Calumet Dreams
Chapter 11

October 30 - November 22
Fort Walton * Red Tide * Halloween * Sailing with an old Friend * Temple Mound * Ingram Bayou * Robinson Bayou * Getting boat ready for the OCEAN * Blue Angels * Fairhope Meeting * Rain and more Rain * Biloxi * Naval Air Museum Back to Home Page

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Day 102 - Monday, October 30
The Boat Marina
Fort Walton, Florida

Today was our day to find a marina and do our weekly chores -- groceries, laundry, showers, etc.


Green Water of Destin
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

We pulled up to the little marina we had anchored by and found the doors locked. Monday was their day off, apparently. So we went to the marina and boat yard next door, called "The Boat" because there is a very large boat pulled into shore there that houses a marine store. The boatyard has two big boat lifts. These big mechanical monsters have very feminine names. One is Lady Kaye and the other is Miss Lorraine. The dockmaster lives in the building on shore. There's a little patch of tropical plants behind the building and he raises all kinds of birds there, like peacocks and chickens. There are flowering bushes that fragrance the air and attract lots of butterflies.


Crab, hanging in there!
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

We found out that although the library was right across the street, the nearest grocery store was two miles away. We moved our boat down the waterway a bit and tied up to a large, empty dock in the city park. There were wooden boardwalks along the water's edge, lots of palm trees and benches, and a pretty little wooden gazebo. It was lovely. We could stay tied up there all day, and from there it was only a one mile walk to the grocery store.

Zion, Tricia and I strapped on our backpacks and headed out. Dan stayed on the boat to watch it and adjust it for the tides. Our first stop was the Post Office, also a mile away, but near the grocery store. Tricia had spent the last few days making Halloween cards for all of her friends and relatives. She made each one individually and ended up with about forty of them to mail. It was the biggest post office we had ever seen. There was a long waiting line and four window agents.

We got the important things at the grocery store - lots of bread, some fresh meat and some Halloween candy. When we got back to the boat, we motored from the park back to the marina, then had some hamburgers for supper. After supper I did laundry while everyone took showers. I braided Tricia's hair while it was wet so it would be kinky for her Halloween costume in the morning.

Day 103 - Tuesday, October 31 - HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!
Fort Walton
Mile 222 on the Intracoastal Waterway, Florida

In the morning we woke to the crowing of a rooster. We were up early because our old friend, Bill Stanton, was coming to meet us for the day. Tricia and I got into our Halloween costumes. Tricia dressed as an island girl. She wore a blue, flowered spaghetti strap sundress with flower leis around her neck, head and ankles. I wore my "Partridge Family" t-shirt and Tricia drew hippy flowers on my cheeks. A high-brow would say that my shirt looks like a Modrian painting. My family thinks it looks like the Partridge Family bus.

When Bill came we visited awhile, then the boys went out for a fun sail on Choctawhatchee Bay. They dropped off Tricia and I at the park so we could have a girls' day together. First, we took Tricia's picture under a cute, little palm tree to show-off her costume.

At the park the shoreline was littered with dead fish. There hadn't been any dead fish there the day before. Dead fish were also floating out in the water everywhere that you looked. It was incredible, and incredibly sad. The locals said that it was the red tide. The red tide kills fish by the thousands. Red tide can also affect humans. It makes it difficult to breathe and it can give you diarrhea. The red tide comes about twice a year, once in September and once in October. A bad one lasts for a few weeks. Based on the number of dead fish showing up on the shore, people said that this was a bad one.


Red Tide = Dead Fish
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

Tricia and I made our first stop at a gift store that specializes in Coca- Cola memorabilia. She wanted to get a birthday gift for a friend.


Tricia in Island-girl Halloween costume
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

Next we went to the Indian Temple Mound Museum. We went up the steps on the side of the Temple Mound. The mound was built by local Native Americans over one thousand years ago and it is still there today. At the top was a replica of the temple that would have been on top. The village leader would have lived in the temple with his family. It was his job to keep the sacred fire burning there.


Mary and Tricia in front of Indian Museum
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

There was also a museum near the Temple Mound. We saw clay pots and effigy urns that had been found in the local area. They were pieced together from broken pieces and looked like the world's most difficult 3-D puzzle. We also got to try out some ancient tools, like a pump drill and an atlatl. An atlatl is a spear thrower. We learned that oysters made up 90% of the locals' diet. The oyster shells were also included with the sand to make the mound. The mound we saw would have used 250,000 bushels of sand.

After the museum we ate our picnic lunch sitting on a bench on top of the temple mound. Then we went to the Science Museum which was near the park. The museum was a smaller version of Discovery World in Milwaukee. Although it was small, it was very well done. It was amazing how many exhibits were put into that small space. When we arrived, a school bus of kids was just leaving, so we had the whole museum pretty much to ourselves. That was nice. Tricia especially enjoyed using the viewscreen microscopes that they had. We also learned the names of some shells and got to see a hairy tarantula spider.


