Sunday, June 25, 2006

I managed to connect to a weak Wi-Fi signal at the marina and hope to be able to use it to post this to our blog site. If you’re reading this, it must have worked! We have now been in Demopolis twelve days and are waiting for our replacement transmission to arrive from New York. We are hoping it will be here by mid-week and installed by next weekend, but that remains to be seen.

Todd has been fishing some each morning in the dinghy, doing all kinds of Mr. Fix-It projects around the boat and reading to pass the time. I have been doing some cooking and reading and helping out with boat projects on occasion. However, the record-breaking heat we have experienced since we got here keeps us inside much of the time.

We have borrowed the courtesy car several times to make trips to Wal-Mart, run errands and go by the library to check out and return movies for our nightly entertainment. The selection is limited, but the only television channel available in Demopolis without cable is Alabama Public Television and I just can’t handle that! In fact, about every other day we go over to the marina restaurant at 5:00 p.m. to watch "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" with some of the locals. It’s one of the most entertaining things we’ve found to do here!

Fred, the manager of the Demopolis Yacht Basin, encouraged us to get off the boat and go use the swimming pool at his house, so we took him up on the offer last Tuesday and enjoyed a few hours poolside. He even let us take his truck since the courtesy car has a two-hour limit. Fred has a nice home a few miles out of town with a really neat Japanese garden in his backyard complete with a bamboo forest, huge boulders and lots of other flowers and greenery that he has obviously invested a lot of time and money into. It was nice to get away, and the water in the pool felt great in the heat of the day.

The people who work at the marina and restaurant have all been really great. We have also met some nice people at the dock. Some are just passing through and some are staying here for a while. A few days ago, a 34-foot Chris Craft pulled in next to us with four men on it. One of the men (Ray) had just bought the boat in Columbus, MS (about 100 miles north of Demopolis) and they were taking the boat back home to Gulfport, MS (about 250 miles south of Demopolis).

Ray was accompanied by his brother-in-law, Dave, Captain John who was captaining the boat for Ray, and another gentlemen, Jack, who was just along for the ride. We started chatting with Ray and Dave Friday afternoon (John and Jack were otherwise occupied), and Ray very generously treated us to dinner that evening at the marina’s restaurant. We stayed there until they closed - Todd even vacuumed the floors! - and then one of the waitresses at the restaurant (Amanda) was kind enough to give us a ride to a local establishment where Amanda, Ray, Dave and Todd played pool and I entertained myself with a trivia video game.

They ran us out at closing time (around 2:15 a.m.), so we came back to the boat to get some sleep. Unfortunately, Ray and Dave were scheduled to leave with John and Jack at 4:00 a.m., so I doubt they got much sleep at all.  We tried to call Ray yesterday to see how he survived what must have been the longest day of his life, but the call went to voice mail and we haven’t heard back from him yet. They were planning to make the entire 250-mile trip to Gulfport in one day, which is quite an undertaking - especially under the circumstances!

There were storms in the vicinity Friday evening that finally cooled things down a bit, and then it stormed here early yesterday afternoon. We got a decent amount of rain and lots of wind, and I was glad we were safely tied up in a slip. It would not have been fun being out on the water during the storm, but they desperately need the rain and we welcomed some relief from the 100-degree heat.

It is warming up again today, but it’s not as hot as it has been. Buddy has had his ups and downs over the past few weeks, but he seems to be doing okay at the moment. He still won’t hardly touch his food but we’re afraid to feed him anything else after the diarrhea episode, so we have been forcing softened pieces of it down his throat to keep his energy up and keep him from starving. Occasionally he will eat a few pieces on his own, but that is the exception rather than the rule. It will be hard when we lose him, but I’m afraid his time is limited.

We met Chuck Bigelow, the owner of the Columbus, MS marina, earlier this week as he was passing through Demopolis on a boat headed to Columbus. He told us they have a great 4th of July fireworks show at his marina, so we hope to make it there by then. Our original plan was to be at Grand Harbor on Pickwick Lake for the 4th of July, but now that is not going to be possible. We’ve heard good things about the Columbus marina, though, and are looking forward to visiting it. Of course, at this point we’re just looking forward to leaving Demopolis (no offense to the great people we’ve met here)!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

June 10, 2006
We left Dog River Marina at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 10th, after pumping out our holding tanks and topping off our water tank. It took us about an hour-and-a-half to get to the north side of Mobile and then we were pretty much back in river territory. We traveled approximately nine hours and covered 75 miles. We only encountered a couple of barges and a few pleasure boaters along the way, but we saw lots of bass fishermen apparently participating in a tournament. As you can imagine, Todd was itching to join them!

Our first anchorage was at Three Rivers Lake which was not very scenic and had "sink-up-to-your-knees" mud along the shore line. Nonetheless, after a long, hot day we were ready to relax and have dinner. Shortly after dinner, we were approached by a couple of "gentlemen" in a small fishing boat. They were running on their trolling motor and said they were out of gas; they wanted to know if we had any we could spare. Todd, being the "never met a stranger" kind of guy he is, immediately went down to help them. I, on the other hand, was keeping a low profile on the sundeck, rehearsing in my mind where the gun was and what I would need to do to prepare it to fire.

