Sunday June 28, 2009
We knew that the water had the potential to be rough with high wind and waves coming in from the west but we made a run for Cedar Keys anyway. As we trolled through the calmer water of the Steinhatchee River we checked the weather and wave report with the Lowrance VHF radio. The report said the water was going to get worse throughout the day due to the high winds that were gusting at 20 to 30 mph.
The boat has been great so far. The versatility of the Duroboat combined with the Suzuki 50 hp four-stroke has proven to be a seaworthy vessel. We've had very few problems. In fact, the few challenges we've encountered are due more to our learning curve than the boat itself.
As we entered the Gulf the waves rose and the periods in between waves shortened. When we got out to our first previously plotted waypoint on our Lowrance GPS we turned south and the waves hit us hard from our starboard side. Having three of us on the boat we all sat in the back to keep the bow up above the waves. With the motor churning, waves crashing over, and the dual bilge pumps working hard we were faced with the decision to turn back and not risk the rougher waters later in the day.
I am almost positive that that the boat could have made it there but with the sharp rocks and shallow water further south the decision to turn around was the right one. Why risk doing damage to the motor when we could just wait for better conditions. If there has been any advice that locals who know these waters well have told us it is to respect the water and there is no shame in waiting for better conditions.
We have now spent more time in Steinhatchee than any other spot, and it is not a bad place to be stuck. The small community runs along the Steinhatchee River on both sides. The river functions as main street, which has been very convenient for us. Everything is within walking distance, but we have been using the boat as our primary method of transportation.
Saturday June 27 2009
We woke up after 4 short hours of un-restful sleep aboard the boat in our muggy overcrowded tent. It was 5:15am and we dragged ourselves out of bed to start packing up for a pre-sunrise departure.
We have been on the water for a few weeks now, but we expect the Big Bend of Florida to be one of our most challenging runs. While we have been boaters for a long time we have not always been too involved with selecting our equipment. The types of gear we needed for this trip (particularly this portion of the trip) are very different from what we typically used to ski and wake board back home.
We have driven Duroboats now and then but most of our experience was with an inboard Century Resorter. For those of you who have driven both inboards and outboards you know they are a bit different. This trip is by far the most outboard control time we have ever logged. The inboard is like a big heavy car, powerful and fairly cushy. The outbords are a bit sportier. The outboard with a light Duroboat sure uses a lot less gas than the Century. Playing the wind, moving in reverse and docking in general are a bit different in the two types of boats.
Several companies have provided gear for us to test along the way and with 1500 miles under our belt we think we are starting to become qualified to talk a little bit about some of the items we are using.
Nervous for our first day of open water on the Gulf, we made special care to take every safety precaution we had available. We had our float plan ready, entered waypoints on the Lowrance GPS, sent our first Spot messages of the day, called my dad (3 am Seattle time), and buckled up our Mustang PFD's.
The waves were large and rolling. Katie felt ill so she spent the majority of the trip lying in the front of the boat. It was difficult to see land, but the waypoints we had entered kept us on track when we could hardly see anything beyond water. We used the coordinates provided on our charts and guidebooks to plot a route that would take us out away from rock and shallow areas. This makes navigating as easy as keeping the arrow on your screen headed towards the waypoint.
I was frequently sending out Spot messages so our lat and longs would be well documented in case something went wrong. We press an "okay" button and everyone on our contact list receives a text message or e-mail letting them know where we are.
We kept our Mustang survival gear on and clipped onto the emergency shut off switch. Our PDF's are self-inflating vests so they are very unobtrusive. Even as Katie was laying on the front deck trying to recover from seasickness, she was able to rest comfortably in her life vest. I am accepting of the minor tan lines in exchange for extra safety.
We arrived safe and sound in Steinhatchee and stopped at Hungry Howie's for a pizza and chicken strip lunch. We met Pam from the Steinhatchee chamber of commerce. She showed us around town and drove us down the Steinhatche waterfalls. There is a canoe trip that starts here and takes paddlers back into town. If we end up sticking around we might make that adventure. Katie and I were quickly reminded of Waupaca, Wisconsin -our favorite vacation spot. The Steinhatchee River at this particular point looks a bit like Waupaca's crystal. Search Google for "North to Waupaca" to learn a little more about this.
The town is small and the quite Steinhatchee River runs right to the center. On both sides of the river there are small marina resorts and vacation homes. Steinhactchee has one school that is k-8 with 150 enrolled students. Pam told us the workings of scallop season, which starts the 1st of July. We may get to stick around for that if the wave conditions worsen as expected.
