The Next Leg of Our Trek

Weather has been wreaking havoc on our plans. We’ve been in Houma, LA (outside of New Orleans) for way too long. There is a window of good weather starting tomorrow so we are on our way! Here is the next leg:

Tuesday, January 3, 2017: Continue on the Intracoastal Waterway to the Lafitte Harbor Marina in Jean Lafitte, LA. It’s a short run but it sets us up to get through the locks the next day.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017: We will need to cross into the Mississippi River for a brief time before heading back into the waterway. Today we will most likely drop anchor since we can’t be sure if we will have to wait to get through the locks.

Thursday, January 5, 2017: The last leg to Gulfport, MS; marina to be determined. Here we will stay for a few days and plan our next leg toward Florida.

 

Houma Supposed to Turn Around?

So I just found out my husband is a liar. When we entered the Intracoastal Waterway, he assured me we had left the Mississippi River permanently behind us. Well, plans change and, as it turns out, we will be heading into that blasted river once again, albeit for a very short time.

He probably didn’t mean to get my hopes up. I’m sure he was just looking out for my mental stability after we almost backed into that barge. We had exited off the Ole Miss into the Atchafalaya River and maneuvered to Morgan City to get fuel. We hadn’t had an opportunity for fuel for about 300 miles. We had been warned there was no fuel and that if you were careful you might have to beg for some off of a barge. We actually did well and weren’t in dire straits. Still we filled up. Our bigger issue was water. We had drinking water, but for some reason ran out of water for dishes and showers. We had tested our water tanks before we left and found we could go 10 days before we ran out. Why we ran out after only four is still a mystery. It was just the two of us and we tolerated each other’s stench fairly well.  I wouldn’t waiver, however, on being able to brush my teeth and wash my face twice daily. I went into this life saying I didn’t want it to be like camping and here it was…just like camping. But things happen and if we’ve learned anything, we know we have to be flexible and go with the flow (or lack thereof). It felt great when I finally got to wash my hair again! I need to take a moment to pat myself on the back at the docking for fuel. It was flawless. Mostly due to Rick’s super ability to drive right up to the pier; but I was able to jump off without harming myself (for once) and tied off quickly. I felt like a true sailor that day.

Once we got our fuel and water, we went across the river to Berwick and tied up for the night. This was a free city dock so no electric. But we were able to get a good night sleep and gather our wits. Because this area was so overrun with commercial traffic and the convergence of the river, waterway and other various channels, everybody on the water was required to “check in” and be directed by one source. Sort of an air traffic controller for the water. It was helpful to us because it was a bit nerve-wracking making our way through all those barges. Once we were ready to leave, we had to wait for a train whose tracks were on a bridge that needed to be raised for us. Then we were home free.

We made our way to Houma, LA and their Downtown Marina. Although they have slips, none were big enough for us so our spot was beside a long dock. They had both water and electric hook-ups for a mere $25/night. We sideled up to the pump out area. We’d been getting worried our tanks would be full soon, so were glad to be able to do the pump out. Our tanks are on the port (left) side of the boat. When we pulled in, the pump out station was on our starboard (right) side. We attempted to go over the bow of the boat with the pump out hose but it wouldn’t reach. We had to turn around so we were facing the entrance to the wharf.

Rick was worried the width of the wharf was too narrow for us to turn around. He devised a plan to tie a rope on the starboard side of the bow and tie it to the dock. Then he would use the engines to push the stern (back) out and spin it around so we wouldn’t hit the opposite side of the wharf. I was sure this was a baaaaaaad idea. The bow pulpit would hit against the pilings on the dock for sure, I argued. He insisted it wouldn’t so we gave it a try. It’s not often I get to say this when we have differing opinions, but I was right—it wasn’t going to work. So we regrouped. Rick handed me the hand held radio and we checked communication with each other on channel 68. We could talk with each other without others listening in. He was going to back out of the wharf, around the other docked boat, and back into the waterway. From there he’d basically do a three-point turn and back into the wharf, around the other boat and back into the spot facing out. I had to untie the line, push off, and use the radio as needed for any unforeseen issues.

Of course I was a dork with the hand held radio. I tried holding it as I untied the lines. Didn’t work. I tried using the little tie-loop-thingy to dangle it from my wrist. Nope, I was banging it into everything. I was so frazzled. Finally, I called Rick to tell him the hand held was a pain in my ass. “Well set it down,” says he. Oh. Yeah. Okay. Got him untied. Pushed off. He easily maneuvered around the other boat and was heading out. From the corner of my eye I see a barge converging on him. I broke into a run, waving my arms, SCREAMING at the top of my lungs, “STOP! There’s a barge! STOP!” I realized he couldn’t hear me—the blasted hand held was still on the ground. I began to run in the opposite direction toward the hand held. At this point the kids playing on the nearby playground and their parents were all watching. I’m sure the parents were whispering to the kids to stay away from the crazy lady. I grabbed the hand held. In my panic I couldn’t find the button I needed. I glanced up and saw Rick headed toward me as I saw the barge slip past behind him. He was safe. We weren’t turned around, but he was safe. Phew. The hand held crackled to life as Rick said, “Screw it. I’m in the middle of the channel I’m just going to spin it. Watch to see I don’t hit the pier.” And just like downtown as they say, he spun it around and backed up to the pier where I grabbed it and tied it off.

