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Monday, November 11, 2013

November 11, 2013

A special thanks to all our Veterans!

Glenda always complains that I take the pictures but I'm never in any, so here is one of me.

Glenda Says:
We had another pleasant night at Kingfisher Marina.  It was a little chilly but not uncomfortable.  I took Daisy for a quick walk this morning and had coffee while Tom showered. It was nice to exchange "good mornings" with other early risers before we got on the water.  We were fortunate and did not have to wait very long before we were able to lock down.  The sun warmed the day up nicely.  The bluffs of this part of the river are remarkable.  I am amazed at God's glory in his creation.  Streaks of red iron ore can be seen in the white bluffs.  Streams of water pour out of the rocks.  We saw a young eagle trying to make lunch of a turtle but we disturbed him and his lunch swam away.  While we were looking for the best place to go fossil hunting we caught sight of an almost red coyote just making himself to home on the shore.  I must admit it made me a little nervous about getting out of the boat there and I didn't let Daisy get out.  Tom found a place where he could just pull up to an outcropping of rock and let me step off.  It did cross my mind that he might just putter off and leave me there with the coyote.  But I guess he still wants my company, he stayed nearby and picked me up.   I found multiple fossilized sea shells.  We headed back up the river and ate ham sandwiches.  The bad news is I had been munching on snacks all morning.  With the arctic front coming in Tuesday morning we decided not to stay another night.  So I guess our last tug boat trip of 2013 is done.  Let me hear from you if you enjoy "going with us" on the trips.

From Tom:

About 9:15 this morning we were given the green light to enter Demopolis Lock, along with "Dream Catcher", a catamaran power boat, for the 40' drop. Glenda wanted to visit Moscow Landing again to search for fossils. Moscow landing is about 14 miles downstream from the Marina, so it makes a good day trip.

On the way down, I noticed a large bird in the water about 10 feet from shore. He appeared to be struggling as he flapped his wings wildly trying to get to shore. Once out of the water, I recognized the bird was a juvenile bald eagle, not old enough to have grown the distinctive white head and tail, and black body feathers. After a few minutes at the edge of the water, he flew off upriver. That's when we noticed the small turtle that he left at the waters edge. The turtle scurried back to the relative safety of the water. I'm sure the eagle could have carried off the little guy, but he probably was frightened by us and decided to leave without his catch.

Our next wildlife sighting was the coyote. He was walking along the bank, very near where a Blue Heron was wading. I don't know if the heron was on his menu or not, but when he turned and saw us, his attention turned to our boat. He walked slowly, keeping an eye on us the whole time. We were really surprised when he decided to lay down on a rock ledge for minute, still watching us closely. After several minutes, he got up and casually walked up the bank to the treeline, where he stopped, turned to look at us again, took a step or two and stopped again to look at us! He finally ducked out of sight.

The coyote didn't seem to be afraid of us at all. He did watch us closely though, turning to look several times as he leisurely walked into the treeline.

Just after leaving Moscow Landing, Glenda spotted a very large "leatherback snapping turtle" sunning himself on the rocks.

On the way back upstream we spotted 2 adult bald eagles, and one more juvenile! We got a picture of the juvenile, but the adults didn't stick around long enough for us to get a shot.

As we passed Hall Creek, which is 3 miles from the Demopolis Lock, I radioed the Lock to request lockage upstream. The lock tender said he'd have the gates open and waiting for me. You never know what kind of delays you might encounter at a lock, and this was as good as it gets! As we approached the lock 30 minutes later, the lock tender told us to proceed into the lock and tie up. We did, and about 30 minutes later we were 40' higher and exiting onto Lake Demopolis again!

We checked out of the marina, hooked up the trailer and pulled the boat out at the city boat ramp, ending our trip. The highlight of this trip, aside from the scenery and wildlife, was the opportunity to talk with the full-time residents at the marina. They were so friendly, and had such interesting boats and life experience stories to share. Glenda and I found this both entertaining and educational as we entertain the thought of spending more time (full-time?) on the boat.

All in all, it was a another great trip. God has blessed us in more ways than we can count!

Glenda was able to get off the boat at Moscow Landing, where she found lots of fossils.

We called these "Leatherback Snapping" turtles when I was a kid, but I don't know if that's their official name. This one looks like he may have lost part of his front leg (?)

The white bluffs were stained red in places, I assume from iron ore deposits.

We passed LOTS of towboats with barges during our trip. The Captains are always very cautious,  courteous, and friendly.

Sometimes I think all I need is little shack on the river, but this one would get small very quick if you had company.

This was the 2nd juvenile eagle we saw today.

