No, not THE Panama City. Apparently at some point someone in charge here changed the town’s name from Harrison to Panama City, because they thought it would help the economy (you know THOSE politicians!!) Logic was that since a straight line between Chicago and the capital of the Central American country of Panama passed through this Florida town, it only made sense to change its name…..hmmmmm, on THAT theory, maybe Trump Tower should be Torre Colpatria after the famous tower in Bogota, Columbia since they are both on the 73rd W Longitude! (well, we KNOW that name would never be acceptable!….(but I NEARLY digressed to that polit-speak!)
Anyway, we have spent a day and a half here and have just been doing some hangin’. So just a few pix to give you the feel for the area and our day:
Speaking of morning, the feature photo on top is a morning sunRISE beach walk photo. Remember, all you west coasters with internal directional compasses pointing west to the wide open ocean, right now we are on the Panhandle facing south. (PS…we appreciate ALL comments you all give in the comment section but especially any that validate our own quirks!)
The marina is a nice mix of sail, motor and working vessels:
Speaking of shrimp, have you ever heard those little crackling/snap, crackle, pop sounds when you’ve been snorkeling or even lying in your berth late at night with no other sounds? Well, that noise has literally popped up here and can even be heard with ambient noise during the day. I understand there is a dispute on the source of the sound: barnacles and mussels feasting or shrimp “cracking.” Not that this is so scientifically important, but it seems a simple question to what thousands have surely been wondering about for many years. Based on the two sites I’ve reviewed here, I’m voting for the pistol shrimp…. Besides, I like that thought more than imagining barnacles invading our boat intake valves, etc! https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/snapping-shrimp/https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XC6I8iPiHT8
The little park just outside the marina was full of sights:
Okay, okay we didn’t have room for healthy shrimp in the refrig, but we could not turn down this amazing place for lunch right inside the marina!
We got a few other things done too. N did the laundry while B went to the local yoga studio; a quick grocery stop for a dozen eggs; a field trip to Petsmart for Ziggy; and a field trip to Best Buy for N. We diluted the grease from lunch with a nice big green dinner salad with lots of veggies, grilled zucchini and grilled chicken. As you can see from our clothing, the weather is getting colder by the day and we really have to get rolling south (well, east first!). More tomorrow!
Ok…just to get the literal elephant out of the room (and, yes, I know it is a detour out of a travel blog …but the byline DOES say the blog will reflect my thoughts/perspective!), I’m jumping ahead to today’s actual posting date and then I’ll get back to our chronology. I HAVE to say how saddened, disheartened and worried I am for my country that has voted in a man so full of spewing hatred directed particularly (but not only) to people of color, Muslims, immigrants, LGBTQ, indigenous people, and women. To quote my friend, Seamus Kirst: “I denounce white supremacy and racism and hate, and I am so ashamed of the millions of people who embraced it when they walked into those polls.” I will say that it is that much more shocking to me now that I have spent time on the river chatting and sharing with people from Tennessee, West Virginia, Mississippi, Kentucky and Alabama and found them to be so open and giving and warm. I can now only imagine how two-faced their behavior has been only because I am caucasian on the outside. As I said after the visit to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute last week, I remain perplexed at how and why people hold such deep fear/hate in their hearts. I am weary of the fight though and the thought of the 50 steps backward our country has just taken is overwhelming.
Backtracking to the post:
Despite getting up early, we still managed to delay pushing off and out of Hide-Away Harbor Marina until nearly noon due to Home Depot and post office trips, rental car return, and repairs to the “sister-boat’s ” bow/anchor/roller/windlass thingy. (Nothing major, in fact, the time I took to describe it was about as long as the job should have taken) But as a result of all of N’s running about on the above delays, B set herself to bringing the “back patio” (some in the boating world call that the Aft Cabin) up to chlorox -bleach- white levels. N returned quite happily surprised to the brilliant shine. It only took one dirty lock and some Fall leaves to un-do most of the work.
As a result of the late start, we ended up meeting even more people at the marina. As I‘ve said in earlier posts, it is truly amazing how open-hearted and literally giving people we meet “on the river” are. Today we got these cool hats as gifts simply because we were raving how much we loved this Black Warrior River!
