Sunday, December 31, 2006

The links

For some reason the links didn't go through on the last post. Here they are:





Last evening we went back to LuLu's to listen to a family band from Louisiana called "L'Angelus." They play mostly Cajun music which seems to be a blend of country, rock, bluegrass with a bit of polka thrown in for good measure. It all seems to blend seamlessly into a joyful music that celebrates life. If you can sit still while these kids are playing you need to lie down and put a stone over your head - you're already dead.
This group started out when John Rees married his wife Linda. She always sang Christmas songs to the record. Then she taught herself guitar so she could do without the record. As each of their 7 children were old enough to hold an instrument they were taught to play.
Last night only three of the family members were there, but they were enough. There was Stephan who sang and played guitar, fiddle, pennywhistle and sax. Katie, a real cutie, sang and played guitar. But the one who captured my heart was Paige, who sang and played bass. Just watching her you could tell she was feeling the music down to her bones. She swayed to the beat and flung her long brown hair from side to side. Just look at the pictures. I could watch her all night.
If you want to sample their music you can go to their website:

If you want to get a look at LuLu's place, here's her website:

Friday, December 29, 2006

LuLu's - the party place

Last night we walked over to LuLu's, sat at the bar with a pitcher of Yuengling and listened to a band called "The Relics." It was three guys, two guitars and a bass, and their voices sounded like the Eagles. They did a selection of their own songs, Beatles, Eagles, CCR and a few more recent numbers. One of their originals, a song called "February 14" really hit home for me. The guy that wrote it is divorced and has custody of his son. It sounded like it was written just for me.
Here are a few pictures of the boat with it's almost completed pilothouse.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Yesterday we finally left Mobile. We enjoyed it there, and the people at the marina were very nice but it was time to move on. We were there for three weeks and that was long enough.
The water on the Bay has been rough for a week, but yesterday it was calm. We motored 32 nautical miles to LuLu's at Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores. Along the way we saw our first group of dolphins. They swam around the boat, but kept their distance so we couldn't get any good pictures.
A special thanks to the crew at West Marine - thanks for all your help with our projects, and with the snorkle set.
Here are some pictures: Bev and I with Ricky and Connie, the fuel dock crew at Dog River. They took good care of us while we were there.
A last look at Mobile from across Mobile Bay.
A first look at the Intercoastal Waterway.
A first look at LuLu's.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Holidays to one and all!

Friday (my birthday as it happens) the owner of the marina hosted a huge holiday dinner for all the folks at the marina - boaters, workers, friends, neighbors - the whole crowd. Hundreds of people showed up. There was deep fried turkey, jambalaya, hush puppies, fried catfish - all the holiday trimmings. We took over the paint shed (think vehicle assembly building at Cape Canaveral) and managed to fill the whole building.
Then on Saturday, Bev treated me to a birthday dinner at "The Original Oyster House" in Gulf Shores. We had fried alligator bites, gumbo, blackened Mahi-Mahi, shrimp, tuna steak, etc. Wow! Great food, highly recommended.
Today we drove over to the USS Alabama, a WWII battleship.
Here are a few pics - Our tree, the USS Alabama, one of the pelicans that hangs around the shrimp boats that dock here, the boat with it's new pilothouse partly enclosed and the great holiday gathering in the paint shed.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

For those of you who think...

what do they do for a social life? Here's the answer. A few days ago, we were invited to an impromptu "sunset party" on the dock. The crews of "Tumbleweed," "Inevitable Too," "Shoot and Fish" and several other boats showed up and a splendid time was had by all.
This is the sort of thing that happens all the time, so have no fear for our social life. I've met more people on this trip than in the decade that preceded it.
Also, look for this picture to grace the pages of "Latitudes and Attitudes" magazine in the coming months.

Splash! And a barefoot Santa.

Well now, that's more like it. We splashed the boat this morning and she floats very nicely on her newly painted lines. Also, the temps are near 80 degrees, the sun is shining and Santa can finally go barefoot! (Come on now, funny red hat, white beard - who else would it be?)
Also, here's a pic of the captain trying out the new tiller extension that allows steer from a comfortable, relaxed position in the shade of the new pilot house.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Tropical colors

Well, here's the first pic of Walküre all dressed up in her tropical colors. After the beating she took coming through the canals and locks, it feels good to see her looking so fresh and clean. Note that the gash in the bow (from Lock 3 on the Oswego) has now been repaired permanently. Tomorrow, I'll do some more work on the pilot house and start getting ready for relaunch Tuesday or Wednesday.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A quick addendum

to the last post. To all you folks in the chilly north - notice that I'm wearing SHORTS! Ha, Ha! It's 75 degrees here. Na, na, na, na, na.
Santa has to wear red shorts here instead of red flannels...not a pretty sight! (Oh, well what can you do? It's the South.)


