Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014

We Finally Made It!

Captain's Log: 21 July, 2014; Hour: 0740

I didn't think it was possible after a 4 1/2 hour wait at Watts Bar Lock, but we pulled into Knoxville right at hour 2100 yesterday. Our goal was to make it by nightfall on Sunday and we barely made it. I couldn't believe the journey was finally over.

I was told that some of the most beautiful scenery was from Nickajack Lake on and they weren't lying. As I stated in a previous blog, the scenery is very Swiss. The water has a deep green color that churns into a light green in your wake.

Along the Tennessee River near Chattanooga

On our all-nighter we were surprised by the Chickamauga Lock. We didn't expect it to be so close to downtown Chattanooga. When we reached it in the dark we weren't really sure what it was. Our chart plotter didn't show it. It just showed a railroad bridge. Captain Bob had insisted we carry paper charts as a backup and I'm glad he did. I pulled out the chart for our section of the river and there it was. A lock right in the middle of town.

Chickamauga Lock at night

We called the lock master and she said we'd have to wait for the Southern Belle to lock through. The Southern Belle is a riverboat that runs tourists up and down the river from downtown Chattanooga. What we found odd about that was it was midnight. It took Southern Belle about 30 minutes to lock through and by the time we locked through she was waiting to lock back through from the other direction. Hardly worth the time, if you ask me, but I didn't buy a ticket on that cruise.

The Southern Belle cruising the Tennessee River at Chattanooga

After the debacle at Watts Bar Lock, where we ended up waiting 4 1/2 hours to lock through, we thought there was no way to make it to Knoxville by sundown. We pushed those Detroit diesels as hard as we dared and headed for our last lock; Fort Loudoun Lock. Fortunately, we were locked through with another pleasure boat I had been talking to via VHF radio earlier in the day. Once we were in Fort Loudoun Lake we saw some of the most gorgeous houses of the entire trip. As far as tasteful development, we didn't see much else on our trip to match it.

A house on Fort Loudoun Lake

It was a fitting end to our journey. Alex, Carr and I enjoyed the view from the top deck of Yesterday as the sun faded below the trees. An hour ahead of schedule, Captain Bob announced that we were almost in Knoxville. What a welcome site that was.

Pulling into Knoxville

Yesterday pulled snugly into her new slip in Knoxville where she will be lovingly restored and enlisted in the Vol Navy

From start to finish, including the massive delay in Fort Pierce, it was a 33-day journey — 17 days of it on the water — that took us over the equivalent of about a fourth of the Great Loop. We saw gators and gulls. We saw bald eagles and dolphins. We saw a raging gulf we thought might swallow us whole. We encountered untold great people on the water, many of whom were following our journey on this blog. We saw adversity and overcame it. We met frustration and endured it. We pushed forward when we thought neither we nor our boat could take it, and we had an experience none of us will ever forget.

I would like to especially thank Captain Bob Buckland and First Mate Alex Plante. Their perseverance and ingenuity made it possible for us to overcome adversity and soldier on, despite conditions that would stop ordinary humans in their tracks. Their uncanny ability to take items already on the boat and put them to use to fix a mechanical problem was truly a wonder to behold. Their can-do attitude brought us through and I am eternally grateful they were on this trip.

Thanks to all of you who followed this blog for your encouragement. It didn't quite go as plan, but what does? That's what makes a simple trip a true adventure.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

These Lock People are Driving Me Mad!

Captain's Log: 20 July, 2014; Hour: 0740

So much for the all-nighter. We traveled all night from Nickajack Lake through Chattanooga all the way to Watts Bar Lock only to be told by the lock guy that it would be at least 3 hours before we could lock through. At least. Probably more like 5 hours.

I know I'm new to this locking business but I have to say as a citizen this is absolutely outrageous. I called the lock master on the phone to plead our case. He says he's locking through a ton of barges later this morning. I told him all he had to do was shoot us through before all this madness started. He's says regulations won't allow him to do that. Well, the frickin' regulations need to be changed. We have lost at least a day due to waiting on barges at locks. An hour here, three hours there, four hours there. And now we've traveled all night for absolutely nothing! We would've been much better off to stay at a marina overnight and leave this morning. There's no way we make Knoxville by nightfall so we'll have to stop again before we get there and stay overnight.

