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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Notes from our Delta Trip with Dani

We took the iPad on this trip, loaded with an app to write our blog posts. It worked pretty well, but would not allow us to add a caption to the pictures.

Tonight, back at home on my computer, I made a few additions and corrections to the posts we'd done on the iPad, and also added captions to the pictures.

If you looked at the blog posts for this trip prior to Wednesday night, March 26, please go back and look at the pictures again. They make a lot more sense with captions.

Also, I got some really good video of alligators and bald eagles on this trip. I can't get them to post directly to the blog, but over the next week or so I'll put them on youtube and put a link to them on the blog with a new post.

Our total trip distance for the four days was about 105 miles. The Knot-So-Fast ran perfectly during the whole time. I haven't filled the tank, but we ran pretty slow most of this trip, so I expect that we got over 12 miles to the gallon.

This is our fourth year of cruising with the Knot-So-Fast, and she is showing a little wear and tear on the topsides. After another trip or two this summer, I plan to rework the bulwark and cockpit, and add some storage in the cabin. Unfortunately, we can't magically make the boat bigger, which is what we really need. So....... sometime in the not-to-distant future, Glenda and I will have to make some decisions about buying or building a bigger boat.

Thanks for viewing our blog. We enjoy sharing our trips through it, and we REALLY love to hear your comments and feedback.

Tom

Tuesday March 25, 2014. Day 4 in the Delta

Last night we anchored out in Sardine Pass, just a short distance from Five Rivers' dock. The water was smooth and we watched mullet jump and the two osprey at the nest in front of us until dark. The wind shifted as some point and swung us toward the shore until the anchor alarm went off. I motored back to about our original spot, then set another anchor off the stern. That held us in place the rest of the night.
One of two bald eagles that showed us their flight skills along the Tensaw River

This morning we woke about 6:00 and the water and wind were calm, although the forecast is for the wind to pick up during the day, to about 20 knots. We made coffee and hot chocolate, then pulled up to the canoe dock and let Daisy have her morning walk before we idled out of the pass into the river. We were at low tide, and the water was a good 2' shallower than when we came in yesterday, but we didn't have any trouble getting out.

The first birds we saw today were the osprey at the Blakely - Apalachee river split, but as we approached Blakely State Park, the eagles put on a show for us! It's great to see them flying in the early morning sun, as the sun catches the white tail feathers and makes a "flash" every time they turn.

We continued up the Tensaw River and slipped under the railroad swing bridge, then turned West down a narrow pipeline canal which connected to Big Lizard Creek.  Big Lizard Creek winds its way back and forth and connects back to the Mobile River just South of the I-65 bridge (which is affectionately called the "Dolly Parton" bridge).
We saw dozens of herons, flying or standing motionless at the water's edge.

These ducks were so colorful they looked like they'd been painted.
When the ducks flew, you could see the blue of their wings!
Bald Eagle hunkered down in the wind.



Big Lizard Creek is narrow enough that you can watch for wildlife on both banks, and the wind was picking up as we started upstream. We were entertained by a red-tailed hawk, osprey, great blue heron, egrets, cormorants, a beautiful swallow-tailed kite, and eight ducks that looked like they were painted by an artist. (I guess they were!)

By the time we connected back to the Mobile River, the wind had really picked up and the weather forecast was calling for near freezing weather overnight, so we made the decision to load up the boat and head home. We had wanted to take Dani to see the Indian mounds on Mound Island, but that will have to wait until another trip.

Dani drove for awhile and the downstream ride to Dead Lake was fast (about 8 mph) as we were traveling with the wind and the current! When we turned North for our last ride up Dead Lake, I slowed down so we could get one last look at it. None of us wanted the trip to end, but we knew it was the best option. As a final surprise just before we got back to the marina, a flock of what I think were juvenile White Ibis's, gifted us with a few minutes of flying in front of us, perching in a tree till we caught up, then flying ahead again. They were so funny looking. It's like they were reminding us that there is more to see in the Delta!!! I can't wait to get back down here and explore more of one of Alabama's best secrets!

Our farewell committee. A whole flock of these (juvenile White Ibis's ?) made the final trip up Dead Lake with us.


