Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Fairhope, AL, to Apalachicola, FL, .....and back

Saturday, November 12, 2016 -

We're docked at Eastern Shore Marine in Fairhope, AL, until Monday.  We're getting familiar, again, with the non-floating wooden docks and short finger piers common in coastal marinas.  That and a tide going up and down don't make for the most comfortable setup for this boat...or maybe any boat. We rigged up a rope to hang onto when getting on or off the boat and assisted each other.

We attempted to rent a car for the weekend yesterday after we arrived.  Enterprise has a great $9.99/day rental Friday-Monday in a lot of places we travel through down here.  Unfortunately, there were no cars available Friday.  We ended up getting a one-day rental on Saturday morning...and since the office closed at 3 PM on Saturday and was closed on Sunday, we had use of the car until Sunday afternoon when we left it on the Enterprise lot with aid of the marina courtesy van.

I did laundry right next to a Publix supermarket so I could gather a few groceries at a time in between wash and dry.  Wayne, meanwhile, was doing maintenance on the engine room back at the boat.
When I was through with laundry and groceries, he called to say he still had the salon floor up working and ask if I could stay out a bit longer.  You betcha!  Off to Hobby Lobby I went for a few supplies.  ;-)

Sunday, November 13, 2016 -

We'd originally planned to stop in Pensacola on this trip and had our forwarded mail sent there.  Now we're thinking we'd rather move on across the Panhandle when we leave tomorrow.

So...we took our rental car this morning and drove over to Pensacola for the mail...and brunch at (Another) Broken Egg.

Back at the boat later that afternoon I worked on folding all the charts we'd ordered in for the trip. They're HUGE and it takes a while to fold them so you can see the chart name and number.

We filled up with water (had taken on fuel as we came into the marina) and readied ourselves for the trip down Mobile Bay tomorrow.

Monday, November 14, 2016 -

Left Eastern Shore Marine at 7 AM.  Easy trip down the Bay and made it all the way to Little Sabine Bay anchorage, Pensacola Beach, FL.  Only one other boat was in there...a sailboat...which just proves how good an anchorage that is.  :-)

Saw dolphins as we were working our way along the Panhandle.  That's the earliest sighting in the trip for us as we're going south.  We usually don't see them until we get to Panama City area.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016 -

Out on the water at 7:15 AM and headed for an anchorage on the eastern most side of Choctawhatchee Bay (noted as East Choctawhatchee Bay on AC).  We'd planned a short day to Panama City to visit friends we'd met on the first loop trip.  We'd called them in the morning and left a message, but didn't get a response until that afternoon...and that's when we realized they had been at Fort Walton free dock and we had already passed them!!  We will try to catch up with them on the way home.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016 -

Pulled up anchor and left at 7AM.  We plan to be in Apalachicola tomorrow, so will go as close as we can get to the Wetapoo Creek segment so our trip will be short tomorrow and we'll get there early afternoon.  We'll stay there 2 days at least...and may stay longer until we see a good day to start over to Steinhatchie by way of Carrabelle's Dog Island anchorage.  Saw lots of dolphins today, as usual, as we approached Panama City.  We ended up anchoring in California Bayou.  It was a pleasant anchorage and just fine for a windless night.  The only bad thing about it was the flies that descended on us in the sunny afternoon.  YUK!

Thursday, November 17 2016 -

Easy trip over today to Apalachicola Marina.  We've never stayed there before...usually go to the Hotel docks, but this marina got great reviews on Active Captain so we decided to try it.  Probably won't do that again!  We ended up on the "remote" dock (as opposed to the slips by the marina office/fuel dock).  Ours was basically a concrete wall to tie up to.  The problem came in with the tidal changes there in Apalachicola...4 per day...and the low profile of our boat.  Bottom line:  it took us a while to figure our how either of us could even get off the boat after we'd tied up with the dock hand's help.  Being a bit mindful of how I get on and off the boat now since the episode several years ago at Panama City Marina...we waited a bit for the tide to rise some before we both went out for a walk around town and trip to the grocery store.

Our view from the dock....