Our last and final stop of the day was the Gulf Stream Marina. Our room was just a few steps away from the resorts restaurant that is named after Mel Tillis a famous country songwriter who happened to eat at the table next to us after a returning from a fishing trip. The hospitality was wonderful, and the crab artichoke dip was delicious!
Friday June 26 2009
We enjoyed muffins and yogurt for breakfast at the Water Street Hotel then walked next door to the Scipio Marina to check the status of our motor maintenance. The guys as Scipio had pulled the boat out of the water with a forklift so the guys at Wefing's Marine could service the motor. We truly appreciate the effort from both parties especially as we prepare for the Big Bend. By late morning we were making our way into town for some lunch and air conditioning. Apalachicola is the first town we have stopped at where everything is within walking distance. It was nice not having to worry about transportation while making plans. We spent the rest of the afternoon overstaying our welcome in a seafood restaurant, ice cream parlor, and a cafe with Wifi. Our visits were prolonged because at that point we had decided it was going to be another night on the boat and we were trying to beat the heat during the day. We returned to Scipio Marina early evening where we met JD who was putting the Duroboat back in the water. Seeing the boat on the forklift was fun to watch and made for an interesting picture. JD --new to the marina-- was friendly and helpful. He showed us footage on his cell phone of a sea otter eating a crab on the boat ramp, gave us tie up suggestions, and talked about the marina business. After we organized our stuff on the boat, all three of us freshened up with some deodorant and we made our way to Papa Joe's where we sat at the bar and watched oyster shuckers working hard and quickly to meet the needs of the restaurant's patrons. That was the beginning of our self-organized Apalachicola Bar Crawl. By the end of the night we had eaten oysters, played darts, met some locals, watched and sang karaoke, ate crab cakes, and danced. In need of a little rest before our early start into the Gulf, we went back to the boat for bed.
Thursday June 25 2009
We stuck around Bay Point Marina most of the morning trying to figure out where to get our oil changed. They had a breakfast shop near by that catered to elderly folks looking for a cup of coffee or a social atmosphere to collaborate on crossword puzzles. We ordered egg sandwiches and started calling around to find a Suzuki dealership. We nursed our meals and our drinks as we blogged and made phone calls. A few hours later we had a plan . . . winging -it is harder than one would imagine.
Suzuki contacted Wefing's Marine in Apalachicola and arranged for a 100-hour service maintenance. Relieved to have a plan we head for Apalachicola, the last stop before our next major challenge - Florida's Big Bend.
We arrived in Apalachicola around 4pm. Following Mark, the owner of Wefing's, instructions, we docked at Scipio Marina and walked over to the Water Street Hotel. The three-bedroom condo suite was much classier than the three weather and sun burned patrons that came staggering into their lobby dripping with sweat. After hearing about our unusual journey from Mark, the women at the front desk agreed to give us a discounted stay. It was a deal we couldn't pass up, although admittedly still a splurge outside our budget. Our hotel room was actually several rooms - two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen, living room, and a screened porch with a view of the river.
After cleaning up, we all walked over to a restaurant called Up The Creek to meet Mark and his wife Anita for drinks and oysters on the half shell. I did my best to enjoy the local fare, but I'm told raw oysters are an acquired taste - I'm two oysters closer.
Mark gave us an evening tour of the town. We were pleased to see that everything was in walking distance from our hotel and there were several stores, restaurants, and some nightlife options for tomorrow night.
Wednesday June 24, 2009
We left Destin around 8am. The water was glassy, the air was cooler than the day before, and we made excellent time. We crossed Choctawhatchee Bay and entered what we're told is the "Grand Canyon" of the ICW - a narrow passage with tall rocky bluffs on both sides. As we came out of the Grand Canyon and back into open water we saw pods of dolphins fishing all around us. We slowed down and circled around several times. I struggled to get good pictures because as quickly as the dolphins appeared they would dip back under and reappear in a completely different direction.
We stopped for lunch at a very small waterfront restaurant called Joe's Bayou. We pulled the boat up to the dock and stepped off into the main dining deck. The boat was nearly at the table with us. We split a fish basket and tried to re-hydrate and cool down.
After lunch we walked into town. Panama City is a different experience than Panama City Beach during spring break. We strolled the sleepy streets and popped into a few antique stores (more for the air-conditioning than for the shopping.)
We cut back across the bay to the Bay Point Marina. On our way there the wind picked up and the oil light came on -something we had been expecting as we got closer to logging another 100 engine hours. The chop got bigger and we heard an oilrig over the VHF radio talking about a cyclone headed their direction. Wet from the spray and with no interest in seeing a cyclone we booked it to shore as quickly has we could.
