Many of you have not heard from us for a year. That's because, as you will recall, we left the boat on Lake Tellico in Tennessee last October and became, more of less, homebodies for a year. We winterized the boat in November which meant no boating until spring. We did our usual two month trip to Trinidad in January and February, preceeded by visits with family.
The summer included a 10 day cruise up the Clinch River to Oak Ridge with the Knoxville Power Squadron and more family visits. At the end of the summer, we decided that we prefer cruising to a destination to sitting around anchored out on a lake (though Tellico is beautiful and has lots of nice anchorages).
October 5, we left Tellico and started back down the Tennessee River, doing about 40 miles a day and anchoring in a cove at night. The weather was cold and overcast most of the way so we spent our days driving inside the cabin. The only place we stopped to walk around was Guntersville, where we had lunch in a "meat plus 3" (a buffet with choice of meat and three sides). Each of the lakes is a little different, some with lots of embayments and others where the river runs more straight and narrow. We had some fall color -- mostly accents of individual trees adding a splash or red or yellow to the landscape. And we had the seven big locks to go through and we were lucky only to have to wait at one.Most of the time we were the only boat in the lock. The total drop was almost 400 feet, with Wilson Lock dropping us 93 ft. These big locks are a lot easier to use than the small locks we've been through elsewhere. They have floating bollards in the walls; all one has to do is tie to a bollard and float up or down -- no handling of lines.
So far the journey had been retracing the track that we took last fall. Now we are at Aqua Yacht Marina, having some routine maintenance down on the engine, catching up on laundry and food shopping and enjoying the first hot shower in ten days. There are a number of boats here also doing the Loop, but of course all new faces to us. We had a small gathering on the dock last night to visit and eat pizza. There was a couple from Canada, a couple from Michigan, two 23-year-old girls in a sailboat from Michigan (an anomaly in the looper group which tends to be retirees), a couple from New Zealand (who bought a boat in Michigan to do the loop) and us. The New Zealander and one of the girls brought out guitars and entertained us - mostly songs from the sixty's and seventies: Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, Gordon Lightfoot, John Denver, Beatles -- you get the idea! It was great fun.
Everything from here on until we get to the Florida west coast will be new. That always brings a combination of anticipation and anxiety for me. It's so much easier to drive when you've been there before. Also, the charts we have for the Tenn-Tom (here to Mobile) have no depths on them, so it's stay inside the channel and go outside only with great caution. For those of you who are not familiar, what is called the Tenn-Tom is actually the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and the Tombigbee-Black Warrior Waterway with a connecting canal to the Tennessee. The connection between the Tombigbee and the Tennessee rivers was actually envisioned as early as 1792 but didn't become a reality until 1985 when the Army Corps of Engineers spent $2 billion and moved more dirt that it took to build the Panama Canal to finally make the connection. Now commercial traffic and pleasure boats can get from the mid-west to the Gulf of Mexico without having to go down theMissippi with all its hazards. (Your tax dollars at work -- thank you!) .We have 726 miles to go to reach Carrabelle, FL, where we will do a straight shot (at night) 180 miles to Clearwater. Now that crossing, I must admit, isn't something I am looking forward to. It will take us 17 to 20 hours. But we really don't have a choice if we want to get to the west coast as the water is too shallow and the days are too short to go around the bend in the wintertime. We will just wait until we have a good weather window to cross.
I'm relying on my android smart phone for everyday email, so will send you updates when we have a WiFi connection. We hope all is well and that you are enjoying a beautiful fall.
Paint Rock Bluff on the Tennessee River, as seen by Jean and Mel Thomason aboard Dovekie, Oct. 10, 2012
Dovekie tied up to an old barge Oct. 27, 2012, on the Mulberry Fork of the Black Warrior River, 208 miles upstream from Demopolis, AL.
Dovekie’s Side Trip: Black Warrior River
We have just returned to Demopolis, AL, after a ten-day side trip up the Black Warrior River and back, The Black Warrior runs northeast from its junction with the Tombigbee just above Demopolis 178 miles to a point where it splits into two forks, Locust Fork which goes to Birmingham and Mulberry Fork which goes deeper into coal country to Smith Lake.
