Thursday, 29 October 2015

Demopolis to the Gulf Coast and salt water!!

We left Demopolis at first light.  We had one lock and approximately 70 miles to go to our destination which is a very well protected anchorage.  We left with 7 other boats. It is 217 miles to the Gulf Coast and there aren't any marinas from Demopolis to the Gulf Coast. 

We arrived at our anchorage at about 4pm.  It was a very tight anchorage but deep all the way in.  We have to put out both a stern and bow anchor so we wouldn't swing in to shore.  There was already another Looper anchored there when we arrived. 

We were still expecting one more boat that travels much slower.  The last boat to arrive didn't get there until after dark at about 6:30pm.

We had planned on leaving early the next morning but the weather was horrible.  It rained sheets for most of the day with heavy winds.  This thanks to hurricane Patricia.  I don't think we've ever been on the boat in that much rain.  When ever it rains like that on the boat, we usually go home.  Steve looks really impressed.
 The rain had actually let up a bit so a quick trip to shore was in order.  There was a boat ramp at this anchorage so taking Dexter to shore was easy......easy for me because Steve went ever time :) him.  We are always looking for the dreaded Cottonmouth snake and we also now have to be concerned with alligators. 
After two days at anchor in the pouring rain, we head further South.  The sky with small amounts of blue showing through was a welcome sight.
We had planned on going about 70 miles on this day but the rain returned in the afternoon.  We were close to an anchorage so we decided to stop after 48 miles. 

The next day we went 59 miles which brought us 39 miles north of the Gulf Coast and our next stop, Dog River Marina.  Just as we pulled in to our anchorage we saw a huge gator.
Just prior to seeing the gator we had picked a spot to anchor just feet away because we thought it would be a good spot to take Dexter to shore.  We abandoned that spot quickly and drove further up the river to the other shore where it was very awkward to get to shore.  Dexter went to shore 3 times while we were here and I freaked out on the bow the whole time they were there.  We were alone so I went to the bow and sang at the top of my lungs.  For those of you that have heard me sing....that would scare the meanest creature away.  We pulled anchor the following morning after a goods night sleep.  You can see Dexter is still with us and Steve still has all of his limbs.
                                                               We are outta here!

We started to see signs of civilization and came to a huge industrial area just north of Mobile Bay.

There were even some military ships in this ship yard.  When we arrived at the Marina later that day we asked a local how fast these ships go and they replied, "no one will ever tell you that, that's classified information".

Once past the shipyard the channel opened up to Mobile Bay and salt water!  We are now at the Gulf Coast.  There is a shipping channel that runs through Mobile Bay so there were many fishing vessels and commercial traffic.

                                                                    Shrimp Boat?

After the commercial traffic passed we started to see much more friendly critters.  There were plenty of Pelicans.

 Just as the Pelicans flew away, I screamed.  Steve pulled the throttles back because he thought I screamed because we were about to hit something.  No, I screamed because there were dolphins jumping  beside our boat.  This one jumped right out of the water but I wasn't quick enough to snap a shot.  Just a fin.
We arrived at the Marina at about 2pm.  We will sit here a couple or few days depending on the weather.  After that we will head East toward the pan handle of Florida.  To date we have:

- been travelling America's Great Loop for 96 days
- travelled 2,389 nautical miles, or 2,747 statute miles, or 3186 kilometers
- had engines running for a total of 380 hours.....2 oil changes so far
- burned 1,476 US Gallons of diesel fuel
- been having the time of our lives..."One Bay at a Time."

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Joe Wheeler to Demopolis

We left Joe Wheeler on Sunday Oct 18th.  Since there were quite a few boats leaving, there were arrangements made at the rendezvous to split us in groups as we left.  Those that were not travelling far left later and those planning a longer travel day left with the earlier group.  There is a lock just a few miles from Joe Wheeler so we thought best to be organized.  Steve and I had a 50 mile day so we left with the first group.  The morning was cool and although it wasn't the warm we have been used to, it was beautiful.  There was a mist coming off of the water and we could see our breath for the first time on this trip.

We passed a large commercial vessel on the way to the lock.  We haven't seen anything like this one on the rivers before.
As we travelled down the river, Dexter sat in his favourite spot.  He was even shivering so we put his little vest on.
We stayed at anchor that night, the same spot where we stayed for 5 days prior to Joe Wheeler.  By the time we arrived at the anchorage we were in shorts and t-shirts.   The following day was another long travel day.  We are planning to get to Midway Marina which is 3 locks and 57 miles. 

