Houston to Mobile
The following represents the musings and reactions of Kathy who is making her first long voyage on a boat. I thought it would have a different flavor to use her comments and only add some particulars to them. Enjoy, and let us know what you think.
May 15th - Tuesday, Day one aborted
Mike from Midnight Dream, our slip neighbor, arrived while we were preparing for departure
He had iced champagne and glasses. We were busy at the moment so he said call him when we were ready to cast off it was 1000.
GPS wasn’t getting power so Richard had to call repairman to come to the boat. Found problem but took some time.
Thought we were ready to go, but the Computer wasn’t picking up anything from the GPS so more time to fix it.
By this time it’s 4:30 so we called Mike, popped the cork and toasted tomorrow’s departure….
May 16th - Wednesday, The cruising begins.
Nice weather. We cast off around 0845. The Coast Guard was very busy that morning with a drowning reported in Galveston Bay and a capsized boat near the Houston Yacht club.
Observed Pink Flamingo’s in flight and Wild Boar Sow with 2 piglets…on the ICW outside of Galveston…
I did get to see and photograph 2 lighthouses today. It’s always a good day for me when that happens. Bolivar light, just across from Galveston and Sabine Pass light on the Sabine river close to where you head in to Port Arthur.
Headed to the Port Arthur Yacht Club arrived around 1930. We couldn’t raise anyone on the radio, tried phoning and got the past harbormaster. He told us at which slip we should dock and we used Tom Campbell’s cruise guide, which has a nice drawing of the layout. He also provides bearings to the Yacht Club from south entrance to Sabine Lake.
When we arrived at the dock, there were 2 nice gentlemen to help with lines. As it turned out one was the Commodore, Gary. He offered us the use of the clubhouse including showers, great ice machine, TV room, and full kitchen. A nice place. He left the key with us and told us to drop it through his mail slot when we left. There was nobody there that night at the clubhouse. Uneventful night except both Richard and I had trouble sleeping…I think probably anticipation of our adventure.
May 17th - Thursday, day 2
The next morning I needed to fax something for my nursing license so I went to the clubhouse to see by chance if there was a fax machine…There was a very helpful gentleman there eating breakfast and he directed me to the Port Authority, 2 buildings from there. They were very helpful and let me use the fax for free…
There was no electricity or water at our slip…Close by was a fuel dock with pump out facilities and water. We rode our bikes to get a look at the only bar around. The restaurant closed down and the Commodore had told us the night before that they had trouble keeping a restaurant on Pleasure Island.
We cast off around 0945 - Richard was in a rush to get going so I didn’t get to straighten the boat, but we were off…Richard had trouble getting the autopilot to interface with the computer so was fussing and fuming a little, but then figured out the problem and we had a great day.
The portion of the ICW east of Port Arthur offers very little wildlife. We were hoping to see lots of birds and Alligators, but it didn’t happen. We got a glimpse of a gator in front of the boat, but nothing after that.
We were tired so decided to go to Lake Charles and dock at Harrah’s casino. We were able to reach them by phone. When we arrived, we had to make a couple more calls to get anyone out to the dock to help, but finally a very helpful man named Benny came out and secured our lines. He also brought us a huge bag of ice. We had a cocktail, and headed to the casino restaurant for dinner. After a pricey, but very delicious meal, we tried our luck at the casino. I played Roulette and Richard couldn’t find a Blackjack table under $10, so he played the slots. I was able to make my $40 last about an hour at the roulette table. We headed back to the boat for some much needed rest.
Slip cost $35 per weeknight $45 weekends and 30 or 50 amp power and water. No pump out
May 18th, Friday Day 3.
I managed to straighten and clean some of the boat and get things somewhat organized. I was able to check my email and Richard and I were every excited that we can now use the mobile phone to check our email anytime we have a signal. This will allow us to upload to the web page while traveling.
We took the hotel shuttle bus to a convenience store in search of a few items but alas no tonic for my evening cocktails. I was able to talk one of the casino bartenders into filling 3 water bottles full of tonic for a nominal fee plus tip. Benny provided us with ice again and we were off headed for the ICW once more. We cast off around 1100.
We were allowed immediate access to Calcasieu Lock and immediately afterwards we hailed the bridge master who opened the pontoon bridge, Black Bayou Pontoon bridge. About 5 miles past that was the Grand Lake Pontoon Bridge, which we also had a very short wait time. We heard a noise and thought that we had hit something but didn’t see anything…Tomorrow we’ll check for transmission problems cause yesterday one of the lines became tangled in the prop and might have caused some problems…we anchored in a cove opposite buoy 5 in Mermentau River for fishing and a night swinging on the hook. Richard was so clever and managed to get the tracking satellite dish working so we were able to watch TV. It is a Sky Watch that tracks azimuth automatically and will handle a 360 range.