Oh, and it's been an hour and a half since we first talked to the lock guy and nothing has happened. Nothing has locked through. Here we sit with the nearest marina on our side 3 hours back the way we came. All we can do is anchor and wait. Our tax dollars at work.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mr. Scott. Full Power

Captain's Log: 19 July, 2014; Hour: 2333

The captain reconsidered my request for an all-nighter and we are on our way. We fueled up at Hales Bar Marina where they told our captain they had been following our adventure via our blog. A big shout out to Hales Bar Marina, named after one of the first hydroelectric dams, Hales Bar Dam, which was completed in 1913. We got some ice, coffee, candy bars and soft drinks and headed out.

The old Hales Bar hydroelectric plant

We hit Chattanooga about 2245 local time. It was nice to see it at night. We'll take shifts at the helm. Depending on the wait times at the locks, we should see Knoxville about 4 o'clock tomorrow afternoon. The biggest worry will be drift wood. The guy at the marina said they let a lot of water out upstream which usually leads to debris in the water.

Little cabins literally on the water for rent at Hales Bar Marina
Once we hit Nickajack Lake, Carr and I both turned to each other and said how much it looked like Switzerland. I had heard how beautiful it was and the reports turned out to be right.

Nickajack Lake

We're jacked up and ready for another fun night. Hopefully it won't be as eventful as the last all-nighter we pulled. The now infamous gulf crossing.

On the Home Stretch

Captain's Log: 19 July, 2014; Hour: 1612

We're sitting here at — where else? — a lock, which the lockmaster told us would be open in 15 minutes over 45 minutes ago. We stayed overnight in Huntsville. I docked the boat for the first time and there were no reported deaths or injuries.

This part of the trip has been gorgeous. Once we hit Guntersville Lake the scenery just opened up before us.

We're trying to make Knoxville by the end of the day Sunday but that's now looking unlikely because of all of the waits at the locks. I had a plan to run overnight with our newest crew member and my oldest son, Carr. I guess he'd be second mate. Or is that first-mate-once-removed. Anyway, Carr and I were going to do the overnight run while Captain Bob and Alex slept. I discussed it with the good captain and he reminded me that our 12-volt system needs to be charged nightly since the fine folks in Fort Pierce failed to fix our generator after waiting a frickin' week for the part, but I'm not bitter. Captain Bob was right, of course. We lose the 12-volt system and we lose the nav system and that would be bad with two novices on the bridge in the middle of the night.

More scenery from Guntersville Lake
As soon as we're through this confounded lock we'll fuel up at Nickajack Marina, which takes about an hour, then we'll go as far as we can until dark. I've only crossed over Nickajack Lake but I understand it's the most beautiful part of the trip. Looking forward to it.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Lock Mess Monster

Captain's Log: 18 July, 2014; Hour: 1340

It took us nearly four hours to lock through Wheeler Lock today. Four hours! In the last 6 1/2 hours we've covered a whopping 18 miles. To make matters worse it's cold and raining and we have to be out on deck during the lock through to keep the boat off the lock wall. Did I tell you how much I hate these locks?

Pickwick Lake

We went through Pickwick Lake yesterday which is quite familiar to my family. My wife's sister and her family have a place there and we visit several times a year. Pickwick is one of the most scenic lakes on the Tennessee River.

"Anybody got a shoe horn?"
From the picture above you can see why it takes so long to get a barge through. I'm sure the barge maker gets all the width he can for the barge with only an inch to spare on either side. Some of these tugs are pushing 7 or 8 barges. Oftentimes they don't all fit in the lock in one trip so the tug has to lock through twice, which is really annoying. I know it's a tough job and all that, but doggone! This ain't the place to be if you have to be somewhere. And I hear around Chattanooga it's even more crowded. Marvelous.

Heading to Knoxville

Captain's Log: 18 July, 2014; Hour: 0503

We're in Florence, AL at the Florence Marina. Making good time and hope to be in Knoxville by Sunday. Allow me to backtrack just a moment. I promised to tell you more about Demopolis.

Demopolis Yacht Basin

After Bobby's Fish Camp, the next destination is another day's travel north to Demopolis. I didn't know what to expect. I was prepared for the worst. What a pleasant surprise. They have a new section for transient boaters. We tied up there and there was a golf cart waiting for us to travel over to the main marina and the restaurant. The restaurant was very good and they loaned us a car to make a much-needed trip for supplies. Back at our part of the marina, there was an awesome salt-water pool, laundry and shower facilities. It was definitely worth the stopover.