We noticed the fall colours starting.  They aren't as bright as they are at home.  It is Oct 22nd today (HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!).  The colours at home start in August.

We stopped at Midway Marina to replenish.  Everyone is so friendly and helpful. We arrived at about 5:30 and decided to wait until morning to  take the courtesy car to stock up.  This will be our last grocery run....even if we get hungry...until we hit Mobile Alabama, the gulf coast.   

We had a chat with a local that told us of the Cotton Mouth Snake.  Very poisonous and can be lethal.  Told us to keep our dog away from tall grass at the rivers banks as they are water snakes and that's where the snakes hang out. 

After chatting with the locals we ventured in to town with the courtesy car.  It was so easy!  Directions were in the car with all the stops we needed.  Walmart, liquor store, beer store...done!  This county used to be a dry county and has only been wet since Feb 2015.  One of their laws is that all beer and liquor must be bagged.  While they were bagging our beer we said that's ok we'll just carry it.  They said no it's all about the children, a chid may see you leaving with beer and be influenced by your purchase.  So in order to be compliant with the law, they put our beer in bags.  Good thing the kids won't know we bought beer.
   After we left Midway we carried on down the river only to hear on our radio that the locks were backed up with lots of commercial traffic.  We also knew there were many Loopers ahead of us so we were a little concerned about anchorages being busy and places to stay.  We got a very late start from Midway and there was a Blue Jay game that afternoon so we decided to stop a very short distance from Midway Marine.  We met new friends there, Phyllis and Sony from that name.  I took Dexter to shore in the kayak and then drove past their boat.  Phyllis told me about a dog treat called Bully Sticks.  She gave me three of them and warned me that they really stunk but that they would keep Dexter occupied for a long time. 
Thank you Corkscrew!! Dexter loves his bully sticks.   So we radioed Corkscrew the next day to thank them and let them know how much Dexter loves them.  They radioed back and told us to Google "bully sticks" and that we would a kick out of what they are made of...well yes....turns out they are made from bull penis....Ya that's why they stink so much.....but if it makes Captain Jack happy, we're happy!
As we head further down the river we were just outside a lock when we came upon all these flowers in the water.  They float on top so no danger to the boat however they tend to hide logs and debris which is danger to the boat.

It's another beautiful morning on the river...not really a morning person but mornings on the river are not to be slept through.
Dexter is shedding like never before.  The mornings are nice and cool so good for sleeping and at about noon it heats up to 85 degrees....lovin this weather.  Dexter is almost bald, his hair just keeps on coming out.  He has given us so many laughs on this we will put up with his shedding.  Love this little guy..... 
The next day we were at anchor.  It was so gorgeous!  Just as we approached we saw 3 other Loopers behind us.  After we were all settled the sun began to set and I managed to get a few pictures.  It was a beautiful spot and made for a good nights sleep.
The next morning we were in a lock and spotted the dreaded Cottonmouth snake.  That lock could not have dropped fast enough for me!
As we travelled down the river we came across beautiful chalk cliffs. 

We stayed at an anchorage about 8 miles from Demopolis.  Came in to Demopolis at about 9:30am which was a great time to get lots done  Laundry, cleaning.....then it's docktails at 5pm to meet up with friends we have already met and friends we haven't met yet. 
The sun is starting to set so we leave our new friends but look forward to seeing them somewhere down the river.  We took Dexter for his last walk of the day and pinched ourselves as we looked at our boat, where it is today and where it has  travelled.  Tomorrow we will head further south "One Bay at a Time"

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Florence Harbor Marina to Joe Wheeler Marina - Rendezvouz

We left Florence Harbor Marina first thing Monday morning.  There were 8 other Looper boats that were also leaving the same morning headed for the same destination Joe Wheeler Marina.  We had two locks to get through before coming to our destination at Joe Wheeler.  We all talked the night before and thought it would be more effective to travel through the locks together. 

 People from all over the world read about "America's Great Loop".  This couple from "Movin On" bought this boat online from a Broker, then came to the US to make the final purchase and then start their Great Loop Adventure.  They are from Australia.  Love their accents!

It was only a 20 mile runs so it wasn't a long day.  It was a good travel day and we arrived shortly after noon. 
As we arrived we noticed a drone so I snapped a picture.  When we arrived at the dock we met the owner of the drone and he shared pictures that he snapped of us from the sky as we arrived. 

