After returning from our trip home for a few days, we did a bit of sightseeing around Mobile, then cast off and hung a right at the Gulf of Mexico, heading west toward New Orleans for Christmas.



Day 195 – Wednesday, 12/06 – In Mobile, AL

When we were in Mobile on our last loop trip, we discovered Bellingrath Gardens. Bellingrath was the home of one of the original Coca-Cola licensees in the 1920s and made millions, 5¢ at a time! He and his wife bought a fishing camp and turned it into a 65-acre manicured garden with a beautiful home. When they passed without children, they left it to a trust and opened it to the public for tours. At Christmas, the trust decorates it with “millions” of lights and opens it at night for walking tours. It’s beautiful, much like Brookgreen Gardens near our old home in South Carolina.

We decorated the boat in the morning with an inflatable Polar Bear reminiscent of Brenda’s favorite “Frosty Friends” Hallmark Christmas ornaments. We also did a supply run to Walmart to reprovision the boat for the next leg of our trip. In the evening, we went to Bellingrath to see the lights. It was much expanded from four years ago! We toured the grounds, had a private tour of the house (no one else signed up for the time slot we picked), and visited the old coach house with some of Mrs. Bellingrath’s collection of German Bisque statues. It was a great way to get into the Christmas Spirit.

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Day 196 – Thursday, 12/07 – In Mobile, AL

On Thursday, we returned the rental car and got the boat ready to get underway again. Brenda baked a batch of blondies. In the evening, we went to the Yacht Club for dinner.

Day 197 – Friday, 12/08 – From Mobile, AL to Ocean Springs, MS – 77 miles, Travel Time: 5hrs 20min

Mobile, AL to Ocean Springs, MS

We had a nice run from Mobile to Ocean Springs. The winds were much more gentle than when we went into Dog River and our exit out the channel was calm and easy. At the end of Mobile Bay, we turned right and headed West toward New Orleans. This was the first “new water” we had been in since Chicago!

This route follows the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, a shipping route for Tows from New Orleans and the Mississippi River to the Port of Mobile. We passed a few oil platforms and one large Tow along the way. When we reached Ocean Springs, (which is next to Buloxi), the channel got VERY shallow. We were showing less than one foot under the boat in places. But we made it into our slip without any issues. We had a Pelican welcoming committee to greet us as we backed into the slip.

.9 Miles to the Bathrooms!

Once we were settled, we took the bikes off the boat. The Marina office is right across the basin from our slip, less than 200 feet as the fish swims. However, to reach it, it’s about a mile by road! You have to plan ahead if you need to use the bathrooms! We rode the bikes around the basin and checked into the marina, then rode into the town of Ocean Springs.

Ocean Springs is a vacation town with many restaurants, shops, and Bed & Breakfasts. In the summer and on weekends, it’s booming. We parked the bikes and walked around, doing a bit of Christmas Shopping, then had an early dinner at Government Street Grocery a restaurant that had been recommended by the Harbor Master.

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Day 198 – Saturday, 12/09 – In Ocean Springs, MS

Saturday, we rode the bikes back into town and spent the day walking around. There was a Christmas market, the weekly Farmers Market and the local shops had a Christmas Sidewalk sale, so there were lots to see! We spent several hours walking from shop to shop and picked up a few things for Christmas presents.

Around noon, we stopped at the Glory Bound Gyro Company for lunch, then returned to a few shops where we saw some interesting things before heading back to the boat.

That evening, we took the bikes back into town for Dinner at Mosiac, a Tapas restaurant.

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Day 199 – Sunday, 12/10 – In Ocean Springs, MS

Overnight we had some heavy rain, with showers continuing into the morning. Our friends Brenda and Tim on Indigo stayed across the river in Biloxi. Their son and daughter-in-law live there, and they were visiting them for Christmas. Sunday, they came and picked us up with their daughter-in-law for brunch. We went to the Blue Dog Bistro in Ocean Springs. There was a long wait, and we thought we’d walk downtown. We walked about a block. However, it was cold, windy, and raw, so we turned around and stayed in the waiting area where it was warm. The brunch was very good, and we had a nice visit.

The Blue Dog Signature Froth Pattern
The Blue Dog Signature Froth Pattern

It was still raining most of the day, so after getting back, we stayed on the boat, and Brenda worked on her cross stitch while I worked on the blog.

