November 18, 2012

November 18, 2012    Day 191                             

Bay Point Marina, Panama City, FL
Total miles to date:  4044.3

We left our anchorage and made the short trip to Panama City in two hours, arriving here at 10:00. The water was fairly calm and the sky was partly cloudy – and yes, we saw more dolphins!

When we arrived at the marina we discovered two other Loopers already there: Nanseann and Gold Loopers Sandpiper. 

We got checked in and immediately started cleaning the boat. Three days at anchor did not allow us to clean the salt spray off the boat and that is important. Bill scrubbed the decks and Joyce polished all the railings.  In the meantime Joyce began preparing the inside of the boat and getting out things for the road trip.

By late afternoon, Great Laker arrived and we visited with Anne and Larry briefly. 

We went to the restaurant by the marina for a quick dinner and had a nice meal.  Then it was back to the boat to finish laundry and packing!

Since we will be gone for two weeks we will not post a blog during that time. When we return on December 2, we will write one “summary blog” of our travels to Texas and Colorado.  We look forward to being with our daughter and son-in-law and grandchildren for Thanksgiving in Texas, and our son and daughter-in-law and grandson in Colorado shortly after that.   This will be our first time off the boat since we left in May!  We will pick up a rental car in the morning and head to Baton Rouge to spend the first night with Chuck and Becky.

We wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels!

November 17, 2012

November 17, 2012    Day 190                             

Anchor, Burnt Mill Creek, FL
Total miles to date:  4025.3

We left our anchorage near Niceville under a bright sunny sky at 8:20 this morning.  The wind was 15-20 mph and the sea was very choppy! We did see several dolphins again today but no pictures!

Soon, we could see the lovely resort town, Sandestin, to our starboard side although we were not close to the shoreline at that point.

Sandestin skyline
The "Grand Canyon" canal
We never get tired of the sunsets!
Just before noon, we entered the “Grand Canyon” section of the water which is more of a canal. It took two hours to get through it.  The canal is narrow and lined with trees, many of which are uprooted. Some have already fallen down the bank into the water.  We saw almost no wildlife – a few shorebirds, and only three boats!  Shortly after that we entered a wide section of the ICW again and could see Panama City on the horizon. We turned north to go an anchorage called Burnt Mill Creek at 3:00. At that point, we have traveled over 4000 miles on the trip!

We watched lots of college football after we arrived at our anchorage!  We will go to Bay Point Marina in Panama City tomorrow. We only have 21 miles so we will get there early and start preparing for our road trip to be with family for Thanksgiving.  The boat needs to be cleaned and we have to pack!

November 16, 2012

November 16, 2012    Day 189                           
Anchor, Niceville, FL
Total miles to date:  3971.8

We only traveled 27 miles today and anchored near Niceville, FL.  It was entirely overcast and very chilly and we were happy to anchor about 12:30 and turn on the generator for a while.  On the way, we passed Fort Walton Beach and Destin, before turning north to Niceville, about 6 miles out of the way, but a good anchorage.  We were stationed at Hurlburt Field, part of Eglin AFB in 1970 where Bill was in training for the type of plane he flew in Vietnam. That was a few years ago, but he recognized the runway and other buildings as we passed by.

We saw very few boats out today and only one or two dolphins approached us. It must be too cold to be out there! The sun did come out around 3:00 and it turned out to be a beautiful afternoon.

We will head to another anchorage tomorrow as we work our way closer to Panama City.

One of many large homes we passed today
Passing Ft. Walton Beach

A nice shelter for this little boat!

November 15, 2012

November 15, 2012    Day 188                            

Anchor, Lower Prichard Long Point, Navarre, FL
Total miles to date:  3944.8

Coast Guard boat following us while 3 of them
were on our boat doing the inspection
Today was eventful!  We left the marina around 8:30 this morning saying goodbye to The Last Resort and headed east on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.  We passed other Loopers: Betty L, Latitude Adjustment, Louise, and Truant on the way.  As soon as we crossed into Florida, we were immediately met by the Coast Guard.  They boarded our boat and spent about 20 minutes doing their safety check.  They were very friendly, professional, and courteous and everything went smoothly.  We had heard from many boaters that this is common and that sooner or later everyone is boarded, so we did expect it – and it will not likely be the last time!

We also saw many dolphins today and that is always a good thing. They continue to entertain us – if only they would slow down!

