St Petersburg, FL to Muskogee, OK Trip

St Petersburg, FL to Muskogee, OK
Jan 21, 2015 - Feb 4, 2015
Captain Ralph Robinson

Wednesday, Jan 21

Dan and I shopped at Wal-Mart for boat food just outside MM (MarineMax) St Pete.

We board the new boat we're delivering at Pasadena Yacht Center in St Pete, FL. Fuel reads at ½ so we are good to go!!

We run outside up the coast to Clearwater Municipal Marina and follow the Double Eagle III, a commercial fishing vessel in the “short cut” as he draws 6.5' and I'm drawing 5.5'. The channel has changed from the Red side to the Green side now going in. 

“Local Knowledge” is everything.

Fueling and we take on 775 gal and she holds 1000 gal. The fuel gauges are off in each tank, so ½ is really less than ¼. 

We have dinner at Crabby Bills. Because someone has rented out the entire second floor, we have to wait and eat on the first floor.

Thursday, Jan 22

Off early at 6:30a for Panama City. Easy until we were 90 miles out and it gets bumpy with winds off the Stbd bow and 3’- 5' seas. 2 hours later we have 1’- 2' seas inbound to Panama City.

Stop at Treasure Island Marina. Fuel reads 1/2 and we take on 775 gal. 115 gallons a side were left leaving only 1 hr. running time left. This boat has 8– 8.5 hours run time, and 240 miles range. She has very “short legs” for this type of trip.

The Port Engine will not shut off at the dash, so you now have to cut power to the Battery in the Power Panel.

Capt. Anderson's is closed, again! We walked across the bridge to RJ Michael's Restaurant across the street from Capt. Anderson's. Good food.

Friday, Jan 23

7a and we are out of the inlet to the Gulf and headed west to Destin Inlet. 6’-8' rollers with a 15 mph breeze across the bow.

From the Destin Inlet we take a heading to Pensacola Inlet with same 6'-8' rollers. 

From the Pensacola Inlet we take a heading to Mobile Bay Inlet. A bit choppier seas as winds are building. At Mobile Inlet there are huge curling breakers in the inlet that remind us of “Hawaii five-0”. That’s never a good sign.

Inside and up the channel 17 miles to the Dog River and Dog River Marina. We take on 616 gal of fuel. It’s 50 a nippy degrees here now and with a low of 37 tonight.

We take the courtesy car, a F150 with 379,000 miles on it to the “Mariner Restaurant” at 6pm.

Dog River Marina is a transient marina, boatyard and West Marine in one spot. It’s easy in, and easy out.

Fun Fact: The Dog River Foundries were established before the Civil War and included Young's “Eufaula Iron works”, and “Pierce Campbell’s’ Foundry”. They were making steam engines around 1850. The term Dog River Confederate sword is applied to any CSA sword with no maker marks. Few if any swords were actually manufactured in this location

Mariner Marina is directly across the river and is a transient marina and restaurant. 

The Mariner Restaurant appears as if the building is falling down and the place is dirty. Had it not been recommended, we wouldn’t be here, but the food was awesome. We had the Rib Eye Steaks, and they were very good. 

Back to the boat and the we get the heat on. It’s 45 now, and dropping. Rain here in the night.

Saturday, Jan 24

Off at 630a and our goal is to make New Orleans.

Traveled down Mobile Bay in 25-30 mph winds. The Spray is burying the windshield as fast as the wipers could clear. 

We head west in the Mississippi Sound and we are now in the ICW. This is a huge open bay with head winds of 25-30 mph. There is still lots of spray over the bow. The boat is almost constantly covered over the bridge roof with huge white spray and the windshield wipers are on high speed, and you can barely see out.

We should have tried to stay at Biloxi, MS or Gulfport, MS last night. Both were on the way. Hours pass and we finally get to a narrow section and the bay waves end; we are still in the ICW.

We haven't seen a boat in days and as soon as we get into narrows we have 5-6 barges and two sailboats holding us down. Then we got into several commercial docks and have to slow again.

We finally made “Industrial Canal” off the ICW for our port tonight and we have a railway bridge down. I cannot raise them on the radio on Ch. 16, 13 or 9. I called SeaBrook Harbor for our nights stay, and they gave me the phone number to the CSX Railway Bridge, 504-945-3112. A train was coming and as soon as it cleared the bridge would rise. 

On to Seabrook Harbor ½ mile further on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain We fueled with 500 gal and while fueling a 48' Power Cat pulled up that was a Marine Max vessel that had just come off a cargo ship from China. Eight (8) of them came in today. The marina is assembling them here at SeaBrook Harbor then they get delivered to Clearwater and then on to then to BVI's later. They are nice looking boats. I have often thought of chartering in the Virgin Islands and these are nice boats to make that trip on.

We moved to our slip and I wanted to use the aft station to dock from, but it is inoperative. I had to dock with Dan giving hand directions from the swim platform. Dang. More work for me.

We are here for two nights at SeaBrook Harbor and are going to meet my River Capt. George and his wife Jo here Sunday. We want to leave on Monday heading up the Mississippi River.

Dan and I want to head downtown tonight, my first trip to New Orleans, Bourbon Street and French Quarter. Finally, on my third trip through here I will get to see the town. Dang. 

We are cleaning up the boat from our travel this morning, Dan is washing the boat down, and I went into the engine room.

There was a mist of clear oil all over. Transmission!! Looking more closely there was oil under the Port tranny. This boat has Cat 18's, 1150 hp with ZF Transmissions, and a PTO (Power Take Off) on the backside of the tranny for the hydraulic bow and stern thrusters. Usually electric thrusters are on the boats I run.

The Port adapter to used to mount the stern thrusters PTO cracked and is dripping oil on the driveshaft coupler and throwing oil everywhere in the engine room.

I took a couple of pics and sent them to the Oklahoma Marine Max Manager. He called the SeaRay Factory in Palm Coast, FL and another is on its way for delivery on Monday to be installed here at SeaBrook. Gonna lose at least one day with this repair.

I contacted Capt. George, our river guide, as he is in town with his wife for her birthday today. They are staying at the Hyatt Casino and George wants to meet later on Bourbon Street.

Dan and I finish straightening out the boat, shower and sit for a bit watching the Satellite TV aboard wondering how this will proceed, timely or not, or even if it’s possible.

We are off in a rental car from Louie Armstrong Airport since we are going to be here at least 3 nights now. It’s $25 a day at National Car and we head to Bourbon Street to eat and do some sightseeing.

We find a spot to park one block from Bourbon Street at Royal and Toulouse in the heart of the town. 

Bar upon bar with rock and roll, not Dixieland or Blues. Bars and strip clubs, that's all. Throngs of people. The Balconies are full, with people holding necklaces to throw to girls showing their breasts.

It was freaks, drunks and homeless people everywhere. Multiples of people of all sizes, shapes and dress. The more oddly you look, the better apparently. Cops are in groups at every odd location watching the masses with their usual scowl. Damn I don’t miss that work.