Our goal was to get close to the head on navigation on Mulberry fork, 207 miles from Demopolis. There are several challenges on this trip, one of which is that our normal fuel range is about 400 miles. So without refueling, the math says we would probably not make it back to Demopolis. The second challenge is that there are no marinas which carry diesel on the river. A third challenge is that the largest marina was destroyed by a tornado last year. So, based on a phone call to a marina owner who agreed to haul diesel in for us, we set out on Tuesday, Oct 23rd.
The Black Warrior, named after Chief Tuskaloosa (which translates to "Black Warrior"), begins as a wide, slow-moving stream with long straight sections joined by mostly gentle curves. The river was developed as a waterway beginning in the 1880's to move coal from the mines in central north Alabama to Mobile. A series of 17 locks and dams were constructed, with the last lock being completed in 1925. The river also was a means of transporting steel, made in Birmingham to Mobile and from there to ports all over the world, making Birmingham the "Pittsburgh of the South". Only one of the original dams remains today and that has been modernized. The original 17 locks of various sizes have been replaced by four larger locks of standard size to accommodate the passage of a tow of 3 barges wide by two in length, pushed by a towboat. We anticipated meeting many of these tows, having been warned to announce our presence on the VHF radio before every sharp bend lest we meet an oncoming tow by surprise.
The first day we met four tows. The conversation goes something like this, "This is pleasure craft to the tow at mile 243. What side do you want me on?" and the reply comes, "on the one, captain ". This is short for a one whistle pass, port to port, hearkening back to the days before radio communications when whistles were used to exchange information. One of the approaching boats would signal either one whistle or two and if the other boat was in agreement, it would answer with the same signal. Now all this supposes that you know where you are and where the tow is, so we drive with a chart book in our laps in addition to the electronic chartplotter. The chartplotter helps if one gets distracted or daydreams and forgets to keep track of the bends, since the mile information is available. Our goal the first day was to anchor in the side water coming from the Selden Dam, which would keep us out of the path of tows during the night. What we didn't count on is that constant scouring of the bottom by water from the dam means the bottom is rock and an anchor won't set. After two attempts involving putting out and hauling in 80 feet of chain, we moved up-stream and to the side and got the anchor to hold.
The next morning we locked up 22 feet, tying to a floating bollard in the lock wall - a really simple procedure compared with catching and holding lines. Above the lock, the river begins to meander more and the sides are prettier with grasses and shrubs. We begin to encounter bars on the sides as well, all well marked with red or green floating buoys. For the night, we pick a bar behind a green buoy and get as close to shore as we can, setting a stern anchor as well as a bow anchor to keep us from swinging out into the channel. In the evening a tow goes by; he promises to spread the word that we are there and thinks we're visible enough though he'd like it if we were nearer to shore. We were already in 6 feet of water and it was dark so we just stayed put. No other tows came by.
On Thursday, we went through Oliver Lock (up 28 ft) and passed through Tuscaloosa, home of the University of Alabama. We said, "Roll Tide" as we passed by old lock 12 wall where the campus meets the river. The upcoming weekend was homecoming and we could have been part of a big raft-up known as the 'Bama Navy, all there to root for the home team (the Crimson Tide beat Mississippi 38 to 7 -- Roll Tide!) Past Tuscaloosa, the river has high bluffs on one side and large sandy bars on the other and one can imagine the immense power of the water during a flood, cutting back the banks on the outside of the curves and building new land on the insides. Then Holt Lock raised us another 64 feet and we were suddenly in a lake, with hills that come right down to the water (the Alabamians consider them mountains but to a western NC gal, they are mere hills.) Now the water is too deep to anchor, so we tied for the night to a mooring buoy. The buoys have been placed in various coves by the local boating club. We have also been told that the trees were not cleared before the land was flooded, so an anchor is likely to get stuck down there, which can mean losing the anchor.
Friday morning we enjoyed the muted colors of the foliage of Holt Lake. We had to wait for over an hour to get into Bankhead Lock (69 foot lift), so we turned off the engine and floated. Bankhead Lake is the most attractive part of the river, with some reds and yellows and evergreens, stone outcroppings and even a nice waterfall. We started making phone calls to Terry Mason who had promised to bring us fuel but the cell phone coverage wasn't good. As we passed by the Franklin Ferry Marina where we would pick up the fuel in two days, we radioed in and talked with a resident boater who promised to leave a reminder message for Terry. We had been very conservative in our speed and as it turned out, would have had enough to get back down river, but it would have been close. We also got some valuable information about where we could tie up on Mulberry Fork. We spend the night in Friley's Creek, tied to another of those mooring buoys. It was hot in the afternoon -- mid 80's at least. But that was due to change. It rained during the night, and Saturday dawned gray and cool, with a high of 56. Our generator wasn't (and still isn't) working correctly, so we had no heat.
