|October 23, 1999
Our stay at Demopolis was a productive one. We did get re-provisioned, refueled and revived from so many days on the river. On our last day there we got the opportunity to go aboard the Heloise, a tow boat that was taking on fuel at the same docks where we fueled. The big difference was that the Helouise took 45,000 gallons of fuel where we only hold 250 gallons. Captain Billy was very hospitable and gave us a very thorough tour. She was a surprisingly spacious boat. Carol was very impressed with the galley and it's five refrigerators and three freezers. Following our tour we headed out to the river again and south toward Mobile with only 207 miles to go.
I should describe our little flotilla. There is Carol and I aboard "Vera Segunda" whom most of you know. Keith and Judy are aboard "Taking Betts" a 36 foot Black Fin sportfisher from Tarpon Springs, Florida. They are just about finished with their loop, which they started three years ago...spending a lot of time in the Chesapeake. Tom and Debbie are aboard "A Time For Us", a 38 foot Gulfstar trawler. Tom & Debbie left Key Largo last April and will complete their loop soon as well. Marie and Don are aboard "Shenandoah" a 36 foot Saberline fast trawler from Islamorada, Florida and are looking forward to completing their loop. This has been a very good group of people to travel with but since all of them are from Florida they do seem to get cold if the temperature drops even a little bit. And they are all almost done with their travels and we have just passed the halfway point.
Our first night out of Demopolis was at mile 168 where we all rafted together and had an 'Octoberfest'. Everyone contributed to the Fest - we had brats, kraut, soup, potato salad, Cole slaw and cake...and beer... what an evening. Our anchorage was just off the channel at old lock #2 which was just a small dent in the river bank and we watched tows slip past all through the night. Our next night was spent just upstream from the Coffeeville lock and dam, the last lock we will encounter on the river system. Carol decorated a pumpkin for Halloween, complete with "Billy Bob" teeth and a ball cap. Keith had his dinghy down (which he normally does to run his dogs to shore) and I got a ride in to shore and found Carol a water Hyacinth to put in her flower pot... it didn't last too long. Tom tried to fish during happy hour and lost a lot of bait. There was an awful smell of diesel fuel and a film of fuel on the water. We later found out that the day before our arrival at the Coffeeville Dam, a tow boat punctured a fuel tank and lost quite a lot of fuel. The lock was closed down for a day for the cleanup. I guess they didn't get it all cleaned up.
The days along this stretch were filled with anticipation of getting back into salt water and we could see the scenery changing slowly. The weather was changing as well. Rain began to enter our lives daily. We had a real thunderstorm the night after our stay at the Coffeeville dam as we were anchored in a small creek just off the channel. The following day we motored in the rain. It was one of those steady drizzles that kept the day gray. Carol and I drove from the inside helm and tried to keep dry. Pearl is adapting well to traveling in the boat.. nothing seems to bother her. She is becoming a good boat kitty. Just as we passed under the Dolly Parton Bridge (you don't even want to know how it got that name) we turned into Lizard creek to find a very secure anchorage's just as the rain began to let up and a few patches of blue sky appeared. We decided to have a barbecue night. Don cooked chicken, and everyone supplied the rest. A feast was had by all. And the rain began again. The following day it rained all the way down to Mobile Bay. In the last forty miles we really noticed a change in the scenery. The first palm like plants began to appear and the riverbanks really began to look semi-tropical. Hanging moss was becoming much more prevalent And we searched in vain to spot an alligator. (We still haven't seen one) Mobile Bay seemed so wide and shrimp boats were working the water. By one in the afternoon we were heading up the Dog River toward Grand Mariner Marina. As we approached the final turn into the river I hailed our friends aboard La TI Da with the VHF radio and was greeted by a familiar voice. We tied just across the dock from La Ti Da and it was good to see the girls again. They are quite settled in, here in Mobile. Paul and Kay aboard 'Lil Chief' were also there. We first met them in Peoria, their home port, and they have just begun their trip around the loop.
