Despite our best attempts, we can’t seem to update the blog posts as fast as we want to. It is really hard when we are moving the boat every day and it takes a lot to get all the pictures and writing done. But we will keep trying.
We have had a lot of fun meeting new Loopers and connecting with ones we have not seen since the start of our journey. What stores and experiences we all share. Here are some of the adventures we have been up:
Monday (10/19) – Columbus Marina – Columbus, MS – We were able to secure the loaner car from the Marina to take Mark to the airport to fly to his client site in SC. On the way back to the marina, Denise discovered an Ulta store and stopped in for a new hair blower. Her current one had been on the fritz for a while and she wanted one similar to it, but not the same model. She found what she was looking for pretty fast and got back to the marina on time for other Loopers to use the car.
The rest of the day for Denise was spent cataloging pictures, working on the last blog and doing some work. She hunkered down and stayed on the boat the entire day, barely talking to anyone in the marina. A few new Loopers came in, but all were on the main docks and a bit of a distance. Our slip in this marina is in the next to the last row of docks and is quite a hike to the marina office, showers and ships store. Therefore, it was easy to hang out and not be interrupted or bothered by anyone and get a big part of this done. This was a nice reprieve for a day and afforded some needed quiet time.
Meanwhile Mark traveled to Columbia, SC where an old client needed him to do some work. He had the luxury of a nice hotel bathroom and shower for the next two days.
Tuesday (10/20) – Columbus Marina – Columbus, MS – It was really cold this morning and didn’t warm up to the mid-50s until mid-morning. Denise used this time to go for a run at the park that overlooks the Stennis lock less than a mile from the marina. We will go through this lock tomorrow immediately when we leave Columbus marina.
Here are some pictures of the area around Columbus Marina:
Again today was mostly a work day, but as Looper friends started to arrive in mid-afternoon, Denise was able to catch up with them and hear about the AGLCA rendezvous. Included in the group were boats “Tika”, “Endoxi”, “Sassified”, “Divali” and “Act III”. We all got together for docktails that evening until the sun started to go down and the bugs started to come out.
Later the folks from “TiKa”, “Endoxi”, “Sassified” and Denise all went to dinner. As the loaner car had already been spoken for, we were given the keys to the pickup truck owned by the General Manager of the Marina (“T”). So we crammed all 8 of us into the two rows of seats in the cab and drove the 5 miles into downtown Columbus to eat at “Hucks”. This is a local restaurant that offered good food at a reasonable price, that we both have eaten at when visiting our client in Columbus. It was unfortunate that Mark was not with us to enjoy the experience.
Wednesday (10/21) – Sumter Recreation Area, – Aliceville, AL – In the morning, Denise was up and out the door to use the marina loaner car for a quick run to Walmart to buy paper products and salad fixings for the evening dinner. She was back in a flash and then cleaned the interior of the boat and shortly thereafter Mark arrived from his morning flight back into Columbus.
When Mark phoned to say his plane had landed and he was in route to the marina, Denise checked with “T” about our planned departure as he stays in contact with the Stennis Lockmaster. He had advised that a boat was just entering the lock and it would be an hour before they locked him down and turned the lock for us. This meant we would not leave before noon.
When Mark arrived back to the boat we put on the radio and heard a tow that was still several miles out calling for a lock opening. Immediately afterwards we called the lock and asked if we could get in with or before the tow. The Lockmaster advised us he could get us in if we got there in 5 minutes. So we made a mad dash to untie the dock lines & electric cords, and get out of the marina and up to the lock. Fortunately, we made it in time and the doors closed behind us locking us down all by ourselves.
This set us up well as we knew we had 56 miles to cruise on the river to get to our planned anchoring destination for the night. Earlier in the day our friends on “TiKa”, “Endoxi”, and “Sassified” had all left and we were planning to join them if we could, however, they had a 4-hour head start. Even with our go-fast boat, it would be a push to get there before dark. It all depended on getting through the next lock.
The water on this part of the Tenn-Tom is not nearly as pretty as the Tennessee River, but we still got to see some interesting sights along the way. We were particularly thrilled when we went under the US82 Bridge; when visiting our client here we used to state “someday we are going to take our boat under this bridge”. Well today was the day!