Tricia picking Palm tree berries
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

After the museum, we hiked to the library to wait for Zion and Dan. We got a little bit of time on the Internet, but not enough to finish answering all of our e-mail. There was a big waiting line for the machines.

The guys had had a good day sailing. They did some experimenting with the boat. Using the GPS, they calculated their windward performance. When the boat is going against the wind, you have to tack, or go back and forth, to get ahead. It's like doing a zig-zag to move forward. The closer you can sail to the wind, the looser your zig-zag will be and the sooner you'll get to where you are going. Being able to sail 45 degrees from the wind on either side would be pretty good. Then you would have a 90 degree zig-zag pattern. Well, we learned that our boat can't do that good. We can only sail 65 degrees from the wind, so our zig-zag is 130 degrees. When we tack we are practically going back and forth in the same spot to get anywhere, which explains why it took us so long to get down the Lake Michigan shoreline against the wind back in July. (Dan has done some re-rigging since then and has improved the windward performace quite a bit).

The guys also saw lots of dolphins out in Choctawhatchee Bay. And, for the first time, some of them swam underneath our boat between the two hulls.

Bill went home and then we anchored in our favorite spot nearby and had our Halloween party. First we had a taffy pull. Dan's taffy actually got soft and chewy. It's the first time that we've ever been successful making the stuff. Usually it just gets hard like a sucker. Then we read some scary stories and had a seance. The kids held fishing weights on the ends of threads and the spirits made them start swaying. Straight-ahead swaying meant "yes" and sideways swaying meant "no". We got to ask the kids all kinds of embarrassing questions that they would never give us the answers to out loud.

Day 103 - Wednesday, November 1
East End of Perdido Key
Mile 178 on the Intracoastal Waterway, Florida

The red tide is very bad this morning. Everywhere you look, there are dead fish floating in the water. I don't know how they re-populate themselves after devastation like this, but they must. The red tide happens every year.

We started early and our first stop was the little marina next door. They were the only place with a pump-out and we were due. In Florida, pump-outs are only $5, which is very nice. It must be a new thing, though, because only a few of the marinas have them. They don't seem to get used much, even though there are boats and marinas everywhere down here.

When we were ready for our pump-out, we found that they didn't have the right size nozzle end to fit our boat. Most marinas have an assortment of sizes. They said that they used to have a smaller one, but someone dropped the adapter into the water about a month ago. It was about five feet from the pier, down in seven feet of water. Well, we needed a pump-out and there weren't any hardware stores nearby, so Dan put on his snorkel and jumped in the water. They said that if he found the fitting, we could have a free pump-out. Dan did a thorough search, the water was clear and the bottom was sandy, but the fitting couldn't be found. It was probably buried or washed away by the tide. They let Dan have a free shower for his effort, then we were on our way again. It was time to head back to Mobile.

On the way we stopped at a marina in Santa Rosa. It was very nice - very new, professional and well-designed. All of the posts had nice plastic bumpers on the outside. We got gas and our pump-out. The kids liked the marina, so we'll probably stop there on our way back through in a few weeks.

By the time we got to Santa Rosa, the red tide was gone. I hope it doesn't spread that far.

We motored the rest of the day and anchored in Perdido Key for the night. It's a beautiful, secluded spot. The winds are gentle and the water is very calm.

Day 104 - Thursday, November 2
Ingram Bayou
Mile 164 on the Intracoastal Waterway, Alabama

We decided to spend the day at the beach since Perdido Key is about as perfect as it gets if you're looking for a beautiful, secluded spot in the sun and surf. It is a long, narrow barrier island covered with white sand and some dunes of sea oats. We built sand castles, hunted for shells, cleaned our blue clay and had a picnic.


Master Cabin in boat
(Click on picture for more detailed view)


Head (bathroom), sink and shower (currently storage area) in boat
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

At two o'clock we got ready to leave. We had a real treat waiting for us on the boat - hot showers with fresh water. We finally had the opportunity to put our solar camping shower to good use. We had filled the black plastic bag with water before we left in the morning, and when we got back it was nice and warm. We hung it up on one of the shrouds and then we each got to wash the salt and sand off of our bodies. It's a four-gallon bag, so I wasn't sure if if would be enough for four showers, but we're all good at conserving water so there was actually some left in the bag when we were all done. Next time, I think I'll use a little more!

We motor sailed for a few hours until we reached Ingram Bayou, our anchoring spot for the night. Motor sailing is motoring the boat with a sail up. We do that when the wind is light. We get some power from the sail, and a little from the motor. We can run the motor really low and still make good time. We've only been spending about $15 a week on gas since we got back to Mobile.

