Swing Set

Sep 3, 201204:41 PM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

Lower Mobile Bay to the Intracoastal Waterway

We got an early start on Sunday morning at Dog River Marina. Engine oil was changed on both main engines as well as the generator. My earlier decision to buy two 5-gallon plastic buckets was a good one. The waste oil all fit in both buckets, plus two 1-gallon empty oil containers I had stowed in the engine room. Now, we have the four empty 2.5-gallon oil containers to use next time. If we keep buying oil in the 2.5-gallon jugs, we'll just keep trading them off. There are places to keep the empty jugs. We've decided to not haul around all of our oil anymore. It's weight we don't need to be carrying; we'll just get our oil when we need it, unless we plan on being somewhere where a trip to a big box store or auto parts is impossible.

I cleaned the two K&N air filters that fit our Walker AirSeps. The engines rev up fine and appear to be running fine after the oil change. The test will be when we head out and the engines are under load.The port engine is still losing a little coolant, to the tune of about two cups of coolant for 400 hours. I don't think I'll lose any sleep over it.

While I was toiling away, changing the oil and such (I also spliced a new thimble into our extra anchor line where I had to cut it), Rosie was finishing up all the laundry. We both finished our tasks and then took showers and had lunch. There was lots of boats cruising up and down the river as people were enjoying the Labor Day weekend. The boating around here hasn't been too good lately with the hurricane passing through, so boaters were catching up.

We dropped the dinghy, gathered up Holly and took a ride. First, we went up the Dog River for a few miles and then turned around and went out into Mobile Bay. The ride was a little rough out in the bay in the dinghy, so we headed back in and cruised through a couple of marinas. We saw some very beautiful vessels and some not so much. We wonder why anyone would have a boat that they just let go to ruin from non-use.

We parked the dinghy back behind Swing Set, grabbed a couple of beers and just sat in our cockpit and watched the boat traffic idle by. I made use of the dock hose to cool off periodically, as the heat was stifling. The river where we were docked is a no wake zone, and we were right on the channel, a perfect spot for people watching. Nearly everyone waved as they went by; in fact, the boaters waved too when we were out in the dinghy. It was like everybody was spending the first time ever on their boats. One thing though, when we were sitting on the boat, a woman from one of the other boats docked there walked by and as we said hello, she says, "Y'all sure picked a strange time to come south, being hurricane season and all." I was thinking that we were no stranger than all the hundreds of other boaters out buzzing around the area, and the ten of thousands of boaters all through the south. Why can't we join in on the fun?

At 4 p.m., music started playing at a bar just across the river from us called The River Shack. When we passed by it earlier, we could see they had a long dock out front and a big open-air bar and the band was "outside" more or less. We put Holly away and took the dinghy over.

Swing Set is docked way in the background, just about in the middle of this picture. This is a busy waterway just as you come under the bridge into Dog River.

We had a good seat, and the band was playing songs we liked; no wonder, the lead singer had grey hair and most of the band members looked like old hippies. The name of the band was August, and they seemed to have a good following.

We had a "so so" dinner, but we had a prime seat next to the view of the water and a nice breeze was cooling us off, and so were the ice cold Bud Lights. Makes me want one now. We were back at the boat before dark, and you'd have thought we had been gone for a week the way Holly wiggled and squirmed, trying to lick our faces when we picked her up. We played with her until we all got tired and went to bed early, anticipating an early morning departure.

We said goodbye to Ricky at the gas dock after a good breakfast and headed out into Mobile Bay as the sun was just poking out. I took this picture with our iPad and posted it on Facebook. We got some response from folks we never hear from on Facebook, and everyone was wishing us well.


I had plugged coordinates into our Raymarine GPS and set a route on the Garmin and the Navionics App on the iPad for marker "124" on the Intracoastal Waterway, about 18 miles down Mobile Bay. We hadn't transited in an open waterway (more or less) in a long time, not since we left Key West and headed back to Marathon about 25 years ago. We were so excited, we couldn't see straight. As we were heading to the ship channel, in the channel that leads out from Dog River, a huge tug was heading down the bay in no channel at all. He was coming from our port and was the burdened vessel. We were only doing our usual 8 miles per hour, and he was going slower, but we were on a collision course. He was bigger, but we had the right of way. Just as I eased off of the throttles to avoid making contact, he threw his engines in reverse and hit his throttles, sending a big plume of black smoke into the morning air. Rosie waved at the captain like we were old friends, but she didn't get a wave back. We weren't in danger, like I said, I backed off first, but I was wondering if he was even paying attention at all.

We left the ship channel and were on our own. The bay was very calm for the first hour or so, but the wind was coming from the west and was on our starboard beam, and the ride got a little bumpy for the second hour. I switched our waypoint so we would hit the Intracoastal closer to land. It was about then that we saw our first porpoise on this trip. We wound up seeing about four of them, and we acted like little kids when we would spot one. The tide was coming in and the water was clearing up, and I thought we would see more porpoises, but once we hit the Intracoastal channel, we didn't see any more of them, but I know we will.

We had purchased a Waterway Guide at West Marine, and we were making good use of it. We were finding places in it that our friends had been recommending we go to, and we made a plan to go to Lulu's for lunch. We found a good anchorage about 10 miles east of Lulu's where we could spend the night on the hook. Our budget doesn't allow too many restaurant visits, or stays at marinas, but Lulu's is owned by Jimmy Buffett's sister and is a must for anyone traveling the ICW.

We docked the boat, got a table right at 11:30 and were there for about an hour. By the time we left, there was a line to get in. The place is huge and was a lot of fun. We liked the food, too, but we stuffed ourselves. Rosie got a chicken wrap, and I got a cheeseburger made just the way Jimmy Buffett likes his. Tacky Jacks is a gigantic restaurant across the waterway that we passed on our way out. It, too, had been recommended, but we make a habit of only eating lunch once per day. Maybe some other time.

We went next door to the marina to see if they had an anchor, but they sold fuel and "snacks and such," according to the proprietor we met in the parking lot. Diesel was 60 cents a gallon higher than at Dog River Marina, so we're glad we didn't wait to get fuel there.

It was hot and sticky as we traveled east on the waterway, checking our charts for the anchorage we were looking for. We made a hard left at marker "72" and pointed north into Ingram Bayou. Several boats were already at anchor, and other boaters were enjoying the day. We pointed the bow into a nice breeze, set the hook and opened the hatches. There is a pleasant breeze blowing through the cabin, and we won't even need to put on the air later.

I took a dip to check the running gear to confirm any suspicion about picking up a rope or something, and found nothing, but had to do my first saltwater rinse off in the shower. River bath days are over. After a short nap, Rosie is reading and I'm doing this. Several boats have passed us and headed around a corner to a popular local anchorage. Typically, we would join them, but it has been a long day and we are fine with chilling out here by ourselves. This may be the first Labor Day we haven't spent with our other boating friends in many, many years and is a little bittersweet. We miss our friends occasionally, but still feel like they are with us when we can communicate by phone or the computer. We're getting lots of encouragement on our endeavor, and it means a lot to us.

Now it's time to wrap this up and get ready to fire up the grill. We're making pork steaks tonight and celebrating our first night in years in saltwater. We plan on having many more.

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