Monday, July 31, 2006

Well, we are making progress, albeit slowly! We arrived at the Columbus Marina in Columbus, MS on Tuesday afternoon of last week and left Thursday morning. We only traveled about 30 miles and went through one lock before finding a nice anchorage with a sandy beach just off the main waterway where we spent three nights enjoying some cooler weather and refreshingly cool water.

Since there are six locks in the remaining 46 miles to Bay Springs Lake, we decided to split it up into two days. If it was just the mileage, it would be easy to make the trip in one day, but the locks can really slow you down, especially if you have to wait an hour or two for a barge to lock through ahead of you. Even though we've had good luck with the locks so far, three locks in one day is more than enough for me!

We went 28 miles and through three locks yesterday and are currently at Midway Marina in Fulton, MS; we will go the remaining 18 miles and three locks today. The final lock before entering Bay Springs Lake is an 84-foot lift whereas all of the other locks have been about a 27-foot lift. I can't imagine how intimidating that's going to be!

We have our new Cingular wireless data card to access the Internet/e-mail while we're on the move, but it has been painfully slow and unreliable when we're on the water, even with a good cell signal, so we may not be able to update the blog again until we're at a marina with wi-fi access and I'm not sure when that's going to be. Or, maybe we'll get lucky and the Cingular card will actually work like it's supposed to! At any rate, stay tuned and we'll try to get some more pictures posted with the next update.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude

It's amazing what a little change in scenery can do to help one's outlook on being a boat owner.  We finally got out of Demopolis this past Saturday morning and had a trouble-free cruise up the river where we found our very own island with a small sandy beach.

It ended up being such a welcome & needed event that we opted to stay there for three nights! I did some fishing and exploring in the dinghy each day and we both spent time reading and hanging out on our sandy point with quite a few cervezas ;-) The water at our island oasis was as clear as we had seen it since leaving Mobile so we also spent time swimming and keeping the Bud-Man wet.

Speaking of Buddy, he is now totally blind & deaf but still full of himself; however, his little head must hurt as he continues to “bump” his way around his new home! He's doing okay, though, and will hopefully be with us a while longer.

After leaving our island paradise early yesterday morning we continued north about 60 miles to our current location which is the Columbus Marina in Columbus, MS. We passed under a railroad bridge before our first lock just as a train was going over.

The next photo shows the Admiral as we were finishing locking through.

There are twelve locks between Mobile and Bay Springs Lake, and they are always an adventure in patience & strength. At the first lock of the day, Tom Bevill, there is a visitor center so we tied up and played tourist for a few hours touring the Snagboat “Montgomery” (see left side of photo below - our boat is on the right in the background) and the visitor center.

Here is a photo of the Captain at the helm of the Snagboat.

 After pulling away from the visitor center dock we continued to head north to the marina at Columbus, arriving about 4:30 p.m. This is a nice marina that treated me to a beautiful sunrise this morning, although the photo was too dark to post.

Well, I guess it’s time to go start the Admiral’s coffee as I expect sleeping beauty will be rolling out of bed any time (the Admiral doesn't enjoy getting up at 4:30 a.m!). We know there are a bunch of you reading this blog, please let us know if you have any questions.......or want to come for a visit as we are still waiting for our first guests.......not that anyone was excited about a visit to Demopolis, AL!

By the way, if you send us a blog comment, please include your e-mail address if we don't already have it since we can't respond to a blog comment directly. We love receiving your comments, though! We have 77 miles and seven more locks (ugh!) before we make it to Bay Springs Lake where we hope to spend a week just enjoying the boating experience. Wish us luck and keep in touch! Cap’n T & Admiral B

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Since we haven't posted any photos for a while, we thought you might enjoy seeing a few. The first photo was taken last Thursday after we unsuccessfully attempted to leave Demopolis. Fred, the marina owner, had the boat hauled out so they could look at the drive shaft and try to figure out why the stuffing box was overheating. It's pretty amazing watching a 30,000-pound boat, and our home, get lifted up out of the water.....don't try this at home!

The next picture shows the Admiral scraping barnacles off the drive shaft - it's important to keep those barnacles off your bottom & shaft!