May 19th, Saturday - Day 4
I awoke at 4:30 and had to medicate my 30 mosquito bites from yesterday’s bike ride. Then back to bed to be startled not 10 minutes later by bright lights shining in on us. I jumped up to see what was happening. There were 2 boats with spotlights running their crab pots. I was wide awake by that time so did some fishing and waited for the captain to wake.
We pulled up anchor and cast off around 0800. Richard’s plan was to try and reach Morgan City today in case we need repairs. So we had a long day.
We ran in to heavy traffic at mile 134. It seems a tow hit the Cypremort Swing bridge and pretty much destroyed it. The coast guard brought in a ferry to shuttle the cars back and forth and boats were backed up both East and West bound for quite a ways.
I cooked Dinner that evening under way and we ate our steaks on the bridge in route. We arrived at Morgan City around 8:30 and found space the public Dock…No electricity for us. However there were 30amp hook-ups that were already taken…Water if you have a very long hose. We had cocktails on the bridge and then to bed. We are certainly breaking our rule of trying to get to a certain destination by a certain time.
May 20th, Sunday - Day 5
Up at 6:45 for coffee and breakfast. Then after waiting for the train bridge to rise, we headed out for another long day. We did manage to photograph the Berwick Lighthouse, which is just across the river from where we docked in Morgan City.
We had a long wait at the Bayou Boef lock… went right through, no locking, but lots of traffic. Richard is still worried about the boat so we ask a tow captain if he knew of any place in Houma where we could find a diver to check the boat. He told us of a fuel dock that might be able to find us one. When we arrived in Houma, it was like a ghost town because it was Sunday. So we decided to make it to Boomtown Casino outside of New Orleans and figured we’d have better luck locating a diver on Monday. I cooked dinner underway again and we pulled up along side the Casino. Note if you are going to dock here, they only allow you to dock on the south side of the ICW. The casino will not allow you to use the space at the backside of the casino. We tried this and a security guard from the Casino told us in no uncertain terms that we were not allowed to be there. But we ended in a better place to dock because the shuttle bus to the front door ran right past the boat.
We went inside for drinks and a little gambling.. Surprise the tables and the slots were quite loose…I won about $100 dollars playing roulette and Richard hit on the slots a couple of times.
May 21st, Monday Day 6
Up for coffee and breakfast around 0700. Couldn’t get a modem connection to check email. Also we are running low on some supplies so must find a grocery store.
Headed out from Boomtown around 0:830. We arrived at Harvey Lock and waited about two and a half hours to get through to the mighty Mississippi locked through without problems and my first locking experience on our boat. In this lock you tie up to bollards using your line.
We contacted Traffic on channel 67 and were told to keep to the left bank as we came into downtown New Orleans…Lots of Huge ships and traffic…We had been seeing depths of 10.8-16.5feet. I had already noticed that we were at a depth of around 118 ft.. Richard looked at it and said hey we went from 30 feet to 10 feet…I laughed and said no we were at 108. He was so used to seeing a decimal point he didn’t realize how deep it now was…we had a good laugh over that.
The next lock was the Industrial lock and unfortunately we waited there for about 3 hours to get through. All the working boats were placed ahead of us and it was a slow process to lock through because of drawbridges on either side of the lock…
We managed to lock through (In this lock they throw you lines from the top) and were lowered to a channel that took us to Lake Pontchartrain. We passed through 4 bridges that we had to hail the bridge master to raise. We were warned to watch out for crab pots in Lake Pontchartrain.
There is a beautiful lighthouse at West end were we spent the night. It has a dual role as a coast guard station. I had photographed the new canal light by land previously, but never by boat coming in from the lake…Another Kodak moment for sure.
Orleans marina had transient slips for us and we called ahead and made arrangements and was given a slip assignment. Unfortunately the office was already closed when we arrived and the slip was much too small. Richard with his skills and maneuvering expertise was able to get us into a slip right next to it.
Even that slip Richard said was like putting a size 10 foot into a size 9 1/2 shoe.
We tied in for the night were told where we could get groceries and headed to Robert’s with our food and supplies list. At check out we decided we had way too many supplies for one trip on each bike. Richard stayed with the bikes and I pushed the grocery cart to the boat, unloaded and pushed the cart back to the store…whew!
There was a Chinese restaurant next to the grocery store so we decided to go have a drink, cool down and get take out…It was a nice experience and we met an older gentleman at the bar who asked Richard if he was a seaman (Richard’s new beard). This pleased and delighted Richard that someone would actually think he looked like a salty seaman..As it turned out this guy had been the captain on freighters taking cargo all over the world and had some wonderful stories and was quite funny…We packed our take-out on the bikes and headed back to the boat knowing that this was only the beginning in our journey and what wonderful and interesting people we will be meeting along the way.
