Monday, November 22, 2010

Our Greenhorn is back

Our first two nights in Mobile bay were a bit rocky.  Pulling into Eastern Shores Marina in the town of Fairhope, Alabama Anna and I expected to find this beautiful oasis where we could lick our wounds from the river system and recharge the batteries before moving on into the Gulf.  With the winds gusting at close to 50 knots out of the northwest we quickly found that most of the water in Mobile bay had been pushed out to sea, we put Blue in the mud as we tried to push her bow into the slip.  I could not believe the tide was as low as it was.  The dock master reported that at low tide they were down a good three feet lower than there lowest tides.  With blue finally tied off, the winds picked up and we found ourselves in the washing machine.  It was a tough two nights to say the least.  I was able to jump off the boat, but Anna was unable to jump as far as me and found herself marooned in the tea cup at low tides.  On the morning of day three we were joined by a whole group of looper boats and we took advantage of the local shrimp boats and bought five pounds of fresh ship right off the boat for 20 bucks.  What a deal!  With some friendly advise from our new friend Craig on Diamond, we prepared New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp.  My god it was good!  Finally feeling like we could walk without hitting the walls, Anna and I prepared for the arrival of my Uncle Ed.  Many of you may recall Ed had joined us for a week back on Lake Ontario.  Well the big guy decided his back had recovered from sleeping on our aft berth enough to want to give it a second go.  I informed Ed that our cruise with him would take us through Pensacola the home of the Blue Angels and that their home coming air show was taking place on the day we would pass through.  Like a kid finding out Christmas was a week early Ed informed us he had never seen them fly and would love to check it out.  Having seen the Angels fly over Chicago from the boat, Anna and I decided that this time we should go to base and watch the show from the flight line.  Leaving Mobile Bay Ed, Anna and I cruised with three buddy boats, Monkey Girl, Crawdad and Gone Crusin.  It was a fun day spent relaying useless babble over the VHF as we made way to the Gulf Coast Intercoastal Waterway.  As our boats rounded the marks of the GCICW we were greeted by two pods of dolphins.  Everyone went nuts with excitement as they played in our wakes and seemed to smile at us as if to say what took you guys so long?  Our first night was spent in a wonderful anchorage, we sat on Blues deck and watched the dolphins swim around us as the sun set on the bay.  The next day thinking life can't get much better than this we headed to Holiday Harbor to get a good night rest for tomorrows big air show.  When we tied up for the night, we could hear the rumble of the Prat and Whitney jet engines as the boys in blue practiced overhead.  I got a kick out of hearing Ed do the Tim the Tool Man Taylor impression as he reacted to the unbelievable power of the jet engines overhead.  Our day at the air show was just perfect.  With the temperature in the low 80's and not a cloud in the sky we sat for hours and watched the performers overhead and then we climbed through many of the jets on display off to the side of the runway.  Once again the Blue Angels left the crowed in ahh as they displayed their aerobatic skills overhead.  On our return to the boat, I got a call from Bill on Monkey Girl and he jokingly said he was busy stitching together his blue jumpsuit, after looking at all the dreamy stares from the women he thought we should all have one on hand.  The remainder of our time with Ed took us trough the panhandle of Florida to Port St Joe.  Looking back we all agreed these are beautiful landscapes but the towns are hurting badly.  With the economy in the ditch and the oil spill, the people here are barely getting by.  The overwhelming display of disappointment and downright anger towards the over exaggeration regarding the oil spill is present everywhere.  Not a waitress, Bartender, dock boy or check out girl missed their opportunity to express how happy they were to not have seen a drop of oil on their shores, and how crazy it was to come home at night and see reports of birds covered in oil and men cleaning the shores in white suits right in the area where they saw nothing.  I guess it is a lesson to us all, our media is extremely powerful and has the ability to spin things anyway they see fit.  Much to the sadness of the people in the gulf shores, they were in the medias cross hairs.  



Man where they Good!

Ed still cant get over how fast a dinner party can be pulled together in this crowd.

It is hard to smile when you have just consumed 20 pounds of shrimp.

We were given wonderful views of the early morning fog.

This sunset from Holiday Harbor was just out of sight.

Nothing says God Bless America better than a special forces jump master landing in front of us with an American flag trailing behind him.

I have to say these planes were some of my favorites.

This plane was the loudest of them all.  Ed was in hog heaven.

Can it get any better than this? A jet truck racing a plane down the runway.  Would you believe the truck made it to a top speed of 348 miles per hour.  WOW! 

That guy just burned all the diesel I needed for the trip.

The Boys in Blue get a great welcome as they appear on their home turf.

Everything is timed right down to testing the flaps before take off.

To Cool!

Just crazy how close they are to each other.

Like it is not hard enough, how about two of us do it upside down.