Sunset over Navarre
We anchored out near Navarre, FL after traveling 50 miles today.  At 4:45 pm, we took pictures of the first of many Florida sunsets that we will see!

We will head to another anchorage tomorrow.

November 14, 2012

November 14, 2012    Day 187                             

The Wharf Marina, Orange Beach, AL
Total miles to date:  3894.3

After saying goodbye to Ross and Laura (The Zone), and Brooks (Our Time) whom we had not seen since we were in Canada, we stopped for fuel at Dog River Marina.  We then left Mobile at 8:40am and entered Mobile Bay. We were pleased to find it was much calmer than forecast – we were quite content with two foot waves! Because the bay is shallow, waves can be close together and big.

At noon, we entered the GICW and followed the narrow channel to Orange Beach.  We were delighted to see dolphin several times off the bow of the boat. They are very graceful, but so elusive!  Joyce even stood on the bow of the boat for quite a while and still only got one photo (and that was taken from the flybridge later). We are sure we will have many opportunities to see them again and hope to have better pictures!

We arrived at the Wharf Marina at 1:30 and docked next to Don and Freya on The Last Resort. Bill cleaned the outside of the boat when we arrived. This will be a daily routine as we need to wash off the salt spray.

We took a walk around the shops that are part of The Wharf. There are boutiques, clothing stores, a theatre, restaurants, etc. There are also condos that are part of the complex.  According to one store manager they flourish in the summer, but this is definitely off season and most of the shops were empty.

When we returned to the boat, we invited Don and Freya over for docktails and had a very nice visit with them.  Afterwards we had a light dinner and finished the chart plotting.

We will anchor out for the next three days and then go to Bay Point Marina in Panama City on Sunday.  We will leave Carried Away there while we drive to Texas and Colorado to visit our children and grandchildren.

November 13, 2012

November 13, 2012    Day 186                             

Turner Marine, Mobile, AL
Total miles to date:  3855.3

We spent today in port as planned and got more boat chores done. We also worked on planning our route as we will start heading toward the Florida panhandle. There are many places to stop along the way. We will leave Mobile tomorrow morning and go to Orange Beach, AL – again there are several marinas from which to choose.  The winds are forecast at a moderate chop all week, but we really have no choice but to leave and keep on our schedule for Thanksgiving plans.

We had a nice visit from Bill’s brother Chuck and our sister-in-law, Becky, this afternoon.  They were driving back home to Baton Rouge from a weekend in Destin, FL and we were right on the way. We went out to lunch and then made a well appreciated stop at Walmart.  Chuck and Becky traveled with us from Traverse City to Chicago and it was good to see them again!

We had pizza for dinner and just relaxed this evening.  Tomorrow is a travel day!

November 12, 2012

November 12, 2012    Day 185                             

Turner Marine, Mobile, AL
Total miles to date:  3855.3

Another milestone!  We have been on our trip exactly 6 months today. It is so hard to believe we are about at the half way point on the Loop!  It continues to be an amazing journey and we would not trade the experience for anything.

We did a few chores today and have many more things to accomplish tomorrow.  We also walked to the nearby West Marine store to pick up a couple of items.

Hilary, Jessie, and Joel
Bill and Joel (Water Music) had another jam session playing the banjo and guitar on our boat this afternoon. Katie and Jessie (Louise) and Bert and Hilary (Took the Plunge) also stopped by and joined in the fun.

We were able to celebrate Joyce’s birthday tonight at Felix’s with excellent seafood.  We were joined by five other couples: Joel & Debby (Water Music), Bert & Hilary (Took the Plunge), Don & Freya (The Last Resort), Ross & Laura (The Zone), and Bill & Joy (Proud Lady).  We had a wonderful evening!

Dinner at Felix's to celebrate Joyce's birthday
We decided to stay here in Mobile again tomorrow since high winds are forecast again. 

November 11, 2012

November 11, 2012    Day 184                             

Turner Marine, Mobile, AL
Total miles to date:  3855.3

What an interesting day we had!  Another chapter closed as we finished the “river system” with its tows, barges, oxbows, cut-offs, and locks…and entered Mobile Bay with salt water, waves of 3 feet, seagulls, pelicans, and a dolphin. 