The white cliffs of Demopolis
I must say, locking through went a lot better yesterday. It's all a matter of timing. If you get caught in barge traffic you're going to wait. We waited some yesterday but not like the day before. Captain Bob stayed at the helm most of the day. I actually finished the galley flooring and it looks pretty darn awesome.

Birds ten-hut! Getting some respect as Yesterday passes by.

Another 12 or 13-hour day today, we hope. Looking forward to Decatur and Chattanooga up river.

Video for Days Four through Seven

At long last, here's the video for days four through seven.

Click here.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cruising at a Snail's Pace

Captain's Log: 17 July, 2014; Hour: 0545

Did I tell you I was over this locking through business? Oh, yeah, it was real interesting the first couple of times and even tolerable when we were going through Florida because we were able to enter the lock immediately and lock through in about 10 minutes. Not so on the Tenn-Tom. We've been waiting a minimum of an hour to lock through. One was two hours the other day. That's because barges get preferential treatment. We had to wait for two of them to lock through even though we were there first.

We stayed in Columbus, MS last night, fueled up yesterday morning, then headed out around 0800. Twelve hours later and we had only made it to Fulton, MS. Heck, we could've walked it faster.

My brother-in-law, Art, and his son, Drew, met us in Columbus and took us to eat and to the grocery store. My son, Carr, also boarded for the remainder of the trip. Captain Bob and First Mate Alex will dispense their wisdom to him.

Midway Marina in Fulton, MS at dawn

Had dinner with my brother-in-law, Jim, last night in Fulton, and his son, Jimmy, met us later. They toured the boat then said their goodbyes and we turned in relatively early. We hope to get an early start this morning and make it to Pickwick.

We have the video done for days four through seven. We're just having trouble posting it. Since our Internet connection is patchy it's hard to tell when that will be up. We'll have it up as soon as we can.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cut off from Civilization

Captain's Log: 16 July, 2014; Hour: 0801

My apologies for not blogging over the last several days but since leaving Mobile we have been largely incommunicado. When we did get cell service it was spotty. No offense to anyone but once you leave Mobile on the Mobile River and into the Tombigbee River, there's not a whole lot to see. I actually found myself taking shots of cloud formations.

Alex snagged a fish in a lock. OK, so the fish was already dead and it was more like bait than a catch. It was caught between the walls of the lock. Don't tell PETA. They'll try to have the lock closed down.

We stayed at Bobby's Fish Camp after Mobile. Believe it or not, it's the only place to dock between Mobile and Demopolis. I was expecting some quaint, gentile, southern marina but the name basically is what it says. It's a guy named Bobby with a camp and they fish. Nice enough people but certainly only a place you stop if you have to. I'm happy to report no one made me squeal like a pig.

Demopolis is the polar opposite of Bobby's Fish Camp and a welcomed change. More on that in the next blog. Time to shove off for Pickwick Lake.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Made it to Mobile

Captain's Log: 12 July, 2014; Hour: 2346

We made great time today and had hoped to make it beyond Mobile but the closest thing beyond Mobile is 12 hours up the river. Just as well, we didn't figure it would take so long to get across Mobile Bay. You have to follow the shipping lanes for the best depth.

Yesterday's little sister
We pulled into Grand Mariner Marina in Mobile at hour 2033. What great folks. Even though we were much later than we had told them we would be, they were waiting at the dock to help with the lines. And they were very reasonable.

Which reminds me, if you're traveling the waterway stay away from Legendary Marine in Fort Walton Beach. The only thing legendary about them is their price. Three bucks a foot! And no laundry facilities. Just one shower and a dinky little "store," if you want to call it that, with some ice and soft drinks. Even though we called ahead, there was no one waiting to help us get this beast up to the dock. And we were right on time. The current is swift by the bridge and you'll come in hard. And to the Sea Tow guy who just stood there on the dock and watched us struggle: Thanks for nothing. I guess he was like a vulture hoping for a fresh kill.

Right around Pensacola. Beautiful scenery.
Hate we missed the Blue Angels show.

Speaking of great marinas, Panama City Marina was fantastic. Very professional. The lady from the marina was standing there waiting to help us dock. That makes all the difference in the world when we're trying to land this thing.

We're up at the crack of dawn tomorrow. The next marina is at least 120 miles away. We're on the home stretch. Still working on the new video. Hope to have that up by tomorrow night.