Once we pumped out we needed to move further down so others could get to the pump out, if needed. It wasn’t far, so we decide to walk it down rather than restarting the engines. For a 50,000-pound boat It moves fairly easily and we had zero problems. The area was lovely. The marina sits in the middle of a park (and they even have swings—yay!). Within walking distance, we had a laundromat, mini-mart, restaurants, and a hospital (just in case). The Intracoastal Waterway, where we almost collided with the barge is busy with tugs pushing their loads around the clock and the park is continually filled with people enjoying it.

We still want to spend some time in New Orleans and we would like to land in a working marina to have the water tank checked. So, as I said previously, our plans, they are a changin’. You’ll know when I know.

I Haven’t the Foggiest Idea

“I’m going back out and down the river to find a place to anchor.”

“Why? We need to be in the cove,” I argued.

“I CAN’T SEE THROUGH THE FOG. I AM TOTALLY TURNED AROUND FROM THE EDDYS AND THE NAVIGATION SYSTEM SAYS WE’RE ON LAND. I DIDN’T WANT TO WORRY YOU, BUT THIS CHANNEL IS TOO NARROW TO DO BLIND.’

I’ve always admired the way Rick goes about things. He learns all he can and then just does it. Nothing fazes the man. Total opposite of me. When he shouted these things to me, I was stunned. He was totally shaken. Where does this leave us?

As we headed down river, the tension inside the aft deck was as thick as the fog surrounding us. You literally could not see a yard in front of us. Thank God I let Rick talk me into the AIS (Automatic Identification System). I like to exaggerate a bit in my writing, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that system and Rick saved our lives. Now, Rick will tell you he was just worried about smashing the boat or running aground, not anything life threatening. But I’m here to tell you, if he hadn’t done what he did through our whole cruise yesterday, we could have had a real tragedy. He’s my hero. (Cue sappy music here.)

Let me start at the beginning. The day began with high hopes.  We were 35 miles from our departure point to leave the Mississippi (yay!).  It was partly cloudy with chance of rain in the forecast until noon.  With thunderstorms on the radar for tomorrow, we decided to risk a little rain now to get to our next stop early. The anchor came up easily and by 6:45 a.m. we were underway.

Light to moderate rain began about 9:00 am.  No big deal, we have windshield wipers.  Fog started developing along the banks.  Possibly a result of the rain and river water temperatures. Who knows? It wasn’t too bad.  Hindsight is 20/20 as they say. We should have taken a cue from the barges upriver who were all along the bank waiting. We didn’t connect why until later. For now, we were glad we didn’t have anyone in our way. Rain became a little heavier about 9:30 a.m. and the fog seemed to be dissipating.  Unfortunately, that didn’t last.  By 10:00 a.m., visibility was down to less than a half mile. The AIS showed a multitude of barges near us and we were relying on the navigation software to stay in the channel.

By 10:30 we were at the Old River entrance. It was a sharp turn into a narrow channel, then a short distance to our destination.  Using the navigation and radar, Rick attempted to make the turn and keep in the channel center. Our draft is 4-1/2 feet and we had been told we needed to stay in the center or risk running aground. Were we in the center? The navigation system had us on land. The current was swift and an eddy swirled us around. Where were we? Rick could not see the shoreline to get his bearings. At one point the fog cleared just enough to show we were headed directly for the shore about 100 yards away.  We kept getting swung around; it appeared momentarily that Rick had lost control.  Instinct told him to advance the throttles so our heading would properly register on the navigation display; we had been going too slowly for the nav system.

That’s when I learned what was really happening and we had the above discussion. Rick successfully edged us out of the channel and back onto the Mississippi. We went about a mile downriver. In good conditions, its not easy to find a suitable stopping point along this river and these weren’t good conditions. Relying on the nav system again, he maneuvered just inside the red buoy line and we dropped the anchor. Every commercial tow we could see on our AIS was doing the same thing, so we felt safe for now.

But mother nature wasn’t finished with us yet. While we waited, the sun set. Now we were in the dark and fog. Thunderstorms were on the way by 9:00 p.m. We unplugged all our electronic things—TVs, computer and the like. We couldn’t turn off the nav system though or the radio—we needed to know when (if) commercial traffic started to move. If we couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see us. The tugs got anxious and began moving. So Rick set his alarm for every 30 minutes in case we fell asleep. We sat vigil. He was able to track the movement of those tugs. When they headed our way, he contacted them to give our location, then he’d watch for them. Or more accurately, wait to hear them—we couldn’t see them. News of our location spread rapidly on the radio and all the tugs were great about giving a wide berth.