Day 200 – Monday, 12/11 – From Ocean Springs, MS to Gulfport, MS – 24 miles, Travel Time: 2hrs 15min

Monday morning was bright and clear with just a light wind. We moved from Ocean Springs to Gulfport, Mississippi. Ocean Springs to Gulfport is only about 15 miles by road. Because of the shallow water, we had to go out into the bay and back into Gulfport through the ship channel, making it about a 24-mile trip.

We did take a little shortcut past Biloxi rather than going all the way back to the Intra Coastal Waterway the way we had come in. As we passed the Golden Nugget Casino, we tooted at Brenda and Tim on Indigo as we passed their boat.

We arrived in Gulfport at noon, stopping at the fuel dock to check in and get some fuel. The staff in Gulfport was excellent! We got a full briefing on the marina and all its happenings. We learned that the Gulf Harbor Lights show was going on in the park right next to the marina. This walk-through Christmas lights show features 20 large displays of coordinated trees with their lights animated to music. We were told that the show ran until 10:00 pm. Because we would have to put up with the loud music (our slip was just across the basin from the park), we were given passes for free admission to the park (normally $20 per night).

The marina is large with 316 slips and some pretty large boats. It was rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina and is a modern facility with pump out at the docks and nice large slips. The marina facilities building is a four-story tower that was at the end of our dock and gave us a great overview of the park and Gulfport Beach.

After we settled in, we walked into town, which was just on the other side of the park. We realized another reason why they gave us free admission, as to get to town, you have to walk through the park where the light show is.

Downtown Gulfport isn’t much to write about. It has one small art museum, the Gulfport Historic Society, a handful of restaurants, and the Chandelier Brewery. We stopped to checkout the brewery and have a bite of lunch.

That evening we walked down the beach to Shaggy’s Restaurant, a local seafood restaurant and had an excellent dinner. After dinner, we walked around the park to see the light show.

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Day 201- Tuesday, 12/12 – In Gulfport, MS

While downtown Gulfport is not much, the area has a few attractions. There is an Aquarium (which was unfortunately being remodeled and was only half open) and Traintastic, billed as the world’s largest model railroad museum. (Visit Traintastic’s website here!)

We had to climb up a ladder to the dock, as the docks are fixed and there was a New Moon Tide which was super low. We walked to the bus terminal across the street from the marina, and took a bus to the Train Museum.

Traintastic was not undersold. It is located in what appears to be a remodeled grocery store, and has many layouts. They boast the largest LEGO Railroad display at over 2 million pieces. The displays cover all of the gauges of model railroading, from N to G. Many of the layouts were privately owned and were donated to the museum when the creators passed away. The Museum staff go to the homes, disassemble the layouts and move them to the museum. It’s a great way to preserve some amazing lifelong projects!

They have two layouts that cover more than 2000 square feet! There are modern computer-controlled layouts and antique layouts from the early days of model railroading.

Their feature display interprets the Gulfport area. Not only are there operating trains, but moving cars and trucks on the roads, a working amusement park, helicopters that fly up from the layout, and C-130 aircraft taxing down a runway.

Gulfport was where Domino’s Pizza was founded, and one of the models on the layout features the original Domino’s location with a miniature pizza maker tossing dough into the air. Amazing!

After visiting the museum, we grabbed some lunch at a burger stand next door, then took the bus back to the marina.

In the evening, we had a great sunset as we walked downtown for dinner at Murky Waters, an excellent BBQ restaurant. If you look at the last few photos in the gallery below, you will see the towers along the docks. After the 26-foot storm surge from Hurricane Katrina, the towers were built to hold the docks’ electrical systems and keep them above any future storm surge.

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Day 202- Wednesday, 12/13 – In Gulfport, MS

We planned to spend Christmas in New Orleans, a 70-mile run through some exposed waters. We had been watching the weather closely, and there wouldn’t be a weather window for a few more days. We extended our stay in Gulfport for a few more days. As we were going to be staying, we decided to get a rental car so that we could do a bit of sightseeing. Also, we had some packages, including Christmas Presents to ourselves (new iPhones), being delivered in New Orleans, and we wanted to pick them up.

