Monday, December 31, 2007

"Crossing our wake" (and Happy New Year!)

Hello all:
Today is an auspicious day for us: we are "closing the Loop," or "crossing our wake," or in non-Loopers parlance, we have now completed the Great Loop around the eastern half of the United States in our beloved Winnie W.

Looking north on the Matanzas River, the town of St. Augustine and the Hwy 312 bridge is just coming into sight. Under the bridge & to the left is the San Sebastian River.

When we bought the Winnie W. in 2002, she was docked in a marina on the San Sebastian River in St. Augustine. We immediately brought her back to North Carolina; now, in 2007, we have proceeded counter-clockwise from our home port in North Carolina up the east coast, through New York state, across Canada, through the Great Lakes and inland rivers, and around Florida to where we started this journey in 2002.

Crossing our wake as we enter the San Sebastian River, passing Marker #1... Hooray!

So tonight we will toast the Winnie W, ourselves, and our family and friends as we bring in 2008 in St. Augustine, where the Winnie W became part of our family and we embarked on this great journey.
Best wishes for 2008! Kathie and Doug (and Hank)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Few More Days Northward on the Florida ICW

Hello all-
Despite going the "wrong way," we are making progress. A day's travel by cruising tugboat equals about an hour's drive by car, so by most standards our progress is slow.

Here is what we like... red markers on one side, green markers on the other, with a clear & easy channel in between. This is the IntraCoastal Waterway channel in the Indian River just north of Fort Pierce FL.

From the Okeechobee Waterway along the St. Lucie River, we entered the Indian River. This is really more of a sound or bay. It runs over 100 miles north to south, past Fort Pierce, Melbourne, and passes west of Cape Canaveral. North of Titusville there is a 1 mile canal connecting to the next inland bay or sound, romantically named Mosquito Lagoon.

Here is what we don't like... shallow water & sand bars! As always, never drive your boat where birds are standing.
We have seen a lot of dolphins (porpoises), but not been able to get any good pictures of them.

We thought this was the shuttle going up, but it wasn't. The U.S. space program is one of our most incredible national accomplishments, but nowadays a rocket launch is ho-hum to most people.

Either this cruiser wanted to scrub his hull, or he did not fare so well anchoring near the islands.

These island are all "spoil banks," which means they are piles of sand, mud, & rock dredged from the channel. Without dredging, the coastal sounds & estuaries would not be deep enough for practical navigation. And the islands are kind of cool! (link to GoogleMap)

Like much of the southern U.S. coast, Florida has a chain of sandy barrier islands between the open Atlantic and the mainland. These provide nice sheltered waters and a great aquatic environment... although the nation averages about 40% of the original wetlands remaining (link). Some states have lost more than 90% but Florida has kept about half.

Here's is Hank going ashore on his personal spoil bank island for an early morning walk. Some of the tree stumps are driftwood, while others grew there and have been undercut by erosion.

Florida's east coast is more developed than the west, and for most of the ICW we are within sight of waterfront houses, parks, & hi-rises. Boat traffic is pretty heavy, especially on the weekends.

This is the Haulover Canal, between the Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon. This photo w
as taken on a drizzly day with a chilly nor'easter blowing 20+ mph.

There have actually been two Haulover Canals, and the place was called "the haulover" long before there was a canal! (link to local history site)

The Winnie W. spent several days at the New Smyrna Beach City Marina, a great stop.... more details later!

Best wishes- Doug & Kathie

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hooray! North on the ICW (wrong way?)

Hello all-
Well, we have not "closed the Loop" or "crossed our wake," as is said of people completing the Great Loop cruise. Technically, the Winnie W. will cross her wake at St. Augustine, Florida since we bought her there and brought her up the ICW to North Carolina ourselves; however we have to take her home anyway so we will obviously continue! Today we made it to (and past) Mile 0 (zero) of the Okeechobee Waterway; we're now on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, so we're celebrating.

Here is a crane waiting for breakfast on a chilly morning. He is all grumpy and huddled up, trying to keep warm. The waterways of southern Florida are great for bird-watching; you not only get to see a lot of different species but you get to see them act differently.

We're on the home stretch, more than 5/6ths done with the Great Loop. We've transited all the locks on our route. Not only that, but we are in relatively familiar waters for the first time since last May.

However the Winnie W is in the odd position of heading north for the winter. Everybody we meet tells us we're going the Wrong Way! Doug always replies, "Not really, straight down is the only Wrong Way."

