Friday, November 17, 2017

Cruising the Mississippi Sound

Nov. 13-15, 2017 
     We played golf at the oldest golf course in Mississippion Monday.  An enjoyable Donald Ross course in similar shape to what it would have been in the early 1900's.  Actually sort of a relief from resort courses all the time.
Golfing selfie
Suzanne, Chris Holt and Dan Savage with Ft. Massachusetts in background
   We had promised Dan and Suzanne a trip on the boat and the seas had flattend out enough for a beautiful trip out to Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island. We tied up to a dock under repair and enjoyed lunch on the boat.  Trying to get them on the boat was a struggle with weather and schedules and we were glad we had realized early on how hard it was to make plans for people traveling with us.  But this finally worked out perfectly.  Suzzanne's brother, Chris Holt, who lives in the area was also able to come along.
      Wednesday the water was  choppy again,  but we were willing to brave it to continue our way home. The waves were crashing over the deck for about 4 hours till we got across Mobile Bay and inside of the outer islands at Gulf Port where things settled down.  But after a very long day we docked at Homeport Marina at Lulu Buffet's (Jimmie's sister) Restaurant as the sun was setting. 
      But we were back to my kind of Looping, a calm canal gliding between marinas and restaurants!!

New Orleans by car

Nov 10-12, 2017
        Left for New Orleans.  John and I hadn’t been there for about 30 years so it was interesting to see.  We took the route that we would have been on the boat, along US 90 and stopped at some of the little towns along the way.  In Bay St Louis we found a wonderful museum at the old railroad station.  Some history and some wonderful Mardi Gras costumes.  I didn’t realize that all of the little towns along the coast all celebrate Mardi Gras with costumed floats and parades. 

And the art work of Alice Mosely.  A sort of Grandma Moses of Mississippi.  She was a school teach who had led a very interesting life, reflecting the economics of the gulf coast in the 20 century.  Her paintings are primitive, but colorful and really humorous.  Continued our way in, crossing the Gulf Intercostal Water Way and found a great restaurant Le Couchon in the business district and had an amazing lunch/dinner of all things pork, and some oysters too. 

   I insisted that we find the Harvey Lock which is mile 0 on the GIWW between the Mississippi River and the canals through New Orleans.  Had a great hotel with two TVs for the night.
      Saturday I go up early and found a French bakery restaurant and brought quiche, croissants, French toast and lattes back for breakfast.
       We played golf at TPC Louisiana,  a very nice track, with two locals.  Neither of us played very well but got some exercise.  The course had been under 8 feet of water for 45 days after Katrina.
      Dan and Suzanne and her mother had flown into New Orleans on their way back to Pascagoula.  So we met them for dinner with her brother Chris and nephew Phillipe who live in New Orleans.  They chose a very representative New Orleans restaurant right across from the huge City Park.   I had a drink called a Sazerac, invented in NOLA in 1838.   Good food at Ralph’s on the Park.
        Sunday morning we headed to the French Quarter for Mass and breakfast. 
Andrew Jackson and the Cathedral of St Louis
I went to Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St Louis in the French Quarter and then we went to a Jazz breakfast brunch at the court of the Two Sisters.
 The cathdral is right on the river and I got a good view of where we would be if we'd made it by boat.
Court of the Two Sisters

Good reason to be on the Mississippi in a car.
Then across Lake Ponchatrain on the Causeway Bridge and east on I 10 back to Biloxi in time for the weekly PGA tournament and a walk on the beach.

Turning west to Biloxi

Nov 8, 2017
       I had decided that since we couldn’t come down the Mississippi on the boat, the historical end of the trip to the gulf, we had enough time to take to boat back to New Orleans.  And Dan and Suzanne were going to be in the area so they could come on the boat.  Wednesday we headed west to New Orleans out across the Mississippi.  John doesn’t like green tunnels.  I get bored pretty quickly of the blue sea 3 miles off shore, but dolphins reappeared for the first time since Norfolk and were a delight to see. 
       We got to Biloxi, a nice marina and a great oyster dinner.  Biloxi was completely wiped out in Katrina but has been rebuilt and looks pretty good.  Casinos are part of the revitalization but they don’t seem too obtrusive.
sunset from the beach

Nov 9, 2017

        We woke up to a bad weather report of wind and choppy seas so we decided to hang around Biloxi for another day and then get a car and drive to New Orleans.  Again, a two day trip on the boat was 2 hours in a car!  I headed to a nail spa immediately for a desperately needed pedicure, found a really wonderful Vietnamese Bakery.   There are a lot of Vietnamese in the area and they learned there baking skills well from the French.  And visited the Ohr-OKeefe Museum which had some wonderful pottery of George Ohr.  He was pretty crazy, but before his time, late 19th century, of creating pottery as art and not just utilitarian.  They also had an exhibit of 20 restored early 20th century motorcycles that was fabulous.  Biloxi also has a beautiful beach with white sand, but it was a little too cold for swimming.

Bobbies Fish Camp to Mile 0, Mobile

Nov 4, 2017
      Again a group decided to head through the next lock together, and again it was really foggy, but 14 of us made it through the Demopolis Lock at 7 AM.    Heading down the Tombigbee River we were making better time.  Up to 10 mph! but still had to anchor out that night.  About 7 boats anchored in the same area.  Some were in Bashi Creek, off of the river and some of us just off the side out of the channel.  A couple barges that went through that night set us rocking, but it worked out pretty well.   I got out my kayak and had a wonderful trip up the creek for about an hour.  It’s a pretty good way to get some exercise.

