Legolas Greenleaf long under tree
In joy thou hast lived, beware of the sea
If thou hearest the gull on the shore
Thine heart shall rest in the forest no more
Over the next month or so we'll be exploring the gulf coast and the multitude of estuaries that feed the gulf. We have an excellent guide book for Florida paddling trails and we're looking forward to lots of days in the kayak
Good internet connections continue to be elusive and my skill at working with my blog software is improving at a glacial rate, a number of observations/anecdotes follow and updated logs:
Tin Pan Tech
Cell reception along the loop has been generally poor. We use pay as you go cell phones(tracfone) that are cloned to the Verizon networks. Through Canada we had no coverage at all. Through the mid west we had poor coverage, usually 1 or 2 bars which led to lots of missed and dropped calls. Somewhere in Alabama I recalled that I had purchased a cell phone “booster” just before our departure and tossed it in a locker. So I dug it out and set it up. Because its designed for auto roofs I needed to find a metallic surface to act as a horizontal antenna. An 88 cent cake pan from Wally World zip tied to the roof rack and we've gone from 1 bar to 3 or 4. Now if I can only figure out the mobil hot spot thing so I can access the internet via my lap top with a wireless hot spot wifi connection from the phone!
The cat as an excuse for preferring a wild anchorage to a marina
We've about given up trying to explain to folks why we prefer a secluded anchorage in a natural setting to a night in a marina or on a public dock. The affable young lock master on the Erie Canal probably summed it up the best. “ Why would you want to anchor when you can tie up to a free wall with McDonald's right across the street?” While much of the cruising community might have more sophisticated tastes their perspective about nice marinas and good restaurants vs. anchoring out is somewhat the same.
One of our more important goal is to experience nature on the loop so we're fussy about finding anchorages with as little development as possible. With binoculars and bird guide at hand and a cold beer and a novel to read, we're happy. Those of you that know me don't need to be told that a fishing rod is in the holder ready to cast. Sure we're on a budget and marinas cost money but that hasn't played a real role in our choices. We're now on the rivers section of the loop with marinas costing a dollar per foot of boat length ($24) per night or less, perhaps when we get to the two dollar per foot marinas in Florida that will influence our thinking. While a restaurant meal is a treat (particularly for Libbey who does all the cooking) when at a marina, we're mostly there to resupply, do laundry, stretch our legs and see a bit of the town.
As we get further into the trip we're realizing that perhaps the best part of the marina experience is getting to know our fellow loopers. They're an extraordinarily convivial lot, lots of good stories and information to share, interested in your loop and very supportive-we're going into town would you like to join us?-Having trouble with the marina wifi (yes, usually)?, use our server password is blah, blah, blah.
My friends and colleagues in the long distance hiking community have a mantra about hiking goals and strategies-hike your own hike. The “loop your own loop” approach is well manifested by our fellow loopers with all their varying approaches to this wonderful circumnavigation.
Despite that, rather than sound like the elitist tree huggers we likely are, we've fallen upon blaming our anchoring out preference on Admiral Peary, our cat. Admiral is a one and a half year old kitten and loves to romp around the boat when at anchor. In a marina we feel it necessary to confine him to his crate or the cabin for fear he will jump ship. Some folks seem to think we're being pretty noble giving up the bright lights for our cat's happiness. The real cat lovers accept it as a matter of course.
Is boating outdoor recreation?
As an outdoor recreation planner with a focus on primitive recreation by profession I tend to think of boating in small boat terms, canoes, kayaks and skiffs and tent camping ashore as a big part of the experience. As a small boat cruiser I'm developing a slightly different perspective. We anchor out most nights in a secluded cove and are self contained.
Our boat is equipped with an enclosed cabin, a wheel house with a roof and roll up curtains that come and go quickly as the weather changes. While we don't hesitate to deploy the curtains if its cold or rainy on fair days all canvas is rolled up and the windshields are cranked open.
