Monday, May 31, 2021

Demopolis to Sumter Creek, anchor

We got a lot done in Demopolis -- tanked up with water, fueled up, pumped out, took out the trash, picked up a package for Russ, and ate mediocre (albeit satisfying) Mexican food in town with the marina's courtesy car. Given it would be a shorter day compared to the last couple, we departed a little later.

While in Demopolis we talked to a number of boaters who are headed somewhere. None of them were leaving until Tuesday. Their plan was to avoid the Memorial Day boat traffic. But I gotta say, we've seen very little traffic at all. The most congested was just after Coffeeville lock, and even that just wasn't so bad. Maybe because we've been on the ICW, which is crowded even on an unremarkable Wednesday, but this has been amazing. We've had the river to ourselves most of the time. We locked through 3 locks in as many days, and each time not only did we have the chamber to ourselves but the doors were open and waiting for us. That just doesn't happen.

Pretty section of the river. 
Sandstone bluffs appear a number of places.
We'd been to this anchorage before. It's by a park so it has a boat ramp -- and that means a dinghy dock for the dogger. Getting in was a little more exciting than we remembered. At onc point we only have 1 foot beneath the keel. Thank goodness we have a shallow boat.

Got anchored by 2 pm. The heat is coming back. Tomorrow it will be warmer, but we'll be in a marina.

 

Bashi Creek to Demopolis, marina

Early rise, made some coffee, walked a dog, then we got underway.

Rivers require a bit more concentration. We have autopilot, but that sets a direction, so you still have to be the one who turns the boat. We also have what we call "Super Autopilot" that totally drives the boat, but that captain is drunk, complains about every bridge it goes under, and doesn't read the depth charts well. So we do the steering.

We've been passing a tow going our direction called the Mary Ena Devall daily since we left Mobile. Today, they asked us to wait until we got around a bend. We slowed down and did. After I gunned the engines and they hailed us (technically he called "the little boat behind me"), asking to wait longer since the channel narrowed. We fell back again. Once it widened he said, "If you can get it done before the construction, take me on the one." Ahead was some kind of port for a mine or mill, with barges out to be filled. Oh yeah, we got it done. And that was the most exciting thing that happened today. So... not much.

Ahead, the Mary Ena Devall.
I'll wager we see her daily until Aqua,
when we stop for a few days.
Our position is being broadcast on AIS, just like the tows. With the twisty rivers, we can see where everyone is, and they can see us without actually eyes on. That doesn't mean they know what you are. An oncoming tow hailed us and asked, "What are you pushing?" I laughed, told him we were a little PC. He said, "Then I'll see you on the one."

We did have another lock, which timed out perfectly. After hearing him talk to PCs he was locking down we told him we were coming. The doors were open and waiting when we arrived.

All those dots are mayflies. I predict this 
will be a thing very soon!
Every now and again our little boat impresses a tow captain. We were recently hailed by a tow after we passed when he asked if we had channel 18 (as far as we know we have the all!). After switching he asked, "What kind of boat is that?!" Russ thinks that we look like a little tow boat, making inQuest attractive to tow captain's sense of style.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Three Rivers to Bashi Creek, anchor

We had a front come through a couple of days ago. Now the winds are from the north, bringing cooler temps. Perfect for us. No power issues since we don't need AC.

We've been making a push to get to Demopolis, which we should get to tomorrow. But it's further than we thought. Largely because we're going to need water and don't have enough to go 2 more nights. We have plenty for only 1. 

Very windy and twisty day. Our only excitement was Coffeeville Lock, which was one of the fastest lock-throughs we've ever done. We were the only traffic around, so I hailed the lock master about a mile out. He basically had the doors opening as we pulled up. We just went right in, got our ride up some 30 feet or so, then came right out. The first of many, many locks we'll do this summer. I hope they all go half as well.

Holiday weekend. The sandbars on the rivers
are full of Memorial Day haps.
Bashi creek had the advantage of a small park nearby, which means a dinghy dock, a feature that makes pug-walking easier. We were the only boat in there so the night was quiet. Decent network, too. In fact the only bummer was, just as we were pulling into the place a pontoon boat was being taken out. I think they (accidentally) dumped a bunch of gas into the water. It slowly drifted down to where we were anchored. So kinda smelly, not to mention illegal.


Coffeeville Lock. #1. Many more to come.


Not a straight route AT ALL.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Mobile to Three Rivers Lake, anchor

Go north!
Wonderful day on the rivers. Passed a number of tows, some coming, some going but mostly the day was pleasant, sunny, and warm. 

It was a shame to leave when we really didn't get to spend any time in Mobile. Russ got back around 6 pm from his trip to New Orleans. We went to downtown Mobile to eat some Mexican food at a place called Roosters (which I'm so looking forward to going back to!). Then we took the car back to the airport to return it and Lyfted back to the boat.

Funnily enough, out Lyft driver used to be a tow boat captain. He knew all the rivers we are about to travel this summer. We had a great ride chatting with him.