Rick sent me to bed around 11 (he insisted there was no point to us both staying up), but I couldn’t sleep. I just laid there listening to the crackle of the radio and his calls to the tugs. I also compulsively checked the Weather Channel radar for those thunderstorms. The predictions changed as rapidly as I checked them.  The thunderstorms were cropping up around us but not traveling over us. I was glad, but it really just delayed the inevitable, since the prediction would just be pushed back a few hours.

By morning, we groggily peered out into the vast fog. It hadn’t changed. I felt a little less vulnerable since we had the light of day, but that was really an illusion since those commercial boats couldn’t see us any better than at night. The thunderstorms were still looming but had not hit us yet.

At several points things were clearing up. We hesitated to move yet since we could see our turn off was still shrouded in fog. Ten minutes later we were in white out conditions again and were glad we hadn’t pulled anchor. Finally, we took a chance and headed out. We were being watched over. We made the turn, got through the channel into the lake, and dropped anchor just before the thunderstorms hit.

This cove is protected basically on all sides (besides the narrow entrance). We feel safe enough to shut off the electronics and go to bed tonight. I’m grateful. Tomorrow we enter onto our final river. The Intracoastal Waterway isn’t far behind.

I Never Did Like The Name Eddie

I don’t like driving. But what I find is as I get older, I dislike being the passenger as well. I spend my time planning out what to do when we crash. If I’m looking out the front window and the car in front of us brakes, regardless of how far away it is, I’m thinking, “why isn’t he (the driver) breaking? Doesn’t he see the brake lights in front of us?” As we get closer to the back of the car, I stomp my foot down as if I can brake from my side of the car. I may even say, “brake, brake, brake!” while I’m at it. This drives Rick nuts. I’m always scaring the crap out of him.

So to keep my and his sanity, I have to trick myself. You’ll think I’m nuts, but if I look out the side window at the side of the road I don’t get anxious. I’m not seeing the brake lights. So I’m okay. Then I have total trust in the driver. Obviously, this only works if there isn’t another lane of traffic out the side window. In that case, I have to read or do something on my phone. After all, those people next to us might change lanes into us.

I tell you all this because as we headed down river in earnest yesterday, we came across things we hadn’t dealt with prior and it made me “passenger seat looking out the front window” nervous. By now the wake coming off the frequent barges is not noticeable to us. We are used to it. It’s old hat. The Christmas tree has been secured. No worries. But there are these eddies—essentially whirlpools—that crop up on a regular basis. The first one was just as Rick had steered around a barge. It took him by surprise. He stood up so fast the chair flew back. That caught my attention and I involuntarily stood up and look at him. With is back to me I saw him crank the wheel right. A big over-emphasized turn of the wheel. What the…? I made the mistake of looking out the window. The boat was going the wrong direction and a panic flew into my chest. Before I could react he cranked the wheel left and we righted our direction. A few more adjustments and we were back in the safe zone, plodding down the river at which point he explained the eddy to me. He learned very quickly that you cannot escape the eddy, but you can increase your speed to power through it a little less hectically.

Nonetheless, since the incident, I have reverted using my car trick pretty much the entire time we are moving. You don’t really see the eddy until you are in the eddy. It’s a little more difficult to trick myself since there are windows and perils in all directions. So I’ve taken up embroidery again. I found an as yet started baby bib and since we have a grandchild on the way, decided to work on it. I don’t have a lot of patience for that sort of thing. In the past, something like that would take me months to complete. Not while I’m on the river! Four days. That’s it. Four. I finished today, so what am I going to do tomorrow? I’ll worry that out in bed tonight while I’m wide awake. (Joking. I actually sleep really well when we’re anchored.)

The good news is the lock at Lake Pontchartrain is still under repairs with no idea of when it will re-open. That means we will soon be off this Godforsaken river and onto a new, hopefully more friendly one. We have a short day tomorrow to what many have said is the best anchorage on the river. There we will wait out a line of thunderstorms (oh, yay), then make our way to the Atchafalaya River.  Fingers crossed its eddy-less. As a side note, Rick tells me we’ll have bragging rights since not many pleasure crafts make the trip we did on the Mississippi. We are now the experts. Lord help us all.

 

The Big River Cruise

We’ve decided to leave tomorrow out of Greenville, MS. The weather looks good and we’re anxious for warmer weather. Plus, at $2.00/ft., the overnight fee is crazy. We walked to the library today to plot our anchorages for the 4-5 day trip to New Orleans. We couldn’t go much further since there are no cabs, no public transportation, and no Uber here. So here’s the plan for our next leg.

Saturday, December 10: Leave Greenville, MS heading down river. We hope to make it about 100 miles to the Race Track Towhead our first day. It is just south of Vicksburg, MS.

Sunday, December 11: Continue to Fitz Island, about 30 miles south of Natchez, MS.

