Thursday, November 27, 2014

Home, sweet home...Pensacola

Wednesday, November 27 – Happy Thanksgiving!

Pensacola will be our home for a few more weeks. Last Friday we got our repaired alternator back and a new combiner installed for the electrical system. The repairman then decided it would be best for us to get a diesel expert in to work on the generator, since the output from generator was still a problem. Wayne called several services recommended by the local Westerbeke distributor...and wasn't having any luck getting anyone out to look at the problem in the near future. One of the calls was to a fellow with his own diesel repair service, Mark. Several people had referred to him, but would quickly add that he usually stayed booked up. Well, Friday afternoon, late, he called and said he would come by after the job he was on and look at the problem.

We had rented an Enterprise rental for the Friday – Monday weekend rate of $10/day, so we were up in the northern part of Pensacola when he called. We met him at the boat at 4:30 and he worked until 7 on the generator. I won't go into the technical details (cough, cough) but will summarize the situation by saying he fixed what was the “obvious” problem...and in the process he uncovered a more sinister issue. There was a “slapping” or “knocking” noise in the generator that couldn't be attributed to the normal operating sounds. Mark thought it might be caused by faulty fuel injectors, and that would be a pretty easy fix. The other things that could cause the slapping...not so easily fixed. There had obviously been some work done on the generator sometime in the past...and that work may have caused some of our problems now.

Friday night Mark removed the three injectors and placed them in a quart size baggy. On Monday morning, Wayne and I drove up to Atmore, AL, about an hour away, to have the injectors tested. They came out clean, no problem. [Oh, if I'd only been able to take pictures in the Atmore Diesel “office!” It looked like they'd given up cleaning years ago. A filthy padded Swifter mop sat in a corner draped with cobwebs. From my perspective, across the room from Travis' desk, I could see all the dirt and debris under the desk, about 2” deep, I'd say.) A mounted moose head was on the wall with two costume hats perched on its “rack.” And Travis was a gem! Answered the phone with “Pam here!” and charged a whopping $9 to test the injectors.]

So now we were looking at something that would require a rebuild...and that would cost almost as much as a new generator. Bottom line: after much consideration (for our peace of mind, etc.) we decided to take care of this issue with a new generator. Mark ordered it on Monday and it will likely be here around December 8-10.

On Monday, we will move the boat to Bahia Mar Marina, about 1 nautical mile from Palafox. Mark spends a lot of time at that marina and with us close at hand he will be able to dismantle the old generator and have it out before the new one comes in.

In the meantime, we've adjusted our plans (and expectations) and are feeling optimistic. We started looking forward and called a small marina in Ft. Myers Beach to see if transient space might be available for the month of February...and it is! Fish Tale Marina is located behind Santini Plaza on the south end of the island...a location we prefer. Gone is my problem with getting up to my art workshop on the island from downtown Ft. Myers where we'd originally planned to stay!

We've explored more in Pensacola, some by car, by bus, and some by foot. Last Thursday we caught a bus and went to the National Naval Aviation Museum. We'd visited back in 2010, but at that time they were working on a new exhibit to include aircraft from Vietnam and Gulf Wars. They had also added a section on lunar travel.

Loved the tires on that lunar rover! I could use those on my Golf!

The bus trip was worth the price of the fare (.85 for seniors). Great people-watching experience. ;-) Trouble is, the bus system is pretty limited in coverage and most routes seem to involve an hour's wait between buses.

We've lunched at several places, all good:

Al Fresco Pensacola, a collection of food trucks (Airstream trailers, actually) with a variety of food choices.  Perfect spot for lunch on a sunny Pensacola day!

McGuire's Irish Pub - They brew their own beer and their fish and fries were delicious.  Just seeing the inside of the place is a treat.

Hub Stacey's – Great little bar in a century-old building. Good, huge sandwiches.

Joe Patti's – Great seafood market about a mile from the marina. We bought already steamed shrimp for supper one night. They've got a great selection of seafood. If you're not hungry when you go in, you will be before you leave!