We left our anchorage with The Zone and headed back out on the river at 6:55 am. We had over 60 miles to travel and needed the early start.  We passed several tows on the river and as we got further south noticed the change in shoreline to become more marsh-like.  Soon we were entering the busy, industrial area at Mobile and kept close watch on the water traffic.  Then we were out in the bay!
Passed this fishing boat out for his catch in Mobile Bay

Took the Plunge and Water Music
behind us in Mobile Bay
Busy port at Mobile
We arrived at Turner Marine at 2:45 with Took the Plunge and Water Music while The Zone went into Dog River Marina.  We had planned to go out to dinner to celebrate Joyce’s birthday with other boaters, but discovered the Yacht Club was closed this evening, and we did not have transportation to go offsite.  We will try to regroup tomorrow.  Freya and Don from The Last Resort came by with a delicious slice of homemade key line cheesecake with birthday candles on it.  Phone calls from family also made it a special day!

Tomorrow’s weather forecast is for higher winds, rain and possible storms, and we will stay put and get some things done. Weather permitting, we will leave on Tuesday.  Joyce won a three night stay here at the Looper Rendezvous so we are happy to use it!


November 10, 2012    Day 183                             

Anchor at Alabama River Cut Off, Black Warrior-Tombigbee River, AL

Total miles to date:  3788.0

Early morning fog!
This was another day spent going down the river. Once again we encountered fog at the beginning but kept the radar on and had no problems. We passed several tows with their barges today – that just kept everything more interesting!  We were constantly amazed to see so many buoys out of place – and many almost on shore!  We traveled over 47 miles and chose the Alabama River Cut at mile marker 52.8 as our anchorage.  We are still traveling with Ross and Laura on The Zone and are rafted to them.

Always a friendly welcome wherever we go! 
We shared another good meal on board The Zone. We have enjoyed our travels down the Tombigbee River with them!  Tomorrow we will head over 60 miles to Mobile, which will mark the end of our travels on the river system.  We will go to Turner Marine and they will go to the nearby Dog River Marina.  Dinner will be at a restaurant!


November 9, 2012

November 9, 2012    Day 182                              

Anchor at Lock 1 Cut Off, Black Warrior-Tombigbee River, AL
Total miles to date:  3740.8

We continued our 45 mile journey south today after leaving our foggy anchorage at Bashi Creek at 7:20am.  But once we got out in the river, the fog was worse so we all waited until 8:00 to go any farther.

Entering the final lock with other Loopers
This egret hopped a ride on the gate
in the lock and rode down with us!
By 11:00 we arrived at Bobby’s Fish Camp, but did not stop. This is where some Loopers dock overnight, but we wanted to go farther today. We continued on to the Coffeeville Lock, our last lock on the river system!  It was our 138th lock on the Loop and we wrote our boat name on the bollard as we have seen other Looper names on earlier locks.  We will have only one or two more locks on the Loop – when we get near Virginia next spring.  We must admit, the locks on the rivers are so much easier because of the floating bollards!

Once we exited the lock we were still in the Black Warrior River but now in tidal water and salt water.  We started to see some “beach” or at least sandy areas along the river banks.
Our mark!
We entered Lock 1 Cut Off at mile marker 100 and anchored and rafted to The Zone again. We have a system going that works for us!  Catmandu and Lazy Dolphin pulled in behind us and rafted together also.  There are remains of an old lock here that add to the peaceful setting along with many shore birds that wade along the shallow edges.  Bill even took a dinghy ride to check out the area.

Catmandu and Lazy Dolphin rafted together
in the anchorage behind us
We grilled out with Ross and Laura and had a great dinner on board The Zone. 

We have two more long days to reach Mobile so we will get an early start again tomorrow!


November 8, 2012    Day 181                              

Bashi Creek, Black Warrior-Tombigbee River, AL
Total miles to date:  3695.8

Knowing today was going to be a very long one, we got an early start and left Demopolis at 7am with seven other boats. The lock was four miles away and the lockmaster had it ready for all of us.  We descended 40 feet and then exited the lock, ready to keep going south. We were now on the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway and it had all the twists and turns of the one before it!  There was very little water traffic today. We only passed one tow and one pleasure craft.

Our chart plotter shows the path to follow!
We were stacked in tight at
Bashi Creek with five boats!
Another view of Bashi Creek!
There were few acceptable anchorages on the river and we had to continue 71 miles to Bashi Creek to find one. The creek is very narrow and tree lined but we went in first and then turned around and anchored. Then The Zone backed in and anchored and rafted to us.  Shortly after that two more boats arrived and rafted together. Then a fifth boat, Catmandu, also on the Loop, entered and anchored.  Bashi Creek was full with boats lined three deep front to back!

