Friday, February 23, 2018

Not Quite Gulfport MS...

Welcome to another adventure-filled entry from The Lower Place!!  As mentioned in the previous post we planned to arrive in Gulfport MS today (2/23/2018).  And as we should know by now…plans rarely happen according to plan.  Ha ha!
We see the fog coming...
We departed Dog River Marina in Mobile AL at the mid morning hour of 7:00 am.  That means I was afforded the opportunity to sleep in until 5:30!! YAY!!  Anyway, after leaving the marina and going under the bridge all was clear.  About an hour later BAM!! FOG BANK!!!  We saw it coming and knew it was thick but didn’t have any idea how long it would last.  Of course we were in the shipping channel with well, ships!
...and here it is!!
The chart plotter & auto pilot was keeping us on course, the RADAR was giving indications of “objects” – buoys, markers, fishing boats, cruise ships, cargo ships, oil platforms but not birds or dolphins - we could clearly read.  I was perched at the front of the fly bridge narrating to Captain Bathrobe (aka Charlie) the various sounds I heard and from which direction - horns, bells, rigging motors.  The captain was monitoring the VHF radio chatter and AIS alerts.  We were not nervous or scared but attentive to our blind surroundings and confident in our equipment and abilities.  But I sure was glad we didn’t have guests on board…LOL!!

After an hour or so the fog began to lift, the radio chatter slowed and it was time for that second cup of coffee.  WHEW!!  One would think that would be enough excitement for the day…but why not have a BONUS of excitement??
We saw him via RADAR 2 miles away
We were REALLY happy we saw him with the naked eye!!

Crossing Mobile Bay into the ICW requires passing between the barrier islands…twice!  When you get to that point the waves just bounce back & forth from land mass to land mass…and our boat is in the center of said channel.  Rock, roll, swirl, hang on tight, do not puke, drive the boat, stay on course!!  It’s a really groovy dance – all the cool kids are doing!

Whew, finally protected waters – sort of.  Barrier islands to the south, MS Gulf coast to the north and we were headed northwest.  But wait…there’s more!!  The clouds rolled in and the water/waves shifted a little…ding!!  An alert on my phone…Marine Hazard Warning!  Why not – it’s been nothing but FUN so far!!
This was our location when we started looking for a safe harbor
Long story short…a severe storm cell was moving southeast from Louisiana (toward Gulfport & us), the wind shifted and was blowing from east to west (behind us). Hmmm…”sloppy seas” was the best description I can offer.  With auto pilot engaged we both started doing our own research.  It was evident by the radar path that we could not make it to Gulfport safely.  Charlie called Biloxi marina, they told us to come on in…we were still 2-3 hours out.  The closer we got to Biloxi the more severe the RADAR appeared.  More research…Ocean Springs had a marina listed on Active Captain (a web based program most cruisers use).  Charlie called them since the weather didn’t appear to improve.

Once again, the Lord puts people in our paths to take care of our needs!!  We were less than a mile from the Ocean Springs Small Craft Harbor and they were 30 minutes from closing for the weekend…”not a problem, come on in, AJ will be there to help you tie up.”  Once we turned into the harbor, the wind stopped, the water was like glass and Captain Bathrobe docked the boat – stern in!!  That’s a REALLY BIG DEAL!!!  Just let me tell you how big my God is!!! AMEN!!!

We were tied up, off the boat, paid for 2 nights with a check – they “don’t do” plastic and welcomed with southern hospitality only found in the Hospitality State!!  Even though the RADAR showed Gulfport looked like Christmas (red, yellow, green clusters everywhere) and it was headed for Biloxi we were safely docked  & DRY in Ocean Springs.  AND they were able to close the office on time and start their weekend on schedule…apparently OCEAN SPRINGS was our plan for the day – I love it when a plan comes together! 
True Maroon - flying safe & sound

The Lower Place making friends with shrimpers!

So here we are – tucked in between shrimp boats and just steps away from downtown Ocean Springs.  It is well, with my soul…

God Bless!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Mobile, Alabama!

WOW!! Who knew we would be in Mobile AL just 5 FULL travel days after leaving Columbus MS?!?  Well, we did stop early on Monday and Wednesday but I didn’t nap!
The Emery El - our buddy boat since Columbus MS - good times!
Ok on to today’s journey (2/22/2018)…once again we were so happy to be travelling with Emery El and a little sad because this was our last day with them.  We pulled up anchor at 3 Rivers Anchorage & were underway by 6:20 am.  Once again, the elevated water level increased the current which increased our speed…yay!!

