Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

There is really not a lot to report as we are still at the Yacht Basin in Demopolis, AL but we wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!  We decided to spend an extended amount of time in Demopolis to do a few semi-major projects that we had been putting off - that and we had missed our "2nd home-away-from-home."

The Admiral and I are busy stripping the exterior woodwork and getting ready to re-varnish, one of the downsides of owning a boat with exterior wood. It looks good, but it is an ongoing maintenance issue. I also replaced a fuel pump that had begun to leak on the port engine.

The other project, which I am still working on, is installing a macerator pump in the hopes of spending some time later this spring in the Bahamas, specifically the Exumas. We have been talking with some fellow boaters who have spent time in the Exumas and they all highly recommended the trip. The Exumas, a chain of about 365 islands, are located roughly 250 miles southeast of Miami. It sounds like a pretty laid-back area of the Carribean with beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise water, just what the doctor ordered for the winter blues!

We will probably leave Demopolis next weekend and start heading toward Pensacola, FL where we hope to meet up with our friends Mike & Mary aboard "WhatDazeIt" and do the crossing to St. Petersburg sometime in mid-December.

I have organized a pot-luck Thanksgiving dinner for those of us who are going to be around the marina for the holiday. It appears that there will be about 20 of us. This is the first "foodservice" event that I have organized since leaving Missouri State!

The Admiral and Buddy are doing well, just trying to stay warm during this recent cold snap we have been experiencing. The weather is supposed to be nice over the holiday weekend, though. Once again, we wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving and hope you will stay in touch, Cap’n T

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Black Warrior River

We left the Demopolis Yacht Basin early Friday morning, November 3rd, and began making our way up the Black Warrior River with Todd's parents and their dog Ginger on board. Even though it was a frosty morning, it quickly turned into a beautiful, sunny day during which we traveled 60 miles and went through one lock before anchoring at Old Lock 8 for the evening.

Ginger wasn't very excited about going down the steep steps that lead from the sun deck to the swim platform to get in the dinghy for a trip to shore, but she did fine and after getting the dogs taken care of and dinner out of the way, we played a couple of games of Skip-Bo before calling it a day.

Ginger kindly sharing her bed with Buddy.

Since there didn't appear to be any good anchorages for the next 70 miles, we got up early again on Saturday and made it to Eagle Cove Marina just before dark. It was a very long day with two locks, but the weather was great and we enjoyed the fall foliage as we boated along.

This was an interesting spectacle we ran across - a satellite dish mounted on a stump sticking out of the river... You might be a redneck if...!!!


As we neared the first lock of the day, just south of Tuscaloosa, we came upon a barge and asked if we could lock through with it since the only alternative was to wait for it to go through ahead of us which would have cost us time we didn't have. The barge captain said it was okay with him, so we waited for the barge to get secure and then pulled into the lock behind it. Unfortunately for us, the barge captain hit his engines just as we were nearing the lock wall to tie up and the force of the water coming from his engines pushed our bow into the lock wall. Thankfully, Todd had asked me to put a large bumper on the bow rail, which we normally don't do, but it saved our bow from being slammed against the lock wall!

The barge wasn't going north of Tuscaloosa, so we went through the next lock by ourselves, without incident, and then made our way into a wonderful covered slip at Eagle Cove. Since we had made it through two long days on the water, we took our time leaving Eagle Cove on Sunday and then only went about eight miles upriver to a nice anchorage in Pegues Creek where we enjoyed a beautiful view of the full moon as it rose over the trees.

On Monday we went through the final lock and traveled 25 miles before pulling into a nice covered slip at Franklin Ferry Marina. Storms were forecast to move in Monday evening and continue all day Tuesday, so we felt very fortunate to find such a perfect refuge from the rain and wind. Franklin Ferry is no longer an operating marina, but no one was using the slip and a couple who live above the marina assured us that we were welcome to stay there.

We stayed dry and cozy under the covered dock for the next two nights and left Franklin Ferry late Wednesday morning. An hour or so into our day we passed The Point Bar which our boating friends Mike & Mary fondly refer to as The Plywood Palace. Mike, who is a Black Warrior native, graciously provided us with aerial charts, notes and pictures of their travels up the Black Warrior and suggested that we check out The Point Bar during our trip. So, we docked the boat and went in to have a few cocktails and pizza for lunch. The staff and customers were great, the beer was cold, the pizza was good, and I even managed to win $90 in nickels on the video slots game at the bar!

After lunch we made our way to a neat anchorage just above Bankhead Lock where we tied to a mooring buoy. Todd promptly got the dinghy down to take the dogs to shore and then set off to do a little fishing. After a short while, he returned to the boat and insisted that his dad join him since the fish were practically jumping in the boat! Bill joined Todd in the dinghy while Marilyn and I enjoyed the view from the sundeck.

We could hear Todd and Bill talking excitedly about something, but they were too far away to hear what they were saying. However, it wasn't long before they headed back to the boat yelling for us to get our cameras ready. When they arrived, it was all Todd could do to lift the huge catfish Bill had caught high enough for us to take a picture of it - it must have weighed 40 pounds! They also had a stringer of other fish to show for their efforts, but they decided to cut the line and let the catfish live another day.