We are randomly looking for some place to eat. The Dock-master recommended “Oceana” restaurant when docking today. We were looking for "Oysters" restaurant recommended by a bouncer on the street when we see Oceana and we get in the 40' line.

The line goes in rapidly, and we get seated on the second floor of an old building looking into a courtyard of cafe tables with a quiet band playing that we couldn't hear because of the din inside.

Mostly locals in here it seems and that’s a good sign. Established in 1973 so it’s got history and the building is 1870's era.

Dan and I order oysters, Dan’s’ raw and mine grilled with a cheese covering. Nice, but not Apalachicola. I should have gotten raw as well. 

I ordered, “A Taste of New Orleans”, Creole Jambalaya, Crawfish Etouffee, Red Beans and Rice, and Smoked Sausage, with a side Greek Salad. Dan ordered Blackened Redfish covered in Crawfish Etouffee. The food was unbelievable, really unbelievable. Fabulous flavors. Unique New Orleans taste.

We walked back to the car, and the crowd had grown and I was done here. Not my cup of tea, but I was glad it dipped my toe into the muddy crowd of "Nar'leans". We will meet Capt. George tomorrow.

To the boat and bed. What a day!

Sunday, Jan 25

Awoke at 7a to clean up the boats’ interior to make ready for George and his wife, Jo and I move out of the big V-Berth for the new couple to share, and me to a little room with beds 24” wide. Dang.

At 930, George calls and says he's at breakfast. 

At 11, I call George to say we are ready to go to lunch then on to downtown to sightsee.

George and Jo show up at 12:30 with their good friends Rich and Joanne. Rich is a boater and has lived on and ran his SeaRay 44 AC on the river for 20+ years. They live aboard on Lake Pontchartrain now. By the time we all get done talking, its 2:30p. 

We drive downtown to “Marina's” Restaurant (The Girls name, not a location), its time for Creole Cooking. I had Shrimp Creole. Dan had a Roast Beef Po Boy. Good food.

We drove downtown to “Jackson Square.” We used public parking nearby, and walked to the square. The French called it Place d'Armes (Weapons Square). While named Place d"Armes in 1815 by the French, public executions of disobedient slaves were held here and their heads were hung on the squares gates. It was re-named after Gen Andrew Jackson in 1856 for his defeat of the Brits in 1815, ending the War of 1812 right here. The Louisiana Purchase was also signed here in 1803. We saw the St Louis Catholic Church with its three spires on the West side of the square. Beautiful, just beautiful.

There were lots of street performers and artwork for sale on all four streets surrounding the square, and very similar to Mallory Square in Key West. Some of the artwork was really quite something, most of it just junk.

We stopped across the street from Jackson Square at “Cafe Du Monde” renowned for it’s coffee, cafĂ© au lait, half coffee and half cream with “Beignets”, each serving has six, which is a pastry buried in confection sugar. Nice.

We wandered the streets and alleys and I found the New Orleans Harley Davidson shop. Looked in, but didn't buy a shirt. I must have 300 now from all over the US, Caribbean and Jerusalem. We walked about and looked at all the freaks and the homeless. America, dang It's embarrassing at times. Dan is going back downtown tonight, I'm staying in. I'm done with this place.

We drove the to Wal-Mart near SeaBrook Harbor and bought boat food and some supplies for George and Jo, then drove back to SeaBrook Harbor. 7:30p. It's just TV tonight for me as the downtown thing at night isn’t for me.

Monday, Jan 26

Awoke at 7a and we gather our senses for the day. 8a I start calling Sea Ray Palm Coast for direction on the tranny repair. I'm transferred to warranty, who in turn gives me manufacturing. Scott relates he is the man whom oversaw the construction of this vessel. I relate my issue and he requests the ZF Serial Number, Model Number and Part Number. I locate these, take photos and text them to Scott.

Scott relates the “drive trains come complete” meaning the engines come with trannys and in this case, the PTO for the thruster all in one assembly when they arrive at SeaRay. Scott is calling Caterpillar for the info on the cracked adapter. Scott wants ZF warranty in New Orleans to install the part when it arrives.

I locate the ZF peeps from SeaBrook Service, and contact CMSS via phone.

They relate they need the Serial Number and Model Number with a Work Order from ZF National.

I give CMSS the info, but I cannot get a Work Order Number yet. Scott calls and relates the part has to come from ZF and he is trying to identify the part and asks me if it's a "B" Plate. How would I know, they put the thing together. I send photos.

I had Scott call CMSS the local ZF Tranny Repair shop to set up this repair. My next call was from Scott who related ZF was over nighting the part, and both the part and a tech would be at the boat at 11a tomorrow. Super!!!

During this, I have SeaBrook Harbor order three 24" round fenders for the 19 locks we need to go through over the next days. They will be here tomorrow at 10a with lines.

Jobs done for the moment done. We went to the National WWII Museum here in New Orleans. It was commissioned June 6, 2000 on the 56th anniversary of D-Day. 

It's downtown and we found that the Higgins Boatyard is here. Higgins made the majority of the the US WWII from landing craft, troop carriers, and vehicle carries for the various beach landings during the war. They were tested in the shallow swampy waters of New Orleans and the famous PT Boats were tested on Lake Pontchartrain. The museum is awesome and more than informative. We were there three hours.

We took the car to get a Cajun meal at Mulate's, the Original Cajun Restaurant. It was very good and we had a variety of almost everything on the menu from Grilled Gator, Fried Shrimp and Crawfish, Catfish, Calamari, Fried Wings, Stuffed Crab, etc., etc. I was gonna explode!!! On the way back, we purchased a basket of frozen dinners for the next 10 days on the water. Great food to cruddy food, really!! Dang.

We loaded the boat's freezers and fridges, 4 total onboard, and I think we almost have the food covered for the balance of the trip. A bit of TV and to bed. I can only hope the part shows up soon.

Tuesday, Jan 27

Up late as nothing to do but wait the repair at 10a. 930a Dan and I check on the three round fenders we ordered and they had just came into the dock-masters office. Paid for those and we were able to fill them with the compressor in the boat barn.

While filling the fenders, Industrial Technology ZF dealer, 504-443-0501, called us to say the part was in his hand and he was coming to the boat at noon.

At noon two trucks pulled in with Blake and Phillip from ZF. They came to the boat and related one needed to leave and go back to the shop. Paint was needed for the new piece since it's steel and it will corrode instantly in the salt water. Dang.

Blake stayed to look over the needs of the repair, and, Phillip left to paint the adapter.

I went over the issues with Blake and he began to loosen the parts but didn't take them off, as he wanted to lift the thruster housing with a come-along due to it’s weight.

Phillip returned shortly with the new adapter still wet with paint.

They had the old adapter off in short order and not only was the adapter cracked, but it had the wrong “O Ring” that was way too big and would have leaked no matter what in time. Blake, seeing the wrong O Ring on Port, wanted to look at the Stbd, thinking it would be the same.

Phillip called his shop and they told him to leave the Stbd alone as “it wasn't leaking”. 

