The first thing everyone is told on The Loop is, “Just stay inside the marked channel!” ((Like… always!))
When plotting our course across Mobile Bay last night, my frequent starting point, Navionics Auto-Route, sent me way outside the marked shipping channel.
Those small red squares clearly show a “shortcut” going straight down like the hypotenuse of a right triangle, when the shipping channel clearly is telling my brain keep going straight then take the left, along the path of the yellow arrow. (= adding hours and gallons to the cruising day.)
I was perplexed. We were pushing off in the morning, and I did not have time to consult with anyone!
I went downstairs into the salon to find my notes from the AGLCA Fall Rendezvous. There was a great presentation about this portion of The Loop, and hopefully I could find some indication of which route to take!
The presentation was by Louis and Jody Wilham of Wanderer. I remembered it well, but I missed this one KEY fact, critical to our passage in just a few hours!
Shelly whipped out her iPhone. She began searching through her pics.
(She was engaged, taking pics of most of the presentations.)
She found this one: It contains the key information we needed to proceed with confidence in the morning.
It jogged my memory of Louis telling the crowd, that occasionally the marked channel is for SHIPS, and PC-s (pleasure craft and other smaller vessels) can go outside the marked channel, as shown in their presentation.
Today we confidently deviated from the main shipping channel, passed between a pair of “spoils” areas, then progressed that shortcut without a worry.
Another Looper (who was not at the Rendezvous event) traversing this same area called us on VHF and asked, “Shellerina, have you ever done this before? It’s a bit bumpy out here, and there are no navigational aids of where we are supposed to be going.”
I told him, “I know, but know that this IS the route; it IS the way this is done.”
More details and background was exchanged so they knew we were in good shape to ‘stay the course’ we had set upon. For example, talking with locals and Jeff of Cathy Ann at the fuel dock this morning, I was able add even more “data” supporting this particular route across Mobile Bay.
As we approached the main shipping channel from Dog River, our AIS showed this big boy doing over 14 MPH coming up “The Ditch” into Mobile. That’s faster than we can go even at at WOT (wide open throttle!)
One more point about Mobile Bay:
Most of us Loopers have not been on wide open water since Lake Michigan. It is time to start double checking weather/wind apps before pushing off again, like we did back on the Great Lakes. As the other (bigger) Looper said today: “It’s a bit bumpy out here today…”
Today, Shellerina had 20 minutes of broadside weather (2+ ft seas￼) hitting us while going due East for a spell, between two spoil areas; we could not deviate from our course. My Admiral said, “We could have done without that, honey!”. ((As if the noteworthy unpleasantness was my fault! <wink>)). Fortunately, it was short-lived! Our ride became much tamer as we could make the turn and take the waves on our port quarter again.
Even when the apps said “calm” for our predicted weather window on the Bay today, it was NOT at all “calm” out on the south-middle of Mobile Bay!
My brother TXT’d me today, “Good chance to get your sea legs back” after I described the excited sea state to him.
While many of us are glad to have locked our last for a good while, other types of challenges now demand our attention again! Let’s face it, the rivers were easy on us. Mobile Bay is bigger than it looks on the map, and it may possibly remind us of who is really in-charge when it is our time to cross!