Ross and Laura (The Zone) came over for dinner as we once again pooled our resources for a good meal!



November 7, 2012

November 7, 2012    Day 180                              

Demopolis, AL

Total miles to date:  3624.5

Today was spent in port at Demopolis getting chores done.  (We do have to do that at times!) 

Catmandu, Carried Away, Limelight, Lazy Dolphin,
The Zone, and Took the Plunge at dinner
More Loopers, Took the Plunge and Lazy Dolphin arrived today and we chatted with them. Twelve of us went to dinner at the restaurant at the marina and had good Cajun food! 

Unfortunately, Don and Anita, on Limelight have to postpone their travels for a while and go back to Wisconsin for medical reasons.  We had docktails on their boat before dinner.  We wish them the best and hope to see them again when they are able to resume the Loop!

We will leave early in the morning with The Zone and Catmandu for a long day of travel to an anchorage. 

November 6, 2012

November 6, 2012    Day 179                              

Demopolis, AL
Total miles to date:  3624.5

An egret sits still while the heron takes flight!
We left our anchorage at 7:00am as planned and headed to the Gainesville/Heflin Lock which was ready for us.  Laura, on The Zone, faithfully calls the Lockmaster each morning to coordinate our arrival!

Passing the cliffs at Epes

We traveled just over 53 miles and followed the tree lined winding river to Demopolis. Along the way we passed the white cliffs at Epes and weren’t disappointed. There was almost no boat traffic today, but we did see a couple of tows and one or two small fishing boats.

We arrived at Demopolis Yacht Basin with The Zone around 1:30 and found several other Loopers here.  This tends to be a stop for everyone to stay at least two or three days and provision their boats before heading back out onto longer stretches of water and anchorages.  There are two sections of the marina and we were in the newer one (Kingfisher Bay) with nice floating docks. However it requires taking a golf cart over to the old section to pay, pick up a courtesy car, etc.

We borrowed the courtesy car for an hour and went to the post office and stopped briefly at Walmart. 

We invited Anita and Don from Limelight over for dinner and had a nice visit.

The rest of the evening was sent watching election returns. We were diligent about getting our absentee ballots mailed in early! 

We will remain here again tomorrow and get some projects done.


November 5, 2012

November 5, 2012    Day 178                              

At anchor, Sumter Recreation Area, AL

Total miles to date:  3571.4

We keep finding water hyacinths floating
around the docks where we have been the past two days.
They are also in the river and in the locks!
We continued our journey down the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway today with The Zone and Limelight, leaving Pirate’s Marina Cove at 8:40am.  We waited a few minutes for the Tom Bevill Lock to finish locking through a northbound tow and then we all entered with two other pleasure crafts. The river is fairly narrow and has many twists and turns at this point.  There are many trees lining the shore and few houses in this section.

Bill (yellow parka) took Don and Anita
to The Zone for dinner on our dinghy
We chose an anchorage at the Sumter Recreation area and rafted with The Zone while Limelight anchored nearby around 1:45. We all got together for dinner on The Zone.  We do eat well on this trip! We enjoyed steak, roasted potatoes, corn on the cob, Waldorf salad, hot bread, and wine.  Since Limelight was not rafted to us, Bill took the dinghy and picked them up.  By then it had started to rain, but they made it. We had another great evening!

Tomorrow will come early as we plan to leave at 6:30 and travel 53 miles to Demopolis. We have fewer hours of daylight and must arrive before dark.

November 4, 2012

November 4, 2012    Day 177                              

Aliceville, AL
Total miles to date:  3535.9

We were back on the water again today and left the Columbus Marina at 10:15 with The Zone and Limelight. First stop: the Stennis Lock which was ready for us. When we entered, we each had to provide documentation info on our boats.  Shortly after exiting the lock we left Mississippi and entered Alabama.

We felt like were invading
their "swimming pool"
Nice to have a back up plan
if our cell phones lose coverage going down river!

By 2:00 we arrived at Pirates Marina Cove and docked for the night. This is a very rustic marina but with a friendly staff. We borrowed the courtesy car and drove a short distance to the US Montgomery Snagboat. The visitor’s center was closed on Sunday but we were able to walk around the grounds and on the dock. The US Montgomery was a steam powered sternwheeler used on southern rivers to remove debris from 1926-1982.

