Friday, December 21, 2007

December 14-18, 2007 . . . Mobile, Alabama, to Madisonville, Louisiana

An early morning departure from Dog River Marina in Mobile gave us our first view of the local shrimp boats while we were on our way to Biloxi in the light fog and rain.

Biloxi, Mississippi. We tied up at the Schooner Yacht Club and Museum where we found a Rita damaged marina in recovery. Power, water, club house with restrooms and a meeting room. A nice facility on the waterfront across from Deer Island. Off came the bikes and we went to town.

Lunch at Mary Mahoney's consisted of shrimp gumbo, a salad, red snapper stuffed with crab and shrimp in a cream sauce, a crawfish side dish and and ending of bourbon bread pudding. Oh so so sweet. Next to our table was a fireplace and mantel; the water from Rita was 6-9 inches above the mantel. The buildings there are restored and this year they will be replacing the heart-pine flooring.

Come in for lunch, the food is terrific.

We "checked" our bikes with the bellman and went into the Casino/Hotel to check things out. The lobby was fully ready for Christmas and the shops had plenty to sell. We did not loose a penny in the Casino . . .

In order to arrive in Madisonville in daylight we made a 0430 departure from Schooner Marina which took us past our casino all brightly lighted in yellow; the parking garage was still full, and, we were off to the Mississippi Sound and New Orleans.

By almost 1100 we arrived at the entrance to the New Orleans Intercoastal Canal/Rigolets Cut which is just past the mouth of the Pearl River.

Drawing near to the Industrial Canal (connects Lake Ponchartrain and the Mississippi River with a lock in between, and forms a "T" with the New Orleans/Rigolets ICW; we had the severely damaged 9th Ward on our Port hand and the New Orleans skyline ahead.

When we reached the top of the "T" we made a turn Northward toward the Lake and son David's home outside Madisonville. The L&N Railroad bridge in directly in front of us opening so that we may pass. The high-rise bridge is Interstate 10 followed by the Lakeshore Drive Bridge and the entrance into the Lake.

David, two of his sons, Phillip and Alan, along with two of his friends came out to the entrance to Port Louis to greet us and lead the way in to our Christmas location behind his house.

Safely tied up behind David and Susan's home we have all the conveniences of a Yacht Center plus family and three beautiful grandsons.

SONATA is the largest boat in Port Louis and ready for the Holiday Season!!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

December 7-14,2007 . . Iuka, Mississippi to Mobile, Alabama

From Iuka we start south on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway (Tenn-Tom). There is Northbound traffic to contend with in a light fog.

Some 11 locks from Iuka to Mobile drop us over 400' down to sea level.

The waterway is beautiful in the afternoon sun. What a life! God is so so good!

One lock we went through at night, either we are crazy, stupid, foolish . . . or good at what we are doing.

After the last lock we entered this channel at night to overnight at the Aberdeen Marina. It was fun in the dark, tough in the daylight. On down the waterway.

In the mornings there was often a fog on the waterway; as one tug Captain put it, "about barge high."

The clearing fog would reveal a beautiful morning on the waterway.

Frequently leading to a beautiful afternoon sunset.

Before you arrive at Demopolis, Alabama, you pass the White Cliff of Epes . . . a spectacular and unusual view . . . agreed? After passing so many brown clay, mud, banks.

Just after we left the dock at the Demopolis Yacht Basin we were engulfed in a thick fog. From our continuious monitor of Channel 13, we knew we had one up-bound tug and barge, one down-bound tug and barge, and, a lock to go through. We communicated with the two tug Captains and everyone agreed that while the tugs were stopped in the fog, we would go between them and on to the lock. Bonnie was on the bow trying to see past the burgee . . . and said to Charlie . . . go ahead, thread the needle. ... We did!

We went into the lock, radioed to the Lockmaster that we were secure and then were lowered. The downstream doors opened and we proceeded out of the lock. A few minutes later the Lockmaster called on the radio to determine our location . . . were we out of the lock for he could not see the bottom of his lock. We responded in the affirmative and the Lockmaster then secured the lock until the fog lifted later in the day.

After the Demopolis Lock you go past the remains of the old "Rooster Bridge." Some may remember the pictures on the internet in 2002 of a tug going under this bridge, and I do mean under.

See: for the pictures of this very unusual event! A must see!!! April 19, 1979, when the river was at a record level of 24 feet above flood stage the tug captain approached the bridge with his barge on the nose. He signaled for an opening which was acknowledged . . . and he continued on. The bridge did not open fast enough, the current was too strong for his to stop; the pictures tell the story. The tug continues in service out of Charleston, West Virginia. Alternative site for pictures:

As we proceed South there are many bends in the river. The course in one area takes us about 1,000 yards south after we travel in snake bends for almost three miles. With the waterway containing such short straight-a-ways and the many curves and bends, Charlie was on the radio, Channel 13, before each bend announcing SONATA's location and intentions, a "security" call. After several hours of southbound travel we received a response from a northbound tug and barge and agreed on a port-to-port passage in a bend. After a safe passage the barge captain asked that we shift to a separate frequency . . . we did. The barge captain wanted to thank Charlie for his continuing commnication coming down the waterway . . . he always knew were we were and knew that SONATA knew where it was. He was confident of our boating skills and asked that Charlie give an instructional course to recreational boats on the waterway on the proper was to come down the river letting others know were you are and your intentions . . . a very pleasant and rewarding conversation.

All this twisting and turning to arrive at "Bobby's Fish Camp" where nothing is offered but a dock. On Thursdays there is a catfish fry . . . we did not arrive on a Thursday.

Bobby's is a true South desolate location. A place to stop going South rather than riding the anchor.

You never know what may be around the bend. Here we came up on some beach combers frolicking in the water. A couple sat back and rode our wake into the beach with joy.

Continuing toward Mobile after a night on the anchor, we rounded one bend and found ourselves in the fog . . . and communicating with an up-bound tug. We agreed on a one-whistle passage (port to port) and then hugged the right-descending-bank to let him pass.

Soon thereafter we saw the Mobile Skyline and continued on to the Dog River Yacht Basin and two overnights so that we could restock, change the oil and the oil and fuel filters. Some catchup engineering work that just seems not to get done while traveling. Next is the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans.

November 25 - December 7, 2007 . . . Tennessee to Mississippi

Our trip from Knoxville to Iuke, Mississippi, was a bit of a race. We first stopped at some of the same places; i.e. Fort Louden Dam Marina, Euchee Marina, then Chattanooga. At each we were the only boat moving. Same at Goose Pond Colony Marina and Decatur, Alabama. In Florence, Alabama, we saw our first real Christmas boat decoractions. There we moored a 42' boat on a 20' finger pier . . . glad there was no wind or current for the evening.

Our last Tennessee River Lock, the Wilson Lock. A drop of some 90+ feet, one of the largest in the US. On afterward to Iuka, Miss.

The Natchez Trace Bridge over the Tennessee. The Trace is administered by the National Park Service . . . from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi.

Auga Marina in Iuka, Mississippi, and we meet up with old cruising friends, Jack and Judy Bozza. They are there for engine repairs. Bonnie is on the plane out of Memphis back to work in Virginia Beach.

Before Bonnie left Charlie's sister, Barbara, came from Jackson, Mississippi, to visit for a few days. She was taken on a cruise of Pickwick Lake and over to the Pickwick Dam.

Barbara and Charlie made a visit to the Shiloh Battlefield after depositing Bonnie at the Memphis Airport.