Well, it was a productive day. We got the majority of the painting done. We now have our antifouling paint a couple of inches higher (to accommodate the higher loading of the boat which causes her to sit lower in the water) and we ran what had been a white accent about 13 inches higher up the hull to reflect more sun and make it a bit cooler in the tropics. Tomorrow we will paint the new Fire Red bootstripe.
Note on the pics that I finally did the permanent repair on the gouge in the bow from the Oswego Lock #3. Also note the beginnings of the new pilot house/hard bimini.
For those who haven't seen it before, you can also see the retractable bilge boards that serve as keels for the boat.
We should be able to finish the painting tomorrow, then finish the framing on the bimini.
We're under the gun because after Wednesday the lift will be shut down for 3 weeks due to maintenance. If we're not ready to re-launch by then, we'll have to wait.
Wish us luck.

Friday, December 15, 2006

On the beach and Christmas lights

Well, the boat is "on the hard" for a few days. We had her hauled out for some routine maintenance, painting, etc. It had to be done sometime, so here's as good a place as any.
Last night we went with the crew of "Misconception" to a place called Bellingrath Gardens. It was built by Walter Bellingrath, the owner of the local Coca-Cola bottling plant. Over the years since his death, the house and grounds have been developed into a museum. At Christmas time, they really go overboard decorating the gardens, all 60 acres, with wonderful displays of Christmas Lights. As you walk through the grounds each corner you turn takes your breath away. I tried to get some pictures, but they don't do it justice.
Also, I think I figured out where we will celebrate New Years. About one day's sail from here is a place called Homeport Marina. The restaurant/night club there is run by Lulu Buffett, Jimmy's sister. Sounds like a plan, eh?
Also, can anyone identify this Bird? It's some kind of duck, I think, but it gives new meaning to the phrase "ugly duckling."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Some statistics and a pic.

We're sitting here in Dog River waiting for the haulout (this afternoon?) We will be doing some routine maintenance and inspection on the bottom. Yesterday I started work on the pilothouse/hard bimini. Once we haul out we will be quite busy for a few days so I might not update again until we set off for Pensacola. (Wow! Just 2 or 3 more travel days and we'll be in Florida.)
In the mean time, here are a few stats of our trip:

2873 statute miles traveled. (About 2500 nautical miles)
Northernmost point reached - Blind River Ontario N46 degrees 11 minutes.
Westernmost point reached - McEvers Island anchorage, Missouri, W90 degrees 35 minutes.
southernmost point reach - (so far) Dog River Marina, Mobile, AL N30 degrees 34 minutes.
Number of Locks - 92.
States/provinces visited - 9; New York, Ontario, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama.
Rivers navigated - 12; Hudson, Mohawk, Seneca, Oswego, Trent, Severn, Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Tombigbee, Mobile.
Longest distance traveled in 1 day - 78.7 statute miles.

Here's a picture of the dinner gathering the other night. Look closely, Bev and I are in there somewhere.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Cypress knees, magnolia trees, Spanish moss and Arctic Air?

Update for 12/6.
We had planned on doing one more anchorage before Mobile, but when we heard the forecast for strong winds and rough seas on Mobile Bay for Thursday we decided to try to go all the way in one day. That's a trek of 78 miles from 3 Rivers to Dog River Marina. It ended up taking us nearly 12 hours, but we made it. We got to Mobile. Along the way we left the Tombigbee River and entered the Mobile River. We also passed through the Mobile River Delta, the second most biodiverse area in the US. We saw small palm trees, beach grass, cypress trees, pecan trees, magnolia trees and who know what else. But, of all things, Jack Frost has followed us. A second blast of Arctic air is due here on Thursday night, bringing the threat of a hard freeze all the way to the Gulf Coast.
Making the trip to Mobile from our anchorage at 3 Rivers in one day meant that the last part of the trip would be done after dark. This proved to be more of a challenge than I expected because Hurricane Katrina damaged the lighted pilings that mark the deep channel and not all of them have been repaired.
Our friends on Kismet III radioed us as we passed their anchorage. They wanted us to stay and visit with them as they were planning on resting for the day. We told them about the forecast and they decided to head out to Mobile too. Their boat is faster and they passed us. They got into Dog River about 2 hours ahead of us, while it was still light. They coached us on the layout of the approach to the marina, then helped us tie up.
It's different being in salt water again. The boat floats just a bit higher in the water, and the marina pilings are encrusted with barnacles.
Passing through Mobile harbor was exciting, but a little nerve wracking. It is the 8th busiest harbor in the US and it sure looks it. Big cargo ships everywhere along with tows, tugs and various other service boats. We saw two famous Mississippi River boats - The Delta Queen and The Mississippi Queen.
We're finally here. We made it to the Gulf Coast. We'll take a few days to rest and relax, do some shopping and then sometime next week we will haul the boat out to do some checking, cleaning and painting on the bottom and the lower topsides. We'll also build the hard bimini top we'll need to shield us from the tropical sun we'll encounter as we go farther south. I've alerted the yard that we will be needing the lift one day next week.
Now, if this wind would stop bouncing us around...

