Monday, June 29, 2020

Catch up Post

It has been about a month and a half since I have last written in my blog. When we got back to the ranch, I was tired and ready for a rest from everything including writing. I have continued to take pictures of our many activities, but wasn't sure if I would ever write about it. I have decided to put this entry in the blog as an update to all of our friends and family and to publish a few pictures that I like.

We enjoyed a very wet spring at the ranch in Missouri. We stayed there from April 18 to May 14. We mainly spent time with our children and grandchildren. 

This is a picture of the creek at the ranch after a hard rain. Just to the right of the rocks is the swimming hole. It is about 8 feet deep in this picture. As I write this it is totally dry. 

On May 15, Kim, Our granddaughter Isabella, and I took a trip to check on the boat. We stopped off at our Son, Michael's house to see his family. When I arrived, our grandson, Connor had a list of all he wanted to do in the one day we would be there. There was no way to do that, so we decided to stay an extra day to complete the list. We played games, went for walks and hikes and had the best nerf gun war of all time. 

Michael, Audrey, Cameron and Connor in front of a waterfall we hiked to. 

We also stopped in to see our friends, Dick and Cathy for a too short visit. Then we headed for Alabama to check on the boat. I did a number of maintenance tasks and tests and determined that the engine was good to go. We then motored up the boat up the river about 7 miles to anchor out for the night to show Isabella what that was all about. We had a blast going on a dingy ride and playing on the river bank. Isabella even found some "quick sand". 

Isabella at the helm.

Isabella - a straight A student

SHIFT at anchor on an oxbow of the Tombigbee river

Isabella and Kim playing on the river bank.

Our Daughter, Shannon and family decided to go to the Great Smokey Mountains while we were in Alabama, so we decided to join them. We had a great time hiking and doing some of the tourist stuff. The bad news is that our Grandson, Jake broke his leg when he crashed on a scooter the first day we were there. He is now in a cast and should be good to go by the end of the summer. The crowds were smaller than normal because of the virus, but most outdoor activities were open. The other bad news was that Kim and I had to stay 5 days longer than planned to get a new turbo installed in the truck. We took advantage of the additional time and did some hiking on our own and saw some more remote areas of the National Park. 

We saw 9 black bear on the morning that we drove the Cades Cove loop.

A homestead in a beautiful setting along the loop. We enjoyed all of the short hikes.

Our granddaughter, Amelia found a waterfall and had to show Grandpa. 

The whole crew at another homestead. Brian, Shannon, Amelia, Isabella, Will, Kim and Eve.

Kim made the hike to Laurel Falls

Eve, Amelia and Isabella behind Grotto falls. The second hike of the day.

We finished off the day by hiking up to Clingmans Dome, which give you a 360 degree view of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and surrounding area.

What a view!

This old couple made the hike to the top.

Now on our own we did the 4.5 mile hike to Hen Wallow Falls. It was worth the effort. 

The trail was empty and we had the falls to ourselves for a while.

We drove from Cosby to Big Creek on highway 32. I believe it was the curviest road I have ever driven. We saw a family of Black bear in a tree along the side of the road.

Our dinner view along Big Creek

Soaking our feet in the cool water after all of the hiking felt so good.

We arrived back in Missouri on the 5th of June. We made it in time to meet up with fellow blogger, Mark from Missouri. Here is a link to his blog: ourfutureinanrv He is a new RV full timer and has a very informative writing style. Mark and his wife, Karen took a tour of the ranch. We had an awesome time and can't wait until our paths cross again. 

For the past month we have been going to our grandson Will's baseball games. He loves to play, but his team has had a tough year. They had lost all of their games until last Thursday night. They had a double header with two of the better teams in the league. They ended up winning both games! Yeah!!!

Not a great picture, but Will at Shortstop. He is still pretty small, but he is a great fielder and when he uses proper footwork, has a strong arm. 

Fathers Day weekend was awesome! I was able to see all of my Children and Grandchildren. We all met at the ranch for some riding and then a float trip. Michael's family and Scott could not make the float, but it was still plenty of fun. We were very glad that Mark's girlfriend, Callie joined us. We are very impressed by her and would be happy to see her stick around for a long time. 

Beautiful, cool North Fork of the White river.

Isabella in the closest boat, Mark and Callie in the canoe, and SIL Brian and Eve in the two person kayak. Yes, Mark has been working out.