The rendezvous didn't start for a couple of days after we arrived so we had a day to get some work done....or at least Steve had a day to get some work done. Our boat has always been a fresh water boat and we will be approaching salt water in a couple of weeks after the rendezvous.  A boat must have anodes attached to the shafts and other metal parts of the boat to prevent electricity from corroding the metal in your engines as well as the shafts.  Salt water boats have zinc anodes and fresh water boats have magnesium.  We weren't sure which we had but assumed since our boat has never seen salt water that the anodes are magnesium.  We purchased zinc anodes in Green Turtle Bay.  When we got to Joe Wheeler we found the perfect anchorage just outside the marina where Steve could attach the zinc anodes and remove the magnesium.  We have our diving equipment on board so it was much cheaper for Steve to do this by diving rather than having the marina pull the boat out of the water.  After about an hour and a tank of air....job done!  Bring on the salt water!

We found another trail for walking which was great for Dexter.  We took him everyday, even once the rendezvous began.  It was a long day for him but he got in a great walk everyday.  The trail that we found was a mile there and a mile back with a beach at the end of the first mile so it was perfect for Dexter to have a drink and a swim.  I can't wait to see his face when he first tastes salt water.  Kinda like when I gave my kids a lemon slice to see their faces, tee hee.

The following day the rendezvous began.  There are approximately 80 boats here and 262 people that are either in progress of doing the loop or planning to do the loop.  Of the 262 people, 48% are in progress, 48% are planning and 4% are in progress for their second time.  We call those that have completed the loop more than once, Gold Loopers.  To give you an idea of the boats here I took some shots of the Marina.
All of the boats in these three pictures are Loopers.  We are not alone.

Our boat is sixth from the right in this picture.

We even met a Looper from Canada!!  Even better from Orillia!  When we told him we kept our boat at Starport in Orillia he said he lived just down the street from there at Joyland Beach.  He also knows our brother in law Ric Hamilton as he owned an auto repair business. What a small world!...and the Canadian flag is beautiful thing too, we don't see many.
Our friend from Orillia told us he was having people from home join them to take a side trip to Chattanooga.  He said these people know Georgian Bay like the back of their hands and he is also his canvas guy.  A little while later Steve said to me...I bet his friend is John Sweet.  How many canvas guys can there be in Orillia.  John is the brother of Bob Sweet.  Bob and Diane Sweet were very good friends of Steve's parents and John Sweet actually sold Steve and I an insurance policy when we were much younger.  Sure enough, we recognized John as soon as we saw him.  John and Pat were very surprised to see us when we approached them...such a small world.
We met this boater from rPad back at Green Turtle Bay.  They are "all in" meaning they have sold their home to do this trip.  Their boat is 30 feet long and they told us, back in Green Turtle Bay, that in order to have more counter space in their galley they would put their toaster in their garbage can so they would have room for their coffee pot on the counter.  Well one day they couldn't find their toaster......they figure it got thrown out with the garbage.  This is a picture of their boat at the rendezvous.  There are 2 pictures here because the owner of the boat told me if I wanted a really good picture to show the size of their boat to go across to the other dock for a long shot.  This is home for rPad...gotta love these people.

The following day the rendezvous began.  There was a wine and cheese reception and then we went inside where we listened while everyone got up and told where they were from and their stories.  Just the Loopers in progress as well as the gold Loopers stood up. There are many Loopers that are "all in", their boat is their home.  They don't own bricks and mortar. There are so many that when we meet someone new, we ask "are you all in?" 
There was one story that had most of us in tears.  A gold Looper stood up and said he was at this marina same time last year.  He was on the dock and went in to cardiac arrest.  His heart stopped.  There just happened to be a few retired doctors on the dock that came to his rescue and restarted his heart by cpr.  They called an ambulance and had him taken off to the hospital where he had a quadruple bypass.  His Looper friends definitely saved his life.  They even went to the hospital to visit him as he recovered.  I can't say enough about these people.  There seems to be a bond between Loopers, friends that you met 15 minutes ago but feel like you have known a lifetime.

 Tomorrow we will leave here and head South.  After this stop I feel so confident knowing there are so many people that have our backs.  We are a small group and maybe that's why we are so tight. To put our group in to perspective we were given these statistics from America's Great Loop Cruisers Association:
  • 35 thousand people run the Boston Marathon every year
  • 25 thousand people climb Mount Kilimanjaro every year
  • 3 thousand people hike the Appalachian trail every year
  • 650 people climb Mount Everest every year
  • 200 people swim the English Channel every year
  • 150 boats complete America's Great Loop every year....and they ended that by saying "They have never lost even one"......gotta say that was a little comforting.
So onward to the next leg of this journey....salt water and warmer air.."One Bay at a Time"