Swing Set

Sep 1, 201209:13 AM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

Last Lock on the Tenn-Tom To Mobile Bay

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I tried a little fishing, but nothing was happening. After a long day at the helm, we turned in early and had one of the calmest nights we've had for a few days.

We intended to get an early start in the morning but woke up to heavy fog. By the time we were finished with breakfast at 8:30, the fog was gone and we got under way.

The topography was changing, and we had constant reminders that we weren't on Tellico Lake anymore. There were some neat looking Cajun Cabins, but they were few and far between. This one had seen better days.

We started passing one towboat after another on a narrow and twisty river, but all the captains were accommodating and we started getting excited about getting to the bay. It was during the passing of one of the tows when I found out that Swing Set wouldn't run over 1600 RPMs, even at full throttle. When we got a chance, Rosie took the helm and I checked the vacuum on the Racors, and they were fine. The exhaust was smoking, which is very unusual, and that means the Walker Airseps aren't doing their job. One reason for this, and one we've run into it before, is that the air filters are dirty and we're starving the engines for air at the higher RPMs. Considering we've put over 400 hours on the engines since I cleaned the air filters last, it's a good guess that our problem is the air filters. We shall see.

We passed the marshlands and came upon heavy industry on both sides of the river, and our first view of Mobile. The water was a dark muddy brown, looked like coffee. Shipyards and docks lined each side of the river, and we had to keep a sharp eye out for floating debris.

These are two of the cool Navy ships we saw at a shipyard as we cruised down the Mobile Port. We could see open water ahead of us, and I swear I was feeling not only some excitement about the open water, but some anxiety as well. We started seeing buoys and channel markers the likes we hadn't seen in nearly 25 years since we took a boat to Key West from Jacksonville. Luckily, a large convertible sportfishing boat pulled out of the tug turnaround just as you leave the port and started down the ship channel ahead of us so we followed it.

It didn't take too long for us to figure out what was what. Everything boiled down to green and red, like it always does, and the rest was easy. Our main mission was to avoid the ships coming up the channel, and there was still a fair amount of big debris in the water. These ships passed us within a 100 feet or so, but put out less wake than a boat our size, at least at the speeds they were traveling at.

Our Navionics App on our iPad took us right to the cutoff to the Dog River, and we made a hard right. The secondary channel takes you back upstream and makes a couple of jogs before entering the Dog River. Turner Marina is on the right as you pass under the bridge, but we kept on to the next marina, which is Dog River Marina, where we planned on fueling up. Turner Marina doesn't have fuel, and they direct everyone over to Dog River for it.

Fuel was relatively cheap at Dog River Marina at $3.89 per gallon. I asked about transient rates and was told it was $1.00 per foot per night. That's not bad, but it wasn't 56 cents a foot either.

I called Kat back over at Turner Marina and asked if they still had a spot for us. They did, but when I inquired about a courtesy car, I was told they were closing in 15 minutes and no one would be there for the rest of the weekend to provide a courtesy car or anything else. That's a funny way to do business on a holiday weekend, especially at a marina, so we plunked down our money and made plans to stay at Dog River for the night.

West Marine was closing at 5 p.m., so we left Swing Set at the gas dock and walked over to get another anchor, some flares, and a guidebook and charts for Florida. We had gotten a gift certificate from Gary and Judy at our bon voyage party, and we got to use it today. We left with everything we needed except for the anchor. The size we need to fit the chocks on the deck was out of stock. It was out of stock at the other two stores in the area, as well. Not to worry, that size anchor is common and someone will have it.

We walked back to the fuel dock and got help moving Swing Set over to our dock for the night. We plugged in the power cords and turned on the air conditioning. We left Holly to watch the boat and went into the office to arrange for a courtesy car. In the course of conversation, it was learned that we belong to the American Great Looper Cruiser's Association, and Dog River gives "Loopers" the first night free. Our money was given back to us, along with the keys to a big Ford truck for us to drive to the closest store to reprovision. Walmart again. We made a lightening-fast trip through the store and got back to the boat and unloaded our stuff. The other marinas in the area had party's gearing up and music could be heard, but we had things to do. We learned long ago that you can't party every day.

I opened the hatches in the salon to the engine room, and the heat billowed up from the still-hot Cats. I pulled off the K&N filter elements and got them soaking in a big bucket of Oxy-Clean. I want them to soak overnight, and then they have to be hosed off and dried. We discussed what needed to be accomplished in the morning and felt like we'd be rushed to get things done and still leave at a decent time Sunday morning, so we decided to stay here another day. This will give us a chance to get all of the laundry done, get the air filters dry and oiled up, and get the oil changed in all three engines, because they are just about due and this is a good place to do it. By late afternoon, we should have our chores done, and we'll jump in the dinghy and see what there is to see around here for entertainment on this wonderful Labor Day weekend.

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