurant was open and it was time to try the famous catfish that has been served here since 1956.
But there might just be one small problem. There is a rather large sign on the front door that reads, “No animals allowed inside.”
The skipper entered the restaurant ahead of the others to pave the way for Capt’n Dan and Tori. He began his inquiry by acknowledging the sign on the door, but also stating that there was a blind guy fix’n to walk thru the door with a seeing eye dog. He stated they just wanted to eat their world famous catfish and wanted no problems. He could tell the worker was nervous and unsure how to respond.
To his surprise, she looked over at a couple of locals who were seated and enjoying their meal. The man was nodding his head as if to give approval. She then looked over at another table and that man was also nodding his head. He also spoke and commented that he thought it might be the law and that she should let the dog in. With some show of solidarity, she said it would be ok. The skipper went over and opened the door just as Dan was heading up the stairs to the door.
The group took a table in the main dinning area and Tori took her place under the table at Dan’s feet.
But then something rather interesting happened. The man and woman at the first table finished their meal, got up, and came over to the groups table. The man addressed Dan and said how much he had enjoyed their conversation outside just a bit ago. As the two continued to talk, the wife noticed that Mary had an art pin on her vest. The wife commented that she enjoyed drawing and painting and wanted to know if Mary did also. The two continued to talk about their love of the arts and discovered that they also had a love for Alaska.
Who would of ever thought that two locals in remote Alabama would help win the day at Bobby’s Fish Camp and would have so much in common with these strangers just trying to make their way through a dark and lonely world. Yes, life is more about the relationships we form in this journey on earth than a bunch of silly rules to live by like, “no animals allowed.”
Oh yea, and the food was excellent also. Three cheers to Bobby’s Fish Camp and the locals who keep it in business.
And speaking of silly signs, the Admiral found this sign when she went walking after docking.
With a 70 mile day and a lock to go thru, the crew left Bobby’s bright and early. Well, maybe not so bright. It was 0600 in the morning with fog so it was anything but bright. It was pitch black.
The skipper had called the Coffeeville Lock Master at 0530 to see if they had a clear shot at making the lock at 0630. The Lock Master told the skipper that there was a tow below the lock, but if they got there before 0615, he would put them down before the tow came up.
With the dark and fog, the flotilla did not arrive at the lock until 0630, but the Lock Master showed some grace, kept the gates open, and stepped the boats down before the tow.
When the gates swung open to let the boats out of the lock, they were greeted by a wall of fog. This looks like it is shaping up to be a slow stressful day. Not the best way to celebrate the last lock of the 2018 cruising season.
By 0900, the temperature changed enough to allow the fog to dissipate. While the last of the fog was trying to leave it made for an eerie look and feeling on the water. During some boat chatter over the radio, someone mentioned that they thought they heard the theme music from the Twilight Zone.
After the rain stopped and the fog lifted, it actually turned into a beautiful day. The three boats cruised together until the last ten miles. The skipper speed up so that the crew could be anchored and drop the dinghy before Gammel Dansk arrived.
When Gammel Dansk showed up at the anchor spot in the Alabama River Cut-off, Mary announced that her and Dan would attempt to drop their anchor. She also requested some just in time coaching so Dan pulled their boat up next to Still Waters II , and the skipper stepped across onto Gammel Dansk. The skipper talked Mary and Dan thru the anchor technique and then they gave it a try. They were able to successfully set the anchor on the first attempt.
With the anchor set, Chip Ahoy then pulled up and the skipper hopped aboard. Chip Ahoy dropped the skipper back off on his own boat. While the skipper was launching the dinghy for Tori, Bill set his anchor on Chip Ahoy.
It was a peaceful night in this remote area until a few boats came speeding by after dark at a high rate of speed. They did have some heavy duty lights luminating their path, but it sure would be nice if they slowed down.
The day started by picking up Tori and taking her ashore. Mary mentioned to keep a close eye out for any gators that might be lurking along the shore. The skipper mentioned that the gators did not bother him as much as a bunch of deer hunters walking around with guns. He had already heard a few shots early this morning. After Tori did her business, it was back to the boat to prepare to leave.
With another 70 mile day to make, the crews weighed anchor and pulled out of the Alabama River Cut-off about 0700. They were once again greeted by the morning fog. At least it was daylight and no rain.
As they continued south on the waterway, the shore line began to start changing and it was obvious they were getting closer to salt water and warmer climates. The end of the Black Warrior River, which the crew has been traveling on the past 178 miles, would come as the crew entered Mobile. The Black Warrior River is named after Chief Tuskaloosa, whose name means ‘Black Warrior’ in Muskogean. If you have a river named after you, maybe you did something important. Tuskaloosa made a name for himself battling the Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto way back in the 1500’s.
Finally, in the distance, the Mobile skyline came into focus. Then the crew passed under the Cochrane Bridge and entered the Mobile Big Ship Channel. Being a Sunday, most of the waterfront businesses were closed and there was only one tow plowing the water downtown.
After passing thru the deserted downtown area, the crew reached the north end of Mobile Bay to find relatively calm conditions due to the 5 mph winds out of the west.
After arriving at Dog River Marina, taking on fuel, and getting docked the day was about spent. There was a restaurant across the water that was open, so the group boarded Chip Ahoy, and Bill taxied everyone over to the Mariners Restaurant. Upon arrival they discovered that Steve and Jane of Sabbatical were dining here also. The two tables combined and enjoyed a fine meal celebrating the completion of the inland rivers portion of the Great Loop.
Shrimp boat named God’s Blessing.
With the inland rivers completed, it is time to start watching the weather closely for a window to jump across the Gulf of Mexico to the western shore of Florida. Currently there are no windows open to allow the jump, so the crew will spend a few days at The Wharf on Orange Beach. They will then meander along the north gulf coast where they will stage for the Gulf crossing in Carrabelle.
Shout out to Dave and Nancy of Sun Spot Baby. Sorry dinner did not work out but hope to see ya on the Gulf shores.