On our way to Mobile

Captain's Log: 12 July, 2014; Hour: 1145

We are currently passing through Santa Rosa Sound. We hope to catch a glimpse of the Blue Angels show as we pass by Pensacola.

We got off a little later than we wanted to today, about hour 0900. We tried to clean out the sea strainers for the engines but our seacocks were stuck. I hate when that happens. Still, we're making good time. The weather's great. We're enjoying the scenery. We hope to make it past Mobile today and start heading up river toward Tennessee.

It could be worse. That could be us. I guess all
you need is some plywood and a telephone pole.
And they came all they way from Maryland on that thing!

Captain Bob has informed me that I'm going swimming tonight when we dock. He wants me to check the water intakes for the engines under the bottom. He wants to make sure there's adequate water being sucked through the cooling system. So far there's plenty of water coming from the sides. There's a T at the engine that pulls half the water coming in to cool the engines over the sides on either side and the other half runs through the exhaust system and out of the exhaust pipes at the stern. He just wants to make sure we have enough water running through the system.

Going to take a short nap. Still recovering from the gulf crossing. A new video from days 4-7 should be up within the next 24 hours.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Docked at Ft. Walton Beach

Captain's Log: 11 July, 2014; Hour: 1933

We made good time today from Panama City and docked at Legendary Marina. Apparently they aren't legendary for helping big boats dock. We had a bit of a rough time with the wind blowing and the tide rushing out.

We're in for the night. I did my last show for a week. Another radio station in our cluster has dibs on the remote broadcasting unit back at the station so I'm taking a week of vacation to finish the journey. We should hit Mobile or even beyond tomorrow. Our adventure takes us up the Tombigbee River then to the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. We hope to make Columbus, MS by early week then Pickwick Lake by mid-week, at which point the trip will be over.

Below are a couple of shots of the paint that was peeled from the vessel during the gulf crossing. We're extremely lucky that's all that happened. She's going to need a fresh coat of paint when she finally gets home. But, boy, will she have some stories to tell.

Starboard side paint sheered
during gulf crossing
Port side

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Approaching Panama City

Captain's Log: 10 July, 2014; Hour: 1450

We left Apalachicola, FL this morning with hopes of making it to Panama City in time to do the show. We hope to be on the air by the top of the hour. The worst is behind us. Should be smooth sailing from here on out.

After the gulf fiasco we spent last evening assessing the damage, which was minimal. Some paint knocked off the hull on the bow and that's about it. The water we were taking on was apparently from the rough seas. We don't believe there's a leak anywhere. I crawled down in the stern bilge last night to check for running water where the steering bar meets the rudders. There was none.

Our air conditioning didn't work when we hooked up to shore power. Captain Bob surmised that when we ran aground at the small marina just prior to the gulf crossing we may have sucked mud into the water cooler for the AC. We removed the strainer and it was caked with mud. We cleaned it off with a hose and replaced it. The AC worked great.

We'll settle in for the night as soon as we dock. I'll do the show then we'll make plans for our next leg as we shoot for Mobile by Saturday.

It looks like I'll take a vacation week next week. You can continue to follow our adventures via the blog. Being off the air will give us at least 5 more hours of running time per day. We should cover a lot of water. We hope to pick up a couple of Valentine boys along to way to make the trip to our final destination. They'll be under the tutelage of the inimitable Captain Bob.

Oh, and thanks for all the well-wishes and concerns over our gulf crossing. I wish so much we had had the presence of mind to video our ordeal but we were in full emergency mode. I thought if I broke out the camera Captain Bob might throw it overboard.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Raging Gulf Crossing

Captain's Log: 9 July, 2014; Hour: 2349

The loopers will tell you you're fine making the 160-mile trek across the gulf as long as you pick your day. We picked ours and it happened to be the wrong day.

We checked multiple forecasts. Each predicted gusts of 7mph and relatively calm seas. When we left Turtle Cove Marina in Tarpon Springs, FL for the 16-hour trek across the gulf at hour 2045 it was a gorgeous night. There was a thunderstorm off to our port side but it was far away and moving to our stern. I sat on the bow for the first hour or so and enjoyed the beautiful evening.