Friday, November 18, 2016-

This morning we started planning our route to Steinhatchee when the weather allowed.  Mamaw Prichard had fallen at home this week and had to call Linda to come and help her up.  Fortunately for Linda, she had her walking pal with her when she went to Mamaw's aid because she wouldn't have been able to get Mamaw up by herself.  Thinking about this and the timing of our trip we came around to the decision that we needed to head back home to Knoxville.  We were faced with the realization that we really couldn't count on getting back home in a day because of the remoteness of some places we'd travel and the lack of access to rental cars or airplanes.  We'll be needed at home this winter to help out with Mamaw.  Having this decided we both felt relieved of a worry.

Having made our decision, we celebrated by having lunch at the Owl Cafe...oysters for Wayne and shrimp for me.  It was really good!  Then to a shop that had both ice cream and chocolates.  ;-)

Saturday, November 19, 2016 -

We left Apalachicola Marina at 7AM and headed back towards Knoxville.  A front was moving through that day and the winds were really howling.  Waves, while not a problem, were the highest we've seen on the trip so far.  The boat was covered in salt spray by the time we went into St. Andrews Marina in Panama City that evening.

The local rotary club was having a BBQ cook-off that afternoon and the tickets were only $10/person for all you could eat.  We had other plans, though, and set off to Hunt's Oyster Bar, one of our favorite places, when supper time rolled around.  Oysters for Wayne and grilled shrimp platter for me.  We topped off the meal by splitting a piece of sea salt caramel pie.  It was so rich we could barely eat it all...but did!

Sunday, November 20, 2016 -

The next day was another blustery one on the water as we finished the transit of St. Andrews Bay and crossed the Choctawhatchee Bay.  We saw a bunch of kite surfers out as we approached Ft. Walton. We discussed staying at Ft. Walton's free dock but decided to get a few more miles in today so tomorrow we could arrive at the Wharf Marina as early as possible.  We ended up anchoring behind Spectre Island just past Ft. Walton.  Beautiful place and calm.

Monday, November 21, 2016 -

Left this morning at 6AM and got to the Wharf Marina, Orange Beach, FL, around noon.  We took on fuel before going to our slip, which was nicely situated near the parking lot on the eastern most end of the marina.  The Wharf, for those who haven't been here, is an entertainment

First thing on our list:  wash the boat!!! We had so much salt spray on the boat that when we pulled into the fuel dock I had a problem getting the lines out they were so stiff!!  This done, I called Enterprise and they picked me up around 4 PM so we could get a car and drive back to Athens, TN, for Thanksgiving with family.

The Wharf is more than just a the website reads,

With a plate for every taste and a shop for every style, there’s so much to see and do every day at The Wharf. Whether you’re in the mood for a four-course meal or a delectable snack, you’ll find plenty of fresh Gulf seafood, authentic Italian, upscale pub grub, even gourmet beef jerky and hot sauces. Plus you’ll find everything from familiar favorites to new and exciting items at each of our shops—and you may need to bring a friend to help carry all of your fantastic finds. 
Ah, but that's not all!  They have a Carmike Theater, an ice skating rink, mini golf, amphitheater, pool...It's a resort.  We checked it out while there at our reduced AGLCA rate of 0.90/ft. slip rental.  ;-)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016-

Today we did all the usual chores...laundry, groceries...and still found time for lunch at the Shrimp Basket, a regional chain, and Rita's Ices featuring ices and ice cream.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016 -

Left at 8 AM Eastern and drove and drove and drove to Cleveland, TN, for our hotel overnight.  Traffic was awful on this day before Thanksgiving.  When we reached Chattanooga the main highways were RED with stopped traffic on our navigation program.  We just got off and took Highway 11 north to our destination.  It was 5:45 PM by the time we stopped...and we didn't even want to take time to get supper.  Instead, we hit the snack machines at the hotel.  Cheetos!!!