We walked over to our “new” home as of this coming Monday, Bahia Mar Marina, to check out the place. Looks very nice and protected (Palafox is a little rocky-rolly on the transient dock). We had lunch at Sam's Seafood and Steaks on the way (gumbo and shrimp salad)....then split a pecan cobbler with ice cream at the Oar House, Bahia Mar's onsite restaurant. Comfort foods. ;-)

While we had a car last weekend we found a frozen yogurt shop, Wild Honey Yogurt.  We hit two frozen yogurt locations before we found one that was still in business.  I hate to see this trend die just when we've gotten on the wagon!!  Thanks to Carol for that!!  ;-)

Yesterday I walked to the Ever'man Grocery downtown, a whole foods type place, and picked up some special vittles for Thanksgiving.  We're having homemade Autumn Soup with cheese and crackers today.

I toured the Pensacola Art Museum which has an exhibit titled: Guild Hall: An Adventure in the Arts. The exhibit features works by a variety of “significant” artists (oh, to be so labeled!) that lived and worked in East Hampton area of Long Island, NY, over the past 140 years. The names I recognized were Chuck Close, Jackson Pollock, and Andy Warhol. I enjoyed the whole exhibit. Then I checked out the museum's gift shop and picked up (well, bought...I don't want to get caught again) a few items.

Coming home from the museum I saw a commotion at the county court house.  Turns out it was a group of carolers in costume...with an Elvis impersonator signing Elvis Christmas tunes.  This one guessed it...Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree!

While walking around here we spotted a LittleFreeLibrary.  Take a book, leave a book...

And...we're seeing fall colors!

Again, Happy Thanksgiving! This and every day we are grateful for each other, for our families and friends, our health, and for the opportunities afforded to us in life. 'Til next time...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sunny Pensacola, Florida

Thursday, November 20 -

Monday and Tuesday at Orange Beach Marina were spent 1) staying warm...

...and 2) doing indoor projects.  Wayne did a remodeling of the shower stall by putting in a new shower head (turbo, so it makes the dribble feel more like a shower) and a new light.  The difference is amazing!! We'd started showering in daylight only because it was so dark in there, otherwise.

Funny thing happened when picking out the shower head while we were in Mobile.  We found it at an RV supply store.  The person who helped us explained the workings of several different models of shower heads and we finally focused on this turbo model.  The off-on button for the head was a separate connector, not on the head itself, as in our old model.  I asked the salesman, in reference to the separate on/off connector, where in the process (of installation) this would fall...(up by the head or down by the faucet).  He said, "Well, usually people get wet all over, then lather up and...."

We were both twitching with laughter...but held it 'til we got outside.  The guy is probably going home saying, "You won't believe what someone asked me today!"

Temperatures yesterday morning were mid-20's, but as the sun came up the solar heat warmed up the bridge and we left the marina at 10 AM, headed for Palafox Pier at Pensacola, FL.

Wayne is still concerned about the electrical issues and we've decided it would be best to get this problem (or problems) solved before we tackle crossing the Gulf.  Pensacola is a good place to work on this, so we're here for a couple of days....or more...until it's resolved.

Woke this morning to a beautiful, sunny day.  Chilly to begin with, but it's already getting warmer and expected to be in the low 60's today.  Journey at our slip on A Dock... Notice the new, smaller (and therefore better proportioned) sign on the back.  ;-)

And our view of the marina and edge of town....

Spent the evening with Laura and Bill of Kindred Spirit.  Enjoyed a meal at Hopjack's Pizza Kitchen within walking distance of the Pier.  Palafox Pier is well located right downtown Pensacola.  Since we were here last in 2010, the downtown area has really blossomed.  Lots of shops and restaurants open last night and people milling around.  It felt good.

Wayne's out on a West Marine errand with neighbor Andy from Fruitcakes.  Plans are to work on the diagnosis of electrical problem today and do some walking around Pensacola.  There's a seafood shop about a mile away that sounds like a good choice for supper vittles!

More later from Pensacola.  Stay warm, wherever you are!!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Here We Are

Sunday, November 16 -

Hey, what's a mind for if you can't change it, right?

We were mulling over the weather Thursday evening...plotting our car trip to New Orleans, planning how to wrap up several tasks we initiated at Dog River (more boat cards, new boat name sign, etc.)...when we saw an opening in the wave/wind conditions on Mobile Bay for Saturday afternoon.  Late morning, early afternoon, NOAA was predicting moderate to light chop waves and wind of less than 10 knots.  More to the point, the next week's forecast had a lot of "rough" conditions predicted.