When I sat down to write this entry, I did not know what I would write about. I did not know how much we have done until I started looking at the pictures. We are now talking about our future plans. Just like everyone, our plans are very uncertain. I will write about that in my next entry, whenever that is. For now I will leave you with an awesome rainbow that Kim, Isabella and I saw in the Marina in Alabama.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Video of the Trip Up the River

I have been catching up on publishing some content that I recorded last month. This is a video that includes our trip up the river. There is a big part missing, that was covered in other blog entries. I also included a clip of my grandson, Will riding a motorcycle. He is doing great and I am very proud. 

Click here to view the video:  Video of Trip up the river

This may be the last entry for a while. We are waiting for things to open up a bit more before we can start traveling again. Stay healthy and safe!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Real Time Update - Back to Land Life

I guess it is time for an update. I will not be writing as much because we will be relatively stationary.  

We were sitting on the boat in Alabama on April 15, when I got a call from our grandson, Will. He told me that he wanted to start riding motorcycles again. He quit riding about 5 years ago for a reason, I still do not know. His family came to our ranch and met another boy that was about his age that wanted him to ride with him. He asked his Mom and she told him that he would have to talk to his grandfather. That is all I needed to begin packing, and plan the move back to Missouri. We were getting tired of just siting on the boat in the marina anyway, so we were trying to decide when it would be safe to make the move. 

I called the car rental agencies and was pleasantly surprised at the cost to one way a car to Missouri. Total cost for this very nice Dodge Charger was only $60 for the 48 hours it would take us to make the 8 hour drive. The only problem was that I would need to go to Meridian, Mississippi to pick it up. A trip of about 50 miles. I asked my slip neighbor, Steve if he knew a way to do that. He quickly offered to drive me over. Thanks Steve! Cruisers are the best! 

Dodge Charge with 2700 miles, Texas Plates
The few days before we left we watched as the water in the river was rising. This is very common in the spring. Unfortunately, the geese lost their nest to the rising waters. I got this shot of the 6 eggs under the water. 

Geese Eggs

The drive to Missouri was pretty uneventful. We stopped once for fuel and lunch just north of Memphis and then found an open rest area in Arkansas to use the bathroom. 

When we arrived at the ranch we moved into our other movable home. The trailer had no issues after being stored for the winter. Both the car and truck are now running well after a little scare with the truck. 

All of the grandkids are doing school from home on-line. Will came to the ranch to live with us for a week. We did school until noon each day and then rode motorcycles in the afternoon. As I expected, he has progressed quickly and is riding a TTR125 with a clutch with excellent skills. In the past three weeks he has put on over 20 hours on the bike. Luckily, I have two of them, so I just need to keep one of them running for his frequent visits. I could not be more proud. 

Will on the TTR 125
It has been very busy at the ranch. We have been preparing for a race that was scheduled for May 10th, but was cancelled by the Chairman of the Series on Tuesday before event. We were not happy. Many riding areas are closed and people are looking for a way to get out of the house, so coming to the ranch has been a popular idea for the members. It has been great catching up with many old friends and meeting new ones. After the long layoff, I have been excited about riding again also, so I have been getting some exercise on the bike. 

This time of year the Ranch is beautiful. The Dogwoods were in bloom when we arrived and then many other wildflowers are making an appearance. 

Dogwoods in Bloom

Spring rains fill the creeks

Love the Sunsets at the ranch

Indian Paintbrush

One of the most difficult trails at the ranch - Somethin' Special

We are planning to head back to the boat at the end of the week for a couple of weeks. We will take our grandaughter, Isabella with us to get some good one on one time. She is 14. I want to spend some time checking out the motor to determine if it is in need of a rebuild or not. It looks like the restrictions related to the virus are easing around the country. We are still hoping to make a trip in the RV to Colorado this summer, but we need the campgrounds to open up out there, before we can do that. I will write again when I have some pictures to post or something interesting to write about. 

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Life in Kingfisher Bay Marina - Demopolis, Alabama

We arrived at Kingfisher Bay Marina on April 1, 2020. I have not been that happy and relieved in a long time. I think I even did a happy dance. After getting tied up, we spent some time getting to know the marina. We are in a small basin, just off the river. We have very good wind and wake protection. The cost of the slip is $10 per foot per month. That is very reasonable by Florida standards. We also have access to a nice common room, bathroom and shower. They have a pool (that is not currently open, but looks nice for when it gets a bit warmer). The majority of the slips are covered, but they have plenty of uncovered slips for us sailboats with masts.