Mullberry fork narrows down and would have been prettier with sun, but nice anyway. Occasionally on the lakes and on Mulberry Fork, we passed coal loading facilities, and at one point, a large power plant (run on coal). The coal from this area is high-grade and was essential during the first and second world wars. We also passed collections of trailers and shacks and then some nice homes. Later we learned that US Steel owns much of the land up here; people can rent it cheap but they need to be ready to vacate on 30 days notice -- hence the trailers and shacks. The nicer homes are on land that is owned. We went as far as the highway 78 bridge, which is seven miles downstream from the head of navigation. There are a couple of sunken barges up there; we tied to the better of the two for the night.
On Sunday it was still overcast as we headed back down river to Franklin Ferry. Terry was there with our fuel and we decided to spend the night tied to his dock and plugged it. It was 48 degrees inside the boat in the morning, so nice to have heat. On Monday we got right through Bankhead and Holt Locks with no waiting and had the plan of tying to a restaurant dock in Tuscaloosa. When we got there, we found the dock quite unsuitable for docking so we went on the old lock 12 wall. After one attempt, it was obvious that the wall was too high to reach the cleats, so we went through Oliver Lock as well and found a spot to anchor on the river. We did better this time -- deeper water and closer to the bank. A tow went through in the night; we rocked a little but were well out of his way. It was 38 degrees in the morning, but sunny so we warmed up quickly.
Tuesday we anchored in a side creek and pulled up a tree with our anchor chain wrapped around it. Fortunately, we had set a trip line and were able to use it to flip the anchor over the tree and then slide the tree along and get free. It was a bit foggy as we started off. On Wednesday we stayed in Big Prairie Creek and used our afternoon time to change the oil in the engine. Thursday we had just 15 miles to get to Demopolis, where we did laundry, reprovisioned, cleaned up the boat etc. and enjoyed a visit today with Stuart and Shirley Burson who drove over from near Montgomery.
It is late and we need to be up at 0:dark:00. so I will end here and continue when we get to Mobile. Some reflections: We're glad we did the Black Warrior trip. There isn't much up there except nice scenery which we always appreciate. We averaged about 5 miles per gallon going slow, which is an eye opener (if we go 3 miles per hour faster, we burn twice the fuel). 414 miles is a long side trip, but we'll never be this way again.
South to Florida
From Demopolis south to Mobile, we were officially on the Tombigbee-Black Warrior Waterway. This part of the waterway has little in the way of marina services, which was fine with us as we enjoy anchoring out. The mornings were cool, usually with light fog. By the time we got through the Demopolis Lock, the fog had cleared and later in the morning we drove from the fly bridge (with no chart plotter as this particular chart card makes the upstairs chart plotter go beserk). We anchored at Kemp's Landing, an old loading facility which we heard had been cleaned out. We got to practice our bow and stern anchors routine as it was tight with two other boats in the little basin. We turned back the clocks that night so first light was 5:30 AM.
The next day we anchored at Okatuppa Creek; the other boats went on to Bobby's Fish Camp, the only marina and fuel stop along this stretch. Jean rowed the dinghy up the creek and discovered a prettly little "lake". The third day we left at 6:35 AM in light fog. As we passed Bobby's, we radioed to the Coffeeville Lock which was several miles ahead. The lockmaster said he would hold the lock if we sped up. I always feel guilty making other boats wait, but grateful that we didn't have to putz around for an hour or so waiting for the next locking. We passed more tows that day then we had seen in a long while.
It was raining lightly when we anchored at Three Rivers, which we had to ourselves until two other boats rafted up in the mouth of the creek, effectively blocking us in. That was not a problem as we all left at the same time at 7:15 AM. Below the confluence with the Alabama River, the waterway becomes quite wide. We breathed a sigh of relief to get through the CSX railroad bridge with only a 10 minute wait (some boaters have waited four hours here). Our last anchorage was in Big Briar Creek off the Tensas Cutoff (shortcut to the Tensas River). It was a wide anchorage and we were thankfully back to using only one anchor.
