Catching up and blowing up!

Once you read this you will wonder why two otherwise sane educated people would put themselves in such a position. The answer is adventure on the high seas.

Now when last we left our off we were in Old Briar Creek riding out a minor gale at anchor. We survived the night and awoke early to up anchor and head to Mobile, but a fog changed those plans. Around 0730 things had burned off enough to move out. Anchoring in this area is like anchoring in a tar pit and your anchor is like old Brer Rabbit sticking to the tar baby when you try to pull it from the bottom. I go to the bow pulpit and Jan takes the helm on the flybridge. Then we begin a process that requires concentration and cooperation. 

I must take a washdown hose forward which means switching on a raw water pump that draws water from under the boat, turn on a faucet called a bibb and open the covers on the foot switches to raise the anchor. Then I signal Jan to ease forward and by hand signals indicating the direction as we follow the incoming chain to its source which is our anchor. All the while I am washing the incoming chain which is covered in mud the consistancy and appearance of tar. This takes time as the mud is stubborn. Usually we have a tripline attached to the anchor with a floating yellow ball to show approximately where our anchor is hiding. But our ball has mysteriously disappeared in the night. Once we are directly over the anchor and the chain is pointing straight down then we just haul it up except now it is stuck fast. You see a Rocna is the world’s finest anchor because it is guaranteed to dig in every time and in this mud it is buried deep. So we must ease the boat over and past it to use the weight and momentum of the boat to break it loose. When it finally breaks loose that yellow ball, that had been floating when I went to bed, comes shooting to the surface and fires up like a Polaris missle! Just how it ever got stuck to the bottom is still beyond me but it is no longer yellow; it is black. 

While we are dealing with our problems 20BUCK$ has finished weighing anchor and radios that they will proceed back to the river and go slow until we catch up. I tell Jan to ease around and start moving while I finish up. So I am paying no attention to where we are going when Jan asks which way to turn. I am back in the cockpit and inquire if she is already to the main river and she says yes so I say to turn left. Then I climb up to the flybridge and see that there is nothing familiar anywhere. I ask if she has made any other turns and she says no. I argue this cannot be so and she swears it is. Meantime we have moved out into a wider body of water and the depth gauge goes to a minus number! We are in a mud flat and running aground again. I take the helm and manage to get us backed off but we are in so far that everywhere I turn there is no water to get us out. Three boats full of fishermen are watching with fascination to see just how these two stupid people in a big boat are going to handle this. I figure either one, we blast ourselves out or two, we are going to be sitting here about two days waiting on a towboat out of Mobile to find us. I pick the most plausible route and get a running start and give her the gun We cut a new channel in that mud flat for those fishermen to use. Now where do we go? Being pigheaded I decide to press forward as the chart shows a channel deep enough to move so move we did.

Before long we come to a river and turn left. I thought we had accidentally found another way to the Mobile River. So we turned left and headed south to Mobile. I radioed 20BUCK$ that we were approaching a swing bridge and would be there soon, to which they replied that there was no such bridge on the Mobile River except the one we passed yesterday and it was miles from here. Oh fudge! So we had only one choice and I should have done it earlier. We had been laying a track during the whole trip and it was a visible blue trail on the screen. We would just follow that blue line back to where we came from and start over. As we swung about my phone rang and it was Paul Brannon. He is a friend who served as dockmaster at the Rendezvous. I answered and he said what are you doing, trying to find a new way to Mobile? I forgot that our SPOT is streaming live our track every ten minutes and he was watching this comedy as it unfolded. I explained we were backtracking and got off the phone. It rang again and it was Tommy Gray from Birmingham telling me we had turned the wrong way. It was like that movie with Jim Carey, “The Ed Show”, where his life was a TV series. We were being watched by the world. 

When we finally got back to Old Briar Creek there was Seabiscuit still anchored as they are late risers, and I was able to show Jan where she missed the first turn. From now on we do not leave an anchorage unless both captains are on the bridge. It was not her fault as the area was confusing.

The remainder of the journey to Mobile was thankfully uneventful and we entered a new wide world from the backwoods of the Tenn-Tom to the big city.

We just thought we were a big boat. Now we are a minnow on a world of whales. We cruise right through the city surrounded by ships and more ships. Then suddenly we see nothing but open water. This is like an ocean but it is Mobile Bay. We head out into the ship channel where you are just as likely to have a freighter pass by as a rowboat. 20BUCK$ turns off for Fairhope, AL and we continue out to sea looking for the entrance markers to Dog River Channel. Just as we get there a huge hydrafoil is coming toward us and not backing off. So we cannot turn into the side channel as his wake would hit us on the beam and could wreak havov. So we continue toward it and cut its wake at a 45 degree angle. Then we spin around and head to Dog River. Well we start for Dog River, but there are no other channel markers we can see even with binoculars. These people must be trying to keep Dog River a secret.

Jan asks what we are going to do and I figured if Mr. Garmin spent millions developing his chartplotter program that he must know where we are even if we don’t, so we will just forget about the water and drive on instruments holding in the middle of the dotted lines that outline the channel. In this manner we travel 4.5 miles to the Dog River Bridge in a narrow channel only 7 feet deep. Talk about pressure. I went on this trip to relieve stress!

We take on fuel at Dog River Marine, pump out and get our tie up assignment. Whew. 