I have to get a pic EVERY TIME of the I-65 bridge (aka the Dolly Bridge)
There was a rumor that the sun would shine again so I was looking forward to that!  I noticed an increase in barge traffic and knew when we entered the Mobile River channel it would take both of us to pay attention.
Big Traffic
Flat Seas on Mobile Bay - thank you Jesus!
Upon entering the Mobile Bay we were both surprised to see the flat seas!! Yippee!! We planned to stop at Dog River Marina for the night (1 free night with a fuel fill up), do a little laundry & have dinner with the crew of Emery El – John and his brother-in-law Fran - full of information and advice and so easy to talk to. I’m going to miss them but they are turning east tomorrow and we are turning WEST!!!
And BIGGER Traffic

That’s right ladies and gentlemen….we are headed to the Mississippi Gulf Coast!!  Gulfport to be exact!!  We talked about taking a little detour but didn’t want to commit to it – you know, weather, timing, etc.  So it looks like we will have an “acceptable weather window” to make the journey.  It will be a long day (9+ hours) and we will leave early (0’dark:30) but isn’t that our new normal?

By this time on Friday 2/23/2018 we should be tucked in at Gulfport Marina – effectively completing the great state of Mississippi via water route from north to south!!  Not necessarily in a  straight line…

We will keep you posted on the next crazy adventure brought to you by The Lower Place.  Have a super great weekend and do something unexpected for someone you don’t know.

God Bless

An update to our 3 Rivers Anchorage…

A nice, calm anchorage...plenty of water or so it seemed!

Isn’t it great how God sends people to us in the most unusual way for the most unusual reasons?

We had an enjoyable afternoon working on projects…trying to update the blog, etc.  Around 5:00 Charlie fired up the grill for dinner just as we saw a flat bottom fishing boat approaching our boat.  Charlie met them at the bow of our boat.  A couple local men (I presumed it was father w/grown son) proceeded to tell Charlie that we were actually anchored in flood water.  He said the river level was dropping and while we had plenty of water under the boat there was a sand bar at the opening.  Once the water dropped we probably wouldn’t be able to get out…even at high tide!  GULP!!!

Needless to say, we thanked them many times, loaded dinner on the grill, pulled up the stern & bow anchors and motored outta there!!!  It wasn’t a long, drawn-out or dangerous situation – in fact, by the time we were settled dinner was ready! YUM!!

This random act of neighborly kindness is just one of the many reasons we continue to enjoy our travels on The Lower Place.  And another reason we are reminded to show love & respect to one another.  And being a good neighbor is always a good idea even if you have no idea where the people live!!

God Bless!!

A side note regarding the choice of anchorage...our charts didn't define it as an anchorage but showed there was plenty of water. Always pays to honor the local knowledge!

Demopolis to Bobby's Fish Camp

[Ed. note: we have been out of reliable connectivity for several days...this is news from Feb 20-21, 2018]

Wow - What a journey so far!!  We left the dock at Demopolis (Kingfisher Bay Marina) at coffee:30 6:15 am) with fellow gold looper Emery El by our side.  The plan was to reach Bobby’s Fish Camp and tie up for the day…that’s 97 miles!!!!  Almost 2 days worth of travel rolled into 1…ok, I can do this for sunshine!
The Lower Place cruising SOUTH - photo compliments of Emery El
It was overcast & cloudy (or maybe still dark) when we approached the lock.  Before long we were cruising south again AND the current was with us.  Our standard cruising speed is 8 mph…the current bumped us to 10-12 mph…yippee!!  Of course we stayed on constant alert for debris – limbs, logs, trees, the random deck cushion, lawn chair or ice chest – all fair game in the flooded Tombigbee River!


Bashi Creek anchorage a "no-go" H I G H water!
It was a quick and uneventful 9 hours to Bobby’s Fish Camp just north of Coffeeville AL.  We didn’t stay here on our last trip so this was quite the experience.  Yes, we had electricity and that was new.  I didn’t get off the dock because EVERYTHING was a slippery, muddy mess due to the recent flooding.  Randall (husband to the Bobby’s owner) climbed off his tractor & watched us tie up.  He was pleasant and said his wife would be by after 5:30 to collect our dock fee.  Sure enough at 5:35 Randall drove down to the waters’ edge in his side by side.  He picked up Charlie (I wasn’t going) and John (Emery EL) & they drove off into the woods as I heard banjos playing quietly in the background.  Gulp! LOL!!  Before long they returned on foot…I never saw Randall again.  Their feet were muddy but they didn’t look traumatized - Don’t ask, don’t tell.
Randall at Bobby's Fish Camp - nice guy!
After a light dinner it was early to bed because another early departure was scheduled for Wed 2/21/2018.  I woke up at 9:30pm, the boat was rocking and it was POURING rain!  I got up checked the lines/ & closed a couple windows – we were secured.  Back to bed for me!