Wet and tired, we sat on the boat discussing our next move. After more perpetual reorganizing of the boat we showered and headed to the marina bar. We had a couple drinks and a plate of nachos and brainstormed sleeping arrangements. Our options were limited because we were not within walking distance of a motel and the tent does not easily accommodate three people. In the end it was a wet, uncomfortable night, which ended early when some fisherman returned to the docks around dawn, saw our tent, and yelled in a southern accent, "What the hell is this? Some Green Peace Gurus?!"
Tuesday June 23, 2009
Sammy's Grandparents are well qualified for positions with the Destin chamber of commerce. His grandmother gave us piles of maps and Destin area attraction brochures and his grandfather is well versed in Destin real estate. Once snow birds from Indiana, the couple built their own house and moved to Niceville, a suburb of Destin, in 2005.
Destin's main attraction is its white sandy beaches, but our skin needed a little recovery time out of the sun. We toured Destin in 110-degree weather from the comfort of the air-conditioned car, jumping out just long enough to take pictures, visit an alligator exhibits, and stop for lunch on the beach.
It was wonderful to have another day of down time and a real bed to sleep in.
Monday 22 June 2009
We traveled east on the ICW over to Choctawhatchee Bay. This day was turning out to be another record setting day for temperatures in Florida. Florida has been experiencing unusually hot temperatures due to the high pressure front that is lingering over and the fact that it hasn't been raining as often as it usually does but this is creating perfect weather for the trip - well, as perfect as 115 degrees can be.
As we entered the Bay we headed for a place that I have wanted to go since I was a little kid - Crab Island. It's not really an Island at all it is actually a big sandbar that is below the Destin Bridge. Due to the weather and vacationers in Destin the area was packed full of boaters all having a great time. The combination of music, hot weather, 80-degree water, an ice cream boat, and drinks made me want to get out and swim around for a while. The crowd of people on this underwater island was made up of just about every age group. The water was a crystal blue color and the sand was soft under our feet. For it only being 2 ft deep there were a lot of big boats anchored all around us. The girls both got stung by some mystery fish in the water that at times would send them jumping into the boat to escape whatever it was. We never saw anything and I never got stung but its still a mystery on what it was that sent them flying back into the boat with no marks where the stings were. After all of us felt like we had enough sunburns we headed across the Bay for a place called Rocky Bayou.
The water in the Bay gets choppier in the afternoon so it was a slower ride back across the Bay. We arrived at Rocky Bayou turning into Ward Cove to park the boat for the night and meet my Grandparents who would be hosting us for this part of the trip. The Blue Water Bay Marina seems to be very large and well kept. We were all ready to get out of the sun and take showers for the first time - well I won't say how long it was for the girls but it was my first real shower of the trip.
It was an inopportune time for something to break. The lock for the storage area broke. After almost gluing my fingers to the boat we decided that it would be better to just install a new locking system. I thought a Hasp Lock would be a good fix; my grandpa calls it the country boy way of locking something up.
We made a quick trip to CVS to pick up some much-needed deodorant. While smelling sunscreen I accidentally squeezed too hard sending a flood of weird smells to stain my nose for the next three hours. At least I know that the inside of my nose will not get sunburned. It was good to have a home cooked meal of pork chops, sweet potatoes, vegetables, and cranberry salad, topped with Florida' favorite - Key Lime pie. My grandparent's house was a great place for the girls to catch up on rest in a real bed as well as catch up on all the other things that they have gotten behind on like this Blog that I am writing right now.
I still don't have a grasp for all the nautical terms - something I'm practicing. Also being the new guy I get to swab the poop-deck and other undesirable duties. It's okay though because so far everything has gone smoothly - let's hope my luck continues.
Sunday, 21 June
So after sleeping on a sailboat that had been found, bought for one dollar and partially refurbished , all after hurricane Katrina; we started our journey that would be my second time traveling in the boat with the girls (even though they say the first time in Illinois didn't count). A man came walking down the dock before we left. He wanted to meet the girls because he had seen their story in the local newspaper. His name was Richard and he had done the great loop on a Waverunner and was in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest trip on a Waverunner. After a short conversation with the girls he was on his way and so were we. We stopped to get gas and ice at the only marina that seemed to be open on father's day. Elizabeth and Katie borrowed a truck and went to the nearest convenience store for water. They were surprised to find a follower on the short trip to the store, a golden retriever from the marina. He sprinted behind their truck the whole way there and then rode back sitting shotgun between the two in the cab of the truck.