One of the more striking observations we've noted about our fellow loopers and indeed most larger cruising boaters is how enclosed their boats are kept even in the nicest weather when there are curtains that could be stowed. Lots of cruising boats have little or virtually no outdoor space to relax and enjoy being on the water. Even at anchor or in the marinas folks tend to remain inside no matter how pleasant the weather outside. To us boating is about being in the outdoors, this inside cruising seems more like touring in an RV. Nothing right or wrong about either approach its just interesting to contrast the experiential differences in the different approaches.
Impounded water bodies are generally less aesthetic than natural lakes and ponds. A natural pond nestles in to the land scape and the shore line flows with the geology. There is a naturalness and a readability to it. Impoundments are generally less coherent and sit awkwardly on the land.
As we travel the loop (which of course we're only able to do because of impoundments) it is interesting to contrast and compare how these aesthetic effects manifest themselves. We're now on the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway and the lakes here are relatively new-the dams were built in the early to mid1980's.
Bay Springs Lake in MI is an exception to the “rule”, stunningly pretty and is impounded by a very large dam-its lock lets boats down 80'. Its a deep lake with a very convoluted shore line with hardwoods and sand beaches. Its shipping channel is only obvious at either end of the lake. We anchored there for 3 nights in different coves and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Queen Lake is less appealing. Shallow with an obvious dredged shipping channel, the lake appears and is purpose built for shipping.
Aberdeeen Lake is also shallow and built for shipping but the even shallower and flatter terrain formed a myriad of back channels that are a delight in a kayak although finding a good anchorage for the Laughing Gull was not easy (bear in mind she only draws 2' of water and we've anchored many times in less than 4')
One of the aspects of leaving home for 10 months is of course managing your back home life while on the water for 10 months. We're lucky to have such a great support team looking after things while we're looping. Daughter Meg is checking on the house regularly. Son and daughter in law Jamie are forwarding mail. My best bud Al shuttled us to Troy and is storing my truck and trailer for the duration. We couldn't do this without them!
We've also just received some great customer support from Seaway Boats, our builder. When I stepped on bit of grit and managed to crack a hatch cover, I knew just who to call. Skip Wolfe is Seaways Service Manager. I had the pleasure of working with Skip when Laughing Gull was new to sort out some of the inevitable bugs that occur when a stock boat is customized. I simply phoned Skip and a new hatch was waiting for me a few days later at the marina when we arrived. Skip's professionalism and follow up are absolutely first rate. Seaway, give that man a raise!
Day 52 Paducah to Barkley Lake via Cumberland River. Sunny light breeze 85 degrees. Gas and ice at Green Turtle Bay Marina. 250 miles, 35 gallons-terrific fuel economy-the power of slow! Anchored Nickel Cove on Barkley Lake DE 2000 mi
Day 53 Nickel Cove to Kentucky Dam Marina. Laundry, internet, shopping. Borrowed marina truck to Graftonville and Benton for shopping. Take out BBQ for supper DE 2007.
Day 54 (9/26) Kentucky Dam Marina to no name cove in Land Between the Lakes. Sunny hot good swim. DE 2014
Day 55 Cove to Lost Creek LBL. Hot sunny good swim and scrubbed scum off boat hull while swimming. DE 2035
Day 56 Lost Creek to no name cove downstream of Paris Bridge. Gas, ice and groceries-PLSP marina staff guy gave us ride for groceries and tour, gas at 2054 m . Cast netted 4''shad for bait, caught 4lb largemouth bass. DE 2069
Day 57 Back upstream to Lost Creek. Quiet day, good swim, cleaned boat hull again-starting to look presentable. DE 2083
Day 58 Lost Creek to PLSP restaurant for lunch and hike. Met Virginia Webb, Chattanooga, excellent photographer and great volunteer city ambassador. Seriously tempted us to visit Chattanooga but 400 mile side trip doesn't seem viable. Anchored in quiet cove in the state park. Tennessee resort state resort parks are elaborate complexes of hotels, restaurants, conference centers and marinas with rudimentary trails and camprounds(if PLSP is typical). DE 2090Day
59 Windbound. Went back to restaurant courtesy dock for hike around park picnic area and internet access. DE 2092.
Day 60(10/2) Windbound 0 kayaked
Day 61 Wind bound
Day 62 PLSP to Pebble Isle Marina in New Johnsonville. Sunny. Dinner at Marina (cheeseburger and reuben) Nice bunch of loopers, drinks with Karen and Tim on Tika ( a 52' Benneteau Swift Trawler)
Day 63 Marina day. Van to Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park on Pilot's Bluff. Great river view and interesting folk life museum.
