Recommendations on Old Roosevelt Bridge (Stuart FL)

Pictured here are 3 bridges, the large Roosevelt Bridge, the RR Bridge, and the “Old Roosevelt Bridge” (the one that needs to open for boats like ours.)

Free advice… (worth every bit you paid for it) :

1) Monitor VHF-09 at opening bridges in FL!

2) Do not assume all the other boats are monitoring VHF-09.

3) If possible, know which way the tide’s current will be going when you go, (with you or against you.) Keeping in mind, of course, that the direction of flow will change with the tide, and at times there will be NO flow i.e. at “slack tide!” (i.e. when the current is changing its direction in that spot.)

4) Know which [sometimes complex] opening schedule will be in-place before you get there.

5) Different bridge tenders take different amounts of control over the “situation”.

If you are anchoring or staying nearby, it is also a good idea to monitor 09 for a few hours before you set out … at least on this one bridge.

Why?

There may be a few local ‘conventions’ that you might hear about in the chatter that are not found in any of the cruising guides.

For example, as boats “pile up” on both sides of the bridge, the boats going WITH the current generally go though first. (This relates to USCG Inland Rule # 9).

For us (noon opening on a Thursday)… the sched: every 30 minutes on the hour and 30-minute mark. East bound tide with us… (We were leaving Sunset Bay Marina for Vero Beach.)

It seemed that the boats in both directions greeted the bridge tender as they arrived and got courteous acknowledgements.

It seemed like we were in for a well-coordinated opening at the top of the hour.

Several smaller boats kept simply passing without having to wait for the opening.

About 11:55 a large west-bound shrimp trawler (whom none of us east-bounders could see) asked the bridge tender if he could pass through first.

There was some “concern” in his voice about his ability to maintain control of his vessel without making headway near these narrow bridges.

(I thought, “Why don’t old shrimp trawlers have bow thrusters, like we have!”) <grin>

The bridge tender first said, “That is usually worked out between the boaters.” But then she added, “Usually those going against the current wait for those going WITH.”

She then asked the east-bound vessels if we minded if the shrimper and a few west bounders went first. Several of us agreed to the request.

The bridge opened.

A cruiser, who obviously did not have VHF-09 on, put his arms in the air looking at me as if to say, “Why aren’t you going?!?”

I “projected my voice” back to him to turn on channel 9 so he’d know what is going on and there was a large shrimper passing west first. “OK!” He replied, “Thank you.”

Meantime, a large east bound sport fisherman was in-gear heading swiftly for the opened bridge from the rear of the east-bound pack!

The shrimper, in a panic, on his radio shouted, “There isn’t enough room in here for both of us!” Once the large sport fisherman saw a shrimp trawler coming right at him, he quickly put it in reverse and got the hell out of the way… returning to his place in the back if the line!

The shrimper passed, two other larger pleasure craft passed west bound behind him. I asked the bridge tender if there were any other west-bound vessels. She said “No, it is clear to go.”

Shellerina was first in line though most of this ordeal, (except when the sport fisherman decided that he’d try to go first). So we then passed through the small opened bascule bridge, then through the normally open RR bridge, then under the large Roosevelt bridge… now leading a “parade” of a half dozen larger boats east.

While I was calm through it all, now that it was all behind us, my body was telling me, “Now that was stressful!” It took 20-30 minutes to simply feel normal again underway.

Post eval:

One challenge here is not everyone had VHF-09 on!

We all assumed everyone was informed of “The Plan”.

Another challenge, which you can see in the pics, is one cannot see what is happening on the other side of these two small bridge openings.

Lastly, the bridge tenders cannot “take charge” of the situation if everyone isn’t on the same frequency. (And there are limitations as to what we can expect of them.)

Honestly friends, I wouldn’t avoid this bridge, per se; just be as prepared as possible… and, expect the unexpected!

Final note, the (normally open) RR bridge is an active RR bridge with large freight trains passing, including some double high freight cars. (It seems they are more active at night.). But the [complex] bridge opening schedule for the Old Roosevelt Bridge is related to and impacted by the RR bridge’s activity.

Honestly, I could not try to understand ALL the opening rules published for this bridge. (There is also the issue of trusting the source and revision date!) i.e. “I read it on the Internet!!!” <wink>

For me, I just focused on the schedule in-play when we were going to pass. And we generally avoided “rush hour” on week days, as it seemed the opening schedule got more squirrelly at those times.

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Sunset Bay Marina & Anchorage – (Stuart FL)

Ok, so the cruising guides will tell you all you need to know about this place. If you can afford a night or three at $3.25 /ft, and if they have room for you… it is worth it, IMO.

If that’s too much for you, seriously, skip to #6 below.

What I will focus on is a few things that I liked, that you won’t read elsewhere.

1) a bunch of (free) bikes to get you to the hardware store. Yes I tried this! Worked.

OR shuttle bus (did not try).

OR Lyft+Uber. Both worked.

Publix is also nearby.

2) Cut stonework impressed me… Looks like a waterway on my chart plotter!

3) BEST coffee (and Seriously FAST WiFi) at Gilberts. Actually worked all the way out to the end of B-Dock. Yes the marina had WiFi too. But Gilbert’s worked better for me.

(With my directional yagi antenna, I’m sure I could get Gilbert’s WiFi from the anchorage across the river. Password is posted on the wall for all to see. Nice artwork in there!)

4) Nicole. The Administrative Manager of this marina. When you talk to her you’ll know why Nicole makes this list.

5) Sailor’s patio and Sailor’s lounge. Up Stairs or use elevator.

The single most un-used asset of this marina. The perfect setting for Docktails.

I should have put on the Weather Channel for this pic.

Can you spot Shellerina?!

(neither can I)

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6) Dinghy Dock!

Not to be under-stated.

Dockage is at a premium. MOORING BALLS may also be unavailable.

SO, this place sports dinghy docks to make town available to you if you anchor out across the river from the mooring field. Dozens were there this week, and all were using these dinghy docks to access town.

I think Nicole has a reasonable way for anchor-ers to even get access to laundry, bikes, etc. Call and ask.

I’ll update this post once we know fer sure.

Stuart FL is a hot spot close to town. Dinghy Docks are a big feature.

7) the on-prem restaurant, Sailors Return, was great. AND they have courtesy dockage!

shellerina.com/2021/11/30/dinner-on-the-marina-premises

You just gotta figure out how to navigate in there! LOL. (And navigate OUT … once you have finished dessert!)

Several boats figured it out and tied up to this courtesy dockage for dinner while we were there. (Probably locals. But if they can do it, why can’t YOU?!)

Good luck beating the colorful lights of this fellow!

(I don’t think the lights are a prerequisite to courtesy dockage for dinner.)

Stay the night there at the courtesy dock???

Good luck! I’ll leave that to y’all to dicker for. <wink>

8) BONUS!

History buffs:

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The Old Roosevelt Bridge probably deserves a post of its very own. I’ll work on it.

Brian Adams’s forum post on “Fuel Price - WOW” mentions this interesting piece of transportation infrastructure. I’ll see what I have for pics for you.

As you might expect, its not the bridge itself, but the humans that make this interesting.

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Fuel up before making Stuart FL

Willis Custom Yachts acquired this large facility (less than a mile after the St Lucie Lock) about a year ago. It is right between the two bridges.

The signage is poor if you want to fuel up here. But their pumps are worth hunting for.

Why?

You can got out to dinner with the money you’ll save!

Pull into the slip immediately after (east) of the large covered boathouse. This video of us leaving is the best visual reference.

Here’s another if you are bandwidth limited.

The attendant said they have not spent money on signs because they may move their fuel dock.

Judging from the yachts they have in here, I’d say they have a very successful business going. Their fuel is cheap, clearly the business plan is to bring it in in other ways!

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Okeechobee Waterway (part four!)

Beautiful eh?!

Tonight we are tied up at the fuel dock at Indiantown Marina on the St Lucie Canal that goes from eastern Lake Okeechobee to the Atlantic Ocean. On Saturdays and Sundays the staff here goes home at noon. (Good for them.)

So we were unable to get a confirmed dockage reservation or anything on VHF or telephone. The reviews of this place say the staff is “easy going”.