These fishermen give some perspective to the 40' drop at the Demopolis Dam. The Lock is just to the right, out of the picture.

The scenery was "post card" perfect!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Demopolis Trip - Sunday 11-10, 2013

Enjoying the sunshine!
Glenda Says:

Boy!  I slept good last night.  It was a little chilly but the little electric heater came on and off just enough to knock the cold off.  We slept late for us and it was 7:30 before we headed off.   The instant coffee was not the best, but it will do in a pinch.  We decided against going through the lock this morning.  There was A LOT of barge traffic.  We went instead up the Black Warrior.  The sunshine warmed up the day nicely.  We explored a couple of inlets.  Its always fun to go through a narrow shalllow opening and end up in a wide beautiful lake.  We stopped to see the little red steel tug we saw last year.  The family remembered us and waved us in.  We got a tour of the little tug, met the children and had a nice visit.  We left with an invitation to come back and eat with them sometime.  It is fun to meet nice people. 

Once we squeezed through the small opening, it opened up into a HUGE lake!

We explored an inlet on the way back and found a Corp of Engineers boat ramp/campground.  Tom nudged the boat ashore and we jumped off  to strech our legs.  We got back into the marina before 3:00, went for a quick walk and drove into town for supper.  We had a few minutes to talk to marina resident Buell.  Buell is 90 years old and still lives aboard his boat.  He is former Navy and a nice gentleman.  It is opportunities like that, that make boating so much fun.  I try to remember, everone I meet is an immortal being. 

Seeing these white herons made us miss Abby - she loves them!

From Tom:
We radioed the Demopolis lock this morning while we were following a really large towboat, the Claude B, pushing several barges, that was also headed downstream. I didn't think that the lockmaster would allow us to lock through together, but I asked him. He stated that due to the low level of water, the tow would likely have to really push to get out of the lock, and this would make it rough inside the lock for our little boat. He called the tow Captain and asked his opinion, and the Captain said he would try to make it as easy as he could on us if we wanted to try it. We waited behind the Claude B until an upstream towboat was about to clear the lock, but the more I thought about it, the more uneasy I was, so I radioed the lock again and told him that we'd just make alternate plans rather than lock through alongside the tow and barges. I didn't really want to be trying to hold our little boat tight to the bollard in the middle of the blast from the tow's 2,000 hp engines.

The Claude B, about to enter the Demopolis Lock.  I wasn't comfortable sharing a lock with him when he might be dragging the bottom and pushing hard to get out on the lower end.

We had a great day exploring the backwaters of the lower Black Warrior, though. As much as I'd like a bigger boat, there are advantages to having one as small as ours. Since it only draws about 18" of water, we can go almost anywhere without worrying about grounding her, and even if we did, we could just jump off and push her back into deeper water!

The advantages of a small boat - you can go in skinny water and nose up the bank almost anywhere.
I wanted to include a photo from 10 seconds before this one, when Glenda was trying to climb back on the boat from the bank. But she threatened mutiny if I did.

Glenda has already told about meeting Buell, and we also got a chance to talk with Fred, the owner/manager of the marina. Fred is legendary for his knowledge of the river and his ability to provide great customer service. It was great to finally meet him.

We probably traveled around 25 miles today, and pulled back into the marina along with 5 boats that were traveling together on the "Great Loop". Maybe one day we'll be writing this blog while on the Loop ourselves!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Demopolis Veteran's Day Weekend Trip, 2013

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

Glenda Says:
Yea!! We are finally back on the boat.  I have not been on a trip since last Veterans Day weekend.  Even the road trip down to Demopolis was nice.  The fall folliage is as beautiful as I have ever seen.  We easily got here and set up at the new part of the marina.  We went ahead and ate an early lunch before we headed down the river.  The scenery is lovely.  The river was really quiet even though there appeared to be a fishing tournament around somewhere.  Daisy has settled in nicely.  We rode down to the dam and then back up the river a little way.  We saw a herd of beautiful does, a very regal looking osprey and lots of turtles.  We came back to the marina around 3:00, took about a 30 minute walk around the sidewalk past beautiful old historic homes.  Then we went to Halls catfish place and ate too much.  The facilities are very nice.  I am now sitting in the cozy laundry/bathhouse area, watching the Alabama-LSU game on a big screen tv.  Not bad for roughing it. 

Doe deer near the Demopolis Lock and Dam

There are numerous creeks, sloughs, and such along this section of the Tenn-Tom waterway, some opening up to large lakes.

The "Crimson White" tugboat, pushing 6 barges, came down the Black Warrior River and turned upstream on the Tenn-Tom. I assume the owner is an Alabama fan !