Monday, December 12: Continue to Profit Island, about 10 miles north of Baton Rouge, LA. We may stop at Baton Rouge Harbor to anchor instead depending on the day’s events.

Tuesday, December 13 (Happy Birthday, Nancy Cooper!): Continue to Plaquemine Point, about 40 miles south of Baton Rouge, LA.

Wednesday, December 14: Continue to or destination for this leg: New Orleans, LA.

 

Things may change based on weather conditions and our fancy. We have quite a few other anchorages picked out along the way in case we need them, but we’d really like to stick to this schedule.

Based on our fuel consumption thus far, we will burn approximately 240 gallons of our 400 stored to run the engines (not taking into account we are moving with the current). The generator uses 1.4 gallons/hour, so we could run it all day and night (which we never do) and still have fuel to spare. So we’re feeling quite confident, which of course, can only bring trouble. The sage continues…

When The 8-Track in Your Mind is Playing Head Games With You

We woke up this morning the furthest down river that we’d been with Nautical Dreamer. Today was going to be scary and exhilarating. We were to merge into the White River and take that into the Mississippi River. We’d gotten an overabundance of sage advice on tackling the big river. It had made me leery but also excited. Our stop for tonight would be the Greenville Yacht Club in Greenville, MS. After that, there are no services until New Orleans. This means we will be “pulling over” to drop anchor for the night. There aren’t a lot of safe harbors either so that’s a looming worry. But for tonight, we would be holed up in a marina.

Dead ahead of us as we approach the Mississippi was a barge. It looked as though it was blocking our path but as we got closer, the full expanse of the river lay out before us. There was plenty of room for both of us. Once the barge passed we saw the other side of the river and half expected a sign that said “Left or Right Turn Only.” We went to the right.

The rivers converging, coupled with the wake from the barge left us rockin’ and rollin’. I grabbed the Christmas tree just before it toppled. It surprised me how bouncy our big boat was going over that mess. The 8-track in my head kept replaying “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”  You know, “Fellas it’s too tough to feed ‘ya. Fellas it’s been good to know ‘ya.” *Sigh.*

It died down, but there were regular barges kicking up wake. Eventually I had to use a bungie cord to anchor the Christmas tree. Once we got into a groove my 8-track changed to “Old Man River.” I know its old timey but it fits. At least according to my brain. At one point, Rick said he saw deer in the river. What? No way! He hadn’t slept well the night before and I thought maybe he was getting delusional from the lack of sleep. But no. There were four deer, their heads and antlers sticking majestically out of the water. I can’t imagine why they felt the need to cross the river, but there you have it.

We made great time and turned into the harbor earlier than expected. It was littered with barges and tugs. I mean EVERYWHERE. At one point, we had to thread a needle to get between two expansive masses of barges. The area was completely industrial and not in keeping with the vision in my head of “going down river.”

We finally made it to the Greenville Yacht Club. We pulled up along the transient docks and ungracefully tied up. There was not a sole in the marina at 3 p.m. So no one came to help us or give us the skinny on the electric and water. The cost at this place was exorbitant so you would think a little assistance would be in order. Rick scoped things out and realized they didn’t have the electric we needed—it was further down. So we had to move the boat. I stayed on land to grab lines once he came in. The wind was whipping, stinging my eyes and blowing so hard into my ears I thought someone must be using a drill on my ear drum. It reminded me of when I used to take the train into Chicago for work. The wind would be whipping so bad on that train platform. Because of the currents and wind, Rick had to make a couple passes before I could reach the rope. I was pretty proud of getting that rope and quickly tying it off. It was one of the more graceful moves I had with that monster.

So we are safe, but not very happy. This “yacht club” is a dump. It will serve its purpose for the next two nights when the temperature is to drop into the low 20’s. Then we will fill our fuel tanks and head on down to warmer climes. I cannot wait. This cold weather is not for the faint of heart or for me, for that matter.

So Long, Little Rock!

So Long, Little Rock!

We’re finally getting out of Little Rock (we hope). Keep us in your thoughts. After all, we’ve tried to leave several times already. Here’s our planned itinerary to Greenville, MS where we will pick up the Mississippi River.

Tuesday, December 6: Head down the Arkansas River to either Pine Bluff, AR or Merrisach Lake (Dumas, AR), depending on our luck in getting through the locks.

Wednesday, December 7: Continue down the Arkansas River, anchoring out (if we only get to Pine Bluff on day one) or to Greenville, MS (if we stop at Dumas on day one).

Thursday, December 8-9: Check out Greenville, MS.

The weather is supposed to be quite cold and rainy at times. Hopefully we will out run the rain (we are ready for some sunshine and warmth).

The next leg will be down the Mississippi. I will post once we’ve had our fill of Greenville.

Stay tuned!