So we headed back down the river –first time we’ve backtracked a significant mileage. So it’s been fun to compare the mileage with vs against the current: about half a gallon better per mile heading down river. We stopped on this soft, sandy beach for some snackies and wading (and dog walk).
In addition, because of the late start and lots of lock delays, we didn’t make it as far as we had tentatively planned ( if I’ve learned anything, as soon as you make a plan, or pre-write something in the Log Book, it needs to get re-assessed), so we anchored again in front of Andy’s Place (see post from a few days ago) He didn’t come out to greet us this time; but his wife hollered and called off and on like a small screaming child between midnight and 1 am for her cat (who was equally howling in pain for some reason farther up in the woods –but the wife didn’t hear it). As a result, Ziggy woke up and barked nervously every 20 minutes. Once awake, B got no sleep wondering what to do about the poor cat. N slept through the whole thing. Yes, he does happily (and accurately) acknowledge that “we” get a much better sleep (normally) in the boat than anywhere else.
In the morning, we headed back to Demopolis (where we already spent a few days last week); but where we need to re-position ourselves for the big jump off for the final section of the “River Leg” of the Loop. But not before the final lock on the Black Warrior River….where we had such a looooong wait (the Army Corps of Engineers were doing a repair), that we asked permission to tie up to an unused, beached barge. Kinda fun to walk around and look at all the knick-knacks laying around.
Anyway, for us the day was clearly a foreshadowing of the backtracking yet to come on election night: repeat scenery in the opposite direction…. so that’s about it.
Left Columbus, Mississippi on Halloween morning. So let’s get all those Halloween shots going and move on:
Moving on to the action:
So although it was Halloween, we had no fears of “camping out” “on the hook” (aka anchoring!) in the middle of nowhere.
Our first anchoring with this boat and, of course, there had to be a hiccup or two. The breaker switch had to be found and re-set so that the windlasss would release the anchor. A bit of back and forth on that (ie changing and re-changing who is at the helm, who is looking for the breaker, who is at
the windlass, exiting and re-entering the cove, watching for encroaching shoreline while focusing on solving the issues, etc etc!). But resolved relatively easily and w/ no frustrating voices! See below, however, for the morning-after hiccup!
In the meantime a few shots of a great place to always remember as our “first anchorage” in RioMarLago.
Swim time! We all went in…Ziggy’s first swim (w/ life vest)…she wasn’t too keen on it but did enjoy cooling off and rubbing all over her rug afterward (and shaking on cigar-smokin’ Nick!) No alligators …but did keep our eyes out!
Great dinner on the grill under the crystal clear Milky Way. I forlornly think about the fact that one-third of humanity —and 80 percent of North Americans—can’t see the bright smear of the Milky Way. Entire generations of people have never seen our galaxy. (thanks Atlantic mag!) I feel that much more lucky when I think of that….it’s free for everyone; but really it isn’t. We slept well after avoiding the 5 pm mosquito hordes and were serenaded by hooting owls, howling coyotes, and jumping/splashing fish right out the open windows and open hatch over our bed.
Within minutes of getting out of bed and announcing to one another how pleased we were to hear the purr of the refrigerator (meaning that the ONE (of 2) batteries that we had left on seemed to have lasted the whole night!!), a little beep beep sounded announcing the battery was near it’s end of juice. No problem; we kind of expected that! The refrig would be fine for a few hours and we still had the OTHER battery saved for starting the engine. Captain Nick wisely thought to check to see if the engine would actually start; however, we were both a bit dumb-struck to NOT hear that familiar sound of a roaring engine starting up at the turn of the key. Yikes! Remember we are in the middle of NOWHERE and no cell coverage. Luckily Nick is one of those ‘active shoppers’ who grabs cool little devices and thingamajigs and had come home just before the trip with an under-$100 Costco purchase the size of your flat palm w/ 2 little jumper-cables and chargeable jumper box! WOW! AND uncharacteristically we found where we had stowed it quite quickly AND, because he had pre-charged it, it worked! Yay for WINPLUS!
