Thanksgiving and Sightseeing around Mobile AL

231 Days Looping
3,822.0 Nautical Miles Total (4,398.3 Statute Miles)
0.0 Nautical Miles This Week
0.0 Hours Underway This Week
0.0 NMph Average Speed
0 Locks This Week, 154 Total Locks

Monday – Nov 25th – 0 NM – In: Mobile, AL
We are staying in Mobile Alabama for a few weeks. Now that we are out of the rivers and back into saltwater, there are some maintenance items on the boat that we want to get done.

First, we need to get our prop’s rebalanced. When we had the props done at the “Mega Prop Shop” it was done in a rush and while they were okay, there is still a vibration at higher RPMs. Also, we tapped something coming under a bridge on the Tombigbee waterway and that increased the vibration slightly. It seems it’s always the Portside that gets the abuse! We are also going to have the cutlass bearings (in the supports for the props) replaced. We were going to do them in Canada when we had the prop shaft work done, but we could not get the parts in time. After the bearings are replaced, the propellers are back on and the boat is in the water, they will also do a propeller shaft alignment to make sure the engines align with the shafts.

Second, since they have to pull the boat out of the water to take off the props, and we are going to be in saltwater again with all of its creepy crawlies, I want to have the bottom paint touched up where it has flaked or worn off in places, and then a fresh topcoat.

Also, after over 4,000 miles and 300 days underway, the boat is pretty dirty. It’s been too cold to do much washing so now that we are in a warm area, we’re going to have the boat detailed. A good wash, buff, and wax. Washing the boat is something that I enjoy doing, but a buff and wax is best done by someone with experience so that it doesn’t put swirl marks in the paint.

Finally, we’ve been having a bit of an issue with our radios. Pura Vida III the boat we’ve been traveling with has pretty much the same equipment as we do, and they are getting about twice the range on the VHF and AIS communication. The marina has an electronics guy, so we’re going to have him take a look at it. Also, our second radio at the lower helm has never worked quite right, and sometime in the last week, the microphone cut out completely, so I ordered a replacement for that.

This week is Thanksgiving week so nothing will happen this week. The marina says they will pull the boat out of the water on Monday or Tuesday of next week. Once the boat is out, Brenda and I will go home to South Carolina for a week for some doctor and hair appointments and to do some winter preparations at the house. For Thanksgiving week, we stayed around Mobile to do some sightseeing. Here is a map of the Mobile Bay area with some of our stops highlighted.

Map of Mobile Bay

In the morning we went to Enterprise and picked up a rental car as we plan to drive home and wanted some way to get around and do some sightseeing in Mobile. In the afternoon, we met with the maria maintenance staff and went over the work we wanted to be done. They had the opportunity to move some boats around, so we were able to move out from under the cover, and to an open slip where we could put the mast back up. In the evening we had dock-tails at the marina. This was one of the larger gatherings that we’d had as there were a lot of Looper boats here for the holiday.

After the docktails, we went with Dalton and Jean from Easy Living to Callaghan’s Irish Pub for dinner where Chris and Angela from Pura Vida III joined us.

Tuesday – Nov 26th – 0 NM – In: Mobile, AL
There are two marinas next to each other, Dog River and Turner’s. Each year Turner’s puts on a big Thanksgiving potluck dinner on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and invites all of the boaters from both marinas to participate. Brenda decided to bring some sausage stuffing, gravy, and a batch of her Blondies. So Tuesday we headed out to Walmart to brave the crowds and get the supplies she would need.

In the afternoon she did some prep work and my new backup radio arrived from Amazon, so I installed that. For the rest of the day we pretty much just did stuff around the boat. Ever since we arrived, there have been three or four new Loopers arriving at one or the other of the marinas so we spent a fair part of the day catching up with old friends and meeting a few new ones.

Because we were going home and the boat would be out of the water (and probably would not have power) we had to use up as much food on the boat as we could, so we had dinner on the boat.

Wednesday – Nov 27th – 0 NM – In: Mobile, AL
Wednesday morning Brenda spent the morning cooking. I ran out for some last-minute groceries and tried to stay out of her way. At 12:30 we walked next door to Turner’s for the Thanksgiving lunch.

It was quite a spread. Turners cooks two deep-fried turkeys and one roast turkey, and there must have been over 50 boats who each brought one or two side dishes and desserts. There was MORE than enough food! I’d guess that there were over 100 people there. We had a great lunch chatting with everyone and eating way too much!