We were also thrilled to enter the state of Alabama; our 17th and final state before returning back to The Sunshine State in a few weeks.
After passing several other pleasure craft (two of whom were Loopers we did not know), we arrived at the Bevill Lock and had to wait 30 minutes before we were let in. It is a quick lock down, so in no-time we were on our way.
Here are some of the other things we saw along the way:
We arrived at Sumter Recreation Area (state park) with the intention of anchoring. However, we ended up rafting to “TiKa” as “Endoxi” and “Sassified” were rafted together not far from us. This enabled us to easily get together for socializing without having to put our dinghy in the water.
Tim and Karen had us all aboard for “rafttails” (it is really not docktails if you are not at a dock). We were divided up with the guys on the top deck and the gals in the stern cockpit; it felt like high school all over again. We had a great time and enjoyed getting to know our newer Looper friends, as well as time with Tim, Karen & Mark-the younger. We stayed as late as we dared, but finally went back to our boat for steaks on the grill and a salad. Of course TiKa is our good friends and Pam & Pete (“Endoxi”) and Rodney & Sherri (“Sassified”) whom we met at Green Turtle Bay are now our new friends.
Thursday (10/22) – Demopolis, AL– The Sumter anchorage was 3 miles north of the only lock (Howell-Heflin) we had to go through today. So our plan was to call the lock at 7:30 and then report back to the other Loopers about our opportunity for a lockdown. Denise called and was told that we would need to be there in 45 minutes. So at the appropriate time we pulled our anchors and headed to the lock 3 miles away. When we got there we were able to go in, but we had to wait tied up in the lock for 30 minutes for some other down-bound pleasure crafts. Once they arrived and were securely tied up, we were locked down in 10 minutes. As this was our only lock of the day, we were then able to take off and cruise at our usual 15 – 18 kts, slowing only for the fishing boats that were along the shores.
The cruise down the river was somewhat boring, but there were a few areas with interesting and beautiful sights. We passed by the white rock cliffs of Epes, several homes and RV parks, an environmentally friendly power plant and then some more cliffs about 10 miles from Demopolis. It really is amazing how the terrain changes from very hilly to flat land, to cliffs, and then back to flat.
Here are some pictures from the journey:
We arrived at the Demopolis Yacht Basin and first filled the boat with diesel fuel, then got a pump-out. While we were awaiting for the dockhand to assist us, the tug part of a tow we had passed earlier came in for his diesel fill. We took on 150 gallons, he took on 20,000 gallons! Mark went over and talked to the Captain as he had been kind enough to let 7 of us boats into the lock ahead of him earlier; something he did not have to do. It was a very nice gesture and indicative of southern hospitality; something we have missed for the last 6 months!
We were assigned our slip at Kingfisher Marina (Demopolis is now only fuel) and settled in by 2:00. Within the hour our friends on “TiKa”, “Endoxi”, and “Sassified all showed up and put in near us.
This marina is fairly new and is very nice for transients. It has lots of slips, some covered and some not covered. It has a terrific laundry facility that has a flat panel TV in it and adjacent showers and rest rooms which are really nice and clean. Above the laundry facility is a deck that has tables and chairs; perfect for Looper pot-lucks or docktails.
The marina also has golf carts that you can use to drive around the complex (pool area, other docks, etc.) and is what you really need to use to get to the Demopolis marina office and fuel dock as it is almost ½ mile away. Fortunately the marina also has a loaner car that can be signed out in 2-hr increments. Of course this is what is needed to get anywhere in the town of Demopolis which is too far away from the marina to walk.
In the late afternoon, all of us on the 4 boats got together as a group and had docktails on the back of Island Office.