In the early afternoon, we took an Uber to the airport in Gulfport to pick up the rental car, then went to Walmart for a grocery run. That evening we had dinner on the boat and listened to the now very repetitive Christmas songs from the light display at the park.

Day 203- Thursday, 12/14 – In Gulfport, MS

New Orleans Area

On Thursday, we drove to New Orleans. We picked up our packages at the mail stop and then drove to the marina to look at the layout so that we knew where we were going when we got there. The marina is on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain on the north side of New Orleans (See map)

After checking out the marina, we decided to take a long way back by crossing the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. The Causeway is a 20-mile bridge that goes right across the middle of the lake. An amazing feat of engineering!

After crossing the Causeway, we took the “Google Route,” which wound through the back roads of Mississippi and got back to the marina in Gulfport in the late afternoon. When we returned to the boat, we excitedly opened our box from Verizon with our new iPhones. It looked sealed, but once open, we saw that while in transit, someone had carefully peeled the security tape back, torn open the boxes inside, and stolen both iPhones! Talk about disappointment!

I called Verizon, figuring that it would be a real hassle. How do you prove that they were stolen in transit? When I talked with the Verizon Store support person and explained what had happened. They said, oh, it happens all the time. No problem. We’ll credit your account. You will have to re-order and pick it up in a store. Because the phones are locked until activated and you need access to the account, they are not useable by anyone else. They said that the thieves typically sell them on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist to unsuspecting people who think they are getting a deal on a new phone, but when they go to activate it, it comes up as stolen and won’t work. There seems to be a lot of this type of theft in the UPS sorting centers. It’s such a shame.

Ripped-open iPhone boxes
Resealed package

I looked, and there was an Apple Store in a mall in New Orleans just a short distance from the marina, so I ordered them from there and scheduled an in-person pickup when we arrived in New Orleans to avoid the chance of theft while shipping.

Day 204- Friday, 12/15 – In Gulfport, MS

Friday was sunny but windy. We took the car to downtown and visited the Gulfport Historical Society museum. It was a nice little place. We learned that 90% of the bananas imported into the US arrived at the shipping port next to the marina. Both Dole and Chiquita have container facilities there.

A collage of the History of Gulfport from the Museum

After visiting the museum, we drove back to Ocean Springs for more shopping and lunch.

In the evening, we went to the Downtown Bistro for dinner.

Day 205- Saturday, 12/16 – In Gulfport, MS

On Saturday, we got together with Brenda and Tim from Indigo. They were still docked in Biloxi, visiting their son and daughter-in-law. We spent the day sightseeing. We started at the Biloxi Visitors Center across the street from the famous Biloxi Lighthouse. The visitor center was having a holiday craft fair, and we spent some time browsing.

From there, we went to the Maritime Museum, a four-story building with displays of the history of shipping and fishing along the Gulf Coast.

Afte the history museum, we went to a famous local restaurant called The Half Shell for lunch. We then went to the Jefferson Davis Homestead.

As you may recall, Jefferson Davis was the Confederate States’ President during the Civil War. After the war, he was imprisoned for several years and then released. After his release, a family in Biloxi, Mississippi, offered him their summer home as a retirement home. He lived there until he died in 1845. He was treated as a local hero. After his death, the property was turned into a home for Confederate Civil War veterans. It is now a privately funded museum, and the home is open for tours.

It is very downplayed, more of a tribute to the man than the Civil War. It was interesting to see the titles of some of the books in the library, such as “Abe Lincoln, the Northern Devil.” And “Notes on the War of Northern Aggression”. Given the recent trend toward rewriting Southern History and removing Civil War monuments, it was an interesting piece of Southern History.

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Day 206- Sunday, 12/17 – In Gulfport, MS

I returned the rental car Sunday morning, and we got the boat ready to depart for New Orleans. In the evening, Tim, Brenda, Matt, and Carley came to the marina, and we snuck them into the light display. After walking the park, we went into town and had Pizza at a local favorite pizzeria.

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Day 207 – Monday, 12/18 – From Gulfport, MS to New Orleans, LA – 79 miles, Travel Time: 7hrs 0min

Gulfport, AL to New Orleans, LA

Sometimes the weather people get it right! Monday morning was bright, clear, and calm. Cold, but otherwise, it was a good day to travel. We had 80 miles to run, and 20 miles of that was in a canal, so we could not cruise very fast.

