WE BE BLEST
2008 TENNESSEE RIVER TRIP ... FLORIDA TO TENNESSEE RIVER
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TRAVELING TO THE TENNESSEE RIVER 2008

 

It has been three years since we spent extended time traveling on the WE BE BLEST III.  This summer we decided to motor back up to the Tennessee River and hang out in some of our favorite gunkholes around Watts Bar Lake and the Land Between the Lakes (LBL).  These areas are exceptionally scenic.  Come join us on this adventure.

 

TENNESSEE RIVER FLOAT PLAN 2008

Our Route:  April 22 - ??  (Possibly late September -- depends on hurricane season)

We will cruise about 1100 miles from home to  reach the Tennessee River.

 

         Leave homeport in Old Bridge Village, North Fort Myers on the Caloosahatchee River and cruise up the west coast of Florida to Tarpon Springs.

         Take an open water runto Crystal River, FL, then another to Steinhatchee, FL, and a third to Carrabelle, FL, where we pick up the Intracoastal Waterway.

         West along the ICW to Apalachicola, through the FL Panhandle to Mobile, AL.

         Stop for a short land trip to our son’s home in San Antonio.

         Return to Mobile, resume the boat trip up the Tenn-Tom Waterway to the Tennessee River.

         We turn right to head to Watts Bar Lake, left to the LBL.

         Hang out for the summer, anchoring, writing, reading, fishing, puttering and visiting with family and friends.

         The storm activity in the Gulf will determine when we will retrace our steps and return down the Tenn-Tom, along the FL panhandle, make our open water runs and then cruise south back to home port.        

 

The log of the WE BE BLEST III

for the 2008 Tennessee River Trip now begins

 

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LOG 1   4/22-4/28   HOME PORT TO CALADESI

DAY 1  TUESDAY, 4/22/08                        GPS  2640.7N, 8151.6W    HOME PORT

            Depart homeport, Old Bridge Village in North Fort Myers, Florida, at 1330.  After ten days of preparation and according to Gene, emptying the house of everything except the TV and sofa, we finally declared the boat full and ready for a 5-6 month journey to the Tennessee River.  Since we were not too successful at “eating our way out of Florida,” Jan, the packing Queen, emptied our fresh, frozen and canned goods from the house and stuffed an unbelievable amount of food aboard the WE BE BLEST III into our fridge, freezer and panty.  We also closed up the house and prepared it for hurricane season.  (Up North when snowbirds leave for the winter, they take precautions so water pipes don’t freeze.  Down South when leaving during hurricane season, we hang storm shutters and put away everything outside that can become missiles in 100+mph winds.)

 

            This summer, our plan is to spend extended time anchoring on the Tennessee River so Jan can write her second book, Reflections on the Water, Traveling the Waterways with God.  Gene will read, fish, putter on the boat and perhaps volunteer if we are near a town.

 

THE BIG PICTURE

            Our float plan will take us up the Gulf Coast of Florida to Tarpon Springs.  From there, we will do several open water runs across the Big Bend of Florida and then head east across the Florida panhandle and Alabama to Mobile Bay.  After a short land trip to our middle son’s in San Antonio, we’ll return to the boat, motor up the Tenn-Tom Waterway to the Tennessee River and then decide where we’ll hang out for the summer.

 

            It is about 615 miles from homeport to Mobile Bay, then another 450 miles up the Tenn-Tom Waterway to the Tennessee River.  We travel about 7-8mph and prefer a 50-mile motoring day, although our open water runs will most likely have 90-115 miles per day.

 

            Our eldent son, Daron and his wife Kayla created a family 2008 calendar for us.  The entry for today, April 22, stated:  Take your Mate on a date.  So today, Gene took me on a date.  We hopped on the WE BE BLEST III for a boat ride -- lasting 5-6 months – not a bad date!

 

THE CAPTAIN’S REFLECTIONS

            “Every powerboat journey starts with turning the key.  Today, we finally turned that key!  It’s good to be back on the water, although it will be better when we are back in fresh water – no salt residue on the decks, rails, and windows.”

 

            After a warm and breezy cruise past Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and the southern tip of Sanibel Island, with dolphins splashing and stingrays jumping out of the water, we anchored near York Island at 1700.  It was good to relax and catch our breath after the push to get ready.  We crashed early at Cruiser’s Midnight (2100).

 

DAY 1            : 21.8 miles      Anchorage:  York Island, Mile Marker (mm) 5 GICW,  (GPS 26 29 N, 82 05.3 W)

 

 

DAY 2  WEDNESDAY, 4/23/08

Today was a somewhat cool, breezy day for boating.  We cruised North and it started cooling off!  Gene even had to put on his chamois shirt.  I’m sure you northerners have no sympathy for us Floridians with thin blood!

 

We contacted our friends Jerry and Linda who live in Englewood and came up with a plan to see them.  They live on a canal, but the entrance is shallow and tide dependent.  Instead of trying to get to their dock, we anchored at 1325 on the SE side of Lemon Bay Bridge mm43.5.  This is a nice deep anchorage near Englewood Beach, protected from the winds by Manasota Key.  Unfortunately, there is no longer a place to land dinghies since new condos were built.  However, Linda talked with her neighbors and arranged for us to dock at the Englewood Bait Shop on the mainland side, across the ICW from our anchorage.

 

By 1345 when we hopped in the dink heading for the Bait Shop, the wind was blowing up white caps.  At anchor, we were in the calmer lee of the condos and causeway.  However, we knew it would be choppy farther out … and it was as we motored into the ICW channel, under the bridge and over to the mainland.  Gene said he would not have wanted it any rougher for our little dinghy.  He prefers flatter water.  I prefer drier rides!  The one in the bow takes the splashing waves.  Next time, we’ll bring a bailer.

 

Jerry and Linda picked us up for a great visit including a car tour of Manasota Key, a trip to the hardware store and an early dinner.  By 1800, back at the Bait Shop, the wind had not abated any and perhaps picked up a little.  We donned our life vests, made a small water bottle into a bailer, then bounced and splashed our way safely back to the WE BE BLEST III.

 

Day 2:  38.2 miles    Anchorage:  By Lemon Bay Bridge, SE side, across the ICW from Redfish Cove     GICW mm44 (GPS 26 55.7 N, 82 21.2 W)

 

 

DAY 3  THURSDAY, 4/24/08

0755 anchors up.  A lovely day for cruising past Venice and Sarasota, through narrow channels lined with beautiful homes and mangrove islands, then across the expansive Sarasota Bay.  We saw tiny islands with flocks of pelicans, cormorants, and egrets roosting in the trees.  Anchored about 7 miles S of Tampa Bay with 7 other boats near the N end of Longboat Key, mm85, by the town of Long Beach. 

 

Within a few minutes, Gene had our dink, the MINI-BLEST, down off her supports on the swim platform and in the water.  We putted over to the bridge across Longboat Pass to check the water depths alongside the bridge.  Gene was investigating if we could take a shorter route from our anchorage to the bridge, but it was too shallow since a shoal extends from Jewfish Key to the bridge.  Only shallow draft boats can make it through there.  We’ll need to return to the main channel on the E side of Jewfish Key and then head to the bridge to go through the Pass to the Gulf.

 

After our exploratory mission, we motored the dink under the bridge and over to the beach for some needed exercise.  We took a good 50-minute walk along shore and I didn’t pick up a single shell.  Actually, this was not a good shelling beach, and Gene was not keen on hauling shells around for the next 5 or more months.

 

By the time we putted back to the WE BE BLEST III, there were 13 boats around her.  While enjoying a beautiful evening with supper on the flybridge, we watched 2 more sailboats come into the anchorage and keep circling, looking for a place to stay.  We discussed leaving early in the morning of travel days.  Then we will arrive at our anchorage in the early afternoon, leaving time to play and putter, but more importantly, to claim a good spot to drop the hook.

 

Day3: 43.2 miles         Anchorage:  N end of Longboat Key, GICW mm85, near Jewfish Key  (GPS 27 26.3 N, 82 40.8 W)

 

 

DAYS 4-7  FRIDAY-MONDAY,  4/25-4/28/08

Up at 0630, enjoyed a colorful sunrise and pulled anchor at 0720.  Gene decided not to go through Longboat Pass, but take the inside route for the last 7-8 miles to Tampa Bay.  The crossing of the bay was a bit choppy with an incoming tide flowing against the wind.  However, when we paralleled the shore along St. Pete’s Beach, the seas flattened for a smooth run to Clearwater Pass and then a short inside cruise to the marina on Caladesi Island State Park.

Arrived at 1345, idled into a slip, and then chose another one instead.  We were a bit of a dog and pony show … must be rusty.  We’ll do better next time!

 

Caladesi Island State Park has twice been voted the nation’s best state park and rightly so.  The only access is by personal boat or a shuttle from Honeymoon Island ($9 round trip).  The marina has just over 100 slips and this weekend it was almost full with overnighters and day boaters taking advantage of the marina ambiance, beach access, kayaking channels and nature trails.  Slip fees are a flat $20 per night; $4 for a day boat.  Quite a bargain for the big boats.  With  the high fuel prices many folks came from nearby communities instead of taking longer cruises.

 

We are about 15 miles from Tarpon Springs where we will fuel up and provision, then anchor for the night just outside near Anclote Key to ready for our first open water run to Crystal River.  We decided to stay here at Caladesi through Monday since the waves in the Gulf from Tarpon Springs up to Crystal River were not cooperating.  We would like 2’ or under for our open water runs. 