This whole trip to Destin has been a great opportunity to test our saltwater preparedness plan. I've learned that I can wash and rinse dishes in saltwater as long as I give them a final rinse from a spray bottle of fresh water. This really cuts down on the amount of fresh water we need. But I do need to wear rubber gloves for this because the salty, soapy dishwater dries out my skin extremely quickly. go n*sync!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <---- this was from Tricia when I wasn't looking> After we swim we have to wash down with fresh water. We learned that we can put saltwater in our solar shower bag and wash all the sand off with the warm saltwater, then give ourselves a rinse with fresh water in a spray bottle. This saves lots of water, too. If we wash dishes and ourselves with saltwater, our only big use of fresh water is drinking and cooking and that doesn't use very much. We've even bought that waterless hand soap for washing our hands during the day. For now, we can still be extravagant with fresh water because it doesn't cost anything to fill up at a marina. But we've heard that fresh water costs $1 a gallon in the Caribbean, so we want to be ready with our conservation plan.

I am amazed at how quickly metal things start to rust in the salt air. We've only been down here a few weeks, and lots of my silverware is already showing signs of rust. I guess it must be in spots where the finish has been scratched. My little tin cup from Mansfield is rusting badly. Good thing there wasn't salt air on the prairie, or Mary and Laura would have found themselves sharing the good drinking cup forever.

And we've also learned that you do not, under any circumstances, let salt water into the cabin or onto your clothes. Swimsuits have to be rinsed out and feet have to be dried off before stepping on the carpet. Getting saltwater on the carpet or the seat pads makes them stay moist and sticky forever.


Galley (kitchen) on our boat
(Click on picture for more detailed view)


Our little 12 volt TV
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

Day 105 - Friday, November 3
Robinson Bayou
A branch of Dog River within the city of Mobile, Alabama

We got up early so we could make it all of the way across Mobile Bay back to Dog River before it got dark. Our destination was our friend, Deborah's, house. She lives in Mobile and her home is at the end of a cul-de-sac. In her backyard is Robinson Bayou, a small branch that feeds into Dog River. She said we could stay in her backyard if we could get our big boat up there without hitting bottom. We decided to give it a try.

It was a beautiful, sunny day with a gentle breeze and our trip across Mobile Bay was a delight. Dan said it was a bore. It was the exact opposite of our last cloudy, bouncy trip across the Bay.

About 2:00 in the afternoon we entered the mouth of Dog River. We spent another hour heading up the river searching for Robinson Bayou. It got narrower and narrower. The shore was lined with beautiful homes. We had to do some guessing to make sure that we kept following the right branch. But the river was high and we were getting through without any problems.

We eventually reached a branch that looked too small to enter. We had been looking for Deborah's little yellow catboat which we knew she had in the water behind her home. We hadn't seen any sailboats along the shore for quite awhile. It really was too shallow for a sailboat with a fixed keel. Luckily, we don't have a keel on our catamaran. Dan was in the process of turning around by making a tight little y-turn when we spotted a small mast through the trees. Yep, it was her catboat. All we had to do was turn up that small branch of the river. Well, we'd come this far already. We might as well see if we could make it all the way.

Going very slowly, we were happy to find that we could pull right up to the bank in her backyard. There was a giant live oak covered with Spanish moss right on the shore, and the roots of that tree were keeping the bank solid. The water dropped off several feet right next to shore, so we had a perfect natural docking area. We were busy setting an anchor and tying some ropes to the trees on shore when Deborah came home from work. She brought us her step- ladder and we climbed down the bow of the boat into her backyard.

Her home is a pretty little cottage. She is an avid gardener, so there are beautiful potted plants everywhere outside. Lots of palms, banana trees, ferns, colorful coleus, pansies and showy impatiens. She just moved in last month, so landscaping the back yard is still on the drawing board. We visited for the evening and then went to bed on our boat. Even though we were in the middle of Mobile, our little spot on Robinson Bayou was very secluded. The area next to her was a small wetlands, so there weren't any buildings nearby on that side. On the other side, the homes are set farther back and you can't see them behind the huge oak that sticks out on a point of land.

The live oak is huge and gorgeous, but I never would have guessed that it was an oak. It's leaves do not have any little points sticking out, like all of the other oak leaves I've ever seen. Instead, the leaves are small, dark green, glossy ovals. They kind of look like very small magnolia leaves. But the branches of the tree and very craggy and strong, just like the oaks we're used to back home.

Day 106 - Saturday, November 4
Robinson Bayou
A branch of Dog River within the city of Mobile, Alabama

We woke up this morning to find that our boat had been invaded by ants! We have been bug-free for so long, it was a real surprise. We followed their trail and found that they were all getting on board by walking across the rope that tied us to the tree on shore. We got out our can of Raid and attacked with a vengeance. Casualties were high, but it appears that our campaign was successful. All of our food is safe.