We are banking that the fuel dock manager will greet us early in the morning with his coffee and a greeting like, “Diesel or Gas?” vs. “Get the hell off my fuel dock!”

We, of course, will answer either greeting with, “We’d like to fill up with some diesel PLEASE!”

Why is this Okeechobee “part four” ?

Well, for all our followers on this blog, you must know that we frequently go back and make addendums to our posts. If you already saw the Okeechobee post a couple days ago, but have not revisited it, you really gotta know we edit our posts for DAYS after the fact. Go back to see earlier posts you liked because there are highly likely to be significant updates to them.

Everything new does not deserve a new post, so I add content to “old” posts a LOT!

Enjoy!

Sunday Addendum

No drama on the fuel dock this mornin’. They are waiting for a replacement circuit breaker for the pumps’ circuit. So, there is no fuel either.

This also means they won’t shoo us off the fuel dock first thing this morning. So Shelly will do some laundry, and I have a project of my own to dive into.

Walking around this place, it seems like this would be a perfect HOME port!

We missed a big party all week long last week for Thanksgiving.

Quite an operation.

They dry store LOTS of “snow bird” boats here, and they are a famous “hurricane hole.”

Unfortunately, Deb (the office manager) explained, they dry-store more boats than they can accommodate in the water. So, customers cannot stay here long once launched.

We feel very lucky to have scored a place to tie up here for TWO nights!

Deb has worked here for 15 years, and most of the crew has been here longer than that!

This has been a great stop for us.

Nice to have two anchors on the bow!

Giving Thanks Today

My first thought for today’s blog post was to simply list all the things that Shelly and I are feeling grateful for.

Then I realized it would be a post that would go on for ever…

So instead, on this holiday, I’ll contrast two of my time lapse videos, both are entitled, “Preparing for work”. The first, my commute on January 28, 2020. The second shows my Internet antennas in the foreground enabling my new way to get to work about 8 months later!

In both, I am preparing for work, and both finish with me at my place of work!

Truly lots to be thankful for!

Shelly has half a turkey going into the T-fal pressure cooker later today with her Dad’s secret stuffing recipe.

Amazing what a small 3-burner galley stove can produce when combined with the right combination of tools ‘n’ talent!

Okeechobee Waterway (OWW)

154 miles Gulf of Mexico to Atlantic Ocean. Three locks on the Caloosahatchee River, and two locks on St. Lucie River.

https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Portals/44/docs/Operations/owwmap%20revised%20hyperlinks.pdf

Most Loopers will want to take the cut across (shorter) route from Clewiston, as there is shallow water on the eastern perimeter route.

We tied up at Ft Myers [municipal] Yacht Basin for the Thanksgiving holiday. Several Loopers here with us. So, we are a long day’s cruise to Moore Haven on west shore of Lake Okeechobee. That should happen Friday.

USCG Local Notice to Mariners reports that the Army Corps of Engineers plans to close St Lucie Lock from January 2 to March 31.

So traversing the whole waterway will not be possible for a few months after January 2.

Friday’s Addendum:

Speed Limit is 25 mph, most parts of the Caloosahatchee River. (We didn’t get stopped for speeding.) But there were a number of places to slow down and be mindful of our wake.

Hours of operation of the locks: 7:00am to 5:00 pm with the last locking commencing at 4:30pm. There are no lock fees.

Bridges are on VHF-9

Locks are on VHF-13

Interestingly, some might notice that the lock masters of these locks do not have valves to open and close to fill and empty the lock chamber. They actually crack open the mitered gates a bit instead.

The gates of the two locks are a very different design than other locks we’ve seen in other parts of the country.

Above, the first eastbound Franklin lock as seen on Google Earth. Its lift today was only about 1 foot.

The second in Ortona FL had a lift of about 8 feet. Notice how the gates of both locks are arch-triangles (pizza slices!) presumably a stronger structural design giving them the ability to be “cracked open” a controlled amount to control the flows into and out of the lock chamber.

The lock master at Ortona must not like talkin’ on the radio much. If he does not answer your calls, don’t take it personally.

There were very few aids to navigation in the Caloosahatchee River and Canal, and it seems there was little need. There was plenty of depth on the sides and in the middle, rarely less than 15 feet.

The municipal wall is first-come-first-serve. (Photographed below looking back Saturday morning.)

This on the LEFT before the big bridge, if you are heading east.

They may have had room for us there, but because of the sunset hour closing in, we were happy to take the first spot we saw, right behind Sparky whom we locked through with earlier today.

This was at the River house Marina (unattended, uses Dockwa) wall and once secured, we were invited to docktails aboard the brand new Krogen Express 52, Sparky. Newlywed-owners, Jim and Carol and friend Capt Anthony Russo loved giving us a tour, the men dreweled in the new engine room sporting twin Yanmars with all the trimmings… while the ladies admired all corners of the floor plan above, and fine workmanship throughout.

This crew of three could not name a single disappointment in the newest craft navigating this river today.

At various times through the night, the train whistles in Moore Haven might have you reaching for ear plugs. Locals must get used to it. I didn’t.

Saturday’s weather looks good for crossing Lake Okeechobee! Stay tuned.

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Saturday Addendum

To Lake Okeechobee!

Above, a sign inside the Moore Haven Lock gave some helpful references in both directions.

It took a long time before Okeechobee looked like a LAKE! Shelly kept calling it the Okeechobee RIVER!

Approaching the big left turn at Clewiston.

Clewiston requires an extra lock to the right…

We went left.

Everything was well marked. Out in the middle, the nav aids were quite some distance apart… beyond visual… but that is no worry with the most basic of chart plotters / or apps. (Otherwise, make sure your deviation card and skills are up to snuff for some good dead reckoning!) It’s all minor compared to the Gulf crossing a week or two ago.

We had dozens of gull friends for the lake crossing.

I suspect the churned up water behind us got their instincts all fired up.

In fishing ports, gulls follow the fishermen in as they clean the day’s catch. The cuttings are jettisoned and make a great “free lunch” for the gulls.

But there are no ports or boats like that on this lake, and we had nothing to throw. So, their behavior was difficult to understand; (especially since we both used deodorant that morning). A westbound cruiser whom we passed halfway across also had a large following.

Finally, on the other side, the tiny spec which was Port Mayaca Lock grew into a full sized chamber for us to enter. I image this entrance would be challenging on a rough day.

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Marina Jack – Sarasota

Any of us who have studied Gulf cruising guides, the AGLCA resources, or rendezvous presentations have heard of Marina Jack Yacht Basin. It is a top niche downtown marina property with cement floating docks, three restaurants on-site and countless others in-town walking distance away. “Save your pennies for a night here.” It’s a one-day trip from Clearwater or possibly Tarpon Springs with an earlier start.

If all that is not enough for you, they have pump out at the slip!!! (How’s that for a differentiator?! LOL)

You can do it yourself

or

have the Service Department have a go at it.

We had been having some “anomalies” with the corresponding system on Shellerina. (I’ll spare you the details.)

Among other things, we really needed a good multiple flushing of our “black” tank. This is the kind of project one might not want to impose on busy fuel dock attendants on the weekend, or anytime frankly.

The marina staff was very accommodating to my desire to have multiple “DIY” flush ‘n’ pumps right from the slip.

Now, you would think the transient boat tied right next to us would not be “impressed” with this type of project going on at coffee time, first thing in the morning.

On the contrary, Jim and his wife of the express cruiser next to us said, “We want to do the same!”

We helped each other with the opening and closing of valves at the dock as we got our “black” tanks back to good-as-new!

It’s a beautiful thing.

A marina with pump out is “occasionally” hard to find. One with the ability to do it from your own slip, remarkable!!!

BTW, one more thing:

The seafood chowder at the large outside bar & restaurant here was the best. Soft Shell crab, not bad either! I’m sure this place wants to be known for more than what most impressed us! <grin> The restaurant service was fantastic at lunch today. (We made our own dinner!)

BTW: If you have an above-average sized Looper boat, come here to be humbled.

There will always be someone with a larger boat!”

((I’ll add this for us all to contemplate: those big boys all need to pump out too!))

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Great day to cross Tampa Bay today!