It was all Todd could do to hold the fish out of the water long enough for me to take a picture!

We left our anchorage Thursday morning, went through the lock and arrived at Eagle Cove Marina fairly early that afternoon. We enjoyed a great afternoon and evening at Eagle Cove and left early Friday morning for a 70-mile, two-lock day to arrive back at Old Lock 8 around 3:30 p.m. to anchor for the evening.

By Saturday morning, the weather had turned windy and rainy so Todd and Marilyn took the dogs to shore and we started the 47-mile, one-lock journey downriver to anchor in Big Prairie Creek in front of Buck's, another local establishment that had been recommended by Mike & Mary.

Todd and Marilyn returning from doggie duty in the dinghy.

A view of Buck's from our anchorage in Big Prairie Creek.

The four of us enjoying an evening at Buck's.

We ate our way through the evening and topped it off with warm brownies a la mode while Bill and Todd watched football and Marilyn and I played a video quiz game. Another fun evening on the water! Since this was our final evening on the boat together, I need to make note of the fact that we played several games of Skip-Bo over the course of our 10-day trip; and since the women beat the men 10 of the 15 games we played, the women will go on record as the Skip-Bo champions for 2006 - way to go Marilyn!

It took us about two hours to make the final 16-mile trek back to the Demopolis Yacht Basin Sunday morning where we spent the day cleaning, doing laundry, catching up on e-mail, etc. Most of yesterday was spent shopping and restocking with Marilyn while Todd continued to re-coat the rest of the wood on the front of the boat.

Bill and Marilyn left this morning (Tuesday) for Orlando, and Todd and I will spend the next week or so in Demopolis waiting for the Coffeeville Lock to reopen and taking care of a variety of boat maintenance issues. Todd has done a great job with the Cetol (wood finish) on the front of the boat, but I suspect he is saving the wood on the rails for me. I can hardly wait!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Trip South - Bay Springs Lake to Demopolis, AL

After spending a few quiet days at Bay Springs Lake, we made our way through three locks to Midway Marina to meet up with "Miss Pip" on Sunday, October 22nd. The first two locks went fine, but the wind caught us on the third one and blew the stern of the boat out toward the middle of the lock before we could get tied up to the bollard, so the Captain had to get "Life's2Short" back under control and make his way to the next bollard. Fortunately, we were the first boat in the lock and had plenty of room to manuever and, as always, the Captain did a fine job at the helm!

After reaching Midway Marina, we took care of some "boat business" and went over to see Chuck and Pip for a few afternoon cocktails. Pip had informed us the day before that she was making dinner for us to belatedly celebrate my birthday, so we took a short break and returned to "Miss Pip" to find that George, a dock friend of Chuck and Pip's, had joined us with a nice plate of appetizers.

George, who is a live-a-board at the marina, is nearly 86 years old and is a fascinating individual with many stories to share. Pip prepared an absolutely spectacular meal of shrimp fettuccine with a wonderful salad and cheese bread followed by rum raisin ice cream with a healthy splash of Grand Marnier on top. Wow - what a treat!

Before retiring for the evening, we made plans to leave Midway with "Miss Pip" about 10:00 a.m. Monday to go to the Canal Section Beginning to hang out for a few days. The Canal Section Beginning is where the old Tombigbee River separates from the man-made canal used by barge and boat traffic to navigate north to Bay Springs Lake. The three locks all went smoothly and we were at our anchorage by mid-afternoon. Unfortunately, what had been a nice, sandy beach when we were there earlier this year was now a muddy mess! Apparently, the river level had risen enough over the past few months to wash a healthy coating of mud over the sand we previously enjoyed. Nonetheless, we secured both boats and settled in for a few quiet days on the water with our good friends.

Rain and possible storms were forecast for Wednesday afternoon/evening, so we decided to make our way to Waverly Marina a day earlier than originally planned since the Canal Section is not a good place to be in heavy rain/storms. We arrived at Waverly (near Columbus, MS) early Wednesday afternoon and were met by Susie, the marina owner, and Roger & Dixie Olson, long-time friends of the Lanning's, who were staying on their boat, "Bubbles," at nearby Columbus Marina. Roger & Dixie weren't able to stay long, but we were going to be there for a few days and knew we'd see each other again soon.

After getting the boats secured, we enjoyed some afternoon cocktails at the marina bar and also ordered some appetizers since none of us had eaten lunch. We had heard great things about Waverly Marina from Chuck and Pip and we immediately fell in love with it. It is tucked away in a secluded little cove and has a wonderfully rustic open air tiki bar/restaurant a few steps up from the transient dock. I also have to say that Susie makes some of the best crinkle cut french fries I've ever eaten!

The rain began that afternoon and continued for most of the next two days, but we had a great time while we were there and Chuck and Todd were able to catch several nice crappie right off the dock. Susie also asked Cliff, her husband, to bring the portable fire pit from their deck at home which kept us all warm and cozy at the tiki bar, a very thoughtful and much appreciated gesture by our hosts!