Kingfisher Bay Marina has nice concrete docks that are about 50 feet. This is the first time we have been on a fully wrap around floating dock. It makes it easy to get on/off the boat and work on all sides. 

Lots of turtles and fish around the docks. 

We spent the first few days getting ready to hunker down for the next few weeks.  The virus lockdown was getting very serious all around the country and was being taken very seriously in rural Alabama even though they had only one reported case in the county.

We took advantage of the free courtesy car to go to Walmart and buy groceries. That was a strange experience, but all went well and we were ready for the next month or more.

Byran and Mary stuck around for 4 days and then decided to head up the Tenn-Tom Waterway to get to their home. Their trip went well other than one scary night they got hit with very strong winds and drug anchor into shallow water. They finally got the boat free after a long sleepless night. They made it home in about a week from Demopolis. The trip was over 200 miles to the Tennessee river. The good news is they had very little current and were able to average over 6 knots.

I spent days going for walks and checking out the boat yard facilities. We are planning to haul the boat here and do some work on the bottom.

The Marina from across the basin. Notice the water level on the bulkhead.

The boatyard filled with all kinds of boats. Some are getting refitted by their owners, some are rotting away. They all represent someone's dreams. 

This is the Travelift, that we will use to put the boat on the hard. To haul the boat and block and stand it and put it back in the water will cost about $500 at this DIY yard. 
I spent my days working on the boat. I started by going over the engine. I found a dirty air filter, which could have been the reason for the black stripe on the transom. While doing some testing, I went to start the engine, it would not start. I was happy! I now had a symptom to work with. I hate intermittent problems. I traced the problem back to some corroded connections and a corroded fuse holder. I ordered a new waterproof fuse holder and bypasses all of the connections. Now the motor starts every time. I will also put in some oil treatment when I change the oil, which hopefully will help get the rings to seal better and reduce oil consumption. I ordered some things, but Amazon was delayed, so we had to wait.

We then cleaned the hull and taped the teak rail below the rub rail. We sanded and then varnished all the way around the boat. That is where the full wrap around dock is great. We had to use the dingy to do the transom. We then did a touch up on the rest of the teak on the boat. This boat has a lot of teak, but it looks great when it is freshly varnished.

I then put a coat of wax on the hull. That is the first time we have done that. It looks great, but boy is that hard work.

Well that is what we have been doing for the three weeks we stayed in the marina. We were watching the situation with the virus closely and were very eager to get back to Missouri to see the kids and grand kids. After three weeks we decided we did not to wait any longer. In my next entry, I will write about our trip back to Missouri and life on the ranch.

A beautiful sunrise from the cockpit of the boat. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Trip up the Waterways - Day 8 to 11

After 4 days at "Old Lock 1" we were discussing our next move. Byron, on Serendipity, was thinking it was time to move along. I was thinking we needed to wait a bit longer and hope the current would slow down making it easier for us to get up the river. We were watching the hydrology reports along the river and were guessing that the current would reduce along with the lower water that was expected in about 3 more days. Kim was concerned about the water level in our current anchorage. When we came in, we only had 11 feet at the bar at the mouth of the creek. If the water dropped too much, we could get stuck in here until the next flood. It was a difficult decision, but we decided to go the next day.

We had about 16 miles to get to the Coffeeville Lock and Dam. We started out early and easily cleared the bar. When we hit the river we had a strong opposing current. We once again slogged along at about 4 knots. I was moving from side to side in the river looking for reduced current on the inside of the corners. I was able to find almost no current right along the bank in the eddy caused by the apex of the curve. I was concerned about hitting a log, but most of the time we were in more than 20 feet of water.

When we arrived at the Coffeeville, we were able to get in the slack water leading up to the dam. It felt great moving along with no current. Byron called ahead and the lock was ready for us. We easily pulled into the lock and got tied up. There was no current or wind. We tied off to floating bollards and just waited for the signal when we could untie and leave. Our first lock was a breeze.

We motored up the next 2 miles to the only gas stop on this part of the river, a place called Bobby's Fish Camp. The dock was in the strong current. We got in and tied up to the sketchy dock. The restaurant is closed, but we were able to call the number on the door and Bobby's daughter came down to turn on the fuel pump. I spent a while talking to her (I did not catch her name). Bobby passed away a few years ago and she has tried to keep the place open. She recently made the tough decision to close the restaurant and just keep the store and dock open. We could have stayed there for the night, but with the strong current, we decided to go about 6 more miles to Okatuppa Creek. We pulled in to a beautiful little creek. There were tall trees and we had to be careful to give clearance for the mast, but it was a great place to anchor. We set our main anchor and a stern anchor to keep us clear of the middle of the creek. We did see a number of fishing boats go by while we were there.