Rodney & Sherri (“Sassified”) had signed out the Loaner car and we all went to dinner at a local place called “The Red Barn” (no affiliation with the one in Graton Beach, FL) that was about 5 miles from the marina. Since there were now 9 of us, we could not all fit in one trip, so Mark agreed to be the DD and did the 10-minute trip to and from the restaurant, and then repeated it after dinner. Then Mark- the younger got the golf cart to follow him to return the loaner back to the marina office/fuel dock, and then come back to the boat slips. This kind of reminded us of the logistics nightmare in Grand Harbor, but it was much shorter distances. However, it was all good and Mark got have a dinner favorite – southern fried chicken – and he tore it up!
During dinner the discussion turned to how long we were all staying. Our original plan was to stay here only one night, TiKa was planning to stay either 2 or 4 nights, and the other two boats through the weekend. But a little peer pressure ensued and since we had an extra day in the schedule before we had to be in Mobile, we relented and decided we would stay one more day. This also gave Mark a work day in port to handle some client items and Denise a chance to get a run in before two or three very long days with anchorages and no running areas.
Other pictures of the marina:
Friday (10/23) – Demopolis, AL – This was a pretty unexciting day. Denise ran in the morning to the downtown of Demopolis and back and was happy to be able to do so. Mark worked for most of the morning while Denise started on this blog post. There was a little pow-wow with “TiKa” and the other two boats; the weather is going to get ugly next week, and no one wants to be on the water especially on Mobile Bay. Collectively we all decided to leave together in the morning and go fast (20 Kts) to get to Mobile by Sunday night or Monday morning. We also made plans for docktails and dinner together again, and secured the loaner car for another night of 2 trips back and forth to the restaurant.
In the afternoon there were boat chores to do and planning for our departure in the morning. “TiKa” had a rental car and used it to go to the store, while “Endoxi” and “Sassified” took their boats and topped off their fuel for the trek to Mobile. We had all agreed we were going to go fast in the next two days, and that meant we would burn some fuel.
Later we gathered on the upstairs patio at the marina for docktails and were joined by Jeff & Susan (“Act III”), who came in earlier in the day. Between “TiKa’s” rental car and the marina loaner car we all were able to go to dinner at a newly opened restaurant called “The Bistro”. The owner (Mike) is also the Mayor of Demopolis; a town with a population of about 7,500.
The menu was limited, but the food was good and our waitress (Natasha) had a very good sense of humor. The restaurant is on the second floor of an old office building and the dining area is spread across several of the rooms, with the hall being used as the “bar” area. In one of the small rooms there was live entertainment with a 2-piece ensemble. However, the room was small and crowded so we were not able to fit in our whole group, otherwise we may have stayed for a set or two. The restaurant had filled up and it was good to see a new place be patronized so well.
It was just as well as “TiKa” had to return their rental car. So once we were all dropped off at the marina, Mark followed Tim to Enterprise and Rodney met them at the marina office with the golf cart so they could drop the loaner there; another successful coordination of logistics.
Other pictures from Demopolis are as follows:
Saturday (10/24) – Anchorage – Three Rivers Lake, AL – At 6:30 am Denise called the Lockmaster at Demopolis Lock (3 miles down the waterway) and confirmed that there were no tows in or waiting on the lock. So six Looper boats all left the Kingfisher marina and locked together with another local boat. We were so happy to have this lock behind us as we had a plan to go all the ways to Bobby’s Fish Camp, some 95 miles down the river.
Along the way, there were a few tow boats to pass and some small fishing boats that we had to slow down for, but we still made pretty good time.
Shortly after lunch we were approaching Bobby’s and made a decision to press on to an anchorage that had been identified earlier as a possible stop for us on Sunday night. There was one other possibility to anchor further up the river should we not make it to this one. But all of this would be dictated by how long we had to wait for the Coffeeville Lock which was just past Bobby’s. We slowed our speed heading to the lock to enable “Endoxi” and “Sassified” to take on more fuel at Bobby’s.
Then once we got to the lock we had to wait about 30 minutes for it to open; just enough time for “Endoxi” and “Sassified” to catch up to us. We all went through without issue and we celebrated with “TiKa” as this would be the very last lock for both of us! YEAH!!!
