We get the boat back in the water and head toward Florida!

252 Days Looping
3,867.3 Nautical Miles Total (4,450.4 Statute Miles)
45.3 Nautical Miles This Week
4.0 Hours Underway This Week
11.7 NMph Average Speed
0 Locks This Week, 154 Total Locks

Monday – Dec 16th – 0 NM – In: Mobile, AL
Monday they were still working on the boat finishing up the polishing and the bottom paint. At some point, one of our underwater lights got damaged (probably hit by a floating log while we were at anchor) and we had ordered a replacement and were waiting for that to be installed as well.
When we found that some friends of ours, Kate and Dave on Lee Loo from New Bern, North Carolina who we’ve known for a few years, were at the marina. We’ve been playing tag with them for most of the trip, frequently missing each other by just a day, and had been hoping to catch up with them. In the evening we went back to Wintzell’s Oyster House with them for dinner.

I had the Roasted Oysters, Brenda the Seafood Au Gratin, Kate and Dave had the Salmon special. When we left, the downtown buildings in Mobile were lit up for the holidays! Very Pretty!

Tuesday – Dec 17th – 0 NM – In: Mobile, AL
We were scheduled to have the boat go into the water on Tuesday afternoon. In the morning, we checked out of our hotel and then took a ride to an industrial harbor called the Mobile Middle Bay Harbor that is just south of our marina. As we’ve been crossing the bridge next to the marina, we’d seen a huge crane appear overnight and I wanted to see what it was.

This area is a bunch of dead ends with security gates and guard shacks, but we were able to get close enough to check it out. On one side of the harbor is Core Industries. They specialize in large-scale marine logistics from supplying the oil platforms in the gulf to laying underwater cables and pipelines. The crane was on a huge ship that was lifting massive reels onto another ship. We couldn’t tell what it was but assumed it was either cable or pipeline to take the oil and gas from the platforms to shore.

We went to the marina at 1:00 when they got back from lunch. The cleaning work on the boat had been completed, but they still needed to finish some paint, and the electrician had not arrived to install the light. I decided to install the light myself, and just let the marina take care of sealing it and applying the anti-foul paint. So I spent an hour working on that. Brenda started getting the boat back together and unpacking the laundry that we’d done while at home.

At the end of the day, they were still waiting for one set of the zinc’s that they were replacing. I spoke with the service manager and he said that they were coming from Canada and were delayed with the holiday shipping. Once I knew what he was looking for, I let him know that I had a spare set on the boat. It was late in the day and rather than rush the launch, we decided to just wait until Wednesday to launch the boat. As we’d checked out of our hotel, we found another nearby (Thanks Hotels.com!) and checked in for the night.

Wednesday – Dec 18th – 0 NM – In: Mobile, AL
Wednesday morning when we got to the marina at 9:00, the boat was already in the slings on the lift. They had finished the painting (they have to paint the sections where the stands that hold the boat up while it’s on the land are). While we were waiting for that paint to dry, they used a forklift to put our dinghy back in the water. We haven’t used the dingy since the Hudson River in New York! It started ok but ran really rough, so I spent some time trying to get it to run smooth. I ran out of the gas and got some fresh gasoline and let it run for about 1/2 an hour and it ran better. I’ll still have to get it serviced at some point.

At 11:00 that paint had dried enough and they put the boat back into the water. We checked that there were no leaks, started the engines, and checked to be sure that everything was working ok. We then backed it out of the launch bay and took it for a 1/2 hour sea trial out in the bay. The boat worked great, all of the vibrations that we had been feeling were gone! We were all ready for the next leg of our trip.

When we got back to the marina, we picked a slip that would allow us to get the dinghy back on board. It was low tide, and as we were backing into the slip, we saw on the depth finder that we only had 12 inches of water under the propellers, and we were kicking up a lot of mud. I let it drift back and we stopped well short of the back of the slip. We’d hit bottom! Fortunately, it was soft mud, so we were able to pull the boat back out. We tried going bow in but again, we got into the mud before we got far enough into the slip to tie up.

We moved down closer to the marina entrance where the water was deeper and went bow into another slip. Here we had enough depth even though the bow was resting on the mud when we finally got into the slip. This is a common issue at Dog River marina as the marina has not been dredged in many years. After we got the boat tied up, we checked some of the other boats beside us and a few that were back in were sitting firmly on the bottom at low tide.

We still had a bit of work to be done on Thursday, so we spent the rest of the day making up the bed and spent the night on the boat. In the evening, we got together with Katie and Tim on Pangur Ban and went back to Callaghan’s Irish Social Club for dinner.

Thursday – Dec 19th – 0 NM – In: Mobile, AL
Thursday we had work scheduled and we had to get the boat ready to depart. After breakfast, we started getting the rest of our things organized and Brenda made a provisions list. Around 10:00 the mechanics arrived to do the engine alignment. That took about two hours. We still were waiting for an electronics tech to arrive and checked with the office. They were having their Christmas party at 2:00 and didn’t know if he would make it. We decided to skip that repair as it wasn’t something critical and we could get it done down the road.