And the final picture shows Buddy sleeping off a hangover after getting a little too juiced; he too is tired of the heat & maintenance issues!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

It’s time for a different "poster-child" to write this edition of our blog, the Admiral has had enough "boating fun" so the Captain has volunteered to assume the duty this time.

Where do I begin? Let’s start with my birthday; thanks to those of you who sent cards & emails, for those of you who did not I’m still accepting gifts......preferably cash! :-) We went up to our favorite hangout, the New Orleans Bar & Grill here in the marina, to celebrate my 1st birthday as a live aboard. It was a pretty mellow event but the beer was cold, the food was good, the company was fun, and "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" continued to be on the tube.

During happy hour (one of the few times we have been happy lately) I was invited to play golf the following day at the local course, it ended up being a great break from all that was happening with Lifes2Short. I actually hit the ball pretty good for not picking up the sticks for more than 4 years, I managed to keep my score under a hundred but only by 3 shots.

After returning from golf the marina owner, Fred, stopped by the boat and wanted us to come back over to his house on Wednesday for a "farewell dinner & swim", he promised to lift the curse of "Fred’s Triangle" and supply us with good mojo so we could get away on Thursday. "Fred’s Triangle" is a local phenomenon; like the Bermuda Triangle, once you get in you can’t get out!

After a swim & a nice dinner of the Admiral’s BBQ’d shrimp & veggie kabob’s Fred lifted the curse and we were ready to leave on Thursday, one month to the day of our arrival in Demopolis. I got the Admiral up early so we could get underway before the heat of the day, we cast off the lines and were on our way before 7:00 a.m. By 9:00 a.m. we were back in the marina and wondering what ever possessed us to take on this new lifestyle.

Without getting too technical the issue was that the seal that keeps the water from coming in from the drive-shaft (the stuffing box) was overheating. Fortunately we had only gone 4 miles when I decided to do a temperature check on this piece of equipment and noticed that the stuffing box was up to 195 degrees, it should run about 95 degrees depending on the water temperature of the river. So back we limped to the marina, visions of a month ago, for round II of "Fred’s Triangle".

This time they actually hauled the boat out, all 15 tons of it, so we could fix the issue......which we did the same day. I keep telling the Admiral "everything happens for a reason", even though she is VERY tired of hearing this, and the reason for this new problem was so I could see the bottom of Lifes2Short which I had not had the chance to see yet.

The bottom looked good, almost as good as the Admiral’s bottom! The Admiral got her first chance at scraping the barnacles off the bottom of the boat while I replaced some zincs on the shafts & bow-thruster. After doing these few items and fixing the stuffing box issue we put her back in the water and idled back over to slip number B-15, which has become our local address.

We have decided that we will spend another week here because we have had a nagging oil leak in our port engine ever since we left FL and we figure we might as well take care of that item too. I have ordered the oil pan gasket and expect it here early next week, perhaps we will get out of the triangle by next weekend?? I guess the positive in all this is that I have really learned a bunch about the systems on this "money-pit" so in the future I "should" be able to take care of these items.......I say "should"!

There are also some other positive items that have come out of our misadventures; the next few days are supposed to be 97 degrees and it’s great to have AC here in the marina (Buddy is really enjoying the cool cabin), we continue to meet some wonderful folks and hear about their adventures, and we have another date to go over to Fred’s house on Sunday afternoon for more BBQ & swimming! Hell who knows, we might just stay here and forget about the trip?

Actually I have been offered 2 jobs while I have been here; one job is working for the marina and the other job is filling in for one of the waitresses/bartenders over at the New Orleans Bar & Grill while she is out on maternity leave! At any rate that’s where we are for now, still in Demopolis and still waiting to head north. We enjoy getting the emails from those of you who are keeping abreast of our adventures, so keep them coming. Cap’n T.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

As we mentioned previously, we have met many nice people at the marina. About two weeks ago, a couple pulled into the slip next to us in a 26-foot sailboat and in talking with them we learned they are from Willard, MO of all places! Pat and Karl live on their sailboat and travel to and from Willard periodically to spend time on their farm. They were big Lady Bears fans in the days of Melody Howard, and we spent a couple of evenings enjoying their company before they headed north toward Green Turtle Bay on the Cumberland River.