 

Four days in Paradise!  Not a bad way to wait for good weather and seas!  We walked the beach, did the nature trail, and watched the activity in the marina.  Gene read, puttered, studied the weather on the net, and charted the open water crossings while I hit the beach for some wonderful writing time … hours and hours of it.  There’s nothing like the sound of the breaking waves for relaxation and inspiration.  Once again, I did not pick up a single shell …That’s so unlike me!

 

We did have a surprise dinghy launching drill on Monday.  Gene was on the flybridge plotting our upcoming open water runs when the wind blew one of the instructional manuals into the water.  Fortunately it kept floating.  Nonetheless, we raced to move the WE BE BLEST III forward in her slip in order to launch the MINIBLEST, so he could retrieve the book before it sank.  Mission accomplished!  We now know we can get the dinghy in the water and ready to motor very quickly.  A good thing to know in case of an emergency.

 

Day4: 50.4 miles         Marina, Days 4-7:  Caladesi Island State Park  GICW mm 141 (GPS 28 03 N, 82 49 W)

LOG 2   4/29-5/4    CALADESI TO DOG ISLAND

DAY 8  TUESDAY, 4/29/08           

Depart Caladesi at 0940 heading to Tarpon Springs, F&Y Fuel dock to top off our tanks, ride bikes, and provision.  The excellent wave site, showing the graphical forecast of wave height and winds, (www.srh.noaa.gov/graphical/sectors/tbwMarineDay.php#tabs) predicted 1 waves tomorrow from Tarpon Springs up past Cedar Key.  We may just run all the way to Steinhatchee instead of stopping in Crystal River.  That wave site usually gives a much more accurate picture of the sea conditions than listening only to NOAA radio, which seems to cover too broad an area in their reports.

 

Around 1200 we finally found F&Y Fuel dock (not where the cruise guide indicated.)  Opps!  We had to clean the gunnel from a diesel overflow, then readied for a bike ride to provision.  Opps!  My back tire was flat … again.  We’ve had more problems with the small tires on our folding bikes.  Evidently, the tube gets pinched.  Gene pulled out our spare and it too had a hole.  So he patched one, thought we were OK, but alas, by the time we had donned our helmets and  backpacks, the tire was flat again.

 

The staff at F&Y were very friendly and helpful.  One of them drew a map to the Winn Dixie, Ace Hardware and a bike shop.  So instead of biking, we had a good long walk to the grocery store, called a cab for the return trip (especially since we wanted to keep our milk cold), and stopped at the bike shop for two new tubes.  Our expedition was not as planned, but we still got exercise, food, and fuel.

 

After storing the groceries, we walked back a few blocks to the sponge docks for a late lunch/early supper at a Greek Restaurant.  We stopped at their bakery for some baklava … YUM!  Then while Grandma shopped for surprises for her munchkins, Gene fixed the tire, stowed the bikes and checked the weather on the web.  Having this broadband aircard has been fantastic … email, website updating, plus the whole world of the internet, especially the weather and seas.  At least as long as we have a cell tower nearby.

 

At 1700, we pulled away from the dock heading to Anclote Key, a barrier island  which lies just outside the entrance to Tarpon Springs.  We anchored here at 1755.  Tomorrow we will do our first open water run to Steinhatchee.  If the seas turn rough we can then head to Crystal River.

 

We spent time preparing our abandon ship emergency bag which includes handheld radio, handheld GPS, extra batteries, cell phone, binoculars, flare kit, flashlight, water, compass, and a few other supplies.  If we need to abandon ship, we are prepared.  Gene even decided to tie a 100 line from the WE BE BLEST III to the dinghy to keep us near our last reported location if we need to call in a MAYDAY.  Actually much of our time on the Gulf is in 7’-15’ of water, although we do travel in 20’-35’.  Just think, if the boat sank, there’s a good chance we could stand on her!

 

We filed our float plan by calling one of our neighbors, experienced boaters, informing them of our departure and arrival ports and times, and other pertinent information.  On our arrival, we call again to let them know we are safe in port.  If they do not hear from us within a reasonable time, our neighbors will “call in the dogs” (A.K.A. the Coast Guard) to alert them of a possible emergency. 

 

Tomorrow will be an early and long day, so early to bed tonight.

Fuel statistics:  168 miles traveled @ 1800 rpm since filling up at Ft. Myers.  4.58 miles/gallon.  Diesel price:  $4.26 per gallon

 

DAY 8            : 22.2 miles      Anchorage:  Anclote Key, Mile Marker (mm) 150 GICW,  (GPS 28 11.5 N, 82 50.2 W)

 

 

 

DAY 9  WEDNESDAY 4/30/08

What a night!  Not exactly what one would call restful.  It was windy and we rocked and rolled all night  … and not gently!  The worst part was the “thunking” of the anchor rode (anchor line).  As the boat kited back and forth, the anchor rode slid up the bow roller with a loud thunk as it hit the top.  This was directly above our heads in the v-berth. 

 

Gene got up around 0200 and cut some plastic tubing to put on the line where it passed over the bow roller to prevent chafing.  It didn’t stop the thunking though, but did protect the rode.  A restless night indeed – especially with an early morning rising at 0535.

 

Sunrise was later than Gene expected, so we did not leave until 0635.  Sunrise came at 0651.  The wave predictions were the same, 2-3 until 1400, with a promise of 1 waves after that.

 

The Greek community of Tarpon Springs is known for the sponge harvests that have been going on since the late 1800’s.  Boaters also know it has a multitude of crab pots just offshore, making visibility and “pot watching” crucial when motoring especially here, and all along the Big Bend.  There were not as many traps out now as there were in the fall on our two previous trips.

 

Captain’s’ reflections:  “Let the log note we went out with 2-3 seas, and after 2 hours, at 30 miles offshore, we had 2-4 waves, mainly 3’s.  It was pretty rough and uncomfortable for a couple more hours.  That was when the Mate took ill three times, and not to the tune of  Ho, heave, ho!.  We persevered and believed the promise of calmer water; and since Jan’s tummy had settled, we continued on to Steinhatchee.  By 1100, the waves began to calm down and were flat by 1400.  A much more pleasant trip.”

 

The Mate agreed.  My Motion-Ease drops were not enough to keep my tummy settled today.  I even resorted to trying the patch behind the ear, which should be applied 3 hours before a trip, not after being sick as I did today.  On the plus side, the patch lasts for 3 days, so I’m good for our next open water runs, unless we have weather delays!  Oh well!  A sailor, I’m not!  I prefer the inland waterways unless we have almost dead calm seas!

 

Opps! 1515  The engine lugged down.  Gene pulled back on the throttle, we looked behind and saw a crab pot and float dragging with us.  Now that’s an ugly sight!  Anchor down, engine off, Gene used the boathook to grab the pot line and cut it free from the WE BE BLEST III.  The trap and float were twisted together when he dropped them back into the water.

 

Then he donned his swimsuit and goggles, took a knife, and climbed down into the water to inspect the prop.  Gene untwisted and removed the remainder of the heavy poly line from the prop.  After bringing it up, he dove again and checked the prop a second time.  Crab traps 0; Gene 2.  (One from a previous trip.)  Fortunately, we discovered this early so no damage was done.  ‘Twas a rather brisk and chilly swim.  The hot fresh water shower in the cockpit felt good!  Thirty minutes later, we were back on course.  Thank goodness, this happened in the flat seas.  It would have been quite dangerous for Gene under the boat in the 3-4 swells.

 

Arrived at River Haven Marina in Steinhatchee at 1730, fueled up and took a slip, we thought for the night.  However, the wave forecast for the next couple of days is not that good.  We may have to wait here.  After freeing the line from the prop today, we did notice a little vibration.

Gene has decided to have a diver here try to change out the prop in the morning.  We have a spare on board.

 

DAY 9            : 117 miles       River Haven Marina, Steinhatchee, FL, in the Big Bend  (monitors channel 9)   (GPS 29 40.1 N, 83 22.7 W)

 

 

DAY 10  THURSDAY  5/1/08

At River Haves Marina.  Bill, the diver/mechanic/TowBoat U.S. Captain/jack-of-all-trades, came over to our boat clad in his diving gear, carrying his air tank and tools, ready to change out the prop.  1.5 hours later, the new prop was on.  The old prop appeared to have a couple blades slightly warped – not really damaged.

 

Gene kept monitoring the winds and seas.  Looks like we’re here until Sunday.  In the meantime, Gene puttered on the boat, read, and plotted our next open water crossing to Carrabelle, while I worked on my book, revising stories for it.

 

 

DAYS 11-12  FRIDAY – SATURDAY  5/2/08 – 5/3/08

Still in Steinhatchee.  More of the same activities.  Winds and seas still rough.  More reading writing, puttering, bike riding around town.  One local described this area as a drinking village with a fishing problem.

 

Saturday late afternoon, a LOOPER from Maryland tied up at the fuel dock.  They are also heading to the Tennessee River, so most likely we will see them again.

 

Since the seas appeared a “go” for tomorrow, we prepared the WE BE BLEST III for an open water crossing, and I put on a motion sickness patch behind my ear.