Glenda says:
After our visit at 5 Rivers we anchored out or stayed out on " the hook".  It was a quiet night and I got up a couple of times and if it had not been so chilly I would have stayed up a while just to look at God's heaven.  The stars were twinkling in the black sky, there are no words to give it justice.  We were up and going by 7:00.  We stopped for a few minutes to let Daisy take care of her business.  We drank hot chocolate and instant coffee to warm up.  Then we were off.  We decided to take the more scenic route back to the marina.  We glided up Big Lizard creek, the narrowness of the creek made me feel like we could almost reach out and touch the trees.  It felt like we had gone back in time.  It was hard to believe the interstate was just a couple miles over.  We enjoyed the sights of more eagles, ospreys, herons and more.  Electronics, technology and other forms of entertainment are nothing compared to the sights and sounds out on the water.  But.....I think we need a bigger boat!

Dani says:
I slept good again. I like sleeping on the boat. We saw a swallow-tailed kite today. I kept a checklist of the birds I saw. I got the checklist at the Five Rivers Gift Shop. I had 16 birds checked off!
One of them was a great cormorant. Another was a great blue heron. But the kite was my favorite because of his tail. It was really cool!

This trip was better than Disney World !!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014, Day 3 of Dani's Delta Adventure

Last night the wind really picked up and the boat rocked back and forth, making the dock lines creak all night. We slept pretty good, though, and woke to cooler but less windy conditions.
We ate a quick breakfast and I showered while Glenda and Dani did some housekeeping and took Daisy for a walk.

About 8:40 we untied the lines and headed down Dead Lake again, this time with The Original Oyster House and Five Rivers as our destinations. On the 21mile trip down Dead Lake, the Mobile, Tensaw, and Apalatchee Rivers, and Pass Picado to the Oyster House, we saw Osprey, herons, egrets, cormorants, duck, and Dani's first ADULT bald eagle!

Going under the "14 mile" Railroad Bridge" was an adventure too. 2 years ago we had managed to squeeze under the bridge without the Tender having to raise it, but the bridge had been rebuilt, and I wasn't sure about the water levels. We needed about 8 and 1/2' of clearance, and it looked close. As we approached, I was talking with the Tender by radio, and I noticed the water gauge read 10', just as he said he had a train coming. Rather than try to pass under with a roaring train only a few feet overhead, I shifted into reverse and gunned the throttle to overcome the 2 mph current, and backed away until the train passed. Then we squeezed under with about 2' of clearance. 

After eating our fill of seafood ( Dani had chicken ), we pulled away from the Oyster House dock, and got another quick glimpse of the bald eagle before he flew away. As we rounded the point to turn South on Blakely River, we saw an osprey doing construction work on her nest. As we snapped pictures (not easy on a rocking boat), her mate arrived with a load of Spanish moss. Their nest hung out over the water on a tall tree limb, giving them and us a good view as we watched each other!

We had fun at Five Rivers at the Learning Center, Museum, gift shop and walking trails. We are tied up at their dock now, but we'll anchor out a few hundred yards away for the night. The last picture on this post is the two osprey we are sharing an anchorage with. I'm not sure if they like us being only 100 yards away, but we're enjoying watching them!

Glenda says:
The morning was beautiful!! The sun was shining right in the door of the boat and I had high hope of a warm sun shiny day.  But high clouds quickly covered the sun and we only had filtered sunshine throughout the day.  The 20 mile trip down to the Mobile causeway was nice however.  By the time we arrived at the Oyster House restaurant on the causeway it had warmed up nicely.  Just as we pulled up to the dock a young man unloading a truck yelled out "that's a nice ride you got".  It's always fun to talk to the different kinds of people that enjoy seeing our little tug.  We enjoyed our lunch and headed on to 5 rivers.  On the way we had an exciting sighting of our national bird, the majestic bald eagle.  Tom got great pictures again.  We feel right at home at 5 rivers.  Dani loved seeing the wildlife exhibits and climbing trees.  It is so quiet on the water.  The sounds of the birds and the water lapping against the boat are so soothing.  I may just let my husband talk me into doing more of this. 

