Day Twenty (d)one
24 October 2011 | Ft Lauderdale
Day 21 Monday October, 24 We push away from the dock on what is supposed to be our last day of the trip at 9:00. It has rained overnight, but appears it will be yet another delightful day for us. (I'm not really fan of the word delightful, but I've grown tired of writing beautiful and perfect and such. And certainly linguistic boredom is better than having to come up with words synonymous with bad and rainy and cold.)
We get out of Marco Island and almost immediately have to spend time dodging pod buoys. Forget the slalom comparison of yesterday, it's more like boating in a maze. There are plenty of ways through this labyrinth, the trick is to find one at 30 knots. At one point we do, in fact, come to a dead end and it's all engines stop.
Going from 0 to 30 is exciting, but not quite as exciting as going from 30 to 0. Everybody and all systems are good with it though, with one exception. Mike later discovers the tool box in the engine room did not stop quite as quickly as the boat did. The bilge is full of tools, the tool box is not.
As we continue to make our way through the network of buoys and Florida Bay, I'm amazed at how far offshore we have to get and remain in order to stay in the deep water to the Keys. We're out of sight of land for hours. But still evading pod floats.
In fact, all the way to, and then through the channel to and under the Seven Mile Bridge south of Marathon Key, we're pestered by crab and lobster fishing gear. But it is still warm and sunny. And now we're heading north again on the final leg of the trip. We're only a few miles from our final destination, Ft. Lauderdale.
We go by Key Largo and Ocean Reef, Key Biscayne, Miami and Miami Beach, Aventura and Hollywood. Holy Cow, talk about over developed. We approach Ft. Lauderdale as a cruise ship departs (as one had going by Miami). Man they're big. We're approaching along with a 120 foot yacht and see an expedition yacht leaving the harbor. They both are amazing, but just precursors to what lies ahead.
As we enter the harbor we see a mega yacht docked up ahead. After we go by a yard with a wave pool in it off to starboard, we look to port and see another super yacht. And then another. And another. And another. And another. We turn north in the river and there are three side by side. And then under the bridge and there are more. It's eye candy for the boater. I think we all may have suffered whiplash this time.
The FLIBS is later in the week and all the biggies are in town. I feel like we're motoring through the pages of Showboat International magazine. Not to mention Architectural Digest. The homes are all out of control as well. I feel as if my head is on a lazy susan, it's turning so fast to try and catch everything. It's all just unbelievable.
We turn west on the river and continue upstream toward the boat's home for the next few months. Every hundred yards is another incredible house with a superyacht in the front yard. Eventually, after passing several lift bridges, we get into downtown Lauderdale. But there's no end to the yachts. It has been, and continues to be, another labyrinth we have to make our way through. This time though, at idle or slower. And the penalty for failure would be much, much more severe. Mike is doing a masterful job, with some calming guidance from JC and Bud.
We get beyond the downtown area, and back into residential areas. So residential that it includes trailer parks. But the river is still lined with yachts, big ones. And the river gets narrower and tricky to navigate. At one point we go through a hair pin turn the radius of which can't be more that 200 feet. I think I saw the stern on one side of the point from the bow on the other. And that's not the most difficult part of the river.
Not long after that turn we pass 100 foot yacht going the other way at a bend. You'd swear it was not even possible to make it by each other. As we get half way by her, we're kicking our stern to make way for her captain to do the same, in our direction, to make his next turn in the opposite direction.
Just before we cross under I-95 (yes, we're that far inland now) we go by a marina with an unfathomable number of huge yachts, including sailing yachts. I just can't believe it. They're everywhere. Mike comments on the whole 'one percent thing', and that seems a fair assessment. I'm just glad to be part of the 99 percent that gets to see it.
After we maneuver (the most challenging maneuver of the trip) our way under I-95 we have to wait for the Jungle Queen to dock before proceeding to the house where the boat will be docked. The Jungle Queen, is what it sounds like, a tourist trap boat ride on a huge paddle wheeler. It passed us as we waited for a bridge to open. He went by without slowing, and through the still half opened bridge. That had been a little sketchy.