 

 

DAY 13  SUNDAY  5/4/08

Up at 0545.  Gene checked the sea conditions on the net.  He did not like hearing about 2’-4’ waves, yet looking at wind speeds and direction predicted for the day, it seemed fairly good.  He decided to go for it.  0635 lines free, heading NW to Carrabelle.  Happily we cruised in gently rolling 1’ seas, with an occasional 2’ wave just to keep us awake1!   Hopefully, this will continue.

 

Our good deed for the day … 1050 a small boat with some fishermen waved us down.  Their battery was dead.  We side-tied and then Gene passed one of our house batteries and the jumper cables to them.  Tied together and rolling in the 1’ waves, we kept the boats from bouncing into each other, while their captain jumped his battery.  Luckily, the seas were relatively calm for this maneuver.  That was a good sound when their engine started, since it would have been about a 20-mile tow if we brought them to Carrabelle.

 

1345  Motored off the Gulf and onto the North side of Dog Island, which lies South of Carrabelle, across St. George Sound.   Thank you Lord, for a smooth crossing.  The seas stayed a gentle rolling 1’.  My patch worked very well.  I felt great, tummy settled.  We both enjoyed the crossing on this beautiful Sunday.  It’s good to be off the Gulf with its delays and long crossings driven by the wind and sea conditions, and now traveling more on our own schedule again.

 

DAY 13: 75.9 miles    Anchored in Tysons Harbor on the N side of Dog Island.  There is a channel with private markers leading to this bay.   (GPS 29 48.7 N, 84 35.1 W)

LOG 3   5/5-5/13        DOG ISLAND TO MOBILE BAY

DAY 14  MONDAY  5/5/08

Tysons Harbor is a nice protected anchorage.  This is a good stopping/starting point for the crossing to or from Steinhatchee.  It cut off about 10 miles if we did not want to go into Carrabelle.  Winds were calm; we rocked gently in the cradle during the night. 

 

0850 pulled up a VERY mud-encrusted anchor and chain.  Thank goodness for the power of the anchor wash-down pump that Gene installed when we were outfitting the WE BE BLEST III.  It took me quite a while to hose off all the mud and muck.

 

Thank you to all of you who have been praying for calm winds and smooth seas.  Your prayers have been heard!  Keep it up!  Today, we crossed St. George Sound into Apalachicola Bay heading to Apalachicola.  The entire 30-mile run was smooth, a very pleasant cruise.  The first year we made this crossing from Apalachicola to Carrabelle was with rough seas and skirting a lightening storm.  What a difference today!

 

We bypassed Carrabelle, had discussed going to St. Joseph Bay for scallops, but their dockage was $2.10/foot …more than our Sanibel/Captiva marinas.  That would make for a very expensive scallop dinner.  Instead, we’re stopping at Scipio Creek Marina in Apalachicola for only $1.25/foot and will enjoy the scallops there.

 

At 1330, we fueled up, took a slip, and then biked around town, to the grocery store, and the shopping areas.  So many shops … so little time!  It turns out, this is not even scallop season!  Oh well, instead I had frozen local scallops.  Gene, of course, had an Oyster Po’Boy.

 

DAY 14:  30.8 miles      Apalachicola, Scipio Creek Marina   (GPS 29 43.9 N, 84 59.4 W)

 

DAY 15  TUESDAY  5/6/08

This morning we rejoined the AGLCA, America Great Loop Cruisers’ Association.  This will give us access to daily emailings about fuel, hazards, good/bad marinas, etc from other Loopers enroute during the summer.  We can also keep track of other Loopers on the waterways.  They have a gathering scheduled at Joe Wheeler State Park, on the Tennessee River in late October, but we hope to be home by then.  We’ll see what hurricane season does to the Gulf.

 

We left Apalachicola at 0850.  What a beautiful morning for cruising 7-8mph in protected waterways lined with cypress trees reflecting in the water.  The winds were calm, temps pleasant.  We spotted an eagle and later a pair of  birds with a deep “V” tail, white head and under body, black wingtips, back and tail.  Beautiful birds.  Question of the day…what are they??

 

Cruised 22 miles in a narrow channel from Lake Wimico to East Bay.  The channel started in a cypress swamp, which gradually became a pine forest.  As the banks rose higher, pines grew amongst the cypress.  Farther west, it was mainly pines with wide stretches of marsh grass in the lower areas along shore.

 

After leaving the narrow channel and cruising in East Bay, we came upon six dolphins.  They followed alongside for a little bit, then one swam ahead to port and, just for fun, jumped out of the water twice.  That was neat!  The wind picked up and the bay was covered with dancing, sparkling diamonds.  Pelicans perched on the bouys.

 

Fighter jets have been screaming across the bay, flying in formation from Tyndall Air Force Base.  Noisy…but that’s the sound of freedom!  Watch the log later in the month for a Memorial Day reflection about this.

 

1501 We anchored in Murray Bayou, mm306, beside a ship building facility fabricating ocean-going barges and pushers.

Day 15:  46.2 miles  (GPS 30 1.9 N, 85 28.9 W)

 

 

DAY 16 – 17 WEDNESDAY-THURSDAY  5/7/08 - 5/8/08

We had a calm and peaceful night, although the anchorage was a bit noisy in the early morning with an 0600 whistle to begin work on the barge building.  We cruised past Tyndall AFB.  (We saw very little of it from the water).  Above us, the fighter jets continued to practice their take-offs and landings plus flying in formation -- 2 and 4 abreast, pulling off one at a time to land.

 

On the water, a shrimp boat powering ahead of us to port was dragging its nets and had dolphins swimming in its wake.  We’re close to the Mercury Engine Test Facility near Watson Bayou, mm293.  Drivers wearing crash helmets and life jackets, testing engines in yellow or white boats with simple numbers on the side (22, 34, etc), raced up and down the bay.

 

Today we’re going to the beach!  Headed to St. Andrews Bay near Panama City and anchored near Shell Island, the barrier island adjacent to Tyndall AFB.  After lunch, we launched the dinghy and motored the short distance to the beach.  Walked a bit, then sat to read and write.  What a relaxing time.  Gene went back to the WE BE BLEST III, while I stayed until 1530. 

 

The next day we did more of the same with 5 hours of beach writing and revising time for me.  There’s something about the sound of the crashing waves and the wind blowing in my face to bring inspiration from my pen!  What a day!  Gene fished a bit, puttered on the boat, and read.  We used the walkie-talkies today to keep in touch, although he was able to see me from the flybridge.  Fighters continued their aerial maneuvers, streaking across the sky above us, over the Gulf, the bay and back to the base.

 

This is a nice anchorage … deep water close to shore, sand bottom, good hook, short walk across the island to the Gulf, not crowded since the only access here is by boat.  We saw people searching for something on the bay side of the island by shore using small nets.  When we came in with the dinghy, we saw lots of hermit crabs.  Perhaps they were gathering and then selling them.

 

DAY 16-17:  21.0 miles      Shell Island in St. Andrews Bay, Panama City, near a private dock   (GPS 30.0944, -085.6837)  We are changing the format of the GPS coordinates for use in a mapping program in Google Earth.  http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/map

 

 

DAY 18  FRIDAY 5/9/08

After two very pleasant nights by Shell Island, we pulled the anchor at 0730 and headed past Panama City and across West Bay.  The winds were 10-15knts, making the ride a little choppy, but not bad.  After about 20 miles of open water, we reached the narrow 20-mile cut which will take us to Choctawatchee Bay, mm255 GIWW.  This area is known as the “Grand Canyon” with 20’-40’ high banks, lined with trees, mainly pines.  The Army Corps of Engineers maintains the depth for barge traffic.  Every so often, we spot “spoil” areas where the dredgings have been pumped.  Along shore, 3’ diameter pipes drain the water from the spoil piles of sand back to the river channel.

 

We see now why this is called the “Grand Canyon.”  Sections of mud and sand banks are weatherworn and washed, resembling a miniature version of the walls in the Arizona National Park.

 

Almost through the cut, we met a Looper heading east.  He indicated the seas on the bay ahead were not too bad.  At 1212, we left the narrow cut and entered 30-mile long Choctawatchee Bay.  Since it is 3-5 miles wide, if often gets pretty rough.  As we entered the bay, we found it was certainly better than we expected.  There were white caps, but it was mainly choppy, not rough.  Thank you Lord!  Keep praying for calm winds and smooth seas, those of you who are doing so!  Thanks!

 

In the past, we have anchored in the lee of the bridge causeway at the east end of the bay.  Today since the seas were cooperating, we decided to continue on to mm240, and at 1345, tucked behind Fourmile Point … although it is not too much of a tuck!  We could not get as close to shore as Gene would have liked to protect us from the westerly winds.  This may not be a repeat anchorage.

 

Day18:  49.9 miles    anchored near mm240 east of  Fourmile Point  (GPS 30.4126, -086.2951) 

 

 

DAY 19  SATURDAY    5/10/08

A pleasant night, calm winds, however this area has submerged iron stakes and thus is not a desirable anchorage.  Anchor up at 0657.  Motored to Joe’s Bayou mm230 to check it out for future trips through here.  Looks like a good anchorage, especially in bad weather with almost 360 degree protection, 8’-10’ deep.  There are homes all round the bayou.

 

0950 finally motored out of Choctawhatchee Bay at the Destin/Ft. Walton Beach area.  Began cruising the narrows between Ft. W. Beach and 50-mile-long Santa Rosa Island along the Emerald Coast.  Often caught whiffs of Jasmine blooming.