Thursday, November 24, 2016 - Thanksgiving Day

Got up to Mamaw Prichard's in Athens by 10 AM and after a brief visit took her over to Linda's house (Wayne's sister) for lunch with the family.  Linda's grandson, Kaleb, was there with his new bride, Shelby.  They got married on November 5 after we'd left on this trip.  Linda's two daughters were there with their families...and Dave, Heather, and the boys stopped there for lunch before going a little further east that night on their way to home in Wake Forest for Friday.  This is the first time in years we've all been together like this and everyone commented on what a nice day it was!

Wayne, Linda and I with Mamaw....

Mamaw and the great-grandkids...

After lunch and visiting we left to head south and stopped near Birmingham for the night.

Friday, November 25, 2016 -

We had an easy trip home today.  Stopped for a few perishables and turned the car in early. Unfortunately, this branch has had a hard time filling car requests.  They were low on inventory when I picked up the Dodge Challenger (rated "sports car" but they "let me have it for the full size rate) and I had to wait about 1/2 hour to leave with the car.  Today, they were having the same problem and didn't have a car to drive me back to the Wharf.  Fortunately for me, the nice fellow who picked me up on Monday was there and offered to drive his car to take me back.  It was approved by his boss and off we went.  He left Poland in the 70's and started all over in the U.S. with his wife.  Now they are both semi-retired and enjoying life.  He loves to talk...says it helps him learn the language.  ;-)

Saturday, November 26, 2016 -

We'd hoped to leave today but Mobile Bay is rough today so we'll stay until tomorrow.  Meanwhile, I started noting Active Captain anchorages (as well as those in Skipper Bob and Fred Myers) on our charts.  We are expecting to have our speed cut down as we travel upstream and may need additional anchorage options.

Sunday, November 27, 2016 -

Having read the marine weather reports concerning Mobile Bay today...and having talked with the marine forecasters from the National Weather Service...we opted to leave a bit later this morning hoping for the choppy waters to die down a bit in the southern part of the Bay.  We have almost 56 miles to go today to get from here to the Bay, up the Bay to mouth of the river and an anchorage somewhere at or near the 9.8mm Bayou Canot.

Left marina at 8AM and were pleased to find that the Bay wasn't as bad as we had expected.  We were able to get up to 16.6 mm, Big Bayou Canot,  for an overnight anchorage.

Monday, November 28, 2016 -

Made it up to Three Rivers Lake mm 63.8 for the night.  Bad weather, mostly wind and rain, are being forecast so we opted for the most sheltered spot we could find.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016 -

The day started out in pleasant weather today...but as the afternoon wore on it became more cloudy and blustery.  We decided to, again, go for a more sheltered overnight spot and ended up anchoring at Okatuppa Creek, mm 123.2.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 -

We were very secure in our anchorage last night.  We obviously had some wind and rain during the night...but the boat held fast and the little creek protected us.

Weather was calling for a line of threatening storms across Alabama, again, but when looking at a national weather map it looked like the line was beyond us.  We pulled up anchor at 7:15AM and headed out for a short trip to Bashi Creek, 145mm.  There are still some questionable weather reports for this evening and tonight, so we decided to opt for another creek anchorage rather than alongside the channel.  Tomorrow we should be able to get up to Demopolis.

We'd only been out about 1/2 hour this morning when the skies started greying and wind picking up.  Checking our weather map we could see a line of violent storms headed for us.  We turned around...picked up the speed...and were just re-anchoring in Okatuppa Creek to wait out the storms.

Before the rain started....

And during...

I'm posting this at 10 AM and we're still waiting out storms.  Things are supposed to clear up by 12:30 which will still give us plenty of time to get up to Bashi Creek.

Continued: We had no problem getting up the short distance to Bashi Creek, everybody's favorite because it's about the only between it and Demopolis.  There was a larger boat anchored behind the boat ramp and we anchored in front of it, nearer the ramp.  We got way over on the fact, we got in the trees.  Ah, well, we were out of the way if anyone else tried to get in further back and we definitely wanted to be out at the crack of dawn the next day.  What's a few leaves and tiny branches on the boat, right?  ;-)

Thursday, December 1, 2016-

Woke up this morning to fog...two hours' worth of fog.  Instead of leaving at 6 we left at 8.  The pictures below show how dense the fog was.  We kept trying to see the sailboat that had anchored the night before in the area immediately across from the Creek.

