Tuesday, December 8, 2020

We Sail Right Through Downtown Mobile, Alabama

 We left our beautiful anchorage at mile 16.6 on the Mobile River on Monday, November 23. It was a cloudy and cool morning. We pulled anchors and were on our way by about 7 am. That was late for this trip, but we did not have far to go. The problem was that we did not know where we were going to stop. 

We had three options. We had tried to call a marina in Fairhope, AL on the East side of Mobile Bay, but they were not answering on the weekend. Our backup plan was to go to the Dog River area on the west side of Mobile Bay. We had called there, and they had space available for us. The third option was to go on through the bay and anchor at Dauphin Island. This would significantly shorten our trip the following day. The problem with the Dauphin Island anchorage was that it was exposed to a north wind and the forecast was for a strong north wind. We were able to reach the marina in Fairhope during our trip down the river and they did not have space for us, so we decided to head to Dog river and tie up to a dock and get ready for our long sail to Gulfport the next day. 

Our first thing to deal with on this day was the railroad bridge at mile 14. This is the lowest bridge on the river, but we had passed under it in the spring in higher water, so I was confidant we could make it. That went well. We then started to feel a bit of wind coming in from the NW and we were heading SW. The land was now flat and the wind would be more predictable. I decided to unfurl the staysail. It was not long before we were going 7 knots over ground. The sail was adding about a knot to our speed. We still had the motor running, but it felt great to be a sailboat again. 

SHIFT was sailing again. 

It was not long before we were approaching downtown Mobile, Alabama. It goes from natural swamp and marsh to industrial area in a short distance. The change is a shock to the system.

As you approach Mobile, you pass under a large bridge, that is Alternate 90. 

A happy captain on this cool cloudy day. It felt good to be done with the motor trip down the river. 

This is a stealthy navy vessel. There was three of them in the area.

Downtown Mobile

A large ship in a dry dock in the left on this shot.

As we left the harbor, this large ocean going vessel came by in the channel. We just had to stay clear on the port side. He was going 12 knots.

There are tows out in the open bay also. This one is bashing into the waves and north wind. 

We were able to get the genoa up and sail along with the engine off for about an hour before we had to make a turn out of the main shipping channel and into a narrow channel that lead to Dog River. Mobile bay is very shallow. Most of the bay is 9 feet deep, but many sections are less that 4 feet, so it is critical that we stay in the channels most of the time. The main shipping channel is about 40 feet. 

As we headed down the channel to Dog River, we saw a familiar sailboat. I hailed them on the radio and was correct that Tally Ho was exiting Dog River and heading out to their next anchorage. We had met them in Demopolis a week earlier. Jason and Natanya are from the St. Louis area and are on a sailboat adventure.

Tally Ho motoring in the Dog River channel

We came into the Dog River Marina and had some docking help from a 14 year old girl named Isabella. Our granddaughter Isabella is 14. Kim enjoyed talking to her as we added fuel and pumped out our holding tank. We then tied up to the face dock and settled in for the evening. I took a walk. It was the first time we had been on land in 5 days. 

I looked at all of my options and decided that our best bet was to try to make it all the way to Gulfport, Mississippi the next day. The weather was going to get bad after that. The problem was daylight. It should take us about 15 hours to go the 75 miles. There is only 11.5 hours of daylight this time of year. I have never gone into a marina for the first time in the dark. Bad plan? I will explain why it was not a bad plan and tell you how it went in my next entry.  


  1. The only way I went into port in the dark was under Power, by being familiar with it and they had plenty of Lights along the docks.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

    1. We completely agree. I will write about our night arrival in my next entry. Thanks for reading.

  2. Those is some large ship traffic to contend with!

    1. They are big and they go pretty fast. Their closing speed requires some focus.