Winter She is A-Comin’

After visiting family for Thanksgiving, we arrived home last night to a storm. Just as we were unpacking the car, the raindrops started. They were intermittent, but then the wind picked up. Winds at 15-20 mph with gusts up to 30. I tried to step onto the boat with my hands full but couldn’t. The boat was moving up, down, forward, back; every which way. The fenders were doing their job but watching it, I was concerned they might burst as the boat was really slamming against the dock.

Rick gallantly went to get the balance of our things while I stayed on the boat to start unpacking. I was being thrown off balance at every turn. My suitcase, full size, filled to the gills, and heavy as hades, was impossible to navigate down the stairs. Our neighbor ran out to grab her aft deck pillows before they were lost to the sea. The docks were moaning up and down the marina. The waves slapping at the boat hull.

Because we are “transient” we have to take the slips that are available when we arrive. We also have a very tall boat so that tends to place us on the end of the docks with no cover overhead. What that means is we get the brunt of any bad weather or rolling seas. In addition, it was super cold. We generally pick destinations with warmth, but our circumstances (see previous posts) forced our hand. The heating on Nautical Dreamer is in zones. The main salon has heating controls, the main cabin has one, the forward cabin has one, the aft deck has one. Only one of those is temperature controlled to shut off and turn on based on the temperature you set. The rest are more like an old timey car heater. You regulate the temperature and the force of the fan, but it will only turn off when you physically turn it off.

On most winter nights I lounge at night in my footed onesie pajamas (so cute with little ducks on them). Recently, I have taken to wearing them to sleep as well because we keep the heat off in the bedroom (we both have serious sinus issues with the dry heat). So cool room + warm bed = good night sleep with no morning sinus headache. Lest you think everything is all cozy here, let me say this. My “outfit” includes thick winter socks and a t-shirt with the onesie over it all. Here’s the thing. I’m old. I need to get up a couple times at night for a bathroom break. Although under the covers in my onesie is warm, it’s not so great pulling it all down and sitting on an ice cold toilet. The T-shirt is coverage for when the onsie comes down but its flimsy coverage at best and the action necessitates top coverage only. It’s awful. It’s a wonder I’m able to go back asleep. It’s also a wonder I don’t have nightmares that I’m sitting on an iceberg waiting for a polar bear to come eat me. Don’t judge me by my strange dreams. And don’t judge me on the socks. I’m a woman and it is my experience that women tend to have colder hands and feet (my mom always said, “cold hands mean a warm heart” and I will take it). My point is, I am no exception to the cold extremities rule. So the socks stay on at night during the winter. But last night…ugh! I laid in bed unable to sleep. I curled up my hands in the blankets because I couldn’t face looking for my mittens in the cold dark. The blankets warmed my hands fairly well but my feet were icy. I laid there balancing the warmth of the covers/cold feet with getting out into the cold to put on my slippers. The slippers won and I spent the rest of the night in the warm bed with the slippers on wondering what kind of disgusting gunk I might have picked up on the bottom of my slippers that was now in my bed. (After all, we live in a construction zone most of the time.)

Eventually I fell asleep for a few hours. But I did wade into the frozen tundra twice to go to the bathroom during the night. And I woke up with a sore throat. The easiest solution would be to turn on the heat. So I think we will leave it off and travel to someplace a little warmer, ‘cuz that’s how we roll.

Side Note: Lest you think all I write about is negative, there are many wonderful things about living aboard Nautical Dreamer. The freedom. The ability to change your circumstances they don’t appeal to you. The camaraderie. The side effect of a tan without trying. The boat gently rocking you to sleep. On and on…

 

Need Some Help There, Girly?

I was sanding a closet door that was heavy with old glue. It had held a repugnant, dirty, old mirror the other day and would soon have sepia tone photos of our grand-kids in the mirror’s place. After first attempting to heat gun and scrape the glue off, we realized I needed to sand it off. Since we purged most of our things prior to moving onto the boat, we no longer had a belt sander. I was using a drill with a sanding attachment. A man working on his boat walked by to get into his storage locker and we nodded to each other. A short while later he came up to me toting a belt sander, offered it up, and asked if it would be helpful. I politely declined because it felt odd to think about using someone’s tool when I didn’t even know his name.

Several days later, I was STILL sanding those stinking doors. (In my defense there were four of them and I had completed the first two by scraping, sanding, spackling and priming.) Our mechanic walked up to me and asked if I wanted a better sander. I said I didn’t think so. He insisted on showing my how much easier it would be and offered to do it for me since it would be SOOOO quick. It wasn’t. The glue was just heating up and moving around, not actually coming off. So then he said he knew exactly what I needed, grabbing a tool off another worker who had been using the thing a few minutes before. I wasn’t sure he was done with it, but I guess he was going to have to be now. Anyway, as he is showing me how to use it; it’s obvious that it’s not the easiest thing to control. So he says to me, “You just have to be careful and hold it firmly.” He walks away and I try it. It was, of course, bucking wildly in MY hands. So I reverted to my way.