The view forward at Okatuppa Creek. The creek continued around to the right.

Our view out the back at Okatuppa Creek. The main river was only about 100 yards away. 
We had a very calm night. The next day, Byron and I discussed our options. The river was continuing to drop and I was hoping for significantly reduced current in the coming days. There were strong storms predicted for the next day, so Byron decided to move along. We stayed an additional night.

We had an interesting time after Byron left. We had some locals walk up to the bank along side of the boat to talk. They were very nice and we had an enjoyable conversation. They were also boaters and were very surprised to see a sailboat as big as ours in this little creek. I also did some work on the motor, but that did not have much effect.

We awoke the following day to some strong wind. It pulled loose our stern anchor and caused us to turn sideways in the creek. Kim suggested it was time to leave, so we got ready and hit the river. The current was a bit reduced, but still much stronger than I would like. We got a bit of wind and rain, but we continued on. It was at that point that we decided to try to make Demopolis in two days. We caught up to Byron because they waited out the storm and then when we made contact and found we were not far, so they waited for us. The problem was that there were no good anchorages in this part of the river. We checked out a couple, but decided to keep moving. As night approached, Byron found a small creek and went in and tied off to two trees. We dropped our forward anchor and eased out chain and came along side and rafted up to him. We had a pleasant night other than a few wakes from the Tows.

Some views along the river on March 31

This was a strange plume of water that was coming up out of the river. Not sure what that was...
I once again worked on the motor and I am fairly sure I cleared a partial blockage in the seawater cooling line. The following day the motor did run slightly cooler and the steam was mostly gone.

Our anchorage was at mile 170. Demopolis Lock and Dam is at 216 and the Marina is at 218. After the long day on March 31, we were hoping we could make it on April 1.

We woke early on April 1, but when I tried to start the engine, I had no power at all. The batteries were charged, so it came down to a lack of power to the ignition switch. I used a jumper cable to power the ignition and the engine started. I had no accessories and no power to my gauges or my voltage regulator. We decided that the solar would power the instruments, so we started up the river. About a half hour later all of the power came back! What the heck! The systems on the boat ran fine the rest of the day.

It was a fairly uneventful day. I was concerned about the motor, but it ran fine and only used about a half quart of oil.

Cruising up the swollen river. Serendipity just in front of us. 

Cool white rock bluffs as we approached Demopolis, Alabama

As we approached the Demopolis Lock, we saw this one would be very different. There was strong wind and current as we came into the channel. We were lucky again that we did not have to wait, but the winds swirled around and we both had to do some piloting to get tied up to the bollards. Much of the wind and current were gone when we exited the lock on the top side.

Demopolis Lock

Demopolis Lock on April 1, 2020. Serendipity just in front. The lock was about half full at this point.
My excitement built as we exited the lock and headed to the marina. We had been traveling for exactly 6 months to the day. We had been so many places and met so many great people. I was happy to be done mainly because of the engine concerns, but also because I felt a bit tired and was ready to just relax.

SHIFT with Serendipity along side in Kingfisher Bay Marina
 It was at this point we were not sure what to do. The fears of the virus were growing daily. We wanted to get back to Missouri to see the kids and grand kids, but did not know if that was the right plan. I will talk about our next moves and life in Kingfisher Bay Marina in my next entry.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Trip up the Waterways - Day 2 - 7

We had a good night at anchor on March 23. We did have a pretty strong current, but our anchors held well and we got some sleep. We were now ready to go a bit further on day 2. We set our goal to make it to the three rivers anchorage at mile 63.8. That was 47.2 miles away. We headed out just after sunrise. I was a bit concerned about the current while pulling anchors, but that went well.

Sunrise on Day 2

The captain settling in for a long day.

Serendipity leading the way down the river. We let Byron and Mary lead because their AIS and radio were working better than ours.
We headed out into the river in the strong 2.5 knot current. We did have some strong wind predicted from the south and were able to raise sails and get some help, but we found that the terrain was quickly changing as we made our way north. The hills got higher and the trees got taller creating more wind protection than we would like. The wind was also funneling down or up the river with each bend, so we either had a pure head wind or a tail wind. Neither are great for sailing.

