Where we at

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

NOLA news

NOLA sunrise
Our time here was always going to be at least 2 weeks to a month. Probably closer to a month. There was a big holdup on the Coffeeville lock for repairs last week, backing up commercial tows for days (and if you are a PC then you know that means you ain't locking through anytime soon). Spring may yet bring more rain, and with it floods, so we aren't in a big hurry to get up into all that.

After David and Hannah of the 48 Endeavour, Highwinds, did a number of electrical and network upgrades that gave Russ both the guidance and confidence to do something similar. Since doing electric stuff largely means a mess in the guest stateroom (which tends to expand into the master stateroom as well), it's best he's doing it while we aren't living on the boat.

Currently the master state room.
The bed is in there, somewhere...

Other projects include a new radio. I hear you say, "But, Jax, didn't you just put in a new radio?" Why, yes, aren't you astute! When we first installed it, it complained (with panic beeps every 10 minutes) that it didn't know our MMSI (Maritime Moblie Service Identity) number. In the event of an emergency so dire you can only hit the red "SOS" button on the radio, this number broadcasts you identity without you having to talk. That is an excellent thing, and we have such a number. So we put it in. THEN the radio complained (with a panicked beep that went off every 10 minutes) that it didn't have a GPS location. At that point Russ realized we needed to tie it into our NMEA network, which looked like a bigger task than just buying a new radio with built-in GPS. Note: going with cheaper isn't always better.

There they are... the house batteries.
Don't tell our guests, they are under the bed.
Another task is yet another computer. On Cat-n-Dogs we had a headless, real life computer, that sat on the desk inside the boat, and connected to a wireless monitor, mouse, and keyboard on the fly deck. The monitor was on a hinged holder the came down from the ceiling. When not in use or needed, we just pushed it up and out of the way. A year and half later we realize we miss that functionality. So we're installing a similar thing on inQuest.

We were in NOLA about 2 months ago (we drove here) and had to get our HVAC units fixed. At the time it was cold and we didn't have heat. When we first arrived on this trip everything seemed to be working, but over this past weekend, 2 of the 4 units failed. Again. The repair guys were out today. One of the units is repaired (allegedly) but the other has no coolant due to a leak. So, some detective work is underway, but that means no AC. On the 4th floor (of course, the warmest). And a warming trend is coming.

Anyone interested in a desk? This one is a sit or
stand desk, and is powered to raise with a 
push of a button!
I'm also in the process of trying to sell or consign a chunk of furniture that came from San Francisco. Between emails with stores and various social media for marketing, the result isn't as fast as I'd hoped. Our 2nd floor is still stuffed with furniture.

Needless to say, we are not bored.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

New Orleans, marina


When we were on the loop there were certain destinations that felt like major victories, made us say "Wow! We're really doing this!" Places like New York, Chicago, even crossing under the big arch of St. Louis were examples. For some reason, so did getting here.

Been to New Orleans a bunch of times, even lived here for almost 10 years, but boating here was a milestone. 

NOLA skyline from the lake
No engine issues, no docking issues. We had to cross under 3 low bridges. The first was a railroad swing bridge which opened immediately once we arrived but was so slow it took 15 minutes before going through, long enough for our Nebo to think we were done for the day. The second two were right next to each other, a road bridge and a railroad bridge. Both were open. However, one of them, highway 11, was in repair. Normally two parts lift upwards, making a nice large gap to boat through. Only one side was open, however, and a barge was parked beneath the opened side. Russ stood on the bow talking to the workers who had to move a cement pour spout so we could get under. They were very entertained that we could squeeze through. 

I-10. Driven over this bridge dozens of times.
From the last bridge it's a 2 hour straight shot across Lake Pontchartrain to the marina. We arrived around 2 pm. Russ got our rental car, we loaded up with boat stuff (lots of laundry to do, mostly bedding), and...

Now the work begins.

The marina is near the lighthouse (on the left).
It's also byLandry's and the Blue Crab (yum!)

Um, how are we supposed to get thru?

That's a squeeze I don't want to do on a windy
or rough water day.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Bay St. Louis, MS, marina

Since we knew this would be a short day we had a leisurely morning filled with some exercise and laundry doings. We powered the engines up and I monitored our boats position while Russ handled the lines, much like we always do. Just as he was about to untie the very last line, the port engine sputtered and died. He secured us back onto the dock then started a quick scan of what could be wrong. Line on the prop? No. Closed seacock? No. Battery? He checked the voltage which looked fine, but when you tried to restart the engine, boy, it sure sounded like a bad battery.