I watched anxiously as they chatted with Todd and put gas in their tank, waiting for one of them to pull out a gun or weapon of some kind to "off" Todd so they could board, rob and pillage the boat. My concerns were obviously unwarranted, but I didn’t sleep very well after that for fear of being "revisited" in the night.

There are many beautiful sandbars along the Tombigbee River and we can’t help but think how wonderful it would have been to have boated along here in our twin 250 Sea Rays with Duane and Sue.  Duane loved finding a sandy beach and letting his beloved Brandy (Golden Retriever) run and play. We’re hoping we can find a nice beach to anchor near so that we can enjoy some time on the beach along this stretch of the river.

June 11, 2006
We had a relatively short day today, leaving around 9:30 a.m. and anchoring at 2:30 p.m. Our anchorage once again had "sink-up-to-your-knees" mud but it was nice having a shorter day of cruising as it was very hot and there was little or no breeze. Buddy (our Pomeranian) hasn’t been eating well, partially due to the heat, I’m sure, so we mixed his regular food with some gourmet dog food (similar to Fancy Feast for cats) and he promptly devoured it, picking out the "good" stuff and leaving his regular food. Much to our dismay, he woke up in the middle of the night with a bad case of diarrhea to deal with. Not a pretty site on a boat In addition to that, Todd and I spent most of the night fending off multitudes of mosquitos. Needless to say, it was a restless night!

June 12, 2006
After being awakened again at 6:30 a.m. by Buddy, who was continuing to have diarrhea issues, Todd swam him to shore while I cleaned up the mess from his earlier episode. Thankfully, most of it was on the outside of the boat on the side rails and a little water and scrubbing took care of it. Since we had a long day of cruising and our first lock ahead of us, we pulled up anchor and headed out about 7:30. We encountered three barges in our first five miles and another one a few more miles upriver. After that, there was virtually no boat traffic, pleasure or otherwise.  Buddy, however, was not quite over his bout with diarrhea so I had another mess to clean up in the salon shortly after we departed.

We made it to the Coffeyville lock about 10:00 a.m. and were the only boat locking through. It went relatively well, but we got yelled at by the lockmaster for trying to hold the boat off the sides of the lock rather than letting the fenders protect the boat. However, the way we had boat tied off wasn’t doing a very good job of keeping it off the lock wall, and we didn’t want to lose any fiberglass (or a swim deck) in the process so we continued to do what we could to keep the boat from hitting the wall. We are going to try something different for our next lock, which should be tomorrow, just south of Demopolis, AL.

About noon, we heard a noise and thought maybe we had hit something in the water, even though neither of us saw anything either in front of the boat (before the "thump") or in the wake behind the boat afterward. At any rate, we stopped the engines and Todd went down to have a look. He didn’t see anything amiss, but when we tried to put the starboard engine into gear, the transmission wouldn’t engage - it just made a whining noise in both forward and reverse. So, we continued limping down the river on just the port engine, going about seven miles per hour and making for a very long, hot day, even though we at least had a breeze.

We finally got to our anchorage about 5:00 p.m. and just got situated when a strong but (thankfully) brief thunderstorm passed through. We had an anchor off the bow and were tied to a tree on the shoreline off the stern. When the wind hit us on the starboard side, it pushed our stern into the shore where the boat lodged in the soft mud/sand bottom. Had we been on Table Rock, we would have done some serious damage to the boat; however, after the storm passed, Todd (much to his relief) was able to push the stern around and dislodge it with a little help from the windlass. By this time, we were worn out, so we decided to make an early evening of it and go to bed, hoping for a better day tomorrow.

June 13, 2006
We were up this morning shortly after 6:00 and back on the water by 7:00. We continued limping along on one engine at seven miles per hour toward Demopolis where it appears our savings will be further depleted if our repair bill from Mobile is any indication. Our only remaining engine has a periodic shudder in it - cause unknown - so we are keeping our fingers crossed that it will at least get us to Demopolis. Todd thinks maybe the secondary fuel filters just need to be changed, so that is on his "to do" list while we’re in Demopolis.

We arrived at the Demopolis lock around 12:30 p.m. and tied up where the lockmaster recommended for the least amount of turbulence. We tried a different rope setup than the one we used at our first lock and it worked much better. We got through without incident and arrived at the Demopolis Yacht Basin about 2:00 p.m. where we tied up to the fuel dock and waited for the service people to come talk to us about our transmission problem.

Fred, the owner, came by a short time later and determined that the transmission would have to be pulled and sent to Maryville, TN (near Knoxville) for servicing as they don’t work on transmissions here. Since there wasn’t anything more we could do, and since we hadn’t eaten anything other than a light breakfast while on the move, Todd and I walked up to the restaurant and had an early dinner. We then came back to the boat and went to bed early - again. It had been a long, stressful and hot few days and we were both worn out. Are we having fun yet?