After just a few miles we went under the I 65 bridge. That was a very impressive bridge.

I 65 bridge ahead

A large double span bridge. We had plenty of clearance.

Looking up the mast between the spans

We were in front at this point, I don't remember why.
I will insert a story here from day 1. Our first bridge is considered the shortest bridge on the river. It is a Railroad lift bridge at mile 13.6. We approached the bridge and tried to call the bridge tender. We did not get a reply. We held up and Byron and I kept calling. They finally answered Byron with a reply that was very difficult to understand, but the bridge went up. We went through, but Byron was taking down a sail, so he was a bit behind. We cleared the bridge with about 5 feet to spare, but then the bridge started to come down. Byron called the bridge again and the tender claimed that he thought we were through and he could not raise it again for a while because a train was coming. Byron had to wait for quite a while before he was finally able to get under with just a few feet of clearance. It was a very strange situation made worse by a very inattentive and difficult to understand bridge tender.

I was looking forward to mile mark 45.0. It was at that point we would take a left turn on to the Tombigbee river, leaving the Alabama/Mobile river. I was hoping that the two rivers together were causing more current and we would see less on the Tombigbee. At this point we were averaging about 4.5 knots because of some help from the sails. That is still very slow.

At Mile 39 we hit the exit of the Tensas River and the river got much wider. We also saw more current, but the wind picked up and we got the Genoa up and we sailed the next 6 miles to the Tombigbee intersection. The river was rougher than any other point, but we gybed our way up the river in a strong tail wind that at times was over 20 knots.

Rough water on the last few miles of the Mobile river.
We rounded a corner and everything was different. We were now protected from the wind, so the water was flat, but the current was as strong as ever. I was a disappointed. We motored along at an average of 4.0 knots Speed over ground. The scenery was beautiful and we had plenty of time to look at it. I was very happy to pull into our anchorage at mile 63.8.

Three rivers was beautiful. We came in a tight channel that opened up into a small lake with no current. We dropped anchor and settled in for the night. At almost 50 miles, it was our longest day on the river. We saw a couple of fishing boats go by, but it was very quiet except the owls again and beautiful. I was trying to study the hydrology on the NOAA web sites about the river. What I saw was concerning. It looked like the river was going to rise over the next few days to a low level flood. I was still trying to determine how that affected current, but the high water was actually good because we had deeper water than what was shown on the charts. At Three Rivers it showed 10 feet and we had about 15.

We decided to try to anchor the next night at a place called Old Lock 1 at mile 100. I was not sure we could get in there, but we had an alternative if we couldn't. I was still concerned about my engine. It was putting our more steam than I thought it should, but was still not overheating and sounded fine.

We got up a bit later and cruised up the narrow channel to the river.

Kim took a couple of shots from the bow as we cruised out the channel to the main river.

It was short, but it felt so good to be cruising without current pushing against us.
As we moved further north the topography was quickly changing. The hills were getting higher and we were seeing rock bluffs along the side of the river. It was now impossible to sail.

Taller hills and a wide river.

White limestone bluffs along the river. 
We made it up to the channel into "Old Lock 1" park and Byron led us in. We saw about 11 feet at the bar, but then it went to 15 feet. We went back into a beautiful little lake by a boat ramp. We dropped anchor in 16 feet. We were very protected and it was beautiful other than the gnats, but they did not bite, so we settled in for the night. We decided to stay for a few days to see what the river was going to do. We dropped the dingys and went ashore. There was a nice bathroom and water available. It was there that we met the campgound host named Bob. He told us he was surprised to see us. Normally the bar does not have enough clearance for most boats, let alone a sailboat. We would have to watch the water level very closely or we could get stuck in there. The forecast for the next few days was for the river to rise to minor flood level, so we would be safe for now.

A beautiful calm night at Old Lock 1

SHIFT resting comfortably at anchor
We spent time over the next 4 days going for walks on land, meeting some local fishermen and relaxing. The water rose each day, by day 4 we were in 20 feet of water.

Our new friend Bob, who was the campground host at Old Lock 1 park

Meeting some locals, but keeping our social distance. The virus was getting crazy at this point.

Beautiful flowers and many cool birds to see.
Old Lock 1 could have been one of my favorite anchorages of the entire 6 month trip. This is the site of the first lock on the old river way that was built back in the 1800's to move cargo up and down the river. Much of the lock and dam are still there.

We now had a decision to make. Should we go on or stay a while longer. In my next entry, I will tell you what happened next.