In fact, it worked TWICE! (after being partially RE-charged a little w/ his OTHER power pack thingamajig….because although he left the engine running for what seemed like eternity, it didn’t sufficiently charge either battery for a re- start.
I’m sure all you boaters are thinking that B forgot to switch the battery usage thingy over to ONE battery upon anchoring. No, not forgotten (this time). Once at the next marina, Nick sleuthed and even tho it reads LIVE, that second battery is plain old dead. No harm other than some holding-breath moments (and other than another pull-out-the-Visa moment for TWO new, better, bigger shinier, heavier, more –er er ers battererereries!
But I jumped ahead there….first we had to have breakfast before we get to the marina! Since it was a slightly (relative term!) cooler morning AND it was our first anchor/camping AND b/c the little jumper box had worked (the first time), B made something extra for breakfast:
Besides the usual eggs and veg, a yummy apple crisp in a cool contraption that acts like an oven (I know it looks like a bundt pan—but it isn’t. Really)
Also new for us was the use of denatured alcohol in the burners instead of the power—something we’ve never dared to do, but finally did (upon B’s insistence) and now both wondering why we just never tried that option on our prior boat. Not stinky, easy enough to “load” it, boils water fast enough, and didn’t feel dangerous.
Aside from the second re-jump w/ the little jumper-thingamajig and after some more obnoxious windlass issues (too boring to discuss further!), we got on our way out of Sumter Cove aware that we could not dare turn off the engine for fear of another non-start which meant leaving it in idle in the locks. Not really normally a problem (although they prefer you to turn them off because of the exhaust build up especially on a descent, etc….which btw, SOME Loopers think they are exempt from this (even tho they tend to have the stinkiest diesel exhaust) just so they can keep using their bow thrusters to stay on, yet slightly off, the wall (so their fenders don’t get dirty…gee isn’t that what they are for!??!?!?!)
Anyway, we weren’t going to worry about our minimal , by comparison, exhaust given the exigent circumstance w/ our battery situation. However, the wait FOR the first lock was about an hour and we had to idle back and forth wasting gas….which we were slightly concerned about since it had been a fairly long push since the last gas dock. Luckily our mpg held up and we had 30 gallons to spare by the time we got to the next gas dock! So although we had some tricks come up, it ended all very well w/ the river treating us to great scenery the whole way.
We had been told about some great white cliffs in this section of the river and had our eyes peeled to spot at each bend. Actually there were about 4 sections, and each one improving on the prior….so to be honest the first ones we kind of just said, “oh neat” to just not feel like our expectations were not met. But by the last, it was clear they really were neat and the first 2 weren’t really the famous white cliffs after all. Haha!
We said goodbye to Florence midday. Really a great town with lots of things on the tourist calendar: from mega-golf to a storytelling extravaganza (and lots in between—including all that music!). After yesterday’s tourist extravaganza, here are a few parting shots:
We stopped at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame- very long list of successful and famous Alabamans in the music industry. And did you know the first Rock and Roll song was from here?? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0mhgyTgxtw
Can’t forget Sam Phillips the Father of Rock and Roll (with Elvis, duh!):
So aside from being the birthplace of Rock and Roll, Florence is also the birthplace of W.C. Handy, Father of the Blues:
Yet again another nice marina and great dockmaster couple: Kyle and Eva who, despite being inundated w/ Loopers heading downriver after the annual “Looper Convention,” they still made us feel special in our little boat. (fyi, we did not attend the “convention”…just wingin’ it, I guess)
Just a block from the marina is a lovely 3+ mile long river park that includes a forest of these great pine trees for our morning walk.
Nor was Ziggy particularly photogenic for this shot…but she wanted to show off her Seahawk spirit today:
We borrowed the marina courtesy car and B was back to carpooling as if the kids were little again. B ushered Nick off to play at a nearby stellar Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (one on the trail that he missed last year when he came to Alabama with his Tacoma golf buddies to tackle the Trail).