The water was very calm and there was nearly no traffic. The wind coming from the southwest blew us right along on the scorcher of a day. It turned out to be one of many days that will reach over 100 degrees. We were making great time. The second time across Mobile Bay was more enjoyable is what Elizabeth and Katie both told me. Entering the ICW after Mobile Bay was easy. Since we were able to make such great time we decided that it would be fun to stop at Lulu's which is a restaurant right on the ICW and is impossible to miss. It is bright and huge. The name Lulu's comes from Lucy Buffet the owner. Lulu is what her family, including her brother Jimmy Buffet the musician, calls her. There was live music and ice cold drinks that tasted better than the bottled water on the boat that had become just as hot as it was outside. We started a conversation with the bartender that later turned into a conversation with one of the managers and Lucy herself. She was a very upbeat person who said she would love to tag along on the trip, but only if there was going to be air conditioning. After talking about the trip and Duroboat with the people sitting around us, the musician on the stage asked what song Elizabeth would like to hear. She suggested Hootie and the Blowfish. After listening to the live music and cooling off for a while we were ready to finish the rest of the mileage for the day. We jumped back into the boat ready to be at Pirate's Cove. Katie fell asleep, waking only a couple of times due to choppy water. I was driving at this point. I had put my shirt on my head as a makeshift hat because the sun was roasting my head. Elizabeth told me I looked like a pirate, which was very appropriate because we were headed to Pirate's Cove. We knew it wasn't far to our final stop that day but Katie was asleep and I guess I was having too much fun driving so we went a little bit further than intended. Pirate's Cove was not well marked. All we had was an old picture of it in one of our travel books. That old picture put us into some pretty shallow water before finding the real Pirate's Cove.
Once there, we found out that there was no fee to tie up for the night. Actually the lady inside the restaurant said anyone could tie up for three days for free but no longer than that because they would have too many people living there. While tying up the boat I heard two different people walk by and whisper to their friends "hey that's that boat from the paper". It wasn't five minutes before we had made a friend by the name of Tommy who seemed to know his way around because he himself had a 30 ft sailboat tied up on the other side of the restaurant. After talking with Tom for a while on the dock we decided it was time to eat some dinner. We had one of the best pizzas I have ever had in my life. It was called the Karnivorous Karl. It had every kind of meat on it with pineapple and a mound of cheese. The pizza might have tasted so good due to my extreme hunger from not really eating all day, or the pizza was just that good. Tommy told us he hopes to come back as a dog in his second life because dogs at Pirates Cove live like kings. They play in the water, roll in the sand, and helped us finish our pizza. One was a giant English Mastiff and another was a little hound dog that seemed to be everywhere we were.
It quickly went from daylight to dark. We decided to go for a swim in the shallow water right off the dock. We all agreed that the water was a little bit too warm for a refreshing swim so it didn't last long. Pirate's Cove had a bathhouse with laundry machines and four separate bathrooms with showers. We all rinsed off the salt water and got ready to try to sleep. Tom said we could sleep on his sailboat instead of camping on the Duroboat for the night. We joined him on his sailboat where he had cleared the back room for the girls to sleep and I slept in the front room. Tom popped in George Carlin's comedy show in New York to the DVD player. I struggled to stay awake despite the DVD. Throughout the night I woke up frequently in a panic and then remembered where I was and fell back asleep just to do it again in ten minutes. The next morning we all woke up early, planned our trip for the day with Tom's help, and headed out.
Saturday, 20 June
I didn't know what to expect when I got on the plane in Tulsa flying to Mobile. Who would have guessed that the man sitting next to me on the plane would be a man from Baton Rouge who works for McGlasson Marine Service a company that deals with barges and other big boats. He was full of information about barge traffic which would pertain to our trip around Florida. He definitely was surprised to hear the size of the boat we all are traveling in, and warned about big ships in Tampa Bay. This has become a common warning by most boaters who have traveled through Tampa. Clay gave me his card and said if we ran into any trouble to give him a call and he could try to help us. This was a great introduction to my trip around Florida.
Arriving in Mobile I was greeted by Elizabeth and Katie who both looked very tired and a little sunburned. Our way back from the airport began a great adventure of finding our way to Moss Point. Along the way we followed a small map that didn't get us lost, it just took us to $1.00 snow cones and a scenic tour of southern Mississippi and Alabama and then southern Mississippi and Alabama again. We arrived at Moss Point where I was introduced to all the newfound friends at Rachel's Widow's Walk. It wasn't long before I felt like I had known them for years. It seemed like everyone we met had a hidden musical talent. We ate good food, "fried everything" --shrimp, catfish, squid and even deep fried tomatoes. When the restaurant customers began to leave the staff showed off their amazing musical talent. They entertained us with an assortment of songs - they knew every key and every word. I never got to meet the infamous Lucky that everyone had said so much about.