Thursday afternoon we used the marina's courtesy van to make a restocking trip to Columbus and then Roger & Dixie picked us up that evening and took us to dinner at Zachary's where some popular and very talented local musicians were entertaining quite a crowd. While at Zachary's we ran into Alan and Susann of "Kaos" who we originally met at Columbus Marina about three months ago, and we saw Susann again briefly at Goose Pond Marina on our way back from Chattanooga in early September (Alan was away on business). As we spend more time on the water, we are learning what a small world it is among boaters. It will be interesting to see how many of the same people we see this winter in Florida and/or the Bahamas!

Dinner at Zachary's with Roger & Dixie.

The rain stopped Friday morning and by afternoon, it had turned into a very nice day. We did some work around the boat and made preparations for a fish fry that evening with Chuck & Pip, Roger & Dixie, and Cliff & Susie. We were also joined by Myril, a neighborhood local, who had joined us at the tiki bar the day before. We had a variety of appetizers from various sources, and the fish fry turned into quite a feast with lots of fresh-caught crappie (courtesy of Todd and Chuck) and some bass supplied by Chuck & Pip, Chuck's world-famous hush puppies, oven-fried potatoes, Susie's wonderful crinkle cut fries, cole slaw, corn casserole, and a lemon pie for dessert. Everything was absolutely delicious and we all had an enjoyable and memorable evening around the fire pit.

Todd and I can't say enough good things about Waverly Marina and the fine folks who own it. While it doesn't have all the amenities of the fancier marinas, it is our favorite marina thus far. If you happen to be in Waverly's neighborhood, we encourage you to stop in and tell them "Lifes2Short" sent you - you won't be disappointed!  Below are a few pictures taken while we were at Waverly. The view from the tiki bar of "Life's2Short" at the transient dock.

Meet the infamous Pip of "Miss Pip!"

Myril (left) and Chuck (Pip's husband) discussing the finer points of life!

The "fish fry gang" at the tiki bar, except for Todd and Susie who were taking pictures.

Todd and I left Waverly early Saturday morning to travel about 60 miles and go through two locks before reaching our next planned anchorage at the Warsaw Cut-off. "Miss Pip" had planned to stay at Waverly a few weeks before continuing south, so we will hopefully reconnect with them somewhere on the Gulf coast in late November or early December.

As we reached the first lock just south of Waverly, we saw "Kaos" waiting to lock through along with several other boats. After talking with Alan on the radio as we boated downriver, "Kaos" decided to anchor with us at Warsaw Cut-off. Once the boats were secured, we took the dinghy over to join Alan and Susann for happy hour on "Kaos," and while we were there three other boats made their way into the Cut-off to anchor for the evening. Interestingly enough, we had locked through the lock at Bay Springs Lake (nine locks ago) with two of the boats the previous Sunday!

Sunset at Warsaw Cut-off - you can barely see "Kaos" in the shadows.

"Kaos" and the other boats left Sunday morning to continue south to Demopolis, and Todd and I spent a good portion of Sunday and Monday doing boat chores. Todd even got ambitious and started re-doing some of the woodwork on the front of the boat. The weather was great, though, and we took time to enjoy the warmth and sunshine each afternoon.

Todd talked to Roger & Dixie aboard "Bubbles" and they were planning to leave Columbus Marina Monday morning and join us at the Warsaw Cut-off Monday afternoon/evening before continuing downriver to Demopolis with us Tuesday morning. Roger & Dixie arrived about 2:00 p.m. Monday afternoon and rafted next to us. We enjoyed a beautiful afternoon, great company for dinner and then the boys played a couple of games of cribbage before retiring for the evening (they each won one game, so a rubber match is in order!).

Tuesday dawned bright and early and we left our anchorage shortly after 6:30 a.m., hoping to reach the next lock in time to go through with a barge that was heading south. We made it just as the barge was getting secured and "Life's2Short", "Bubbles," and a sailboat locked through with the barge - a new experience for us that worked out very well!

"Life's2Short" and "Bubbles" rafted together at Warsaw Cut-off.

Locking through with the barge.

An especially scenic portion of the river on the way to Demopolis with "Bubbles" leading the way!

It was a beautiful day on the water, and we arrived in Demopolis about 1:30 Tuesday afternoon where Todd's parents and Fred, the marina owner, were waiting to meet us. The marina was packed with boats, many of which had passed us on our way downriver, but we were directed to a nice slip and then spent the rest of the afternoon visiting with Todd's parents and reacquainting ourselves with the many wonderful people we met here earlier this year.

We will spend the next couple of days in Demopolis restocking, doing laundry and taking care of a few boat maintenance issues before heading up the Black Warrior River with Todd's parents and their dog, Ginger, on board. We will return to Demopolis around November 12th and Todd's parents will continue their journey to Orlando, FL to spend Thanksgiving with Todd's sister, Jennifer. The Coffeeville Lock, the last of the twelve locks on the Tenn-Tom, will be closed for repairs November 14th through the 20th, so we will remain in Demopolis several days before continuing south. We will update the blog with details of our Black Warrior trip when we return to Demopolis.