Monday, November 4, 2013

Thank goodness I didn’t leave the boots in the cupboard

Today I went for a run/walk, depending on who I’m trying to impress and thought I’d stop at a park not far from the marina where we are staying for a quick cool down. 

There was a group of people dressed in rubber boots, gloves with snippers and syringes filled with blue stuff walking in the swamp/bog.  Whatever, hey I’m not from here so I will call it swamp as it sounds so much cooler. Quite quickly, a gentleman appears from behind a van and says “ we are removing phragmities from our wet land would you like to help?” 

Oh my gosh I am trapped. I never say no. I don’t know how to say no. You know like when a friend calls and says “will you watch my hyperactive kitten that hasn’t 
been house trained for the week end? ”  You instantly respond “sure, sure I would love to”.  Then you spend the next three days trying to figure out how to get out of it. 

Calmly I said, “are there creepy crawly’s? I don’t do creepy crawly’s”. In a very matter of fact voice he responds “yes of course there are but they will slither away before you see them.”  If you have read past blogs or know me at all, you know I just don’t do creepy crawly’s! I politely back away. Mutter some feeble excuse. Hmm I think. I leave and return to the boat. 

Now lets step back oh I’d say a year, maybe a year and a half ago. Marc is at the end of his lets get ready to go campaign. The house is going on the market, the business is being sold and the retirement papers being sent in. 
“Marc we just cant up and leave, how responsible is that. If we at least had a charity that we could work for or toward! We can’t have this life and not give back”  Marc rebuked “yes we can, you will find ways to participate and give back”  He told me it was my responsibility to do what I needed to do for me to be comfortable with the trip. 
Back to today. I’m heading to the boat for a hot shower and lunch but my mind nags. I have an opportunity to spend the day removing invasive grasses from the wet land with people I don’t know but who look so interesting and I am walking away. I am afraid of creepy crawly’s! What will Marc say? What about my commitment to being responsible? Here is my first opportunity to practice what I preach and I’m heading toward the boat. 
When I arrive at the boat I say “Marc where are my rubber boots you insisted I bring with me?”  Scurry to the wet locker. Change my t shirt. Why didn’t I bring a Canadian T shirt? And head back. 

I think they were just as surprised as I was when I came back. 

Mark Berte  the executive director hooked me up with my invasive species phragmities removal gear (gloves & snippers)  and a great young lady named Kandice O Grady and a Biology student Camille Reynolds and off I went. I had the best day ever. Learning about phragmities  wetlands, young attitudes and ideas. Boy this next generation are amazing, adventurous and smart. 

Thank goodness I didn’t leave the boots in the cupboard. Today was one of those good life lessons about getting out there and putting your money where your mouth is. 

The Alabama Coastal Foundation and the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program

Camille Reynolds 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Blue View Last Leg Of The River System

25-28th Oct 13 The Blue View 

This section of the river has a lot less anchorages and only one marina in the next 200 miles.  We didn't leave until about nine am as the Demopolis lock was dropping a barge.  We got locked down and the lock master was having a good laugh on the account of Canadian wearing coats and looking for heat. The temperature was about 55F but he told us the temperature was a good 20F lower than normal. Our first anchorage was a small creek that we managed to back DevOcean into.  Our bow was clear of the channel in 10 ft of water. On Oct 26th we found a great anchorage on a side river with over 20ft of water beside this beautiful cottage with an empty dock.  No one was home but we didn't invite ourselves to the dock.  This section of the river is very windy and sometimes we travel 10 statute miles but only cover a couple of miles as the crow flies . On some instances you could almost see the river on the other side of the bank you had traveled an hour before.  We saw lot of alligators and various wildlife. Also, the landscape keeps changing.