From Big Briar Creek, it was a 12 mile run to Mobile and then an additional 12 miles down the Mobile main shipping channel to the Dog River, where we stayed at the Grand Mariner Marina. Big surprise as we entered Mobile Bay - there was no detail on the chartplotter! But the shipping channel has markers (though far apart) and we had paper charts so there was no real problem. More exciting was getting through yhr Dog River channel, which is on the shallow side. The Grand Mariner is grand in name only, but it does have a good seafood restaurant. We tied up on the end of the fuel dock and found there was no power in the 30 Amp circuit. The dockmaster fiddled with the circuit breakers and at one point there were flames shooting out of a 15 Amp box below the one we were plugged in to. I was ready to call it a day and move elsewhere, but we tried a 50 Amp circuit which seemed to work OK. We had arranged for service on our generator which had been giving us a problem for the past three weeks. The generator got hauled out of the boat on Friday (with a fork lift through the door) and we quickly rented a car and headed to Pensacola Beach for a Baha'i fall school at the Hampton Inn, right on the beach. We knew some of the people attending and made new friends. I had visions of beach walking during "free time" but it was uncomfortably windy on Saturday and cold and windy Sunday, so we were content with watching the surf for a few minutes.
Sunday afternoon we drove back to Dog River and that evening attended a celebration of The Birth of Baha'u'llah in Mobile. On Monday, still having a car, we went to Fairhope, AL, an interesting town founded on the principle that the only fair tax is based on land values, not improvements to the land. Much of the center of town is still owned by a corporation and land taxes are paid to the corporation, which in turn pays state and local taxes on behalf of its members. The town is pretty with flowers and small shops, but our interest was more that the first Baha'i in the south moved to Fairhope from Chicago during the town's early years. We attended another celebration of the Birth of Baha'u'llah, hosted by a Baha'i friend who used to live in Asheville and returned to Fairhope.
Tuesday was cold and windy, so we scratched our plans to visit Bellingrath Gardens and stayed warm in the boat all day, with a trip to the post office in the afternoon. Wednesday, we extended the rental car for a day and visited Bellingrath. In November, the featured flower is the cascading mum and there were mums in all colors. Cascading mums need to be trained by pruning all summer to form long runners which cascade over pots and railings or whatever they drape over. At the same time, the Christmas light display was being set up and tested, so although it wasn't dark, we got a preview of what would be featured in December. If you are ever in Mobile, put a visit to Bellingrath Gardens on your must-do list. On Thursday, we found out a wrong generator part had been shipped, but the right one was due in, so the generator should be back in the boat on Friday. On Friday we got a "Good news-bad news" call that the generator was ready but the boatyard couldn't get the generator back in the boat until Monday. I must have groaned enough that the mechanic begged the boatyard and at 3:30 in the afternoon, the generator was back in the boat and all hooked up by 5:30. We wrote a heart-stoppingly large check for the work and prepared to leave Saturday morning to get down Mobile Bay before it kicked up in the afternoon.
Saturday morning, the bay was a little bumpy but we made it to the waterway on the southeast corner of the bay and went almost to Pensacola Pass (yes the same Pensacola we had driven to in an hour and a half eight days before). We anchored behind a sand island near Ft. Mcrae, a favorite anchorage with local boaters for it's dunes and beaches. In the evening, we started the generator for the first time since the repair and the red "reversed polarity" light came on instead of the green "everything's OK" light. Two quick calls - one to the mechanic who assured us that nothing would be harmed by using the generator and that the mistake was his (he had reversed two wires) and he would drive down to where we were to fix it, and the second to son Ethan who also confirmed that we wouldn't damage anythng by running the generator.
Sunday morning, we backtracked a mile and a half to a marina, our mechanic appeared as promised, and we were on our way again, feeling that at last everything was going to be OK with the generator. We went 30 miles and anchored just off the waterway at Lower Prichard Long Point. The next morning, we ran the generator and had the same problem we started with before we spent 10 days and a wad of money getting it serviced! The upshot of it is, for those of you who are even remotely interested, is that with no load on the generator, the RPMx increase to the point where it shuts itself down. With a load, it seems to run OK. So we will live with it as is - it handles a load better than it did before and a leak in the water pump got fixed. There seems to be a rule that it is impossible to have everything on a boat just right, so maybe with this we will be protected from other things going awry.