The Last Lock

Update for 12/5:
We left Bobby's Fish Camp at first light, through a heavy fog that was just beginning to burn off as we approached the Coffeeville lock along with the other boats that stayed at Bobby's. This is the last lock on the Tenn-Tom system, and the last one we are likely to encounter for some time. Once through the lock we entered the tidal waters of the lower Black Warrior-Tombigbee system. We ran downstream another 55 miles to an anchorage at 3 Rivers Lake. Our friends on Kismet III tried to get in there ahead of us, but found the water too shallow. They went on to another anchorage 20 miles farther downstream. We tucked into the very pleasant little cove with no trouble at all and had a very quiet and peaceful night. The only sound we heard were from the owl that had taken up residence in a nearby tree.

Update for 12/4

On 12/3 we took the boat down river to a spot called Barron's Landing. In the early days of river development, there was a lock here. Now it's just a wide spot in the river. We anchored for the night along with Kismet III, some folks we met at Demopolis. On the 4th, we moved on to Bobby's Fish Camp, the last gas station on the whole Tenn-Tom system. It's 216 miles to Mobile and then another 15 to the next marina, so we need to fill all our tanks.
Bobby's Fish Camp reminded us a little bit of Hoppies, but with fewer accommodations. At least Hoppies had a bathroom - if you could call it that. At Bobby's there's nothing, just a fuel pump and one - count 'em folks - ONE electric outlet. We were fortunate that the other 3 boats that were there with us all had generators and let us take the only outlet so we could have heat.
We spent a good part of the afternoon aboard Breakaway, a huge luxury yacht. I brought my guitar and sang a few songs while our hosts served drinks and snacks. The sun set and the moon rose while we were singing, laughing, talking and drinking. It was a beautiful sight. The crews of Misconception and Kismet III joined us and a splendid time was had by all.

The Stars Fell on Alabama Last Night

Well, I know it's been a few days, but we've been out in the wilderness of southern Alabama for a few days. Here's the update for Sunday, 12/3:

Here's a picture of Demopolis Yacht Basin.
Saturday afternoon we went downtown to stroll the craft fair. Although we didn't really see much we wanted to buy (no place for that sort of stuff on a boat) we had a nice time just walking around in the relatively warm air. There was a small parade, and a flyover by some WWII fighter planes. (See pic.)
Saturday evening the marina sponsored a gumbo dinner. It was fun socializing with all the other boaters, local and transient, over a steaming bowl of seafood gumbo. After the dinner, there was a parade of Christmas floats on the water, diminished by the destruction of half the floats in the tornado. That was followed by a really great fireworks display. Although the air was cool, it was still a beautiful sight to see the sparkles on the water from the fireworks. Some of the sparks didn't go out until they actually hit the water. It made me think of the song "The stars fell on Alabama last night."

Friday, December 01, 2006


I'm sure by now some of you have heard that a tornado, or at least a very serious windstorm, struck Demololis last evening. We're still not sure that it was a tornado, but all the signs point to it being so. A trailer park near here was wiped out, and the Christmas floats being prepared for tomorrow's parade were blown away. The damage seems to be very localized, and there have been no reports of injuries.

The tornado apparently hit around 9:30 last night, about an hour after we had left the downdown area. We walked to downtown to take the candlelight tours of two antebellum mansions here in Demopolis. We were watching a DVD when the power went out.

Other than rocking around a little we really had no effects from the storm at all. A little rain, a little wind and the power outage. That was it. We're fine, the boat's fine and we're just relaxing getting ready for the cookoff this afternoon.

The big change that we've seen is that the wonderful warm weather we've had for the last two weeks is gone. It's now about 40 degrees, and that's about the high for the day. Big change from the 70's we had up until yesterday. We plan on heading for Mobile Sunday or Monday and it looks like we will have some chilly evenings as night time lows are supposed to be in the 20's the rest of the week. We've stocked up on alcohol for the heater, so we'll be warm enough. But, Hey! Isn't this supposed to be the South?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

More pics (I hope) and a comment.