We spent the rest of the day around the marina, working on the blog and visiting with other boaters. The marina was closing down for the rest of the week, so we took the boat over to the fuel dock and got a pump-out as our tanks were getting full. In the evening, we were not that hungry, so we just had snacks on the boat again.

Thursday – Nov 28th – 0 NM – In: Mobile, AL
On Thanksgiving Day we had made dinner reservations at The Grand Hotel in Point Clear, AL on the other side of Mobile Bay. Our dinner reservation was for 5:45 PM so we decided to leave early take our time, stop, and do some sightseeing and make a day of it.

We started by going to the Convention Center in downtown mobile. This is where the reproductions of the Nina and Pinta of Christopher Columbus fame were docked. (I’m not sure what happened to the Santa Maria). There was a geocache here and we wanted to do our first cache in Alabama. We parked and walked to the riverfront park. There were some interesting sculptures including one called “Portal” that we took pictures of passing tugs through. We were also able to get some good shots of the Navy vessels across the river.

From there we drove through the tunnel to the other side of Mobile Bay and stopped at Battleship Memorial Park. This park has a collection of ships, submarines, planes, helicopters, tanks, and cannons! The main feature of the park is the USS Alabama, a Dakota-class battleship, and the USS Drum, a Gato-class submarine. We walked around the park looking at the planes, the two largest being a B-52 and an SR-71 Blackbird Spy Plane. We walked around the park looking at the ships and planes, we decided not to take the tour as we’ve visited a battleship and sub already on the trip.

From there we drove to the tip of Mobile Point which is a spit of land that forms the east end of Mobile Bay. The entrance to Mobile Bay is narrow, on the west side is Dauphin Island, and on the east is Mobile Point and Fort Morgan. These are two long narrow spits of land that enclose the end of the bay. It was interesting driving out, the spit is about 5 miles long, but less than 1/4 mile wide and mostly sand. I can imagine it disappearing if this area got hit with a big hurricane. The other thing that we saw was that the area on both sides, in the bay and in the Gulf of Mexico, had oil drilling platforms. In South Carolina, they are trying to get permission to drill offshore. After seeing what an eyesore they are, I’m re-affirming my NO DRILLING vote!

Fort Morgan was first established by the Spanish when they found Mobile Bay and played a major role in both the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Because it was Thanksgiving the fort was closed, but we did get to walk along the beach at the end of the point. There is also a ferry service that runs from Fort Morgan to Dauphin Island across the entrance to the bay.

It was getting toward 4:00 so we turned around and headed back down the point and up to Point Clear and The Grand Hotel. We got there just before sunset, took a walk around the waterfront at the hotel, and watched the amazing sunset across Mobile Bay. The Grand Hotel is a historic hotel that was originally opened in 1847. It has been used as a military staging site and hospital during the Civil War and was a training site during World War II. Like many of the grand old hotels, it’s seen its hard times, including fire and an explosion of a steamship at the hotel dock. In 1981 Marriott purchased the hotel and has been renovating and expanding it. In 2018 they finished a major renovation that returned the property to its “Grand Hotel” status with 405 rooms, eight dining rooms and bars, two 18 hole golf courses, a 20,000 square foot spa, tennis courts, and a marina. Quite the resort!

Once the sun was down, we went inside for our dinner reservation. We had dinner in the Grill restaurant, I was prepared for an “okay” meal given that it was Thanksgiving and they were fully booked, you can never judge a place by the service and food on a major holiday like Thanksgiving or Mothers Day, at many, you are just lucky to get fed! The Grand Hotel however far exceeded our expectations! The service was excellent! The Turkey Dinner with all the fixings including oyster stuffing was phenomenal and arrived hot and timely. The pecan pie dessert was also excellent!

After dinner we had about an hour’s drive back to the marina, as we passed through Fairhope, we stopped to take a picture of the Christmas lights lining the main street.

Friday – Nov 29th – 0 NM – In: Mobile, AL
Friday was a beautiful day so we decided to go to the OTHER side of the bay entrance to Dauphin Island. Dauphin Island is just a little barrier island connected to the mainland by a long bridge and causeway. The island itself is 14 miles long, however, the developed part is only 7 miles on the eastern end. The western 7 miles, is just a narrow beach about 1000 feet wide with the Gulf on one side and Mobile Bay on the other. (See map above)

We started our tour by driving to where the road ends on the west side, then walking along the beach for a bit (no we didn’t walk the entire 7 miles). We got a good view of the bridge/causeway we came over on and the oil platforms just offshore.