 On Oct 27th we found an anchorage at the entrance of a small boat launch pad, part of a park in the middle of nowhere.  As we relaxed and stated getting supper ready a few boats used the ramp. As it got dark out a group of young adults started partying in the park. Linda and I were laughing as they were hooting and hollering.  By five am we were not laughing anymore.  It was a great anchorage but our Saturday night timing was bad.  Needless to say we were glad to leave that anchorage.  Our last night on the river was spent at the Big Canout Bayou.  A great anchorage.  We followed this small river for about a mile and dropped the hook in 15 ft of water beside a little island with a couple of shacks.  I'm not sure if anyone remembers the KEA four wheel drive commercial we had. This old guy driving around in the swamp screaming "ieeeee welcome to the swamp" well we was there.  We dinged around exploring and taking pictures.  It was different eerie and beautiful at the same time.  

Oct 29th

Today was a milestone day.  We left our last river anchorage and headed to Mobile.  Miss Linda had been saying for the last couple of days that she was ready to get off the river.  Actually when it came to it we were a little sad to cross mile marker zero.  We motored through Mobile harbour and felt almost like the adventure was over.  Mobile Bay is actually very shallow and you still have to follow the channel markers.  In the bay we started seeing new and interesting things, such as a thriving industrial area, sea container vessels, and ship yards. Then as we traveled small commercial fishing boats with millions of birds.  We were sitting in the cockpit having a little lunch when all of sudden Miss Linda jumped, almost knocking the table and our lunch screaming "STOP THE BOAT, STOP THE BOAT".  Everyone has seen the IKEA Commercial, the woman running toward the car screaming "START THE CAR, START THE CAR" well just like that.  This old guy almost had a heart attack, again.  I should be used to it because Miss Linda screamed that every time she saw something.  Well this time it was a pod of dauphins.  The sadness was now replaced with excitement and scrambling for the camera. We made it to Turners Marina by about two pm and should be here at least two or three weeks doing some upgrades to DevOcean.  

He's not really the Harbour Master.  
We managed to tuck in far enough out of the channel.  A stern anchor is a must because as barges pass by they draw the water out of the creek and then it returns as they proceed. 

Also we always made sure we used a trip line for our anchor in case we got snagged on logs or roots.

A view of DevOcean in our little creek anchorage.

Beautiful morning with a little fog.  You must still watch for logs or dead heads in the channel.

Not only did we pass barges but two captains told us to squeezes between them.  
I call this Pucker Time. (Starting to Squeeze by)

Mid Pass
After the Pass (Phew glad nobody fell asleep at the helm)

This is an old school bus that rolled down the embankment many years ago, as you can see from the tree that is growing on top of the wreck 

This is Bobby's Fish Camp. The only marina and fuel dock for 200 miles
Linda was at the helm for her second lock. I don't want her to get used to that.  
It means I will have start working the lines now.

Our great anchorage in Big Bayou Canot.  Love it!

Bayou ice fishing shacks.  I felt right at home.

Miss Linda in the Big Bayou Canot River

ieeeeeeee Welcome to the swamp 

Last morning in the river system.

Running our last mile in the river system.

 Our Last Mile down to 26 meters

To all our sailor friends.  How would you like to pay for this shrink wrap job?

Sea container ship getting loaded.

Small commercial fishing vessel and its friends.

Our first try at getting a picture of dauphins. Hope to do better on our next leg of our adventure.
Stay Tuned!!!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway & Black Warrior Tombigbee

Well we are done the river system! Surprisingly the last night we had at anchorage was a little sad, this chapter of our adventure was finished.

Traveling the Tenn Tom (Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway) cuts off mileage and is a slack waterway without the pull the current in the Mississippi. It is the optimal route to Mobile Bay.  It is a recreational area and heavily traveled south in the fall. The Tenn Tom is divided into three areas: the Divide Cut, the Canal Section & the River Section. In total we navigated ten lock & dams. Then we traveled the Black Warrior Tombigbee

The divide cut is a 27 mile canal that connects the Tennessee and Tombigbee river basins. It took seven contractors eight years to complete the canal that is 280 feet wide and 12 feet deep. 

The Canal Section is a series of five locks that runs relatively parallel with the Tombigbee river. There is a levee on the right bank that protects the canal & the river system. 