Both Port and Stbd thruster pumps had been mounted with every other bolt in place. Blake put bolts in every hole and indicated that was the way it was supposed to be. Union work! 

I brought up the fact that of the five shift stations on the boat that operate the vessel, only one station was in operation, and that was the lower helm station and just the shifters on it were now working.

Blake and Phillip began wiggling wiring and connections and they told me to start the engines and check out the various controls. I had full operation of all components at the five stations!!! Those repairs done, it was time for lunch/dinner. It had been a very long day.

Off to find a steakhouse, but we didn't, so we ended up on the river end of Bourbon Street. We looked at Acme Oyster Bar, but it was shift change and they wouldn't let us in. Across the street was “Felix's Restaurant and Oyster Bar” and it was a walk in. Through the sidewalk window you could see shuckers making platters of twelve with raw oysters.

We walked right in and there was a 30' bar of 20 barstools and five shuckers filling trays for those seated at the oyster bar. Nice! We took a table. We all ordered a dozen. They were awesome and as big as you palm!! Our waiter, “Magic”, because “He delivers The Magic” made the cocktail sauce right at the table: Ketchup, Worcestershire Sauce and Horseradish. 

I ordered a side salad and a roast beef Po Boy. Dan ordered a side salad. George and Jo ordered another dozen oysters.Damn good eatin'!! Damn...second only to Shells in Tallahassee, and only because of Shells Famous Cocktail Sauce. 

We dropped the rental car off at Enterprise near the marina and they took us home to SeaBrook Harbor. It will be early to bed as we are off at 6a to make the bridges and Industrial Lock to get on the Mississippi River northbound.

Wednesday, Jan 28

Awake at 530a. Shove off at 6a at "George's Request". 

We ease out on Industrial Channel and I check all helm stations (5), and we are good. A short ½ mile and we have to open the CSX Railway Bridge, followed by the Florida Bridge. At the Florida Bridge, I again check the Helm Stations and I cannot take back the lower helm station nor the upper helm station, but the Joystick locations (3) are working. I use the joystick to get under Florida Bridge. Holy Crap!!

On the other side of Florida Bridge I have to shut the boat totally down and Dan has to wrestle with wiring to the engines and transmission solenoids for me to get the lower helm station back but the shifters do not feel correct. 

I approach Industrial Lock and they relate “we just went into curfew” and the locks and bridges are shutdown from 630a to 830a. Dang. We should have left at 530a latest and this shift issue is quite a problem now, I'm worried about later.

We spend time messing with the wiring and shutting down the boat and restarting, and now the motors are stuck in “Troll” mode. This means the motors will not exceed 1200 RPM. That ain’t gonna work.

We advise Industrial Lock we are going back to SeaBrook Harbor and we are going to give up our “Lock thru place in line”. Industrial Lock advised we are trapped between Florida Bridge and Industrial Lock ‘til 830a due to the curfew. 

We continue to mess with the trannys and finally get the lower helm to work correctly, but we agree we are not going to mess with them again the balance of the trip.

At 7:45a the lock lets us in to rise 3-4 feet to the Mississippi River. While in lock, I call Saint Claude Bridge to open as we exit the lock to get onto Mississippi River from Industrial Canal.

As the lock opens, and St Claude Bridge opens, SeaRay calls wanting to know the status of the shifters. I begin to relate the story as I pass a barge entering Industrial Lock. I begin to talk to SR (SeaRay) about the BS of the morning with the shifters. They want me to mess with the shifters on the Mississippi River in 6-7 knots of current, tons of boat traffic everywhere and the possibility I will lose shifters completely and thus loosing control of the vessel. I relate I will not assist them at this time.

While on the phone call, I was supposed to call in on Channel 67 to “Mississippi Control”, like an airport terminal directing plane traffic, so I had Capt. George sign us on. They track vessels in the New Orleans area and direct ship movement with only their permission. We enter the Mississippi River at MM (Mile Marker) 93.

Underway George tells us he is a 30 year “Hauler” of boats, not a Delivery Captain, although he is licensed as a Captain. George has moved boats for years for Marine Max as a trucker and that he is a friend of the of the Marine Max, manager of the Grand Lake, Oklahoma store. This trip is a thank you to George and his wife from MM so they can see the river together.

This trip is "Impossible" as I've said for weeks!!!!

Up the Mississippi River, and she turns and bends almost a huge endless snake. The beaches of brown sand turn to winter's dead trees, thousands of barges, yes thousands, tied along the banks. A barge is moving every half mile, largest barge 7 wide 350' x 7 long 700'. Occasionally there is a plantation near the river to see with the large two story columns out front. Beautiful.

We are able to make 26 mph on the river at 2100 RPM with the 6-7 knot head current and the water is 44 degrees. That's cold!!! The Bering Sea is almost that cold.

At MM 223.5 or after 133 miles, we come to the south side of Baton Rouge and The Economy Boat Store fuel barge, Ph. 225-819-1743, for fuel. They monitor Ch. 10 on VHF. We paid for 500 gal minimum 2 hours earlier by credit card when talking to "Mike" at 504-421-4826 of operations or Cell 225-673-3480. We pump 500 gal into the boat. Less, we still pay for 500 gal. More, we pay more, but we have to redo paperwork. 500 it is. They do not cater to Pleasure Craft, but George knows Mike. From The Economy Boat Store you can see Tiger Stadium, home of LSU. Looks big from here.

We leave northbound and it’s an idle zone between the bridges of Baton Rouge. Approaching the second bridge, I throttle up and immediately, overheat on starboard engine. Researching, low water flow on Stbd side exiting, and we shut down the engine and open the strainer with the seacock open. There is a geyser of water. So it's the raw water impeller as the raw water feed is strong. We start looking for a dock and a Caterpillar guy in Baton Rouge.

I call Sea Ray,  who hooks me up with Caterpillar USA, my contact’s name is Charleston, not the city, and Caterpillar Concierge. Caterpillar cannot get me an impeller until Friday and I order two.

At the same time as the phone calls trying to get an impeller and a wrench, I am also trying to find a dock. Mike, at The Economy Boat Store, relates there is a public dock next to the USS Kidd, WWII Destroyer at the south bridge. We drive to the pier, but there is no way to get on and off our boat from this pier because the ramp is damaged from floodwaters. A man there tells us to go to the Belle Casino; a paddle wheeler, there may be a dock there. I actually talk to the boat captain on the phone but we cannot dock there due to “liability”. We go back to the public pier and tie up, but it is useless to get on or off here.

George spoke of a lock in the area, but it has no dock noted by his guide. Mike of Economy Boat Store gives George the name of a deputy and his phone number. George calls the deputy; Dep. John relates there is no public dockage in Baton Rouge. I tell George, Dan and I are retired SPD cops and I get on the phone with the deputy who tells us of a dock at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge where the Police Boat, Sheriffs Boat and Port Authority Boat dock and I get directions directly across the river from where we are and we have permission to dock there.