This Osprey appeared to enjoy posing for the camera. To say he was beautiful is a real understatement.

From Tom:

When we got checked in at the Marina and found our slip, we checked out the facilities and found them to be just as nice as the internet reviews stated they were. We are staying at the "Kingfisher Bay Marina" which is a fairly new facility just North of the older Demopolis Yacht Basin. The two are owned and managed by the same people, and they have the customer service down pat.
After taking a quick look at all the really big, really nice, really expensive boats at the marina, we untied and motored out and headed downstream toward the lock and dam. It was hard for me to stop grinning, it felt so good to be back on the water!
My last trip on the tugboat was in early April, and I spent most of my time since then recovering first from open heart surgery (four bypasses), then from the implant of a pacemaker. I'm feeling great now, and this boat trip feels like the official end of my recovery and the beginning of a new time in my life when I'm feeling better than I have in years!
Our little tug is starting to show some age, and I didn't even have time to giver her a much needed bath before we left home, but she still putters along quietly at about 6 miles per hour. She doesn't leak or complain. We only travelled a little over 16 miles today, but tomorrow we'll have all day to explore this little corner of creation. I'll let you know tomorrow night what we saw!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Nickajack Dam to Chattanooga with Nathan and Dallas - Day 3

April 10, 2013

I woke up before daylight and put water on the stove for hot chocolate (for me and Dallas) and for coffee (for Nathan). We untied and idled out of Chickamauga Marina about 6:35 am, hoping that we would be first in line when the lock started it's daily schedule at 7:00.  We arrived at the gate about 7:45, with no other boats in sight. My radio calls to the lock went unanswered, but about 7:05 the enter light turned to green and the gates opened for us. By 7:10 we were secured to the bollard and ready for the trip back down to Nickajack Lake level. The trip down was fast and at 7:23 we were exiting the lock!
Dallas had a lot of "Captain" time on the trip, and handled the boat very well!
The scenery changes back and forth from developed property to very rural.

The discharge location for the Raccoon Mt. Reservoir. Just below this spot was the deepest water of our trip - 112' !!

The Ospreys were nesting all along our route, and are amazing in their ability to catch fish!
I still don't know the story behind this Native American Statue, but it always catches my attention.

We passed through Chattanooga and enjoyed the view of the Gorge from the opposite direction as we made our way back to Nickajack Dam. It always amazes me how different everything looks, depending  on the direction you are headed.
There were several of these birds, apparently drying their  wings. They looked like statutes!

Just downstream from Chattanooga, Dallas spotted bald eagle #4 of the trip, as he flew across the river just behind our boat.

The grin on Dallas' face tells how much he enjoyed the trip. Nathan and I did too!

At Oates Island, we saw the female adult eagle, again just a few feet from her nest, but this time we saw that there were three juveniles eagles in the nest. This made a total of 8 eagle sightings for the trip!
Here you can see the adult female, and three juvenile eagles on the nest at Oates Island.

Arriving at the Dam's boat ramp at 2:00 pm, I noted a total distance for the trip of 102 miles. We had stopped at Hales Bar Marina for gas, but they were out, so I don't have a MPG figure, but the Knot-So-Fast has been pretty consistent at about 12 MPG on these "up and back" trips.

We pulled the boat onto its trailer and headed home, tired but with a feeling of contentment. I feel very blessed to have been able to spend the last 3 days in the middle of God's creation with Nathan and Dallas. The eagles are always the high point of these trips for me, and this one was especially great as it was the first eagle sighting for both Nathan and Dallas.
The Knot-So-Fast is loaded on the trailer for the trip home. 

Nickajack Dam to Chattanooga with Nathan and Dallas - Day 2

April 9, 2013

Last night was cool, and I got up about 4:00 am to shut the windows on the boat. After breakfast, we explored the downtown area again, then from the boat we cruised around the waterfront and stopped at MacLellan Island, which is a nature preserve with primitive camping facilities.
Blue Heron nests on MacLellan Island.
Access to MacLellan Island was more suited to canoes and kayaks, but we managed to find a spot where we could get off the boat.

MacLellan Island has great hiking trails.

Proud parents along the Chattanooga Riverfront.

After lunch at Five Guys, we left Chattanooga about noon, headed upstream for Chickamauga Lock and Dam, stopping along the way to cruise up Chickamauga Creek, where a large cottonmouth water moccasin crossed in front of us.
Water Moccasin crossing Chickamauga Creek.