So it was then Monday, and looking at a neat website called ""Passage Weather", we decided that a weather window for crossing the Gulf was likely to open up on Thursday or Friday. That meant that we needed to get to Carrabelle by Wednesday. So Monday night we got to Burnt Mill Creek, not a creek at all but a big wide bay, and on Tuesday night stopped at a free dock at WhiteCity, not a city at all but just a wide place in the road with a nice park with launch ramps, a pavilion and the aforementioned free dock. Wednesday we had a nice ride down the rest of the canal and the Apalachicola River, across Apalachicola Bay and St. Georgia Bay to Carrabelle. Got fuel, did two loads of laundry, picked up a few items at the store and ate dinner out. Also asked around for who was crossing on Thursday and arranged to go with two other boats, Bob and Madeleine (who we had met in Tennessee) on "Betty L" and Alex and Andre on "Allison Leigh". Betty L went slower, so left first, we and Allison Leigh left at 1 PM (foregoing a Thanksgiving dinner at the marina which started at 1:30 PM)
We caught up to Betty L just before dark. Mel and I had some soup and crackers and got the dishes done and put away before the sun went down. Alex really wanted to go faster than Betty L was going and Betty L was headed for Tarpon Springs and we and Allison Leigh wanted to get to Clearwater. So we went on, Allison Leigh, with its bright stern light in the lead, and Dovekie following but providing radar coverage (Allison Leigh's radar had gone down). There was a half moon, so not completely dark. Jean drove until 11:30 PM, then Mel took over until 1:00, when Jean was awake again and drove for the rest of the night. The waves were less than a foot, but hitting on the port quarter which makes the autopilot go crazy, so the last three hours before dawn were hand steering.. As we turned the corner to head south toward Clearwater, the sky in the east was getting pink and soon the sun was up. The trick in crossing the Gulf is not to be coming into port headed east with the sun in your eyes, blinding you to crab pots. The ETA for arrival in Clearwater was 9 AM, much earlier than we had planned, so we decided to continue on to Tampa Bay and Bradenton (if you've already been driving for 20 hours, what's another 7?). The only rough water was coming in the long channel to Tampa Bay with the waves hitting almost broadside. Once we turned south towards the Manatee River, the waves were behind us. We were delighted to see that the entrance to the Manatee had been dredged and greatly simplified. As we entered the Manatee River, we crossed our wake from December 2012 and the Great Loop was completed!
I will leave you there with this communication, but know that the adventure goes on and there is more to come. Thank you for your patience in reading all this.
On to the Everglades
In our last message, we were entering the Manatee River enroute to Bradenton River, tired and dirty (well, it felt dirty). We always stay at Twin Dolphin Marina which is near the museum, post office and bank in downtown Bradenton. They have nice individual bathrooms and as soon as we were tied up, plugged in and registered, Jean headed for a shower. Amazing what one hot shower can do for one's mood. Jean had a craving for a burger - unusual as she usually shuns red meat. Upon inquiry at the marina office we were told that the marina restaurant serves burgers, but if we wanted the best burger in town we should head for Counsel's Pool Hall, which was only a few blocks away. Counsel's has been around a long time- I would guess at least 50 years. The grill is original as is the wooden counter, walls and ceiling. Only the pool tables looked newer. The burger was good - served on a stack of paper napkins with more napkins available to wipe up the juice. The menu is limited, but it is obvious from the stacks of cheese the lady was preparing, that Counsels sells a lot of burgers in a week (and at half the price of the marina restaurant). Back to the boat, watched a video and went early to bed for a good night's sleep.
Saturday was Mel's 74th birthday. Happy and Rason Dobbs took us to lunch at a Japanese Restaurant, The Samaurai. We enjoy seeing Happy and Rason in Asheville each summer and again in Bradenton, where they live during the winter. Mel's sister De joined us for a sandwich supper with an improvised cake (chocolate muffin) and ice cream celebration (yes, I did find candles for the muffin).