Saturday June 20, 2009
Moss Point MS
Today was our first non-travel day since Elizabeth's graduation. We slept in until nearly 9am, but we stayed up so late the night before that we continued to overdraw from our sleep bank.
We had another interview this morning, with the Moss Point newspaper. We routinely get the same 15 or 20 questions from reporters, dockhands, bartenders, and other loopers. Elizabeth and I both agree that we are getting more efficient in our answers and intend to brief Sammy, our next guest cruiser, with consistent answers. My least favorite question, primarily because we don't have a good answer, is "Why don't you have a bimini top?" Our favorite question is, "What? Are you crazy?" We are some of the least crazy people we've meet on the river so far. Our three-month summer cruise pales in comparison to the folks who have dedicated their entire lives to water.
Sam has been living on his sailboat for the last 18 years and owns Rachel's Widow's Walk. The restaurant recently opened in Moss Point and from what Katie and I can tell will surely be a success. The walls of the restaurant display interesting photos that tell maritime history. The back of every menu tells the story of Rachel who in 1919 fulfilled her father's dreams of construing a schooner that would carry lumber from Moss Point to California via the Panama Drop. While the construction was a success the endeavor was not and the schooner Rachel ran aground when traveling to South America. This could be attributed to the fact the schooner was renamed. The last line of the story on the menu reads, "You should never change the name on a ship or a boat you'll take away her dreams". Sam and his employees also boast much musical talent. Between the scheduled band Good Moon and unscheduled jam sessions, the place was booming with music the whole night.
Sam and Anne were very hospitable throughout our stay. They made sure we were fed, provided us with air conditioned sleeping arrangements, gave us showers, a car and means to do laundry.
Lucky whose name really does read as lucky on his birth certificate, has been famed as the best fiberglass man around. It was a pleasure talking with him because he interjected pirate "arrrrs" every so often and speaks with a gruff voice fitting of an old pirate. We enjoyed listening to him perform Lynyrd Skynyrd on the guitar and watching him attempt a back dive off the pier piling.
Jen, a very outgoing Rachel's Walk employee greeted Katie and I with high fives while shouting "y'all rock". Her enthusiasm was much appreciated and we tried to convince her to join us for a leg of the trip. In addition to her enthusiasm I have much confidence in her resourcefulness. While Katie and I were doing some planning Jen approached us with a tiny squid she had found. After we took a picture of Jen and her new friend, she soon returned with bite size pieces of fried calamari.
Moss Point is actually a small deviation from the loop route, but the good company and excellent food made it well worth it. We took the detour because Sam is a fan of Duroboats and currently owns three.
We received much support from all of the people at Rachel's Widow's Walk. A special thanks to Sam, Ann, and David.
Friday June 19, 2009
Rachel's Widow's Walk Moss Point, MS
We woke up around 7:30 in the guest bedroom of Kaos, Susann and Alan's beautiful 46' boat. They offered us breakfast and Alan give us the weather and wave report for the day - less than 2 foot waves . . . good news. We filled up with gas and bought a chart of Mobile Bay. As we left we talked to teenage boy working at the fuel dock. He told us he and his girlfriend tried to kayak down the Tenn-Tombigbee but only made it a mile before their kayak flipped and his girlfriend demanded to go home. He also described his experience during Katrina - sad and very eye-opening for two Seattleites who've never experience any real disasters.
We crossed Mobile Bay and headed towards Moss Point MS to visit Sam. A few years ago Sam was looking for a good tender. He found Duroboat on the Internet and decided he couldn't settle for anything less. In order to make delivery efficient, Sam bought 6 boats and walked into the local boat dealership, Johnsen's Marine, with a plan to convince Mr. Johnson to buy a lot of Duroboats too. It didn't take much convincing. As it turned out, Mr. Johnson used to sell Duroboats back when the company had a factory in Florida.
Sam offered us a place to stay for the weekend at his marina and restaurant, Rachel's Widow's Walk. The restaurant is new, but they have good food and a healthy Friday night crowd to show for it. We danced and enjoyed the blues band, Good Moon, and Sam's own saxophone and piano performances. The evening went well past closing time and ending after the employees took an early morning swim off the end of the Marina pier.
