Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hanging at the Demopolis Yacht Basin

On Monday, May 16th, Todd had “Life’s2Short” hauled out of the water after lunch to try to determine why water was leaking into the bilge.  We hit a waterlogged tree a few hours south of Demopolis Friday morning but everything continued to sound good and run fine so we didn’t think too much about it.  Then over the weekend Todd discovered water in the bilge, and even though he kept vacuuming it out, it continued to slowly accumulate.  After searching the bottom of the boat, we finally found small chunk of fiberglass missing from the bottom of the keel and decided that must be the cause.  But it wasn’t.

Tuesday morning water was still leaking into the bilge – and we were on the hard so it couldn’t be seeping in from the keel!  Todd began exploring other possibilities and finally found a drip coming from the bottom of one of the water tanks under the aft stateroom bed.  We drained the tank, lifted it out and found a tiny gash in the stainless steel.  We’re guessing it must have been an imperfection in the stainless steel.  But whatever the cause, Todd repaired the gash, got the tank put back in and had the aft stateroom put back together before 5:00 p.m., which made the Admiral happy!


All that trouble for a tiny little gash!


By Wednesday the fiberglass on the keel was repaired and it was time to start applying coats of barrier and bottom paint.  Thursday was Mike’s (“Dual Dreams”) birthday so nine of us from the Yacht Basin went to a Mexican restaurant called Las Fuentes for a celebratory lunch.


Cheers, Mike & Harriet!


The birthday boy got hit in the mouth with a mound of whipped cream!


And Maria was the culprit.


Happy birthday, Mike!


That evening we met at The Wall and continued the celebration by playing the dice game Left Center Right for several hours, starting with quarters and graduating to dollars.  Todd & I did not fare well and ended up indebted to both “Blue Heron” and “Dual Dreams!”


Our I.O.U. sheet detailing our indebtedness.


The final coats of bottom paint were applied Friday morning and “Life’s2Short” was put back in the water Friday afternoon just as Hank & Nancy on “Last Laugh” pulled in to the Yacht Basin.  You may recall our last encounter with “Last Laugh” was in Apalachicola eating oysters after the Gulf crossing.  At any rate, after a stop at the fuel dock to pump out the holding tanks and take on $1,200 of fuel – ouch! – we went out for a short test run to make sure everything was operating properly, and it was.  We then returned to our slip on B dock where Mike was again waiting to catch a line.  A trip to The Wall was in order to celebrate being back in the water!



Saturday we had plans to show the boat to a couple from nearby Prattville, AL.  Guy & Vickie arrived shortly after 11:00 a.m. and we spent several hours showing them “Life’s2Short” and talking about the live-aboard lifestyle in general.  Guy & Vickie plan to become full-time cruisers soon and they had a lot of questions, which we were more than happy to answer.  Then they treated us to lunch at the New Orleans Bar & Grill.  Thanks, Guy & Vickie, and good luck with your upcoming adventure!  Let us know if you decide you want “Life’s2Short” to be your home on the water.  She will make you a good one!


We made a quick run to town to get steaks, potatoes, salad, etc., for a cookout at Rick & Peggy’s Sunday evening and then met up with Hank & Nancy who had invited us to celebrate Nancy’s birthday over dinner Saturday evening.  Nancy had her heart set on margaritas so we went back to Las Fuentes where we celebrated Mike’s birthday on Thursday.

Happy birthday, Nancy!


Early Sunday morning Todd went over to help Rick cut wood for a campfire by the river that evening and also to do some bass fishing.  Hank & Nancy had expressed an interest in having some fresh bass so Todd told them he would catch them some, and he did.

We spent a quiet afternoon on the boat before going over to Rick & Peggy’s to grill steaks Sunday evening.  We had picked up ribeye for the guys and filet mignon for the girls at the meat market in town which is known for its quality beef.  And Rick grilled it to perfection!  Most people have seen the Ruth Chris posters and billboards featuring the thick, perfectly cooked filet mignon.  Well, that’s how our steaks looked and they practically melted in our mouths.  Truly excellent, Rick!  Or is it Mr. Chris?