When we were about 10 minutes from the lock, I radioed them to request an upstream lock, and was told we would have a wait of approximately 2 hours while a tow made two trips through the lock to get all his barges through. We'd had to wait  on 2 other occasions at the Chickamauga Lock, and I thought we'd just had a run of poor timing. A check of the lock information revealed the problem. This lock is much smaller than most others on the river systems, so many of the towboats pushing multiple barges have to break them down and take their barges through in smaller groups. The lockmaster was very helpful and instructed us to a spot where the water was calm for us to wait. The towboat had brought 2 barges down, and was entering the lock to go back up and retrieve his last 2 barges. We waited, talking to fishermen in the area and relaxing.
As we entered the lock, the upstream gate is holding back a 44' tall wall of water!

Finally, the tow emerged from the lock again, pushing his last 2 barges. The Lockmaster radioed us and said we were clear to enter the lock as soon as the towboat passed by us. We entered the lock and tied up to a bollard in the wall on the upstream end of the lock. The gates closed and we began the 44 foot rise up to Chickamauga Lake. Nathan had a concerned look on his face when the gates closed and he realized we were in in the chamber with a 44 foot tall wall of water just behind the upstream gate. He said it was"a little ominous" looking. Thirty minutes later we were motoring out onto Chickamauga Lake, were we turned to starboard and crossed to the far shoreline to Chickamauga Marina. We made arrangements to take a shower there, and possibly spending the night. An employee there, Mark, was extremely helpful, making sure we had everything we needed. After a hot shower, I radioed the lock again and asked about locking back downstream before sundown. The answer was that they could get us locked through, but it would be near dark or later, so we decided to stay at the marina and hope to get through the lock first when they open in the morning.
Dallas' cooking skills were impressive, and the pork chops were terrific!

We motored upstream a couple of miles and found a quiet slough at a state park, where we threw out the anchor and started the grill. Dallas took cooking duty, and grilled the pork chops to perfection! When supper was finished, we made the leisurely trip back to the marina and tied up at the fuel dock for the night.

Nickajack Dam to Chattanooga with Nathan and Dallas - Day 1

April 8, 2013.
This morning we began a trip that I'd been looking forward to for months. My eight year old grandson, Dallas, was out of school for Spring Break, and my son, Nathan, had a few days off from work, so we were headed to Nickajack Dam where we'd start our three day trip through the "Gorge" to Chattanooga and back.

Nathan had not been on an extended trip on the boat, and Dallas had only been on a one-nighter, and I was a little worried that the 6 mph speed of the tug might lead to boredom for them. As it turns out I had nothing to worry about.

We launched the boat just above the dam about 9:00 am and headed upstream. Almost every navigational marker on the river had a nesting osprey and other water birds were abundant, too. About 2 hours into our trip, as we approached Oats Island, we spotted a bald eagle on a branch near its nest. The water near the island was shallow, so we couldn't get as close as we wanted, but Nathan and Dallas both got a good look at the adult eagle and at least one juvenile eagle in the nest. This was the first wild bald eagle sighting for Nathan and for Dallas.

This was the first wild bald eagle that Nathan or Dallas had seen. 
As we entered the Gorge, we all took turns at the wheel. The weather was cool and a little cloudy. Occasionally the breeze would require us to shut the windows, but for the most part the trip was comfortable as we wound through the valleys of Signal, Raccoon and Lookout Mountains toward Chattanooga.

We saw another adult eagle, flying alongside what we thought was large hawk. As we watched the two, though, they looked more like an adult and a juvenile eagle, but we couldn't get a good enough look to be sure about the juvenile.

We arrived at Chattanooga about 4:00 pm and checked in at the Marine Max office to pay for our slip at Bluff Dock for the night. We were the only boat at the dock and I wondered if any others would join us  there for the night. After securing the boat and cleaning up a little, we headed up the steps which lead from the river to downtown Chattanooga. Just about 4 blocks away was Sugar's BBQ, where we ate some of the best pork BBQ in the world!
We were all alone on Bluff Dock in Chattanooga.

The famous "back scratching" dog of Chattanooga. Notice the finish rubbed off his paw from scratching visitor's backs.

We explored the downtown area a little, then headed back down the bluff to the river and our boat. Dallas was excited to see the fountains, water steps, and pools at the riverfront. Even though it was a little chilly, Dallas did get a chance to play in the water before the sun started to go down.