While in carpool mode, B stopped by a nature preserve and let Ziggy romp on the trails. Ziggy, for her part, let B romp too. Besides the cool old, moss-laden remnants in feature photo above, a few other discoveries:
And to wrap up the carpool loop, we all had lunch together afterward to enjoy N’s good golf day:
Watching Seahawks struggle now……
Tomorrow will be a full-on tourism day in Florence,Al…stay tuned.
Feature photo is a slightly distorted panorama shot….to the left is northward from whence we came (hence the wake!): Pickwick Lock/ the down flow of the Tennessee/Kentucky Lake. To the far right in the pic (where we will go in a day or so) is east and UP the Tennessee to Florence, Alabama (could go all the way to Chattanooga and Knoxville, fyi) but right now we are heading south a few miles to the beginning of the Tenn-Tom Waterway.
This post combines a few days! Yesterday we awoke with much trepidation wondering if our ministrations from the prior day had worked. A few sniffs seemed to confirm things were much better, but final judgment was still pending as the marina was within wafting distance of the local pulp mill. Of course, coming from Tacoma you’d think we could tell the difference! And YES! We are free of odors of any sort!! N had great success with members of the Bayliner Owners Forum super responsiveness and helpful advice. Bottom line: we think we dumped waaaay toooo much of that blue chemical that is supposed to help get rid of smells! hahaha… so now we are being much more judicious but also learned a lot of other cool things which we are going to take action steps toward to improve overall water-tightness issues, etc.
When you have absolutely no time pressure to get anything done it seems like you run out of time to do anything! Maybe this Nashville stuff is rubbing off as it sounds like there’s a song in there somewhere. Although the day started out fine, by mid-morning at the Pickwick dock we were hustling to get off the dock before getting hit by some ominous weather rolling in (we were too busy to take a pic!). About the time we left the rain really hit. We don’t mind the rain these days because this boat has a perfectly comfortable inside helm so we enjoyed a brief cruise snug inside the cabin.
It was an easy day as we only planned to go about 11 nautical miles to nearby Grand Harbor Marina (hey, now we are in Mississippi!) where we hoped to get some expert advice on solving our nautical problem(s) (which we ultimately no longer needed help with). Unfortunately, we should have been planning a 12 nautical mile trip as the place Nick spoke to about service was another mile down the river from the place we stopped! What? No seriously….how hard can it be to keep track of one little destination target?
OK, luckily Grand Harbor Marina is perfectly nice although we came in rather inelegantly after B insisted we dock on the side of the boat she’d already set up the fenders even though it required reversing onto the dock in significant wind. After putting on a brief marina show, we got onto the dock the way we should have done in the first place (and the way EVERY other boat in the marina had done) after moving the fenders of course.
Once tied off and plugged in we headed to a SMALL country town to buy some groceries and other supplies. The great thing about being in a small community without big box stores or a Walmart within 30 miles is that there are stores with “real” personalities. This is but one of many ‘treats’ decorating the hardware store:
Joan, from our sister-boat, needed to head home to Boise for a few days, so we ended up w/ Don in his rental car for a short drive to the historical battlefield of Shiloh (back to Tennessee!). Very excellent National Park movie re-enactment…even B could sit thru it! Largest loss of life in any battle: Over a 2 day period total of over 23,000 killed/wounded and then died/lost. N needs to do the math of the then-current population of the US to see that percentage of loss. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aUd67YvF8Y
Morning at Grand Harbor Marina after a cold night:
As seems to generally be the case, just when we tentatively plan a day or 2 in advance, we un-do the plan. We have been battling what all boaters fear: ”that smell” that emanates from some unknown area and even worse for some unknown reason. Of course, it’s worse in the cabin when we sleep because we shut the back door and there is less air flow; so we awaken to the odor and declare all out war. Thought we handled it yesterday with a 2 hour endeavor of syphoning dirty, disgusting, oily water from the engine (thanks for that last messy oil change, Dude-at-the-Marina!), wiping down with de-greaser (while doing Houdini contortions in the small space….ie me….b/c Nick doesn’t fit/bend very well!)( Yay for hot yoga class!), running about 5 rinses of fresh water through the black water holding tank, flushing even more times, pumping out each time, running the chemical thing through, etc….oh and if you’ re wondering (and I KNOW you are) ONLY yellow goes down our toilet….nothing else…not even toilet paper!) (Altho that was NOT the case for the prior owner –so it seems that might be (part) of our problem as caked old stuff seems to be dislodging with each pump out….pleasant!)