What a beautiful view!


After dinner Rick lit the campfire and we sat down by the river.  Once our meal had settled a bit, Peggy brought out all the fixings for s’mores.  Thanks for a great evening, guys, we really enjoyed it!



Todd and Rick went fishing again early Monday morning.  Can you tell that the Captain has missed bass fishing?  But he hasn’t lost his touch.  He caught a limit of keepers and sent them home with Rick.

The rest of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty much the same.  The Captain went fishing each morning while I did various things around the boat.  Then he would tackle a few boat projects before kicking back to enjoy the air conditioning.  With temperatures consistently in the 90’s, we haven’t been spending much time outdoors in the afternoons.

Wednesday afternoon Fred took us on a tour of the soon-to-be-open Kingfisher Bay Marina.  Fred manages the Demopolis Yacht Basin for the Marengo County Port Authority and is in charge of designing and building the new marina, which he will own and run.  He has been a very busy man, but soon his efforts will begin to pay off.

The view of the new marina from the back of the dry storage lot.


Boating over to the docks with Dale & Joy (left) and Fred & Kim (right).


Fred shows off his state of the art dockside pump-out system.


Nice docks!




This will be the marina entrance from the Tenn-Tom.


Thursday morning we borrowed Mike & Harriet’s van to do some shopping and run other errands.  That afternoon a line of storms passed through and we finally got some rain.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t  enough to wash Wednesday night’s mayfly hatch off  the boat!   Thursday evening we joined Mike & Harriet at the New Orleans Bar & Grill for happy hour and dinner.  And we got to see several of our favorite locals.

Look at all the mayflies on the New Orleans Bar & Grill!


Hanging at the bar.


The Admiral with Ed (left) and Cliff (right).


Friday afternoon we had a fish fry at the Boater’s Lounge for a group of us on B dock.  Several bags of crappie were contributed and the Captain volunteered to fry the fish.  Since we appeared to have plenty of fish, Todd also invited Jimmy and John, a couple of fishermen from Hattiesburg, MS, who were in town for a bass tournament on Saturday.  Todd did a great job cooking the fish and everyone really enjoyed it.




Saturday was our final day at the Yacht Basin and it was time to do laundry again.  Oddly enough, we dirtied more clothes in the past two weeks than we did in the previous four weeks between St. Petersburg and Demopolis!

That afternoon Todd went to the weigh-in to see how Jimmy and John did in the bass tournament but they went home empty-handed.

Jimmy loaded up and ready to head back to Mississippi.


We then wrapped up our day at The Wall with the crew from B dock.  Have a great summer, guys, we’ll probably see you again this fall!

Jess with his cute little sidekick, Shark Bait.


Today is Sunday, May 29th, and we are getting ready to pull away from the dock.  Our destination this evening is Sumter Landing, just above the Gainesville/Heflin Lock, a 55-mile day.  And it’s going to be another hot one with temperatures in the mid-90’s.  Goodbye, air conditioning, we’re gonna miss you!

Monday, May 16, 2011

From Saltwater to Freshwater - One More Time!

On Saturday, May 7th, we left Little Sabine Bay at 10:30 a.m. and were anchored at Ingram Bayou by 2:00 p.m.  After several days of virtually no boat traffic, we encountered considerable boat traffic along the way – and in Ingram Bayou.  The locals were buzzing in and out, skiing, etc., with no concern for their wakes.  Oh well, no harm done.  After all, it is the weekend!

Late that afternoon we did a little dinghy exploring as far back in the bayou as we could go, which wasn’t very far!  But it was interesting.  We also dinghied along each side of the bayou, to the mouth and back, in search of a piece of beach big enough to build a fire on.  But the only one we found didn’t have any wood on it or near it so we gave up and went back to the boat.