Dawn in Biloxi
With a flip of a switch we can power both engines from either battery if need be. He did, I started her up again, and the engines came back online. 

What's particularly weird is that the engine had been running for a few minutes before it died. So Russ can't understand what caused it. I'm so looking forward to tomorrow.

Anyway, barring engine weirdness, the days trip was short and uneventful. We traveled along the shoreline, out of the ICW channel, dodging crap pots as we went, but all in all it was a lovely day: sunny, calm waters, and a nice breeze.

Waiting for that bridge.
The only hold up was the railroad bridge that is under repair. They don't respond to radio hails but there's a number to call. Call 'em a little early because they need to move a crane and platform out of the way before opening the swing bridge. And it is the world's slowest swing bridge, too.

Bay St. Louis is a darling little town. The docks here look brand-new, I'm guessing repaired from various hurricane damage. Lots of restaurants and shop, all within walking distance to the marina. I bought some ice cream from the Creole Creamery, which was next to the PJs, just a few doors down from Fleurty Girl -- ALL of those places are in New Orleans. It was like being in a little French Quarter.

These little houses are all shops. The PJs is closest,
and next to it is the Creole Creamery.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Biloxi, MS, marina

So, yeah, um, Mississippi. We had a car rented and we had a plan for getting to New Orleans. What the heck happened?

For the last 2 weeks or more, whenever we checked the weather apps they all disagreed. One would say, "great day tomorrow" and the others would say, "No! Certain doom awaits you!" Daily. This morning, however, all of them said the same thing. Great weather for the next 3 to 4 days. So ... go!

First task was getting out of The Wharf. No issues with wind or tide, but we were tucked into a slip (if you recall they made us move, and no, that other slips still is empty) off a narrow fairway that required twists and turns to get into. Leaving, however, it became clear as I moved out that I wouldn't be able to turn the boat in a way as to head out nose first: next to us was a huge sport fisher boat whose bow I would bump if I tried. I ended up turning away from it and backing all the way out the twisting fairways. Kinda fun.

Not a sunny day but once the bay was behind
us, it became a great cruising day.
The first hour of the journey was still in the canal. The second hour is when you hit the Mobile Bay. The third hour, things got crazy. While the winds were calm they were from the north, and the bay runs longwise north and south. We got into some rolly seas, so much so that we sped up and tacked when we could. I was miserable at 11:30, but thrilled by noon, when we went under the bridge to Dauphin Island. Once we crossed that magic line, the seas turned to 1 foot or less. And they continued to shrink as the day went on.

All in all, a longer day to Biloxi, about 8 hours. Tomorrow we plan on getting to Bay St. Louis, about 3 hours. Then onto NOLA on Tuesday.

The marina is behind one of the casinos, 
the Golden Nugget. Good thing we don't gamble.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Yep, still here

We had about a week of amazing weather to get across the gulf to Apalachicola. Now we're getting weeks of thunderstorms, rain, and wind. As a result we don't feel comfortable about getting from here to New Orleans -- the Mississippi Sound is really the gulf. Yes, there are barrier islands but they are small. Moreover they are 8 miles off shore. The way things keep shaping up we might get a good day in followed by days of no-go days... it could take us weeks to get to NOLA.

During lovely weather this would be a great trip. Just not panning out.

Honestly, we really thought we'd be there by now. Packages were ordered and have been delivered. A kind neighbor has been collecting them for us. We hate to keep imposing on her.

Us in 48. We didn't leave then, when the 
weather was nice, since we waited for my
second Covid shot. The rain started that day.
We pleaded with the marina, who really wanted us out of slip 48. We moved to a new slip, and have plans to stay for a month. Monday Russ will pick up a rental car and we'll drive to New Orleans.

The Wharf is just jammed with boats right now. Last summer brought a bunch of hurricanes that wiped most other marinas out. Anyone with a sportfishing boat needed a new home. This was it.

By the way, we had to get out of slip 48 by Friday. Still no one there. Seemed kinda obvious to us -- we didn't want to travel because of weather. Good odds neither do they.

Misty morning at The Wharf

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Wharf, Marina

Welcome to Alabama! The ride here was very easy, uneventful, and short. We planned that for a couple of reasons. One was our dog, Lizzie, who needed more of her hearts meds, so I'd scheduled ahead to pick them up at a local Walgreens. Also, I had mounds of laundry to do. We weren't sure if we were going to stay for longer than one night, but getting in early and getting those tasks done meant we were free to leave.