Tuesday May 22nd Day 7
Woke to cloudy and very windy conditions.
After putting a roast and veggies in the crock-pot, we headed out onto the lake to the repair marina. The lake was so rough and one big wave sent everything flying including the crock pot down below…When I got down there the crock pot was upside down on the carpet. I managed to salvage most of the meal but there was brown gravy all over the carpet…we decided at that point to turn around.. THE LAKE WAS TOO ROUGH!!
As luck would have it on our way back to Orleans Marina, we found a better place for repairs anyway. Shubert’s marine sales, repair, fuel, and liquor store…the people there were all very friendly and helpful. They allowed us to pull up to the dock and hook to power while we waited to be hauled out of the water.
While we were waiting for them to finish the boat ahead of us, we took the bikes and went in search of lunch. We found a very charming restaurant there on the lake only a short distance from where we left the boat. Brunings seafood restaurant established in 1884 and provided a wonderful printed history on the menu. Not a fancy place, just lots of character and still in the original spot next to the original home place which is in great shape.
We returned and the boat was hauled out of
the water hanging helplessly and looking pitiful. The problem was found to be
that we blew out the cutlass bearing on the port shaft.
Richard closely watched as the repairmen worked on his “Baby”. Everyone there was so helpful and friendly.
We again stayed at Orleans Marina. This time in a much larger slip and close to the Laundromat, which by this time we desperately needed. I did the laundry and got a nice shower there by the laundry and by that time the crock-pot food that survived was ready to be consumed. It was a nice evening.
Wednesday May 23rd Day 8
Up and out on Lake Pontchartrain by 9am. We waved by to the repair guys at Shubert’s as we cruised past. I even got a last glimpse of the baby ducks I had fed and made friends with while waiting on the boat. (I love little baby ducks).
Lake Pontchartrain was calm and much different from yesterday’s crashing and pitching. We headed across the lake to the Hwy. 11 bridge only to find after going about 20 miles that the bridge was closed for repair. Richard controlled himself very well and only said a couple of expletives. We retraced back to where we had entered the lake on Monday through the Industrial waterway.
One of the bridges there was having mechanical problems and only slightly opened. I climbed to the very top deck after lowering the antenna and we squeezed under, whew, barely.
We headed toward Bert Jones Yacht Basin in Gulfport. The People there were wonderful. They guided in by radio and were waiting and very helpful at the slip. There is a nice restaurant/gift shop there and showers and bathrooms are private and new. They gave us all sorts of handouts about the trolley that stops right by the marina and has several different stops all over Gulfport. The Grand casino will pick you up at the restaurant if you want to gamble. We had a nice dinner and an early evening.
Thursday May 24th Day 9
9am off on my bike to find Diet Coke and mail a letter. The dock master offered to give me a ride to the store but I declined and would rather bike..Awhile later, I was wishing I’d taken him up on his offer. It was quite a trek to find a convenience store. Lots of busy 4 lane streets to cross. I did go right by the post office so that was taken care of…
We headed out to sea around 10:30. We went to ship Island and I got some great photos of the Ship Island Lighthouse. Along the way around Biloxi I spotted a Lighthouse that I couldn’t find in any book or on the charts. I took a picture from a distance, but we couldn’t get that far off course to get good photos.
We passed by Round Island and I didn’t realize it til after we were by, but there is a lighthouse there that was destroyed by a hurricane a few years ago. It was scheduled to be moved and repaired just 4 days after it was destroyed. This is also one of the lighthouses that Johan Kruger painted .
We headed into Mobile Bay and I was able to photograph the Mobile (middle) Bay Light. I was surprised to see it’s in quite bad shape.
We headed to the Dog River and The Grand Mariner Marina.. They lend you a car to use which we took advantage of and headed to the grocery store.
We were joined by an Old friend of Richard’s Sheree Lacoste and her very charming son, Kit. Kit who is a very precocious 5 year old, amazed us by knowing which star was closest to the earth and all sorts of interesting facts. Richard and I decided that he could beat just about anybody on “Who wants to be a Millionaire” We dined at the Mariner restaurant out on the deck and it was wonderful.
Friday May 25th Day 10
We decided to take a play/work day and not travel today. The marina will allow us to use their phone line to get online and we had other things that needed to be done.
We had the boat hauled out again and a dinged prop replaced. I was able to borrow the marina car again and get my nails done..yeah. We decided to eat in after cocktails on the boat so we dined on quickly prepared spaghetti & meat sauce. I’m starting to get organized in this little galley and everything is easily reachable. After watching the basketball playoffs it was lights out.
Total St Miles: 658
Fuel burned (includes generator): 625
Miles per gallon: 1.05
Average fuel cost: $1.24
Miles per day: 65.8
Engine hours: 70