Kathie's cousin Andy visited us along the shores of Lake Okeechobee. He lives in the port of Miami, which the Winnie W. will unfortunately skip on our route. It was too windy to cross the Lake but the weather was perfect for an afternoon visit!

Leaving Moore Haven, we exited the canal into Lake Okeechobee itself. This is the central component of a vast water system that once fed the Everglades, and now provides irrigation & drinking water for much of southern Florida. The lake is 30 miles across but very shallow (about 11' at it's deepest part), and after a long drought there have been serious questions about navigation.

This photo is looking down the channel from the lake towards Clewiston. The rock lining the edge of the channel is natural; much of the lake floor is rocky & very unfriendly to boat hulls & propellers. The Army Corps of Engineers makes water level info available so that boaters can judge whether it is safe to pass thru these channels; the Winnie W. made it with about 6 inches to spare (lowest depth4.5 feet). (link to Kathie's report)

After several hours, we reached the eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee and re-entered the canal system. The Port Mayaca lock was the 2nd to the last lock that we would encounter on our whole Loop, and the only one (of all) that opened both gates at once for us to drive right thru.

This photo shows the view right thru both sets of gates of the Port Mayaca lock as Winnie W. approaches from the west, coming in from the open lake. Unfortunately we did not get a picture of the large iguana that was sunning himself on the lock fendering.

During our Tuesday run, we saw one iguana and 3 alligators. We never doubted there are alligators present; for one thing, Doug lived in Florida for a few years and has seen many of them before. However it is difficult to pilot the boat safely, spot alligators, and also take pictures!

Here's the one alligator, medium sized, that Kathie was able to catch with the camera.

The folks who live here have told us that they see large alligators.... 10' (3.1m) +... all the time, swimming in the creeks & ponds... one lady said she had a 14' (4.3m) alligator sunning himself on her carport one day!

Here's an alligator tip- NEVER feed an alligator! It seems very obvious, but apparently it's a growing problem. These critters are basically leftovers from the dinosaur age, and they can be very dangerous. In the wild, they are timid of humans, but only one feeding can teach them people = food!

Here's another common problem in Florida- wrecked & derelict boats. They are expensive to dispose of and an environmental hazard.

Despite all the hazards & problems, Hank has a great time. We don't let him swim here, but we can still play fetch in the park.

Here's a photo of Hank protecting his toy from alligators, and Doug keeping Hank away from the canal. Dogs are great for sharing life's simple pleasures... Kathie says that Hank has such a good day, every day, that we can't really do much more to make birthdays & for Christmas more special.

Today we are in Fort Pierce, then heading north up the East Coast Intra-Coastal Waterway... it's warm enough that we've run the air conditioner a few afternoons... it'll get colder! Still, it feels like we are almost home!

Best wishes and Happy Holidays to you all- Doug & Kathie

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Turning The Corner- South to East

Hello all-
The Winnie W. has turned the southernmost corner on our Great Loop cruise. Traveling down the Gulf IntraCoastal Waterway on the west coast of Florida, we passed Sanibel Island and turned left (east) toward Cape Coral . As you can see on the map, this is not quite as simple as negotiating a cloverleaf on the highway. For one thing, there are strong tidal currents in San Carlos Bay and across the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River. Many boaters are swept by the current out of the channel & have some trouble in the shallows.

Birds of a feather do in fact flock together. Pelicans calmly sitting along bridge fendering... probably waiting for the next fishing boat.

The Caloosahatchee River forms part of the waterway across southern Florida via Lake Okeechobee. There are several sets of locks, although the overall rise & fall is not large. Franklin Lock was our first on this waterway, and its total lift was only a foot or two. However it keeps the tidal & salty estuary waters out of the fresh water system. The Lake Okeechobee basin provides irrigation & drinking water for most of southern Florida. This is why the Everglades is drying up, although the record drought hasn't helped.

Shortly after we 'rounded the corner at Cape Coral, we met up with our friends Wayne & Diane. To save trouble of explaining how to navigate in his neighborhood, Wayne simply drove out in their runabout to meet us... this is the first time the Winnie W. has had an escort!

Shortly after this photo was taken, we had the heaviest rainfall this area has had in a year. It was badly needed so we didn't mind.

After a great visit, we headed further up the river. Passing the city of Fort Myers, we couldn't help but comment on this classic bit of Florida architecture. To be fair, it should be noted that the buildings on the left aren't finished yet.