Twin Dolphin provides a 20 dollar certificate for their restaurant, so we used ours on brunch Sunday morning. Jean's cousins Dick and Steve and wife Tanya came in the afternoon for a visit and in the evening we went with Happy and Rason to the local Baha'i community's celebration of the Day of the Covenant. We always enjoy meeting local Baha'is when we travel. On Monday morning, Jean struggled with balancing two months bank account and credit card statements and realized that she had no idea of the pin she would need to use the new debit card in Trinidad. So we also made a quick trip to the bank to take care of that and get the cash we would need for Trinidad in January. For lunch, we had to try a "pressed Cuban", a grilled ham, proscuito, cheese, mustard and pickle sandwich. In the afternoon, De took us shopping. In the evening we met Nephew Anthony and his wife Chana and two children, Ava and Harlan and neice Krystah and De for dinner. So you can see that our time in Bradenton was busy!
Tuesday, we were on the move again, with an overnight just off the waterway in Blackburn Bay. The fog the next morning delayed our start down Lemon Bay but there were no other delays except at the Boce Grand Swing Bridge. We had an unexpected "Slow speed, minimum wake" manatee zone before the bridge and then had cranked up the engine to make the 12:30 opening. We radioed the bridge to see if he would hold the 12:30 opening for us and he replied, "that was two minutes ago"! So he didn't open at all at 12:30 even though there were three boats ready to go through at 12:32! So we putzed around for 30 minutes until his next scheduled opening at 1:00 PM. We anchored in the afternoon in Pelican harbor, just off the Cayo Costa State Park docks. It was too late and windy to go ashore, so we changed the transmission oil and filter. The wind blew all night and the next day was still blowing but we were able to row ashore and take the "tram" to the beach side. And who should be also on the tram but our friends Bob and Madeleine from "Betty L" and Bob's sister. We all walked south on the beach, collecting shells. We ate our lunch picnic on the way back north on the beach, caught the "tram" back to the bay side and were relieved to see that the wind had died down, making the row back to the boat much easier. The wind was up again that night so we once more enjoyed "water music", Mel's term for waves slapping the bow.
On Friday we went on the Ft.Myers to the home of Gene and Jan Boys (they also own a Camano). We were returning the stack of charts and cruising guides they had generously loaned us for our trip down the rivers and the panhandle. When Jan found out that we had missed Thanksgiving dinner, she made us a dinner/lunch of turkey, stuffing, gravy, green bean casserole, potatoes, homemade bread and salad, topped off with ice cream. So we are no longer turkey-deprived! We had a nice visit, a trip to the grocery via golf cart and were on our way with just enough time to stop for fuel in Fort Myers and get to the Shell Point anchorage before dark.
Our next destination was the Little Shark River (Everglades National Parkl) with anchorages at Tripod Key and New Turkey Key on the way). A couple of stand up paddleboarders passed by at New Turkey Key. They had all their camping gear piled on the boards (didn't seem to be tied down) and I wondered what would happen if the board flipped over. It seemed to me to be a precarious way to go but they seemed quite unconcerned. And what did they do when it rained that afternoon? We got to the Little Shark River in the late morning, made our usual loop through the mangrove islands to the Big Shark River, back to the Little Shark, passed the chickee (camping platform for canoeists and kayakers) and back down the Little Shark where we anchored in a side water. The current is fierce in this area so we improvised a prop brake to keep the shaft from turning while we were anchored. There was a brief rain shower in the afternoon which brought out the no-see-ums. Not one mosquito, but thousands of no-see-ums. We got the motor on the dinghy and miracle of miracles, it started on the third pull. So we were ready for a dinghy exploration the next day.
We headed out toward Oyster Bay, part of Whitewater Bay, a large shallow body of water north of Flamingo. We had the chart along and even with careful counting of the islands we passed, we weren't completely certain where we were when we came out to the bay. The water had enough chop to be uncomfortable in a dinghy, so we stayed back in the islands, making our way north, with the goal of finding a marked channel which runs back to the Shark River. There are so many channels between the mangrove islands, that it would be easy to be lost, like a giant maze. So it was with some relief on Jean's part (she was navigating) when we found the green marker right where we expected it to be. Our 10 1/2 mile loop brought us back to the boat.
Wednesday we got under way for Flamingo (Everglades National Park).The Gulf had only a light chop as we came out of the Little Shark River. Ahead of us was "Seamoore". We had first met Carleton and Betsy Moore in Michigan in the summer of 2011 and then again this fall on the TennTom. They were headed to Marathon. We stayed close to Northwest, Middle and East Cape Sable and turned east in Florida Bay. Mel had just remarked that the dolphins hadn't come to greet us as they usually do, when I could see them coming. They hear the motor and head for the boat where they swim alongside, playing in the wake. The entrance channel into Flamingo is shallow. We figure we were about eight inches above low tide and had only 4.2 feet, which means we would have been dragging bottom at low tide.