“The Bulkhead” (southern Tampa Bay GIWW) suggested by Navionics AutoRoute looked a bit nerve wracking to me. So, Shelly double-checked the Notice to Mariners, then we took it very slowly, and ultimately passed without a problem.

Roughly where the crosshairs are.

Shelly is a big Tom Brady fan, so we flew our colors for the trip across Tampa Bay. We did not see Tom out on his boat today. Shelly says he’s got a game to prepare for tomorrow (Monday) night.

Sarasota by the water. We made Marina Jack’s easily by sunset. (49.6nm, 7 hours). We met some Looper-wanna-bees.

The Crab Pots page was updated with some new color combinations.

shellerina.com/2021/11/16/crab-pot-pics/

Clearwater Beach FL

David & Tasha (and Remy!) of Now or Never

Jim & Page of Lega Sea

Scott & Becky of Laman’s Terms

Rick & Dori of My Dori 3

Cheryl & Pete of Varnalbania

Thad & Cindy of Glorious Dei

Shelly & Ray of Shellerina

After docktails, we all headed for the Bait House for dinner. It is a fantastic little restaurant right here on the docks. Zero fried food! The sauce on their Drunken Shrimp dish is the best… Worth a stop in this port just for that!

The staff have all worked here a long time and they’ll touch your hearts. Looper stories were welcomed.

Yes. You have to walk through the bait shop to get to the bar and restaurant, what a hoot.

There are two municipal marinas in this town, one on each end of the causeway.

We stayed at The Beach end and loved it. (I emailed Michael MacDonald, the operations manager. He promised to make a problem with a shortage of laundry quarters go away for those of you coming after us).

Newer docks (floating) are reportedly found at the other facility. The docks here are fixed. (Remember they told you about tides now that we are off the Tenn-Tom Waterway?!).

One “trick” is to tie your [newly cleaned] fenders to the dock fingers instead of your boat. Problem solved!

( Just don’t forget them when you leave port, LOL. )

Trick#2

TideMinders also came in handy here. Thank you to our Admiral for suggesting it, and thank you to dock mate and friend Steve Romano back on Long Island for gifting them to Shellerina when we bought her!

The FIX

Martin, the mechanic at Pitman Yacht Services, got more aggressive than I did with regards to cleaning the posts and connections on all the solenoid and starter end of things. He had a small electric grinding disk and electric wire brush. He also used dielectric grease on the connections. In the end, that’s all it was!

1.5 hours of labor and 2 nights at $1 per foot, and we are back in business 100% !

The Tarpon Springs Municipal Marina could fit us in for Monday night, so we had a third night in TS! … and a nice dinner with Walter and Brenda of Queen B.

Dinner with Brenda and Walter!

We crossed the Gulf together Friday night & Saturday! Tonight: dinner at Yiannis Restaurant on the ‘sponge docks’ of Tarpon Springs!

Shelly keeps goin’ for the octopus. Walter went there too! Devoured it. Tonight’s was char-grilled. New twist!

The big topic of discussion was “Locks”.

Brenda is a bit nervous; hopefully, Shelly’s tips (and our blog posts) help!

Today is Day-10 for Queen B on their Great Loop! However, they have lots of cruising miles under their keel.

Part Two – “Residual Blessing” – the next morning…

This post is this about the rest of our Gulf of Mexico crossing on the Great Loop. See the previous post before this one.

Four hours later, I got up around the 7:00 am sunrise. Started the coffee. Soon the rest of the boat was up with me.

Shelly started the generator so the toaster would work for the breakfast sandwiches; the genset would also bring the batteries up to charge after a night on the hook.

One thing I do not like on this boat is that the largest DC load (the fridge) is on the same battery bank as the main bank which also, (by default) starts the engine.

It is far better design to have a separate bank for “house” and “start”. We anchor out more than most, and the boat has been tolerant of me not making this improvement just yet.

We had great breakfast egg sandwiches on toasted sourdough bread, (my favorite.)

Weather and sea state: mostly calm and clear. We marveled at how great this weather window has been. No sign, yet, of any weather nasties coming across the Gulf.

We were about 25 miles from TS (Tarpon Springs), no Internet, no phone service. On my suped-up boat network, my router was actually showing multiple bars for both VZW and T-Mobile networks, but both were also stuck, “Obtaining IP Address.”

It was mostly clear out, only some fog remained.

Time to start the engine and finish this trip!

Unfortunately, the engine would not start. The symptoms were of a battery too weak to turn her over. It would start to turn over, but not make a complete a cycle.

This had never happened on this boat before, (since we owned it.) This main battery bank consisted of 3 new batteries, Interstate Group 31 (last spring) replacing the 8D on our starboard side. This bank has performed great all along this Loop so far.

On the other side, this is season 2 on Bank #2, an 8D that came with the boat on our port side.

All banks have SmartShunts by Victron Energy; and I monitor them.

We tried all combinations of both battery banks, even after letting the generator bring them back up to 100%.

Everything else worked on the boat: electronics, fridge, genset, etc.

We tried wrapping the starter and solenoid with a hammer. We cleaned all terminals with a wire “toothbrush” which I keep handy. Nothing worked.

Our diagnosis: starter failure or solenoid, or slave solenoid if there is one.

Last night, we stopped before being back within cell phone / Internet range. That early stop reduced our options. “We might be out of VHF range too.”

We are safe and secure, we have been anchored for 5 or six hours or so, weather is cooperating nicely. There is a pelican sitting, eating, and sh-ting on the fore deck keeping Shelly negatively entertained. Attempts to “shoo” him away failed as he wanted to stay nearby to see how we were going to get underway again.

We know the USCG has mega-stations on VHF that go further than any others. We also have the ham radio that can get me in touch with hams in most of North America (and beyond). We can relay our Lat-Long to TowBoatUS who can get us help.

Russ suggests we try for TowBoatUS first, direct on VHF. “No need to get the Coast Guard involved yet.” I agreed.

That worked! After a few calls on VHF-16, TowBoatUS came back to us with an impressive VHF signal! The dispatcher was well-trained. We had our “double-checked” position written down and ready to give her. We exchanged all the particulars. By noon, “Captain Damon” out of TS (Tarpon Springs) was on the scene and he towed us in. On the way in, once we were close enough to TS to get cell service, I started calling the boat yards in TS for service. “Dave” of Pitman Yacht Services said this WAS something they could help me with on Monday, when they open.

I then asked if he had room for us at his dock, he said, “Yes, bring it in. We’ll put you up front. The BoatUS guys know where to put you.”

Captain Damon did a great job on a long 4+ hour tow, we tipped him well, and he offered to drop the three of us off on the “party side” of the river with all the shops and restaurants, after we secured.

So, to summarize:

1) we saved on fuel for the final 25 miles of our crossing.

2) we got dockage in downtown Tarpon Springs, without reservations on a weekend night (during the annual seafood festival) when every marina in town was filled to capacity,

3) we got shuttled across to where the action is, and we had a great dinner at the esteemed Hellas Bakery and Restaurant.

Above, the shared Flaming Saganaki appetizer was the best!

While this is not how I would recommend you “plan” things, it serendipitously worked out great for us on this passage!

The adventure continued today as we rented an Enterprise RAC; Shelly spent a few hours at a nearby spa getting her hair colored and cut. Lashes done too. Plus we are all re-provisioned.

This evening, a presentation ceremony aboard Shellerina of Russell’s 2021 Fleet – Looper Shirt was performed.

Shellerina’s Crossing – aka “Residual Blessings”

1) Thanks for your patience if you’ve been waiting for this! (We’ve had our hands full.)

2) This blog post will have several updates over the next few hours and days.

3) Format: Facts first just to get them out there this a.m.

Some additional color commentary and background will be filled in later.

Almanac:

Sunrise: 7:00 ish

Sunset: 5:45 ish,

(So: 10.75+1 hours of daylight.)

“Half” Moon will set at 11:40 pm. Depending on cloud cover, this is a key piece of helpful info to know. My brother commented, “You should have scheduled this with a full moon all night.” My response: “Just reschedule all your trade shows!” ((This will make sense further below.))

Interesting note: unlike the panhandle area towns around them, Apalachicola and Carrabelle are both in the EST zone for us this trip (as is TS). So we just made sure all the “stuff” that mattered were set to that zone.