My point here…what was my point? Shoot! Oh, neither of those guys had to offer to help.  But as a group, “boat people” are really terrific human beings. Across the board. I will grant you they are mostly men and the older ones tend to call me “girly” or “girl” which irks me to no end. (Seriously. How? What? Aargg!) Being in a boat community, though, reminds me of being on the playground as a child. You know. Back in the day. You shared. You were polite. No one really worries about their “stuff.”

“You need to borrow my stuff? Here ‘ya go.”

“You need a ride to the store? Sure.”

“Let me help you with those ropes.”

“Why don’t you try this?”

“We already took that trip down river. You need to look out for ‘x’.”

“Can I help you carry that?”

“Here take these charts. I’m not going to use them again.”

Everyone is willing to share their knowledge, their tools, their good humor. Even those who live on their boats but are driving to work each day are more at ease than those workers I know with houses or apartments. Does the water relax people or are more relaxed folks attracted to boat life? Personally the water has relaxed us. Sure, I write all the time about the stresses of living on Nautical Dreamer. But compared to the stresses I HAD, I feel like a wimp talking about my issues now.

No doubt there are dashes of frustrating things and some are more harrowing than others. The whole marina debacle that landed us in a boat yard sanding closet doors in the first place, was pretty stressful. In case there is anyone out there that hasn’t heard the tale (and we have told it many, many times), here’s the story in a nutshell. We left the Rockwater Marina in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas, to head down river. I was on land headed over to the refueling dock to grab lines while Rick headed over in the boat. All of a sudden he stopped dead in his tracks. I thought the engine died; it didn’t. He had run aground. In the marina. This isn’t supposed to happen. Being on a river, the area needs dredging periodically and apparently they hadn’t done it. So he backs off to get away from the area and backs into what turns out to be a concrete block that used to hold a buoy as a warning sign that it was shallow in that area. Thanks. We figured it out on our own BY RUNNING INTO IT. Sheesh. He attempted to move away from the block and couldn’t. He was stuck. I still thought there was something wrong with the engine and was worried he’d drift into the shipping lane with no way to escape oncoming traffic. I was panicked and my phone was on the boat, so no communication other than his shouting unintelligibly at me. Then all of a sudden, the beast holding him let go and he managed to get over to the refueling dock where we called the owner of the marina. He realized he should have told us about that low area. When he arrived to check things out he said that, of course, he would make it right (a huge relief).

We contacted the mechanic that had done some work for us earlier. He instructed us to make our way, if we were able, to the Little Rock Yacht Club where they had a lift and he could check us out. He felt any damage was already done and it wouldn’t harm the boat additionally to drive to the yacht club. Plus, it was a pricey prospect to tow it. Even though the marina owner was paying, we didn’t need to run up a bill. We pulled away from the dock and ran aground again spitting up rocks even though it was in a different area of the marina. As we headed out of the marina I kept hearing this clicking sound back by the propellers; but we kept our fingers crossed as we limped through a lock and up river to the yacht club.

They pulled it out the same day and OH. MY. WORD. Visualize this. Better yet, just look.

 

Our "tied up" props.
Our “tied up” props.

img_1115Attached to the concrete block was 9-feet of half-inch round metal cable that originally held the buoy but now was just a hazard. When Nautical Dreamer hit the concrete, it snagged the cable in its propellers. The cable immediately wrapped around the propellers since they were in motion. As Rick tried to escape he eventually snapped the cable but the damage was done. The clicking I heard was the cable moving around with the propellers.

Both propellers were damaged and one of the drive shaft struts was cracked. The mechanic was concerned the drive shaft might be damaged. In addition, there was water leaking in through the rudder shaft packing seals that needed to be repaired and dried out. The closest shop that could recondition the propellers was in Florida, so we were in for at least two weeks of waiting. We couldn’t stay on the boat, so we went in search of a hotel. We also needed a car since the yacht club was out of the way and using Uber every day would be a $40 round-trip. We had just stocked the freezer and refrigerator and although we ran a line to keep it running, all the fresh fruit and veggies went bad. We had to eat out every day. This was unexpected to say the least and totally messed with my dietary needs. We contacted the owner to give them the estimate for the repairs and let them know our hotel and car expenses along with food to be determined. They offered to put us up in the “nicest hotel in Little Rock” but we had already prepaid through Hotwire to get a good rate.

Since we were stuck, we worked on a few projects while we waited and lumbered back to the hotel at night. It stunk. But the people. The people were terrific. Every day we would meet someone new. It usually went like this. “Good morning! I’m so-and-so. You’re the ones who had that trouble at the other marina?” “Yeah, that’s us,” we’d reply. Then we’d talk for a while, explain what happened and how great the owners were being. Eventually, offers of assistance in some form would be thrown out, which we appreciated and we’d part ways. If nothing else, living on a boat is renewing my belief in humanity.

