It has been quite a while since I’ve posted to the blog. I just looked up the last date of publication and it’s been 3 weeks. A lot has happened since then, many books have been read, and some miles traveled, holidays observed and I’ve had another great birthday.
Since the last post we have traveled the lower Tenn-Tom Black Warrior River and arrived in Mobile, Alabama. We arrived at Turner Marine on the Dog River the Monday before Thanksgiving. We knew that we needed some engine repairs and our first priority was to get in the queue for the diesel mechanic. We met with Brent Davidson that afternoon, while the engines were still warm. Brent climbed all around the engine looking for our trouble spot and found what we thought and knew was to be a major project. Seems like one of the gaskets had pretty much let go and oil was making a steady drip out of the engine. Most of it, thankfully was caught in the drip pan under the engine. We scheduled to start work December 2, a week after we arrived.
But wait we still need to tell you about our trip from Demopolis AL to Mobile. While the north was getting hammered with snow a cold snap was pushing south. We decided to stay in Demopolis until the cold passed. We had temperatures in the 20’s and it’s good to be able to plug into shore power and run the heaters when it get that cold.
The run from Demopolis to Mobile was over 200 miles and we expected it to take at least 3 and maybe 4 days to cover the distance. We had run into a group of Loopers that were getting ready to make the push. While at the Demopolis Yacht basin a meeting was scheduled to see when people were traveling and at what speeds. The next to last lock on the river was just a few miles south of the marina. Boats were scheduling days and times when to head for the lock. The lock masters like to put as many pleasure craft as they can through the lock. But, if there are tows in the area they have preference. On Thursday November 22 eight boats left at sunrise to head toward the lock. We had planned to be part of the armada, however, one of our engines wouldn’t start. No clicks or engine turn over from either helm. I radioed the others and let them know we wouldn’t be along and not to hold the lock. Then waited for the marina to open to look for a mechanic. I had traced wires, tightened connections, and checked starters and coils, even gave the starter a smack with the hammer. Nothing. I figured we were going to be in Demopolis a while longer and paid for the extra night at the dock. The mechanic arrived we looked at connections, tried a remote starter, then looked at the dash. I started to pull the cover off and he stopped me wanting to just look at the console. Made a quick adjustment and said “try it”. I turned the key and lo and behold it started. The shifter was out of neutral. Boy! That is a humbling experience.
We left the following day with 4 other boats. Passed through the lock before 8:00 A.M. And proceeded down river. The shift to daylight savings time and being in the Central Time Zone had sunrise at just a little after 6:00 A.M. But dark by 5:00P.M. That day we traveled 90 miles to arrive at Bobby’s Fish Camp.
Bobby’s Fish Camp is located right on the river and consists of floating docks that will accommodate 3 or 4 boats. If more boats arrive they raft off the first boats. We tied up on the dock and were advised to let them know at the restaurant that we were there and they would just add the slip fee onto the meal ticket. Bobby’s is an experience that we enjoyed. The restaurant has most anything you want as long as it’s catfish. Personally I’ve had my fill of catfish. Whether deep-fried or Cajun fried it is still not one of my favorites.
While at Bobby’s we were told of heavy weather predicted and decided to stay an additional night. We did this so as not to have to anchor out in weather that was supposed to be severe with high winds and possible tornadoes. The heavy weather never really developed they way it was forecast and after a day we left Bobby’s Fish Camp and headed toward the Coffeville Lock and Dam, the last lock on the river and an anchorage hopefully at a place called Bates Lake.
Although we did have some heavy rain during the day it was pleasant when made Bates Lake. We arrived at Bates Lake about 3 o’clock that afternoon. We had been advised to approach from down river and try to stay in the center of the channel, it could get shallow. It did and we bumped bottom on the way in, but passed into the lake area without problems. With Toots we like to anchor close to a boat ramp. It makes it easier to get her to shore for “walkies”. We checked our charts but no boat ramp where it was shown. There were a lot of fish camps on the lake and not any place to take the dog to shore. Just as we were turning around and getting ready to head to the anchorage area I received a call on the radio, “Bright Angel, Bright Angel, are you looking for a place to anchor?” There were no other boats in sight. I thought that it was possibly someone still on the river. The call came again, “Bright Angel, I’m to your west, look west.” I looked West and there is a man in his pajamas waving from his deck. I waved back and he said “You can anchor right there.” I explained that we needed the launch ramp for the dog and he said, “Just anchor there and you can bring the dog to my dock and walk her anywhere here. I own this land and it fine to walk the dog.”
We had a chance to talk with our host while I walked Toots. Turned out he was a retired captain with the Corps of Engineers. He was the 5th generation to live in the same area. A very helpful person and gave us better information on the channel for our passage back onto the river. We entered the river without bumping bottom and had plenty of water under the boat. Bates Lake was a beautiful and quiet spot to anchor.
We left Bates lake and had just over 40 miles to travel until we reached Mobile and the Bay. As we approached Mobile we began to hear more radio traffic between tugs and tows. We expected and had been warned of the major traffic in the Mobile River just prior to entering the bay. Again Dearest and I were over stressed at the possible traffic on the river. It turned out to be minimal, only about 6 tugs moving barges and a couple pushing a freighter into its spot on the wharf. What was stressful was the trip down Mobile bay to Dog River. This was the first time back in big water since we left Lake Michigan. The waves were only about 2 feet and not a problem but it was quite hazy and channel markers were difficult to make out. Some fishing boats were using the channel for shrimping and being in unfamiliar waters makes for a difficult time. Thankfully Cynthia was there with the binoculars looking for the channel markers from the Mobile Shipping Channel to the Dog River channel markers. I learned earlier that Mobile Bay has some very shallow areas and the bay will only be about 10 feet deep on average. We had just come from a river where when the depth dropped below 15 feet we thought it was shallow. We made our channel without problems and headed into Turner Marine. We have been here since and still will probably be here another week until we have all our projects completed.
First priority is the repair to the leaking engine. Then onto the rest of the list.
Until next time, and I promise not so long a wait. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving and your up coming holiday season is a good one.