Why does this matter?

Well, in the past week or two we’ve crossed from CT to ET and from daylight savings to standard time. So different phones, clocks, and “magic” navigational aids each can get messed up. Calculated ETA, for example, can get skewed by “magic” technology being mis-configured.

Weather:

One of our many weather synopses (an exercise done every day and every few hours leading up to “last line”):

“AP” is west end start point.

“TS” is east end finish point.

Noted: Predicted Wind, cloud cover, sea state predicted, for every few hours of both ends of our trip. Paying most attention to which end we’ll be.

Our Go-NoGo criteria for our Mainship 390:

Waves <2′ on bow-stern, <1′ beam. Wind 15mph. Wave Period : Height at least 2:1.

Navigation – Float Plan:

3 segments-speed 8K, Depart Friday – arrive Saturday.

Carrabelle: 24.24 nm (3 hours)

R4 off Ancote (TS=Tarpon Springs) 131.2 nm (16.4 hours)

Anchorage inside left at TS: 6.4 nm (0.8 hours)

Actual:

In a word, we had a fantastic crossing. The weather and sea state was better than predicted for all segments.

Weather during the day.

Below, we had visitors riding our bow wake.

Below:

Queen B one mile ahead. Porpoise in the foreground.

Below, Ray’s brother Russ!

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Great weather after dark too.

For example, Brenda of Queen B observed: “The sea is like glass!” This was true for a good part of the night.

Pictured below: a Setting moon with not enough wind to move the flag!

Enhanced Crew:

We had two USCG Masters aboard, as my brother Russell from Edgecomb Maine was in between fishing and commercial marine trade shows, (Orlando and Seattle.)

Soon after Russ arrived at the boat, we had a couple of “meetings” to get him on-board with all the preparations and weather windows. We also did an orientation to upgrades we have done to systems on the boat, auto-pilot operation, and the routes we had in the chart plotter.

Below, Russ takes a selfie with Shellerina as background.

(Incidentally, all three of us Shelly, Ray, and Russ, have LOTS of experience navigating through minefields of Maine Lobster pots, both day and night.”)

As planned, we depart Water Street Motel & Marina in Apalachicola Friday 9:30am, to meet Walter & Brenda of Queen B out to Carrabelle’s East Pass.

On the way out of Apalachicola, we also find several other Looper friends underway also heading east on a beautiful cruising day: Best Mate, Rachel Ann, Scout. We learn underway that they each have different float plans that do not align with ours.

So, it looks like TWO boats going to TS together; both plan on 8K speed for tonight’s trip.

I radio’d Queen B with my near-final ‘go’ decision as we approached East Pass.

We are expecting 1-2ft seas when get out there, which are predicted to decease as the midday hours click by. I will make our final ‘Go-NoGo’ after we get out there for a while!

We were all (crews of both boats) favorably impressed with weather conditions at the beginning of this trip once we got out there.

We knew things were going to be getting crappy on this route starting from west to east overnight. So our earlier-than-normal Looper start time for this trip was to ensure we kept many hours (+/- 6) of separation between us and the predicted weather coming into the Gulf behind us.

Our earlier arrival (i.e. in the dark) at R4 off TS meant we had options that we’d have to consider. We could stop or slow down significantly along the route as needed on the calmer eastern end of the route. We could put our Maine-bred watch-person-on-the-bow-with-flashlight “trick” as we entered the crap pots area. Or any combination of the above.

Without the luxury of modern day headsets, we did this hundreds of times as kids among the Lobster Pots in Maine. “It’s no big deal.” The person on the bow simply “focuses” their spotlight on the pot buoy, the helmsman steers clear. We have experience doing this for hours on pitch black moonless nights!

Buddy Boat!

Both boats loved having a buddy boat along for this passage. Shellerina followed the larger boat at 0.5 to 1 mile after dark. Both boats had radar, AIS, and of course VHF and proper running lights. We monitored VHF 16 and 68.

We had only met Walter Vaughn of Queen B for a few minutes the day before we departed. It seemed like their plan and ours aligned nicely. That continued for most all of the trip! As it got dark underway we coordinated a “touch base” call at top of every even hour. 6, 8, 10, midnight, 2a.m. Etc.

During these calls our familiarity with each boat’s crew members grew, and the roots of true friendships began. Sharing intel and observations, requests for watching over each other’s helmsman-changes occurred. Who we would get on the next 2-hour check in was always a fun surprise. I think it was the 2am check-in where the two admirals did all the talking as they where entrusted to the helms. It was fun. On one of the check-ins after the moon went down, the romantics Walter and Brenda, let us know that they were turningy off their running lights, so they could “see the stars!” It’s a darn good place to do that! (Of course we could still “see” our Buddy Boat on AIS and radar.)

Queen B also had a satellite weather system on-board, (a Garmin – Sirius XM – GXM54). That was good to know, and was good to have!

Here’s why.

One of the things we have learned first-hand over the past week has been how much variability there can be from day to day and hour to hour in the Gulf of Mexico. “The predictions keep changing!”

Starting about 25 miles from Carrabelle our last “bars” of digital-terrestrial intelligence was lost. Ray’s Whooped Up wireless set up would not be of much use to us any more!

After that point, Walter’s multiple reports that, “Things continue to look real good ahead!” were comforting. He had key information we did not have!

But, Ray did have HF-SSB ham radio aboard! And with it from the middle of the Gulf, he checked into the “Maritime Mobile Service Net” (14.300 mHz). an all-day ‘meeting’ for mariners and interested land-stations to exchange messages of routine or emergency nature. The hams did relay NWS Gulf weather info to us, but I assure you it wasn’t as graphic or “sexy” or useful as what I was accustomed to, nor as cool as the stuff Walter was getting on his satellite receiver system. Hams will gladly “relay” messages to loved ones back home, e.g. that all is well and going according to plan.

These two things were certainly not “must haves”! But kinda nice to have.

On the 4:00am check-in, Queen B reported “Land Ho!” But then clarified that land was now seen on-radar.

What we were visually seeing on the port bow was not land. It was more likely a fog bank or low clouds. But it sure looked like land!

Both boats had slowed to 7K around midnight, as we were thrilled by the great weather and sea state. “No need to keep up the fast pace across the Gulf to beat the weather behind us,” was our thinking.

We started comparing final notes on how we would approach the final 20-30 miles.

Soon thereafter, I saw my first crab pot. Then Russ saw one, and me a third. Position: 28-29 miles from downtown TS (not R4). Once it was clear I was not “seeing things” I went up forward with a couple of 3x “D-cell” flashlights, Light jacket on. Russ at helm. We quickly observed we liked the Mag-Lite better than the Husky.

It didn’t take long before we were seeing quite a few more crab pots. But we felt, “We’ve got this!” as we did as kids holding the flashlight for Dad or each other. “No need to stop.”

The low clouds over Tampa Bay and St Pete where illuminated by those cities’ lights! It was almost like the moon never went down. There was still plenty of residual light on the, now moonless night.

Then we lost visual of Queen B, they reported being in that fog bank. Both boats were fairly well- rested. Both boats had the electronics to keep going in fog. We both pressed on for a half hour or so. We were now in the pea-soup fog too.

The benefit of those illuminated low clouds over Tampa Bay disappeared.

The fog began interfering with my Mag-Light’s clear vision ahead, as I stood on the bow for my helmsman.

Perhaps a bit prematurely, I decided to “drop the hook” here in calm seas, in 45ft of water in the middle of nowhere, 27 nm from TS downtown… we’d all get some SLEEP! We’d finish with the full benefit of daylight.

Queen B noticed the change on AIS or radar or both. “What are you doing Shellerina?” I then let Walter know we had just secured for the night. It would have been better for us to let them know our intentions before executing rather than after.

“Ok! See you in-port.” We wished each other safe passage, and everyone on our boat went to bed! It was a little rolly, but not enough to keep anyone awake for very long.

Before I put my head down, there was also a brief deployment of our Raymarine VHF-73’s automatic fog horn!!! Great feature, I thought!

That didn’t last long <grin>.

My crew would have thrown me overboard before putting up with that crazy noise all night… or what was left of this seemingly short night. We only had 3 hours until sunrise after all!