We cast off at 8:00 am and made good time in the open water along the ICW. We were fortunate to only meet two tow barges along the way.

As we neared New Orleans, we were just about to turn up the channel toward Lake Pontchartrain when we saw a tow barge with two old paddle wheelers in tow. He was having a bit of a time making the corner, so we radioed and asked where he wanted us to go to make it easy for him. Once past him, we turned up the channel and reached the first of two railroad bridges. The channel between the ICW and Lake Pontchartrain is only 2.5 miles long, with railroad bridges at either end. At the first bridge, we called on the radio a few times with no answer. Then we called the phone number listed, and the operator said that we had to wait a few minutes and he would open it. Excellent! 15 minutes later, we were through.

Just as we cleared the first bridge, we could see the second bridge start to close. The notes on the bridge said that for freight trains, they close 10 minutes before a train, and for Amtrack passenger trains, they close 20 minutes before a train.

We radioed to let them know we would be waiting, and lucky us, it was a freight train. We waited in the open basin near the bridge where they park the big paddle wheel tour boats and river cruise ships, so there was plenty to look at. As soon as the last car of the train was across the bridge, we heard the announcement that the bridge was opening, and we were into Lake Pontchartrain. From the canal to the marina is a 5-mile run. The wind was up a bit on the lake, so it was a bit choppy going to the marina, but once inside the seawall, it calmed right down, and we had our choice of locations on the transient dock.

The marina is in an interesting location. Two large marinas are there, all surrounded by a flood barrier wall. When the lake rises, they close huge doors, and the marinas are isolated to protect the low-lying neighborhoods. As a result, it is a minimum 1-mile walk/ride to the nearest thing!

There are two very good seafood restaurants within sight of the boat, but it’s 1.5 miles to reach them as you have to go all the way around.

We took the bikes off the boat in the evening and rode to a restaurant near Walgreens for dinner.

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Day 208- Tuesday, 12/19 – In New Orleans, LA

We pretty much just hung around the boat for most of the day. Brenda put up our Christmas tree, and I did some reading and accounting to prepare for the year’s end. For our boat tree this year, we got a lighted stick tree and hung ornaments we have collected during our trip!

We’ve been looking for stamped metal Christmas ornaments or ornaments with the names of the places we visit instead of just getting random souvenirs. It makes for a great tree!

Boat Christmas Tree
Boat Christmas Tree
Special Ornaments
Special Ornaments

In the evening, we rode the bikes around the flood wall to a restaurant called Sala Nola for dinner.

Day 209- Wednesday, 12/20 – In New Orleans, LA

Wednesday was another lazy day. Brenda worked on her cross stitch. I did some reading and rebuilt a pump we replaced to keep as a spare.

Our friend Dave was flying into New Orleans to visit with his daughter and son-in-law, and we were watching flight aware for his arrival. Just as he was getting close, a Southwest Airlines plane that had just taken off declared an emergency, and they stopped all arrivals until they got back down, so Dave’s plane ended up circling for 30 minutes before they got clearance to land. The Southwest plane landed safely, by the way.

Around and around they go
Around and around they go!

We had some leftovers, so we stayed on the boat for dinner.

Day 210- Thursday, 12/21 – In New Orleans, LA

The New Orleans Parks Department puts on a large light show called Celebration in the Oaks, in the City Park near the Art Museum. There is a walk-through part and a drive-through part. We purchased tickets for the walk-through and made dinner reservations at a restaurant near the park.

Most of the day was spent doing cross-stitch, accounting, and again being lazy.

At 5:00, we called for an Uber and got a ride to Toups Meatery for dinner. We had a great meal and then walked the mile and a half to City Park for the light show.

The light show was just okay. We’ve seen several this season, and this one was our least favorite. The walk-through display is in an area of the park with an arboretum and a tired old amusement park. The lights were different, but lots of them were not working, and it seemed that the event was more of an excuse to get people to go to the amusement park or buy the overpriced hot chocolate and beer.

At $35 each to get in, it was disappointing. That said, we did enjoy walking around. One of the displays was the Cajun Night Before Christmas, with a moving light display and a recording of the story playing. Pretty cute!

