Swing Set

Sep 3, 201204:41 PM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

Lower Mobile Bay to the Intracoastal Waterway

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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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