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.