Thursday, June 18
Dog River Marina Mobile, AL
We were on the water at 6am to travel from Demopolis to Mobile. Because the stretch offers only one place to fuel up and no sleeping accommodations, we decided to cram the mileage of two days into one. Half way through our 12-hour day we stopped at Bobby's Fish Camp. We found Bobby (an elderly gentleman laying in a recliner in the dark store front). Unfortunately, we had to disturb him to ask that he turn the fuel pump on. Before leaving the dock to continue, we called the next lock only to find they were trouble shooting. We waited about 40 minutes and entered, hoping everything was running smoothly.
The second half of our day had been going well but quickly became stressful when we left the Mobile ship canal and entered into a portion of Mobile Bay. The chop picked up a considerable amount and it seemed we were so far from land. We no longer had the protection of the riverbanks on either side of us, which was unsettling. We made it to Dog River Marina and tied up to their fuel dock. Katie and I were discussing how our tie up job would fair, if the tides continued to lower. We'd hate to later find our boat hanging from the dock. When we asked Susann and Alan for their input, we all were happy to have discovered fellow Loopers. The couple invited us to their boat for the night were we had a drink, chatted, and turned in early.
Wednesday, June 17
Another hot day was in store so we got an early start. The sun was still off to the east when we went through the first two locks. We tied up on our port side so we could hide from the sun for a few minutes as the water level dropped us below the sun's direct rays. We take these moments to wipe ourselves off, reapply sunscreen, and hope it sinks in before we start sweating it all off again. Hawaiian Island Creations sent us a good supply of sunscreen before we left, but we are going through it quickly.
The Alabama banks of the Tenn-Tom offer more to look at. We saw white bluffs, interesting shorelines and houses teetering on the edge of the shore where the river has washed away the ground beneath them.
We arrived in Demopolis, gassed up the boat, checked into a small motel on the marina property and crashed next to the air conditioner.
After a cold shower, we headed down to the guesthouse to use the WiFi. We met Gill Hummel, who upon introduction said, "Google me." We did, and Gill was a good example of all the free spirits you meet along the Great Loop.
After grabbing a quick dinner in town, we dropped in for a beer at the marina bar. We listened to advice from two locals about crossing Mobile Bay. They had taken their 20' fishing boat down to Orange Beach on a college trip some years ago and shared the harsh conditions they encountered. We left the bar and took pictures with the fake alligators because we still have not encountered any real ones.
We traded our upper Tenn-Tom guidebook in for charts of the Black Hawk Warrior. A quick trade turned into a small gathering at the fuel dock with some barge workers. We listened to funny stories about life on the river: naked tug drivers, drunken pontooners and barge food (SPAM and Beanie Weenies).
Tuesday, June 16
Today was so hot! We can't apply sunscreen often enough. It's a race to get it rubbed in before my body starts sweating it off again. We only had 60 miles and 4 locks today, but waiting at the locks was like sitting in a pizza oven.
The water has been calm, but there are still large pieces of debris to watch for. We've hit a few smaller logs, and each time we slow down to check the prop and make sure all is in working order. I don't look forward to trying to change a prop, but the one Turning Point gave us seems to be holding up well.
We were thankful for the short day and arrived at the Columbus Marina around 2:30pm. We were relieved to get another covered slip -- for the shade and protection from potential t-storms like the night before.
Columbus Marina is a member of the American Great Loop Cruisers Association and the whole crew was great. They even called the Columbus news station and urged them to come down to the marina to interview us.
Tim and Blake, two young staffers from the Columbus news crew, arrived a few hours later. Both Elizabeth and I agreed it was lucky that cameras can't capture smell. Still dirty and gross from 7 hours in the sun and 95-degree weather, we did our best to get the boat and ourselves camera-ready.
After wrapping up the interview and dropping the boys back at the dock, we secured our boat and headed for the shower.
We borrowed the Columbus Marina courtesy car and headed out to find Proffit's Porch, a southern seafood restaurant that Tim had recommended. It was only a few miles off highway 45, but it felt like the middle of nowhere. Appropriately named, they have a large wooden porch with several slow-moving ceiling fans. The porch overlooks a sandy volleyball court near the Tenn-Tom Waterway. We ordered a couple beers and the house specialty, red beans with rice and seafood gumbo.
After dinner, we took a driving tour of old downtown Columbus to check out the beautiful antebellum houses.
Columbus was a good stop. The people were friendly, the food was delicious, and it offered a true southern experience.