Nov 5-7, 2017
      The next day was short again since everyone wants to stop at Bobby's Fish Camp, an infamous restaurant with a very short dock.  We were one of the first to get there so we got one of 3 spots on the dock, but then as more and more boats showed up we had to raft together.  There were four boats tied together at three spots on the dock for a total of twelve boats together.  The restaurant was really a must see, but I really don’t like fried catfish well enough to appreciate the “best catfish on the Tombigbee River”.

There be monsters in this river!

All tied up just for some catfish.

      The next morning untangling ourselves was a sight, but daylight saving time went off Saturday night and we had more light to help.
       Only one lock on this section and we anchored out again in Tensas Creek.   It was a much bigger area and about 10 boats fit in. I tried my charcoal grill on the boat that night and made the best steak of the whole trip.  (Maybe it was because the steak was 1.5 in thick.)
        Lots of fog the next morning slowed out departure, but we were going to make it to Mobile no matter what.
        Mobile is 0 mile on the waterway that started 450 miles before on the Ohio River. And that was after 325 miles on the Illinois from Chicago, 217 miles on the Mississippi and 60 miles on the Ohio.  And more locks than I have any intention of counting again.
       Unfortunately Mobile is a very busy port and boat building area and there are no recreational marinas so we had to proceed down the bay about 20 mile to Dog River to tie up.   Not much of a marina, but they did have a courtesy car so I was able to get to a grocery store to provision.  We have a lot of storage and a full size refrigerator with a freezer, but we go through a lot of fruit and vegetables and can’t store more than about 5 days’ worth.

Locks, locks and more locks or the tortise will alway catch the hare

Nov 1, 2017
       We weren’t going too far on Wednesday so we slept in while some of the other, faster boats left really early to get farther down the TenTomWaterway.  And here the real problem with the locks became apparent.  We are the slowest boat going down the rivers at the moment except for some sail boats that are motoring.  But by the second lock of the day, the boats that had started out early had been made to wait for the rest of us for 3 hours to go through the lock.  There had been some tugs and barges going through, which we have to wait for, but the lockmasters seem to like to put all of the PC (pleasure craft) through together.   So everyone else just gets to wait for us.  I feel really guilty but it is kind of fun because it keeps a bunch of boats together in a fleet as we go from marina or anchorage to the next.

Waiting for all the turtles to catch up
Hanging on to the bollard in the lock

Gates opening, ready, set, go
    We went through Aberdeen Lock which is where Wayne lives. He made of video of us, and then came over to the Columbus Marina and took us on a quick tour of Columbus, MS and went to dinner after having a nice docktails with a big group of Loppers that were all at the marina.

Nov 2, 2017
       We woke up to heavy fog, but one of the other boats had called the lockmaster who said he could get a group of PCs through if we got there a dawn, so we picked our way out of the marina and followed each other into and through the lock.  I was pretty confident in John’s abilities following the radar screen because of this pilot training, but it is still pretty scary not to be able to see anything around us. 
There to the fast boats till the next lock.
By the time we got out of the lock, visibility was better and the “go fast” boats took off.  Only to have to wait for us at the next lock.  We had to anchor out that night and had hoped to get the nice recreation area, but settled for one of the oxbows that had been cut across to make the canal.  Quiet evening, drinking wine and watching the full moon rise. 

Nov 3, 2017
      Another 50 miles and the last lock and we arrived in Demopolis, AL.  The end of 230 miles on the Ten Tom Waterway.  Kingfisher Bay was a wonderful marina with a heated swimming pool and a shuttle that would take us into town and pick us up for dinner.  Some of the other boats were staying a couple of days for a break, since the weather had warmed up but we just wanted to be done with the rivers.  Had dinner in a nice wine bistro, nice attempt at interesting bistro food for a small town.

The beginning of the end

October 29-31,2017
      Wayne stayed the night and we took him on a short boat ride the next day around the Pickwick Lake.  We watched the golf tournament that afternoon and then after Wayne headed home we went to dinner at the restaurant at Aqua Yacht Harbor with some of the other Loopers who were at the marina. 
      Monday morning I did chores, laundry and grocery shopping, and John met with a mechanic to check out a vibration he had been feeling in one of the engines.  Mechanic diagnosed some simple shaft realignment and was able to take care of the problem.   Unfortunately not many of the marinas and roads around them, along the Tennessee, have been very bicycle friendly so we depend on the curtesy cars at the marinas for running errands.  But I get plenty of exercise walking up and down the docks in some of these marinas where it can be a half a mile to the dockmaster’s office or to the bathroom. 
       It had turned really cold, nights in the 30’s so we were eager to head south.  We can stay pretty warm at night under three layers of blankets, but even with the boats heaters, which are really reverse AC it can be pretty cold on the boat.
        Tuesday we started on the Ten Tom Canal.  It was completed in 1985 to link the Tennessee river and the Tombigbee River to shorten the distance to the gulf.  The route down the Mississippi that comes out in New Orleans is much longer and congress was finally convinced to make the short cut.   These were the newest and best locks we have had to deal with, but still a lot of locks! We made it through three locks and fifty miles to Midway marina in Fulton, TN.  We got in early enough and it looked promising for a bike ride so I headed out.  It was steep getting up off the river but there was a nice bike path that I took for a couple of miles.  It is part of the Underground Railroad Bicycle Trail.  Hadn’t heard of that before but it looked like it headed up through Tennessee and Kentucky to the Ohio.