This was our first big mistake. We set off at 0730 with five boats. It was foggy but not bad in the Pirate’s Cove. The same could not be said for the river. Above is the view we had of the lock as we waited to go in. But this was not the worst of it. We had condensation on the glassine windows so bad and the glassine was so stiff from cold, I could not roll it tight enough to fit the straps around to snap it up. This left Jan at the helm totally blinded I dashed down to find some big spring paper clips I had bought for another purpose. I returned to the helm and Jan used the clips to pin the windows half up. It was cold as the devil but at least we could see the fog better. But the worst was yet to come.
My friend Ken Searl had warned me about this. He said if you are downbound and go into a lock in the fog, it will be much worse at the bottom when the lock opens because you have dropped nearly three stories deeper into it. Here is what it looked like when we got to the bottom and the doors opened.
In that photo you can barely spot 20BUCK$ who is about 75 feet ahead of us. Within 30 seconds of taking this shot she completely disappeared and taking pictures was out of the question because we were now totally blind with a boat 75 feet ahead and another the same distance behind. All we could do was maintain our speed hoping everyone else did the same. Panic here will get you hurt in a hurry and no-one can find you in the water in a fog without risking running over you. Oh, did I mention that it was at this point I noticed our GPS( global positioning system ) had gone out so we had nothing to tell us where we were in relation to the center of the channel. If the river curved we could run up on the bank. About this time Kismet called on our dedicated flotilla channel to say they had lost sight of Cbay and asked if I could still see the lead boat 20BUCK$? My reply, “I can’t see #%*+.
It was about this point that I was desperate. Then I glanced down at the water just off the bow and saw a foam trail in the water. This had to be 20BUCK$’ prop wash. I trailed that foam like a bloodhound and soon I saw her. For the next two hours I stuck to her like super glue until the fog began to burn off. Later we learned that Pat told Ken that we seemed awfully close. You bet we were.
Once we could see again Jan took the helm and I hit the floor with flashlight in hand to crawl under the helm and start figuring out why we had no GPS data. Here my friend Ken Searl came to my rescue without even knowing it. My father used to tell me, “Boy, I’m looking after you even when you’re sleeping”. I was reminded of Ken telling me he had a similar problem with a chart plotter and could not figure it out until finally he pulled off the plug from the GPS and blew it out. There was moisture in there and it was breaking the connection. I had nothing to lose and voila Jan shouted she had a correct screen in front of her!
The remainder of the day on the river was without incident. We pulled away from the group as they planned only a 50 mile day and anchoring out whereas we were more ambitious. We needed to cover 91 miles and one more lock to make Demopolis. In route I called the insurance company and added a saltwater rider and received permission to proceed south of Demopolis. This is the demarcation line for the hurricane zone and you have no coverage if you do not get direct permission to cross the line. We are cleared to go as far south as Key West and as far north as Georgian Bay in Canada.
Tonight I sit blogging in a room at Demopolis Yacht Basin with 14 loopers watching Alabama vs LSU. I will not write about our arrival or the aftermath because I am still too angry to be fair about it. After I have a chance to speak to marina personnel, and if I don’t kill anyone in the process, I may tell you the rest of the story. Until then good night.