 

We are spotting more than one abandoned, derelict boat per mile, from previous hurricanes.  Right along the shore by a new 15-20 story high-rise there was a sunken sailboat and a sunken work barge with heavy equipment still on deck.  The winds seemed to have stripped many of the trees on Santa Rosa Island … mainly sand dunes.

 

At 1336 anchored at mm195 on the eastern side of Big Sabine Point.  We were able to snuggle in close to shore with good protection from the westerly winds.  This is a better anchorage than mm178 at Spanish Point on Perdido Key, which is more open.  Although the beach is more private at Spanish Point since access is only by boat or four-wheeler.

 

We dinked the short distance to shore and walked (also a short distance) across the dunes and road to the Gulf.  We are 5 miles east of Pensacola Beach, so quite a few people are here as well, driving along the coast and picking their beach spot.  The road is closed a short walk to the east where the Gulf Islands National Seashore begins.

 

Enjoyed watching four kite boarders out on the Gulf.  With a type of boogie board on their feet and harnessed to a huge u-shaped kite, they scoot along the water probably 10-15mph or more, sometimes getting airtime as they jump the waves.

 

We did our usual beach walk and I stayed to revise more stories for my book while Gene dinked back to the boat.  We kept in contact with walkie-talkies again.

 

Day 19:  48.9 miles      Anchored at Big Sabine Point mm195 GIWW (GPS 30.3535, -087.0398) 

 

 

DAY 20  SUNDAY   5/11/08

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all the mothers reading this log! 

 

Gene got up around 0400 watching the weather and a lightening storm move across the Gulf to the south of us.  Looks like our westerly winds will be changing to the north tonight.  We considered moving to a bay across the channel and 6 miles west for better protection, but the channel appeared pretty rough.  Instead, we decided to stick it out here, even though the winds will have a long fetch (1 -2 miles) across the channel toward us.  Gene did put out a second bow anchor to the north to help hold our position.  It seemed like a good bite.  We hung on it as the blustery winds began to shift to the NW.  We could be in for a restless and bumpy night tonight.

 

We enjoyed watching the kite boarders all afternoon in our bay.  The winds were stronger than yesterday, so a number of boarders enjoyed the flatter seas on our side.  We watched some newbies learning how to control the kite.  Sometimes it dragged them off shore into the water.  Gene was even “GeneTow” instead of SeaTow, when the kite kept dragging one fellow a long way.  His board came off the tether, and the wind pulled him over to the opposite shore.  So Gene hopped in the dinghy, retrieved the board and took it to him.

 

Seeing their difficulty in learning “the ropes” made us appreciate those who just sped across the water, turning at will and returning to the shore.  A couple came quite close to the WE BE BLEST III, so we had a good look at the harness, tethers to the kite and board, and the lines and handle.  It was quite a show.

           

Day 20                        still anchored at Big Sabine Point mm195 GIWW (GPS 30.3535, -087.0398) 

 

 

DAY 21          MONDAY     5/12/08

We hit the sack at cruisers’ midnight last night (2100), about the time the predicted 20-knot winds from the north had begun to pick up.  Gene had checked our GPS coordinates and the anchor rode.  We had maintained the same position all day and still hung on the Delta anchor, our second anchor.  The winds were slowly shifting from the NW to the NNW with strong gusts.  Once in the v-berth, we felt the kiting and the jerking more as the boat swung and then began to pull back in the other direction.  The wind howled into the hatch and we could hear the creaking and stretching of the rode. 

 

It was a restless two hours for me until 2300 when we got up.  Gene checked the GPS coordinates again and went out on the bow with our night-vision scope to inspect the floats on the rodes.  Still hanging on the Delta.  Must be a good hook!  Back to the sack.

 

Up one more time at 2400.  GPS check.  Rode check.  Still secure.  The moon was half-full, the winds still blowing and howling.  We slept fairly well though after that and the winds calmed somewhat after 0200.

 

This morning, the main rode was under the WE BE BLEST III, so we could not start the engine yet.  We let out a lot of this line while Gene pulled us over to the Delta anchor.  That was a solid hook … very impressive … especially since it was undersized for the weight of our boat.  We bought the Delta as a secondary anchor.  Yet, last night, it was our primary one and held us through a pretty blustery blow.  We’re considering getting a wind speed indicator just to have a better idea of what to expect with various predicted wind speeds.

 

After retrieving the Delta, we were able to pull up our main Bruce anchor.  It was a good thing we had the second anchor out.  The winds probably would have blown us into the skinny water and perhaps aground at low tide this morning.  As it was, Gene had to pick his way carefully out of the bay, heading back east searching for deeper water.  A few times, we touched bottom, so he backed away and headed farther east before turning north to the main channel, then back west towards Pensacola.

 

We cruised by Perdido Key and Spanish Point.  It looks like there is a cut behind an island just north of the point.  Two sailboats and a large trawler were tucked in there.  Great protection from last night’s north winds.  That’s a good spot to try next time.  It’s not too bad a dinghy ride to the key and the secluded beach.  This is where I found hundreds of small sand dollars on a previous trip.

 

Cruised past Perdido Key and Orange Beach.  Much of the damage from Ivan four years ago has been repaired, although a few piers were not rebuilt.  Very few derelict boats around here.  Not like the area around Ft. Walton Beach.

 

At 1315, we anchored in Ingram Bayou, mm164, about 10 miles east of Bon Secour and Mobile Bays.  Another Camano, Spirit, from Louisiana will be anchoring with us here.  Steve and Marsha Willett are traveling east and connecting with two other Camanos in this area. 

 

Spirit arrived at Ingram Bayou around 1500.  They dinked over to the WE BE BLEST III, we introduced ourselves, showed them what we’ve done to our Camano, then visited on the flybridge.  Around 1730 we dinked over to their boat to see their modifications.  We exchanged boat cards and gifts.  I gave them my booklet, Diamonds, Love and Lessons on the Lake, and they gave us a bag of raw sugar from their sugar farm.  It has light brown, large crystals with molasses in it.  Quite tasty!

 

Back on the WE BE BLEST III, more than once Gene said, “This is a great anchorage.”  It’s quiet – so quiet!  Four boats at anchor, an occasional splash of a pelican diving for his supper, the squawk of a heron, and NO wind.  We had had so many windy days, the still quiet almost seemed eerie.  We savored the peaceful evening.

 

Tomorrow we will cross Mobile Bay.  NOAA predicted a light chop for the bay, should make for a good crossing.

 

Day 21                        35.6 miles        anchored in Ingram Bay, mm 164 GIWW  (GPS 30.32102, 87.55746)

 

 

DAY 22   TUESDAY   5/13/08

Up and 0615 and anchor up at 0700, again a very mud encrusted chain.  I’m glad for the power of the wash-down system.  Steve hailed us on the radio as we motored out.  We’ll be exchanging pictures of each others boats via email.  Three dolphins were splashing and diving as they foraged for breakfast.

 

We motored through the narrow Alabama cut and, at 0900, into Bon Secour Bay.  We will take off at R”122” (GPS 30 17.05 N, 87 49.05 W) and head NW paralleling and about 2 miles off the eastern shore of Mobile Bay.  As we cross Mobile Bay, we will connect with the main shipping channel at R”64.”  That is near the marked channel into Dog River.

 

The majority of the crossing we had seas on the stern, so Gene had quite a workout steering the WE BE BLEST III down the waves as they came under us.  Turning into the Dog River marked channel, we had seas quarter off the stern, which really made the boat squirrelly.  Thank goodness the major crossing was not that way.

 

At 1240, we fueled up then took a slip at the Dog River Marina.  Our plans include renting a car tomorrow from Enterprise and driving to our son Greg’s in San Antonio for about a week.  I will be getting a radio frequency ablation done on my back for arthritis pain.  Friday 12:30  prayers please!  Then we’ll enjoy some good family time.  We will post the log after we return to Mobile and get back on the river (after 5/24).

 

Day 22                        43.9 miles   Dog River Marina  (GPS 30.56767, 88.09000)

 

LOG 4   5/14-5/24  LAND EXCURSION TO SAN ANTONIO

 

Greetings from the WE BE BLEST III

We are back on board after a week in San Antonio with our son's family.  Lots of good Gramps and Grandma time, a good visit with family and a successful procedure on Jan's back ... Radio Frequency Ablation of some Facet Nerves.  Hopefully, the arthritis pain and immobility will be drastically reduced.  The full results take several weeks.

 

This weekend, as we honor all those who sacrificed so much for our country that we may have the freedoms we do, I'm including a Memorial Day Reflection.  I wrote it while we were on the Great Loop, and will be including it in my book I'm working on this summer.

 

God bless the USA!  May we never take our freedom for granted.

 

Peace,

Jan

 

THE SOUND OF FREEDOM

A MEMORIAL DAY REFLECTION

                                                                         

Around Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

 

“from the LOOPER’s internet bulletin board...

The noisy jets you're talking about are the sounds of freedom. 

Nowhere else in the world would you be able to sit in the pattern

and watch our young men perform and perfect their skills to protect us. 