From there we drove to the Eastern end of the island to Fort Gaines which faces Fort Morgan that we had visited yesterday on the other side of the entrance to Mobile Bay. Fort Gaines was open for tours so we went in and did the self-guided tour walking through the restored buildings, watched a cannon fire demonstration, walked through the underground passages used to move ammunition and the museum. From the top of the walls of the fort, you got a great view of the Gulf and the entrance to Mobile Bay. Fort Gaines and the battle of Mobile Bay is where Admiral Farragut made the famous quote “Damn the torpedoes… Full speed ahead!”.

As we were finishing up our tour, we saw a familiar boat coming down the channel to the island, it was our friends on R-Pad! We called them on the phone and waved to them as they went past. They were headed to the marina on Dauphin Island for the night.

We finished up our tour of Fort Gaines and drove back into the little town at the end of the causeway for some lunch. We passed some houses that were built to take advantage of the narrow shoreline and decided on the Sunset Grill which had a deck with great views of the causeway and harbor.

After lunch, we walked through the few shops open so late in the season. As we were leaving one, we met Tom and Connie from R-Pad who were on their bikes headed down toward the Fort for a tour, and chatted with them for a bit. Then we headed back to the marina. When we arrived, there were a bunch of cars and trucks parked in front of our boat and a bunch of people just down the dock so we went down to see what was going on. The shrimp boat had just come in from a day of shrimping, and there were a bunch of people there buying the catch right off the boat.

In the evening we got together with Katie and Tim from Pangur Ban and went into Mobile to Wintzell’s Oyster House for raw oysters and an excellent dinner.

Saturday – Nov 30th – 0 NM – In: Mobile, AL
For Saturday evening we had tickets for a Christmas lights exhibition at a historic garden and house. Those of you from South Carolina will know the Night of 1000 Candles at Brookgreen Gardens, it’s similar to that. We didn’t have much to do around the boat, so we took a ride back to the other side of the bay to Underwood Pecan Farm and got some fresh pecans. This is the harvest season and it was interesting to see that they use a machine to crack the shells, but the actual extraction of the pecans is all done by hand!

We had been seeing a VERY small Walgreens Pharmacy just down the street from the marina. Brenda is still “collecting” pharmacies so on our way back from the pecan farm we stopped so she could take a look. It’s the first Walgreens that we’ve seen that’s pretty much just a pharmacy. It’s similar to the pharmacies that we saw in Canada where they only stock a very minimal amount of OTC items.

In the evening we went to Bellingrath Gardens and Home. Walter Bellingrath purchased an old fish camp in 1917. His wife Bessie loved the land (all 900 acres) and worked with an architect to develop an arboretum and gardens on the land. Walter purchased one of the first Coca-Cola franchises in 1903 for $1500, and made his money selling Coke! Friends told him that it was a bad investment because people would not drink soft drinks when it was cold. He is credited with developing the Santa with a Coke advertising campaign as “if a child asks for something their parents will purchase it and almost everyone has a nickel.” (the cost of coke in the 1920s). Needless to say, he made millions! Unfortunately, his wife became sick and passed only 5 years after they moved to the property. He never remarried and had no children, so in his later years, he established a foundation to open the gardens and house to the public. The house is conservative, tucked into the trees. It is 10,000 square feet and has the original fittings and furnishings from the 1940s. They decorate the house for Christmas and it’s beautiful!

Bessie also collected porcelain figurines and there are display cases throughout the house. She commissioned a number of pieces by a famous porcelain sculptor Edward Bohem, and there is now a gallery on the property that holds the largest public display of his work. The detail in the birds and flowers was amazing!

The gardens are decorated for Christmas with many lights. It takes about 2 hours to walk through the grounds and see all of the Christmas displays. We’ll let the photos speak for themselves!

Sunday – Dec 1st – 0 NM – In: Mobile, AL
We love visiting gardens and we were impressed with the nighttime view of Bellingrath so we decided to go back during the day. We spent the morning getting ready for our trip home. We went through the boat from stem to stern and pulled out all of the things that we thought we’d need but have never used, and also packed up our extra winter clothes (we hope we won’t need them anymore!).

In the afternoon we went back to Bellingrath and spent the day walking around the gardens. There has been some cold weather there so many of the roses had been touched by the cold, but the camellias and mums were in full bloom and beautiful! We toured the greenhouse, the marsh boardwalk, boat dock, and Japanese garden, most of which had been closed during the night hours.

Again, we’ll let the photos speak for themselves!

NEXT WEEK: Boat haulout and heading home to South Carolina for the week.

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

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