Continuing up the Caloosahatchee River, we visited with Jerry & Rosalie, who own an orange grove. They cruised the Great Loop earlier this year, completing the trip last month in time to begin harvesting. They were also very glad for the rain!

Jerry, Garrett, Doug, & Hank in the orange grove. We picked a few bushels of oranges, although Hank didn't really help much. This picture does not do justice to the bright color of the oranges or how thickly they grow... some trees seemed to have just as many oranges as leaves!

Here is a cute cruising boat. It could be the Winnie W.'s little sister.

Locks on the Okeechobee Waterway are a little different. Instead of a system of valves & conduits, they just open the lock doors a little and let the water pour through. The rise & fall of the water level is always 6' or less. Part of the reason for these locks & dams is to protect the drainage & irrigation canals from hurricanes.

After traversing our third set of locks & dams on the Caloosahatchee River & Canal, which forms the western part of the Okeechobee Waterway, we arrived in the "mountain region" of central south Florida.

This system of canals was begun in the 1850s, chiefly for drainage of the marsh for use as farmland.

Here is Kathie's cousin Andy trying out the famous dinghy. It was a chilly & windy day but we rowed most of the way to the next lock, along the waterfront of Moore Haven. Hank watched anxiously, as he considers the dinghy to be *his* sports car.

Tomorrow we plan to continue across Lake Okeechobee itself, maybe through a couple more locks. We are about 900 waterway miles from home and starting to get the itch to finish the Loop!
Our best to you all, Doug and Kathie

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tampa Bay Skyway and Southward Bound

Hello all-
OK here we go traveling further down the Gulf coast of Florida! We've had a more relaxed schedule, hanging around Clearwater for a few days. Loopers from various boats and hailing ports were there with us.

Here are fellow Loop cruisers Claire & Chuck
(Odyssee), and Al & Marilyn (Siris). They
left in company the morning before we did.

The Winnie W. left Clearwater and headed into the open Gulf rather than down the GICW. We reasoned that it was a calm day (and it remained calm) and we could make better time, plus we had already seen the sights. This route brought us back in at the entrance to Tampa Bay with the tidal current helping us along. The route was slightly longer but we did not have to wait for bridges, slow for manatee/no wake zones, and we probably gained about an hour.

You can see the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in distance, behind the island. The freighter MOBILE heads out to sea as the Winnie W. enters Tampa Bay via Egmont Pass.

From here, we turned right (south) behind Egmont Key and into the GICW to Longboat Key.

Bob & Sue on Tom-Kat also left Clearwater and reached their wintering-over destination on the Manatee River, near Bradenton. This is their winter home because Sue's sister has wintered here for years! They all drove (by car) over to Longboat Key and treated us to a great seafood dinner. We have had a great time cruising in company with Tom-Kat and it is sad to say farewell (for now) to them.

Here is where we stayed (link to Google Map).

Bob & Sue, Doris Jean & Bill; in the background you can see Moore's Stone Crab Restaurant where we all feasted.

The west coast of Florida is low & sandy; before it was developed it was all marsh & mangrove. The GICW channels are artificially dredged, although the churning propellors of constant traffic also help keep them open. Cruisers have to navigate carefully to avoid the shallows.

This photo is looking back at a sandbar along the north edge of Sarasota Bay, with mangroves down to the water's edge. At right you can see the heavily built-up mainland.

There are lots & lots & lots of boats here in Florida. Everyone says "Don't try to make any miles on the week-end" but we saw plenty of traffic on a sunny Wednesday... kayaks, jetskis, pontoon boats, center-consoles... lots of people fishing. The traffic, combined with the narrow channels, tidal current, and bridges, makes for a challenging day for the cruising skipper.

Sunset over the beach-front skyscrapers, with
a pelican seeming to muse on another day... or
perhaps planning ahead for tomorrow.

Hope you all are well & happy-
Doug & Kathie

Monday, December 10, 2007

Crossing The "Big Bend" + Answering Some Questions

Hello all-
First, let's talk about crossing 140+ (nautical) miles of the Gulf of Mexico... mostly at night. There are several problems, foremost of which is deciding when the weather forecast is suitable to go ahead. Then there is the chance of hitting something along the way, especially when your boat's cruising speed necessitates a night crossing. There is commercial traffic, and yes, there are crab pots and fishing nets for much of the way across.