Personally, we thank them for their service.1 

 

 

FROM THE LOG OF THE WE BE BLEST III

Yesterday we cruised on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, through the Marine Corps Reservation around Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.  While the WE BE BLEST III motored up from the south, a C130 made several lumbering passes across the river flying toward the western shore.  During one pass, ten to twelve paratroopers jumped from the plane, slowly floating back to land behind the trees.  Memories of our oldest son Daron came flooding back – an Army Airborne Radar Operator who jumped twenty-seven times during his training.  We heard the distant artillery practice all afternoon and occasionally even felt their vibrations.

 

Still in the reservation, we anchored last night in Mile Hammock Bay.  In 2001, the Marine Corps dredged out this protected area and constructed two long docks for their military shallow-draft landing crafts.  Tied to one of the docks was a large old military ship, different from any we had seen before.  The bow appeared to have a ramp; we surmised it was a landing craft.  The most peculiar feature was the cylindrical section amidships with multiple small windows providing 360-degree visibility, only one ladder toward the stern and no doors.  Entrance must have been from below or via the ladder.  Most likely, this helm not only had excellent visibility, but good protection from enemy fire.  The only armament we saw was one sizable gun mounted near the bow.

 

We dropped anchor, pulled back to ensure a solid hook, and floated the afternoon away, watching six other boats idle into the bay.  They all anchored as well, eventually encircling us – two sailboats, three trawlers and one custom built motor yacht flying a foreign flag and equipped with stabilizers for ocean cruising.  

 

Safely secure in our anchorage, the “thud” of the explosions from varying caliber artillery continued into the night.  Fighter jets buzzed the bay, flying in close formation.  Later, helicopters practiced night landings and maneuvers, flying low, circling the bay with each pass.  We recalled our nephew Jamie flew a chopper perhaps similar to these when he was in the Marine Corps.  Surprisingly, we slept well.  Our night was peaceful and quiet.  If maneuvers were taking place, they were relatively silent ones.

 

The cruising guide reported this to be a popular anchorage and it proved to be so as one by one the six other boats had anchored around us.  However, the guide did indicate that because of frequent military activity and exercises, it could be “a less than tranquil anchorage.”  The AGLCA has an internet bulletin board, and in a discussion several weeks ago, when responding to a negative comment about the noise, one LOOPER declared those were “the sounds of freedom!”  Last night, we listened to the artillery and watched the aircraft practice their maneuvers with new ears and eyes.  Several times, we affirmed to each other, “That’s the sound of freedom!”

* * *

 

The WE BE BLEST III was one of the last boats to leave the bay this morning, motoring toward Beaufort, North Carolina.  Still in the Marine Corps Reservation, we passed through a ten-mile long live ammunition firing range.  The cruising guide stated that occasionally officials closed the waterway in this area when amphibious assaults and live firing take place from the western shore across the river to the dunes on the ocean side.  At mile markers 145 and 135, large signs equipped with flashing lights warned:

 

STOP DO NOT PROCEED

LIVE FIRING IN PROGRESS

WHEN FLASHING

TUNE TO AM 530

 

If the lights were flashing, we were not to proceed.  A military boat posted at each end would keep boaters out of the area.  However, today, no lights flashed, it was clear and safe for us to pass.  The only evidence we did see of any military activity in the firing range were several abandoned and wrecked tanks stuck in the ocean-side dunes, probably artillery targets.

 

Reflecting on our passage through the Marine Corps Reservation, the bay and firing range, we certainly saw and heard with new eyes and ears, not disturbed or aggravated, but instead comforted and assured.  We affirmed to each other many times: “That’s the sound of freedom!”

 

Indeed it is – the sound of FREEDOM and SAFETY.  We have no need to fear.

           

* * *

 

Watching rumbling C130’s make slow long passes and parachutes quietly pop open as marines practice airborne assaults:

                        “That’s the sound of freedom!”  ...  Not an enemy attack.

 

Listening to screaming jet fighters streak across the sky in tight formation...

                        “That’s the sound of freedom!”  ...  Not an enemy attack.

 

Anchoring in a peaceful bay dredged by the Marine Corps beside an unmanned, military warship with guns quiet...

                        “That’s the sound of freedom!”  ...  Not an enemy attack.

 

Following the whump, whump, whump of the helicopters circling the bay, practicing landings and night maneuvers...

                        “That’s the sound of freedom!”  ...  Not an enemy attack.

 

Hearing and feeling the dull thud of the artillery firing all day and evening...

                        “That’s the sound of freedom!”  ...  Not an enemy attack.

 

Motoring safely, calmly, and peacefully through the quiet live firing range...

                        “That’s the sound of freedom!”  ...  Not an enemy attack.

 

These marines may be playing “war games,” but it is very serious business.  They are learning how to defend and preserve our freedom.  Because of them, our country has countless freedoms.  Because of them, boaters can travel the waterways and hang on the hook in safety.  From the comfort of the WE BE BLEST III, we listen and watch the aircraft.  These maneuvers are training missions, not an attack.  We need not be afraid.

 

C130’s rumbling, jet fighters screaming, helicopters circling, artillery booming...A noisy anchorage?

 

Not at all.

That’s the sound of freedom!

 

Thank you Lord!

May we never take it for granted.

 

God bless the USA!

 

 

 

Endnote

1.        Response to LOOPERS traveling on Omega 32, posted May 2005 on the AGLCA internet bulletin board by Mike & Nancy Thieman (stalled on their Loop at Key West Naval Air Station).

 

LOG 5   5/25- 6/4     MOBILE BAY UP THE TENN-TOM

 

DAY 34  SUNDAY  5/25/08

For all you Gene Autrey fans, “We’re back in the saddle again.”  Opps, we’re not on horses, but we are using horsepower.  How about you Willie Nelson fans, “On the road again…”  No! No!  I don’t see any blacktop here.  Maybe one for Grandma’s little munchkins, “Row, row, row your boat.”  Not exactly!  We’re not paddling, but yes, we are back on the boat.  Last try:  “Cruisin’ down the river, on a Sunday afternoon...”  That’s it!  We’re slowly moving up (not down) the Tenn-Tom Waterway.

 

At 0808, we motored out of the Dog River Marina and into Mobile Bay on a bright Sunday morning with the eastern half of the bay awash with thousands of sparkling diamonds.  The WE BE BLEST III headed north up the shipping channel, past downtown Mobile, into the industrial and commercial areas with the international and domestic port facilities.

 

Huge cargo chips waited as workers loaded and unloaded their palettes or bulk materials … coal, grain, sand, lumber.  We past an ocean freighter from China with huge side-telescoping support work, probably for loading and unloading.  A military ship was under construction with a stealth bomber-like bow that widened dramatically amidships into a huge trimeran.  Most unusual!  Numerous ships sat in a floating dry-dock tied in their long slips, having repair or bottom work completed.

 

Within twelve miles, the WE BE BLEST III transported us into another world.  Cypress trees with their broad, flaring trunks and knobby knees grew in the shallow water.  Bedecked with layers and layers of Spanish moss, they were a beautiful sight.  Early green marsh grass covered the small slopes.

 

We were engulfed in woods of sycamore, maple, cottonwood, willow and numerous other species.  We cruised close to shore scanning the dense grasses, shrubs, vines, and trees in full leaf.  My, has God created a multitude of shades of green and a fantastic array of textures.

 

This is not a populated area, so a few small fishing boats are usually all we see.  However, today, probably because of the holiday weekend, we spotted several boaters camping along the few sandy spots, jet skis racing about, tubers dragging behind motorboats.  A floating cabin, sporting a runabout on each side, slowly motored past us, heading downstream.  Stacked with over 10 coolers, perhaps the four guys on it were going to or coming from a party weekend.  Following them, a raft of 7 pontoons slowly cruised downriver.  Perhaps more of the partiers.  What a fun way for the group to travel together.

 

Barges transporting coal, ore or other bulk materials are the primary users of the Tenn-Tom.  Second would be pleasure craft, like us, transiting the Tenn-Tom from the Gulf Coast to the Tennessee River or farther north to the Mississippi River in the snowbird migrations or the Great Loop Cruise.

 

We are in the boonies … in a section with very few towns or roads, no marinas, no services, and spotty cell phone/internet connections.  This is getting back to basics.  Trees, water, anchorages, and nature.  Gene speculated perhaps only 5% of the population has viewed waterways like this.  May my descriptions help you experience the world in which we travel and live.

 

1511 anchored at mm 52.8, the Alabama River cut-off.  Gene queried a towboat Captain if commercial traffic uses this branch.  Negative.  The Captain assured us it was safe to anchor here, although we had a lot of runabouts pass by us coming in and out of the cut-off.

 

This was a very pleasant day cruising, still experiencing tides until mm 116, but freshwater is here!  Hooray!

 

Day34:  64.3 miles    anchored at mm 52.8, the Alabama River cut-off  (GPS 31.19282 N, -087.94480 W) 

 

 

DAY 35  MONDAY  5/26/08

Anchor up at 0626 and continued up the Tenn-Tom Waterway.  For those of you unfamiliar with this waterway, let me give little description.

 

The Army Corps of Engineers began digging this waterway in 1971 and fourteen years later completed the largest excavation project in history.  Workers removed 350 million cubic yards of earth (twice the amount moved for the Panama Canal) to create the 234-mile Tenn-Tom Waterway.  Almost half of the material the Army Corps removed came just from the 24-mile section called the divide cut (mm444-420).