After leaving the lock, we continued cruising until we came to the targeted anchorage at “Three Rivers Lake”. The entrance to the anchorage was like the Disney Jungle Cruise; we had to pass through a very narrow channel that eventually emptied onto a small lake. There were already two Looper boats anchored ahead of us, but plenty of room for the four of us to anchor and dual-raft together for the night. It was just after 5 pm when we settled our boats, making for a very long day. We cruised 134 nm today; our longest single-day distance on The Loop.
After celebrating our journey aboard “TiKa” for cocktails, we ate aboard our own boats and called it a day. The entire anchorage was quiet by 8:30 pm and we had a beautiful sky of stars to look at.
Other sites from today on the water:
Sunday (10/25) – Mobile, AL – We were up early and under way by 7:00 as we were all anxious to get to Mobile before the remnants of pacific hurricane “Patricia” hit the bay. It was already overcast and the wind picked up along the way.
We passed under the Dolly Parton Bridge and eventually into the Port and downtown Mobile. This is a very active port with lots of tows, container ships and military vessels, including the new hi-tech stealthy ships built by Austal.
By the time we passed through the port of Mobile and into the bay it was a bit choppy and not a fun ride. Fortunately, the journey to Dog River was short and we were tied up to the Dog River Marina by early afternoon, logging another 68 miles.
There were several other Looper boats that were in the marina, including Anne & Jeff (“Harvest Moon”), with whom we had fun with in Nashville and anchored with in the IL and MS rivers. We had them over for drinks before dinner to get caught up and to hear about the rest of their travels down the Tenn-Tom waterway. We also ran into Vicki Stapleton (“Patriot”) our friends we met in Norfolk who completed their Loop and are now home in Mobile. They recommended this marina/boatyard for the work we wanted to have done.
Eventually, the rain began but it did not keep us from going to dinner with “TiKa”, “Endoxi”, and “Sassified”. We borrowed the loaner car and went to the other side of the river to the Grand Mariner Marina and Restaurant and had a delicious meal of very fresh seafood.
When we came back to the marina, the water level was rising and all the cars were moved from the parking lot near the docks to higher ground near the office. The moon was rising to full status and high tide was not until near midnight. We had no idea what we were in for.
Monday (10/26) – Mobile, AL – It rained all night long and the wind was really blowing. When we awoke in the early morning we realized the power to the boat had been cut off a little earlier. Come to find out the marina had prophylactically cut the power as it the water had risen and was near the top of the dock and they didn’t want it to short out. Fortunately we had battery and generator to keep us comfortable, but it would have been nice to be told in advance that this was going to happen.
During the day it continued to rain and the wind continued to blow from the East, pushing all the water from Mobile Bay into the Dog River. The marina was flooded and the docks were under water for almost the whole day. We watched large logs and pieces of debris float down the river, and prayed they didn’t foul our prop or hit our hull. Everyone hunkered down and didn’t go anywhere (not that we could) and the boatyard/marina was closed – meaning no work would be done on our boat. It would not have been that bad, except the WiFi at this marina stinks so we were not able to stream any movies. Add to this the fact that there is no cable TV on the docks and the aerial antennae could only pick up 5 stations, so we were kind of bored. Denise worked on cataloging pictures and writing the blog while Mark did what work he could. This was the first day in a long time that we also got to take naps!
In the late afternoon the rain subsided some and we got out and walked around, sloshing down the dock. We removed a 12’ plank that had washed itself between our boat and the dock, and we adjusted our fenders & dock lines. Island Office now sat way above the dock and there was a big step down now to get on the dock; even from the swim platform.
Since, there was nowhere to go as the whole parking lot and drive up to the street was totally flooded, we got back on the boat for the rest of the day. It was a good thing we had leftovers in the freezer as that is what we had for dinner.
Tuesday (10/27) – Mobile, AL – The morning brought a reprieve from the rain and high water, which receded with the low tide and we were now able to move off the boat again. We checked in with all our Looper friends and was hopeful that today they would haul our boat for the detail work and maintenance items we had planned to have done. However, it was cleanup day in the marina and the boatyard people were not coming in.