Day 64 Van to Camden for supplies. Up river (current becoming more apparent) to big bend and islands below New Johnsonville. Lots of turtles and mussels. Lots of jumping gar. DE 214 3
Day 65 Kayaked around island, caught one 10” white bass. To Thompson Island near Cherokee. Friendly locals in pontoon boat stopped by to chat. Propane tank empty (probably under filled in Grafton, this tank lasted 3 weeks the previous tank ran 4 weeks and wasn't empty when filled)DE 2143
Day 66 To Double Island Sunny and hot to 85 degree. Cut up white bass for bait caught 4 lb blue cat fish DE 2197
Day 67 To Swallow Bluff Island. Sunny and 80 deg.. Strolled around Clifton, bought sun curtain for boat and hamburger for supper. Town has been recently well spiffed up-flowers and fresh paint abound. Caught 20 lb blue cat fish after dark on cut bait. Yielded 6-7 lb fillets, too much fish, won't kill another fish that big. DE2221 (current has reduced speed to 5 mph at 1800 rpm compared to 6.7 in calm water)
Day 68 To Wolf Island in Savanah. Sunny and 70. Cat fish for breakfast and supper. Heavy fog at night. River dropped 1-2' overnight. DE 2243
Day 69 To Pomroy Branch on Pickwick Lake. Sunny and 78. Catfish for breakfeast. Strong current below dam-4mph speed. Good swim DE2265
Day 70 To cove with boat launch in AL. Sunny light breeze, good swim. Last of the catfish for supper (curried) DE 2275
Day 71 To Eastport Marina and back to deep cove on Alabama shore. Kayaked ashore in morning for 3 mile walk on woods road past campground and possible hunting lease. DE 2284
Day 72 To Grand Harbor Marina Sunny light breeze. Docktails with loopers. Ordered phone from Amazon over bad wifi 1 ½ hours to place order. Marina car to Savanah TN for groceries and BBQ lunch DE 2292.
Day 73 To Panther Creek Cove. Spending 2 more days on Pickwick Lake to wait for phone to arrive at marina. Sunny good swim before forecasted cooler weather arrives. DE 2297
Day 74 To JP Coleman State Park MI. Walked 3 miles on park roads. Anchored in cove by park DE 2303
Day 75 To Grand Harbor Marina. Marina car to NPS Corinth Interpretive CTR. BBQ ribs for lunch at the Rib Cage DE 2310
Day 76 To Bay Springs Lake via Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway. Cleaned cockpit and wheelhouse. Slack water canal through woods, BS Lake very pretty with deep coves and sand beaches DE 2345
Day 77 To Bay Springs Marina for repairs (carburetor and control cables) on auxiliary engine. Marina van to East Boonesville for groceries. Anchored out in deep silver maple leaf shaped cove. DE 2359
Day 78 Back to Marina to complete repair (had to wait for parts). Cool and sunny. Morning paddle amongst the deep coves Anchored out ¼ mile from Marina. 2365DE
Day 79 To Queen Lake. Locked down at Whitten Lock an 80' chamber per sonar=third highest single lift lock east of the Mississippi. Queen Lake much less to our taste with a noisy factory and developed shorelines. DE 2384.
Day 80 To Aberdeen Lake. Stopped at Smithville Marina for ice, none available so they loaned us the marina car for a run to Dollar General.They had a terrible tornado 3 years ago that killed 16 people and leveled much of the town
Day 81 At anchor. Long paddle through flooded timber. Miles of very pretty yellow flowers with petal and bud form like daisy in shape. Also water hyacinth becoming prevalent
Day 82 to Columbus Marina. Covered slip welcome with rain in forecast. Marina car to town for minor groceries and lunch at Proffetts Porch-great seafood gumbo and Land Shark beer. Gray light rain
Day 83 Marina Day. Car to town for major grocery restock. Docktails with other loopers
Day 84 Back up lake to anchorage for night. Toured 1855 Waverly Mansion in West Point. Beautiful restoration and excellent interpeter. Cool rainy
Day 85 To Pickensville anchored behind island.