We arrive at the dock, interrupted by many phone calls, and finally tie up to the “cop pier”. Two Baton Rouge cops arrive and one sheriff. They don't want us to tie this “nice boat” to the steel I-Beam pier legs, so they move the Police Boat off their dock, and let us dock on their “Cop Dock”. They give us cards to call them anytime day or night. They couldn't be any nicer. We have 3.5’ of water under us, close but that’s enough. As we are at The Baton Rouge Port Authority, we cannot get off our boat or we are subject to immediate arrest. This port is under Homeland Security control, and we do not have authority to exit the boat. An armed Port Agent is overseeing us from above on the pier.

One of the BR cops, Darryl and Deputy John also relate just South of the I-10 Bridge, there is Port Allen Lock and just West of the lock is a public dock. Deputy John gives me his mechanics name and phone number, a Caterpillar guy, David Ward 225-445-4573. I call Dave immediately and he believes he can get on board tomorrow with the impeller.

I make some more calls. Dave is trying to locate an impeller, and Cat USA is working on it as well. First come, first serve is my thoughts!!! Another trip memory, dang. 

No service on this river. It's not pleasure boat friendly. This boat is not ready for a trip of this nature. I'm worn out and this is a test of more than my skills and resources. We dine on TV dinners and it’s early to bed for Dan. George and Jo. I watch TV alone ‘til 11p.

Thursday, January 29

We awake at 730a Breakfast of munchies. Watch some news on TV. Thank goodness this boat has active Sat TV.

As the day proceeds, I call Chuck, a Cat wrench in Sarasota, FL who asks Dan and I to remove the Water Pump Cover Plate and visually check the Impeller. It is good. We open/close the seacock and the water pump feed is clear through the impeller housing.

I cancel Caterpillar Impellers delivery that are due here for tomorrow, and have them sent to Greenville Yacht Club, two days ahead on the Mississippi River. Deputy John shows up and relates, as we cannot get off the boat, he will personally run any errands for us. He also relates Dave will come to our boat about 12p.

Dave arrives and he also determines the Water Pump is good, but his diagnosis is that the Thermostat is bad. He is off to get one to return later this day.

I call Caterpillar USA and relate we are looking for a thermostat for the Cat C-18 engines. Cat USA relates I cannot touch these motors and that any mechanic that is not Cat Certified touches these engines the Caterpillar Warranty will no longer be valid on this vessel. Period. I call SeaRay and talk to Scott my new best friend.

Scott hears my plight and probability that the Cat diagnosis “may” occur tomorrow, but parts would be here on Monday. He also hears my request that I have a mechanic with the part in his hand today that could do the repair and we are underway.

Cat USA calls within 5 min and relates a Cat Cert Mechanic from Louisiana Cat is coming today, maybe even this evening if they have to on overtime. Minutes later Louisiana Cat calls and says they will be here in 45 min and parts tomorrow if we can't get underway tonight.

I've been on the phone all day trying to get help and get underway. This is a mud hole and no place to be broken down. This trip is "challenging to the max". I’m leaning towards returning to New Orleans and quitting this trip if things get any worse.

LA Cat arrives, with Cat Certified Russ to do the repair. It’s mid afternoon now and he acts as if he has never been on a recreational yacht before. He was lost. I was telling him about the Cat C-18 Diesels and I don't know anything. Russ pokes around and we check a few things already checked by the previous mechanic, and redo that work. He attaches his computer and pushes buttons and has no suspicion as to the problem. He scratches his head and I suggest we go for a boat ride for Russ to see what I'm trying to explain.

We run out on the River and take her up to 1850 rpm and the heat climbs over to 200 degrees Stbd and 186 on Port as I pull the throttles back. We run up and down and the temps run up and down just as fast. We return to the dock and he relates it’s the Heat Regulator. I’m an idiot so I ask if that’s a thermostat. He says, “Yes.” (Why is this so hard?)

He says there is a restriction in the raw water feed. I relate the thermostat is in the Recirculating Coolant of the engine and not the raw water feed and he looks at me with three eyes. He is coming back at 8a to replace the thermostat and has no other suggestions.

Holy Crap!! He leaves and I'm confused. I contact Cat USA, Charleston, and relate the issues of the run out and the tech's opinion or lack thereof. I was told by Charleston that Cat would figure it out.

So here we sit.

We received a call from Officer Darryl, one of the local cops whose dock we are on and he relates we may need to move as the river is going to “drop 5 feet” in the next 24 hours. Why???

We were in 8 feet of water at the edge of the bank of the river, 3.5 feet under keel yesterday afternoon. We have to move and we have no place to go. The Depth gauge is reading 2.2 feet at 10pm. At 2 feet we are on the bottom. If we go to ground, it will take a spring rain to get out of here. I get Dan and George up and we move from the “cop dock” to the “cop pier” in 11 feet of water. We have no way to get the Cat tech onboard tomorrow here in this location. This is frustrating!

Friday, January 30

Up at 700a

Cat is supposed to be here at 8:00a for repair.

8:30a and no tech. I call. Russ is on I-10 now on the way from Louisiana Cat.

8:45a Russ is here and he boards from the Sheriffs boat, since we have “no water” to get back to the dock.  I spin our boat around stern to stern with the sheriff’s boat and Russ boards onto our swim platform.  While doing this, the lower helm station goes out and we are on thrusters to re-tie to the rusty steel I-Beam pier legs. Frightening really. My crew was all over it.

Russ is here to change the thermostat. In minutes he is topside holding a piece of what looks like rock ½ inch in diameter. Russ relates it is a piece of slag, or waste from the casting of one on the many Cat parts that has “washed through” the coolant system and blocked the movement of the thermostat, keeping it from opening to cool the engine.

I take the piece and photograph it for SeaRay and Caterpillar USA. I send pics to both parties. Sea Ray is excited to hold this over Caterpillar. Caterpillar is now my buddy. They “give” me spare parts of 2 impellers, another new Thermostat, 8 gal of coolant and some other items I was to pay for just 20 minutes ago. Humm.

Russ gets the boat back together and we run her out. We have no heat issues and we go back to the sheriff’s boat to drop Russ off on its swim platform from ours. 1015a Russ jumps off and we head north for Natchez, MS or Vidalia, LA (same town, but the river separates them) for our next fuel stop to make Greenville, MS tomorrow night.

We proceed under the second bridge of Baton Rouge and the large deep draft shipping vessels are left behind, as they cannot pass under this bridge. Just Barge traffic ahead now.

We are still passing barges every ½ mile that are going north or south and we are seldom out of sight of a barge.

John, of the Baton Rouge Sheriffs Dept. calls to ask if we left or if we were still under repair. We relate we are repaired and underway North. John relates if we need anything in Louisiana to call him, as he knows everyone on the river and he can get us help. Further, he relates he is the chopper pilot for the Baton Rouge Sheriffs Dept. and can be with us in 30 min from the time we call him. Amazing!! These guys have been over the top for help and giving assistance. 