The boat is in the water now, but we had plans to travel to see family for Thanksgiving so we haven’t moved yet. Besides, we missed a window of opportunity to go through the lock at Lake Pontchartrain by New Orleans. It’s closed for repairs right now. So we decided to wait it out rather than going around it, which adds 300 miles. So here we’ll sit. Little Rock does not want to let go. That’s okay. We’ve been invited to the annual potluck holiday party at the yacht club. Cool beans.

 

Is My Head Exploding Yet?

As reported a few days ago on Facebook, we were in Pine Bluff, AR, having easily traversed the Arkansas River for this particular leg from Little Rock. We anchored around 2 p.m. and had a lazy wonderful afternoon relaxing. Since we wanted to head out at first light the next morning, we set an alarm.

The routine when anchored is to run the generator while we have dinner and relax before bed, then go through the night without it to save on fuel. In the morning, we fire it up to get our morning coffee/tea and to make sure the fridge and freezer are staying cool.

This particular chilly morning, Rick started the generator to get some heat going while I got dressed. It ran…until it didn’t. No heat, no hot tea, no refrigeration, emergency lights only. “I knew we’d have to pay for such a perfect day yesterday,” I muttered to myself.

Rick started pulling out all the crates of tools he had stored below deck in order to get to the faulty piece of equipment. I kept my head down (he tends to get into a foul mood when he has to deal with things that may have been tampered with by the previous owners) and continued to get dressed. He checked the coolant; it was down. Of course we had coolant. That was, apparently, only part of the issue, however. He thought the water pump wasn’t working properly. Of course, we didn’t have a spare.

Choice One: continue down river and allow all the food needing refrigeration to spoil.

Choice Two: head back to Little Rock and get the generator fixed.

If we went with choice one, we would be headed into the unforgiving desolate waters of the Mississippi. We’d already been told to have enough food, water, and fuel to make it all the way to New Orleans. Ol’ Man River didn’t have any services for the likes of us after Greenville, MS. So we turned around.

The locks we’d successfully lowered through yesterday raised us up the next day. The first lock took four hours to get into. Four. Flipping. Hours. An excessively large barge in the lock was throwing a hissy fit at a dredging barge outside of the lock that was, in his estimation, too close to where he needed to exit. The dredge had to shore up a bit to please him and they didn’t seem to think that was necessary. So we waited. We tried dropping anchor but it didn’t hold. We didn’t have a lot of choices on where to wait, so Rick kept moving us in a pseudo-pattern in between idling. It was irritating, but they were bigger than us and they were commercial. Commercial trumps leisure in “lock-speak.”

Still, we made it back to the marina by 6 p.m. and docked fairly easily despite my awkward jump from the boat to secure a line. (Two days later, my re-injured shoulder is still painful. Bah! Rub some salt on it. Suck it up. It’ll be fine.)

Since we had a few days before parts would be here and the mechanic would be able to check on things, we decided to try AGAIN to switch our phones over to Verizon. A little background. We’d had Verizon previously, but had no signal in our house in Arizona. That problem coupled with their lack of customer service led us to switch carriers. Fast forward to our first trek to Little Rock. Our phones were useless, but the guys with Verizon were able to call, text, stream, and create videos. They worked for Verizon and convinced us we obviously needed to make a change. While we were in Little Rock (the first time), we took Uber to the Verizon store. Once there, we learned that we needed a code to “unlock” our phone from T-Mobile. “Unlocking” could take up to 24 hours. We headed back to the boat via Uber again. (By the way, Uber is fantastic!) So now we’re, what, something like fifteen bucks in to get these phones changed. We go back the next day with the unlock codes, at which time, we were pushed towards signing up for prepaid. When we declined (actually, I said, “why would I let you earn interest on my money when I could be?”) we were told given that because we had phone numbers from Arizona, were in Arkansas, but had a Florida address, we needed proof of address. “You know, like a utility bill or something,” said a different, red-headed dude (our original guy had not been working that day). Incidentally, I don’t know why I mention he had red hair. Only that it irritated the crap outta me at the time. We leave again. Now our travel expense is at around $30. The next day we headed down river, so we dropped the whole thing.

But now we were back. The lack of signal when we tried to call the mechanic on our way back to Little Rock solidified the need for the switch. So we sucked it up and went back, yet again, to the Verizon store. (Helloooo, Uber.) We thought we had stacked the deck in our favor this time around. We took a bundle of things to prove our address including the only utility bill we had (for internet back at the house before we moved), two recent credit card statements, copies of our insurance cards, an IRS statement confirming our refund, a Fidelity statement, a bank letter, the papers for the boat purchase, and a Declaration of Domicile for each of us, notarized by the Clerk of Courts in Florida (a requirement to register to vote.) In addition, we texted our friend who works for Verizon. He then called the store and spoke with the manager. We were assured they would take good care of us. And they did. But… (You knew I wouldn’t bother with all this if there wasn’t a “but…”).

Our original guy was back. (Yay! Carrot Top wasn’t working.) He did the paperwork and sent it along with our documentation to New Jersey for approval. It was rejected. Our credit is fabu. What was the deal? Weeeelllll…

We kept sending more and more documentation; all of it was rejected.