Monday, June 15
We had a late start. A planned 60-mile day turned into a 90-mile day because we missed a turn out of Pickwick Lake. Good thing we fueled up the day before.
The ride was hot and uneventful. We arrived at Midway Marina late evening and were directed to an undercover slip. Midway Marina was different than any we have stopped at so far. It had all the amenities of the other marinas, but it seemed to be a more permanent living arrangement for those who moored there.
We used the courtesy van to go to the nearby town of Fulton for dinner and groceries. We asked the Harbor Master to suggest a good local restaurant so we could try some true southern cooking. He recommended a Mexican restaurant or the recently opened KFC.
We chose the Mexican restaurant, but the KFC had a line 12 cars deep, so maybe we were missing something. As we entered the Los Compadores we tried to take a picture of the sign that read "No smoking on Sundays." The sign was somewhat amusing given Seattle is a city that has gone so far as to consider banning smoking on the golf course.
We drove the van back to Midway Marina in a thunderstorm, thankful that we had a covered slip for the boat.
We skipped the hot tub and after a quick stop at the marina clubhouse, we climbed into our tent (which, by the way, fits the boat very well, but does not fit us very well) and went to bed.
The next morning we were up early to shower. Katie put a dollar under the rock for cooler ice and we were on our way to Columbus.
Sunday, June 14
Jill went home with Scott and Given, so today was our first travel day alone. Thanks, Jill, for escorting us down the Mississippi River!
We arrived at Pickwick Landing State Park around 6pm and headed straight to the fuel dock. We figured that would be one less thing to worry about in the morning.
Roger met us at the dock. Roger told us right away how he had retired from his stressful shift work schedule at the mill and opted for the more pleasant duties of a Pickwick Landing dockhand. He was quite a character, and his excitement for our trip was very appreciated. Even more appreciated was his effort to find us a room at the Pickwick Landing Inn and arrange transportation to get us there.
We were so relieved to have an air-conditioned room and cold showers that we let the time slip away from us. We headed for dinner at the hotel restaurant around 7:55 -- apparently too late on a Sunday night in Pickwick. Not only was the hotel restaurant closed, but the closest restaurant was almost 4 miles away -- a distance we would have been willing to walk had we been able to confirm it would be open when we arrived. Unfortunately, this place was so new that their phone number was not yet listed.
By 8:30 we surrendered to waiting for breakfast. Then the Pickwick Park Ranger, who had unsuccessfully tried to help us look up the number for the unlisted restaurant, suggested we order a pizza. Not the local flare we were looking for but it hit the spot. This low-key night gave us a chance to do some laundry and catch up on our blog.
Sunday, June 14
Birdsong Resort Marina Camden, TN
Jill's son Given tagged along as we wondered up to the main building to meet the owner of Birdsong Resort and see their famous Tennessee Pearl Museum.
The door was open, but the lights were still dim as we wondered in. Bob Keast the Harbor Master (and 48 year veteran) of Birdsong Marina, met us at the desk.
Shortly after, an elderly newlywed couple joined all of us, Bob seated us in the theater room for a short video presentation.
Birdsong is North American's only freshwater pearl-culturing operation. Bob calls their operation Aquaculture instead of agriculture. Their crop of pearl producing oysters hang in nets just off the shore of our campsite the night before.
It's an interesting little operation –that's not so little we quickly found out. Japan, known for their pearl production actually buys mollusk shells from the rivers of the Tennessee for about $20 a pop. They chop the mollusk shells into lots of pieces and use them as the implants for future pearls.
Jill and Scott –worried we'd kidnapped Given- joined us at the end of the presentation and reminded us that we better get going in order to miss the nasty weather headed our way.
Quick pictures and a stop at the dock store, then we were on our way. The girls at the Birdsong fuel dock were great –thanks for the support ladies!
Smooth travels to Pickwick Landing. We met the very friendly dock attendant Roger, who called to get us a ride to the hotel. Things close early on a Sunday night in Pickwick so we ordered a Hawaiian Pizza to the hotel and tried to catch up on email replies and thank you notes.
Saturday, June 13
Green Turtle Bay Marina Grand Rivers, KY
While the gym facility, walking path, and pool were very impressive at Green Turtle Bay Marina; after a night at the yacht club we were not going to make use of these amenities as Katie and I had planned on the night before. Instead we headed into Grand Rivers on Bill's golf cart to see the town and get some food. Upon arrival we parked and walked in and out of the town's quaint shops and antique stores. Our hunger caused us to make our way into Patty's 1880 Restaurant before they had opened for lunch, so we made our way out back to explore the grounds. We stumbled upon huge meringue pies, Ester the pig, miniature golf, and a wedding set up. After meeting the pig none of us had the nerve to order the restaurant's signature dish --two inch thick pork chops. We ate, returned to the condo to pack, fueled up, and departed for Birdsong.