We didn't have a best night sleep again, largely due to the wall at the convention center. While incredibly handy to be downtown, the layout of the wall makes getting on and off the boat pretty tricky. Moving a pug on and off the boat was even trickier. The wall is concrete. They piling have rubber bumpers on them, which is awesome. But they added extra deep pumpers to the wall itself. When your boat is on those you're about 3 feet from the wall. Unless you have a platform or plank (and we do not) it's a bit of a step. The biggest problem, however, was trying to fend off those. They bumpers aren't soft -- they are rigid, and when your boat bumps them, you'll feel a bump. In fact we watched our fiberglass bow a bit. The bumpers are square-ish in shape. Add to that there is a tide, and it's just a chore to keep your boat off those things. And inevitably through the night, when some tow passed us, our fenders moved and we bumped. It was jarring enough to wake us.

inQuest, through the convention center parking lot.


The Convention Center wall. See the blue bits?
Those stick WAY out.

The Tombigbee is quite lovely. I-65 bridge.

Not a direct route, to be sure.

How Russ drives. Remote in hand, foot on the helm.

All day we saw this black butterflies with 
iridescent blue tips on their wings.

inQuest on the Three Rivers Lake

Good news, though. We got out early and anchored in a little lake just off the Tombigbee that's remote and quiet. So we napped as soon as we got here.


Dauphin Island to Mobile, AL (wall)

You know what every mariner loves? Being woken up at 1:30 am by a fire alarm. Spoilers: There was no fire. The alarm just lost its brain.

In that sleepy stupor, Russ checked how the batteries were doing. They'd gone down quite a bit. So he started the generator and set and alarm to turn it off in an hour. We didn't need that, though since the smoke detector went off around that time. At that point Russ pulled the little bugger off the wall and stuck it where we wouldn't hear it.

The rest of the night passed without incident. We were up early, walked a dog, weighed the anchor, and headed to Mobile. The last time we were on the bay was slightly less than miserable. It's hard to even say it's the same body of water. Today's right was nearly flat. A wonderful cruise. We docked in front of the convention center without any issues.

Side story: Remember all that new electric work he did? Well, this incident of low batteries was more proof to him that he wanted to upgrade our batteries to lithiums. He tried to order them a month or so ago for the new system, but Covid continued to have supply chain issued. However, that seems to have changed, so he ordered 6 of them while we were en route to the island. We're having them sent to Aqua. He'll install them there. We don't, however, want to lug around the other batteries. Russ contacted Robin and Charlie McVey, who are the AGLCA Harbor Hosts in Aqua and told them of the delivery and extra batteries. Charlie seem interested in them, and our slightly-used invertor. That, however, we left in New Orleans. So. As soon as we docked, Russ got a rental car and he drove back.

Hey. It's only a 2 hour drive each way. We'll be underway tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Bay St. Louis to Dauphin Island. anchor

Subtitled: A bird in the hand.

Russ watches the weather. He'd gotten very good at reading and predicting travel days. And he promised these next few days would be awesome: Windless, with the exception of afternoon breezes that always seem to rise on the Gulf. Yesterday, arriving in Bay St. Louis, winds were up higher than anticipated. Despite the marina being behind a hefty break wall, we bounced a little all night long.

Good morning, Gulf of Mexico
That continued into the morning. I walked the dog early, and winds were still up. Knowing they'd grow into the afternoon, I was a bit dubious about the ride. This day we were on the gulf, and even though there are barrier islands, it's pretty exposed. We planned a number of bail-outs, just in case. We could go back to Biloxi, which is a short day's ride. Or anchor out near any of the islands along the way.

As it turned out, the day was awesome. Bumpy getting out, and a little choppy once we got to the gulf. But within an hour the water laid down, and 1 - 2 foot seas turned into 6 in ripples most of the day. 

inQuest on ancho in the little lagoon,
Dauphin Island
So we came to Dauphin Island, which is the farthest point before heading up into Mobile Bay. We'll do that tomorrow, getting another early start. That should give us a good part of the day to play in Mobile.

Engine started right up, radar worked all day, AIS showed all the tows around us. Everything worked like it was supposed to. I love it when a plan comes together.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

New Orleans to Bay St. Louis

Still got issues but at least we're underway. 

We left the marina around 7:45 am, which got us to the bridge to the industrial canal around 8:30, which is when they end the "rush hour" closure. However, the bridge was being worked on, so it didn't open until 8:45-ish. We immediately stopped at Seabrook Harbor and Marine to pump out and get a new battery for the starboard engine. The new battery didn't fix the issue -- the engine still wouldn't turn over on it's own. Russ suspects we have a grounding problem and that's really all I understand about those words. We can jump it, which is why we can use it at all. Also, we were only able to pump out one of our tanks when the pump died. Ah, boat life!

You can see the RR bridge is down. 
Had to wait a while to get that open for us.
The trip through the canal was pretty mundane. But we're glad we did it. Since we came up by way of the lake, we boated around "the wall" of New Orleans. Going out this way we got to cross into it then out of it.

