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Our dream of cruising on a boat Around the Great Circle Loop and beyond has the drawback of leaving our friends and family far away from us for an extended time. This blog is intended to keep you up to date on our travels and adventures, and encourage you to join us for some part of our trip as we make our way around the waterways of the eastern US, Canada, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Click on the archived posts below to follow our journey. Our dog, Ben, has been helping us write this blog since he has more time!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Back on Board

Hi All,
Ben here...back on board and cold in Columbus.

  On our drive here from CA, we stopped in Santa Fe New Mexico.   Standing outside a bar there were these little rusty men with their instruments.  I don't know how long they'd been there.  It must be hard finding a gig in Santa Fe.  Either the sun or the booze really messed up their skin. I think they ought to look for another line of work.
It’s a good thing I’m easy to get along with, because these long road trips could wear on a guy. I've endured riding in the back seat all day with only an occasional "walk" in the dry weeds along side of the freeway with trucks whipping by, while I get burrs stuck in my feet. Sometimes Jeff has to sneak me into the hotel room, where I have to be real quiet and not bark at people walking by the room, or at the housekeeper when she knocks on the door in the morning. 

I heard Izzy saying the other day that she doesn't have to worry about that so much any more because she thinks I'm as deaf as a post these days. Guess I have her fooled...I can just ignore her now and she won't mind, and I'll still get treats.

Here's Jeff standing with another of those men who had turned to metal waiting to get into the museum,
and Izzy with some hot chilli peppers.  It's cold here...note the gloves!

That night I got a bath in one of those motel bath tubs. It was quite a scene. I put up a bit of a fuss getting in and out of that slippery thing. When we were done, I'm not sure who was the wettest - Izzy, Jeff or me, but I headed right for the bed to dry off on the sheets. Not sure how they dried off.

From there we drove to Austin, Texas and stopped at a restaurant on a hill called The Oasis that looked out over Lake Travis.  There were a lot of sculptures there.  This one of a woman doing a swan dive off the roof was real interesting to Jeff.

Jeff and Izzy went out for barbeque while we were there, but it was too cold for them to wander around looking for music.  Instead they took a city tour in a van....disappointing.
Most used saying of this trip:   “If it were sunny and warmer, I bet this place would be _____________!(beautiful /fun /hoppin'/a blast/crowded  - yada yada yada)” 
We seem to be in an eternal "It's really cool for this time of year" mode where ever we go.  It's like that dust cloud that follows Pig Pen in the Charlie Brown comics, only ours is a bad weather cloud. 

Our last stop on our drive back to Columbus, Mississippi was New Orleans, Lousiana.
The cold weather followed us and we saw lots of plants looking pretty grim from the frost last night.
Another city tour here told us about the Katrina flooding that destroyed so much of this city, and  took us by some of the new housing that is being built by Brad Pitt's company,
and some of the other housing waiting to be torn down.
The cemetaries in New Orleans are unique because everyone has to be buried above ground since much of the city is below sea level.  Most of them are real elaborate with beautiful architecture,
Probably some of the most beautiful architecture in the state...
Some rich people even have statues -like this one of Mother Teresa...I don't think she's actually buried here...she  wasn't rich, was she?
But the poor people don't have quite the fancy digs (so to speak).

What trip to New Orleans would be complete without a stop on Bourbon Street -

and some Midget Wrestling? 

And here they are!

We had gumbo and shrimp for lunch, and Italian for dinner on this street.
After that we had late night beignets and coffee at the CafĂ© Du Monde.

Where else but in New Orleans would you be able to see a bill board like this?

The next day we tood a walk in the park beside the Mississippi River.  There was a monument to the immigrants there.  They don't look too happy.  I guess it's the cold weather.

We also met a new friend named Alexander Reykjavik, and he's HUGE!
I decided to show him how cool I am by leaving my scent there on that plant.

As we left town, we passed the Super Dome.  Looks a lot better now than during Katrina. 
That afternoon we arrived back at the Columbus Marina in Mississippi to find that the water had frozen around all the boats, and we were going to have to stay for a few days until it melted.

These people aren't used to ice down here in the south,
and neither are the birds.  This poor bird stood on top of the water for a long time frustrated because he couldn't get the fish he saw swimming below the ice.  I think his feet got frozen to the top.  Looked funny seeing him standing on top of the water

It was real cold on the boat and it took a long time to warm it up.  Our heaters weren't working all that well at first because they need water from the river to cool the motors.  We had some nice neighbors who loaned us electric heaters so we would be comfortable, but we didn't want to run them while we were sleeping, so it got pretty cold.  I heard Izzy yelp in the middle of the night and thought she had fallen down, but luckily it was just the cold toilet seat. 

Since we had drained the water pipes on the boat before we left it in November in the "off-chance" of a frost(!) , we didn't have any water in our tanks, and the marina pipes had frozen so we couldn't refill them from our slip.

Well, apparently the dock hands don’t have much to do during this kind of weather, so they like thinking up projects and solving them like MacGyver.   Using only a spool of nylon line and a 3” washer, they came up with a trick to get water to our boat from a dock across the ice on the other side of the marina where the pipes weren't frozen. 
Here's Jimmy ready to toss the line and the washer acrosss the ice.

and there's Jeff on the other side waiting to grab it with his boat pole
Oops...just not far enough -  still sitting on top of the ice half way across.
After several attempts with varying throwing styles, the overhead swirl worked, and Jeff attached the washer cord to the hose
and we pulled it across the frozen water to our boat.
Then we could fill our water tanks.  Izzy was glad that they could finally take showers.  She said they were starting to smell like dogs....  What's wrong with that?
Our new portable freezer arrived - doesn't seem necessary right now.  We could just leave the stuff on the back deck to stay frozen.  But it's sized so we can stock it with pizzas for Aaron and Matt, fish for Izzy, and ice cream for Jeff  in the Bahamas.  Maybe I'll get a few bones thrown in there for me too.

