Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Mobile Bay and Bust!

The last few miles of the Tenn-Tom were a bit bitter sweet.  There had become some familiarity with the river and we knew things would be changing abruptly.  The Tenn-Tom river passes through the heart of downtown Mobile and its port before opening up into Mobile Bay.  Passing through the port, our AIS had 35 targets all around us as.  Thankfully, only about a half a dozen or so were active, but there was a lot to keep track of, for a couple of lazy river rats.  There are a few of the Navy's new LCS's in port and being built, which are crazy looking ships - they look like they belong on an episode of Star Trek more than in the swamps of lower Alabama.

Downtown Mobile, with the cruise ship terminal, new visitor center, and skyline

Once through the gauntlet of Mobile harbor, the bay opens up.  It's incredible, and all of a sudden, we need to recall our piloting skills, and quick!  Thankfully, there was minimal traffic, and our electronics were agreeing nicely with our charts, so all was good.

We made our way to Turner Marine, about 1/3 of the way down the bay, to step our  mast and decided it would be a good place to finally identify and fix that annoying squeal in our running gear.  I was suspicious that it was time for a new cutlass bearing.  I was right, and that was just the beginning.  Apparently, our cutlass bearing was not being sufficiently cooled.  It had overheated enough to melt and stick to the shaft!   Even with this damage, the cutlass bearing showed no external signs of wear.  The swell in the cutlass bearing also caused the shaft to become unacceptably worn, so we are going to replace the whole kit and caboodle.   Unfortunately, we are trying to order parts at year end when the bean counters don't want any new business, so we can't even order our parts until 2016.  So, we have now found another new temporary home in Mobile, Al.   We are now enjoying the good life "on-the-hard" - I'm not sure it can get much better than this!

We are hoping to have our parts next week sometime, and be back in the water and underway shortly after that.  In the meantime, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Our Tombigbee-Black Warrior-Alabama-Tensaw-Mobile River Trip

Please, just don't ask me to tell you what river I'm on anymore.  Downstream from Demopolis, where the Tombigbee river meets up withe the Black Warrior river, the name of the river seemed to change to whatever creek or river we happened to pass.  Thankfully, all the water flowed toward our destination, and so getting lost was not an issue.

"Mobile or bust".  Hmmm, maybe not the best mantra.  How about "Mobile or get stuck in the mud somewhere along the way?"  One of our ongoing issues was the depth of our keel, 6 feet, which restricted where we could go, and especially out of the channel when we wanted to stop for the night.  We had marinas that we had to plow into and out of, marinas and anchorages that we bumped bottom trying to get into, and dropping water levels that made us worry about getting stuck out of the channel until the next rainfall!

Ok, maybe that doesn't sound that treacherous.  In the end, we learned to locate our stop early in the day, and then stop, because it was never guaranteed that there would be enough depth at a later stop.  This meant that to make the most of the daylight hours, we needed to be up and underway at first light.  This was typically around 6:30 around here.  While this slowed our daily progress, it did leave us more time in the afternoon to plan for the next day's travels.   It also is the only time since we quit working that I've seen Kristen get up before 6 am.

The overall river did improve in appeal in the lower stretches, I think because it finally transformed from a ditch to a river.  The barge traffic increased all the way down, and coming up on a barge in some of those hairpin turns made our AIS invaluable.  We knew they were there before we could see them, and we could contact them on the radio to let them know we were around the bend, and to look for us!

Anchorage along the side of the river, in literally an indentation in the shore!

Old lock #1 - our favorite anchorage along the river.  It was in an old river channel that contained one of the early locks.

Old lock #1 at sunrise, as we were leaving.

We had a mysterious sighting of the invisible (wo)man!

Oo-la-la, white cliffs and bridges!

And for your pseudo-video pleasure....our first video!  It's a time lapse video of our passage through our final lock on the Tenn-Tom.  We shared the lock with our new friends on Sequacious, who we met at Bobby's fish camp the night before.
Link to our video of Coffeeville Lock

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

As the Crow Flies

The other day, we were at anchor below the Heflin lock, and I started wondering how much further we had to go.  We were sitting at mile 266 on the river, which means we have 266 miles to go before we reach Mobile.  I pulled out the gps, and I measure the straight, as the crow flies, distance to Mobile.  It was 147.5 miles.  So, if I was on I-65, we'd be there in two hours.  Instead we have about a week to go.  That's all good, cuz here on Tatiana, we go with the flow, not with the crow.   So, I thought I'd share some of the highlights of our river turns.