Many diversions are placed along the canal banks  to stop creeks from rushing in and causing erosion. I had to take pictures as the diversions were as diverse as the bridges along this journey. I'm sure each one had an engineering reason for its style but I just don't know. 

The river system is 149 miles long and was constructed to eliminate the sever bends found in the Tombigbee River. It has dense growth and wildlife.  It is not so populated with cottages in the northern section of the river. There is lots of debris and stumps in the water. Ox bows add personality and cautious anchorages. An oxbow is a U shaped bend in the river system. 

White Sand Hills

Wildlife Along The Way

We have seen so much wildlife along the trip. Deer, raccoons, birds & ducks of all types, turtles (Dave told me how to spot turtles and I haven't been disappointed) snakes, wild turkeys the list goes on. We kept seeing bird houses in the strangest remote areas then found out that the Corps of engineers erected over 5,000 birdhouses to support the development of aviary wildlife. 

Great White Egret 

Alligators are so fascinatingly beautiful. They smile at me. I swear they are smiling. They lay in sunny spots enjoying the rays much like a turtle and you can get so close. Ok in the sail boat, not the dingy. Can you imagine those jaws with a rubber dingy. I think not. As you get close they slide slowly in like a submarine. If you stay far enough away they remain in full site. We could get as close as 15-20'

Black Warrior Tombigbee Waterway Welcome to the swamp!
We did have a patch that seemed relatively boring. For two reasons I think. One, we were ready to enjoy a new water system and get off the river. Two, we were becoming accustom to the landscape. Well we came alive in the Black Warrior Tombigbee Waterway. 

I found it fascinating and terrifying at the same time. Now doesn’t that sound mellow dramatic. But its true. I am so afraid of creepy crawly’s you can’t even imagine. For years & years Daniel used to terrify me by putting plastic snakes in my bed. I would throw back the sheets and see this snake after a long day and he would get me every time. For a split second my heart would race complete and utter terror would arise. No exaggeration! I don’t know where it comes from but I have total snake terror. When we were in Columbus a local told us about when they went into the bayou fishing. Sometimes they would run their boat to hard into the sides of the shores or a tree. Snakes would be sunbathing in the limbs and fall into their boat. I haven’t been able to go under a tree in the bayou since.  

I have to tell you though that I find the birds, fish, trees fascinating. Just enough like ours yet totally different. The trunks of trees are beautiful messes tangled out of the water from the constant receding and advancing of the water.  Moss hanging and blowing in the wind like a white sheer curtain is lovely yet spooky. The fish tiny and silver jump, jump and jump again I don’t know what they are trying to catch but I smile at each jump. Birds.  There are so many birds of every shape and size but my repertoire is so limited. Now also for the terrifying. Have you seen those crazy horror movies shot in the bayou, run down shanties, noises that you can't define? I search the shoreline for snakes terrified but really wanting to see their heads poking up. I search for alligators. I listen for birds, animals, sounds, people. People's alien accents  are just strange enough to make me think of scary movies. Its just a voice. Just the same as you and I. I try to take pictures. Show the beauty. Show the scary but it never seems enough. Not right. The sounds, how do you capture sounds? 

Owls hooting birds raising in a flurry for no reason, scattering from some unknown predator.  You can’t image how much roots and trees and stumps look like alligators, snakes...

I could get lost out here in the back water. Ok maybe until the power died on my lap top.

Wow, over four months already as live a boards. Two months on our trip. I didn’t think I would be happy but I really am. I love the anchorage's. I love the people. Not the marinas as much as they lack privacy. I don’t even mind the small space of the boat.  I am trying to figure out my place in this trip. How to keep busy. How to keep up exercise. How not to turn into a constant vacationer that drinks and eats to much and that could be so possible. 

We are ready to do some work on the boat that we have discussed ad nauseum over the years but now that we have spent some time on her are ready to make the commitment.  Then off we go. I’m still not sure where the next trip goes. Bahamas, Florida, Cuba but I am excited and ready.