 

Downstream the rip-rap covered sides of the divide cut give way to the tree lined banks of the 49-mile canal section (mm412-363).  Adjacent to the meandering and winding Tombigbee River, the canal section is a straight channel cut by the Army Corps to preserve the river’s natural eco-system.

 

The official Tenn-Tom Waterway flows from the Tennessee River, at the Mississippi-Tennessee border, to the Tombigbee River near Demopolis, Alabama.  The 217 miles of river south between Demopolis and Mobile, Alabama is the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway.  However, most boaters (including us) refer to the entire 450-mile stretch as the Tenn-Tom Waterway.

 

When boaters begin traversing the Tenn-Tom, the lockmaster records the vessel’s name and registration or documentation numbers, homeport and destination.  Since the first six locks coming from the Tennessee River are so close together, the lockmasters try to develop a rhythm, locking a group of boats through as soon as they all arrive at the following lock. It doesn’t pay for cruisers to speed to the next lock, since the lockmaster will usually wait on the slowest trawler or sailboat.

 

We anchored at 1400 near old Lock 1 and floated the afternoon away.  Gene read.  I cooked two dinners, maximizing my time in the galley, and then worked on my WAVES articles.  We enjoyed all the activity, but also the sights and sounds of nature … the birds singing, fish flopping and jumping multiple times along the water, like our mullets in Florida.  They must be “happy” fish.  The breezes were most welcome on a hot afternoon.

 

This was a wonderful anchorage.  A winding narrow channel led to a small circular embayment at an old decommissioned lock.  A nearby steep boat ramp was busy with fisherman and people launching and retrieving boats.  There was a primitive campground up in the woods.  Kids and parents walked the old lock wall, fishing and hanging out. 

 

Several times after launching their boats, folks motored over to the lock and threw cast nets for bait fish.  Some idled through the ever-open lock to fish, others putting in this bay dropping milk jugs or sections of “noodles” – jug fishing and float fishing for catfish.  One “southern-boy” motored over to the WE BE BLEST III, talked at length with Gene and invited us up to their camp.  He was “fixin’ to cook up some venison.”  We had had supper and it was already close to dark, so we appreciatively declined.

 

Day35:  49.0 miles    anchored at mm 100, Old Lock 1  (GPS 31.57497 N, -088.03450 W) 

 

 

DAY 36  TUESDAY  5/27/08

Up again at 0545.  Another pleasant night sleeping in spite of the hot two days just past.  Anchor up at 0630.  Again, we had a good, solid hook in the mud bottom.  This anchorage at the Old Lock 1 is definitely a repeater.  One of the best we’ve found on the Tenn-Tom. 

 

Early this morning, as we motored with no breeze, the water was like glass.  The trees, bluffs and shoreline reflected with almost perfect mirror images creating beautiful patterns, like totem poles, arrows, and feathers.  Sometimes it was hard to tell the object from the reflection or where the water and shore met.  God creates a wondrous world for us to see, but we must be watchful with our eyes ever open, for when a slight wind returns, the ripples reappear, and the reflection is gone!  God’s shoreline art can be gone in an instant.  Life is like that.  Treasure those special moments when they come your way. 

 

At 0900, entered Coffeeville Lock with a 33’ lift and floating bollards.  After securing a 50’ line to the center cleat, we idled into the lock chamber over to the bollard.  I wrapped the line around the bit, back to the cleat, and then hung on to the free end in case it needed to be quickly released.  We pivoted on this line so the bollard and WE BE BLEST III rose with the water.  A very smooth lockage.

 

Anchored at Mile 167.5 just outside the mouth of Tuckabum Creek at 1550.  The shoreline indents a bit here, so we dropped the bow anchor just over the bar at the entrance of the creek, backed out toward the channel and put in a stern anchor as well to hold us sort of parallel to the channel.  Two barges met just north of our location.  They both favored the opposite shore … good!  Gene checked with one of the captains if our location was OK.  Roger.  The Captain indicated he will pass on our location to any southbound tows he meets tonight. 

 

This was another hot day and we picked this anchorage on the western shore to be out of the sun sooner, instead of Barron’s Landing a mile up on the eastern shore.  We hung a sheet on the port side of the flybridge bimini to create a sunshade.  This worked fairly well.  We’ll look into some portable screening later.

 

Here’s the chuckle for the day!  For the second night in a row, Gene was caught butt naked!  Showering in the cockpit, both times a fishing boat pulled up to chat with him just as he was drying off.  So he jawed with them while wrapped in his towel.  O well, better he than me!  Fortunately, I had finished my shower before the fishing boat appeared.  We really thought this was such a remote location, no one would be around!

 

Day36:  66.3 miles   anchored at mm 167.5, Tuckabum Creek  (GPS 32.15479N,  -088.01733 W) 

 

 

DAY 37  WEDNESDAY  5/28/08

For the third day, we got up at 0545 and anchors up at 0630.  Since we’ve been cashing it in at cruiser’s midnight (2100) or an hour later, this had been a good routine.  The early misty cool morning cruising is divine … birds chirping, still water, very pleasant temps.  Thus far, we’ve had no biting bugs, although our anchor light and the cabin lights do attract bugs.  This morning the dead bugs littered the flybridge since we had a second anchor light last night as a precautionary measure to be sure the tows would see us.  Only one tow passed by and that was around 2230, otherwise it was a very quiet night.

 

Shortly after pulling anchors this morning, we passed Barron’s Landing, less than a mile upstream.  We nosed in to check the water depth.  This is another little indent in the shoreline, where Old Lock 2 had been.  This had deep water, is a little more out of the channel, and will be a good stop.  Since it is on the eastern shore, it may be preferred in the fall when we want the warmth of the sun.

 

I hosed all the dead bugs off the bow, eyebrow and gunnels, then mopped them off the flybridge and cockpit.  This will become a daily ritual.  Although we are in fresh water, and no more tides after the Coffeeville Lock yesterday, the river is very muddy.  The Tennessee will be much cleaner and fit for swimming.

 

My morning routine has included time spent sitting on the bow meditating, praying, journaling, updating the log and enjoying the ride … especially the reflections in the water.  Today, I took a series of photos, God’s Shoreline Art.  It was amazing, seeing an image change shape as we motored toward, across from and then past it.  Often the object and reflection together created long arrows or even large fish.

 

Later, Gene called down to me in the cabin, “Jan, take a picture of the tree-lined waterway.  Here’s the caption.  Can you imagine traveling on this river 5 hours not seeing another boat or hearing anyone call on channel 16?”  We have the water to ourselves!  Thanks God!

 

When we were only a couple hours from the Demopolis Lock, Gene was getting mildly concerned that we had seen no southbound tow traffic, nor heard any communications on the radio.  Yesterday, we often heard the tow captains announcing their presence at curves and bridges, or talking with other tows.  Today … nothing.  Perhaps is the lock shut down.  There were no anchorages downstream of the lock.  Gene hoped we would have cell phone reception.  We did.  He called the lock and it is operational   Good!  We continued on!  We still saw no tows or any boat traffic at all until we were past the lock at mm 213.

 

Locked through Demopolis Lock (40’) solo with no problems … another smooth lockage with floating bollards, then refueled at Demopolis Yacht Basin, mm 216.2, where we updated the website and took care of some phone/internet business. 

 

We decided to continue on a few miles to an anchorage upriver at Rattlesnake Bend, mm223.  Searching for shallow water, we motored about a half mile up the bend, past eight barges tied to shore.  This channel is a staging area for them.  A front passed in the late afternoon, rain probably north of us, leaving us comfortable temperatures.  Gene’s not sure he’d come back here again with all the barges and having to motor so far up the bend.  We might try the other end of this u-shaped bend next time.

 

After we anchored, we noticed the freezer had defrosted and the battery voltage was down.  The fridge is the first to kick off with low voltage.  This was puzzling to Gene as he tried to troubleshoot the problem … what was drawing on the batteries and why they weren’t recharging as fully as they had been before.  We were close enough to return to Demopolis, if need be.

 

Day37:  54 miles, anchored at mm 223, Rattlesnake Bend, 5 miles up,  (GPS N 32.60374, W 087.88971) 

 

 

DAY 38  THURSDAY  5/29/08

We awoke to a very foggy morning.  A pusher was moving another barge into the fleet along the opposite shore toward the entrance of the bend.  Gene’s still not thrilled with this anchorage.  It looks like we should motor even farther up the bend to be away from the barge activity.  The freezer was still cold, so we decided to continue on and will monitor the situation. 

 

Anchor up at 0720.  The water level came up during the night.  Lots and lots of debris, branches and logs came floating downstream.  Constant attention was needed to dodge all the logs and trees.

 

Gene remarked we were in 30’ of water while only 30’ offshore.  Yet crossing the Gulf near Horseshoe Reef, we were 30 miles offshore and only had 6-10’ of water under us!

 

I enjoyed the early cool morning on the bow, as we cruised through a misty fog.  We passed by beautiful white cliffs, 50-80’ high, studded with bright green trees trying to grow up the banks.

 

Howell Heflin Lock, 32’ lift, again a smooth solo lockage.

 

At 1515, we anchored in one of our favorite places, Sumter Recreation Area, mm 270.  It is a lovely wooded embayment, with an Army Corps campground, small dock and boat ramp.  We’ve stayed here multiple nights in 2004 and 2005 when doing the Loop.  We can dink to shore and ride bikes.  Flush johns too, but no showers, water, or hook-ups in the campground.