Captain Bob asked me to take the helm at hour 2306. He went below to get some much-needed rest. Within thirty minutes the sea swells were 6 feet or more. The wind was blowing so hard it was almost impossible to stay on course. The clouds had completely shrouded the moon so there was no light. It was pitch black out the windshield and we were running completely on instruments with no way to see what might be in front of us. 

For the next 5 hours I fought the seas and the wind to keep us on course as first mate Alex took the watch shift. Water was breaking over the bow every few seconds. When we weren't plowing into the waves we were being cast from side to side so vigorously that the toe rails on either side of the boat were almost touching the water. Anything that wasn't tied down was thrown about the boat with such force that a gallon jug of water was smashed halfway flat. The coffee maker, with a full pot of coffee, was scattered in pieces all over the galley floor. The ship's bell was ripped from the wall and thrown across the aft deck. A coffee cup on the map table flew across the helm and smashed against the wall.

Captain Bob came to relieve me from the bucking bronco at 0430. He panned up our projected route on the nav system to check our coordinates for landfall, still projected to be 9 hours in the future. When you scroll on the navigation system your heading and plotted course disappear temporarily from the screen. Normally, I can keep us within 50 feet or so of our course. It took Bob only about 45 seconds or so to check the waypoint he had set for our entry into St. George Sound. In that short period of time I simply held the wheel steady, waiting for him to finish so I could try to keep us on course. When he returned to the navigation screen showing our current course we were completely turned around 180 degrees and almost a mile off course. That's how vicious the wind and the waves were.

I had been told by the old boat builder who recently made repairs to the bottom of the boat before I bought it that we should never put that boat in anything close to 6-foot seas. An old wooden boat like that was never designed to take such punishment; especially one 46 years old. Not only were we in 6-foot seas but the boat was being pounded for hours like that. I feared the boat might literally break in two.

When Bob relieved me at 0430 the seas were still raging and they didn't let up until the morning was almost gone. At around hour 1030 I was asleep in my stateroom and I was startled awake by the eery sound of silence. The engines had been cut. As I bounded out of my bed, first mate Alex was doing the same. We both ran topside to see what was the matter. The 12-volt system that powers, among other things, all of the instruments on the helm, was dead. We were bobbing violently in the middle of the gulf with the nearest land at least 50 miles away. Without the navigation system we were blind. The old compass on board worked but it was seriously off and there was no telling where we'd end up if we relied on it.

Bob instructed Alex and me into the engine room to run jumper cables from the generator's battery to the 12-volt system. If only the folks in Fort Pierce had fixed the generator we wouldn't have been in this fix. The 12-volt system consists of two 6-volt batteries set up in series to create 12 volts. It's not simply a matter of hooking positive to positive and negative to negative because the series connection goes from positive to negative. We tried the first logical way and nothing worked. We tried another alternative and nothing worked. Keep in mind, not only was our nav system out, our radio was out, too!

But that wasn't the worst. The engine room was filling fast with water and the bilge pumps were on the 12-volt system. Normally water is in the bilge area at the very bottom of the boat. We were looking at water lapping up around the engines. We had no idea where the water was coming from but we needed to act fast. Alex peered over the starboard railing at the aft deck. A shark was circling. I guess even he could sense a disaster in the making. 

That's where we were. No navigation system. No radio. And the boat was filling fast with water. All at least 50 miles from any shore.

Bob started the port engine and instructed me to turn a lever on the engine to engage the emergency bilge pump. Thank God there was one of those! It started to do the trick. Then Bob figured out the 12-volt dilemma and our navigation system was back up and running as was our radio. He cranked the starboard engine back up and continued our heading to St. George Sound. The seas had calmed only marginally and didn't resemble anything close to normal until very late in the morning. 

Once we docked this evening around 1830 I had missed my radio show. Not only that but the pounding waves of the Gulf had literally sheered paint from the side of the hull at the bow. Apparently, water was being forced into the bow from the relentless seas because once at the dock there was no sign of leaking. 

We got very lucky. I vowed that once we get this vessel back to Tennessee it will never see the Gulf of Mexico again. As for me, that my first and my last gulf crossing.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Monday, July 7, 2014

Traversing the Gulf

Captain's Log: 7 July, 2014; Hour: 2232

Had a meeting with the crew tonight and it is decided. We will make the 30-mile run up to Tarpon Springs tomorrow. We'll dock, top off the fuel, do some laundry, and I'll do the radio show. Right after the show we will head out into the abyss of the Gulf of Mexico. This is definitely the most dangerous part of the trip. By our dead reckoning it's 137 miles from Tarpon Springs to the mouth of Apalachicola Bay. We'll look at the charts tomorrow and determine where to dock once we make landfall. That should be around noon the following day.