Anyone know a good short cut?

Which way is south again?

And my favorite, old man river...

So, I'm sorry that the images in this update are only screenshots.  The images in real life are actually less interesting.  From an engineering and commerce standpoint, the Tenn-Tom waterway is quite a marvel, but less so from an aesthetic standpoint.

As I type this, we are just over a hundred miles to Mobile, and we are both really excited about turning our boat back into a sail boat and bringing her back to salt water!!!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Rainy Days and Mondays

It rained for four days straight for our first four days on the Tenn-Tom.  And after that, it got cold.  I was hoping it wouldn't freeze in Mississippi this year, at least not until Christmas.  Geez.

Our cruise down the Tenn-Tom began with a stop a Grand Harbor Marina.  Nice place, and expensive.  We did purchase fuel, and since we left Sale Creek, we burned through a whopping 27 gallons of diesel, putting fuel consumption at just over .5 gallons per hour, or about 12-14 mpg.

Leaving Grand Harbor Marina.

We left Grand Harbor to anchor at Goat Island.  Whaddya know what we found on Goat Island?  The welcoming committee.

We quickly learned that tows are king on the Tenn-Tom.  Here, Tatiana had her tail between her legs, as this tow, the H.B. Stewart, followed us for about 10 miles before finally overtaking us in a straight away.  

The upper Tenn-Tom is a ditch that was dug to connect the Tennessee river watershed with the Tombigbee river.  The ditch section is about 100 miles long.  Here is a photo of some of the deeper sections of shoreline that needed to be dug out to connect the two rivers...

Lots of industry.  Here, we spotted the H.B Stewart again and a few days later, this time working at a wood mill.   And happily, blue skies again.

The End of our TN River Cruise!

Woah, that sounds ominous.  Don't worry, it just means we turned off the Tennessee River, and we are now on the Tenn-Tom waterway.  Finally heading SOUTH!!!  I'm afraid winter is awefully close on our heels!

The last few days saw a new side to the Tennessee.  Lots more barge traffic.  We counted 7 targets on our AIS in Decatur!  Also in Decatur, we had a railroad bridge open for us.  Yes, all 12 feet tall of us.  It has about 10 feet of clearance, so we needed it open.  Once we arrived, we saw that we would likely be delayed just a bit...yes, an opening now would be just a bit messy!

So, yes, we left Huntville, never mind that the new damper plate arrived on Wednesday at 4pm, and that we were underway at 7 am Thursday morning.  Oh, and nevermind that that Thursday happened to be Thanksgiving?!?!

Thanksgiving for two, at anchor at Joe Wheeler State Park...

We shared the anchorage with a few loons and white pelicans.

We had an uneventful lock through Wheeler lock, but Wilson would not be the same.  As we approached this lock, we saw targets on our AIS display both below the lock and above, so I thought we might be in for a long wait.  In the end, the tow in front of us had already moved his load down, and was only a single tug going down.  They agreed to share the lock with us, so our first time sharing a lock with another boat on this trip, was with a tow!

After exiting the lock, we ended up following close behind this tow, now pushing his load, for several miles before we could pass.  Yes, we actually passed a tow.  Then, later that day, we passed another.  Tatiana was showing off with her new damper plate!

We found some nice anchorages along the lower section of the Tennessee, and found some great places that we'd like to go sailing - lower Wheeler lake looks so inviting!  Unfortunately, we remain a motor boat for now.

Our final anchorage on the TN river was in a small slough just off to the side of the river on Pickwick Lake.  From the anchorage, you could watch the tow boats go by.  Here was an early morning shot from our anchorage.  In it, there are two tows about to pass each other.    Sometimes, it is worth getting up to see the sunrise.  This was actually the last time we would see blue skies for the next four days...

Here's our turn off the TN river!  Interestingly, this point is spittin' distance from the point where Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi all connect.

The Huntsville Hiatus

For those paying attention to our map page, we stopped for about ten days in Huntsville.  We stayed at Ditto Landing, and it is a fantastic marina with great amenities and lots of great people.  Initially, we were headed here to wait out some strong storms.  However, when leaving Guntersville lock, the boat made a new noise, one that could not be ignored.

So, I spend a few days like this, learning how to talk out of my you-know-what so that Kristen and I could communicate.

In the end, it turned out to be time to replace our damper plate.  Doesn't this look noisy to you?