Writing time is coming!  At anchor, listening to the birds, looking at the trees and being inspired!

 

Day38:  46.4 miles, anchored at mm 270, Sumter Rec Area,   (GPS N 32.873, W 088.18421)

 

 

DAY 39-40  FRIDAY-SATURDAY  5/30/08-5/31/08

Slowing the pace, we had two great days at anchor.  We biked for an hour one day and walked the next.  Maximizing the galley time, we fixed a stir-fry and pot of enchiladas rancheros.  This will give us at least 8 suppers.  Freezing some of these makes it easy to prepare dinner on longer cruising days.  We have a good variety now with other meals we had fixed and frozen.  Heat and eat.  Yes!

 

Gene read and was my sous chef, while I worked on the computer and my stories, then finished cooking.  The days were hot but we often had a breeze on the flybridge.  We did have the generator and air on while we cooked.  No phone or internet connection whatsoever, so we’ll catch up with communications upstream.

 

In the evenings, the chorus of nights sounds was the loudest we have ever heard!  Wonderful!

We must be living right…Saturday morning, Gene asked me, “Do you have any clue what day it is today?”  Ah yes, life is good!  Near to the sea we forget to count the days.

 

Day39-40:  still at anchor, mm 270, Sumter Rec Area,   (GPS N 32.873, W 088.18421)

 

 

DAY 41  SUNDAY  6/1/08

Our last morning at Sumter Landing.  I got up early to take sunrise on the flybridge.  Most unlike me … I’m getting to enjoy the early mornings, especially the cool air on these hot days.  As I sat  in the cool quiet, my writer’s mind kicked in.  Here’s my reflection.  May you too enjoy an early morning at anchor in Sumter Rec Area.

 

EARLY MORNING AT ANCHOR

Sumter Recreation Area

 

It was so unlike me.  The early morning cool, quiet and peacefulness lured me out of bed at 0530 to come and sit on the flybridge.  It was quiet.  No campers stirred.  No fishing boats launched.  Mirror images of trees and clouds reflected on the glassy water.  I surveyed the small bay, taking in all the sights and sounds, praising God for His beautiful world, often found in secluded places.

 

Two owls hooted, continually echoing to each other from opposite sides of the bay.  Whip-o-wills kept calling in the distance.  They were much farther away then the one we heard so close to the boat very early this morning.  Crows incessantly cawed.  They seemed to be in a debate over another bird that was agitating them.  They quieted for a while, and then began their argument again.  Woodpeckers attacked their trees with a machine-gun staccato.  During all this, the various songbirds joined together in their melodious chorus.

 

I listened more closely.  Fresh dew “drip,” “drip,” “dripped” from the bimini supports.  Only an insect or two buzzed nearby.  An occasional fish splashed the surface of the water. 

 

A bass boat broke the silence speeding down the channel outside our bay.  As the waves from the boat worked their way to this end of the glassy anchorage, the mirror images undulated with the passing wake, and then the visual reflections returned to picture perfect.

 

Reality butted in, interrupting my meditations and mental reflections, as my Captain hoisted the small stern anchor and attempted to wash off the mud by splashing and swirling it in the water.  The mirror images were gone.  Surprisingly, the surface quickly stilled … only to be disturbed by my Captain once more.  Now he was hosing off bugs from the bow of the WE BE BLEST III.  After three days of anchoring, they did accumulate!  Yet, the mirror images were resilient, swiftly returning once again.  I tried to return to my private, inner world.

 

Nonetheless, I heard the unspoken words.  My Sunday morning quiet time was ending with our departure fast approaching.  The generator fired up.  Fresh coffee was brewing.  I paused my mental and visual reflections knowing Sumter Rec Area will be here when we returned in the fall.  I climbed down the ladder from the flybridge.  First Mate duties were calling. 

 

* * *

 

Since this was Sunday, we read the Mass scriptures and reflections, our usual Sunday service when no church is available.

 

Anchor up at 0830.  We slowly idled out of the bay, sticking close to the south side of the entrance.  We were within 10-20’ from shore as we crossed the bar with 2.5’ under us.  However, we did find a second bar just outside the bay, this one in 1.5’ of water.  When we come back in the fall, to avoid this outside bar, we’ll want to approach the entrance 1/3 away from the downstream side, then cut closer to the downstream bank to go over the inside bar.  Coming in three days ago, we did try the depth in the center, and it was very shallow.  It also looked like a shoal coming out from the upstream side of the entrance.  The downstream side seems best.

 

Another hot but still pleasant day of cruising.  Tom Beville Lock, 27’ lift, smooth and solo.  We anchored at 1420 around Pickensville at the Bigbee Valley Acess Area, mm309.4, with a campground and boat launch.  The east-west short narrow channel was perpendicular to the Tenn-Tom. 

 

We finally had a so-so phone connection, as opposed to none the last four days.  Around 1515, while talking with one of our sons, we saw the black sky building in the west and the start of lightening.  Cutting the conversation short, we quickly closed up the flybridge, and prepared for a blow.  The calm before the storm lasted a long time with glassy water, black-gray clouds building and fast approaching.  Multiple, bright, vertical lightening bolts shot like arrows out of the cloud banks to the western shore.  As he often does, Gene had originally put out a small stern mushroom anchor to keep us from swinging.  We were stern to the approaching storm, and knew this little anchor would be no match for the winds, so he hauled it in – just as the storm enveloped us. 

 

We quickly swung around, past our anchor, now bow to the storm.  Visibility was zero.  We rocked and blew around.  Buckets of rain, perhaps even hail, pounded the WE BE BLEST III.  Gene was ready at the helm.  If we blew free, he would power into the wind to hold our position and keep us from blowing into shore.

 

When the storm passed, we found our Bruce anchor held us fast.  If it had pulled free when we swung around, it reset itself, as this style of anchor is designed to do.  “An awesome storm,” Gene remarked.  “As the squall line was coming, it was like a theater curtain moving across.  Nothing  behind it was visible.”

 

Reading and working in the cabin after dinner, I happened to look to the west.  Another lightening storm was coming.  This one had bigger, brighter, longer-lasting bolts!  I quickly shut down the computer, again unplugged all electrical devices.  Gene was ready at the helm once more.  Again zero visibility enveloped us, more high wind, buffeting, drenching rain, swinging back and forth.  It passed.  Then another cell moved through. 

 

When the storm gods finally quieted down, we saw a couple downed trees on the point east of us.  On NOAA radio I heard of a car overturned in some nearby town.  Our Bruce held us secure.  Thank you Lord.  The rest of the evening was quiet and when I woke up at 0230, the sky was filled with bright stars.

 

Day41:  38.4 miles, anchored at mm 309.4, Bigbee Valley Access Area by Pickensville,  (GPS N 33.24352, W 088.30388)  Our first storm this trip.

 

 

DAY 42  MONDAY  6/2/08

Up at 0530.  What a beautiful sunrise!  At 0710, we had a little difficulty pulling anchor.  Gene had to power over it twice instead of our usual once.  The anchor was entombed with a 4-6” mass of thick, sticky, gray mud.  The wash-down hosing was futile.  While Gene slowly motored, I had the anchor dragging in the water and kept poking at it with the boat hook to eventually break it free.  We certainly had a good hook!  If we ever needed a sticky mud bottom, it was during last night’s blows!

 

An Army Corps work barge met us this morning.  It had an immense crane mounted on the front.  Bulldozers and other equipment were parked in the middle.  Very unusual. 

 

Two locks today, both solo and smooth.

John Stennis 30’ lift and Aberdeen 28’ lift.

 

My Captain was growling and grousing that Stennis Lock was so slow.  It took 10 minutes for the lockmaster to begin draining the lock for us, after Gene contacted him.  Then another 10 minutes for the gates to close after we were secured to the bollard and another 5 minutes before any water was let into the lock. 

 

“They must be on break – jawing with each other.”  Gene complained. 

I asked my Captain, “Are you retired?  Do you have a plane to catch or an appointment to make?  The anchorage will still be there!” 

“But we could have been to the anchorage sooner,” he retorted.  “Anyway, it’s the principle of the thing.  I’d fire their butts if they worked for me!” 

“Yes, but you’re retired now – no longer a boss!”  I must admit, it was hot waiting in the sun for the lock, but we did have fun teasing each other! 

“Actually,” Gene concluded, “if we average both locks, we made good time today!  I like to have the engine off by 1430.  Then I’m a happy Captain!”

He’s right.  A happy Captain is a good Captain and it makes for a happy 1st Mate as well!

 

In the last lock, an 2’ snake was swimming  straight for the WE BE BLEST III.  I tried scaring it away by waving my boat hook.  It kept coming.  Then I splashed the water in front of it.  It moved to port and still kept coming.  Finally I hooked the snake, actually by accident.  Now  since I do NOT do snakes, and not wanting to have one dangling from my boat hook, I couldn’t get it off fast enough.  So I instinctively gave the boat hook a quick flick.  The poor snake flipped into the air, hit the lock wall, then splashed back in the water.  The charging reptile finally changed its mind and rapidly swam back toward the lock gate into an open compartment.  However, open was only a temporary state, since the water soon rose above the top of the snake’s hiding place.  We never did see it swim out.  Poor little creature.  Bad snake day!