We tied up at our favorite spot on the wall, under the trees on the bay side. We were the only boat in the marina. A very bold crow greeted us noisily and then jumped on board. While we were busy tying up, he was attempting to steal a bag of pretzels up on the fly bridge. Luckily it was too heavy for him to carry away. It seems we are here earlier in the year than we've been before. What we enjoy are the ranger-led activities, and their "season" doesn't start until Dec. 16 so programming is limited. Jean went on a bird walk Thursday and we both went on a canoe trip Friday. We rode our bikes down to the campground and availed ourselves of a hot shower (thanks to solar panels which have been added since our last visit). We have a disappointment that as boaters we have to pay $56 per night (showers not included), while, if we had an RV in the campground, it would cost us (as seniors) $15. And then they wonder why there are no boats here! The park runs the campground while the marina is operated by a concessionaire. I wrote a letter to the Park after our last visit, but it seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
There is no connection for Verizon users here, so no phone or internet. We do have another phone which uses the ATT network so are able to make calls. But sending this will have to wait until we have a WiFi connection. By then we will have a new set of experiences to relate.
The Beginning, May 2011
We left North Carolina May 18, travelling via the Great Dismal Swamp to Portsmouth, VA, for the 10th annual Camano Rendevous, which was a wonderful weekend of seeing old friends and learning more about our boats and the Norfolk area.
May 23 we headed north up the Chesapeake, feeling that we were finally on our way. We anchored with two other Camanos (VANNEN and RELAX) at Mill Creek off the Great Wicomoco the first night. By May 25 we had passed through the C&O Canal and were anchored behind Reedy Island on the Delaware River, ready for an early run to Cape May. That proved to be a little rougher than we had anticipated until we finally got off the main channel and cut across the flats and anchored in Cape May Harborr. The wind was south 10-15 mph in the morning so we set out up the coast to Atlantic City. We were glad to duck in there in the late morning as the wind was increasing and waves were building to 4 ft. giving the boat a corkscrew motion that Jean particularly dislikes. It is a contrast to anchor in a basin lined with grasses and see all the hotel/casinos lit up at night.
The next day we decided to take the "inside" ICW route and even though our travel time spanned low tide, we had no problems on this shallow waterway, and it was a lot more interesting that the ocean. We found a little cove on the Toms River for the night. Sunday, May 29 we were relieved to find the wind decreased for the "outside" hop from Manesquan (the end of the ICW) to NYC.
Coming around Sandy Hook we heard a call on the VHF radio to the Coast Guard that a cat was swimming in the water -- the folks on the boat rescued the cat which then attacked them and they wanted to know what they should do with the cat. The Coast Guard at Sandy Hook, which is quite accommodating, arranged for the Atlantic Highlands police to meet the boat and take the cat off their hands.
(We find the radio equal in entertainment value to the old party line telephone system and listen in without shame to every interesting call.)
We anchored at Liberty Park, behind the Statue of Liberty with a view of Lady Liberty's backside and the Verazano Narrows Bridge. As we were pulling anchor on Monday morning at 7 AM (early -- to get the rising current on the Hudson) a sudden thunderstorm came up. It washed all the salt off the boat and gave us a late start to Tarrytown where we met Jean's high school friend, Meg and her husband Bill for lunch.
(We won't go into details about the mishap with the pumpout; suffice it to say it was free but a little jerry-rigged and we had a wash-up job afterwards (the boat and Mel). We anchored at Croton Point that night.
Yesterday we ran up the Hudson with the current through the scenic Highlands past West Point and are now at Kingston where we stop to see a friend every time we pass through. We also had our first real showers in a week! So the first two weeks have been mostly clear skies and warm to hot temps.
Two days ago we found out that the canal system between Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence is closed due to flooding, necessitating a major change in our route. Instead of heading north to Champlain, we will be going west on the Erie and north to Oswego and across Lake Ontario. We are sorry to miss the opportunity to see the scenery in Quebec but we don't want to wait weeks for the canals to open.
That's all for now folks!! Hope your summe is going well.