We had previously decided to get a rental car from Avis where we had 3 free days that were going to expire. So, we used the marina loaner car to go to the airport with Tim & Karen (“TiKa”) to go get some lunch, then get our rental, and then they used the loaner car the rest of the afternoon. We used the rental car to go to Costco and to Publix (where shopping really is a pleasure) for some boat provisions.
In the evening a large group of us decided to go out to Benjas, a Thai restaurant that was about 8 miles away that had received good reviews. It took 3 cars to get all 11 of us to the restaurant and we were the only customers in the place. However, the food was good, the service great, the company was outstanding, and so no one cared. We all laughed and had a good time with all our Looper friends.
Wednesday (10/28) – Mobile, AL – In the morning there was lots of activity in the marina and the boatyard was back in action. The first thing we did was go to the boatyard office to see when they would start working on our boat. While waiting for Linda (the scheduler) to arrive we met Sonny, the owner and talked with him a bit. Shortly thereafter Linda arrived and told us she would check on the schedule and let us know. The work we had scheduled included a wash & wax of the hull, replacing zincs on the shaft and thrusters, installing an inline water connection, and touch-up painting of the bottom at the waterline level only. Most of this was “preventative” in nature to protect from the salt water we were now back cruising in.
In the meantime we watched “Endoxi” get a haul-out to confirm that in fact they had damaged two of their props when they hit a log coming out of Mobile Port. Now they had to get that repair scheduled before they could move on.
We went back to our boat to wait for word from Linda when several dockhands showed up to tell us that they were ready for the haul out. So we untied from the dock, moved the boat to the sling and watched them haul Island Office out of the water and put her “on the hard” in an enclosed hanger.
Knowing there was nothing we could do while they worked on the boat, Denise used the rental car to go to a local laundromat and get the laundry done. The marina laundry consisted of a single washer and dryer, and the pump to support the entire facility was knocked out of order from the flood. So, it was easier and faster to go where multiple washers and dryers could be used. Mark stayed on the boat to oversee the work.
When Denise returned, it was obvious that staying on the boat for the next several days was not going to be an easy thing to do. To get on and off, there was a 10 foot climb up a latter and any water from the boat had nowhere to go without rigging a hose-to-bucket drainage for the sinks, showers, etc. So we rented a hotel room at a Hilton Garden Inn for the next two nights so we could sleep and shower in comfort.
We had been invited to dine with TiKa aboard their boat for the evening, as a final meal together (they were leaving in the morning) and to watch the GOP Debate – they have satellite TV aboard. We offered to bring the salmon so it was back to Costco to get it and then back to the marina to drop it off at TiKa. While there we checked on the progress of the boat and learned “Endoxi” would be waiting on new props to be delivered and installed; they would be here through Friday. There was not enough time to check into the hotel and make it back for dinner, so we hung out at the marina visiting with Loopers, then headed to TiKa for a terrific meal. We stayed and watched most of the debate, then headed to the hotel for check-in and a good night’s rest.
Thursday (10/29) – Mobile, AL – We wasted no time getting over to the marina in the morning to see about their work for the day. Although they made progress yesterday, it seems like no one works past 3:30 in the boatyard, even though they lost two days this week due to the storm.
We answered some of their questions and talked with some of the other Loopers in the marina before leaving for a few errands, lunch and a pedicure for Denise. We also made dinner plans with Pam & Pete (“Endoxi”), and Sharri & Rodney (“Sassified”) to go to Wintzell’s Oyster House for dinner later that evening. Then we headed back to the hotel for a few hours of working with a good internet connection in a quiet environment.
Leading up to this week we had been in touch with our niece Marie who attends Spring Hill College in Mobile. She had been away traveling, but got back into town, so we made plans for her to join us for dinner, which she did. It was great to see her and we all enjoyed a fine meal at one of Mobile’s most famous restaurants.
Friday (10/30) – Mobile, AL – Today was a day we were hoping to leave Mobile. We had been in touch with our insurance company for our FL-Bahamas and to make sure we were covered if we went further south before 11/2. We received our amended coverage in the morning, so there was nothing keeping us from leaving Mobile…..except the boat was not ready.
After checking out of the hotel we went to the marina to check on the progress. The team was working hard to get the job done, but it still had a ways to go. We watched “Endoxi” have their new props installed and said good bye to them and “Sassified” as they were heading out.