We went to Walmart and did our re-provisioning shopping, then back to the boat to put everything away. Around 5:00 we stopped at the office and settled up our bill, then headed out to have some dinner. After dinner, we dropped the rental car off at Enterprise and caught an Uber back to the marina.

Friday – Dec 20th – 45.3 NM – To: Orange Beach, AL
Friday morning we checked in with Lee Loo who was also planning on heading out across Mobile Bay. The winds had been predicted at 3-5 knots, but by morning they were at 10-15 knots so Lee Loo being a small boat decided to stay. The weather on Saturday and Sunday was predicted to be rainy and windy, so as the skies were bright, we decided to go. At 7:45 we pulled away from Dog River Marina and headed out into Mobile Bay.

Mobile Bay is big and wide, but not very deep. You have to be careful to stay in the marked channel as the water gets very shallow very quickly. You have to make a big “Z” to get to the Intracoastal Waterway. You go 5 miles east into the bay, then 20 miles south down the main shipping channel, then 20 miles east again to the ICW. The waves out on the bay were 2 to 4 feet and were quite close together. As the wind was coming from the east, the eastbound legs into the wind were a little bumpy and we had to go a bit slower. The southbound leg was rolly with the waves coming at us from the side. Overall it wasn’t bad, we’d had MUCH worse on Lake Michigan and we made good time.

We went past the Middle Bay Lighthouse and a couple of oil drilling platforms and a large tanker ship as we went down the bay. The last 10 miles of open water things calmed down as we were on the east side of the bay with only 1 to 2-foot waves.

When we reached Oyster Bay, we re-entered the Intracoastal Waterway proper and the water was quite smooth. It was 8 miles from Oyster Bay to The Wharf Marina our destination. Along the ICW there are a number of famous restaurants that we passed. We also saw Pura Vida III up on the hard at Saunders Boat Yard being repaired. It wasn’t just us! We arrived at The Wharf just before noon. Our plan is to spend at least 2-3 days depending on weather and may stay through Christmas. The Wharf is a large resort/shopping/condo complex. It has several large condo developments, a hotel, an outdoor shopping mall, cinemas, many restaurants, an 8 station zip line, a Ferris wheel, and a large marina! Quite the place!

We had a good reunion with Pura Vida III and R-Pad when we arrived. They had been here for about 2 weeks waiting for the weather. After settling in, we spent the afternoon decorating the boat for Christmas. As we’ve been traveling, we have been collecting brass and pewter Christmas ornaments from places that we’ve visited. We used these to decorate our little tree!

As the sun started to set, we heard a very loud group of birds and looked out. They had settled in for the night on the sailboats across the dock from us. Glad they didn’t find OUR boat attractive!

In the evening we got together with Chris & Angela from Pura Vida III and Connie & Tom from R-Pad for dinner at a Taco restaurant in the complex.

Saturday – Dec 21st – 0 NM – In: Orange Beach, AL
About midnight we heard the rain start. It rained pretty hard overnight and was still raining when we got up. It rained all day and we spent the majority of the day on the boat working on the blog and reading. Around 1:30 the rain slowed to a light drizzle so we walked up to the main street and had some lunch, then wandered around the shops. It started raining harder again, so we went back to the boat and just relaxed for most of the afternoon.

We’ve been watching the weather closely as our next big boating event is crossing the Gulf of Mexico. Because you are offshore for 170 miles which for us will be 10-12 hours, you need a very good weather window. There are several weather services that track the weather patterns in the gulf and publish predictions and recommendations to go or no go. Earlier in the week, they had predicted a good crossing window for the 24th-25th. Good crossing weather means waves under 2 feet with a long period (spacing) between the waves. We had planned to stay at The Wharf for two or three nights, then move to Carrabelle to be in position for a Christmas Eve or Day crossing. When we looked at the report this morning, that window deteriorated. They were now predicting 4.5 to 10 ft waves along the route! That’s a no-go! Later in the week from the 28th to the 30th, they are predicting 1.5 to 3.5 feet along the route, which is doable, but not ideal by far. We are going to be here until at least Tuesday and keep an eye on the weather. We need 2-3 days to get to Carrabelle Florida where most boats leave for the crossing to Clearwater. Time will tell!

Sunday – Dec 22nd – 0 NM – In: Orange Beach, AL
Sunday it poured rain all day. We hung around the boat until noon, then we went to the Movie Theatre here at the marina complex and saw “Knives Out” a dark comedy murder mystery. The movie was excellent!

After the movie, we went back to the boat until 6:00 when we got together with Connie & Tom from R-Pad and K.C. and Scott from Jet Stream for dinner.

NEXT WEEK: Christmas in Alabama and waiting for a weather window!

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

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