We had lunch at the Mobile Yacht Club across the street. In 2008 we were thrown out of this very club! We had driven to Mobile to look at a boat and arrived around lunchtime, so we strolled across the street and sat down to order lunch. We were told that this was a private club and we must leave. So this day we waltzed in, slapped our yacht club card on the table and demanded to be served, all in a joking manner. Now you see it only cost us about $160,000 so far to to have this fine laugh.

Our server was Miss Ruthie Clark but by the time you read this she is a Mrs. because she was getting married the next day. She was so excited and her groom was a NYC fireman on 9-11. We wish them much happiness. After lunch we went to West Marine right on premises and I installed our replacement Xantrex 60 amp battery charger which seems to be working. Then I worked on various projects while Jan did laundry. Later that evening I wrote this blog, or at least one substantially similar, only to watch it vanish on a lost internet connection. 

On Saturday we went to Walmart in the courtesy car and resupplied with foodstuffs and other needed items. While in line to pay the registers all went out with some computer glitch, and for 45 minutes hundreds cooled their heels in line becuase in this electronic age no-one can sell you anything without a computer involved. What is this world coming to.

A pork tenderloin for dinner aboard Cbay and an easy day. Well, if you are worn out, I am sorry because all of this so far is nothing comapared to the horror show coming up.

Sunday morning dawned perfect for crossing Mobile Bay. It would be about a two hour trip and we had plotted it all out the night before. No problem moving across except when we got to the ship channel we had to cross it while a real ship was coming. They can be deceptive as they travel much faster than you think and cannot stop. This was an empty container ship headed back to the Far East to pick up more cheap goods we do not make here anymore. We assessed the risk and figured we could easily cross and be long gone before she got there and Garmin agreed. It displayed no danger of collision as long as each one of us maintained course and speed. We did and headed for Fairhope. 

Upon arriving at the outer marker we radiod Eastern Shore Marina. They had been at the Rendezvous and promised a free night to any looper who stopped. I asked for specific directions in, given our prior bad experience at Demopolis. This was no better. They just kept saying slip G-5 which meant nothing and that they were the second marina on the left. We passed by the first marina and it looked like a dead end into a tight sailboat community. I called again and was told we had passed them. You see they are the first marina on the left but their logic was that the Fairhope Yacht Club on the right was number one and they were number two on the left. A failure to communicate with a teenage girl. So Jan went forward to get ready to throw a line and I began spinning Cbay on her own axis to go back. Spinning is easy with twin engines. Just put one in forward and one in reverse and it will spin like a top. This is great if you have both engines. But Jan did not notice that in going to the bow she had accidentally kicked a mid-cleat line over the side. It was attached to the cleat and trailed under the boat just as I was spinning into it. Suddenly the starboard engine did not respond and the tachometer showed it was off! I shifted to neutral and restarted and tried to go forward. It died again. I shouted to Jan we were in trouble and maybe had a clogged fuel filter. She was to prepare to catch a line around anything I could get to. We eased in toward a fuel dock and managed to tie her up. That is when Jan saw that the mid-cleat line was missing and went to look for it. It was tight against the hull and disappeared under the boat wrapped nice and tight around the starboard prop and shaft seizing the engine and shutting it down each time it was put in gear. Oh fudge again! 

We inquired about hiring a diver on Sunday and were told there were none except a commercial diver across in Mobile who would charge a fortune if you could convince him to come. But not to worry, we were tied up right next to the big haulout lift and on Monday morning they could pull the boat for a mere $440 and check it out. Meanwhile, we would have no power and have to run the generator all day and night. I was fit to be tied. A little self help seemed in order, so against all sane advice I put on swim trunks, stuck a diving knife between my teeth and climbed down into ice water to dive under the boat with no mask. I have not been that cold since being plunged into a tub full of icewater during fraternity initiation. I did get my hand on the propeller before it dawned on me that a man my age after 2 heart attacks was likely to bring on a third if I kept this up. So up I came and tried another tactic. 

This was a busy harbor with many boats passing by and I hailed each one asking if any divers were around. A nice gentleman in a skiff said he would go check on a few. First he went to a boat and tried to roust a fellow who must have been sleeping one off from Saturday night. No luck. Then he went across to another marina and returned to say a young man had volunteered to do it but he had to ask his boss if he could leave.

Shortly he returned with a strapping lad about 20 who took off his cap, sunglasses, sandals and T-shirt. I asked if he wanted a diving knife and a safety line tied around him. He said he had a knife and in he went. Even he admitted it was ice cold and he had to adjust to it. I asked his name so as to be able to notify next of kin and under he went. Ten minutes later after numerous dives he popped up and handed me two pieces of rope. We had a hot shower running on the swim platform( yes our boat has this too ) and a fluffy towel waiting. Jan offered him shampoo and soap but he said no thanks that he lived just across the street and would run home. I asked him what he charged and he asked if a hundred bucks would be fair. I handed him a $100 bill with pleasure. It was the most money he ever made for ten minutes work but how many of you would or could do the same? It is what the market demands. Thanks again Brandon.

I am going to frame a piece of that rope and display it aboard Cbay. Then I can tell this story whenever guests come to visit. (As I sit here editing this blog in 2013, I gaze up on our kitchen wall and there is a piece of that line with three knife cuts in it.) 

That night we held a looper dinner party at the Fly Creek Cafe. Everyone had to travel by dinghy. Just another typical day on the Loop. At this rate we will probably sink in about a week. It is all that is left at this point. Goodnight all.