Day 86 To Pickensville Rec Area. Anchor stuck in morning finally able to cleat off and power out. Nice bike ride at rec area, otherwise hangout afternoon on shore.
Day 87 To Pirates Cove Marina. Biked to Welcome Center (replica mansion-very expensive work) and snag boat Montgomery in dry dock. Groceries and Mexican dinner in Aliceville.
Day 88 Marina day. Rainy, computer work
Day 89 Back to Picknsville Rec Area to anchor in heavy rain. Books and phones DE 2482
Day 90 to a back channel 29 mi. south of Bevil Lock at Pickensville. Grey misty day on a mostly wild river. Met Jonathan and Rosa in a 22' C Dory from Melbourne Beach, FL. Bannan curry for dinner (old joke about vegetarian being Indian word for poor fisherman)
Day 91 To back channel just below Gainesville (AL) lock. Misty 70deg. Walked from boat ramp dock at Sumter Landing. Short day, too long run from lock to next anchorage. Poor fishing again, left over steak stir fried with ginger. DE 2527
Day 92 To Rattlesnake Bend 6 mi. north of Demopolis. Warm day light mist and sun. Largemouth bass for supper. Anchored in bayou off channel. DE 2567
Day 93 To Kingfisher Bay Marina in Demopolis. Warm, misty, quick rain shower. Dentist visit for Libbey to have crown re attached. DE 2577.
Day 94 To Foscue Creek in Demopolis. Great and much needed (3 months) hair cut for me by Eady, she and husband Mark sailing Sailvation around the loop, Mark is a country singer/writer, hope to get to hear him play. Groceries at Walmart and BBQ at Smoking Jacks for lunch. DE 2579
Day 95 Back to Rattlesnake Bend. Decided to fish because last day of 7 day AL fishing license. Several small bass, one keeper. Explored lower Black Warrior River. Heavy showers late in the day and night. DE2596
Day 96 To Pritchards Landing mile 162-town unknown. Lock master advised 9' rise in river level projected, appeared to rise about 1'. Longish run at 8 knots( good current, few good anchorages before Prithcards. Rain. DE 2661
Day97 (11/9) To Talawmpa Creek MM 126 above Bobby's Fish Camp. Some sun, no rain, chilly evening-curtains dropped at dark(5pm) Anchorage is very sheltered. DE2697
Day 98 To MM 104.5 nice anchorage inside buoy. Chatted with bass fisherman before departure, nothing biting. Gas and a walk at Bobby's Fish Camp-very rustic and famous for catfish platters. Sunny day, sandstone cliffs along river and a lovely sunset-our first in a while. DE 2719
Day 99 To Horseshoe Bend MM 72. Foggy, saw 2 deer. DE 2757.
Day 100 To Tensas River MM 39. Overcast and rain. First brown pelican.. Libbey baked great banana bread. DE 2791
Day 102 To Twelve Mile Island. 30' tree fouled anchor line during breakfeast. Was able to clear root fouled in anchor davit by releasing line. Nice folks in trawler Leeloo stood by until snag was cleared. Many braided channels, anchored for lunch in back channel. Mosquitos in evening at 60 degrees, biting weakly-deployed screens. DE 2829
Day 103 (11/14) To Mobile and back. City day, heavy commercial shipping development along shore. Tied up at Convention Ctr courtesy dock. Wandered through Church Street and Oakleigh Gardens historic districts and farmers market. Lunch at Wentzels (shrimp and grits, sea food pasta both excellent). Fresh roasted and ground coffee from Serda's. Ice skating rink (fake ice) at Convention Ctr-fun to watch southerners learning to skate with varying degrees of success. DE