Another boat parked near us had an unusual name.  Guess how he got the money to buy this boat....Yep, you guessed it! 

We also met a boater here from Cambria, CA and found out Izzy knows his cousin, Sheri Boyd, who is a PT in Huntington Beach, CA – small world.

Four days later when the ice melted and the fog lifted, we pulled out of the marina and went through the John Stenis Lock  a half mile down the river.  Jeff had to pick his way through logs and debris that were floating in the water from the melting rivers upstream so we could tie up along the lock wall.  Izzy had the boat pole in her hand on the bow pushing the biggest logs out of our way. 

The sun came out and we had a quiet stretch of the Tenn-Tom waterway for a while.

There were lots of floating things and we were on the alert so we wouldn't run over them!
Is that a mattress??  This reminded Izzy and Jeff of Randi for some reason.
More floating things...
And things that are almost floating.....Note the trailer addition on the back of the house.
Barges are common here on this pretty narrow and winding  river, and the tow boat drivers are real hard to understand with their thick southern accents and strange boat vocabulary.  Here we're passing one on the "one whistle".   
Around 4:30 we anchored in a quiet creek called Cochrans Cut-off just off the Tenn-Tom .  It doesn't look like it, but the current was fast in here so we put out 2 anchors, much to Jeff's objections.
We rested with a beer and made spaghetti for dinner.  It was real dark out at night on the river, so I went out to my yard for a real quick pee, before turning in early.  I think there are alligators out there. 

The next day we arrived at Demopolis where we met up with our old buddies Frank and Terry, and had dinner with them at the marina restaurant.
Outside the restaurant there are a couple of alligators resting on the railing.  One of them almost got Izzy by the foot!  I don't know why she was up on the railing anyway.  She should know better.
Gators are in the waters around here, and I understand that they particularly like dog meat, so I'm not allowed to go roaming around here at all without my leash.  I think I'll stay away from that restaurant, too.

Jeff and Izzy are anxious to get further south, so we left Demopolis the next day even though there was a storm coming in later in the day.   The day started  out ok, but by 1:30 the sky was getting dark, and  fog began forming on the water. 

Pretty soon it was as thick as soup, and the rain started.
Luckily we have a chart plotter that shows our path, but it's not always real accurate.  And we have radar, but it doesn't show boats  around the corners in the twisting river. 
So here we are in a white out and going fast with the current - just like when I once was downhill skiing in a blizzard. ......well..... I just made that up. I've never been in a blizzard. 
It got darker and darker.
Comment from Jeff sometime in the afternoon:
 "Oops, I think we passed the little creek where we were going to anchor...
Looks like we'll be out here driving for a while till we get to Bobby's Fish Camp!"
The scariest moment was when we saw a big barge on the radar, but couldn't see it outside.  Before Jeff could get him on the radio, the lead barge appeared in front of us.  We had just enough time to maneuver out of its way.  The tow boat driver said he couldn't see us on his radar, AND he couldn't see the front end of the lead barge he was pushing either.  Yikes!  We could have been alligator food!
 We don't have any pictures of that fiasco.   Jeff said Izzy was busy putting her hair fire out.
It was getting dark as we neared Bobby's Fish Camp - see the lights of the other boat in the channel?  I hardly did either.

 That was a long trip to Bobby’s Fish Camp – a record 98 miles for us before the end of the day, and just in time for the  big rain storm to begin with high winds.  I was glad to be tied up to something that night, and I stayed real close to Izzy and the dock when we took a short walk so I wouldn't get bitten by one of those  alligators.  

Thinking about it though, having fog wasn't all bad. We've heard that the fishermen in this area have an annoying habit of shooting at passing boats that don't slow down near them. We could make better time, enjoying the extra speed we got from the current while there weren't any fishermen out in the heavy fog -at least none we could see. And if there were some out there, the fog was too thick for them to get a good aim at us anyway.  I stayed inside ...just in case.
 We went through the last lock on the Great Circle Loop at Coffeeville that morning.  I heard Izzy say "yippee!".  I think she was tired of struggling with the fenders and lines in the rain and cold wind. 
- after this we're done with the locks for the rest of the Loop. We can finally put Jeff's big red balls away.  Remember them?

The fog continued in the morning.  We met this tug on a sharp curve in the river in the fog.  This time we had to pass him on the "two whistle" as he came around the bend pushing the water into big choppy waves that made our boat flop around a bit. 
The fog lifted in the afternoon and the cold weather came back as we headed for Mobile down the Black Warrior River.  We could see the shoreline of the river now and the  
Spanish moss hanging on the trees.

There were some interesting houses along here right out of the movies
I wonder who lives there

We soon came to the beginning of Mobile Bay with the tall city buildings and fancy boat ramps and parks.  Quite a contrast to what we have been passing the last couple of hours.
Part way down the bay we pulled into our destination marina. 
Dog River Marina - what a great name!
I think we're going to stay here for a few days. Good idea!  I'll write more after I get to explore this place.