Friday, June 10, 2011

Oops--Watch that hole!

Norm's birthday was great!  No storms. Norm enjoyed 10-year old cheddar with sliced salami after our swim and chocolate cream pie with many candles after grilled fresh grouper dinner. The yellow bug repellent cellophane over the lights worked pretty well -- the cellophane didn't over heat and the bugs attracted were minimal.  A few tugs came by during the night with minimal wake.  Norm says "thanks much" to all who sent birthday wishes.  He says he does not feel old at 67.  But he does feel old when he thinks that he is heading toward 70!!!

Unfortunately it was really hot last night with almost no wind.  Even after cooling down the stateroom with the air conditioning the temp in there was 87, so sleeping was tough.  We're at Demopolis Yacht Basin tonight with electric (read air conditioning) so we'll have good sleep.

Nice 71-mile cruise today up to Demopolis.  A bit of trauma in the Demopolis Lock.  We're still getting used to putting our line over the bollard in the lock and we learned that it needs to be cinched tighter than we did today.  As the water entered the lock, the boat angled with the stern up against the wall of the lock.   Norm is positioned with a boat hook to hold the stern off the wall while Vicki is positioned on the bow to hold that off the wall.  When it became clear that the current of the water was forcefully pushing the stern into the wall, Vicki rushed back to the cockpit to help push off (Norm was stationed on the top deck).  In her zeal, she stepped back to get a firmer pushing position and stepped into the open lazarette.  (The hatch is open when we're running to allow heat to escape from the engine room.  We close it when working back there, but it was unexpected that Vicki would have to assist with the stern push-off.)  In a real stroke of luck, Vicki caught herself with only a few small bruises.  The lazarette, on the other hand, needs a new gas cylinder arm to hold it open-- it got the worst of that deal!  Another lock tomorrow -- no problem -- we learn from our mistakes!

Norm here......Should also mention that getting to the lock was a bit tense too.  We heard on the radio that another boat that past us earlier was about to enter the lock. If we miss this lift, we might have a long wait because a tug and tow was close behind us and heading to the lock too.  (Commercial traffic has precedence.  And tugs can take up to 4-hours if they have to break apart their barges.)  We were 30-minutes behind.  We put the pedal to the metal and increased our speed from 8.1 mph to 8.5 mph.  The lockmaster was a real cool dude and waited for us.  Unfortunately, the other boat had to wait too.  So, we slipped right through the open gates; and, we were not even secure on the wall when we saw the gates close behind. This lock lifted us up 40 ft.  By the way, since going through the Coffeeville Lock yesterday, we are out of tides and salt water.  Yippee!!  Also, Vicki is a real champ! Agree??  She could have done serious damage to herself falling into the hold.  I know of a guy that fell into one and broke seven ribs.  This is a risky adventure we're on.  Anyway, I'll apply all the salves later.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Happy Birthday, Norm!

Our last night in civilization was spent in Fairhope Alabama, a beautiful small town and suburb of Mobile.  We used the courtesy car at Eastern Shore Marine to explore the town.  Missed out on panninis at Pannini Pete's (reportedly the best in the nation) as they close after lunch. 

Our first anchorage in the Tenn-Tom was the Alabama River Cutoff, a narrow river that required both a bow and stern anchor.  This was the first time we used two anchors and they were tested with a big windy storm late afternoon.  The boat was pushed from one side of the river to the other, but we held!  Leaving the anchorage the next morning was beautiful - the sun rising, mist on the water, and a small alligator swimming across the river.

We went through the first of many locks yesterday - Coffeeville Lock.  Then on to Bobby's Fish Camp where Norm had the best catfish in the universe when doing the Great Circle Route in 2001.  Unfortunately, the restaurant is only open Thursday - Sunday.  We'll have to catch it on the return trip. 
We were advised by Hank and Nancy (who are a week or so ahead of us on the river) to get some yellow light bulbs that don't attract bugs for the outside of the boat so that we'll be more visible to tows when we're anchored in the river without ending up with a boat covered in bugs.  Couldn't locate bulbs, but bought yellow cellophane to cover the lenses of our lights.  We'll try them out tonight when anchoring outside Bashi Creek.

Today is Norm's birthday.  Let's hope it's storm-free, bug-free and filled with wonderful birthday surprises.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Back on the water.........

We've been out of touch.  We know.  And we're sorry.  We've been extra busy with expected and unexpected land travel.  Our daughter, Colleen and her husband, Brian, were expecting their first baby (our 4th grandmiracle) on May 15.  We were docked in St Pete at the time.  After 36 hours of labor, she delivered a beautiful baby girl, Ella Grace.  Baby Ella was OK and Colleen's recovery from the C-Section was going well.  We flew back to St Pete and immediately got underway for our slow trek around Florida's panhandle to Mobile Bay.  (See previous blog entry.)

While off shore and crossing the Gulf we received word that the recovery was not going well due to complications from the C-Section. Colleen was in bad shape and getting worse.  Norm was a mess.  We had to get to a safe harbor near an airport.  It took us two painful, chaotic days to dock in Pensacola.  In the meantime, Colleen had emergency surgery to repair a perforated bowl that was not caught for 6 days. It was VERY BAD!!  Norm arrived back in Columbus just after the surgery and remained there for 8 days until Colleen was discharged from the hospital.  Along with Brian's parents and his sisters, Norm helped to care for baby Ella and be with his daughter during the early, hard recovery days.  Colleen's mother is now picking up where Norm left off.  Brian and his family were awesome, providing Norm a place to stay and meals when he was not at the hospital. He'll be eternally grateful to them.

Vicki with Ella Grace

Norm with Ella Grace

With Colleen on the mend, and reprovisioning completed, we resumed our cruise today.  We are currently docked at Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores, AL.  This is also the home of Lulu's Restaurant.  Lulu is actually Lucy Buffett, Jimmy Buffett's "crazy sister" as he calls her.  Yes, we both had to have a Cheeseburger in Paradise.  But, not before a couple margaritas and a dish of fried green tomatoes--a real southern treat.  (Even though Norm's grandmother in Pittsburgh used to make them when he was a kid.)

If you are interested in viewing our cruise routes from Sarasota, FL to Gulf Shores, AL, click on the following links:

Tomorrow we're off to Mobile Bay, then up the Mobile River to the Tennessee-Tombigby Waterway.  Our friends cruising ahead of us have told us that the river currents and pool levels at the dams are in good shape.  More on that later.