The other highlight was that they have a 1/4 scale train that runs on a loop around the park. We took a ride and were able to see the majority of the lights on the driving course.

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When we had our fill, we walked to the edge of the park to get away from most of the traffic and hailed another Uber to return to the marina. This Uber was a Tesla, and the driver had loaded a Santa theme on the Driver Information Screen. Instead of a picture of a Tesla Car, it was Santa’s Sleigh being pulled by reindeer, and the vehicles on the roadside were also reindeer. Pedestrians crossing the road were elves! Oh, and when he turned on the turn signal, instead of a “Click, Click” sound, it was Sleigh Bells. It’s very cute and entertaining. I wonder if I can get something similar for the boat Chart Plotter.

Tesla Santa Screen Theme
Tesla Santa Screen Theme

Day 211- Friday, 12/22 – In New Orleans, LA

Tuesday, we had had enough of sitting on the boat. The weather was nice, so we got an Uber to the French Quarter and spent the day exploring.

We started at Cafe Du Monde with a Beignets breakfast. We then wandered around, visiting the unique shops and looking at the Christmas Decorations. Each time we come, we admire the intricate cast iron railings.

The last time we visited New Orleans, we stopped into a Lamp Shop and ended up buying a six-foot round Tifanny-style lamp for the living room in our South Carolina house! This time, we found a huge Pelican Statue. I thought Brenda was going to want to bring it home! But I got away with just a picture.

We walked along the levee along the Mississippi and watched the Paddle boats and large ships cruise past. We can see why they don’t want Pleasure Boats on the lower Mississippi!

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In the late afternoon, we Ubered back to the boat and relaxed for a while. It was getting cold and the wind was picking up, so we didn’t feel like riding the bikes anywhere for dinner. There is one little restaurant just across the street from the marina called “The Fuel Dock.” That’s just what it is: a fuel dock with a bar and grill attached. If a boat pulls up for fuel, the waitress goes out to pump it, and you wait for your food. The food is basic: pizza, burgers, sandwiches, and they have a good selection of beer. During warmer weather, they open the sides and you can sit outside, so everything is prepared “To Go” in styrofoam containers. No plates!

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Day 212- Saturday, 12/23 – In New Orleans, LA

We thought our friend Dave might visit on Saturday, so we hung around the boat for most of the day. Brenda worked on her cross-stitch and napped. I did some accounting and blog writing and, out of sheer boredom, pulled out my fishing rod and an old hot dog to do some fishing. As is typical in marinas, it’s Catfish—NO Catfish (New Orleans Catfish). Coming from a marina, it’s not something to eat!

 NO Catfish
NO Catfish

Dave’s daughter ended up having to work, so he didn’t make it.

Day 213- Sunday, 12/24 – In New Orleans, LA – Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve, it was rainy and very windy all day. We had 20-knot winds for most of the day, with periods of torrential downpours. We spent the day on the boat relaxing and looking for somewhere for dinner on Christmas Day.

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Day 214- Monday, 12/25 – In New Orleans, LA – Christmas Day

Christmas was another cloudy, windy, rainy day in New Orleans. We opened our Christmas Cards, and exchanged a few gifts.

Our daughter Bethanny called, and we FaceTimed with her while she opened a few gifts we had sent her. We plan to have a proper Christmas with her when we get back to Florida, and she and our Grand Cat Max can visit.

There was a local favorite seafood restaurant within sight of the boat called Landry’s which was open on Christmas Day. While it’s less than a 1/4 mile as the seagull flies, you have to go all the way around the flood wall to get there.

We had 4:30 dinner reservations, and thankfully, the rain had stopped, and it started to clear by that time. We rode the bikes the mile and a half to the restaurant.

I don’t expect much in the way of service on holidays in restaurants. They are usually quite busy and understaffed, and the kitchen is stressed. We were pleasantly surprised with Landry’s! Our waiter was punctual and friendly. The food came out quickly and was very good. We had an excellent Christmas Dinner!

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By the time we finished dinner, it was dark out, and the full moon was setting over the restaurant and the marina. We set the electric bikes to Assist Level 5 for a quick but cold ride back to the boat.




Kiss Some Frogs To Find Your Prince
Thanks for visiting! –Tom & Brenda

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