The trees are dead from winter, and there are more endless miles of brown sand banks. Water birds of ducks, geese, brown pelicans and white pelicans are everywhere in the hundreds. The water is still running 19' - 90' deep. There are the occasional marker buoys on the inside of corners marking the shoaling. I would hate to ground here. There is no here to help you. NO ONE.

At Mile Marker 312 we pass the Atchafalaya River as it meets the Mississippi via a lock. The Atchafalaya River has the fifth largest flow in North America and is 137 miles long. The headwaters are in northern Louisiana and it flows to south to the ICW at Morgan City, LA and continues out through the Mississippi Delta into Atchafalaya Bay on the West Side of the Delta.

The Red River is 1360 miles long and marks the South border of Texas and Oklahoma and flows into the Atchafalaya River at Alexandria. LA. The Ouachita River is 605 miles long starting at Mena Mountains in Arkansas and flows into the Red River and it joins the Atchafalaya River in Jonesville, Arkansas

We are traveling to Mile Marker 364 of the Mississippi River to Vidalia, LA where we will find Jenkins Landing for our next fueling stop.

We come to the bridge in Natchez, MS and Vidalia, LA at 3:30p and just to the North of the Bridge on the west side is Vidalia Dock and Storage with a small barge on spuds next to the bank. A front-end loader, a clamshell crane on tracks and two pickup trucks are on the bank past the barge. George relates this is our stop, and our fuel will arrive by truck soon.

We pull up to the barge listed as Vidalia Dock and Storage on the chart-plotter and a man greets us from shore and we are told to use Ch. 18 VHF to speak to the man from (Alfred) Jenkins Fuel or “Delta Fuel” in Ferriday, LA 601-445-9922. We ordered 500 gal of diesel, which  is on the way to us.

The "Clam Shell" bucket is on tracks and it starts and comes and grabs the corner of the small barge we are tied to and pulls the barge onto the bank. The front-end loader fires up and makes a ramp of dirt and in no time at all the fuel truck pulls onto the barge with our fuel. 20 minutes tops. I'm not making this up. I have pictures to prove it.

We take our 500 gal fuel delivered but not the 700 ordered and need more, so another 200 gal is on the way. We take 617 gal total and only pay for what we bought at $2.17 @ gal. It's now 5p and 90 minutes have passed since our arrival. 
Vidalia Dock and Storage offers us to let us tie to one of their barges ¼ mile south of here for free, and due to the time of day, we agree.

We untie and run south and tie up to a 50 x 100 barge that's cabled to shore some 70’ offshore.

We turn on our anchor lite and talk of our TV dinners for our third night in a row, when a spotlight illuminates our vessel from only 40' away. It is a tug “Jenny” from Vidalia Dock and Storage looking to see if the barge will hold us for the night so we do not drift back to Baton Rouge by morning!!! They ask to us to call on Ch. 18, which I do. The captain advised we can call the tug "Jenny" any time we are here for assistance and they will make “whatever” arrangements we need. Awesome!! Dang.

We settle in for the night for eats of TV dinners and more TV, again.

Fun Fact: Hernando Desoto died of fever May 21 1542 in what is now, Ferriday outside of Vidalia, LA. Hernando Desoto was the first European to cross the Mississippi River. Hernando Desoto landed in Tampa Bay in May 1539 at the Mouth of the Manatee River just north of Sarasota, FL.

Saturday, January 31

Up at 6:15a Underway at 6:45a from Mile Marker 364. We head north on the Mississippi and the first town we come to today is Vicksburg, MS at Mile Marker 435. Vicksburg was a prominent city in the Civil War.

Downtown Vicksburg has an Economy Boat Store fuel barge on the water for commercial fuel on the East bank of the river. Call to set it up before arrival, as they do not sell to Pleasure Craft.

Fun Fact: Of the Robinson Clan in the Civil War, Col Kline was involved in the siege of Vicksburg May-July 4, 1863, and that was the last action of the Civil War. Upon his discharge from Union Service. Col Kline returned to his farm in Marysville, OH, handed down through family, and the farm Ralph S Robinson Jr. was born on, and yes, in the barn as the house had not yet been built. It is the currently the property of Honda USA, building the Honda Goldwing Motorcycle there.

On the North side of Vicksburg is the Yazoo River at Mile Marker 437. The Yazoo River is 188 miles long, and is entirely in the State of Mississippi.

Fun Fact: The confederates set off the first electrically detonated mine in the Yazoo River in 1862 sinking the Union Ironclad USS Cairo. There were 29 ships sank in the Yazoo during the Civil War. 

We continue up Mississippi River passing several barges, but no private vessels.

At Mile Marker 484 the chart-plotter shows the chart following the outside of a curve, but there were two marked channels in this area. We first thought the other markers were off station, but there were definitely two channels in front of us. We followed the channel along the bank and on the chart but the depth quickly went from 37 to 25 to 15 to 12 to 9 and I stopped. Turning Stbd or East, we took the alternate channel that had 30 feet of depth, and a tug came into view in the same alternate channel as us. We accelerated to our cruise speed without incident. Danger avoided. 

We arrive at 3p to Mile Marker 537. We traveled 173 miles to our exit today at the Greenville Channel in Greenville, MS. There is yet another Economy Boat Store fuel barge for commercial fuel just outside the inlet of the Greenville Channel. Call to make arrangements prior to time of need if you want fuel here, as they do not sell to Pleasure Craft with out special arrangement.

The Greenville Channel is crowded with barge traffic and tugs in a narrow cramped canal. We ease through the pack and 5.5 miles up the channel we find The Greenville Yacht Club, Ph. 662-334-4283. Hot damn.

It has ancient floating docks with some fifteen 1960's vintage houseboats in various states of disrepair. George calls on the phone for our slip and fuel, and we are told the dock-master will be down. A quest directs us to the fuel dock, which is also our lay along for the night, as the dock-master doesn't show up ‘til we are tied up and shore power on. The genset has run since leaving SeaBrook Harbor in New Orleans Wednesday morning and it’s Saturday evening now.

Dan washes the boat, which is so trashed by the dust of the past 3 days at Baton Rouge Port Authority and with the huge barges that were being loaded with grain 24/7.

We purchased 726 Gal of fuel for our trek tomorrow when we join the White River to the Arkansas River. Because of the fuel purchase we do not pay to stay here. We have to make Little Rock, Arkansas for our next fuel stop. I'm glad to be off the boat just walking the dock. There is a nice restaurant here at the yacht club and it's Saturday night. The manager is expecting a crowd tonight.

6p and Dan and I are off to dinner when we meet George and Jo who are already dining at the bar.

We all sit together at a table and all order a Rib-eye Steak. George and Jo share the 24 oz. and Dan and I get the 14 oz. A very good steak. The salad bar was excellent here with lots of variety. Nice stop over.

Odd, you have to be a member of the yacht club to eat here, but not a member to dock here. We were invited to eat here as we are paying for the stay but we didn’t pay to stay.