The Wall was built post Hurricane Katrina. Katrina itself -- the winds and rain -- wasn't the reason New Orleans flooded. It was the storm surge. High waves wore down and broke the levys, causing the lake to engulf the area. The Wall completely encircles New Orleans. When the storm surge is high enough it's closed to protect the city. Some believe once the waters are high enough New Orleans will become an island.

That solid line on the horizon it The Wall.
Once we cleared the canal we were on the gulf. While not crazy windy, it was breezy enough to make a choppy ride. Seas were 1 - 2 feet. We got into Bay St. Louis without any issue, just needed to be cautious going up and down the stairs. Before docking we pumped out the other side and fueled up.

Early day tomorrow. The winds should be around 2 mph first thing in the morning. The further west we go, the better it gets.

It felt like we were going through a lock.
The this was the gate on The Wall.

Update: Within an hour of docking here Russ 1) fixed the starboard engine issue (literally, a flipped switch, which begs the question of "Why is that even here?"), fixed our radar (which died about halfway here), and fixed the NMEA bus (which stopped giving us AIS data). He's my hero! 💗

A little choppy but not too bad.
We ran into a lot of commercial traffic going this way.


Monday, May 24, 2021

Nola to, well, Nola

After all Russ had done and the water finally receding we came back to the boat yesterday and organized a bit for departure today.

Engines checked we turned on the engines... and the starboard one would not go. In the time we've been here the battery had died. Handy for us, our boat has an easy, internal jump system, which we did to get it up and running. 

When Russ said "the boat needs to be cleaned"
I thought from mud and dirt. NOT. THIS.
We took our time, making sure the engines ran fine, then undocked and went on our way. While Russ was still on the deck brining up fenders and putting the lines away I noticed the temp on the port engine. It read 208 degrees (normal is around 165, so this was hot). I mentioned it. We killed the engine, proceeding on the starboard one only while Russ took temps and check seacocks. Nope all good. The temp is 165, but the sensor it reading it wrong.

In an effort to "reset" Russ unplugged the sensor and plugged it back in. Nope. Didn't fix it. When he came up to the helm to see the gauges, the entire port side gauge died. Not only was the temp wrong but the RPMs read 0. It was clearly working, but seeing an engines RPMs is pretty key. At that point we turned around and headed back.

We docked without issues. Russ started looking at various cables and connections. He even made a tech support call because it doesn't make sense.

So. Nola it is.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Nola update, #2

Normally around 1/5 feet with the tide
the depth is over 3 feet. Which is A LOT
here in New Orleans.
Ha. Mother Nature always as the last say. We planned on loading up the boat today, returning the car tomorrow, and heading out Sunday. It's been windy, so we had to wait. However, it's been windy in the absolutely wrongest (I'm making that a word!) direction: the southeast. Basically, it's blowing all the water from the gulf into Lake Pontchartrain. And, well, flooding the place. We can't get the car to the parking lot without driving through a foot of water.

We'll try later today as the winds should die down, but odds are we'll have to move everything up by a day.

We're winding down here after weeks of getting a lot accomplished. Sadly, there is more to do. But I'm focusing on what's gotten done.

The road to the marina. 
Of the things we thought might be a problem with weather
getting to the boat was not one of them.

This is the road to the lighthouse, where Landry's
 and The Blue Crab are. Closed.

While Russ is working on the boat and has gotten quite a bit done.

  • new electric system is in place and seems to be running
  • installed new wifi antennae
  • put in new AC pump since it died while he was working on the boat 
  • installed a new oil pressure sensor; the last one always read too high giving off needless alarms

Fancy new Wifi antennae. oooOOOOooo

Oil pressure correctly reads 48. Not 68, like it used to.

inQuest docked in NOLA. Municipal Yacht Harbor is really nice!

As for me, I too have gotten a fair bit done. I got a bunch of furniture donated to The Bridge House, our favorite local charity. I also got 4 dresser/cabinets to a furniture consignment (these pieces are antiques so I'm hoping for decent results). I also contacted a local rug store for consigning several rugs we have and no longer need. Fingers crossed there, since there aren't many rug options for resale.

Keeping customers at the Creole Creamery
6 ft apart. NOLA style!
Things that remain a bother include the condos HVAC, which cannot get fixed for some reason. First it appeared to be a leak in the coils, so those got replaced. But that didn't fix it. So we're waiting for a compressor. People, DO NOT buy Rheem HVACs. Learn from our mistake. We have 4 of these units, one for each floor here, and at one time or another one or more have been broken. Since day 1! They were supposed to fix the unit today, but rescheduled due for the wind. It will get done while we are not here.

The building we live in was built in 1880. While gorgeous, it's not uncommon for older places (especially in New Orleans) to have termites. We are no exception. The entire condo complex got tented and fumigated this past year. And yet. We still have issues. After various rounds of inspections, they will re-tent our wing and tower in August. Smack in the middle of hurricane season. What could possibly go wrong?

For now we've done one last round of provisioning, getting ready to make the 3 day journey back to Mobile. Once there and on the rivers, weather shouldn't play as much a frustration as on the gulf. Of course, you just never know.

Still amazing sunrises.