This past Saturday (12-7), as we traveled down the Gulf IntraCoastal Waterway with our friends Bob & Sue on Tom-Kat (link to Tom-Kat's blog entry for that day), we listened intently to weather reports around the Gulf region. We also checked several internet web sites including two with live data from NOAA buoys (link) and a Navy wave height model (link) and another NOAA wave height & direction prediction model (link) (note: for some reason, these maps are upside-down).

Here's Sue & Bob waving good-bye as we depart the Moorings dock at Carrabelle.

The day was rather calm, with a building high pressure system and light winds around the north-eastern perimeter of the Gulf. It looked like a great "weather window" but the forecasts were that it would not be as good for at least a week... winds were predicted to build within 36 hours, a cold front was coming (which usually bring rough weather), etc etc.

Photo at right shows the mast of a vessel sunk in the West Pass between Dog & St. George Islands.

So the Winnie W. made just a brief touch-and-go at the Moorings Marina in Carrabelle, which we regret because it's such a great place.... and the weather was relatively kind to Kathie & I as we took turns napping & driving the boat for 22 hours straight. We had to dodge some other boats, judging by radar & visible light, we also dodged one unlit obstacle that looked very big & solid on radar, and we had a few narrow scrapes with crab pots (this doesn't sound like much, but the lines can get tangled in the propeller... BIG problem). No rough waves, either! In fact the weather was so kind to us that it was flat calm for the last 1/3 of the trip.

This photo shows dawn on the open Gulf, a cheerful sight after many hours of tense darkness!

Winnie W. arrived in Clearwater Beach at about 3:30 on Sunday (12-8) afternoon. We were ready for a shower, a pizza, and a good nights sleep. We didn't get the pizza, instead we took another nap and went out to dinner at Frenchy's with fellow Great Loop cruisers Chuck & Claire from Odyssee (link to their blogspot).

Finally, here's Clearwater Pass. We go under the bridge and take a left to the Municipal Marina!

We've had a number of questions from people, by comment on this blog or by e-mail. The first answer is "thank you all so much for letting us know you're watching;" it really means a lot to the crew of the Winnie W. to know that you care!

Answers to questions:
Among the bigger jobs we did to get ready for "serious cruising" was to install a bow thruster. (link to Webshots photo series) This was a pain in the neck, more ways than one. It really gave Doug a nervous attack to saw a pizza-sized hole in the bow of our boat! Then it was also troublesome to get the components aligned properly and to stay that way while the fiberglass resin hardened. Finally, the wiring components (300-amp DC breaker, plus key parts of the controls) are not available off the shelf. The breaker was first installed using a much lower rated breaker than needed, which tripped instantly and kept us from using the bow thruster for a month or so, until the real breaker arrived. Next, the control circuitry seemed erratic and the indicator light kept burning out after a very short use. With some diagnostic help from friend and electrical expert Ron M, and a real he-man indicator light supplied by friend Jeff D, the bow thruster has worked perfectly ever since. It is not necessary, but it's quite a nice helper to make smooth dockings and to maneuver into locks.

We have had to fix a few things along the way, like replacing the raw water impeller which is really minor and needs to be done every so often anyway, rebuilding/replacing the alternator (link to blog entry), and the genset coolant pump (link to blog entry); but the Winnie W. has had only two real problems: batteries & engine cooling.

The engine is not boiling over, just running about 5~10 degrees warmer than it should. This is actually better, for a diesel, than running 5 degrees too cool; however Doug is futzing with the cooling system every time we take a lay day. He replaced the thermostat, which is a 3600 hour maintenance item anyway, in Dog River near Mobile. He has also flushed both raw water & coolant circuits, thoroughly cleaned the heat exchanger, and a few other things which should definitely have fixed the problem.

Here is the Winnie W's genset. It has been
moved off it's normal mount in order to
work on otherwise-inaccessible plumbing.

Batteries are a big concern for any cruiser. They are the power source for all times when not tied up at the dock... i.e., all the time when *really* cruising! The batteries get charged by either the engine alternator, or by a separate generator... if the boat has one, which Winnie W. does. We installed 3 new Interstate SHM-29 batteries for the "house bank" which should provide more than twice as much power as we consume for lights, refrigerator, etc, in a 12-hour period. We've replaced these batteries under warranty 3 times along the way, which is time-consuming & troublesome. Doug is not satisfied that they are performing up to spec, but they are doing well enough that we can continue to anchor out.