 

At 1450, we anchored at Blue Bluff Recreation Area, meandering back through a marked channel past shoals littered with trees, logs and other debris.  We had 2.5’ under us as we crossed the bar.  This led to a wonderful wide anchorage, wooded to the west, a long grassy slope to the SW and S with a boat ramp and farther down the shore, a fishing pier.  Open to the east, were some occasionally submerged island and shoals with a few trees growing and some standing dead.  Past them was the main channel.

 

It was a hot, calm afternoon, but comfortable by bedtime.  We did enjoy supper in the cabin with the air conditioning.  The sunset was spectacular!  Yellows, oranges and reds splashed all across the sky reflecting on the puffy clouds and water before us.

 

Day 42:  49.3 miles, anchored at mm 359.0, Blue Bluff Rec Area,  (GPS N 33.83873, W 088.52826) 

 

 

DAY 43-44  TUESDAY-WEDNESDAY  6/3/08-6/4/08

Happy Anniversary to our son Neal and his wife Becky!

 

I popped out of bed at 0530 – this is getting to be a delightful habit – to sit on the flybridge and await sunrise.  0550 A bright flaming red ball burst out from the distant trees across the river channel, sending a rosy glow in the sky and on the water.  A wide bright golden-red strip of light reflected on the water leading from the sun to the WE BE BLEST III.  Welcome to the new day!

 

Today we motored in the “canal” section of the Tenn-Tom.  This 49-mile canal section (mm412-363) is adjacent to the meandering and winding Tombigbee River and is a straight channel cut by the Army Corps to preserve the river’s natural eco-system.  Locks are much closer together, so it is easier to transit multiple locks in a day.  Five of the six locks in this last 90 miles of the Tenn-Tom are lower lifts.  The last is 84 feet.

 

0850 Amory Lock  25’ solo and smooth.

0945 Glover Wilkins Lock 25’  solo and smooth.

1145 Fulton Lock 26’  solo and smooth.  Sound like we are in a rut.  A good rut!

 

Before we transited Glover Lock, a tow with a tanker barge had just pushed out from it at 0930.  We thought we could need to wait for it to lock through Fulton Lock before us.  However, the tow was only traveling 4 mph and soon Gene was about to overtake it.  We reached Fulton Lock in good time before the tow, which would have had priority over us.  That saved us an hour or more wait!

 

At 1230 we pulled into Midway Marina near Fulton, Mississippi.  Gene’s cousin and her husband live here.  We stayed a couple nights to visit, do some laundry, pump-out, reprovision, and take advantage of the high-speed WI-FI connection at the marina.  This is definitely not Verizon territory.   Enjoyed a wonderful spaghetti supper at their church and great Cracker Barrel breakfast in Tupulo in the morning.  Drove past Elvis’ birthplace.  The King still reins around these parts!

 

Day43-44:  36.7 miles, docked at Midway Marina mm 394.3,  (GPS N 34.29769, W 088.41952) 

 

 DAY 45  THURSDAY  6/5/08

We spent the morning at Midway Marina taking advantage of their hi-speed WI-FI connection to do internet searches and update the log.

 

Lines off at 1143.  Today we transited the last three locks on the Tenn-Tom Waterway.  We stayed in the same good rut as before!

            John Rankin  Lock      31’  smooth solo lockage

            Montgomery Lock      33’  smooth solo lockage

            Jamie Whitten Lock    84’  smooth solo lockage

 

For those unfamiliar with bollards, they are similar to floating canisters, about 3’ in diameter and 5’ high with a large raised knob on top and set into a vertical notch in the lock wall.  Coming into a lock with floating bollards, I first secure a line to the cleat in the middle of the WE BE BLEST III, and then toss this line around the knob on the bollard, wrapping it twice, and finally bringing it back to the cleat.  Fenders hung at the bow, amidships and stern protect our boat from banging into the lock wall.  In addition, Gene and I use boat hooks to keep the fenders off the slimy, grungy walls.

 

Occasionally, bollards can jam and not float up or down with the water.  If this occurs, the vessel might suffer rather serious damage if no one loosens or cuts the line.  Picture the water dropping 10 or 20 feet, the bollard stuck in place, and the boat hanging at a rather precarious angle until the cleat or hull gives way.  Not a pretty sight! 

 

During our 75-day pontoon trip in 1997, we did have one bollard jam and Gene, the ever-alert Captain, loosened the line before it pulled the cleat and damaged the boat.  Since then we’ve kept a watchful and vigilant eye on the bollard during lockages.  On one of our trips, we spoke with a boater in Nashville who incurred several thousand dollars of damage this way.  He recommended always having a knife ready and we took his advice.  We keep a sharp knife at the open amidships window.  If the bollard sticks, I can quickly grab the knife and cut the line.

 

During our lift in the Montgomery Lock, we heard a “whoosh.”  From Gene’s vantage point on the flybridge, he saw the bollard across from us on the opposite wall come back down, smack into the water and send waves out into the lock.  Evidently, the bollard was stuck on the way up, not rising with the water level.  As it freed, the bollard must have rocketed up its notch, completely out of the water, then dropped back to the rising water.  “This was an awesome sight,” Gene exclaimed.  He did let the lockmaster know about the sticking bollard.  This certainly confirmed the safety precautions we take for floating bollards.

 

After transiting the final three locks, we had completed the twelve Tenn-Tom locks, raising us a total of 405’ from sea level at Mobile, Alabama.  We now cruised in Bay Springs Lake, a 15-mile long wide lake with innumerable fingers and bays for camping, fishing, and anchoring.

 

We dropped the hook at 1537 in a new anchorage by day marker 415.2.  What a treat with clean water for swimming and bathing!

 

Day45:  21.7 miles, anchored at Natchez Daymark  mm 415.2 Tenn-Tom ,  (GPS N 34.56818, W 088.30987) 

 

 

DAY 46-48  FRIDAY-SUNDAY  6/6/08-6/8/08

What a wonderful anchorage!  Each morning we woke up and decided to stay another day to read, write, swim and enjoy this scenic stop.  We were in no hurry.  The only down side was poor phone and no internet connections.  My, have we gotten to depend on instant and available communication.  We remembered the pontoon trip in 1997.  We had no cell phone.  We took no computer with us.  We used pay phones when we come into port!  Now it is even hard to find a pay phone!

 

Gene kept praising this bay.  “I really like this anchorage … fresh water … Did I tell you how much I dislike salt water?”  This heavily wooded bay is about 200yd deep and 100yd wide.  There are three indents in the back shoreline, like a three-toed footprint, creating tiny sandy beaches bordered by fingers of tall trees filling the steep slopes.  On the chart, the bay liked like a ghost with its arms raised.  So I named it “Ghost Bay.”

 

This whole area has quite a bit of relief and hills creating some picturesque bays.  There is little development, few houses, or structures.  It could be the Army Corps of Engineers (who built the dams) bought all the shoreline around this lake to allow for capturing water from the Tennessee River.  The 84’ Whitten Lock has a high dam and stop logs, plus a crane to place the logs, to handle the rise from floods.

 

We are in deep water, weedless, yet close to shore.  We have the lapping of waves against the slopes at the shoreline, chattering of birds, distant hum of motors from fishing boats, tubers and jet skis.  We cooled off from the heat in 87 degree clean, fresh water.  What a treat!

 

Day46-48:  Still anchored in Ghost Bay, mm 415.2 Tenn-Tom ,  (GPS N 34.56818, W 088.30987)

 

 

DAY 49  MONDAY  6/9/08

After four nights, we decided it was time to move on.  Since we’ve been hitting the sack around cruiser’s midnight or an hour later, we have been getting up early at 0600 or so, enjoying the cool of the morning.  This morning was no different.  Gene took the dinghy and camera to get some pictures of the WE BE BLEST III in Ghost Bay.

 

Shortly after breakfast, while straightening up, Gene saw a tow out in the channel.  He thought one was coming since he heard the horn at the lock signaling it was safe to exit.  Once he saw the tow, Gene’s jets were revved and he was on the flybridge ready for me to haul in the anchor.  He hoped to pass the tow before we entered the narrow “Divide Cut” of the Tenn-Tom.  It would have been difficult to pass in it, because of the curves and the speed of the tow, which was close to ours.

 

Anchor up at 0647 and mission accomplished, we passed the tow while still in Bay Springs Lake, and then had the Divide Cut to ourselves.

 

At 1130 we left Yellow Creek and the Tenn-Tom Waterway, entering the Tennessee River.  We faced a major decision.  Do we go right or left on the Tennessee?  Right takes us upstream 315 miles to Watts Bar Lake near the Smokey Mountains, one of our most favorite cruising and anchoring destinations.  Left takes us downstream 190 miles to Kentucky and Barkley Lakes, the LBL (Land Between the Lakes) and more good anchorages.  Because of the cost of fuel and time available, most likely, we will not do both.  So which way do we go … Right or Left??   Right or Left?? 

 

For the answer go to the menu at the top of this page and click on the second page of the 2008 Tennessee River Trip“'08 Tenn River to Watts Bar.”  Or click on the link below.  You’ll find the rest of today’s log and the continuation of our journey in LOG 6.

CLICK HERE FOR TENN RIVER TO WATTS BAR LAKE 2008 LOGS 6-8

Click on Captain Gene & 1st Mate Jan link to read about our early boating experiences as River Rats

CAPTAIN GENE & 1ST MATE JAN

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