Dani says:
The sleeping bag is warm, so I slept good.  I ate pecan spins  on the dock before we left.  I took Daisy on her morning walk.  I went with papa to dump the porta potty YUCK.  Today's topic is birds.  We started our trip and I saw a tow boat pushing 7 barges.  Then we saw a train go by on tracks that we went under!  It was awesome!  We saw lots of white egrets, some ospreys building their nest and the eagle.  We also saw ducks and lots of loons.  We got a salute from a man on the shore when he saw our boat.  G.G. said that meant he liked our boat. When we got to 5 rivers papa bought me a toy eastern bluebird that makes real tweets.  Tonight we are anchoring out.  We are right beside an osprey nest I can see the mother and father watching out.


Dani enjoys her breakfast on the pier at Mobile Delta Marina

There are lots of tow boats and barges on the Mobile River!

The Knot-So-Fast is about 8.5' tall in the water. After this train passed we slipped under the "14 mile Bridge" over the Mobile River

Dani, Daisy and Glenda were kind enough to let me drive most of the time!

One of the many osprey we saw on our trip

We spotted this bald eagle just before we arrived at the Oyster House. He was so far away, it pushed the limits on my camera to get a shot of him.

These Osprey built their nest overhanging the split between the Apalachee and Blakely Rivers.

The Knot-So-Fast tied up at Five Rivers dock. We anchored for the night about 100 yards to the left.

From our anchorage, we had a great view of this pair repairing their nest. It was better than TV!











Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday, March 23, 2014 -- Mobile river delta day 2


Glenda says:
Woke up a little grumpy this morning.  Didn't sleep too good.  Had a little instant decaf that didn't help a whole lot either :). We tried to get in a little cruise before the rain arrived but didn't make it far before the rain got heavy.  While the rain was light my mood lightened just watching the steady drops of rain fall in the water, it really is beautiful.  We were moving along very slowly just enjoying the morning.  That gave us the chance to notice a hornets nest hanging in a tree.  We got some good photos of the nest before we turned back to the marina. It only rained for about an hour and a half, but we decided to stay at marina and do laundry.   We took a nice walk while we waited on the clothes. We drove up to Bay Minette and ate lunch at the Shrimp Basket. Wouldn't you know, I walk in and there are Jake and Jennifer Parker.  They were enjoying some quiet time without children.  We returned to the marina and got back out on the water by 2:00.  It was noticeably cooler.  No more sitting on the back enjoying the sunshine .  We really are enjoying the wildlife (I'm not just talking about Tom and Dani).  We saw turtles and a very large water moccasin.  I don't think I would survive if I fell in this water.  We also saw another alligator laying in the same spot as the day before.  I think this one was a little smaller though.  I'm not looking forward to the shower tonight since the air is so much cooler.  But I can handle it. Dani and I have decided that it is special if you can be a girly girl and still be tough. 


Dani says:
Last night I slept good.  The weather was sleepy weather.  I took Daisy for a walk this morning.   I've never seen a hornets nest before and first thing this morning I saw one.  Then it started raining and we had to come back.  While we were doing laundry I went to the park and after that papa made me a clover necklace.  It smelled good!  Then we ate at the shrimp basket.  I ate grilled fish and French fries. We came back to the marina and took a boat ride.  Today's topic was turtles and we saw some turtles.   We also saw a big snake.  We rode to the I65 bridge and went under it.  It was soooo cool.  After a while we saw a tug called Father Pat pushing 5 barges.  I saw an osprey too. Now we are cooking dinner.  Papa is grilling pork chops and me and GG made baked beans.  I can't wait to eat!


Pork chops, baked beans and chips. It doesn't get much better than this.

Our homeport for this adventure was the Mobile Delta Marina on Dead Lake, near Creola, AL


This hornet's nest was about 50' up in the trees.


We wanted to see his head, but he never moved. He was huge!

Jewelry for little girls isn't as expensive as it is when they grow up. Dani is modeling her clover necklace and crown.



Access by boat only. Old fishing and hunting cabins are found all through the delta.


I-65 Bridge over the Mobile River


Another view from Little Lizard Creek. Glenda told Dani it was called the Dolly Parton bridge because of her "big hair".


Much of the delta is a wildlife management area or owned by the "Forever Wild" program.