Our pulses quickened.

Friday, then, we set out early and got everything done...including a clip/shampoo for Lucy.  On Saturday morning we borrowed the courtesy car and returned the rental.  We were back and getting ready to pull out at 10:30.

We were ready to be somewhere else.  We'd been in the marina for a week.  Everyone there was very nice and we were pleased with the services and repairs, including the charges ($1/day slip rental for the week since we had work done, for instance).  But, Dog River Marina seems more like a boat yard to us than a marina.  A little rough.

We did get to a couple of local restaurants we liked, though.  We had BBQ at Dick Russell's on Thursday...then back for a sausage biscuit Saturday morning before we left.  Friday we enjoyed lunch at Butch Cassidy's Cafe.  TripAdvisor continues to be a good resource for eating choices.

As we were getting ready to leave we had a would-be hitchhiker....

We called Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores, AL, (home of Lulu's, owned by Jimmy Buffet's sister) and got a slip for the evening.  The trip across Mobile Bay was easy, and we were in our slip by 2:30.

We're in the ICW!!  Here's what it looked like coming in....

And our first glimpse of the white regions white sands...

Homeport was very nice with floating docks and good protection from winds.  Lulu's is really like a small amusement park: restaurants, shops, carney atmosphere.

We left Homeport this morning and had a quick trip down to Orange Beach Marina, Orange Beach, AL. Got here in time to do a nice lunch at Fisher's, the onsite restaurant, and take a walk around the beautiful grounds..

Weather's coming in tonight...I saw some lows in the 20's for a couple of nights early in the week.  Yow!  We're here until our mail catches up...probably be Wednesday when we get going again.

Unless we change our minds...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Stay Awhile

Thursday, November 13 - Woke up to...well. Woke up last night as the winds picked up and we heard a light “bump” on one pole we're tied to. We moved yesterday to an open slip.

We adjusted the lines a little to get the stern in close enough to be able to climb out off the cockpit...and apparently got one line a bit looser than we meant. We both climbed out of our warm bed and adjusted said line. A passage of time, us back under cover, was then spent listening for other incidents until we fell back asleep.

Woke up this morning to 10-20 mph winds, rain, and 41 degrees. High today 49, low 31.

After looking at the weather report for the next 5 days we decided to sit still for a while before tackling Mobile Bay. We've rented a car today through Monday and will take care of some items still on our “to do” list.  We're also thinking we just might take the 2 hour drive over to New Orleans for the day (probably Saturday when it looks like it might be decent weather for walking about). 

Interesting fact: We were looking at the NOAA marine weather prediction for the next few days and there is a small craft warning out from now through Friday. And the definition of a small craft? Well, here's what NOAA says about that:

There is no precise definition of a small craft. Any vessel that may be adversely affected by Small Craft Advisory criteria should be considered a small craft. Other considerations include the experience of the vessel operator, and the type, overall size, and seaworthiness of the vessel.”

In other words, use your own judgment 'cause we're not responsible. ;-)

Monday, November 10, 2014

We're Hee-rrre

Thursday, November 6 – We set the alarm for 5 AM this morning. On rising, we noticed it hadn't rained in the night...and that seemed like a good omen. At 5:05, the skies opened up and it poured! We were both thinking we'd have to delay our 6 AM departure...and jeopardize our chances of getting to our destination, Bashi Creek.

Fortunately for us, the rain only gushed down for about 15 minutes...then slowed to a drizzle. We left Kingfisher Bay as planned at 6 AM with Kim Jo and Overtone. We were immediately into Demopolis Lock and on our way down the river.

The day turned into a beautiful day for travel. Every morning these days it is really chilly...but give us a little solar energy and an enclosed bridge and we're shedding layers like a dog sheds in the summer.

We're still experimenting with features of the chart plotter, so we have our eyes on it a lot of the time we're cruising.  Some funny things crop up on there.

Apparently there are so many of us cruisers on the Tenn-Tom that they are opening water holes even in the most remote of areas...

Oh, yeah, and we all know there was some crying going on at this landing last election day...