We noticed we didn't have AIS yesterday.
Russ doesn't hesitate to get in there and muck 
with things. He was successful.
Before docking we wanted to pump out. Docking is a joy to do when there is no crazy force acting on the boat, like today. We zipped in, pumped out, then zipped to our slip, sterning in both locations. Then Russ went to the drug store and I to the laundry.

Feels like it's been a while since we've been in a marina, where we can just walk the dog without the use of a tender. It certainly has some advantages.

Lizzie ready for her tinder ride.
Despite our planning we'll be here a couple of days. I contacted Walgreens for move my 2nd vaccination to a store located here. They had availability this week, but not until Wednesday. And we think the weather will go bad by that point. We may be here for a few days.

But. I will have had my final shot. So yay!

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Fort McRee, Anchorage

It's Sunday. And it's Sunday with nice weather after 2 days of crappy weather. Oh, yeah, but boaters were out in force!

The morning started overcast as the storms continued to clear out. We weighed anchor early, around 6:45 am, since we had a bit of a detour to Two Georges for fuel and a pump out. We arrived there at 7:45, 15 minutes before they opened. Next time we're in this area I would happily stop or anchor here. Easy dinghy access with a very convenient dog walking area. Lizzie was pleased.

We had one nice sunset in Destin
Destin would be great if we didn't have a dog. The harbor is stuffed with touristy things, like boat and jet ski rentals, fishing boats for hire, and dolphin tours. As a result they are very strict about speed, so you don't get rocked (unless there are 80 mph winds). But that means all those piers are for commercial use, so not much space for pulling up a transient dinghy and walking a dog.

The last of the storms rolled through while at Two Georges. We were able to get underway by 10 am.

McRee -- lots of little boats on the shores.
The clouds parted, the sun shined, the air warmed, and right around Pensacola Beach, the boats came out. Nutsville.

We got to the anchorage without issue. Our timing was great. When we dropped anchor there were only 3 boats on the hook for the night. As I type this, there are now 8.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

In Destin, update

We had some big storms yesterday, but they were nothing compared to what we had today. Massive rain, lightning and thunder, and lots of big, big winds.

This pic is from our wind data. At one point we had gusts over 80 mph.

We'll head out tomorrow to fuel up and pump out, then out to anchor at Fort McCree. That will be our last night in Florida for a while.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Destin, anchorage

Last night was quiet considering the winds we had the day before. Weather predictions said we'd have the occasional thunderstorm through the night, but there was nothing. Until 5:30 am. When we got up.

We had 2 massive squalls come through in the morning, complete with incredible lightning and thunder and buckets of rain. Both were followed by huge winds, sweeping up behind them. The anchorage was protected enough, and we talked at length about staying versus going. By 11 or so things calmed down substantially. 

Lightning tracker.
We are the blue dot.
The hits are the red dots.
Way back on the loop we were underway on the Chesapeake when we saw very scary weather in the distance. I asked Russ to find us someplace else to go, and he did. But then... it cleared up. So we thought, "Never mind, let's press on." That's when we learned that the wind from storms make waves that last well beyond the time of the storm. Every looper on the water that day scrambled to find shelter. We ended up on Tangier Island with a number of them.

With that under our belts we knew the waters could be "snotty" (that is a commonly used term in the nautical crowd). But we also knew the winds came and continued from the south, and if we stayed close to shore they wouldn't have the fetch to bother us. Furthermore, there was plenty of depth so we could get pretty close if we needed. Lastly, there were anchorages along the way in case things went from bad to worse.

It was a little snotty, especially in the center right under the bridge. Seas were 1 - 2 feet, mostly on our stern or quarter stern. Not great, but not the worst ever either. After the bridge we snugged to the shore a bit to take a little of the punch off. 

Storms do make for dramatic skies.
Predictions are that we'll get more of the same tomorrow. We'd like to get to Two Georges, where we'll fuel up, then move on to Fort McRee, which is another wonderful anchorage (last time we were there we got to watch the Blue Angels practice). But we might just wait another day. It's all about the weather.

Russ getting us off the hook.
He said the prussik knot was tighter than he'd ever had to deal with before. 

That is her piddle pad.
She WILL NOT use it as a piddle pad.

While on anchor I watched the wind and the waves. 
You can see the wind speed in the red box on the PC screen.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Hogtown Bayou, anchor (...so close!)

A big part of boating is having a plan B. And C. And a D if you need it. Sometimes, you need options.