Walking through downtown Chattanooga reveals surprises at every turn, like this couch made of brick.
Nathan and Dallas on the pedestrian bridge across the Tennessee River. In the background is the famous Delta Queen riverboat, which is now a stationary hotel.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

3-19-03, Perdido Key to Gulf Shores

3-19-13, Tuesday

We all slept well last night – I’m sure the good hot shower and the great meal at the Sunset Grill contributed to that. When we rolled out of bed it was almost 8 o’clock. We took a walk, watched dolphins and pelicans and ate breakfast, and finally threw off the lines about 10:15 and headed West.
A beautiful morning, looking West from Holiday Harbor Marina

The wind was a little cool, but the sun was shining and the water calmer than our last 2 days in the more open waters of Pensacola Bay and Santa Rosa Sound. We saw several dolphins as we made our way to Pirates Cove where we nosed up to the beach and took a break, hoping to find lunch. Although the restaurant was technically open, there was a lot of building/remodeling going on and very little cooking, so we decided to travel a little further to the Wharf for lunch.  Before leaving the area though, we took a short detour through the canal in Stone Quarry subdivision. This is where my “dream boat” is docked and I wanted Abby to see it. It’s a 34’ Redwing tug style cruiser, designed by Chesapeake Marine Design, and was built by a man who lives in Louisiana. A few weeks ago I contacted him and he took Glenda and I over for a tour of it. If I build our next boat, I’m pretty sure this is the one I’ll build, but that’s another story.
My next project ??????
At Holiday Harbor we noticed another Knot-So-Fast !

At the Wharf, we had a good lunch at the Compete Angler, which is the former Guy Harvey restaurant. We then filled up the gas tank, with 11.6 gallons and calculated our mileage at 12.04 miles per gallon – very good considering how hard we pushed the little engine over the last 3 days.

As we passed Homeport Marina (aka Lulu’s) we saw the Harry, the owner builder of the “Vicki Lynn” sitting on the bow in his slip alongside the ICW. I pulled up and we talked boats for a few minutes. Harry and his wife Vicki spent 7 years building the Vicki Lynn, which is a George Beuhler designed 47’ “Diesel Duck” trawler.  It’s a beautiful boat inside and out and we always enjoy seeing it when we pass by.

Abby wanted to spend another night on the boat, but after seeing the weather forecast which called for the winds to pick up tomorrow, we decided to cross the lower bay to our house on Ft. Morgan road where Glenda retrieved the truck and trailer and met Abby and I back in Gulf Shores to pull out the boat and end our trip.

Glenda says:

View from the Ferris Wheel at the Wharf. The Knot-So-Fast is a dot in the upper left of the photo.
We had an excellent night at Holiday Harbor.  We slept until almost 8:00, fixed ham and eggs for breakfast and then went for a nice long walk.  We did not leave the marina until after 10:00.  We went to Pirate Cove thinking we would eat lunch there but decided instead to wait until we got to the Wharf.  We took Abby to see the boat Tom is thinking about building before lunch.  We finally made it to the Wharf and had a delicious meal at the “Compleat Angler”.  Abby and I took the time to ride the Ferris wheel before we headed out.  Unfortunately we had neglected Daisy and she had an accident in the boat.  We had a nice trip from the Wharf all the way across the bay.  Tom dropped me at the house and headed back to the boat ramp.  It’s always a little sad when another trip comes to an end.  But I’m so thankful for this time we have to enjoy ourselves out on the water.   


Abby says:

This morning I woke up to Daisy tapping her nails on the floor, and I picked her up to lay in the bed with me. We laid there for a little while, until I got up to use the bathroom. That’s when G.G. and Papa woke up. When they got up, I took Daisy for a walk. We had some ham, eggs, and hot chocolate for breakfast, and then we were on our way! Later we went to Pirates Cove, and got off on the beach. We walked around, and then went to the Warf to get lunch. We ate at the Compleat Angler. It was really good. After that G.G. and I walked to the ferris wheel and went for a ride on it. We could see the boat from the top. When we came down, we got back in the boat and went to the beach house. We dropped G.G. off, and Papa and I went to the HWY. 59 Bridge. G.G. met us there, and we got the boat out of the water and went to our beach house. That was the end of our day!!

Daisy says:

Today I didn’t do much, but we went somewhere (Pirates Cove) and Abby grabbed me and jumped off the boat. She plopped me down in some sand, and we started walking. Then some dog, very rude dog if you ask me, he just ran up to me! I tried to walk away, but he was 10 times my size. He was nearly to me, when his person called him over. Then we got back on the boat, and went to the woof. (Warf) there everybody got out, except me. I stayed, but I really had to peepee….. I accidently did it in the boatL….oops. Nobody was too mad, and I was gladJ. There was also a dog there, who also scared me. Who am I kidding though? Every dog scares me! Anyway, I had an adventurous day!