We've got our wheels back. Deborah is graciously letting us keep our van and trailer in her yard. So, our first trip was to the library. Tricia was anxious for some new reading material. Since we knew we would be here awhile, she was able to check out some books using Deborah's card. What a luxury! Tricia checked out seven books and read them all in three days, then went back for more.

We talked to the librarian to register our complaint about not being able to access our Yahoo e-mail at their library. They only allow AOL e-mail use. We found out that this is done for security reasons. AOL screens all e-mail and takes out anything that might be inappropriate for children. The librarians didn't want to spend all of their time watching what the kids were doing on internet, so they let AOL do the baby-sitting for them. They are the only library we have visited that has been so restrictive in their internet use. But they do have the best book sales! Every time we go there they have new discarded books for sale. The paperbacks are just ten cents each, so we've been stocking up on those good deals. They even sell old CDs and cassette tapes. And Zion found a Rand-McNally Encyclopedia of Aircraft. It had color pictures of hundreds of aircrafts made from 1914 to 1980. It was $5.00 used, but well worth it. Zion has been poring over it for days.

I checked out a book on northern Gulf seafood. Now I know how to clean and cook crabs, oysters and crawfish. Zion caught a crab a few days ago, but we threw it back because we didn't know if it was edible or what to do with it. I also felt sorry for it because it only had one claw and it was struggling to escape and stay alive. None of us had the heart to kill it. Deborah told us that lots of people go crabbing by just pulling off one claw and throwing the crab back so it can grow another one. The claws hold the best chunk of meat. My book told me that we had caught an edible blue crab, and it was big enough to eat. But it takes three of them to make one serving of meat. If we catch another one, I'm ready to fix it for dinner but it will have to be our appetizer and not our main course. Zion doesn't think he can find more than one crab at a time.

After our trip to the library I took the van out for a big shopping trip to get groceries. First we stocked up on things that were on sale at the Dollar Store, then we got everything else at DelChamp's, the super grocery store. It took most of the day to find it all, buy it all, drive it all home, then carry it all sack by sack through the back yard, up onto the boat, then into the cockpit, into the cabin, and then into the galley. I sorted it all out, but was too pooped to wrap it all up and tuck it away in the appropriate bilge for proper storage. That part could wait for another day.

Deborah's daughter, Julie, came to visit for the afternoon with her two children, Molly, age 10, and Margo, age 1. Molly brought a friend along, and Tricia spent most of the afternoon with the two of them in the dinghy. They all took turns being captain of the craft and rowing the oars. Getting in and out of the boat and changing seats was the most dangerous and exciting part. They all ended up a little wet and muddy. Zion spent the afternoon on Deborah's cat boat. It was his first chance to sail a craft on his own. Unfortunately, the wind was light and the river was narrow and twisty, so he spend a lot of time getting the mast out of overhanging tree branches. Deborah joined him after a while and helped him get the boat out into open water.

In the evening we played some charades together.

Day 107 - Sunday, November 5
Robinson Bayou
A branch of Dog River within the city of Mobile, Alabama

Today our beautiful warm sunny weather disappeared. For the first time in weeks, we found ourselves with a cloudy, rainy day. But it was still very warm. They needed the rain very badly. They have been suffering from a drought all summer.

The rain turned the back yard to mud and the top of our boat became more brown than white. Plus the rain was making all of the leaves and seeds come down off of the trees and stick all over our boat. They have a special tree here called a popcorn tree. To me, it looks like a poplar tree. The leaves are heart-shaped like our poplars back home, but smaller. And they have seed clusters that are always dropping. Each seed is hard, white and about the size of a popcorn kernel. The seeds grow in groups of three, so the three white seeds together kind of look like a piece of popcorn. And the leaves turn bright red when they fall off the tree. They were so pretty that we collected a bunch. I left the bunch outside for a day before I had a chance to press them, and they all turned brown in the rain. I put some more red ones in a book and I'm anxious to see if they will keep their color.

We needed to do something to clean off our feet better before getting on the boat. Plus, the muddy bank was getting eroded from our ladder that kept moving around as our boat went up and down with the tide. Lucky for us, one of the neighboring houses was being renovated. There was a huge pile of trash along the street and we found a big piece of carpeting to put under our ladder along the bank. That has helped keep the mud out. But we still get our feet wet sometimes because of the tide. The tide is amazing. Sometimes our carpet is completely out of the water, and sometimes all ten feet of it is completely submerged. The rain is making the river rise a lot, too.

We spent a lazy day, putting away groceries, reading and visiting with Deborah and her family.

Day 108 - Monday, November 6
Robinson Bayou
A branch of Dog River within the city of Mobile, Alabama

Another rainy day, so we decided to do some errands. We found the nearest Wal-Mart Supercenter and spend the morning searching for a long list of small odd items that we needed. We bought some materials that we needed for making Christmas cards and gifts.