Here's what it looks like when we're passing a barge... The red boat shape is the barge and we are the black one.

Overtone travels faster than we, and they said they would “save us a space” at Bashi Creek if things were crowded (meaning we could raft up together). When we got into Bashi later that day, Overtone was the only boat in the place and we both had plenty of room. Lucy enjoyed a romp in the adjoining recreation area, then we all spent a quiet, uneventful night.

Friday, November 7 - Our plans were to travel a light, 45 mile day down to Old Lock Number One at mile 100.    This is an old river course with ruins of old lock number 1 and has a small park and boat ramp.  It has a narrow entrance and is very secluded and rustic. We've stayed there a couple of times over the years.  

Our friends on Kindred Spirit sent us a text early this morning to say that the lock entrance was so shallow they couldn't get inside...having tried several approaches. They are live-aboards and are very used to anchoring out, so we took their experience seriously. I got online and looked at recent reviews of the anchorage and found other boaters commenting on the lack of water. One review even mentioned a boat that had gotten into the area and then couldn't get out.  Gulp.

OK, plan B. Um...and what was that, exactly?!?  Our original "schedule," and I use that term lightly, was to do the trip from Demopolis to Mobile Bay in four days going to Bashi, Lock One, Tensas at mile 39, then  Mobile Bay.

So back to Active Captain and Garmin Blue Charts (which can be used when you can't get a connection to the internet). There were several possibilities beyond mile 100. Thank goodness we left early on a light day (we slept in and left at 7) and had already gone through the last lock, Coffeeville (yippee!!)

First we looked at a sand bar around mile 105. was SO early in the day we felt like we needed to try for something further down. We eyed an anchorage at 97...but passed it up deciding to make a run for an anchorage with several good reviews, Upper Sunflower at 78.6.

This would be a long run. Our estimated time of arrival (ETA) was 4:30 PM, just 30 minutes before dark. It was a bit of a tense day because we were concerned we might get held up some way or get there and find out it was taken. We made it to Sunflower...and, wonder of wonders, this one (maybe 2) boat anchorage was empty! We tucked into a spot out of the channel, but still on the river, in 8 feet of water downstream from a small sand bar. We even had time to launch the dinghy and take Lucy for a...well, walk on this tiny sand bar. She complied, sweet dog!

This was a first for us. We've always anchored off the river. This night we were still right there on the river, just out of the channel and in an area that would be very visible by tows who might pass in the night. And, boy did they! We had two tows pass us before we went to bed and the third tow passed the next morning at around 3 AM. Oh, yes, we definitely slept lightly that night! But, we both agreed the next morning that it IS a good anchorage and we'd do it again.

Saturday, November 8 - We are still having problems charging one of the batteries and are feeling the need to be in a marina with capable boat yard. We considered our options last night and decided we needed to set sights on Dog River Marina in Mobile, AL. With some planning and a hope for lots of luck, we decided we had a shot at it.

Lucy didn't get a walk that morning. At the earliest light we loaded up the dinghy and were out in the river by 6 AM. 

The sunrise was gorgeous!! 

Taking our showers on the way today, I realized we finally have a shower with a view!

Our ETA was 4:35. was a tense day! We passed two tows on the way and made a run at 10+ mph to pass through the Mile 14 Railroad Bridge because an oncoming tow told us to “pick it up!”

The river widens out down towards Mobile Bay and looking at the shoreline it was obvious from the vegetation that "we're not in Kansas anymore!"

Our first sign of getting close came at mile 22 when we spotted the 
I-65 bridge, better known down here as the "Dolly Parton Bridge..." 'cause both the bridge and Dolly are structural marvels.  ;-)

Finally we came into Mobile Bay!

Mile 0.0 is right at the Mobile Convention Center. From the water, Mobile looks busy and beautiful.

According to Wikipedia, this is likely "the USS Independence (LCS-2) at the Austal USA shipyards along the Mobile River in Mobile, AL."

A glimpse at the kind of traffic surrounding us.  Run, little Island Gypsy, run!!

The tide was moving out as we made our way into the Dog River area, and we fought to stay in the narrow approach channel. Two hours after we passed Mile 0.0 we tied up to the fuel dock for the night at Dog River Marina, the clock reading 4:35 PM.