Common Problems we have NOT had- fuel filters clogging, engine boiling over, transmission blowing up, banging propellor into rocks/logs/etc; electric fires or wiring snafus, pirates, scurvy, mutiny. Just lucky!

Here is the Winnie W's beautiful propeller; looks like a piece of jewelry, doesn't it?

One more question we are often asked: "What has been your favorite part of the trip?" This is a toughie. About 90% of the places we've seen have been our 'favorite' and they are so different it's impossible to really compare them. We loved visiting Wolfe Island in Lake Ontario, and that's probably Hank's favorite stop so far. The North Channel of Lake Huron lived up to it's reputation for beauty. Joliet Illinois was a pleasant surprise; previously I connected that name with the Federal prison (long since closed) but the town is very friendly and a fun stop. The Tennessee River had much to offer and a kinder, gentler cruising atmosphere. The Gulf is rather similar to our familiar Southeast coastal waters, but with deeper channels and more big-city places to stop (hello, seafood restaurants!). How could we pick a favorite?!?

Best wishes to all- Doug & Kathie

Cruising Thru the Florida Panhandle

Hello all-
We have loved the Gulf Intra Coastal Waterway, with its mellow tides, deeper channels, and mix of sheltered waters & wide-open bays. This map shows our route thru the panhandle to Carrabelle, where we jumped off to cross the open Gulf of Mexico to the western Florida coast (more on this later). From Dog River on the western side of Mobile Bay, we went to the Fort McRae anchorage just west of Pensacola, then the eastern side of Choctawatchee Bay, and from there to an anchorage in a little creek just east of St. Andrews Sound at Panama City, and from Upper Wetappo Creek we made it to Carrabelle just before dusk on Saturday (12-7) night.

If this doesn't seem like fast progress to you, then let us assure you that averaging 70 miles on short winter days in a 7-knot boat is a full day's work!

This first photo is Hank enjoying a morning ashore on the island just north of the Fort McRae anchorage (link to Google Map). This is a beautiful spot, with two islands to explore, and is both perfectly sheltered and has good holding ground... firm sand, our anchor loved it... and the channel is deep & easy to find one's way in from the west. This is a totally five-star stop and the only reason we're not trying to keep it a secret is that it's already in all the cruising guides!

This next bit of scenery comes from the channel passing Fort Walton Beach. This wrecked sailboat is on a sandbar just outside the marked GICW channel; we don't know if it's a remnant from a hurricane or a derelict that was abandoned for somebody else to clean up (this is a common problem in Florida).

This photo is of our next anchorage in Choctawhatchee Bay (link to Google Map), just west of the causeway supporting the Hwy 331 bridge. This was not a choice cruising anchorage, but it did provide shelter from the predicted easterly wind (which did arrive about midnight; so the weather forecasters have our sincere thanks), and we took Hank for a walk on the causeway. There is constant commercial traffic, this tow passed our companions on Tom-Kat (link to Tom-Kat's web site) at dusk and several more went by in the night with bright, bright searchlights glaring.

The next part of this voyage took us thru a long, steep-sided canal far inland. This is commonly referred to as "The Canyon" by towboat captains; it's narrow enough that communications by VHF radio with any nearby vessels are needed to arrange safe meeting or passing. It is also tidal and we had an unfavorable current much of the way.

As we passed thru St. Andrews Sound near Panama City, the excitement for today was the arrival of a brand-new Navy ship, the USS Mesa Verde (link). As you can see, we kept well clear of the security zone around the vessel. She is an impressive addition to our U.S. fleet, and we hope that all her future voyages are successful & safe.

Our last two photos show what the scenery is like along this stretch of the Great Loop. Florida has a lot of swampy places and lowland forest, laced with creeks & marshes. We have not seen any alligators yet, but when we take Hank ashore in places like this, we do NOT want to see any!

Our last Panhandle anchorage (link to Google Map) was in a place that looked very much like this last photo, with a fringe of tidal marsh. We were very careful to scout the area and to make lots of loud noise as we went ashore; however Hank was uncharacteristically hesitant to go. In fact he seemed timid, and we wondered if his canine senses told him it was a hostile environment.

From here it was a day's run past Apalachicola to the small town of Carrabelle, where many cruisers get ready to cross the upper-eastern (140+ miles) part of the Gulf of Mexico. This is often called the "Big Bend" of Florida and there is no sheltered waterway. Weather is critically important here!