In the afternoon we went to Bishop State Community College. The Mobile librarian had suggested that we try getting our e-mail at the college library. It was a great suggestion. They had a big bank of computers and there wasn't any waiting line. We each got to sit down at our own machine and catch up on all of our e-mail, finally. And best of all, Dan was able to access our web page and do some cleaning up. We spent a few hours there.

Day 109 - Tuesday, November 7
Robinson Bayou
A branch of Dog River within the city of Mobile, Alabama

Our big school lesson today was presidential elections. We explained to Zion and Tricia all about the electoral college. Of course, we pointed out that it was possible for one candidate to receive more popular votes than the other one and still lose in the electoral college. But that had never actually happened and probably never would. Ha, ha!

We watched the election results all evening on Deborah's six-inch black and white TV. About nine-thirty, Zion, Dan and Deborah were ready to call it a night. But Tricia was very enthused about this presidential election. It was the first one that she could really remember. At the library they had been giving out sample ballots, and she had filled out the whole thing, even the fifteen complicated referendum questions. She wanted to see how many she "got right". So Tricia and I sat up in our boat watching the returns. Dan Rather got pretty excited about 11:00 and told parents that if their kids were asleep, they should go and wake them up to witness this historic event -a close presidential race. I don't think too many kids would have appreciated that! About midnight Tricia and I couldn't keep our eyes open any more and climbed into bed. She did her best to be a part of history.

One of the referendum questions was on removing the prohibition on interracial marriages that was still in the Alabama constitution. It won on a 60-40 vote.

Day 110 - Wednesday, November 8
Robinson Bayou
A branch of Dog River within the city of Mobile, Alabama

We woke up to find another rainy day and an undecided presidential election. Dan worked on the boat and the kids and I did schoolwork. In the evening, some tornadoes went through the area. Luckily, they were north and east of us. We were safe from the winds and waves on Mobile Bay, tucked into our peaceful little corner of the bayou. We see egrets and blue heron around our boat every morning.

Day 111 - Thursday, November 9
Robinson Bayou
A branch of Dog River within the city of Mobile, Alabama

Today the warm wet weather is gone. The sun is shining brightly, but the temperature has dropped considerably. For the first time, it feels like fall. The nights are in the forties, and the days are in the seventies.

There weren't any clouds in the sky, so I decided to try my sun oven in the cooler temperatures. It worked great. It heated up to 325 very quickly. We had pizza for lunch and cornbread for dinner.

After school, I rounded up the laundry and had the luxury of being able to drive to a real laundromat. I was able to do all six loads at the same time so it didn't take long. And the laundromat is near the library, so we got a chance to check out the book sales again.

Day 112 - Friday, November 10
Robinson Bayou
A branch of Dog River within the city of Mobile, Alabama

When we woke up this morning, we thought we were in the Fun House at the county fair. Overnight, the tide had dropped so low that the front end of our boat was stuck on the bank while the back end of our boat was still floating in the water. Dan and Zion tried shoving us back into the water so we would be level again, but the mud was holding her tight, and she wouldn't budge. It wasn't a big problem because we knew the high tide would make us float again later in the day. For the morning, we just had to adjust ourselves to walking uphill within the boat. And when I opened the kitchen cupboards, all of the cans fell out.


Low tide at Robinson Bayou
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

We learned that the tides vary a lot from day to day. I had thought they were pretty regular, but they're not. We have a calendar that shows a wiggly line going through each week. The line shows what time the tides are expected to go up and down, and how big they will be. Sometimes the tides only make the water level change a few inches. These are called neap tides. We had a neap tide all week, until today. The tides start swinging wildly today and will continue to do so throughout the rest of the weekend. They make the water level change by over two feet every day. Today the low point is at eight o'clock in the morning, which explains why we woke up to the boat out of the water. High tide comes at nine o'clock tonight. It's going to be like this for a few days.

Nearby in Pensacola, Florida, is a huge naval airbase. It is the home of the Blue Angels precision flying team. There is a huge air show there today and tomorrow, and it's free, so we decided to go. Zion loves looking at airplanes, and there are supposed to be seventy of them on the airfield for viewing.

Before getting to the air show, we stopped at a used boat parts store. It was very well-run, and the owners say it's a very profitable business. It's just the kind of store Dan would love to set up and operate on our property when we get back home. You need lots of space for storing anchors and masts and rudders, etc. and we have plenty of that. Most of the items are sold on consignment, so it doesn't take a big investment to get started. Zion and Tricia are even excited about it. Zion likes fooling with all of the boat parts. Tricia says she wants to be the cashier and bookkeeper, as long as we don't make her learn the names of all the boat parts. But they were both very careful to spell out that while they might like working there to earn a little money while they are teenagers, neither of them want to take over the business when they're grown-up. I guess we just don't have what it takes to become a Klos family dynasty.