Since we were not leaving with them, we used that time to borrow the marina loaner car and return our Avis rental back to the airport, which was all the way across town. When we returned to the marina they were still working on our boat. It would be 3:30 before they put it back in the water, and into a new slip. Unfortunately, they still had some work to do and never finished until well after 5:00. Needless to say this meant we were not going to be able to leave Mobile, but at least we were able to stay back on our floating home.
While waiting for the boat to be completed, Denise walked the docks and discovered several other Looper boats had come in. Included in the group were Pam & Mark on “Sea Bear”, whom we first met in Deltaville, VA, and had not seen since April. We saw their boat in Brewerton, NY in June, but they had left for a trip back home. They had just finished their Loop (i.e. crossed their wake) from this very marina on this very day, so a celebration was in order. Denise called Mark to come down to their boat and we ended up talking with them for several hours. We got back to our boat and had no plans for dinner. So we were grateful for leftovers in the freezer that could be ready in 15 minutes.
In the evening we reviewed the weather forecast and made plans to leave early in the morning, but only if the waves were calm in Mobile Bay. It appeared that we would have a window in the morning before the wind kicked up the seas and we wanted to be able to take advantage of it.
Saturday (10/31 – Halloween) – Mobile, AL – Denise was up at 5:30 to look at the weather and it did not look good to leave. For several hours we debated, looked at several sights and decided to stay put. We are in no hurry to get anywhere, so we don’t need to get beat up crossing the bay. The problem is that we knew the weather would be bad for at least two days and if we stayed it meant staying through Sunday as well.
Given the decision was made to stay, we then tried to reconnect with Marie to see her school and her dorm. We borrowed the loaner car and drove to Spring Hill College where we got to tour the campus. Here are some pictures of the campus:
Unfortunately, we were unable to connect with Marie as it was a very big weekend for her, so we went on to Shoe Station, grabbed some lunch and then back to the boat. About this time it started to rain again.
We made plans for dinner at the Mobile Yacht Club located adjacent to the Dog River Marina. They serve dinner on select nights and even though they are a members-only club, they allow guests of Dog River to dine there. We were joined by Mark & Pam (“Sea Bear”) and had a chance to talk about their post-Looping plans and moving back to the Sonoma, CA area where they are from. They will have their boat trucked back out to San Francisco in the coming weeks, but they are leaving here on Monday to make the trek home. We made a promise to look them up the next time we get out to Sonoma Valley or the Bay area.
While we were at dinner the pouring rain began. When we walked to dinner we knew this was a possibility and brought our umbrella. But the amount of rain coming down made this a worthless tool as we would have gotten drenched anyway. Mark was able to get a local from the yacht club who was also finishing dinner at the same time to give us a lift back to the marina and we were spared the waddling through mud & puddles of this area.
This was not an ordinary Halloween and we missed seeing trick-or-treaters at our Winter Park home.
Sunday (11/1) – Mobile, AL – The rain that started last night continued all night long. We were fearful of flooding again, but fortunately there was not the heavy east wind and high tide of last week to flood the docks.
Yesterday we had reserved the marina loaner car so we could go to 8:00 am mass at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, leaving a note on the reservation that anyone who wanted to come could join us. We had been contacted by the folks on “Odyssey” they would like to go, so we started the day meeting new Loopers and going to mass together.
By the time we got back to the boat the wind was picking up again. We had considered leaving even if it was raining, as long as the waves were not that bad. Unfortunately the buoy and NOAA weather reports were not favorable so we hunkered down for another day of staying on the boat.
All day long and into the evening it poured with few moments of relief from the constant rain. We watched NFL football on the one network TV channel we could get (CBS), while working on emails, cataloging pictures, and updating this blog post. We ate leftovers for dinner and didn’t move from the boat except for a short walk up the dock just before dinner.
Later in the evening, the rain stopped, but more is forecasted throughout the night. With a little luck tomorrow it should break by noon, and then we will head across the bay and make it to Orange Beach.
Stay tuned for more adventures!