Bill, Don, and Ross checking out the snagboat
We returned to our boats and made plans to have an early dinner on Carried Away since it gets dark earlier now!  We had quite a meal of roast beef, spinach pie, glazed carrots, two salads, and Blue Bell ice cream!  It is fun to pool our culinary resources and we enjoy sharing time with each other.

Nightfall at Pirate Marina Cove

Tomorrow we will head to an anchorage as we continue south on the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway.

November 3, 2012

November 3, 2012    Day 176                              

Columbus, MS
Total miles to date:  3508.6

Today was a “catch-up” day since we stayed in port. Laundry, grocery shopping, clothes shopping, window cleaning, and other projects took up most of the day. It was 85 degrees and very sunny today!  We did drive around the downtown area. Columbus was the home of playwright, Tennessee Williams. It is also home to the Columbus Air Force Base. Bill has enjoyed seeing the T-38’s overhead but wishes he were flying one of them again.

A few more Loopers arrived today: Blarney Castle, Colorado Cat, and Sandpiper.

In the evening we went to dinner with The Zone and Limelight to Huck’s Place, a popular local restaurant.  We had a very nice dinner. Huck’s is known for their Cajun food and seafood.

We plan to leave Columbus in the morning and go to Pirate Marina Cove. We need to keep heading south!

November 2, 2012

November 2, 2012    Day 175                              

Columbus, MS
Total miles to date:  3508.6

Carried Away passing the
Honest Bob tow and its barges
The tow on the left waited while the
downbound tow which we were
following, passed on the right.
Once again we unrafted our boat with The Zone and left our anchorage – this time near the Aberdeen Lock.  Limelight left their marina at the same time and the three of us went through the lock together – after we waited almost an hour for a tow to go through first. This was our only lock today, but we did pass several tows on the river.We arrived at the Columbus Marina at 1:00 where we were happy to dock after three days at anchor. The marina is an AGLCA sponsor and was very welcoming.  We stopped at the fuel dock first before going to our slip.

Anita and Don (Limelight) came over for docktails and then we invited them to stay for dinner. We had a very nice visit and enjoyed getting to know them better.

Tomorrow we will use the courtesy car and do some shopping. Tomorrow night we will go out to dinner with Ross and Laura and Don and Anita.


November 1, 2012    Day 174                              

At anchor near Aberdeen, MS
Total miles to date:  3485.1

It is November!  We unrafted our boat with The Zone and left our anchorage near the Fulton Lock.  Limelight left their marina at the same time and the three of us went through the Fulton Lock together. We arrived at the Wilkins Lock at 11:20 and the Amory Lock at 12:30. The timing was perfect for all three and there was no waiting.  We traveled under a bright blue sky, mild temperatures, and no wind. It doesn’t get any better than that.
We arrived at Aberdeen around 3:00. Limelight went to the marina and we went to an anchorage at Blue Bluff and rafted to The Zone.  We tried to go to a free wall at Blue Bluff but the entrance was too shallow and had deadheads in it as well.
Anchored at Blue Bluff near Aberdeen, MS

We had docktails on board The Zone and once again had a fun visit.  We returned to our boat for dinner and spent the evening watching television and writing the blog.

We will go to Columbus, MS tomorrow and stay at a marina for one or two days. 

November 1, 2012

October 31, 2012    Day 173                                
At anchor near Fulton, MS                                                                   
Total miles to date:  3451.6

Leaving with The Zone in the fog
Across from The Zone
in the Whitten Lock

Our departure this morning was slightly delayed by fog, but we did pull anchor and at 8:15 untied our three boats that were rafted together.  We called the Whitten Lock and we were able to enter without waiting. At 85 feet, it is the tallest lock, but the drop only takes about 15 minutes.  The floating bollards on these locks simplifies the entire locking process!

We had two more locks to go through today: Montgomery and Rankin. We were following a tow with barges and had to wait about 30 minutes for each one.  Shortly after we exited the Rankin Lock we said good bye to Anita and Don on Limelight as they decided to go to the Midway Marina.  We continued on just past the marina and anchored and rafted together with Laura and Ross on The Zone. We got together again for docktails and dinner on Carried Away and had a good visit.  Good friends, good food, good wine, beautiful setting on the water - another “life is good” day!

Tomorrow we will go through three more locks. Our destination is Aberdeen, MS.