We finally tie up for the last time. It's been a long trip, 3000ish miles one way or the other, and 21 days. I liken the trip to going to see fireworks and today was the grand finale. Absolutely awesome.
Tomorrow we'll tidy up and tie up loose ends. Then we'll be on our way home. We'll cover the distance between Ft. Lauderdale and Rochester in six hours this time versus 500. But for now it's off to dinner and the hotel, and a closer look at Pegasus V, and Argyll, and Felicita, and Star Ship, and.....
Day 20 Final Stop
23 October 2011 | Marco Island
Chris/ Need I say More
Day 20 Sunday October 23 Up early, because it's what we do now, but instead of leaving in the dark, we have a delicious and relaxing breakfast aboard the boat while we await the tide. After cleaning up, we're underway at 9:45.
It's yet another perfect day. Sun, warm air, light breezes are what we have as we leave Clearwater behind us. The seas are calm. Where was this when we had an anchor down for 12 hours.
We make our way south into nothing but sunshine. Naples is only 120 miles away, in a straight line. But early on we come to realize 'straight line' does not apply. We're dodging lobster and crab pod buoys right away. Soon the Sunshine Skyway is in sight. It's pretty impressive, even from this distance.
Before long we're slowing down from 30 knots to picture taking speed. As we go by Anna Maria Island, Bob and I compare notes on our visits to, and thoughts about, AMI and Holmes Beach. After seeing how over developed Clearwater has become, I see why Bob and JoJo, and my mother appreciate Anna Maria as they do. I manage, from three or so miles out, to get some good pictures of Playa Encantada, The Sandbar, Martinique, and Bob's place before we power up again.
Before coming back up to speed, we put Bob behind the wheel. He looks awfully comfortable there. We may never get him off the helm. He begins bobbing (no pun intended) and weaving around the numerous pod buoys. He's still got it.
For the next several hours we're involved in a slalom race on the water. You look to the horizon and it appears to be nothing but open water and the autopilot, but it turns out to be more like the river system we left behind Friday than imaginable. If it weren't for our love of crab and lobster, we'd be really annoyed by all these pods.
To say we're annoyed is, though, simply not true. It's incredibly exciting and fun to drive a boat this big and responsive through crab pod fields at 30 knots. It's really a rush, and we're all feeling mighty lucky.
We're making such good time that we consider blowing right by Naples. A couple phone calls to the marinas there make for an easy decision. Despite what the cruising guide says, there are no marinas in Naples that have enough depth, length, and diesel for us. We're going to have to push on to Marco Island. No sacrifice there. That just means more fun on the slalom course.
We get to Rose Marco River Marina around 4:00. It's a ways into the harbor, which is real shallow, now, at low tide. Leaving in the morning will be much easier, when the tide is up. We fuel up putting 619 gallons in the tanks. We ease forward to our dock for the night. After some work and then relaxation, we get ready for dinner. There's a small Tiki restaurant within walking distance.
We have another relaxing start tomorrow as we'll wait until 9 and the rising tide to depart on our final day of the trip. Tomorrow we will be in Fort Lauderdale and will have covered just over than 3000 miles. At this point I think we're all both relieved and disappointed it will be over, but mostly relieved. Here's to a great last day.
Day 18 Part Two
22 October 2011 | Clearwater
Chris/ and more of the same
Day 18 (continued) Saturday, October 22 .....Only serves to make us stronger. The second sunrise of our Day 18 looks a lot like the sunset did. As the sun is rising we get word from the Coast Guard that Tow Boat US has dispatched two boats and that they should get to us around 8:00. At 8:30 they arrive.
After securing the starboard shaft, we're ready to get towed. The two outboard boats, each with twin 200 hp engines can make about 4.9 knots with us in tow, and still keep us where they want us. The captain of Tow 1 radios back to us to sit back and enjoy the ride. He continues with, "We have only one rule, you stay behind us."