It's not unusual to have a deer crossing area on the river!
Before I knew it – 5:30 am was staring me in the face…Charlie was still sleeping too and we agreed to a 6:15 cast off….yikes! Until we looked outside – the evening rain brought morning fog & the Coffeeville Lockmaster strongly suggested we stay tied to the dock & let the fog life…YAY!!! Within 30 minutes the fog “cleared enough” so we took off.

To give a little perspective on the flooding:  The Coffeeville Lock has a normal 34’ drop – today (2/21/2018) we dropped 8’.  THAT’S a lot of high water but we are using the current to our advantage.  Now that we are south of the lock system we are officially in “tidal water”.  So in addition to flooding we must consider the tide swing – fortunately it’s only a couple feet in this part of the world.
Our approach to the 3 Rivers Anchorage - flood water everywhere!

After a cloudy, windy travel morning & the realization of most of the anchorages being flooded we opted to stop early – before 1:00pm – on Wednesday.  This will give us the afternoon to work on a few boat projects, update the blog & plan our approach to Mobile AL!!  So here we sit in “3 Rivers Anchorage” enjoying an afternoon of sunshine & boat work…not a bad way to spend a Wednesday.

Have a fabulous week

Monday, February 19, 2018

…On The Boat Again…

That’s right boys and girls…The Lower Place is back in action & heading SOUTH.  After we finished America’s Great Loop in October 2017 we didn’t want to stop cruising.  But The Lower Place needed a little TLC (repairs, maintenance, cosmetic touch-ups) so Aqua Yacht Marina was the place for 98 days “on the hard” and we are so happy with the final results!
Locking through...yes!!! It's C O L D!!
Once the boat was back in the water we did a very short (one afternoon) shake-down cruise with the Wimberly crew on Friday, February 9th and everything checked out perfect. So what else would we do?  We loaded clothes, food & water and pointed the bow south on February 11th, of course!!  We made it to Midway Marina, Fulton MS and pulled in for the night.  Midway was our home marina for over a year before we started the loop.  We still have so many friends there so it was like a small homecoming – very enjoyable!! Good Times!!

Bright and early Monday the 12th we headed to Columbus Marina, Columbus MS.  Now this stop was really a homecoming!!  Mother loaned her car to us for the entire week! What a blessing! Where would we be without moms (or moms-in-law)?! We had several things to do before we ventured further…taxes, medical, visits with friends and family AND making new friends!  It was a very busy week and time just zipped by!!!
Just a sample of Mama's road jam! Love her!
At 0’dark thirty on Sunday the 18th we departed Columbus Marina and officially felt like we were headed “somewhere”!  And this early morning routine still isn’t routine…but at least we have coffee.  Now, in this part of the country we have had unusually heavy rainfall therefore flooding/debris is a concern.  We aren’t in “danger” but we must be aware of the current water levels AND additional rainfall to the north of us.  By 2:40 we called it a day and anchored off the river near Sumter Recreation Area, Aliceville AL.

Monday the 19th brought ANOTHER early departure (6:40am) with a planned destination of Kingfisher Marina, Demopolis AL. Charlie called the next lock (Heflin Lock and Dam) to ask about barge traffic, water levels and fog.  We were clear on everything, pulled up anchor and headed back to the river channel…only to be greeted with light fog…turning to dense fog…ending with radar navigation until we reached the lock (5 +/- miles)!!  The lockmaster hailed us and apologized saying, “It really wasn’t this bad when you call earlier.”  It was not a problem – just a reminder how quickly conditions can change.
Much better!!
Once we were secured in the lock, the lockmaster told us we could stay tied until the fog lifted or additional traffic arrived.  We were traveling with another boat – gold looper Emery El - so it was decided we would travel on slow & easy.  After an hour or so the fog lifted, the skies started to clear and we had SUNSHINE!!  For the first time in weeks we saw the sun!! Hallelujah!

AND I had my first sighting of Spanish moss too…I knew we were getting closer to Demopolis!  Before 1:00 we were secured in our slip at Kingfisher Marina. We are only staying 1 night in contrast to our last visit in Oct 2016 – we stayed almost a week!  Good Times!!

So this post is very narrative without a lot of details and I wasn’t sure I was going to resurrect the blog for this journey because…
1.        I only know we are headed south – no concrete destination
2.       This is a “down and back” trip with our only (insurance) requirement to be north of Demopolis AL by June 1 (beginning hurricane season).
3.       Our summer goal is to play on Pickwick Lake with our new friends, neighbors & family. Yep, bought a house while waiting for the boat to get finished.

But I will try to splash a few pictures, share some funny stories and pay forward the many pearls of wisdom I learn while cruising aboard The Lower Place.
I'm calling this "sunny conditions"

God Bless!