I will never get tired of seeing these guys.

They are just all around impressive

Welcome home guys, this will be their last show for the season, next year they will have two new pilots and many new support crew.   I am sure these guys were going to party that night.

We had a great meal at this restaurant right on the Florida state line.

The next day we ran into the Navy Seals training in the waters around the base.  Man these guys looked tired.  We joked they probable started in Virginia.

Our Friends the Dolphins are back, this time we got a shot.

The fishing fleet in Port St Joe. 

Someone carved figures of pelicans into this tree in St Andrews harbor.

Thank you for a great visit Uncle Ed.  Safe travels home

A great view from the bar at Port St Joe

With a great view is the perfect pour.  Cheers everyone

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Salt Water Here We Come

Ok Tenn Tom we are ready for what you have to throw at us.  We need to be in Mobile by the 9th of November to pick up my Uncle Ed who is going to cruise with us for about a week.  Everyone says we are crazy to try and get down it so fast but we are up to the challenge and ready to go.  At our first stop, Grand Harbor we got to see our old friends Andrew and Sallyann from Freedom.  We last saw them when they completed their loop at Green Turtle Bay.   After a nice night of visiting with them we were ready for an early morning start down the river.  Little did we know mother nature had another plan for us.  FOG!!  You would think coming from the Grey Lady (Nantucket) we would be used to this but river fog is no joke.  Our first day we waited over 3 hours for it to clear long enough to run safely.  We had heard even if we got to the lock in the fog their was a good chance the lock master would not lock us down if it was too thick. We went to Midway marina the first night took on some fuel and got ready for the next day.  Day two we ran from Midway to Columbus.  At Columbus it was getting very crowded and we had to wait over an hour and a half outside the dock for a boat to fuel up with 1000 gallons.  They wanted 1600 gallons but the marina did not have enough fuel.  The reason we had to wait was that the marina was so full we got the last spot just off the fuel dock and their was no way for us to tie up safely with the other boat fueling.  In the days after we left we hear that boats were rafting 2 and 3 boats deep there because their was not enough dock space.  We were thankful that we had pushed on and were determined to stay ahead of the crowd.  After a night at anchor we went to Dempolis.  There we took the courtesy car for what else- Jack Daniels.  Here is where the real fun begins.  We are going to run two very long days to get this river over and done with.  We did 120 miles the next day.  Thinking we could do this all by dark was a HUGE mistake.  We ended up pulling into an anchorage in pitch black at mile 100.  Anna was very scared and kept saying how silly we were to take such a huge risk.   All I can say is thank god for the radar.  Without the radar there is no way that I would have found the opening to anchorage channel..  As we headed in with 2 spotlights going we kept wondering what we would find.  Thankfully we found Felix.  Felix is a catamaran that is doing the loop.  They were kind enough to hail us on the radio and give us direction to a safe place to throw the anchor.  We had of course read of the dangers of the river at night but never would have thought it would be so dark and eerie.  Ah well lesson learned.  The next day was just 90 miles to a great anchorage where we could hear the owls calling. Of course we could also hear and feel the local fishermen blowing by us at top speed but hey we were in their space.  Now Mobile here we come.  That is one very busy port and we were like an ant going through there with all the huge boats.  It is a truly impressive sight to see those huge ships.  You can not help but to reflect on all the hurricanes that have come through there.  Overall the Tenn-Tom is a very beautiful river.  We had heard that is was ugly but did not find that at all and would gladly do it again over something like the Illinois or the Ohio rivers.  We will be picking up Uncle Ed in a day  or so and then heading towards Florida with a stop in Pensacola for the big air show.

See those little spots in the water?  They are baby deer swimming across the river during our early morning cruise
Holy Deer!  See them jump back onto the bank after their swim

The output of these factories is very impressive

Look at all this coal waiting to be loaded onto the barges

Great use for old tires

One of the last barges we saw on the Ten-Tom

The scenery is sure starting to look more tropical

Here is some of the greenery along the banks near the start of the Tenn-Tom

These spillways look like little waterfalls along the way

Early Morning Sun just off the dock in Columbus

Creepy early morning fog near the dock in Midway

Water overflow from the the last lock we passed through

Lock #114 for us!!! No more locks until the East Coast.

The view inside our last lock.  We will celebrate this later on

White Cliffs of Epps were very cool to see

Felix was our savior in the anchorage at lock 100.  Here is a great morning shot of them

Mobile Bay and civilization here we come

We feel so tiny in our small boat amongst all these large boats

The dry docks are just huge

The city of Mobile

This is a truly amazing port

Leaving Mobile and heading out into the bay.  We are keeping our fingers crossed for a smooth ride

This is an old ship that they use to dock emergency drills on

The view of Mobile Bay from the marina.  You can just see Mobile in the back.