First, the comment.
There are those who would say "But Mike you're off your timetable, you'll never reach Key West by New Year's day. Why are you stopping at all these places along the way?" To which I answer - I'm not just blindly trudging along some predetermined path, I'm exploring. This whole journey was intended to be a journey of discovery; to discover myself, to discover interesting places and people and to have fun. There's a song that says that what we remember of life are "The Stops Along the Way."
Bev and I have discovered that we get a lot of enjoyment from stopping along the way and exploring these neat little towns that cluster along the waterfront. Demopolis is a case in point. We hadn't planned on stopping here long, just refuel and resupply and be on our way. But the town is so welcoming, and the people here so friendly, and the symphony so good - how could we not stay a while and enjoy it all? The Keys will be there in January or February or whenever we get there.
We had planned on Chicago by Labor Day, but didn't make it until October 1. SO...October 1 becameLabor Day. Likewise, whatever day we reach Key West will be New Year's day. What law says we have to follow everyone else's calandar?
Now, how about a few pics of the last few days. The connection here has been unreliable, so I don't know if they will go through. Here's one of our last anchorage, Sumpter, and a few of the "White Cliffs of Eppes."


What an eventful few days it's been.
11/26: We motored 28 miles to Marina Cove. This is probably the smallest marina we've been to since we started out. The facilities are limited, to say the least. At least we had electricity for heat.

11/27: We motored 37 miles to an anchorage at Sumter Recreation Area. This was a beautiful spot. It was very quiet except for the sounds of nature - birds, crickets, etc. We saw a beaver swimming across the little bay with a branch in his teeth.
The weather has been nearly perfect. We've had some of the bluest skies I've ever seen. The kind of blue that looks like it goes on forever. "Deep blue" doesn't quite describe it, but it's the closest I can come.

11/28: We got up before sunrise and hauled the anchor just as the sky was getting bright. We had to travel 54 miles to Demopolis. It was partly cloudy, but it was still warm, near 70 degrees. Along the way we passed some fantastic white cliffs. I guess they must be made out of some kind of limestone. They were all craggy and weathered. The way the sun played on them made them really a wonder to see.

When we got to Demopolis we had some surprises. First, we found out that this week is their big Christmas bash. Last night we went to a free performance by the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. They did a "Boston Pops" style program of holiday music. The highlight of the show for me was the fantastic arrangement called "Jingle Bells Forever." Imagine Jingle Bells played in the style of J.P Souza's "Stars and Strips Forever." It was a hoot.

On Friday there's a statewide competition for barbeque cooking. All the contestants will be giving free samples of their goodies. Yum. Friday night there will be a Christmas Parade of decorated boats on the river, followed by fireworks. Saturday all day there will be a street fair with craft booths and live music.

The problem is that there will be a cold front moving in over the next few days and the temps are supposed to drop into the 40's. Yuck! I thought this was the South!

Another surprise we had was meeting up with Floyd and Della, the crew of "Freddy Freddy." If you have been following this blog for a while, you've probably seen the picture of "Freddy Freddy" that I posted a few months back. Gotta luv a guy who builds his own boat a go off on an adventure cruising the countryside.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Just a quick update today.

We have finally arrived in Demopolis, AL. We are now more than halfway down the Tenn-Tom, only 216 miles from Mobile. For the last few days we've had no internet or cell phone access, so haven't been able to update or communicate with family, etc.
We are taking it easy here in Demopolis until the weekend. We need the R&R and we need to provision, clean, do laundry, etc.
Once we relax a bit, take in the Symphony, munch down some good ol' southern barbeque, etc, then I'll do a bigger update. We will have some great pictures.
See you in a day or so.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Rolling along the Tenn-Tom

Update 11/25:
The weather forecast is now saying that we are getting a cold front coming in starting Wednesday, so we decided up move up our timetable and try to reach Demopolis by Tuesday night. That means doing a "double" today - 42 miles and 3 locks. That's an ambitious day, but we did it. We are now at a very nice marina in Columbus, MS.
We borrowed the courtesy car and went to dinner at "The Grill." Real Cajun-style food. Yum!

Update 11/24

A perfect day: lots of sun, temps in the 70's, no wind. We motored 17.7 miles to Smithville marina.
Bev and I took turns sitting up in the bow well for an hour at a time. At one point we traveled over an hour without seeing any signs of civilization. Nothing but trees and water. No sound but the muffled hum of the motor, the water rushing by and the birds calling in the trees.
Anyone worried about preserving wilderness should take a trip down this waterway. They will see mile after mile of nothing but wilderness. And the guidebooks say we're only just starting into the real wilderness area. Just south of here there are two stretches of over 100 miles each where there are no towns and no marinas, just wilderness.
If the weather holds we should be in Demopolis by Wednesday. The weather is supposed to get ugly on Thursday, so I'm really going to press to make it there before then. Tomorrow we cross the 34th parrallel. We're still seeing some leaves on the trees, lots of color. It's really amazing. This is the sort of relaxed cruising I was looking forward to when I started this trip - how long ago was it? Oh, yeah! June. Seems like yesterday, or ages ago. I'm really loosing track of time. But that was the whole idea, wasn't it.
One more note about the folks at Midway Marina. There are quite a few liveaboards there and they decorate their boats for Christmas. I tried to get a picture, but it didn't come too well. I'll post it here just so you can get a little idea of what the harbor looks like at night.