June 14, 2006
Buddy woke us up around 5:30 this morning, still having "poop" issues, so Todd took him out while I unsuccessfully tried to go back to sleep. The mechanics arrived shortly after 8:00, moved our boat off the fuel dock and into a slip and then began the process of removing the transmission. It is possible that the problem may be a relatively minor fix, but we won’t know that until they get it pulled and are able to take a closer look. If anyone would like to make a donation in support of this little endeavor we’ve embarked upon, now might be a good time to do so. Based on our experience thus far, our journey aboard "Life’s2Short" may be short indeed!

June 15, 2006
They got the transmission pulled yesterday and it does not appear that a minor fix is in order, so it is on its way to Maryville. We learned yesterday that the transmissions in this boat are obsolete (go figure!), so if they aren’t able to fix whatever is wrong with it in Maryville, our options are (1) to buy a rebuilt transmission like the one we currently have from a place in Florida for somewhere between $4,000 and $7,000 or (2) to buy a newer type of transmission for around $3,500 plus the parts and labor necessary to adapt it to our engine, which is apparently quite a process.

We were also disappointed to learn that we may have an oil leak in the main seal of the newly rebuilt engine that was done in Florida prior to us taking ownership. After tightening a number of loose bolts on the oil pan that the mechanics (?) seem to have forgotten, we are hoping that the oil leak issue will be fixed; however, we will have to take the boat out for a test run to find out... after we get the transmission back in the other engine!

At any rate, we are likely stuck in Demopolis for at least two weeks with no Internet access at the marina, so our postings will be limited. We are downloading this from the public library and will try to visit again before we leave. Are we having fun yet? According to the Captain: NADA, NOT, NO WAY!

Friday, June 09, 2006

It is now Friday, June 9th, and we are still in Mobile, but it looks like we will head north in the morning. We took the boat out for a brief trial run this afternoon and are back at the fuel dock this afternoon for our final evening at Dog River Marina. The people here really are great, and we sincerely appreciate all they have done for us.

After several days' delay, we got our Cingular AirCard on Wednesday, but when I tried to install it I discovered (with the assistance of Cingular's Customer Support) that it won't work in our new laptop because our card slot (Dell's "latest and greatest" technology) is not compatible with what Cingular offers. So, we returned the card and will now be without Internet access unless we're in an area where we can access free Wi-Fi or at a marina that offers Wi-Fi as part of it's dockage fee.

At any rate, our posting opportunities will be limited, at best, afer we leave here until we can resolve the problem with the AirCard. Looks like we'll have to purchase another laptop that has the type of card slot we need before we'll have any kind of regular access, and I have no idea how soon that may be.

We denamed and christened (renamed) the boat this evening in accordance with a ceremony on the "Commander Bob" web site, so the Gods of the wind and the sea should be with us as we begin our journey north. We plan to leave early in the morning and hope to make some good progress up the Tenn-Tom before spending our first night on the hook since we brought the boat to Mobile more than a month ago.

Since we won't have Internet access, please don't expect a prompt response to any e-mails you send, but rest assured that we will respond as soon as we are able to do so. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers are we begin our journey aboard "Life's2Short."

Monday, June 05, 2006

Todd and I are now officially unemployed and homeless, so to speak! We arrived in Mobile on May 31st after spending a few days with Todd's family at Prizer Point on Kentucky's Lake Barkley. We left Springfield the afternoon of May 25th and went to my parents house (about 80 miles east) to spend the night. We made it to Prizer Point Friday evening and spent a few days relaxing before making the 10-hour drive to Mobile to begin our new lives. It was great meeting and getting to know Kim & Mark Dewey and spending some time with Roger & Dixie Olsen, all long-time Lanning family friends.

Since arriving, we have been working diligently unloading, unpacking, organizing and cleaning - what an ordeal! - but we're getting close. Todd changed the oil in the engines yesterday and we are waiting on a voltage regulator for the generator which is due to arrive later this morning; however, there are still a few loose ends that will likely keep us at the marina until Wednesday morning, which is okay since we both still have plenty to do while we're tied up here.

Speaking of the marina, the people at Dog River Marina are great! They have all been very friendly and helpful and we certainly appreciate their assistance and hospitality. The realization that this is now our life, that we have no jobs (and no income!), no house, no permanent home base and that we are living on a boat, has not quite registered with us yet. It still seems as though we are on vacation and will be going back to our "normal" lives soon. I suspect it will take several weeks, possibly even months, before we accept this as the norm.

This has been a whirlwind process that began with making an offer on the boat in mid-February, announcing our resignations and beginning the liquidation process in mid-March, and leaving our "home" in the rear view mirror on May 25th with a 4' x 8' U-Haul trailer in tow. It's been a hectic 3-1/2 months for us, but we are ready to begin the 400+ mile journey north on the Tennessee River/Tombigbee Waterway to Bay Springs Lake where we plan to spend some quality time enjoying the beautiful water and sandy shoreline. With any luck, Todd will catch some fresh fish to eat while we're there!