Also, that Dude-at-the-last-Marina thinks it’s normal to have standing water in the mid-ship bilge…but frankly 2 big painter buckets full does not seem normal to me! So we syphoned that out ….and….it was yellow, btw…. Hmmmm…., but not smelly.
We were quite pleased with our work but alas woke up again to the same smell (although slightly less strong.) So more wiping down and letting it all air dry today at the dock w/ all the hatches wide open, fans inside blowing, and powerful sunshine (hopefully) dissipating the oil. Another round of pump outs and refills w/ clean water too….but with temps in the 90’s again…yikes!… certain odors could exponentially reach their own new highs).
All that was the lead up to explain that things happen and plans change quickly. (and yes, WAY more techno-talk/pix than I like!)…so now tomorrow we will head over to a full-service Marina with hopefully a better Dude-Mechanic and get it fully solved—even tho it seems substantially better.
In the meantime, while we let the sun work her magic on the oil smells, Nick had another round of golf. He was the only one there so not only played by himself but also didn’t have anyone in front of him making him huff and puff w/ inpatience! He got the course done in record time of about 2 hours. (Yes, it was 18 holes!)
And Ziggy and I went for a great loop hike around the Pickwick Landing State Park.
Wrapped up the day with an evening “cruise” to get appetizers (see top feature photo for view from restaurant…note our tiny dingy and the geese flying south w/ us!), beers and even a “Dark and Stormy” (good memories, always– Right, Anonymous in Dunedin (aka Jeanette and Alan) and Sue and Steve??)
So we’re into a rhythm of odd and even days where B is responsible for one day and N the other. It’s up to you to figure it out although who’s generally ODD should be pretty simple.
Today we went about 60 miles on the river from Clifton Marina to Pickwick State Park. We had to pass through the Pick Wick lock where we had a 55’ lift to Pickwick Lake.
[Editor’s Note: I want our readers to really understand that not only did Ziggy choose to be right up by Nick, but also he didn’t move her off. Further, not only did HE take the picture but he also posted it. Pretty good for someone who claims dogs are a nuisance!]
By now we are totally confused whether we are heading up river or down river, but this lock sort of marks a “hump” on the route so now we are basically headed downriver from here…..except when we turn left to go visit Muscle Shoals when I think we’re going back up river! But then we’ll turnaround and go downriver…..is that clear? Honestly the only significance is to where you need to put the red channel markers….and that can vary! As a side note, as a Pacific Northwest boater can you believe we’re about to get to Alabama from Pittsburgh on our way to the Gulf of Mexico?! Amazing!
OK, so the town of Clifton, Tennessee was pretty depressing. Nice town, but nothing in it like so many towns by passed by the interstate and skewered by a Wal Mart within 20 miles.
As you can see we are beginning to get the fall colors we hoped to see.
We went for a walk through town this AM. There were really some nicely re-done buildings, but there was nothing going on commercially.
OK, no politics here, but readers might be interested to hear we have not seen a Hillary sign since we’ve started.
[Editor’s Note: Pls note the scrumpled, unhappy face I have…]
Here’s a pic of out boat heading into the Clifton Marina, I don’t care what you say about the brand….that’s a cool looking boat! This entrance is pretty typical….small cut off the big river,
Of course we looked pretty insignificant on the dock. On the left, our boat! On the right a 43′ Ocean Alexander (very nice boat). One couple in each….of course one couple has about 10x’s less into their boat and gets where they’re going twice as fast!