Finally we got a glimpse....

Having had a sobering experience in the fog when we first started this trip, we waited until there was no more fog, 8 AM.  Off we went at better than 8 mph headed for Demopolis Lock and anchorage just above.  Our ETA (estimated time of arrival)  showed we should get there in plenty of time before dark...but that ETA changed as our speed dropped in the afternoon to 7...even 6 mph at times.

This is where the sweating began.  The ETA changed to around 4:30 and sunset is 4:45.  ETA was for the lock, which meant we'd have to enter the lock immediately...and would that be possible???  Would we have to wait for south-bound traffic??  We were slightly above our normal RPM's to have a fighting chance of getting there in time to get to the anchorage with light.  Would we have enough fuel to make it??  We have sight gauges on the fuel tanks but can't get to open one of the gauges while the engine is running.  Oh, and did I mention there are no good anchorages between Bashi and Demopolis!!!

Well.  Wayne called the Demopolis Lock about possible commercial traffic around 4-5 and the lock master told him he couldn't really say...didn't know of any right then.  He asked Wayne to call on the radio when we got within 10 miles of the Lock.  During the time they talked he asked Wayne where he was from..."I can tell by your accent you're not from New Jersey!"  When Wayne told him Tennessee, the lock master went on about how he hated to hear about all the fires in the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area because he and his family had gone there many times over the years for vacation.

So, we called him at 10 miles out and he said he would have the lock ready for us when we got there.  We did, indeed, get to the lock doors at about 4:30...just as a south bound tow hailed the lock for passage through.  Whew!  When we got on the upper side we sort of felt our way back into Foscue Creek and anchored.  And collapsed.  We had traveled 71 miles!!

The Coast Guard dock was just in front of us with their Christmas lights aglow...

Friday, December 2, 2016 -

We took our time waking up...and were still wide awake at 5:30 AM.  We only had 2 miles to go today to get to Demopolis Yacht Basin for fuel and a night in a slip.  We waited for a bit more fog that morning, which was worse in the main channel than it was back here in Foscue Creek.

We were about the only transient there that day, especially that early.  We borrowed the courtesy car and ate lunch, stopped at the pharmacy, Walmart for groceries...and did laundry in the afternoon in the ever so close HUGE laundry room at the boaters' lounge.  Delivery pizza for supper because it's Friday night...and we're livin' good.

Saturday, December 3, 2016 -

We left Demopolis this morning at 6:30 fog!...and traveled up to and through Heflin Lock to Windham Landing Cut-off at 286.2.  Nice, easy anchorage right off the channel.  It rained on us pretty steadily right before Heflin and all the way to the anchorage.  We're positioned to get very near or past Columbus, MS, tomorrow depending on how long it takes us to get through one, possibly two, locks.

Pictures of the river as we made our way from Bashi to Demopolis...

And these are pictures from earlier in the trip when we were on the Florida panhandle...

Days with calm water....

The Wharf Marina surrounds at Orange Beach...

The vegetation along the way...

And beautiful skies and water....

Sunday, December 4, 2016 -

We were out of the anchorage by 6:45 AM.  Actually, we had the anchor up before then but were waiting for the cloudy skies to lend a little more light!  It was drizzling rain, but all in all it was not as rainy today as it was yesterday.  Got up to Bevill Lock, mm 306.8, and were through it by 9:20 AM.  Lock door was open for us when we got there.  While there wasn't as much was a chilly damp most of today.  We had the small heater on the bridge and kept the front center window open only when we needed to.  We still had a good bit of debris today to dodge.

Stennis Lock was expecting a tow about the time we were to arrive, but we kept on going because we knew we would get there around noon and have time to wait, if need be.  Turns out we passed that tow tucked away on a side channel about 5 miles before the lock.  When we hailed the lock he said he just had to let the water down and we'd be in...and we were.

Aberdeen Lock is next and we considered making a play for that today...but decided to stop at Buttahatchee River Cutoff, mm 343.7, instead.  Nice place and right off the channel.  Tomorrow we'll see how far up the river we can get.  Hopefully at least to Fulton anchorage....