All this is contingent on good weather. The forecast is for clear skies but we've learned that can change in a second. 

Call the Law!

Captain's Log: 7 July, 2014; Hour: 1930

As I was doing the radio show today, Alex the first mate was fueling up the boat. When he was finished he came to me in a break and asked for my American Express card which I gave him. He came back in the next break and said it was rejected. I checked my e-mail and I had a fraud alert on the card. When they saw someone traipsing across Florida charging large sums of money for fuel and groceries apparently the AmEx folks thought Bonnie and Clyde had stolen my credit card.

I used my AmEx app to confirm the purchases we had made over the last couple of days and thought that was that. When the card was denied a third time the marina people at John's Pass Marina in St. Petersburg called the police! 

I had Johnny B play a 'best of' while I got on the horn to American Express. You have to imagine the scene here. Not one, but two cop cars drive up. I'm sitting on the aft deck with an AmEx card in one hand and a cell phone in the other on speaker phone where I'd been waiting for 20 minutes for someone to take my call.

Oh, it gets better.

As I'm explaining all of this to the cops and letting them hear the on-hold message from the fraud division of AmEx, a gentleman walks up. Understand, I hadn't met the owner yet so I assumed he was the owner. No. He was the owner's attorney! So the owner wouldn't come down to the marina but he calls the police AND his lawyer.

I said, "Look, we're tied up here at your marina. We have full shore lines (which are heavy, by the way), we have water hooked up. All the lines are secured. It's not like we just filled up and dashed out into the Gulf of Mexico in a jet ski. We're not going anywhere."

The police got my driver's license and wrote down all the information. About that time I finally got someone on the line from American Express. I approved the fuel purchase at the marina and resumed my show on the boat.

That was our excitement for the day. Other than that, everything's going great. We're discussing tonight how to cross the gulf. We had planned to hit Tarpon Springs tomorrow then head out for Carrabelle after the show and travel the 16 hours across the gulf overnight. A sailor told Captain Bob that Carrabelle is a ghost town. Between the hurricanes and the bad economy, everything has dried up.

We'll go to the charts tonight and come up with another plan. We can always just hug the coastline of the Panhandle but that wouldn't be nearly as dangerous or as much fun. Plus, there's always the chance we'll be hit by pirates in the gulf.

I hope they take American Express.

Made it to St. Petersburg

Captain's Log: 7 July, 2014; Hour: 1434

We made good time today and made it all the way to St. Petersburg in time to do the show. We'll stay the night here and assess our options on crossing the gulf in the morning.

Yesterday docked in Venice, FL

Shooting for Tampa

Captain's Log: 7 July, 2014; Hour: 1021

We're passing Sarasota, FL. We hope to make it to Tampa in time to do the radio show. We'll dock and hook up to shore power. We docked at the Crow's Nest Marina in Venice, FL last night. Got in around hour 2000, in time to have a nice dinner upstairs in the restaurant overlooking the waterway.

We met some great folks from Texas who were heading back to where they keep their 42-footer in Bradenton, FL having spent some time in the Keys. They helped us dock. Captain Bob told them about my radio show. They took a tour of Yesterday. They joked that if I'd been a liberal they would've cut our lines. When I met them on the dock at sunrise this morning they said they'd followed our adventure on the blog and one gentlemen had even bought my book. Love those guys!

Sunrise in Venice, FL
I've been in discussions with Captain Bob about our next move. Tarpon Springs is just north of Tampa. That's usually the point at which many loopers set out across the Gulf of Mexico for Carrabelle, FL. That's SE of Panama City. We're going to check the distance but we may set out across the gulf tonight for a straight shot toward Mobile. That's if we have enough range. That route would take us close to Apalachicola Bay, which juts out into the gulf between Carrabelle and Panama City. It would give us a place to go if the weather gets rough or the fuel runs low.

Houses along the waterway between Venice and Sarasota

We plan to refuel after the show, assess the weather, check our distance, then make a decision. If it can be done, it would shave off several days from the trip. In all likelihood we will make the run from Tarpon Springs to Carrabelle. That's about 160 miles. Even that would be pushing it. We would be averaging around 10mph. That's 16 hours straight on these old 46-year-old engines. So far they've been doing great but we don't want to push our luck.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Day Three

Captain's Log: 6 July, 2014; Hour: 1052

We had hoped to make it to Fort Myers last night. We ended up about 9 miles short. We stopped at Sweetwater Landing just past Olga, FL.