A few days later another Missouri couple arrived at the marina to do some maintenance on their boat. They are from St. Louis, their daughter went to SMSU in the 80's, and they shared stories of the fun times they have had wintering in south Florida and the Bahamas. Something to look forward to!

Our new transmission arrived at the marina on June 26th and they began installing it the next day. However, because it wasn’t the same kind of transmission as the one we were replacing, the installation process was a bit more involved than it otherwise would have been. When we saw that the transmission was not going to be finished in time to make it to the marina in Columbus MS for the 4th of July, we decided to rent a car and drive back to Missouri to surprise my mother for her 70th birthday (which was on July 4th).

We weren’t able to get a rental in Demopolis, so one of the marina workers offered to take us to Meridian, MS Saturday morning, July 1st, to pick up a car, about 50 miles west of Demopolis. The trip back to Missouri took us through parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas on the 650+ mile journey which ended about 8:00 p.m. Saturday evening at Lake of the Ozarks, but it was a good trip and a pleasant change of scenery for us.

Mom and I had a good time shopping the thrift stores in Camdenton, and Todd spent quite a bit of time bass fishing and he even went catfishing with my dad a few times. However Todd made the mistake one morning while bass fishing of taking a bathroom break on shore and he got into the chiggers, so now his mid-section is covered with dozens of nasty-looking bright red welts! He keeps trying to get me to scratch them for him, but as you can imagine I’m not too excited at the prospect - I think he has ulterior motives in mind when he says he wants me to "scratch his itch!"

The lawyer who lives across the lake from my parents’ cabin spends about $5,000 every year on fireworks and puts on a really nice show that we were able to watch from my dad’s boat dock. Usually a lot of boats gather to watch the show from the water, but since July 4th was on a Tuesday, there were only 50 or so that made it this year. It was a good time, though, and mom even made homemade black walnut ice cream for us!

We left Lake of the Ozarks around noon on Wednesday, July 5th, and split the return trip into two days, stopping over in Tunica, MS for the night where the slots did not treat us kindly! We stayed at the Grand Casino, which does not allow pets, so we had to smuggle the Bud-Man into the hotel in our carry-on bag which made for some tense moments since he was whimpering and whining and would bark when we tried to make him be quiet! Fortunately we had the elevator to ourselves and made it down the hall to our room without encountering anyone.

We continued south the next day and arrived back in Meridian, MS about 1:30 p.m. Amanda, one of the waitresses from the marina’s restaurant, picked us up in Meridian and drove us back to the marina in a blinding rain storm. Unfortunately, not much of the rain fell in Demopolis but the temperatures have improved since we first arrived. Of course, anything less than 100 degrees is an improvement over the first few weeks we were here!

The transmission was installed when we got back, but they were having some issues with the shifter cables. After making some additional adjustments, we finally took the boat out for a test spin late Friday afternoon. Everything seems to be working fine, so I think we will continue our journey north on Tuesday morning. Todd’s 48th birthday is tomorrow, July 10th, and we have decided to celebrate it with the many friends we’ve made during our month-long stay here. Since we got back, we have been cleaning up the boat after having mechanics tracking in and out for weeks, washing the outside of the boat, and Todd has been doing more maintenance in the "Holy Place," otherwise known as the engine room.

Once we leave Demopolis, our Internet access will be limited, but we will update the blog and check e-mail whenever we are able to get a signal. Our next stop will be the marina in Columbus, MS and then on to Bay Springs Lake where we plan to spend about a week before continuing on to Pickwick Lake. Hopefully, we are finished with boat issues for a while, although the port engine still appears to be leaking oil. That will be a project for another time, though, and may have to be addressed when we return to Florida where the engine was recently rebuilt.

In the meantime, we are looking forward to continuing our journey and hope you will follow along with us via the blog. We also enjoy receiving your e-mails and blog comments, so please drop us a note as we would like to know who is actually reading this! Until next time, T & B.