We left the anchorage with calm winds and water, but we knew storms were coming. Both Russ and I check various weather apps and sources, all of which confirmed rain, possible thunderstorms, and winds around 15. We still had to get off the West Bay (a sizable body of water) and cross the Choctawhatchee Bay to get to Destin, another large body of water.

While on the canal we passed a barge,
the first of many to come, I'm sure.
The West Bay was no problems. The storms came and went while we were on the canal, also no problems. Blue skies were in the distance as we entered the Choctawhatcee, and our destination was still 3 hours away.

About an hour in, however, the winds picked up. Then they picked up again.

All the while I watched the wind direction (and the waves it created) with respect to our own. If we can take waves on the stern or quarter, we ride pretty well, even in good sized waves. We weren't out in truly open waters like the gulf, so this should be doable.

See the blue skies? We're out of it now, right?
The winds were blowing from the south, and we had land on that side to protect us. But then we had to turn, which meant what waves we did get were on our beam. We really don't like it on the beam.

Initially, the waves were so close together that we bounced but didn't have a terrible ride. But the land recedes a bit for the Hogtown Bayou, and -- because Murphy -- the winds kicked up. Our weather station reports sustained gusts of over 40 mph. When the first 4 footer hit us on the beam, sending anything not tied down either flying across the room or skittering across the floor, Russ found us an anchorage. We made a 90 degree turn into the wind and headed for some shelter.

This particular section of the water is marked with lots of CAUTION warnings about pipes in the area. But we couldn't find any discussion about that. How big are these pipes? Were they laying on the bottom? Were they sticking up to damage our hull? More information, people!

We safely navigated to an anchorage tucked back in the bayou. Once engines were off I noticed that I had a NOAA warning about major winds that followed the storms and could affect the area for the next 2 hours. However, 3 hours later we still had winds of over 25 mph.

Not the ideal anchorage since there is no dog walking opportunity. But then again, 25 mph winds -- odds were she wasn't going to get walked anyway.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Pearl Bayou, anchor

For the next few days we'll be retracing our steps from this segment of the loop in 2019. That is fairly handy since we know exactly where to go, at least until we get to The Wharf in Alabama.

While in Apalachicola we were docked by the Ice House (which means something to those who've been there). As I walked the dog I noticed a small bakery directly on the other side of the street with a chalkboard sign out front that read "BISCUITS." I love biscuits. I made a note that I'd pick some up in an hour or so. When I went back, however, they were closed with a "SOLD OUT" sign on the door. It was only 8:30 in the morning!

Dawn in Apalachicola
So, this morning, just as dawn was breaking Russ went across the street and snagged us some biscuits. Turns out it isn't a bakery at all, just a small business that makes and sells biscuit sandwiches for breakfast. All of which have meat, and we're mostly vegetarian. So they made us special egg and cheese ones on the spot. I can't recommend the place enough. But. GET THERE EARLY.

We shoved off around 8:30, bellies full of biscuits sammiches, and took the toodle on the ICW. We're planning on fueling up near Destin so we're watching our speed today.

Two Bald Eagles, count 'em, 2!
The only notable event were dolphins, which followed up almost the whole way along the East Bay, for a couple of hours. Clearly these dolphins were seriously looking for a ride.

The south wind kicked up quite a bit by the time we dropped the hook. The advantage of anchoring is that you almost don't care, unlike trying to dock in such a breeze.

Your eyes do not deceive you.
That is a Staten Island Ferry.
They are built here, then sailed to NY for use.
MORE FOOD: We timed our meals poorly yesterday so we weren't able to get to The Hole In The Wall for oysters. (Moreover, they only had 1 table outside, which bummed us out). I decided, as I always do in such situations, on pizza. Of late, getting a decent pizza has been elusive, so our hopes were not high. This time, however, we were not disappointed. If you want pizza in Apalachicola, you must go to Up To No Good Tavern. We simply got a cheese pizza with extra sauce on the round crust (that will make sense if you go there). I'm looking forward to when we get back there, this October or November.

Back to having to watch for, well, logs. Do you see it?

Oh, and we're now in Central Time.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Apalachicola, City Docks

Although it made for a long day it was worth doing. And although we waited many days for the right weather window, again, it was worth doing. When the day began (around 8:30 when we hit the gulf) the wind was calm but westerlies from the night before made for small swells on the nose early in the day, maybe 1 - 2 foot. Thus the early ride was a little lumpy. By 10 am those dwindled to solid 1 footers, then to near nothing. Smooth ride for the rest of the day. In fact, I'd look out at the placid gulf in every direction and giggle. Stunning to see.