The trip into Clearwater is, in fact, sort of enjoyable. It's a beautiful day again, and even doing 5 knots makes the seas far more tolerable. We see more dolphins and plenty of fishermen. We also see my first tailwalk. It's a marlin or more likely a sailfish, coming out of the water and dancing on his tail. I never knew before this that they did that when not fighting a fishing line. It was very cool to see.
After a few hours a third Tow Boat US boat shows up and does a fuel transfer with Tow 1. They appear to be very competent. Then the third boat stars taking pictures. We wonder where those will end up.
As we get near to shore we start to see a lot of sail boats. With us in tow, the Tow Boat US guys cross a sailboat race. Ordinarily, I'll side with sailors, but in this case, it becomes obvious that some don't completely understand the rules of the road, and when sail boats don't have the right of way. Evasive maneuvers by the Tow1 are required at one point to avoid collision.
The boats change position as we start under the causeway bridge at the entrance to the pass into the Clearwater area. One moves behind us to act as a brake and a rudder as we get into tighter quarters. And a third boat, that same one that hours ago brought out additional fuel, acts a traffic cop keeping boats away from us. He's kind of like the motorcycle cop escorting a funeral procession.
As we approach the Clearwater Municipal Marina, we become the center of attention. Everybody wants to see what is going on. And as it's a Saturday, there are plenty of spectators around.
When we get to the marina wall the tow guys do an excellent job easing us into position. They line us up parallel to the wall, but a ways away in a breeze now on our forward quarter. Then they throw the middle of the tow line to guys on the wall. Those guys put it over a cleat so it goes from our bow, around the cleat (just half way, not wrapped around), and continues to the tow boat. That allows the boat to go forward, away from the wall, and still draw us into the wall (and the wind in this case). I wouldn't have thought of it, so that it's a good lesson in boat handling. It was as smooth a docking as any. They did a great job, and we were on solid ground.
We fuel up (1421 gallons) and pump out. Then we get the generator and both engines running again. All is well. We move to the slip we'll spend the night in, and get ready for dinner. We are joined by Carol, Mike's mom, for dinner at Crabby Bill's. Two day has been long. Tomorrow, day 20, will be easy. Only going 120 miles to Naples and we have to wait until 9:00 and high tide to leave.
Crossing the Gulf?
21 October 2011 | The Gulf of Mexico
Chris/ Clear and warm (thankfully)
Day 18 Friday, October 21 We're up before the sun again and we follow a barge out the channel to the Gulf. By the time we actually enter the Gulf, the sun is rising. We get to the open water and pick up the pace.
It is another beautiful day in a string of days that has really been unbelievable. Occasionally we have some dolphin swimming along side of us. That is really fun to watch. Unfortunately, it is not easily photographed. We make good time and are nearly 230 miles into the 275 mile day when things get more interesting.
Around 4:20 the generator shuts down. And a few minutes later the port engine slows. We have a fuel issue. Apparently when we fueled up in Pensacola we got small fuel. The port side fuel cage says we still have over an eighth of a tank (it's a 750ish gallon tank) on that side. The generator and the engine don't think so. The port engine shuts down,
To keep running the starboard engine without the port running, and not damage the port transmittion, the port shaft has to be locked down. If this is not done, it will overheat, as no cooling water will be running through it as the prop spins the shaft as the boat moves through the water. The lock down is a successfully completed in the engine room with some lines and hard work by Budd.
After contacting the Coast Guard and making them aware of our situation, we continue at a slow pace. What was going to be the last two hours of our day are now the last eight or nine, as we are only making about five knots. We are going this speed to keep the port shaft from breaking the lines that have it locked down.
A little over four hours later, the starboard engine shuts down, and we're adrift about 30 miles from Clearwater. We drop the anchor in 80 feet of water and notify the Coast Guard. We can't reach Tow Boat US on the radio, as we have no cell coverage. The Coasties communicate with Tow Boat US for us, and we're informed that Tow Boat US can't get out to give assistance until 7:30 Saturday morning.