We passing through the channel into Lake Kentucky, and headed south about 6 miles to meet up with the Ricks and friends to watch the drag races in the cove. We tied to their boat and once again boarded. Katie and I swam in the lake and Jill tested out the boat's hot tub. After a short stay we got back on the Duroboat to continue our journey. We arrived at Birdsong Marina about 5 hours later where Jill's husband Scott, and son Given, were waiting on the dock for her arrival. We all camped overnight at Birdsong. I fell asleep the sound of Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock karaoke at the lively resort pavilion.
June 13, 2009
Green Turtle Bay Marina
I've spent another night with the girls since my last blog, and I must take back two things. 1) My praise of the Hollander's because I thought so highly of their boating skills. It turns out they had run their boat aground earlier in the day, and a guy we met at the yacht club told us all about how he had to go get them and tow them out. And 2) I need to take back what I said about the girls, you know, the "lightweight" part. I used to think that most Southern Gentlemen lived in the Carolinas, but I'm now thinking there are more in Kentucky. Thanks guys!
Friday June 12, 2009
Green Turtle Bay Marina Grand Rivers KY
Gimme somma dat
We untied from Kidd's Fuel Dock in Cape Girardeau at exactly 7am this morning. The Mississippi River has very unforgiving currents, so the first 2 hours of our trip were uncomfortable. There are holes that swirl in large circle and look like they could easily flush us out the other side of China. Even from a good distance away we could feel the pull of these swirls trying to redirect the boat. The Ohio River slowed us down to about 20 mph - this was the first time we've traveled against the flow. Elizabeth and I both checked our gas supply several times throughout the day, but even traveling upstream we made the entire 150 mile day without depleting our standard 18 gallon supply, the extra tank Jill brought with her went untouched.
The Cumberland River was a welcome change - smooth glassy water. So smooth that the white noise from the motor made it difficult to stay alert after such an early morning departure. Jill was already dozing on the front deck, and I was planning on doing the same when we arrived to Green Turtle Bay Marina – Bill-4, Green Turtle Bay's Harbor master, had better plans.
After giving Elizabeth a tour of the facilities and a quick unofficial golf cart driver's ed lesson, Bill-4 left us at the beautifully furnished two story waterfront condo that his sister Vida had arranged for us, and called in a 7pm dinner reservation at the yacht club.
After quick showers, we drove the golf cart across the Green Turtle Bay facilities. I can see why it takes most loopers years to make the trip. Who would want to leave a Marina like this? Green Turtle Bay has condos, several pools, a health club, tennis courts, a restaurant, lots of boat storage, and some really friendly boaters.
We found ourselves at the yacht club taking advice from a second Bill and his friend Jeff. Remember: Bobby's Fish camp is closest to the Mobile Airport, LuLu is Jimmy Buffet's sister and she makes a darn good cheese burger, watch for gators after Pickwick Lake, and eat at Easel's near mile 160 on the Tombigbee.
Green Turtle Bay Marina is in a dry county – an unusual problem for their yacht club bar. The solution is to allow club members to bring their own alcohol and charge them an uncorking fee rather than for the drink itself. There is a wall of lockers in which members can store their bottles until they give it to the bar tender to be served. Thanks to Bill 4, we didn't have to embarrass ourselves by bringing the bar tender an almost empty bottle of wine from the night before.
We missed our original dinner reservation time, but we met Rick.
Rick Leeper is the owner of Kentucky Dam Marina. He is also a fan of good smiles, high check bones, bourbon and soda, and a proud grandfather of a little girl that just learned how to snap her fingers. Rick was on an annual trip with some buddies he knows from the concrete business. The group was vacationing on a Sumerset House boat - a boat that Rick insisted is absolutely worth paying slightly more for.
I would agree. The boat had six bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a living room with a flat paneled TV. After Rick Locke one of Rick Leeper's friends bought our dinner, we headed over to their houseboat for an after dinner drink. One drink turned into three and began a night of IPOD karaoke.
Conversation fluctuated between our boat trip and the karaoke play list. Elizabeth and I have decided to create a Small Boat Big Summer sound track
Today our plan is to drive the golf cart into Grand Rivers, KY (population 400), and check Rick's Kentucky Dam Marina on the way out of town this afternoon.