Now, as a teacher, I was known for keeping my cool even though certain kids would put other teachers over the edge. It took a lot to rile me. But my foot started tapping. Not a good sign. Our Verizon guy called to get clarification and eventually put the woman, Sabrina was her name, on speaker for us (and the entire store) to hear direct.

“I have a list of things that are acceptable and you don’t have those things,” said Sabrina.

“But we were told to bring a utility bill,” said Rick.

“Tappity, tap, tap,” said my foot.

“It’s too old,” said Sabrina.

“I gave you a credit card statement,” countered Rick.

“It’s too old as well. It has to be within the last 30 days.” I pulled out the other credit card statement, with a payment date of 10/15/16. We faxed it, then waited (tap, tappity, tap…). Everything we had, she had an excuse for not accepting. The Declaration of Domicile wasn’t “on the list.”  The IRS paper and insurance card were in my name, not Rick’s. OKAY. Enough.  I spoke up.

“Let me speak to your supervisor, please.” I thought I was pleasant, but both guys were silent and looked at me sideways. So maybe I didn’t say “please.”

Obviously tight lipped, she put us on hold to go get her supervisor. We waited a good 15 minutes before Nancy came on the line. By now, the entire store was listening intently as I attempted to explain our situation. “We recently retired,” I started. “We sold our Arizona house and our belongings and bought a boat. The boat was in Arkansas, but our new address is actually in Florida. We are traveling there via the boat and wanted to switch carriers so we had reliable service while on the river system. I asked for you because I wanted to talk with someone that has the authority to make common sense decisions based on special circumstances, rather than someone who can only repeatedly give me ‘the approved list.” She said she understood. I explained we had given quite a few documents to prove our address including the notarized Declaration of Domicile.

“I haven’t had the chance to review the documents yet. Give me a minute,” she said. (What was she doing for that 15 minutes we were on hold? Pilates?) “Well, you have a credit card statement that’s over 30 days old. We can’t accept it.”

“It had a charge of $100, which we paid. We have a zero balance. We didn’t get another bill.”

“We can’t accept it. It’s too old.”

“There is another credit card as well.”

“The date of issue isn’t within 30 days.”

“It says at the top October 16, 2016.”

“That’s the due date, not the date of issue.”

Rick interjected, “You don’t understand. We live on a boat.”

I finished his thought, “We only get our mail once a month. We don’t have another statement yet.”

“We can’t accept it.”

“Okay. We also gave you an insurance card and the Declaration of Domicile. It’s notarized! It can be used to obtain a U.S. passport. If it’s good enough for the U.S. government, why is it not good enough for you?”

“It’s not on the list.”

“Okay. I’m trying very hard not to go to Crazy Town right now,” I said, as the lady sitting next to me started chuckling. “What can you do for me?”

“I can go over the list of approved documentation.”

I wanted to ask why she presumably earns more as an assistant manager than Nancy does as a worker bee, when she obviously does not have the autonomy to do any more. I also want to tell her that’s sad and she must feel bad about where she is in life. Instead, I said, “And who is your supervisor?”

Now Nancy is irritated. “Viola.”

“Let me speak with Viola, please.” We were put on hold only to be told that Viola has apparently refused to speak with us. We were then told that “a call is only allowed to be escalated once and that was from Sabrina to me.” Thanks for nothing, Nancy. The lady next to me clucked and said she saw that coming.

I’m furious. My foot is tapping, my leg is bouncing, and my snark is peeking through.  “So you are saying you don’t want our business.”

“I’m not saying that.”

“Well, okay, what can you do for me?”

“I can give you the list.”

“We’ve been through the list. You are saying there is absolutely NOTHING you can do for me other than reading me a list.”

“I’m sorry. That’s all I can do.”

Great. And no one else could help us because we had already been “escalated”. I got her last name and attempt to get both Sabrina’s and Viola’s last names as well, but she was not forthcoming. We hung up. We apologize to our Verizon guy who had wasted his day on us. (By now it’s been 2-1/2 hours and he has earned no commission for this time.) We walked out. I was so angry that even a visit to Barnes and Noble did nothing to cool me down. (If you know me, you know that’s HUGE.)

So Rick let our friend know our troubles and that we won’t be switching to Verizon after all. We-el, he apparently must have a pretty good position at Verizon. He got the info from us, called yet another supervisor and got it sorted out. Easy-peasy. My hero. (Thanks again, Justin!) That supervisor called Rick to assure him we could go back into the store and get signed up. Rick took the opportunity to explain our frustration. He assured her no one was rude to us. But no one was able to help or had the authority to think outside the box. She said this would become a learning tool at the next meeting and assured us customer service would get better. That’s still to be determined, but I will say our signal is markedly improved. I will also say it’s good to have friends in high places. All’s well that ends well, as they say. Now, I need to clean up. This whole “head explosion” thing is a real mess.