Sunday, November 6, 2011
Mile marker #87 to Turner Marina, Dog River, Mobile, Alabama
It was our last day of the river. We were all ready for a change. Hopefully when we are out sailing in the Gulf of Mexico on the last leg to Fort Myers we won’t be cursing the weather and wishing for the droll motoring down rivers. It’s been really easy cooking with the boat not heeling over. These guys have gotten some nice meals – meat, veggie, starch. Soon it will change. The larder needs to be reduced so I’ll be cooking with more canned goods – tuna, chicken and veggies. And there’ll be more one pot meals, which are easier to cook underway and eat in shifts.
Saturday night I prepared baked french toast as a nice Sunday morning treat. They guys had been eating oatmeal for the last five or six days straight. My plan was to get up a little early, turn up the oven, stick in the baked french toast and crawl back into my bunk for another thirty minutes. While laying in my bunk, waiting for breakfast to bake I realized that sunrise was now around 6 AM rather than 7 AM. Captain Hugh would want to be underway before or at sunrise. We were on clock time rather than sun time having set the clocks back on Saturday night for the end of daylight savings time. So much for a nice Sunday breakfast.
The sky was clear and the sun was rising quickly. There was nothing to do now except haul up the anchor. By 6:55 AM we were underway, earlier than any other morning. A tasty breakfast made motoring down the river more pleasant.
The riverbanks are much sandier and muddier. There were a lot of trees – large and small – that had been washed out by flooding. High up on the banks, we could see a line of mud still on brush. There must have been some large rains and flooding to cause a high mud line.
Later in the morning we finally passed a tow and barge that was going north. It was the first traffic we’d seen for hours. Shortly afterwards a large cruiser was coming down river towards us. It was obvious that it was going to overtake us quite soon. I throttled down to just a few miles per hour, enough to give us steerage and waited for the cruiser to come closer. Terry hailed it on the VHF. It was Andiamo. They were very polite to slow way down so they wouldn’t throw a wake, rocking the boat and shaking our sawhorses and masts.
Within the next hour there were three more boats, My Way, Mary Francis and a third we couldn’t quite make out the name of, coming up on us. We’d seen My Way previously. Again we throttled down, this time to an idle, pointed the stern to their wake and waited for them to pass.
The river had been wiggling and squiggling and bending this way and that for hundreds of miles. There is one point where the river bent back towards itself so closely that we passed ourselves only about 500 feet away at Newman Bend. Tall tows can see each other above the tree line here. (See photos for Day 25.)
Our next landmark was Mobile River. The Tombigbee River ends where it meets that Alabama River, which also ends. The two of them merge to become the Mobile River at mile marker #45. It is here where the tide starts to be noticed. It was minimal though of only about six inches. Thirty-one miles down river is the 14 Mile Bridge. It is a railroad bridge. For three to four days at the end of October the river was closed so a turn bridge could be taken out and replaced with a lift bridge. The bridge’s turn section was parked on the side of the river and was neat to see.
The new lift bridge was being worked on and lowered; usually it is raised until a train needs to use the bridge. We quickly had to take down the 2×4 that was holding up our anchor light and take our flag down. The bridge was so low that we were able to easily reach up and touch the bottom of the bridge – fun!
The riverbanks were much more like I had expected Alabama to be – flat and more marsh-like. There were palms and cypress taking long drinks with egrets, brown pelicans and seagulls about.
Before we got to Mobile Bay there was very little river traffic compared to what we had been encountering along the Illinois, Mississippi and Ohio. Tied off on one bank were two barges full of old automobiles. I wonder if they were part of the “Clunkers to Junkers” project to get fuel hogging cars off the road. No one was going to be driving any of these anywhere — they were smushed flat!
The head of Mobile Bay was just a mile down the river and it was huge! Even though it was Sunday it was busy. There were tows and barges, as we’d been seeing since we got to Chicago. There were also a lot of ocean going freighters and cargo ships. On land were cargo handling companies and importers. On the water at Austal, a company that makes catamarans and trimarans, there was a large trimaran being constructed. It was so massive that it might be a car ferry or military vessel. It was definitely impressive to see how much larger the ships were here. The Mobile Convention Center is also located here on the waterfront. It’s a large building in of itself, but it seemed small compared to some of the freighters loaded with containers. All of these boats and ships looming around us, made our 65 foot Appledore V seem like a toy boat in a swimming tub.
Our next challenge was negotiating the narrow and shallow channel in the bay itself. At places it was only 9 to 12 feet deep. We need 8 feet. The channel was only 400 feet wide and if we were to have strayed out of it we would have found ourselves aground in two to seven feet of water. Gary Garmin plotted our way on the GPS and with the channel markers we carefully made our way out a couple of miles. Then we had to proceed west into the entrance for Dog River. This was an even shallower and narrower channel, as the only commercial traffic was fishing and shrimping boats. It was primarily used by pleasure crafts, like us.
A couple miles ahead of us was a bridge and Turner Marina was on the other side. Two cruisers came up behind us and passed. We followed their small corrections of a bit more to the right or left of the channel. Our GPS plotter tracked us and marked it with bread crumbs so we could find our way out in a few days.
It was about 4 PM when we finally arrived at the dock. Roger, one of the owners was there to catch our dock lines. Once the boat was secured it was time to visit the head that didn’t rock with the water. Dry land felt good underfoot, even though it took a little getting used to. In the near future were showers after a lasagna dinner and there’d be time for laundry tomorrow.
“Yay! We made it.” We clanked our glasses in a toast to the second long leg of our trip being successfully and safely completed.
Tomorrow the masts would be put back in place and we’d start to rig her for sailing through the Gulf of Mexico. Hugh was anticipating it would take about two days to get everything in place once the masts were stepped. This meant we’d leave on the tide, probably Wednesday night, if we all went well.