We don't want to keep anybody in suspense; we made our crossing in relatively calm conditions, arriving safely in Clearwater on Sunday (12-8).

Hope you all are well & happy-
Doug & Kathie

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

East bound on the Gulf Intra Coastal Water Way

Hello all-
Today we made good progress on this part of the Great Loop. We left Dog River early in the morning. The first leg of today's journey went 35 miles from Dog River, on the middle left (west) shore of Mobile Bay to the bottom right (south and east) corner of Mobile Bay, where we officially joined the Gulf Intra Coastal Waterway. The Winnie W. steamed another 30 miles before anchoring just short of Pensacola.

This photo shows the Pensacola lighthouse, looking from the eastern most end of Perdido Key. You can see the intracoastal waterway in between; the sign at right is a warning against making excessive wake.

The second photo is Winnie W. in tonight's secure anchorage, sheltered behind high dunes in a little tidal pocket. We have had the Blue Angels (link) flying over, and also a few trainers plus other aircraft that may be military. Since nightfall it has been quiet.

The Gulf Intra Coastal Waterway zig-zags thru a series of lagoons & bayous that are separated from the open water by a thin line of sand dunes... often heavily developed, high-rise condos & resorts flourish... but it's a pleasant route. Tides are irregular but slight; today had a single tide rise & fall (some days have three) of 1 1/2 feet (about 0.4 meters). There are plenty of anchorages and the sand is both good holding ground and makes nice beaches to walk.

Speaking of which, here is the crew enjoying a fine evening walk. The Winnie W. is in the upper background, a little hard to see in this light (believe it or not, the sun was setting as this photo was taken). Thanks to Sue H for this keeper of a shot! The crew also found our first sea shells of this voyage, but decided that with limited storage aboard, we'd leave them for another discoverer.

Hope you all are well & happy- Doug & Kathie (and Hank)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Another Major Milestone: Reaching the Gulf Coast!

Hello All-
Yesterday we arrived in Mobile Alabama (link to GoogleMap)! We have just completed the whole Inland River part of the Great Loop; this part began 'way back in late August when the Winnie W. passed thru Chicago. In our time on the Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee, and Tombigbee Rivers we have gone from flood to low water, scorching summer afternoons to frosty mornings, mountains (well, at least some big rocky hills) to swamp. It's been a wonderful time offering beautiful sights, new friends, and cruising challenges entirely different from those of coastal waters.

This photo shows the waterfalls below Demopolis Lock & Dam, which we passed early in the morning while the (relatively) warm river water was sending fog into the chilly morning air. The dam is visible in the right background.

This photo is one of Doug's rare shots, taken from the dinghy. It shows one of the last anchorages we stopped in while traveling the Tenn-Tom Waterway, a little place called Bashi Creek (link to Google Map). This creek is nice & deep. Fishermen seem to like it. However it is a bit narrow! We rafted up to Bob & Sue on Tom-Kat, using each boat's bow anchor in opposite directions so they could hold the boats in position.

If a cruising boat swings around a single anchor here, it could hit the sides.... not a disaster since there is only slight current and it's well sheltered from wind... but branches knocking against the window would be a rude awakening and bugs & snakes could crawl onto the boat!

Here is Tom-Kat leaving Bashi Creek on another chilly & foggy morning. There is barely room to squeeze by the other cruisers who decided to "stay home" a bit later.

Here's another in our long long series of "More Beautiful Scenery" pictures. A white crane is reflected in the totally still water as he hunts along the riverbank. The lovely creek in the background is too shallow to make a good anchorage.

Now here is another wildlife shot, only the "wildlife" involved is a mixed herd of cows. Were they thirsty? Were they just enjoying the feel of river mud squishing between their toes?

Heading south down the last few miles of river, the city of Mobile looms up head!

Now we are back in salt water, and we have to pay close attention to the weather... in fact, it's been a long time since a 'Marine Forecast' applied to us. Case in point, the arrival of a cold front.... accompanied by headlines about snow storms up North... brought 25 knot winds to Mobile Bay and we stayed sheltered in port. This was a good time to catch up on some maintenance chores on the boat, so Doug spent most of the day in the engine room.

Tomorrow, we plan to cruise the Winnie W. eastward along the Gulf IntraCoastal Waterway towards Florida! Best wishes- Doug & Kathie