To avert my ultimate legacy being recorded in a new blog post entitled a “Mutiny on the Shellerina” I quickly figured how to shut that feature off in the VHF radio’s menu system.

With radar reflector, AIS transmit, good anchor light, and zero observed traffic (besides our buddy boat) all night, safety meant “saving my hide” and that beat all the other options.

To my crew I explained, “That cool feature isn’t that bad in daylight hours.” So long as it was OFF for this night, they accepted my observation.

More to come!

-Crab Pots

-Fog

-Anchoring out.

-Troubleshooting a problem at first light.

-TowBoatUS and unanticipated fuel savings

-In-town dockage right in “the thick of things” in busy Tarpon Springs during the annual Seafood Festival this weekend, (also unanticipated).

-Dinner at Hellas Bakery and Restaurant.

-Taxi in TS!

More to come!

“Don’t even think about it!”

Walter of Queen B warned us of “Government Cut” yesterday. So, I did some more research. I even called TowBoatUS to talk to the local guy. “Don’t you go near Government Cut. Don’t even think about it!”

Pictured above are some images that show it might be possible. But it’s not in our Float Plan today. Thank you Walter!

Apalachicola

Above, sunrise over Apalachicola FL. Where final planning is often done to cross the Gulf of Mexico… Looking at maps like this one.

There are some odd looking looper boats around here.

Pelicans outnumber Herring Gulls!

This guy had a big lunch.

Robert Hayes is a great person! The entrance to his boatyard is pictured above.

I started a [200 hour] oil and filter change on out CAT 3126 today. The “tourniquet” trick I used last time to spin off the filter did not work this time around. I needed the right tool for the job. I called around to the local boat yards, and Robert Hayes (up to his elbows in a different job) not only took my call, he dug out two filter wrenches for me!!! Unbelievable!

Another fellow, who picked me up in a golf cart, said Robert was a great guy. Come to find out the golf cart guy (John Swan) was a land surveyor I wrote some business a few decades ago back in Maine! Amazing! Small world.

Be forewarned, this town is famous for people just passing through who become full time residents. So, y’all be careful.

Where to stay:

We got a slip at Water Street Hotel & Marina. $2+$2 per foot to stay aboard (ouch), if you are good at dickering, we found there is some wiggle room once you are actually tied up and going in to pay, (depending on who is working the desk).

In your negotiations, be sure to mention the advertised 10% Boat US discount. They may do even better than that for ya.

We are close enough to walk to a local (really good food) “hot spot” named Half Shell Dockside! But far enough away to not be bothered by the hooting and hollering that I can hear up on the bridge tonight … while fiddling with the chart plotter route planning for tomorrow.

There are two Loopers anchored out nearby, one whom we’ve met in his dinghy earlier tonight. Anchoring looks like a good option here too, given the tight availability of slips.

The bigger decision is to decide where to start your crossing from, IMO.

Crowdsourcing seems to say “Go to Carrabelle”, adding 20 miles.

Lots seem to want to stay clear of the “government cut”, the much more direct route to Tarpon Springs from here.

My observation is that all the posts saying “Don’t do it!” are ten+ years old! MANY storms and hurricanes ago.

So, I am more likely to go by the latest aerial photography which seems to corroborate the AquaMap USGS bathymetry contours.

We also suspect waiting out there for a local boat to pass will be more efficient than the 20 mile detour.

There are lots of similar places in Great South Bay, Long Island (our home port) where seasonal shoaling would cause lots of buoy re-location changes. Risk management.

We’ll see what we do when the time comes. The tide is [high] in our favor for a mid-day pass tomorrow at this spot for setting us up for our crossing.

Conversely, growing up in Maine w/ 8ft-11ft tides we always said, “If you are gonna go aground, do it at low tide ‘n’ comin’!”

Meaning: tide coming up or “coming in” adding water beneath your keel.

Stay tuned, we’ll record our track, and let you know how we make out.

As for getting dockage “on the other side,” in Tarpon Springs or the other ports nearby, best of luck to you!

There is a seafood festival ensuring zero slips open in Tarpon Springs this weekend. Dockmasters tell me it is “hit-or-miss” even after this festival. Some weekdays may equate to an opening or two. But they were not predicting a lot of openings for the dozens of Loopers coming up behind us in the weeks ahead.

Get the spider webs off your anchor rode!

The good news is: There are lots of good anchorages coming up, (but none that have good shore power hook ups).

Panama City to Apalachicola in 1 day

We got Panama City figured out. Paal and Betsy Hansen said Apalachicola was doable in one day.

We did it without even stressing the Admiral’s sleep schedule! 9:00am weigh anchor + depart, arrived just before sunset in Apalachicola.

It was almost a perfect cruising day in that the winds and waves were mild for all the bay crossings. However, the tidal current was against us for most of the day. So, not a perfect score today… But it was pretty darn close!

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The USAF must have Nebo or AIS because as soon as we weighed anchor they started flying all around us to show off their stuff. One dipped a wing to a waving Shelly on the sun deck. He or she was so close we could see them in their cockpit!

Later, as we passed Tyndall AF Base, they started to show us their dock landing skills.

This fellow was coming in too hot, so his angle of attack was modified to slow himself down. “Slow like a Pro, Fast like an Ass” that’s the docking rule all Loopers follow! LOL

Our position is the blue dot as a bunch of airmen (persons) finished their training missions. (Probably classified information: Apparently they don’t have the fuel capacity to go all day, like we do.)

With the Blue Angels HQ in Pennsicola, and Tyndall AFB here, near Panama City, the locals must get bored. But we marvel at this stuff.

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Ok, back to nature!

Shelly’s electronically stabilized monocular is used to help with navigation and spotting wildlife. (She has only one eye. Faith healers and doctors have not gotten the glass eye working yet.)

Unfortunately, most of today’s trip was devoid of wildlife sightings (and fortunately there were no bugs!). Not sure why.

But as we got closer to Apalachicola, several Bald Eagles were sighted.

Once secured for the night, the first human people-types we met were fantastic: Linda at the desk at Water Street Hotel and Marina, and Kate aboard Willow. Linda has a confused pet alligator named Thomas who swims up the river here, then turns back as if he is confused on where he is going. She watches him day after day. We’ll try to get pics of Thomas tomorrow.

Kate is a wildlife biologist, and she reports that as air-temps drop below water-temps, Gators start spending more time in the water than on land. (I told her we were very disappointed to not see any gators today coming here.) She offered no refund on our fuel bill.

My brother, a boater who used to live in these parts said “The Gators look like logs.” So I guess that means we saw several Gators today!

Walking up to the office, these were the first actual ‘signs’ I saw at the marina. I thought, “Good advice, taken in tandem.”

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Today’s stats:

56 nm. / 7.5 hours

This port is in Eastern Time Zone; we departed in CT. So, good luck trusting your chart plotter’s ETA calculation.

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Porpoise across bow and Celestial entertainment.

A huge Venus and crescent moon followed the sun’s descent into the western horizon.

In Panama City, Uncle Ernies welcomes “Lunchers” (and dinner stops) but they do not want to attract overnighters on their long dock. We had a great dinner with local Gold Loopers, Paul and Betsy Hansen whom we met and blogged about up in Washington Island WI. See the great post on August 5, 2021!

We made our pitch for Loopers coming behind us. But the owner has many concerns with overnighters. “We are not insured OR set up for that.”

John & Rachel, crew of Rachel Ann liked their lunch there today.

OK!