George and Jo are off to the casino just next door and Dan is on a walk-about. I’m off to the boat and bed. I failed to sleep well last night. Arkansas River tomorrow!!

Sunday, February 1

Up at 6a and underway at 6:30a in dark as we have a 30 min cruise and 5.5 miles to get to the Mississippi River. We soon join the Ol' Muddy to head north. Two and a half hours later at Mile Marker 599, The Mississippi intersects the White River and Mile 1 of the Arkansas River.

Montgomery Lock is standing open and Locks are on VHF Ch. 16 and Ch. 14. We are told to “go through at speed and continue”. We are also advised there is a vessel ahead with 12 barges going and another coming pushing 2 barges. Ahead we meet and pass the vessel going at slow bell (slow speed).

Norrell Lock or Lock 1 is at Mile Marker 10.4 we encounter the second tug exiting the lock and we enter headed up. The rise is 25 feet.

Mile Marker 13.3 is Wilber D. Mills or Lock No 2 and we have to wait while a tug pushes barges through ties them up and returns to the other side to bring more barges. 12 barges in all. 90 minutes pass before we can enter. The rise is 25 feet. The water temp is 48 degrees and we are making 29 mph at 2100 rpm.  We have 5 more locks to pass through today and its pushing noon.

Joe Hardin or Lock No 3 is at Mile Marker 50.2 and they are waiting for us with open doors. A 15’ foot rise.

Emmett Sanders Lock or Lock 4 is at Mile Marker 66 and they are also waiting for us. A 15’ foot rise. Inside the lock we are given instruction on how to open Rob Roy Railway Bridge at MM 67.5.

As the locks’ lift is underway, I change the VHF to Channel 12, click the Mic 5 times in less than 5 seconds and wait to hear a "tone" in response. Wait a short time for someone to reply, tell him or her your vessel name and the Rob Roy Bridge is to then opened. I am to do this again when I pass under the bridge.

As we exit the Lock, the Rob Roy Bridge is already open 2.5 miles ahead. As we pass under, I click the Mic 5 more times and wait for a tone. Someone will respond. I tell them my vessel name and that I was clear and away, and we continue North.

Fun Fact: The bridge tender is in Nebraska and monitoring several other Railway Bridges around his area. The guy has worked there 7 years and never has even seen a railway bridge.

At MM 71.1 we planned to buy fuel and maybe a stay over at Pine Bluff Harbor, no fuel but they have docks, but the electric is off for winter. 

There is a huge round arena looking building off to the right in Pine Bluff. Pine Bluff has the states largest auditorium for a variety of events from stage to convention and that must be it. We continue on toward Little Rock.

Mile Marker 86.3 is Charles D. Maynard or Lock No 5 and they are waiting for us. It's a 15-foot lift.

David D. Terry Lock or Lock 6 is at Mile Mark 108 and it’s a 25-foot lift. The lockmaster is gracious and talkative. Asking where we are ultimately going. How far tonight? Are we watching the Super bowl? Etc. As the doors open to leave, usually at idle well away from the lock, the lockmaster requests for us to leave “WOT” or full speed. I oblige willingly. 35 mph out the gates. Damn!!

Mile Marker 119 is Little Rock, Arkansas, the State Capitol, and a previous home to Pres. William Jefferson Clinton, then the Governor. But how many beds did Clinton actually live in anyway? Clinton's Presidential Library is here on the river and it looks like a double wide trailer on stilts. Not so attractive from the river.

We are driving hard trying to make Lock 7 before two tugs of 12 barges and to miss a 2-3 hour wait. Downtown Little Rock is "No Wake" for a little no name 3-5 boat marina and a dinner riverboat. Exiting Little Rock, we pass the going tug and we now have to beat the coming tug to get through in daylight.

Murray Lock or Lock 7 is at Mile Marker 125.5 and we won. The lock is open and we enter and exit in daylight. Northbound to Mile Marker 126 and we look for the Little Rock Yacht Club. A real marina!! Really!! 

It is dark when we tie up at 6p using FLIR technology. 11.5 hours underway. No fuel here as the marina is closed on Sundays. We will have to wait till tomorrow, but who knows when that will happen. 9 or noon??

We have traveled today 186 miles with 7 locks and we have 175 miles and 9 locks ahead to Muskogee, OK. We tied up and it's 41 degrees out and it rained most of the day.

There is a knot in the power cord line and it has tripped a Cable Master breaker. Re-set the breaker in the engine room and I untie the knot as Dan pays out the cord to George who is trying to plug it in.

Tough day with the 25 mph winds, heavy rains and cold, there is ice on the fiberglass transom from the waters spray and the cold. Finally we are in and tied up with shore power, and we have missed the first quarter of the Super bowl and the first score of the game by the Patriots.

George and Jo go to their room as Dan and I prepare our TV Dinners. Man do I miss real food everyday. TV dinners are okay once or twice a year, but all the time with the occasional meal out is hard on me. Call me spoiled. Dan and I settle in for the game on TV and then to bed. Patriots win. Tom Brady gets his 4th Super bowl win to tie Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw.

Monday, February 2  (Groundhog Day)

Up at 7a to await fuel at Little Rock Yacht Club. 8a Little Rock Yacht Club calls and says it will be 10 min to get someone there. Hans, a handsome Swede, 6'5" and 70 yo arrives and is dressed as if its 17 degrees out. Oh it is!!!!

The aft and bridge sinks have ice in the tap. I shut off all exterior valves to water sources in the floor hall access at the ships water feed manifold.

Hans relates the fuel pump is slow and we relate we need 600-650 gal. Hans want us to be inside warm and he fuels the boat.

The yacht club has a little blue tug they use for a floating fuel tank and we pump fuel from the tug to the SR650L Fly. They also deliver fuel upon request but I neglected to ask how far they would travel. 90 minutes later and we have topped off tanks. Fuel is $3.17 here. Because of the fuel purchase, we do not pay for overnight.

Underway at 9:30a

Shortly after leaving we pass Pinnacle Mountain. It has an 1100' rise over the Arkansas River. It's  different from the other hills in the area because Pinnacle Mountain is rock and stones with no trees. It also goes to a point and not rounded as the others. Unusual.

Upstream to Mile Marker 155 and Toad Suck Ferry Lock or Lock 8, no, you can’t make this up. We pass through quickly with a 20' rise.

Arthur V. Ormond Lock or Lock 9 is at Mile Marker 176 and the lockmaster is more than friendly and relates there is no traffic ahead of us.

As we see Dardanelle Lock or Lock 10 at Mile Marker 205 we are advised the lock is closed to Pleasure Craft 'til 200p. We have an hour and a half wait. Had we fueled last night, we would be waiting here 3.5 hours. Somehow it all works out. No reason given as to why the wait. We are hoping to make another 100 miles before darkness tonight. 

We have lunch and watch Satellite TV, US Navy Seals. 

So 2p comes and goes although we were allowed into the lock at 1:50p, it is 2:30p when we are underway again after a 50' rise.

We past Goose Island Marina at Mile Marker 189 and they do not carry fuel anyway so it’s no use to us at this time of day.