I double dog dare you to stick your hand in there!



Saturday, March 22, 2014

Dani's first tugboat adventure!!! Spring break 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014
Today was the first day of the first extended tugboat trip for our 7 year old granddaughter, Dani.
After watching the weather forecast over the last few days, we chose to do our Spring Break trip on the Mobile-Tensaw delta. 

The delta is a fantastic place, which defies any simple description. There are places, such as the Mobile River downtown area, which are super-heavy industrial/shipping port locations, yet just a few miles (or less) away, you can find yourself in small creeks or bayous that seem to be a million miles and thousands of years away from civilization. 

In contrast to the white chalk cliffs of Demopolis, which is less than 200 winding river miles North of here, there really is no "bank" on the rivers and creeks here. The water's edge is roughly delineated by cypress trees with huge trunks and palmetto plants, both of which would be right at home in a dinosaur movie. But as you cruise closer to the waters edge, you realize that it's an illusion, as the water, although dotted with plants, doesn't end where you thought it did. It just turned swampy enough for the undergrowth to get too thick for you to see very far, and once again, you realize how tiny we humans are when compared to all of God's creation.

Dani saw her first wild bald eagle, and her first two wild alligators today. As a "Papa", I'll always feel blessed that I got to be with her when she saw these majestic examples of America's wildlife. When I was her age, we were all told in school that both these species would be extinct by the time we were adults! I'm so glad for the comeback they've made, although I have to admit that I sometimes think we need a size limit on the gators - the big ones are scary!

Anyway, we launched at the Mobile Delta Marina, at the North end of Dead Lake. (You can see the marina/campground from I-65, at about the 25 mile marker.) We cruised slowly down Dead Lake and then
Dead Lake is teeming with wildlife.
down Big Bayou Canot to the train bridge and on the way back we took a detour through a narrow pipeline canal to Catfish Bayou.  Dani enjoyed the sights and getting a chance to take the wheel. 

Glenda says:
We got off from Montevallo by 6:00 am.  That's not bad!  We were in the water before 11:00.  The day is perfect.  Sunshine and low 70's.  Just what a tired old teacher needs.  There seems to be a 
lot of fishermen out but we are getting lots of compliments on the boat.  As always God provided great beauty and impressive sights.  We got great photos of another juvenile eagle.  We saw it on the way down to the railroad bridge at Big bayou Canot.  This is where many years ago there was a tragic accident where a tugboat hit the train bridge.  We ate a turkey sandwich and snacked on the boat as we meandered through Dead Lake and on down the bayou.  We got back to the marina around 4:00 and drove back up to Stockton to The Stagecoach cafe and ate WAY too much at their buffet.  I'm gonna have a hard time remembering I'm suppose to be dieting.  The marina is nice and this time there was no misunderstanding about our accomadations.  I really need this break.   It is such a blessing to be able to share these memories with my grandchildren.  All my tensions just melt away on the water.

Dani says:
We woke up early but the trip down did not seem long.  I slept a little after I ate my biscuit.  I was excited about my first trip on the tugboat.  Papa let me drive the boat!  I was good at it.  G.G. Said that on this trip taking care of Daisy is my job.  I liked seeing lots of white birds.  Papa said some were herons and some were egrets.  I saw some turtles too.  But my favorite was seeing the big alligators.  I ate 2 helpings of baked beans, some green beans, grilled fish, fried fish and a BBQ rib for dinner.  Then had ice cream for dessert.  Then papa bought me some m&ms.  This is better than Disney world.  I can't wait to spend my first night on the boat.

Daisy says:
Woof!  I'm just mad I missed the alligator.  I couldn't see over the side of the boat and nobody would pick me up!

Dani's official job on the trip was to take care of Daisy. She did a commendable job.

The fixed train bridge over big Bayou Canot - site of the Amtrak train crash that killed 47 people in 1993.

Life is Good!

Dani loved seeing the variety of birds in the delta.

Dani writing in her journal. 

This was the 3rd alligator we saw, and the first that hung around  long enough for us to take a picture.

Dani was especially fond of the white herons and egrets.

Our first eagle sighting was this juvenile.

He was gracious enough to perch here very still so Dani could get a good look.