New information today:

  • “Sondra” who works (Sundays thru Wednesdays) at St. Andrews Marina was extremely helpful! She told me she has been in the marine business here for over 30 years and her favorite time of year is when The Loopers come through. We took on water, fuel, ice, and pumped out there; I took lots of notes to pass along to you from Sondra! For example:
  • There is a “Courtesy Wall” on Bayview Street inside … where the slips used to be.
  • Any boater can tie up for a couple hours and Uber into Publix, Walmart, or simply walk around town. You will see this wall lined with black tire fenders.
  • Above, Shellerina is shown tied up to that wall. Avoid the left most 20 feet or so (behind us) as there is a submerged piling on its side at just about prop depth! Shown below.
  • Otherwise, the water should fine in there. We saw a 40′ sailboat tied up there last evening for a bit.
  • From this wall, Uber was fast to get me to Publix (grocery + liquor) stores. Better wine selection at the grocery.
  • You can also use Instacart in Panama City! The delivery address is corner of Bayview Ave. and W 10th Street, or use the address of restaurant ‘Alices on Bayview’ right across the street from this Courtesy Wall.
  • You cannot anchor inside where the marina slips used to be but you can anchor right off town here so long as you don’t block the waterway. See our anchor position on the charts below. Note the small basin of fishing boats in this vicinity just left of Uncle Ernie’s. That is active in the early morn.
  • There is a dinghy dock right by the town launch ramp to the left of the Courtesy Wall. Dinghies only … for your walk around town.
  • Pictured above, to the left of the Courtesy Wall is the Dinghy Dock and Town Launch Ramp.
  • In addition to Uncle Ernies, Alice’s, there is Hunt’s Oyster Bar and other local favorites … all walking distance from the Courtesy Wall. Above, Hunt’s Oyster Bar.
  • Without Ubering, this Food Mart / Chevron gas station is the best you’ll see for provisions within walking distance.
  • Where we anchored for the night, just before sunset, for night two in this port. A productive day!
  • .
  • From yesterday:

    In this panhandle area you’ll see a few sights like this:

    It is mostly cleaned up, but this the port of Panama City is still recovering from Hurricane Michael in 2018.

    Uncle Ernies restaurant (and dock) is totally rebuilt, very nice. This dock leads directly into the restaurant dining room. (No town access.) Shellerina on Uncle Ernie’s dock Sunday for dinner.

    Aerial view of St Andrews Marina before Hurricane Michael:

    Today:

    (No more docks/slips in the middle).

    Again, Fuel Dock is open (technically 3 separate docks):

    Left-most dock is for pump out. Middle and right side are for fuel. Say “Hi” to Sondra in the store if you are there Sun-Wed. She loves Loopers. They open early at 7:00am. Close at 5:00pm.

    Fortunately, there are lots of anchorages around… which will probably have less traffic than here in town where we are … on our night two.

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    Anchored with 2 other boats – mm 217.4

    We anchored behind this nice island at an anchorage described as “Santa Rosa Island G51” (Green Can # 51) in the Waterway Guide. The “mile marker” of course, refers to where this is on the Intracoastal Waterway here in Florida’s panhandle.

    The red arrowhead is our position. Here’s To Us ( Youtube.com/WhatYachtToDo ) is anchored just to our west, and Misty Ray sneaked in after we arrived. They are just north and east of us. Your chart-plotter should show you the good way in.

    Earlier today we got excited about crossing into Florida.

    Interesting state border line shown above! So we are not certain when exactly we left the wonderful state of Alabama.

    BTW: We have nothing but great memories of our several weeks in Alabama.

    Remarkable natural beauty, impressive resorts and marinas (both private and publicly owned), and the people were hospitable and, well, authentically caring and warm. I didn’t meet a one that I did not like.

    Alabamans: You made great impression on us!

    Earlier today I also got excited that we returned to the Eastern Time Zone… That would be wrong!

    Below is a map of how Floridians keep time in this region. Makes perfect sense to me! LOL

    Lastly:

    Cellphone Bar-Trackers: this G51 anchorage has full bars on both VZW and T-M devices here!

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    Next morning:

    Here’s To Us weighs anchor after correctly planning the time of sunrise after Daylight Savings Time ends!

    Docktails – The Wharf – Orange Beach AL (mm 158)

    Wine Down – Darrell & Claudia

    Cathy Ann – Jeffrey & Cathy

    Quite Nice – Yvonne & Peter

    Planners: George & Linda Telschow. Future boat name: Bashful IV (good luck in survey+final negotiations!)

    Living The Dream – Larry & Mary

    Jetstream – Scott & KC

    Shellerina – Ray & Shelly

    The establishment is actually called Mile Marker 158; they hosted our gathering! How cool is that?!

    Crossing Mobile Bay…

    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.

    See below…

    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.

    Bottom line:

    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!

    Dog River & The Wharf marinas – “Contrast”

    We stayed at Dog River Marina in Mobile for two nights.

    It’s a bit rough and they should have been responsive on the VHF when we were coming in! <my pet peeve>

    Also, don’t forget: There are no reservations there. First come, first serve.

    But, once secured, everything works! for example the small shower house and they clearly clean it. (We take nothing for granted, with regards to facilities that actually work).

    Dog River Marina gets five stars for a courtesy van in better shape than any we’ve borrowed on The Loop so far.

    So, all around: honestly, a good stop at a $1/ft! And a small West Marine Express is onsite. (Even though it is small, I bet you can’t walk out without buying something.)

    Next time however, we will check out the [reportedly] very nice town of Fairhope on the east side of Mobile Bay. Several options there!

    Then for contrast:

    Today we made The Wharf Marina, mm 158.8 in Orange Beach AL.

    Let’s start with the cleats. Look closely.

    The name of the marina is cast into their cleats!?!

    How’s that for making a first impression for us coming in and the first thing we do is tie up ?!

    Technically, this was the second impression because they were right on top of things on VHF as we made our approach. Slip assignment and how to get there was succinctly conveyed. Nice!

    Time to check in and pay up. Fortunately, they have an AGLCA discount, so the per foot cost, though more than the last place, is still a reasonable $2/ft… (but they don’t have a courtesy vehicle).

    This property not only has one restaurant, it has several, and check out the boater’s lounge and facilities.

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    Here’s how you get over to LuLu’s:

    OR

    Take the boat!

    OK, What is LuLu’s you may ask ?!?!

    It is a must-stop, hot-spot in this region of the country owned and run by Jimmy Buffet’s sister. We didn’t stop there today, but it is part of our itinerary for tomorrow.

    I heard that there are no “lost shakers of salt” here, but there are many “frozen concoctions … to help you hang on.”

    Docktails at Dog River Marina (Mobile AL) this hour!

    Randy & Cara Jacobs – Passages

    John & Rachel – Rachel Ann

    Jeffrey & Cathy Guttenberger – Cathy Ann

    Michael & Cindy Olszewski – Experior

    Rick & Dori Ernst – My Dori III

    Bryan & Marcy Holmes – Eleanor Grace

    Deb & Mac Rubel – Janthena

    Shelly & Ray Sirois – Shellerina

    Linda & Sonny Diehl – Beachfront

    ((Part of what I was illustrating is that a blog post can be done in a couple of minutes right from one’s phone… even during docktails! Blogging does not have to be time consuming. Full disclosure: Admittedly, the names were added later from cards, to complete this post.))

    By Capel C English:

    For those who are not familiar with the expression “dragging up”, it means to quit work. It’s an expression I learned when working in the offshore oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico. For example, when I turned in my notice to return to college, I was “dragging up”. After I left the oil fields and someone would ask my friends where I was, they would reply “he drug up”. No further explanation was necessary.

    It’s a great boat name.”

    (Thanks! Capel)

    Mobile AL! Time Lapse

    From the swamps at mile marker 9 on the Tennesee-Tombigbee Waterway (aka Mobile River), we could start to see the skyline of Mobile, Alabama.

    Interestingly, you will not need any bug spray in these swamps … thanks to huge volumes of Purple Martins. One of my favorite species of wildlife to watch. They are voracious bug eaters, and thousands of these beautiful birds, could be be seen swooping, diving, and playing all around our boat keeping us clear of any flying insects! I hope you enjoy watching them as much as I do when you come through here!

    Time lapse through Mobile to the Gulf of Mexico!

    Here are some pics to give you a slower view of what we saw going through downtown Mobile’s waterfront.

    First palm trees seen this trip!

    I am always amazed to see Archimedes Principle applied to lift giant ships out of the sea!

    And then there are the cargo ships from all over the world.

    The Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay. Merchant mariners call it The Ditch

    … as it will get very shallow outside the marked channel.

    Here’s an interesting fact:

    Loopers must have noticed that VHF-16 is the “working channel” on these rivers north of Mobile.