Russellville Marina is at Mile Marker 208 but they only have gasoline, so they are no use to us. We pass by.

As hard as I look on the chart and along the river, there is no Lock 11 on Lake Dardanelle. It is a large lake and it has few marks so the chart-plotter is the key here.

Ozark - Jeta Lock or Lock 12 is ahead and waiting for us at Mile Marker 256 and is open to us to enter. A 30' rise is found here. The lockmaster inquired how far we are going and George advised just past Lock 13 as we have a marina stay planned.

A race to beat sunset and we come to James W. Trimble Lock or Lock 13 at Mile Marker 292. We had called ahead 10 minutes out as previously requested and in doing so the lockmaster said he would be ready, but when arriving, the gates were closed and we had to call and wait for the lock to open for us while waiting downstream.

Passing the lock it is twilight and getting dark and I get the radar and FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red) set up for night mode use. I don’t like traveling on the river in darkness. Logs and debris is everywhere.

We run 8 miles in the dark to Mile Marker 300 at Fort Smith to the West and Van Buren on the East, George tells us under the bridge just past a huge barge loader is a marina.  It is dark out and we can't see the marina because of three barges stacked out along the bank. We are out of the channel and parallel to the shoreline and creep past the barges and under the last opening of the bridge legs next to shore. What looks like a two story floating house is under the bridge and on what appears to be two fuel pumps on the river side of the house. We pull up and dock in front of the pumps to tie up for the night. This is Wildcat Marina, Van Buren, Arkansas.  Gasoline only here. We are but 3 miles from Oklahoma!!

George has called a couple, Mike and Allie, who work for his hauling company and they are on the dock as we arrive. Three young men are also there, and I assume they are with George as well. 

As the boat is being tied up and the power cord attached, the three young men and Allie board the boat and enter the Salon as if they own the place. The young men swarm the boat and look in every room and cabinet. The young men do not impress me, as Allie speaks casually with Jo in the Salon.

The young men take pictures of every room and are talking amongst themselves and then come back up to the Salon where I am ambushed with questions. I answer questions for 20 minutes and I am still unimpressed as we are trying to get the boat settled in through the displayed antics of ignorant youth.

In disgust, I exit and inquire of Dan who these guys are as I only knew of Mike and Allie were coming to greet us. Dan says they are friends of George. They are rude in my opinion. The young men depart the yacht while I am talking to Dan and go inside the Marina Office.

The boat gets tied and set up for the night, and Mike is then shown around the yacht. George asks me go inside the marina office to register for the evening for our nights stay. I want to pay for the stay and I enter the dock-masters office. The same three young men are there and one says he is the dock-master and I pay him for the night. 

As we all depart the boat after I had paid the $27.00 for our stay, the teak swim platform is covered with ¼ inch of ice. Slippery and treacherous as you come down four steps from the aft cockpit expecting to stop and turn to exit onto the dock. How we didn’t all fall into the 44-degree water is amazing.

The six of us in pile into Mikes' truck we depart for dinner. I ask George how he knows the three young men that had gotten on the boat. George relates "I Don't". Crikey!! Who would do what these three jamokes did? Just board a yacht that arrives without asking or introducing themselves. 

A short drive and we come to Big Jakes Cattle Co Steakhouse named after the John Wayne movie “Big Jake”. Lots of “The Dukes” memorabilia was there to look at. Nice restaurant. Good food. 

After dinner, the short ride back to the boat and we bid ado to Mike and Allie. Upon entering the yacht, George and Jo head to their room and Dan relates he is tired as well. Dan and I purchase Southwest Airline tickets online out of Tulsa for Wednesday am.

We made 175 miles today with five locks. Not bad for a late start and the two hours sitting at Lock 10!! Ninety-two miles, one fuel stop and three locks to go. As I just about finish my daily log, the yacht slips into both silence and darkness. Shore power has failed.

I call the phone number listed above for Wildcat Marina and the dock-master answers. He gives me directions into an ancient storage room with brooms, mops, cans, buckets, old tools, etc. and I use my phone as a flashlight to find the electrical box. One breaker is tripped on a large electrical box without a cover plate, so it is just loose wires and hanging breakers that hasn't seen service by someone qualified to do so in 10-15 years judging by the dust. I reset the only tripped breaker and it falls out of the panel. I put it back in and it does not seat firmly. 

When returning to the boat, there is no shore power. I start the generator, engage electrical power, lock the door and go to bed. This trip is has been Impossible!!!!!

Tuesday, February 3

Awake at 615a and begin to pack with hopes of ending this trip today. I meet George in the Galley and Dan is up shortly thereafter and we depart at 630a in the dark with ice on the Swim Platform, Transom and across the bow showing nicely on the black sun pad covers. 

George tells me it is the Van Buren Bridge in the town of Van Buren that we spent the night under at Wildcat Marina at Mile Marker 300. It is 21 degrees outside. I miss Florida.

We accelerate North up the river and we want to get to Muskogee by 1p to get the boat cleaned up and presentable.

I call the W.D. Mayo Lock or Lock 14 at Mile Marker 319 when we are 10 minutes away. The lockmaster tells us a 12-barge tow is in the lock and we will be delayed 2.5 hours.

Its 8a and I slow to 1800 rpm, as there is no rush to get there. When we do arrive, the tug is loading barges in the lock and he is coming down stream. Soon he is dropping from sight and the doors of the lock open and the tug pushes out 6 barges and he returns upstream for his next load. A long wait later and he is coming down again and pushing out a 6 more barges. 30 minutes later he has his load all lashed together and he pulls out of the lock for us to enter. It's 11:30a or 3.5 hours delayed.

We are through the lock in no time and we are off to the next lock 16 miles upstream.

At Mile Marker 336 is the Robert S Kerr or Lock 15 and we call ahead of time and are told the lock will be open, but it is not and we wait 5 min for the lock to open to let us in. It is breezy and the stern blows free of the wall and the Stbd bow rub rail hits the lock wall with some rash to the stainless insert from the concrete wall.  These locks have a floating Ballard to tie to and you can only reach one at a time so you tie amidships. The winds swirl in these chambers. The winds have been in the 25 mph plus range the last days. Darn.

Just a bit around the corner to the right and out of sight from the lock and, just a ¼ mile off the channel is Applegate Cove Marina at Mile Marker 340. George has been in touch with the marina for several weeks and everyday over the last three days, as we need fuel to make Muskogee.

We pull into the basin and up to the fuel dock as a truck skids into the parking lot and a lady is on the run to the boat to catch lines. She is the owners’ wife and she was home watching TV. We get tied up and George, Dan and I want 300 gal of diesel to make Muskogee with some to spare, but not heavy, as the boat gets loaded on a trailer for Grand Lake, OK tomorrow. We are light on fuel as it was yesterday morning when we fueled at Little River Yacht Club at Mile Marker 126 or 214 miles back. We have spent many hours idling and the Genset was on all night. The fuel gauges read 1/2 and we know that to mean nearly empty.