The trip was pretty scenic today with interesting rock formations, nice houses and increasing fall colors
So some readers are interested in data versus “feelings, observations” and general “ruminations” and we’ll try to add some stuff. If you prefer the former…STOP reading now! “Interesting” thing today was the fuel consumption difference between our boat and the Bayliner 288 we’re currently traveling with. EXACT same boats, but our friends like to travel at about 20 mph (3,600 rpm) whereas we’re going 20 knots (~24mph) at 4,100 rpm. You like how we’re more nautical with “knots” reference? Despite going 20% faster at higher rpms’s, we burned 30% less fuel over the same stretch of water. We have our dinghy on the transom and they’re towing theirs and they have all their flybridge eisenglass up and we don’t and that’s the only difference. I’m thinking it’s the blue hull. OK….techno’s out!
OK…we’re in Pickwick hoping to play golf and hike tomorrow! More later.
I’ve realized that once you decide to stay two nights in one spot it becomes much less of a “search and destroy-survival” event and instead more of a leisurely flow—which is what I thought we were doing already!
So Nick jaunted off for his first golf outing since his rib incident 5 weeks ago.
And Ziggy and B went for a “hike” along the lake that turned into a scramble after the trail petered out…..and then a jaunt through a parking lot.
But then Ziggy and I happened upon the Confederate Army Reenactment Camp
We did actually flow a bit on the river on our “sister-boat” for a dinner outing to Fat Daddy’s where we snuck in in 2’ of water! Yikes! Just a little silt kicked up. Nice to be able to raise the prop!
After dinner we returned to our quiet, peaceful and what we thought was empty-of-all-life marina and were greeted by the last Harvest Moonrise of 2016 (see feature photo above!). We had planned to go see the Cannon Ball extravaganza at the Confederate Camp but the ranger told us it was nothing special. Sitting dockside in the dark, the cannons pounded in the distance at least 6 times and echoed even more. Inky (our sister-boat dog) ran away crazed. She did return out of the shadows of the woods but not after the four of us and a very nice couple who live aboard searched and called for an hour (I guess it WAS a search and survival kind of day after all). During that time we all came across, to our surprise, quite a variety of fellows on their boats at this marina… I’m sure if you let your imagination go, you could come up with a few visions and conversations.
We’re back on the river again! Within days of being back home, we longed to be back on our boat “fornt” and on our Loop journey; but it was good to get a little downtime to allow body parts to heal and buy more stuff for the boat! At least Nick can operate the controls and bend down to re-tie B’s cleat line without pain now. On the buy side, we bought ourselves AMAZING image stabilizing binoculars because we couldn’t read anything on shore with our standard binocs. Yes, we can identify mile markers on the river using the chart–there’s just something gratifying about reconciling details on the chart by actual reference to something on shore. Less importantly, we can also read the brand name of every bass boat we pass! Far more exciting to some, we also got this cool rack thing which Nick managed to install without sinking the boat! It’s important to “create” space on a vessel this size and we got this rack idea from our “sister Bayliner” mentioned in a previous post and pictured above at the Paris Landing Marina tonight with us! [Editor’s note: Captain Don and Nick continue (nearly ad nauseum, fyi) to compare and contrast pros and cons of the “sister boats”…will they ever tire?]
We’d had a lot of work done on the boat while we were gone which I’m not allowed to detail for fear this turns into “a mechanic’s blog” so let me just say basic maintenance work from outdrive to motor so we’re good for the push to Mobile.
After spending a day of boat prep and provisioning, we officially got on “the Loop” the morning of the 14th leaving Green Turtle Bay and Lake Barkley, by cutting through a short canal to start officially heading south on Kentucky Lake.
Part of our break strategy had been to allow time for the temperatures to drop and the fall colors to arrive. We got part of it right. Although the fall colors are just beginning to show, the temps have certainly dropped and we spent our first day on the water bundled up with warm clothing. We could have gone inside to steer, but it wasn’t that long a trip to Paris Landing in Tennessee. As it was, we entertained ourselves reading mile markers with our new binoculars (what I say?) and trying to find channel markers. Seems like the markers on this lake are one tenth the size of the markers we’ve seen previously. I guess the main channels are OK, but the charts show markers near shore which are virtually impossible to see. Trust the plotter I guess!
But she is happy to be back out on the adventure too! A brief sliver of sun warmed her up!