Sunday (Mother’s Day) we took the day off from traveling.  Todd fished that morning and brought back enough sea trout for a nice meal.  Other than the locals buzzing around again, we had a quiet, relaxing day on the the boat.  Meanwhile, back in Missouri my younger brother has been busy mushroom-hunting.  And he found quite a prize!  We learned that his picture had been featured on the local news so we looked it up online and copied the photos.

Nice one, Jimmy!  Way to go!



We were off by 8:00 Monday morning for a 60-mile day through Mobile Bay to the Tensaw River Cut-off.  Along the way we stopped at The Wharf Marina to pump out the holding tanks, get ice and rinse some of the saltwater off the boat.  We are SO looking forward to being in fresh water again!

It was very calm in Mobile Bay for the first few hours.  Then the waves started to build.  By the time we re-entered the ship channel, we had two- to three-foot rollers pushing us from behind!  It was also very busy with commercial traffic around the downtown area, plus there was considerable debris in the water.  Plenty to keep you on your toes!


By 4:30 we were happy to be anchored at the Tensaw River Cut-off with a nice breeze.  Temperatures are definitely warming up.  That evening we made the mistake of leaving our doors and windows open and ended up with several bloodthirsty visitors in  the aft stateroom.  Time to start shutting things up at dusk!

Tuesday morning was very foggy so we weren’t able to leave the anchorage until after 9:00.  With the current against us, it took more than seven hours to cover 52 miles but we were anchored at Three Rivers Lake by 4:30.  There was also a lot of barge traffic, mostly southbound.  Did I mention it is warming up?  Near 90 degrees with virtually no breeze.

This is the 14-mile railroad bridge.  Looks like they are finally going to replace the old swing bridge with a new lift bridge.


One of eight tows we saw on Tuesday.


This is the new railroad lift bridge, apparently being built six miles upriver at the I-65 bridge.


I’ve always wondered how they inspect the underside of these tall bridges.  Now I know!


This is the Barry Steam Plant with its colorful red and white striped stacks.


After the recent flooding, washed-up buoys are a common sight along the shoreline.


We had more thick fog Wednesday morning but most of it had burned off by 8:30 so we headed out.  We weren’t sure where we were going to anchor that evening but we decided to at least get through the Coffeeville Lock.  It was a very quiet day on the water – no pleasure craft and only one tow – and we were able to lock through without delay.


Lots of sandy beaches along this part of the waterway.



This is the only tow we saw on Wednesday.


At 4:30 we checked out the area just south of Bobby’s Fish Camp as a possible anchorage and found more than 30 feet of water 20 feet from shore!  We also looked at Turkey Creek but decided against it.  Okatuppa Creek was another possibility but by then we had decided to go as far as Bashi Creek, another 25 miles.  We figured we could make it by 8:00 p.m. at the latest, which would give us just enough light (we hoped!).

Beautiful scenery above the Coffeeville Lock.



In the end, though, after 71 miles and a lock over a ten-hour period, we stopped ten miles shy of Bashi Creek at Mile 135.  As we rounded the bend at White’s Bluff, we saw a beautiful sandy area on the port side that was just too nice to pass up.  So we turned around and came back to check it out and decided it would be perfect!  We nosed in to the steep sandy bank, put the bow anchor in the sand, tossed a stern anchor off the swim platform and called it good!


Within about 30 minutes, we heard “Final Fantasy” making its way up the river toward us.  “Final Fantasy” is an 80+ foot houseboat that pulled in to Three Rivers Lake to anchor Tuesday evening.  Todd hailed them on the radio and told them this was a great spot if they were interested.  So they pulled in as well and we dinghied over to meet the four-man crew.  As it turns out three of the guys are helping the owner, a builder for Fantasy Yachts, move the boat to Chattanooga.

After two mornings of dense fog, Thursday morning was clear and “Final Fantasy” left at first light, determined to reach Demopolis (81 miles and a lock) by evening.  Todd heard them preparing to leave and went over to see them off.  Unfortunately, he did not take a photo of the boat to share on the blog.