    FYI: According to one of the tow captains, south of the Cochrane Bridge (only bridge in Mobile that crosses this waterway) all commercial traffic reverts back to the more standard VHF-13 for bridge-to-bridge communications! VHF-16 reverts back primarily to International Distress.

    Why is it different on the rivers?

    Your guess is as good as mine! Probably, just one channel to pay attention to.

    What do you use to clean fenders?

    Now that we cleared the Coffeeville Lock, it was time to clean our fenders!

    Gotta love how white fenders attract all kinds of dirt. (That’s a different subject).

    The top step was “stuff” we had aboard that we found worked. The bottom step, not so much.

    I started off using the harsher chemicals, then Shelly finished things off with the SprayNine. Regular “Boat Soap” also got “lower step” ranking tonight.

    I wish we took ‘before and after’ pics!

    Of course now might be a good time to buy new fenders too. I am SOOoo glad we didn’t buy new fenders for our Loop. The old ones worked just fine.

    I’m especially excited to return to the protocol of pulling fenders in when underway. It pained me to leave them out for so much of the past six months! Friends from home commented: “Ray you are still hanging your dirty laundry!”

    Tensaw River Anchorage

    Escape makes the turn into the Tensaw River. (mm 39.4)

    Above, Escape and Cathy Ann secured in the nice large anchorage.

    There is room here for DOZENS of boats.

    Above, Harmony and Aurora anchored west of us.

    Best Mate once again chose the river, as she was coming after dark.

    Seven Turns dared into this [hopefully] nice anchorage nearby (David Lake, entrance mm 41.5). My wife, Shelly, observed this one on the Waterway Guide. We can’t wait to hear how it was getting in and out!

    A second Long day in a row today.

    Shorter jaunt to civilization tomorrow morning (Mobile!)

    Elevation ZEE-ro!

    Coffeeville Lock brought Shellerina back to elevation zero = sea level which we left in May as we started on the Erie Canal.

    This Egret, foraging on the lower gate of the Coffeeville Lock, probably had no idea of the significance of this lock bringing thousands of vessels back to sea level, day in and day out.

    The current shown here is not likely TIDAL, as there is still a lot of fresh water flowing south. It may be 24 hours or so before Shelly gets to smell salt water!

    I have an app that tells me our elevation. It is fun in planes too.

    When the Alabama River converges with the Tombigbee River, they both evidently become the Mobile River. Knowing the name of the river you are on helps! <wink>

    Very interesting geology and geography with lots of twists and turns in the Tenn-Tom River here.

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    Bobby’s Fish Camp – mm 118.9

    Last place to get fuel ‘till Mobile AL

    This up-bound tow delayed the early-risers this morning, as did the southbound one shown in the previous post.

    Reportedly this was a “no-brainer” stop for ALL Loopers until the restaurant went out of business.

    Maybe it still is! Rafting up is still common, as this spot is very close to Coffeeville Lock… the lock that’ll bring you down to sea level! How cool is that?!?!

    Below is more on the history of this stop from one who knows!

    Thank You Ed!

    Ray:

    FYI, as the local to the area (Kingfisher Bay Marina in Demopolis has been our homeport for the past 8 years, no other AGLCA members are long term regulars there)… with many, many trips up and down the river to the Gulf Coast, including upbound in March 2020 at the beginning of the Pandemic… I can state emphatically, that Bobby’s Fish Camp had served it’s last meal in January 2020, long before the word Pandemic or Covid was on anyone’s mind in the USA.   Covid had NOTHING to do with her closing the restaurant.

    We stopped there in March 2020 (a rushed trip North to get back to home port as we were being refused transient services along the coast), and had a long dockside conversation with Laura Jean (the daughter of the late namesake Bobby), who described to us the struggles that she had with trying to make any money at the restaurant business.    Her words, not mine… we had plenty of customers, just couldn’t make any money, so I decided to shut down the restaurant for good… I’ve tried everything.   We asked if there was any chance it would reopen, and she said no, I’m done with it.   The conversation didn’t touch on the pandemic at all.

    We just shook our heads… as the one thing she didn’t try was to simply raise the prices to reflect a reasonable profit.   Now… if that would have killed the business and driven off customers… so be it… but she never even tried to see what would happen.   I can tell you the vast majority of boaters who stop there wouldn’t have blinked or noticed a couple dollars extra for the catfish dinner (it was underpriced… even for the local West Alabama area, she was cheaper than same meal at any restaurant in Demopolis).

    BTW… if you like a fried catfish dinner… it was excellent.   We always made it a point to be through on nights she would be open, and always ate in.   We even drove in to the place once by Jeep (pretty crappy road down there) to eat there.   

    Very few of the original “fish camps” remain… Ezell’s in Lavaca (also on the banks of the river… you may or may not have noticed it… just before you crossed under the Alabama state highway 10 bridge near Butler Alabama… about halfway between Demopolis and Coffeeville) is one of the few, and is probably the best one left operating.   Unfortunately, they have no docks, and there are none nearby.   An intrepid boater could anchor in the lee of the bridge pilings (safely protected from where tows go), drop a dingy and pull into the shoreline and climb up the bank nearby and walk to the restaurant.   

    Ed Offshack,   ITSOK2,  1999 Sealine F44,  Homeport:   Demopolis, AL

    Okatuppa Creek mm123.3

    Escape makes the turn into Okatuppa Creek.

    Secured!

    There was plenty of room for more Loopers in this creek. But Best Mate, experienced in these waters, chose a favorite spot on the river out-of-channel.

    .

    Pics below show 12 hours later:

    Watch closely! This time lapse shows one of the tows (Colby Quebodeau) that held us up a bit this morning. Commercial tows get priority through the locks.

    Anchored Just Below Gainesville-Heflin Lock…mm266

    This spot worked for our itinerary and puts us 50 river-miles from Demopolis. Cat Sand Dollar had the same idea (as seen above).

    Waterway Guide calls it “Tombigbee Oxbow”. State route 39 passes nearby, and a nearby cell tower means modern civilization is in-reach!

    Don’t bother if you don’t have confidence in your ground tackle. There is a noticeable current running through here that’ll make you wonder all night long.

    But if you anchor out frequently enough to know “it works!”, come on in, there is plenty of water here. (The inside curve may be slower current than the outside curve.)

    This lock uses VHF 16>14.

    Anchored – Tom Bevill Lock

    We anchored with Silver Jubilee just north of the lock. We were in 20 ft of water. A little bit more to the east, that 20 ft goes to 5 feet all at once in a hurry!

    Lock operates from 6:00am to 8:00pm. VHF 16>14.

    Below, a bit of rain came through. Loved ones from all over the east coast called with worry. Evidently this system went from Mexico to Canada. Nat’l Weather Service had issued a severe wind warning for our area. We survived the ordeal.

    Leaving Columbus Marina.

    We left reluctantly this noontime, as we just met Sam of Here’s to Us. Part of us wanted to stay another night to socialize with the many loopers in-port including “Sam” and wife “Rev” who publish a VIDEO series on Youtube entitled What Yacht to Do. We have been fans for a year or more.

    Here is a pic of us leaving Columbus Marina. Note yellow cell. Note green marker. When entering this marina keep this green marker to port, and follow normal red-green protocol. Free advice: CALL the marina and let them talk you in! 16>9

    See our other post in by the fuel dock.

    Good luck!

    .

    Columbia Marina MS (mm335). Final Approach

    [Please] Let Steve or Jimmy talk you into Columbia Marina from the river. The working/nav channel of this part of the river is 16 (not13), hail them there and they’ll probably move to 9.

    These appropriately colored PVC “day markers” on your final approach should be taken right down the middle aiming for the fuel dock. If you stay in the middle you’ll be able to ignore the scary things your depth sounder is telling you. There’s 5 ft of water but only room for 1 at a time. So wait your turn if its busy. Once you are inside… past this spot, your depth sounder will relax.

    Your rewards follow:

    There are TWO courtesy vehicles to get to Kroger grocery and “Tough Guys” barber shop. Paige Hitt did a nice job on my mop. (The OTHER barber shop (which you’ll pass on the right into town) will ask you to download an app to make an appointment?!?! … That’s a first for me.)

    Tough Guys, on the other hand, takes Walk-ins and gives you a free beer with every cut (but bring your own lime if you choose the cold Corona).