Amazing water in every direction
Given the depth and open water we decided to put our engines to a test. Rather than travel at 8.5 knots at 2300 rpm, we opened her up to 2800+ rpm, traveling mostly around 10 knots. You can see where we exceeded 10 knots on our map -- the track line is red. As the day calmed and the current changed we were over 10 knots a fair bit of the way across the gulf.

I know it's blurry but that's a house. On pontoons.
With an outboard. On the gulf.
That is a clear sign of a "GO DAY"
if ever there was one.
On a number of occasions we were accompanied by dolphins. These seemed smaller than the ones we'd been around before, and much more spry. They zipped and zigged and zagged. At one point we saw 12 of them, and they were diving and twisting in every direction near and under inQuest. I got some good footage.

Of the 10 hours journey the last 3 are in protected waters behind Dog Island and St. George Island. We successfully docked on the city wall around 5:30pm.

Behold the wiley dolphins of the Gulf of Mexico (watch your sound)(added bonus you can see Russ's feet!):

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Steinhatchee, Sea Hag Marina

Last day heading north. Tomorrow, west!
First time we've been plugged in in 10 days! I argued, given the mild weather, we didn't need to (no heat nor AC needed right now) but Russ wanted to top off the batteries, which haven't seen 100 since we left Tarpon Springs.

When we left Cedar Key there was just a little wind, and the seas were around a foot. It was on our beam for the first bit as we headed clear of shallow water. Once we turned the ride smoothed substantially. As the day went on, the water got calmer and calmer, dwindling down to maybe 3 inch waves. If you can even call them waves at that point.

Mostly the ride was about diligence and paying attention. Even though we were in deeper waters we were in Florida, which means crab pots everywhere. There were sections of the trip that was more of a slalom ski course than a boat ride.

Sunrise in Cedar Key
After making the turn at Marker 1 into the Steinhatchee channel, Russ contacted the Sea Hag to get further docking instructions. They told us we would be docking on the middle T-head. As we approached, however, someone was in our spot. They were piling into the boat to get ready to depart but didn't see the big boat looming until Russ called out to them. Otherwise, docking went without a hitch.

The waters here are very tea-like; a clear brown. It reminds of the of tannin waters of the Pungo River and it's tributaries. We're in a more piney area, so it makes sense the waters would be brown.

We have 2 depth gauges, one for each hull.
In this pic, one reads 5.2, to other 5.7.
That's feet below the keel. Yes, it looks like water is everywhere, BUT IT'S NOT!

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Cedar Key, Anchor

This night will make it 9 nights on the hook in a row. A record for us.

We waited for the blow to do its thing. Even this morning it was still a little windy. Since we didn't have far to get to Cedar Key we held off until 11 am to make the trip. Moreover, turns out that a north wind will blow the water right out of the river. We saw really low lows during the last 2 days. Research told Russ that the gulf itself was about 2 feet lower than normal. So waiting also let us leave near a higher tide. That plan worked wonderfully.

See the lower left box? That's depth. As in
1.8 feet! (It got as low as 1.2)
It's about 60 minutes to get down the Crystal River to the gulf then another 30 to get out where you can clear the man-made dredged channel. Some of that is crazy skinny. Then you run on a vector towards the islands for about an hour. Or so we thought.

Nice day to be out on the water. Albeit nippy.
As Russ piloted I looked ahead on our chart plotter. I commented that I saw depths of 1 foot where we were heading. I mentioned it to Russ, who took a closer look, then started to read about Cedar Key and their shoals. All writeups mention that you need to use the big channel. That was on the other side of the island. We diverted course.

The center of "town", Cedar Key
Just because it's the recommended channel doesn't mean anyone has made it easy to navigate. There's some serious twists, and one u-turn maneuver you need to make. Depths were wonderful, but you seriously needed to stay in the channel.

Some quick highlights of Crystal River:

MANATEE! They are such a thing that the town has a number of
tours to view and dive with them. Apparently, manatee love CR.

At one point we needed pumped out and some water.
The city has a pump out boat, which was handy, but
to get water we needed to go to Pete's Pier. 
We moved to a better spot when we returned, which was
a good thing given the water dropped 2 feet. 
It was deeper where the sailboats anchored.

April Fools! The blow came, dropping temps. 
We went from highs of 85 to lows of 42.