We'd made it! 93.6 miles in one day, a feat we hope not to have to repeat! At an average of 9 miles/hr we had traveled from 6 AM to 4:35PM.  We decided it was a night for delivery pizza. Whoops. All three pizza companies passed on delivery to Dog River. OK, we scrounged around and munched on leftovers so's not to go to any trouble with the evening meal. We were exhausted and were in bed by 7:45.  Our view of the bridge that evening at the entrance to Dog River....

Sunday, November 9 - We started the day on the fuel dock. At 7 AM we filled up with fuel and went to our position on the transient dock. (A bit harrowing with the tide moving out, but we managed it.) Wayne spent the morning in the engine room checking for loose wiring that might be causing our battery problems. We broke for a lunch at the Grand Mariner Marina restaurant a dinghy ride across the way.  Here's a shot of the Dog River Marina transient dock from Grand Mariner.  Our boat is on the inside of that dock so you can't see us.

Monday, November 10 - We contacted the marina office this morning and had Glenn, the manager, come out to evaluate our problems.  More on this later....

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Off and running!

Windlass issue seems to have been resolved! The engine shop put on a couple of “new brushes.” Wayne picked it up on Friday afternoon and re-installed it on Saturday. Saturday, with north wind blowing and temps way down! He got so cold, working out there, that his hands would go numb and start shaking. He'd come in and drink some hot tea or soup...and go right back out. Finally got it done, tested it...and it works!! We are happy campers, uh, boaters.

Monday, November 3, we left Columbus Marina shortly after 6 AM with True North and Kindred Spirit III. By 6:30 we were out of the lock and on our way. Our day was a short one. We anchored at Pickensville Recreation Area just a mile above Bevill Lock. The setting was pretty and we managed to get enough trees between us and the nearby highway that we weren't even bothered by traffic noise. The other two boats went on through Bevill, aiming for anchorages downstream.

We had planned to stay at Columbus until Tuesday morning, but we managed to get everything done on Sunday (including a brunch at Jackson Square Grill...very good!). One job we tackled Sunday was the shocking of our water tank. We used to do this annually on Segue when we weren't traveling on it full time. The shocking involves 1) draining the water tank 2) pouring in a solution of bleach and water 3) filling up the remainder of the tank with water 4) wait 3 hours or more 5) drain the bleached water out all the faucets to clean the lines 6) fill the tank with clean water 7) repeat #5 until the bleach smell/taste is gone.

What we didn't plan on was how slowly the water tank drains. The pump may be small...and the supply lines narrow...but, whatever the cause it took for-ever to drain the tank in step number 1! Bottom line, we still have a touch of chlorine in our water. We have bottled drinking water so our coffee is still drinkable. But when we shower...well, let's just say we get really Clean!

Tuesday, November 4 – Beautiful morning! Took Lucy in for her morning walk and came back ready to contact Bevill for a lock through. When we called the lock we found out there were several other boats at the nearby marina who were interested in locking through then, too. We took up anchor and got down to the lock in time to be first of four vessels that went through. Attitude Changer and Panacea were our companions for the first half of the day. At around noon we pulled into Sumpter Landing for the night and the other boats went through the lock to an anchorage just on the lower side. By the time we took Lucy in for a walk we had company: Lester and Irene on Prime Interest and Bill and Pam on Overtones. We stopped by in the dinghy and spoke to both crews to coordinate our leaving the next day.

Our companion for the afternoon at Sumpter...

Wednesday, November 5, we were up and at 'em early.  By 7 AM we were in the Heflin Lock and on our way to Demopolis.  Grey skies ruled the day, but we didn't have any of the wet stuff.  The ride was actually beautiful.  This area has chalk cliffs all along the river.  This time of year the fall colors can really make them stand out.  Here are only a couple of the many views we got today.

This structure beside a bridge could make a great sketching subject!

And someone has set up their own playground by the river, complete with beach volleyball court!

We're at Kingfisher Bay Marina, the new marina in Demopolis.  We see several of our travel partners over the past couple of days already docked.  Tomorrow we plan to leave early (same song, second verse) and go 71 miles and go through one lock here at Demopolis.  Next entry will probably come from Mobile Bay, hopefully the first of next week!