We begin to fuel and the lady relates they are having trouble with the diesel pump. She takes the cover off the fuel pump and wiggles and pushes things and the pump begins, stops, and starts again. We pump 17 gal and the pump quits.

Another man shows up and he tinkers with the pump and it starts again and the man relates he believes they do not have much fuel. So we have to put fuel in one side, then the other so that when the fuel runs out, we may have enough and that we will have the same amount in both tanks so we don't have the same issue as we did in Vidalia, LA a few days earlier and today no truck is coming to help us even out the tanks.

There is a very cute little mutt that looks just like a little teddy bear that's infatuated with Dan. Dan relates he wants the pup and tells the lady he is going to take him as we leave. 

As we are waiting, Mike and Allie are in a semi tractor pulling a trailer to drop a houseboat at this marina, the same folks we had dinner with last night in Van Buren.

We take on 300 gal or just over 1/4 a tank with miles ahead of us. I decide to run and get towed into Muskogee if we run out of fuel, as again "this trip is impossible". 

The Robert Kerr Lock, the lock 4 miles back, creates Robert Kerr Lake, named after one of the two senators whom passed the bill to create Arkansas River into a navigable river for commercial traffic in the 1970’s named the “McClelland Kerr Arkansas Waterway”.

We run the lake for 40 miles when we come to Webber Falls Lock or Lock 16 Mile Marker 366. In no time we are though and just an hour to go if we don't run out of fuel as we burn 100 gal of diesel an hour.

At Mile Marker 392 we come to our trips end at the entrance to Three Forks Harbor, Muskogee, OK. It is huge and it is beautiful. I mean comparable to Marina Jacks or The Moorings. Big money and spent by the Cherokee Nation, as the owners of the marina.

We idle in and we are told to go to a covered slip with a 24' opening. Our boat is 24'8" tall to the masthead light.

I drop George at the end of the dock and he goes to the back of the slip and indicates for me to enter and as I'm creeping in, George indicates we will fit and I back in and we tie up with help from two residents who have no idea what is needed or what we need in our desire to tie up this boat. We let them help, and then we re-tie to our standards after they leave.

Damn...This was possible after all.

I get a call that Enterprise Car Rental is waiting for me at the top of the hill. I set up the boat and Dan, George and Jo clean the boat to our standards for Marine Max. The Manager of Three Forks Harbor relates they are hauling the boat tomorrow by trailer.

I go downtown in Muskogee to sign for the rental car and return to the boat at Three Forks Harbor. The boat is all ready and we check and double check for lost or forgotten items and we all drive for Tulsa where George and Jo's car was left from their flight to New Orleans last week and we drop them at their car. I give them money for their dinners and we depart. We are all still on the clock working to end this trip. 

By the way, while I was gone with the rental car, George was notified that Marine Max Lake of Ozark's has a another boat coming out of the factory and coming to Three Forks Harbor, Muskogee, OK. We all agree to do it if we get the opportunity. Dang. How stupid am I??? 

Dan and I go to Buffalo Wild Wings in Tulsa near the airport for dinner. Good grease is needed. It was awesome!! We fuel the rental so we just have to drop in at Enterprise at the airport and run tomorrow morning.

We locate a Quality Inn for $79 only 2 miles from the airport in Tulsa where we have a 6:40 am flight scheduled for Tampa. How would you do this without a GPS? Into the room and much needed long hot showers. A little TV, there is nothing on and to bed at our 9:30 or 10:30 FL time.

It will be a short night, as we have to be at airport at 5:15 as I am packing heat (carrying a pistol) coming though these last four states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. Banjos are heard everywhere along the banks and especially in the dark hours out in the sticks of Nowhere, USA.

Wednesday, February 4

Up at 4:30a. Repack so you can get what you need and when. We depart for the airport and leave the rental unattended as it’s too early for assistance.

We enter the terminal and the sign says “Second Floor for Ticketing”. We go up, but can only find the various concourses.  I inquire where ticketing is. We are directed downstairs. We find Southwest Airlines downstairs and getting my gun past ticketing could not be any easier.

We go though security and for the first time, I get to go through “Pre Check” where they basically just look at you. Usually Dan gets pre-check and I have to go though in my underwear.  We get a couple soft drinks and await our 6:30 flight, boarding at 6a.

The fight is short to Dallas and the full moon was setting west of Dallas as we landed. The sun was just lighting the horizon. It was a very nice ending of the trip or a great way to start the day.  We change planes in Dallas and we are off to Tampa, FL with a two-hour flight. Once the ground we lease a car and drive home over the skyway and this trip is officially over. 


Total a 15-Day trip – 14 Days on the water 

5 Days Broken Down with two repairs – both very odd delays indeed.

240 miles from Clearwater to Panama City
250 miles from Panama City to Mobile Bay
140 miles from Mobile Bay to New Orleans
507 miles travelled up the Mississippi River
400 miles travelled up the Arkansas River.
1537 Total Miles Covered

17 Locks on Arkansas River 

We stopped one lock short of doing all 18 on the Arkansas River.
420 Vertical feet of lift via Locks from the Mississippi to Muskogee, OK

Fuel Stops on Rivers

Baton Rouge, La – The Economy Boat Store - 500 Gallons – Not Full
Vidalia, LA – Delta Fuel Truck – 617 Gallons - Full Tank
Greenville Yacht Club – 726 Gallons - Full Tank 
Little Rock Yacht Club – 627 Gallons - Full Tank
Applegate Cove – 300 Gallons – ¼ Tank

Fun Fact:

We saw two sailboats just before New Orleans on the ICW. We saw one Kayaker on the Mississippi just south of Baton Rouge. Of the 1530 miles, these were the only pleasure boats seen in 14 days on the water.


  1. A lot of frustrated-novelist in this diary, but the "Clearwater Fl to Muskogee OK" entry re: the brand-new SeaRay delivery was alarming. On a new boat, in this price tier, how many things were allowed to leave the factory inoperative? It doesn't seem like SeaRay has improved much since David Pascoe's scathing reviews 20+ years ago, regardless of what you think of his opinions. When a new boat being delivered by water has so many failures, it's really a sad commentary on the yacht industry...BOHICA!

    1. Thanks Karl. Ralph is a very skilled and congenial captain and his voice reflects this. The content is to show what he really does for a living. A reality of new boat deliveries is manufacturers want the product out the door to get the money, the dealer's salesman want to turn them over to their customer to get their money, and the customers want the new boat as soon as possible. The mix of the three rarely produces perfect results. A share of blame lies with all three parties. Add to this is the fact that most builders never water test the boat prior to shipping from the factory and often builders ship the product with problems they leave to the dealers to fix. Some builders are better than others and some are worse. Ralph often moves used boats which can have all sorts of unique issues.

  2. Awaiting your next trip/tale.
    Very entertaining!

  3. Really enjoyed this delivery story. Rather surprised at the lack of facilities on the river.

  4. Please, MORE! Couldn't "put it down."


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