Day 18 is ending with us on a hook, thirty miles from shore, in three to four foot seas. It is a clear night, the forecast is good, and we set up watches to monitor the radio and situation. The Coast Guard will check on us via radio every two hours. Meanwhile, we'll try to get some rest while rocking and rolling and creaking, as the adventure takes a whole new twist. We are completely out of power; no lights, no heads, but no real dangers. That which does not kill us..........
Day 17 Leaving the River System
20 October 2011 | Pensacola
Chris/ Clear and warm again
Day 17 Thursday October 20 We're up and ready to leave by 5:00, but again commercial traffic at our first lock keeps us at the dock. It's cold, 36 degrees, and foggy. So foggy you can't see the opposite shore. You can barely see the bow from the stern. But if you look up, there are stars everywhere. The fog is only on the river, where the water is 76 degrees.
We get under way in the dark at 5:45 and proceed with great caution. Spot lights don't help, as the fog is too thick. Using them is a lot like having your high beams on in a snow storm. And it's almost that cold. Standing on the bow and straining to see whatever we can, we head downstream at idle. Hoping we see the barge ahead of us, or the lock, with enough time to respond.
Finally, and with no definition, the lights of the lock become visible. The tug and barge are already in the lock. We have to hover in the fog for nearly another 25 minutes. That's a little tricky in the fog. When you can get a glimpse of the shoreline, you can tell there is no fog beyond the first trees, and still plenty of stars to be seen above.
We enter the lock, our first of the day and last, and 46th, of the trip, in the dark. By the time we exit the lock it is starting to get light. But the fog on the other end is just as thick, almost as thick as the butternut squash soup Linda sent along with Budd that we ate last night. The fog is so concentrated low in the river that the visibility is better on the fly bridge than it is anywhere else. But it's still cold up there.
Eventually, as the sun rises, the fog begins to clear. It provides really sweet scenery. And after one still foggy barge passing, we're making good time. Today's only wildlife is white tail deer on the beach. The river is still winding ridiculously. But doing thirty knots in a river for hours is really quite fun. We're still making great time.
That ends when we get to a railroad bridge that is too low for us to clear. Riddle me this: When is a lift bridge not a lift bridge? When it's still a swing bridge. When the bridge tender is asked to raise the bridge, he replies, "We don't lift this bridge, we swing it." We have to wait for the bridge, which is like the one in the middle of the Genesee River by RYC. That one I've always been told is one of only two left in the country. Alabama is in the middle of getting rid to this one too. And theirs is still in use. Later we'll go by yet another one. So much for the one in Rochester being so unique.
Not far beyond the bridge we get to Mobile. It is a fairly nice looking skyline, and an interesting waterfront. Lot's of shipping, ship building, and dry docks. We all nearly get whiplash there is so much to look at. And we're going slowly. There are some really cool looking new ships being built. Including a bow that looks like it might be the bow of a sister ship to the Independence. The Independence is a tri-haul built in Mobile out of steel from the World Trade Center.
We get to the end of the river and out into Mobile Bay. It's huge, larger than Tampa Bay, and full of shipping, fishing, and oil rigs. If you think the US is not drilling, think again. Not to take any political stance, but we're doing some drilling.
We pass lots of fishing boats, which are easy to spot, as they are the ones surrounded by sea gulls and pelicans. This is as opposed to the barges, on which many sea gulls hitch rides.
In the early afternoon we clear the shipping channel and are now in the Gulf of Mexico. We're skidding the Alabama, and then Florida shoreline, and on our way to Pensacola. We get into Pensacola at 1715 and refuel. We put 500 gallons in, and that's all the marina has. Then we're off to dinner, with another long day ahead of us tomorrow, as we'll be crossing the Gulf to Clearwater.