The Wilson Pigott Bridge just before sunrise

This morning we set out at 0930. The engines seem to be running fine. The port engine needed a little over a quart of oil, which is pretty amazing. They usually burn much more. The starboard engine used no oil. The previous owner had the port propeller shaft replaced back in February. He chose not to replace the starboard propeller. I noticed a slight vibration while we were underway. I took the helm and Captain Bob went below to check it out. He discovered that the drive shaft to the propeller is ever-so-slightly out of round. The vibration had worked a couple of the screws loose around a coupling. He decided to wait until we docked to fix it. Once we docked at Sweetwater Landing we pulled the hatch in the midships companionway. Both screws holding the coupling in place were stripped. Captain Bob and first mate Alex used a scrap piece of wood as a dowel and drove the screws into the dowel. I checked moments ago and fix is holding perfectly.

The bridge at sunrise

We just passed Fort Myer and will turn up the west coast of Florida shortly. We're currently planning our strategy to traverse the Gulf and save time via a more direct route to Mobile.

Video from Day One

Click here to watch the video from Day One of Cruising the Great Loop!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Cleared Okeechobee

Captain's Log: 5 July, 2014; Hour: 1332

We left Indiantown Marina in Indiantown, FL, in the midst of the Everglades, this morning. Very nice marina and very nice people. We saw a couple of baby alligators. I'm sure Mama was not too far away. First Mate Alex fed the baby some french fries. Don't tell Michelle Obama.

Baby alligator at Indiantown Marina

We headed out this morning for Lake Okeechobee. Locked through the Port Mayaca Lock at hour 1025. We reached the other side at hour 1259. The water depth is only about 7 feet across the entire lake and our draft is 4 feet. Not much room for error. Captain Bob was very careful to stay in the channel. As you approach the other side, the channel is barely as wide as a four-land highway. The channel is shallow and rather nerve-racking.

The channel leading to the west side of Lake Okeechobee

Once on the other side we headed north and the route actually takes you behind the marshes. Surprisingly the depth was better than the lake; about 11 feet.

This picture was taken right off our port side in the channel
leading to the west side of Lake Okeechobee

We hope to make at least Fort Myers today.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Underway at Last!

Captain's Log: 4 July, 2014; Hour: 1550

We finally got underway from Fort Pierce at 1255 today. After an hour or so we ran into a hellacious thunderstorm. Thank goodness for the chart plotter and GPS. The weather cleared up somewhat, although it's still overcast. 

We made the turn at Stuart, FL and are heading down the St. Lucie Canal. We should hit Lake Okeechobee by nightfall. The plan is to run until around hour 2100 then dock at a marina overnight.

Pictures and video coming tonight.

Happy Independence Day, everyone! Yesterday is flying the colors off her stern.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Happy Birthday, Yesterday

Captain's Log: 3 July, 2014; Hour: 2350

Today is Yesterday's 46th birthday. Perhaps this is why we've been delayed now for 9 days; so she can celebrate her birthday with the country out on the water.

We have spent that time giving her a facelift, of sorts. We've been chasing wires, putting various pieces of her mahogany interior back in place, painting parts of the interior, scrubbing decks and woodwork, stripping varnish, and various other tasks.

The hour is late. Tomorrow she sets out for her new life on the rivers and lakes of Tennessee.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Weathering the storm . . . in more ways than one

Captain's Log: 1 July, 2014; Hour: 2038

We're hunkered down in Fort Pierce awaiting any ill effects of Tropical Storm Arthur. We're experiencing periods of rain and some light winds but nothing serious yet. We're hoping the storm will move north overnight and leave us alone. We've had quite enough trouble so far as it is.

The generator part that was supposed to be sent overnight yesterday was mistakenly sent second-day instead. It's scheduled to arrive tomorrow morning. God only knows when it will be installed.

We're now 8 days past our original departure date and the crew is trying to keep a cheerful disposition. We're at the mercy of others and there's not much we can do about it. Hopefully, we'll shove off sometime tomorrow. With Arthur to our stern we can only hope there are sunnier days ahead.