As we got near the airbase we started hearing roaring planes overhead. The Blue Angels were giving a show, and the noise when they passed was deafening. But they were so fast, they passed by many seconds before the noise came along to follow them. Tricia said it was a good lesson in how sound travels more slowly than sight. The airbase is huge. It's like a small county. There is a long, tree-lined stretch of road that has a golf course running along both sides. After the golf course, you turn towards the Naval Aviation Museum. Beyond that is a maintenance hangar and an airfield of planes that you have to walk through. And beyond that is a path along a runway. Alongside the center of the runway is another airfield that is a viewing area for the Blue Angels show. They center all of their stunts on ground zero in the middle of that runway, in front of the crowd. I've never been big on airplanes, but their flying stunts were impressive even to me. For their grand finale, the six planes approached each other at top speed, flying from the six corners of the horizon. They criss-crossed past each other, seemingly only a few feet from crashing into each other head-on.

Zion was hot to see all of the aircraft on display, so he, Dan and Tricia went off to tour the planes while I watched the end of the Blue Angels show. I learned that the Blue Angels team practices in Pensacola. On March 1, they start travelling around the country to do their shows, and they come back home in November. This was their homecoming show. Deborah's daughter, Julie, used to live in Pensacola. She said they were flying overhead constantly during their practice season. You could always tell if it was a Blue Angel overhead, because first you would just feel their shadow pass over your face. Ten seconds later you would hear the roar of their engines.

After the air show was finished, I waited around for my family to return and claim me. They were wandering around an airfield that was so huge I knew that I had no chance of finding them if I went out looking. While I was waiting, a reporter from the Pensacola paper came up and asked me some questions. He was doing one of those "man on the street" opinion articles. He wanted to know what I thought about military spending levels, and the recent election re- count. He took my picture, then said I might be in the Pensacola paper's Saturday edition. Deborah gets the Mobile Register, so I'll have to go to the library on Monday and see if my name is in print.

When we left at dark we were all hungry. I think Dan was in the mood for some real meat, so we passed by the burger places and actually went to a sit-down dinner at a Chinese restaurant. We love Chinese buffet. Zion could happily spend the night eating their meat sticks and egg rolls. Tricia got into their egg foo young and their wide assortment of desserts, including the ice cream machine. I enjoyed trying a little bit of everything, and Dan washed down his meal with some warm sake. It's the first time that we ate out someplace nice since we left home in June and it was a great treat for all of us. How wonderful to have children that are actually old enough to enjoy a sit-down dinner!

Day 113 - Saturday, November 11
Robinson Bayou
A branch of Dog River within the city of Mobile, Alabama

Another cool, clear, crisp and sunny fall day. In the morning our boat was tilted again.

Zion took another trip to the air show with Deborah and her family. Dan worked on the boat. Tricia and I decided to clean up all of the trash that had floated into our little corner of the bayou with the last rainfall. We put on rubber shoes and waded through the muck to get some of it. Then we went out in the dinghy and picked up the stuff that was floating. Tricia said we were Bayou Enhancement Engineers. It really looked nice when we were all done.

Day 114 - Sunday, November 12
Robinson Bayou
A branch of Dog River within the city of Mobile, Alabama

Today we finally had the opportunity to attend a Quaker Meeting for Worship. It's the first time since we started our trip that we stayed in one place long enough to find a Meeting to attend. This Meeting is in Fairhope, a city on the other side of Mobile Bay, about thirty minutes from Mobile.

The meetinghouse was a small, charming, white, wooden historical building set back a bit from the busy street that was lined with churches of all denominations. At the front of the building was a door on the left, and a separate door on the right, a reminder of the days when women sat on the left and men sat on the right. We chose the left door. It opened into a social area. On the right side was the meeting room where there were several circles of benches. We joined the people that were already there praying in silence.

After Meeting, we introduced ourselves. We shared our travelling minute with the Clerk, and she added a note to it. There were coffee and snacks and we had the chance to learn about the history of Fairhope Meeting. They showed us the sliding doors that were used to separate the men and women for their separate Meetings for Business. Men and women worshipped together, then the sliding doors were shut so they could do their business separately. There was also a small connecting door between the two rooms so they could pass notes through back and forth if they needed to communicate with each other.

Several of the members said that they used to live in Costa Rica. We had known that there was a Quaker community and school in Costa Rica, but we didn't know much about it. We learned that some members from Fairhope Meeting started the Costa Rican community. As luck would have it, it happened to be the fiftieth anniversary of that event, and the Sunday Mobile Register had mention of it in their "Yesterday's News" section. It read as follows:

"Sunday, Nov. 12, 1950 - Fairhope, Ala. - (AP) - A small group of well-to- do South Alabama Quakers began their migration to Costa Rica Saturday to be free from military service and from earning a living in a war economy. The group included Hubert Mendenhall, a 33-year-old dairyman, and Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Rockwell. They were to leave New Orleans by plane for San Juan."