The first order of business in Mobile was to get stuff.. we always need to get stuff.. so it was off to the Boat/US, Sam's Club, Wal-Mart and who know where else... but we got some stuff. Now we could make plans to go to New Orleans. Cindy and Robin said they would baby sit our baby and everyone else found good lodging for their babies. So with the animals taken care of we rented a van and early Tuesday morning we left for New Orleans (nawlins). Don had gotten us a good rate at the Days Inn just outside of the city - no frills but adequate. That afternoon we made it into the French Quarter and had lunch at a great restaurant where I had a Muffeletta (a really big ham sandwich) and every one ate too much. Don and Marie met their daughter there and went off in another direction. We all walked all over the city and took a trolley ride into the 'Garden District' and went back to the motel for an early evening. The following day we went off the the 'Cafe du Monde' for a breakfast of Beignet (ben-yaa) and chicory coffee - this is apparently the only thing a tourist in New Orleans should eat before noon. We walked all over the city and the market place once again and took pictures and then back to the motel for a nap before going to Bourbon Street for a night out on the town. And what a night out.. we had a fine dinner, lots of drinks and good company all in the bizarre setting of Bourbon Street where anything goes. The street was cut off to motor traffic and was filled to capacity with people on foot. We heard every variety of music, from jazz and blues to Zydeco and and rap. Every bar was very busy - we stopped at Pat O'Briens, a local landmark, and had strange drinks. What was really amazing was that it was a Wednesday night and there was more activity here than you would seen anywhere else on a weekend or holiday. We ate gumbo, frogs legs and tuffa and other culinary delights. The following morning we all took a cemetery tour at Carols suggestion... it was really a highlight. We got the whole history of the city. Our tour guide was a fountain of information. The cemetery was one of those that were built above the ground to keep the dead folks from floating away. New Orleans is below sea level so burying the dead doesn't work too well. It was a fun and informative tour an one of my personal highlights. The 2 hour drive back to Mobile was uneventful but it was good to see the animals. We were also hearing about hurricane Irene and had some concerns. The following day was a day to start to get things done on the boat. Debbie had left to visit her son in South Carolina and I had to have a refrigeration guy come look at the fridge again... ultimately it got fixed. But the big news of the day was Pearl. About four in the afternoon she disappeared. Carol was frantic, as you may imagine, and I had searched the boat even emptying the closets and looking in every space I could find and I know this old boat pretty well. We figure she must have gone overboard. Tom got our his fins and swam the length of the dock looking for her on the pilings. Keith and I took the dinghy and searched the shore all to no avail. She could not be found. One of the live-a-boards told us of the alligators that live in the nearby grasses and we were told that there are fish in this water big enough to eat her. By 7 that evening we had resigned ourselves that she was likely gone forever. I was making a lost kitty poster as I heard Carol shout "PEARL!" Carol had gone to the head and when she opened that little door that holds the toilet paper out stepped Pearl looking as though she had just woken up and seemed to say "What's all the fuss?" Carol was very happy. Everyone on the dock had wet eyes.
I will remember Mobile as a busy time of working on the boat and a good reunion with La Ti Da. It was good to be able to share experiences with them. And now that their trip is done they will be missed on the water. Robin has started a job at Springhill College in Mobile and Cindy may be returning to the northwest to tend to some family business. We wish them well, they were good people to travel with and will be missed. I got a lot done on the boat, replacing hoses and doing engine room stuff once again. Everything seems to be working now.
We had planned to leave on Wednesday the 20th but weather delayed our departure. Tom still had Debbie's rental car and we toured the area and even saw an Imax movie. On Thursday morning with small craft warnings flying we motored out the Dog River and into Mobile Bay and a following chop. Four hours later we entered the Intracostal Waterway and out of the wind. We found an anchorage in Ingram Bayou and it was great to be back on the hook once again. Yesterday we arrived here in Pensacola at the Palafox Pier Yacht Harbor. Pensacola seems to be a town going through a revival of sorts. There are good art galleries here and a fine art museum. As we approached there were Navy jets flying overhead and porpoises swimming in our bow wake.
Life is good aboard Vera Segunda.
"In due course we arrive, if it can be said that we ever fully arrive. The truth is that there are destination beyond destinations, and so the confirmed sailor goes on tacking forever."
Bridges Passed Under/Through 485
Miles Traveled 3417
Average speed 7 mph