Bobby's Fish Camp
19 October 2011 | Blanton, MS
Chris/ Clear and Cool
Day 16 Wednesday, October 19 Up at 5:00 and talking with the Lockmaster at Columbus Lock. He's got an upbound tug in the lock, so our 5:30 gets pushed out a little. After a relaxing cup of coffee we push away from the dock at 5:45 and head for our first dark lock in.
It's a little chilly this morning, probably 45 or so and windy. Jackets and gloves are in order. By the time we exit the lock, the sky is getting light and the stars are fading. The key there is stars. It has cleared up overnight and it looks like yet another sunny day. Anybody that's praying that we get nice weather, please keep up the good work.
We've left Tennissippi, and the Tenn-Tom has very little scenery at this point. Daylight reveals very little. We pass a couple tugs in tow that we've passed before, as they run all night. The quarters are a little tighter this time around though. And again today it seems luck will be with us as we don't wait long at the next lock.
The first of the interesting things that we see is a floating, mobile, boat-up bait and tackle shop (sorry about the photo, tough to get the camera still at 33 knots). Not long after that we see a still on the bank, not very well hidden from the authorities. You have to love the south. (Sorry no pictures, the guys on board were afraid Bubba would shot at us if we took pictures).
At our second or third lock of the day, there is a huge paddle wheel boat in a swimming pool. As I have said, no two locks are exactly alike, but this one takes the prize for most unique.
A couple more tug passes and locks, and we get to the white cliffs of Alabama. They are really spectacular to see. The further along we go the whiter they become and cooler the formations become. They're really big and pictures don't quite do them justice. But they are beautiful.
At 1345 (1:45 in the afternoon for those who don't do military time) we pull into Demopolis to fuel up. They have a relatively nice restaurant (relative to where we'll be at dinner time) so we grab take out meals. We radio the next lock to see if we can get in, as it's just a mile away, and a tug we passed earlier went by while we were refueling. The lockmaster tells us it will be forty five minutes. Not too bad, so we eat our lunches in relaxed fashion.
The wait seemed unfortunate at first, but then luck (or whatever) steps in again. Mike and I take the opportunity go to Temple. I'm sure my father-in-law and my uncle would both approve of this. Temple in this case is the Temple Huckabee, a tug that is on the other side of the fuel dock, also refueling. We get a tour of the tug. It is way cool.
The galley is enormous with two huge restaurant sized side by side refrigerators and a couple freezers. We get a look at the crew quarters, which are reasonably nice, and big enough for a Lazyboy recliner. But the engine room is the coolest. The deck hand tells us the engines came off a train, and by the size of them, he may be telling us the truth. The tool room and mechanic's shop are sweet as well. What a great bonus to our day.
The tour ends just as the lockmaster radios that we can come ahead, and we're on our way again. We get through the lock and the waterway becomes even more winding. All in all we cover about 220 miles over the bottom to get about 112 as the crow flies. Apparently the crow has more important things to do than the river. Doing over 30 knots while weaving our way through Mississippi is really, really something. We'd love to see what the boat looks like from the shoreline make those turns in such a narrow body of water. We really have to stay alert for what's ahead of us at every turn.
Somewhere along the line we see our first wild hogs on the shore. The hunters in the crowd wish they had rifles with them. A little later we see a bald eagle leave the river with a fish in his talons. He flies right over us, what an awesome bird.
We arrive at 'Bobby's Fish Camp' at about 1730 and tie up for the night. Bobby (actually his daughter, Lora Jane now) has a little fishing camp with a floating dock in the river. Apparently there are often evenings when delivery crews and 'loopers' have boats rafted several deep off the dock, sticking well out into the river. But tonight it is only us. Once again, luck steps up.
It is suggested that we stay on board the boat after dark as there are lots of snakes and gators around. That's just fine with us. Tomorrow we have another 12-14 hour day as we need to get to Pensacola. We're pushing away at 0500. Soon enough we'll be off the river system.