Friday, August 20, 2021

Time to Depart - Running from TS Fred

 As I wrote in my last entry, we had finished the installation of our new engine in SHIFT. We would have liked to do more testing, but we had a problem. Tropical Storm Fred was looming out in the Caribbean. The forecasters were in agreement that the storm was going to impact the Gulf Coast between Apalachicola and Gulfport. We were right in the middle of the possible landfalls. We looked at all of our options and we decided our best bet was to head north as soon as possible. 

On Thursday, August 12, we rented a car and relocated our truck to Demopolis, Alabama. Demopolis is where we stayed for hurricane season last year. There is a very nice marina and boat yard there. The problem is that is about 270 nautical miles from where the boat is now. At an average speed of 5 knots into the current, that would be over 50 hours of motoring on our brand new engine. 

I recorded this video on the morning of August 13:Ready for Departure

Click on the link to watch the video.

You may notice that the boat is now facing out of the channel. We turned it around when we came back from our sea trial two days prior. It was very shallow and I wanted to get that turn out of the way. 

When we got the engine started and the instruments on, we started hearing alarms. It was a shallow water alarm. It told us we were in 3.5 feet of water. The problem is that SHIFT draws 4.5 feet. I knew it was a muddy bottom, so I decided to try to power out of there. It worked! we left a trail of stirred up mud, but before long we were in 7 feet of water and moving well. 

The next problem is that we were going to be moving up another shallow bayou to get to the Pascagoula inlet. We saw some depths of just over 4 feet, but we were able to power through. It felt great when we rounded the corner and entered the main ship channel. As we hit the open water, we had a nice breeze, so we unfurled the genoa and motor sailed at almost 7 knots out into the sound. It was a nerve racking start, but we were now on our way. 

I recorded this video at that point: Leaving Pascagoula

Very calm water in Mobile Bay. A very welcome site.

We cruised along making good time. As it turned out, much better than I had expected. As we approached the bridge between the mainland and Dauphine Island, the wind died off to nothing. The water became glassy. We have heard of horror stories about crazy weather and rough seas in Mobile Bay. That would not be our story on this day. It was like a mill pond. I called the Dog River Marina and they told us to dock at the fuel dock and plug in for the night. They closed at 6, but we arrived at 5:30. After waiting for another boat to fuel, we tied up and began stuffing all the fuel we could into the main tank and then two 5 gallon jerry cans. While doing the second can the high volume pump overfilled one of the tanks and covered me in diesel. That was not good! I had to quickly pay the bill and then hit the shower they have on shore. It took a while, but we got everything cleaned up. Kim decided it was a good time to wash the boat yard off of the boat. 

I spent the evening checking the shaft coupling and all of the fluids. I found nothing that concerned me. We were in bed early and up before dawn the next morning. We got underway at first light. We had a long way to go and that storm track was now heading right at Mobile Bay! They were also predicting it would get stronger as it approached the coast and may make hurricane status. My big question in my mind was how strong was the current going to be. Last year we struggled to make 4 knots over ground in the 2-3 knot current. I was hoping for 5 knots, but only time would tell. 

I recorded this clip of the early morning over the calm Mobile Bay: Sunrise over Mobile Bay

Sunrise over Mobile Bay

We traveled 10 miles to reach the downtown area of Mobile. The current was light and we were averaging over 5.5 knots. I was very pleased. 

A large container ship at the port of Mobile. 

Downtown Mobile by water never gets old. We have done this 3 times now. 

Even though it was the weekend, the downtown port area is very busy and you have to pay close attention. I was really looking forward to leaving civilization and being on the quiet river. The change is immediate as you get to mile 6. It was now just us and the river.

The rainbow ahead was a good sign.

We had to pass two barges, that were moving upriver a little slower than us. The good news is that our speed was consistent at between 5.5 and 6 knots over ground. The barges were running around 4.5, so the pass was very slow, but the captains were very helpful and we made it. We had to wait a while at mile 14 for the railroad bridge to open. They were having mechanical problems, but were able to get it fixed and did not delay us too much. 

At the good speeds were started to plan our stop for the night. We thought we could make it to mile 63 and the 3 rivers anchorage. It was about that time that we were passed by a fast trawler named "Satisfied Frog". When a thunderstorm came up, they pulled off and anchored for the night, but they will become part of this story. We kept going and the thunderstorm passed south of us. We made it to 3 rivers. Some locals told us it was safe to go back to the lake. We tried, but ran aground. I had to power hard to get SHIFT back to deep water, but we got it done. They also told us that it was alligator season. We met a couple of guys that were hunting. We saw a number of alligators while we were there. 

The bad news is that we had no cell signal. I could not see what was going on with Fred. The last we knew it was heading right at us and would be here in 24 to 36 hours. I did my engine checks and all looked good. We would now try to sleep without air conditioning. We have a big battery bank of 4 AGM batteries, so we ran fans all night and actually slept well. 

In my next entry, I will pick this story up from there and let you know how we made it north and the safety of the marina in Demopolis.


  1. Whew, glad you were able to get free when you ran aground! Barb and my dream boat is a trawler like the Satisfied Frog. I googled the boat and see they have a FB page. We would love to explore the Puget Sound area someday.

    1. We are actually going to have dinner with those guys tomorrow night. You will hear more about them in coming entries.

  2. A bath in diesel fuel is never a good thing . You might have though that you showered it off but if you had asked your wife you might have gotten a different answer . I worked in the petroleum industry for over 39 years . On the other hand there won't any bugs on those mugs . Stay safe . Vern in Boise

    1. I scrubbed with hot water and soap and it still didn't feel like I got all of it off. So that is why she wouldn't sleep close to me for a few days. All good now.

  3. Great photos & videos, very interesting read and big relief to hear you made it upriver. We've been worried about you but knew you could handle it.
    Dick & Cathy

    1. I really do appreciate your confidence. I don't always feel as confident

  4. Whew, sounds a little unnerving but all worked out. Sounds like the new engine is running great.