The members who had lived there told us stories about Costa Rica. Members decided to make a new home there because of the way they had been treated in the States during WWII. One man was forced to be a human guinea pig for scientific experiments because he was a conscientious objector. Plus, with the Korean war on the horizon it seemed that war was becoming a constant state of affairs. The Fairhope Quakers were particularly upset by the institution of the draft as part of Cold War preparedness. It was the first time that there had ever been a peacetime draft. It seemed that the U.S. was becoming increasingly warlike and they were no longer comfortable living there.

When the group arrived in Costa Rica, they bought some land on a green mountaintop and named it Monteverde. They had to make their own roads to get the last twelve miles up the mountain to their site. They lived much like the early pioneers in America, clearing land, making lumber, building homes and barns, but they did much of it as a community effort. They set up dairy farming operations, and because of the heat in the area they got into cheese-making as a way to preserve their milk. The community and the school they built are still operating today. They put aside some of their higher land to preserve the rain forest (also called the cloud forest), and that preserve is used for scientific study.

When we got back to our boat Tricia found a story about the Fairhope Friends in her book "Lighting Candles in the Dark". (It's the last story in the book.)

We felt very lucky to be able to talk to these Friends about their rich history.

Day 115 - Monday, November 13
Robinson Bayou
A branch of Dog River within the city of Mobile, Alabama

When we woke up today we were in a funhouse again. There was a strong wind blowing from the north, pushing all of the water out of the bayou and out of Mobile Bay. Plus, the tides were fluctuating a lot, with low tide occurring at noon and high tide occurring at midnight. The front end of the right hull was sitting up high on some mud, pushing the back of the boat deep down in the water. When you looked out of Tricia's window, the water was practically at eye-level. Our inclinometer showed only a five degree tilt, but it felt more like 45 degrees. You had to walk uphill to get across our cabin, and brace your legs against the cupboards to do the dishes.

It rained all day so we spent the time aboard our tippy boat doing our schoolwork.

The north wind also brought the cold weather. We wore extra layers of clothes to bed and pulled out all of the sleeping bags to pile on top of our blankets.

Day 116 - Tuesday, November 14
Robinson Bayou
A branch of Dog River within the city of Mobile, Alabama

It was C-O-L-D when we woke up. There was frost on our boat for the first time. But the clouds were gone and the sun came out. Things dried out and warmed up quickly.

We've decided that it's safe to leave Dog River now and start down the west coast of Florida. We're busy doing chores to get ready for coastal cruising again. I did a big stock-up-on-staples grocery run. Dan finished putting anti-fouling paint on the bottom of the daggerboards. We hadn't thought much about it on the rivers, but the barnacles attached themselves quickly once we hit the saltwater.

Dan has also been making lots of small improvements around the boat. Tricia now has a 12-volt outlet in her room so she can listen to her CD player with her headphones in there. Zion has an inverter in his room so he can plug in his boombox. Dan bought a battery charger so we can now plug-in to offshore power and let it charge our battery for us without running our engine. This is very handy for times like now when we are staying in one place day after day. We can now run as many lights and radios as we want to without draining the battery. Dan also says we can run the fans as much as we want to, but no one is interested in that particular amenity right now. It's interesting to see how we are making our life more and more comfortable by plugging into more electricity. The importance of conserving resources is slipping away little by little. As soon as there is no need to conserve, we jump right back into consumption without a second thought.

Dan also spent lots of time improving our holding tank. He's done us a great service, and it was a particularly long and unpleasant task, but I don't think I'm going to go into the details of that chore. It's one of those things that no one really wants to talk about.

He's also done work on the van, getting it in better shape. And he put up another antenna on the back of the boat so we can get better reception on our marine radio.

Getting back to electricity, it's been fun watching the Alabama Power ads down here. (Alamama Power is a Southern Company.) They've started up stores where they sell appliances, including Acer computers. They're trying hard to get people to switch their gas waterheaters to electric waterheaters that they can pay for on a monthly plan. Their big selling point is the problem you have with pilot lights going out on gas waterheaters. They make it sound like the end of the world if your pilot light goes out. They even say that electric heaters have a better recovery time - you get more hot water faster. I thought that gas waterheaters had better recovery time. And they never mention that electric heat is more expensive. Anyway, what they are doing sounds really cheesy to me but it's certainly well-funded because the ads are everywhere. Dan said that he heard one for a heat pump heater. Now that makes sense to me in this climate. I hope they work harder on that promotion. They also run an ad where they tell their customers how happy they should be because their electric rates are 15% cheaper than the national average.