Another destroyed buoy.  Very few are still in the river.


We had planned to take the day off from traveling so we could enjoy the beautiful sand beach and have a nice fire that evening; however, Todd listened to the NOAA weather forecast just before noon and learned there was a chance of severe thunderstorms Thursday evening and Friday.  So we decided it would be in our best interests to put some miles under the keel and try to get to Demopolis as soon as possible on Friday.

We traveled 53 miles between noon and 6:30 to drop the hook just off the waterway outside Chickasaw Bogue about Mile 188.  It was an interesting anchorage and not one we would necessarily recommend, but our options were limited and we were out of the way of the tows, which is all that really matters!

Approaching Chickasaw Bogue in about five feet of water!


Before we reached Chickasaw Bogue, we passed through an area where you could clearly see evidence of at least one of the many tornadoes that devastated parts of Alabama in late April.  This swath is pretty minor compared to the destruction in many areas and especially around Tuscaloosa.


Thursday night remained storm-free.  Friday we were underway by 7:45 a.m. with 25 miles to go to reach the Demopolis Lock and another three to reach the Demopolis Yacht Basin.  While we were in the lock waiting to be lifted, the lockmaster told Todd that it takes an amazing 21 million gallons of water to fill the lock.  And it only lifts 40 feet as compared to Whitten Lock at Bay Springs Lake which lifts 84 feet!

Approaching the Demopolis Lock & Dam.


We arrived at the Yacht Basin just before noon and found Mike & Harriet off “Dual Dreams” ready to catch a line for us.  As Todd said to Trenilla on the fuel dock:  “Sweet Home Alabama – Demopolis, that is!”  It always feels like home when we pull in here, partly because we became intimately familiar with the marina in June of 2006 when we spent seven weeks here after blowing a transmission two days into our live-aboard journey!

That afternoon the “gang” started happy hour at the wall early.  And it wasn’t long before the storms that had been forecast materialized.  They were relatively short-lived but still packed quite a punch.  Mike & Harriet had friends in town for the evening so when they retired to their boat for dinner, David on “Moonstruck” joined us at the New Orleans Bar & Grill for dinner.

This is “The Wall” at the Boater’s Lounge.  The colorful graphics are courtesy of Goldie, a long-time boater who spent a lot of time at the Demopolis Yacht Basin.



Saturday was spent defrosting the freezer, catching up on laundry, changing the generator oil and doing a little shopping before making our way to the wall between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m.  The front that pushed through Friday afternoon brought considerably cooler air with it and we actually had to move inside the Boater’s Lounge in search of a little warmth!

Sunday was also cool and the cool weather is forecast to remain with us for several more days, although Monday is supposed to be the coldest with a high of 58 degrees and a low of 45.  Hard to believe it was 90 degrees just a few days ago!  But the 80’s should return by Thursday, which is much more typical for May in Alabama.

The cool weather didn’t keep the Captain from his bass fishing.  Very nice!


Sunday evening we had dinner with good friends Rick & Peggy who we originally met at the marina in 2007.  They have since moved off their boat and built a very nice home bordering the Black Warrior River.  Rick & Peggy have done much of the work themselves and even though it is still a work in progress, they have done an impressive job and it looks wonderful!

This is the downstairs kitchen, complete with a hammock and a bathroom.  You could just about enclose it and have fully functional living quarters.


This beautiful lot is next to Rick & Peggy’s house and is “For Sale By Owner.”  Spread the word if you know of anyone who might be interested.


Enjoying another of Peggy’s wonderful home-cooked meals.


And her famous pecan pie, the Captain’s favorite!


Today is Monday, May 16th, and our plan is to spend a couple of weeks in Demopolis doing some boat maintenance and cleaning.  Even though everything was in pretty good shape when we left St. Petersburg less than four weeks ago, it doesn’t stay that way very long.  And we have company coming (Todd’s parents) in early June so there is much to be done!