Oooh, new and shiny!  (and thankfully, much quieter...)

So, we had plenty of time to hang about in Huntsville.  See the sights and spend some time with new friends.  We explored the space museum, and it was really amazing.  It was a great history lesson on the race to the moon, especially all the rocket development.  There was also more recent work on the space station, including ongoing support for the lab work.  Very cool.  Maybe, one day, I'll be an astronaut (do they have to work on their head?)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Rolling Down the River!

Downstream from Chattanooga is some of the best scenery you can experience by boat.  While we were a couple weeks behind peak colors in the gorge, the views were still outstanding.  Over the next few days, we travelled through both Nickajack and Guntersvilles lakes and locks.  The locks are getting much larger, and we are feeling smaller and smaller.  Here are a few photos from our time on the water...

One last look back at Lookout Mountain

Entering the river gorge.

This tiny house along Nickajack Lake made Tatiana look big!

Pointing out the obvious again...

A troll's view of I-24 over Nickajack Lake

Keeping warm through South Pittsburg.

Bridgeport's bridge opens if you need them to, we are only about 12 feet tall with our mast down, so no worries.

A reflective day at Widow's Creek

Exiting Guntersville Lock and Dam, with over a knot of flow pushing us down the river.

The required picture of Painted Rock.

After these 3 days of travel and enjoying the scenery, we now find ourselves in Huntsville, AL.  

Friday, November 20, 2015

So Long, Chattanooga!

After a wonderfully uneventful trip through Chickamauga lock, we were tied up at Ross's Landing in Chattanooga.  We had a few days to spend some time with friends downtown and stop at some favorites and try some last few things in our hailing city before heading down the river.

Having never tied up in nearly two knots of current for the night left me wanting a few extra fenders and lines, just in case...

It was crazy to see our boat tied up on the waterfront.  It is starting to feel like we are actually going to start this cruise!

The view from our cockpit between the bridges was quite amazing.  
The traffic noise from Market St bridge was less so.

We are both so happy to have had a chance to see old and new friends that joined us downtown.  We both already miss all the great people we got to know in Chattanooga, and the urge to return will likely remain strong.  Thank you, Chattanooga, for all the great memories.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Yay, we are finally on our way!

So long, Sale Creek.  Hello again Chattanooga.

It feels like we were just here.  Oh yeah, we were.  This time took two days instead of thirty minutes to get here.  Speedy travellers, we are not.

So, from the beginning, leaving Sale Creek was bitter sweet.  We spent about 8 years there learning to sail and working on boats.  A big thanks to the folks at Sale Creek Marina for all their help in getting us ready to go.  Here's a picture leaving the marina;

And an appropriate "start" to the journey:  

Our first night, we spent at anchor in Harrison Bay.  It was a beautiful evening to try some fishing, and in the morning, HOT SHOWERS at the state park.  Can you tell where our priorities lie?

The next day was a quick trip down to Chickamauga lock, and then on to Chattanooga.  The lock was our first time through Chickamauga lock, and I was happy not to have to worry about our mast height through the marginal clearances we would have had if our mast was not unstepped.  

Here's a couple of lock happy photographers....

Nickajack here we come:

 And finally arrival in Chattanooga:

It seems so weird to be here by boat.  Something we have looke forward to doing for so long, only now made available by this trip (including dropping the mast).  We will be here a few more days, enjoying our favorite things.  

Random thought of the day (kd):
Does it ever flash through your mind...what the hell are we doing?  

Monday, November 9, 2015

Ready. Set. Go.

Waiting out a rainy day at the marina before we depart in the morning.  It's a bit weird to think we are finally leaving tomorrow, but as they say you either gotta go or get off the pot!

I wouldn't say this is the most majestic we've ever made Tatiana appear, but we are sporting a shiny new grey tarp over the cockpit, which I think adds some serious style points.  

Saturday, November 7, 2015

All in

Here we go!

Yep, we have sold both of our cars now, so we either need to leave soon or we will slowly starve here at Sale Creek Marina.

Along the same lines, we heard the first sandhill cranes today fly overhead today.  Definitely getting cold now.  Yes, we will be trying to outrun the cranes on their way to FL.

Time to go!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Nothing to report

OK, so after 3 years, there may be more to report than nothing.  We've sold our house, most of our stuff, and have moved aboard.  Now that the weather is turning cold, it's time to head south.  Final preparations are underway.  Hoping we can release the dock lines soon...