    No lie. Free Beer with a haircut. I love this place!

    .

    Tombigbee River Anchorage mm366.3

    We and Radian Journey dropped the hook at the first bend in the lower Tombigbee River last night. The water was deeper than I thought it would be and the bottom was rock. Nonetheless, it was perfect for a good weather anchorage.

    If it were a day or two after heavy rain, I would guess the current coming from up stream would make this spot unusable. But it was great for us last night. Our pile of chain on the rock bottom held us just fine.

    Night Time

    Here is what we could see coming into our anchorage tonight. Notice the iPad in the lower left showing what our Wyze CAM v3 can see. Below is a screen shot from that iPad!

    Look at how much more we can see with the Wyze CAM v3 and an iPad!

    OK… nuff night cam action. Let’s talk STARS!

    We used to live in Maine. It has been many years since we have been able to see this many stars! There is so much residual light pollution in built-up areas like Long Island NY. We have missed seeing this many stars that we used to marvel at afloat in Maine at night.

    I pointed one of our cameras at the night sky. Here you can clearly see Jupiter! and Saturn!

    Unfortunately, I was initially disoriented as I could not see my friend, the Big Dipper. It was way too low in this Mississippi sky this hour… and hidden by the trees.

    I am going out again now as the moon is rising soon, which will curtail our star gazing.

    A big Moon comes up at 9:30pm.

    Midway Marina & Fulton Anchorage

    Not Impulsive makes the turn into Midway Marina at mm393.8 with the guidance of the Midway owner/dockmaster on VHF68.

    Pass south keeping the green markers to port to avoid these tree stumps.

    Above, Radian Journey also got talked-in just before Not Impulsive.

    Shellerina decided to exercise her anchor light and drop the hook along with three other cruisers just a little bit south in the Fulton Anchorage mm393.1 (Aka Fulton Recreation Area… it sports a busy launch ramp and hiking trails).

    This nice anchorage’s entrance from the river is well marked with small red and green buoys, between which is plenty of water.

    The long wood pier is what you’ll see first; the channel markers show up soon thereafter, just south of a pair of appropriately colored day markers on the main river. (That pier is seen below from our anchor; Midway Marina is in the distant background.)

    We believe this boat’s name is GRACE, we know the captain’s name is Jason. We hope to see him again soon.

    Above, Hobie Gal out of Mobile AL exits our anchorage this morning, splitting the small red and green markers to avoid the mess just south of us.

    As seen below, she then headed NORTH; she was not flying an AGLCA burgee but she may looping. As you know, some Loopers do The Loop clockwise, aka “backwards”.

    Shellerina does not go very fast backwards, so we chose the more common counter-clockwise route along with most other loopers!

    Float Plan for tomorrow…

    (From mm449.7 Grand Harbor Marina.)

    Fulton (MS) Anchorage – Fulton Rec. Area mm 391.2 on the Tenn-Tom. (59 miles+3 Locks.) Ambitious.

    Plan B: Montgomery Lock&Dam (south side). mm406

    Plan C: Bay Springs Visitor Center Anchorage mm412.1

    I guess we’ll miss the football games!

    The “mile marker” system here on Western Rivers uses statute miles instead of nautical miles. I learned this week that many mariners set their “units” on chart-plotters to statute miles because so many references are to “sm” instead of “nm”. I wish I knew that before I started all my fuel logs and running calculations along the way!

    For this section of our trip, the mile marker “zero” is in downtown Mobile AL. So, tonight we are 449.7 statute “river miles” from downtown Mobile, very close to entering the Gulf of Mexico. That is 8-12 days away.

    ADDENDUM (Sunday night)

    We successfully made it to Fulton MS Anchorage mm391.2 at 5:30pm, just before sunset.

    Well marked channel, 3 other boats anchored here tonight.

    Three locks / 50 miles. Lost about 90 minutes at the last lock: Rankin L&D mm398. But we have been beating all the average wait times!

    Ray & Diane on the bridge of Radian Journey in-chamber at Rankin Lock as the sun gets low in the sky.

    (AND both of our NFL teams won today… without our help!)

    We were in 3 states at the same time today!j

    See the yellow circle above?

    34° 59.738′ N

    88° 12.004′ W

    This point in the middle can only be reached by boat, and we crossed it today at 4:31pm (CT). It is the 3-way intersection of TN, MS, and AL. We went near it last week on the way to the www.greatloop.org Fall Rendezvous conference.

    The lime green line shows our path for tomorrow and next weekend until we reach Mobile AL and the Gulf of Mexico.

    ADDENDUM!

    Our one night after crossing this 3-state point was at Grand Harbor.

    They are technically/geographically in MS. But they take their mail in TN! So their website says Counce TN 38326.

    (I won’t ask who gets the property taxes! <grin> )

    But the point of this addendum is to say “Thanks!” to this marina establishment for offering a prime experience to us… even if for a short time.

    The “packet” they gave us included a laminated guide for our trip down-river which has been invaluable each day.

    Flower pots and riverside gliders on the dock demonstrate their willingness to go the extra mile for US!

    Lastly, last spring my admiral and I decided to burn half of my nautical hat collection. We simply did not have room on the boat for so many dozens of hats on our Loop trip. Therefore, I have subsequently passed-by many new hats for sale in new ports since MAY 2021 when we started our Loop… for obvious reasons <grin>.

    But this new Grand Harbor embroidered hat (above) made the cut, and is now in the collection! ((And the admiral did not object!))

    Thank you Grand Harbor.

    Google this place folks. It is civilization in the middle of … well… a natural paradise.

    .

    Wilson Lock to Florence Harbor in 30 seconds!

    Some have had to wait FOUR HOURS or more to get through this troublesome lock. We got instant service both up river last Thursday, and down river this morning!

    Pictured below a partial list of today’s fleet: Dawg Haus 3 rafted with SLO Dancer. Long Recess rafted with Now or Never. Remedy was behind Shellerina. ((The rest of the boat names will follow!))

    93 feet of lift! Impressive.

    Also in the lock and time lapse from today’s fleet: Silver Linings, Toscana, Varlabania, Cheryl Ann, Side Piece, and Lolli Pop.

    .

    Below, Shelly demonstrates a floating bollard in the Wheeler Lock just an hour earlier than Wilson Lock this morning.

    Under a near full moon at sun-up, some of the fleet leaves Joe Wheeler State Park – AGLCA Fall Rendezvous 2021

    We look more bunched up on the AIS-equipped chart plotter.

    .

    Waiting at Locks…

    Above, five Loopers are seen on AIS waiting for their turn to lock through the Wheeler Lock.

    Radian Journey

    Bucket List

    Wine & Roses

    The Wright Choice

    Flying Colors

    Below, three Tugs await their turn along with their barges… this commercial traffic takes a lot longer to lock through, AND they have priority over PC-s, pleasure craft.

    Crown Jewel

    Sandy Point

    Addi Belle (actually in the lock)

    Below, the venue for the Fall Rendezvous can be seen on the right with dozens of us having already arrived. The lock and tugs are in the middle, and the five Loopers are on the left.

    These screen shots are taken from our iPad Pro using the AquaMap app, connected to our Em-Trak B924 AIS transponder via its WiFi connector.

    ADDENDUM

    About 4 hours later, the PC-s are let out of the Wheeler Lock! Radian Journey leads the way.

    Next the whole crowd comes out!

    Tug Sandy Point waits on the right wall with her barges, to go into the chamber for the ride down.

    Above… minutes later, the Looper “PC-s” arrive at Joe Wheeler State Park for the AGLCA Fall Rendezvous conference! ((Monday night I learned that the two tan colored Loopers that do not have boat names showing on AIS were Side Piece and Remedy. I had not toggled them ‘on’ as “friends” earlier in the day inside my app, because they were not yet waiting with the other five. Evidently, the boat names only appear for “friends” in the AquaMap app.))

    At the dock, after they secured, Ray & Diane of Radian Journey tell us that the prior Wilson Lock passage was a “breeze” for them.

    So, the reputedly troublesome Wilson Lock was the easier (faster) of the two, for this flock… at least for them, at least for today.

    In the end, it is just another day on The Great Loop!