Day 117 - Wednesday, November 14
Robinson Bayou
A branch of Dog River within the city of Mobile, Alabama

Today was a partly sunny, partly rainy day. The water was the lowest it has ever been and we spent the day tipped again. Zion and I were sitting on top of the boat reading about Newton's Second Law when we noticed a curious sight. Because of the low water level, a ten-foot stretch of the muddy river bottom was exposed. There were clam shells everywhere. If you looked closely, you could see little holes where water bubbled up. That is where the living clams were buried in the mud. If you watched even more closely, you would start to see little fountains of water shooting up into the sky. That was the clams spitting. The fountains went about twelve inches high, but they were very quick so you would miss them if you weren't paying careful attention. It reminded me of that bop-it game at Chucky Cheese where you try to guess where the fuzzy thing is going to pop up next. So we had a fun time sitting and watching the clams spit in the sun.

Day 118 - Thursday, November 16
Robinson Bayou
A branch of Dog River within the city of Mobile, Alabama

Today was warmer again, but the rain came down in buckets all day long. They say that this is typical winter weather down here.

We decided to get off the boat for a while and take an educational trip into Biloxi, Mississippi. Biloxi is a beach city crowded with large, flamboyant casinos. It also has the Marine Research Center of the University of Mississippi. They have a large aquarium where they feature the fish and other creatures of the local Gulf waters. We got a chance to see the fish that we might be catching when we're out on the Gulf. The staff there was very knowledgable and helpful, answering all of our questions about jellyfish and alligators and sharks. They had lots of turtles on display and we were amazed to see what an aggressive animal turtles are. The keepers said that the fish just swim around, but the turtles are always looking for entertainment. The turtles tormented each other, and the baby alligators, and the fish. I'll never think of turtles as slow and sleepy again.

Day 119 - Friday, November 17
Robinson Bayou
A branch of Dog River within the city of Mobile, Alabama

Another day of rain. The guys got our boat pushed off of the mud yesterday afternoon, so we're floating again. We're making our final preparations so we can head out early tomorrow morning and get across Mobile Bay before the end of the day. Preparations mean laundry, a propane refill, returning library books, picking up some ordered parts, disposing of garbage, trading read books for unread books from the trailer, etc. We'll be leaving our van and trailer at Deborah's house until we can pick it up again.

While Zion was prowling around the woods on the other side of the bayou looking for a sturdy tree to tie our boat to for the night, he found the perfect little Christmas tree. He took out a pot and a shovel and dug it up. It's one of the long-needle pines that are so common down here. We've learned that they're called Loblolly Bay Pines. This one is about two feet high and has several feathery branches to hang ornaments on. It has a lot in common with Charlie Brown's Christmas tree and we fully expect it to do a similar kind of transformation when we decorate it next month. All we have to do is keep it alive until then.

Day 120 - Saturday, November 18
Dog River
Mobile, Alabama

We bought a 2$ alarm clock at The Dollar Store the other day, and today is the first day that we used it. (Which is an insight into one of the greatest joys of this trip - sleeping as long as we want to every morning!) The alarm went off at 5:30, just like it was supposed to. It was still dark and cold and rainy outside. We stayed in bed. We could handle rainy, but not dark, too. High tide had been at 4:00 a.m. and we knew that it was now or never to get our boat back out of Robinson Bayou. Starting tomorrow, it would be a low neap tide for a whole week. If we didn't leave this morning we would be sitting in the mud for a long time.

At six o'clock the sun came up and that was enough to get us to brave the elements. We pulled out our turtlenecks and winter gloves and our foul weather gear and Dan and I got ourselves ready to go out while the kids slept. Because of the high tide and all of the rain, we were able to get out of the bayou easily. But the rain was persistent and by the time we reached the mouth of the Dog River we were soaked. We decided to anchor in the river for the day. We would be able to head across Mobile Bay whenever the weather dried up.

We just put down one anchor because we had plenty of room to swing around. We didn't see another boat out on the river all day. The tide was rushing out while the wind was blowing in, so our boat had a hard time deciding where to stay put. We spent most of the day swinging back and forth on our anchor rope. But there weren't any big waves so it was pleasant and cozy on our boat. Dan and I put on some dry clothes and we spent the day watching movies on TV, making Christmas cards and eating hot meals.

The local TV station had a John Travolta movie marathon. The kids got a lesson in historical pop culture when they watched "Urban Cowboy" and learned what a mechanical bull is. They're still having a hard time understanding why everybody was wearing cowboy hats when they weren't even cowboys.

Day 121 - Sunday, November 19
Dog River
Mobile, Alabama

It rained constantly all day yesterday and all last night and all morning today. The inside of the boat is getting very damp. We have to open the windows whenever we cook because we are burning propane. Zion is our canary. He's the first to get a headache if we don't have enough air circulation. When we cook, the rain comes in the open windows and the steam from the food condenses everywhere. Because it's been raining so much, water is starting to leak in around some of the window frames. These dripping areas leave wet spots on the rugs. When you walk stocking-foot on the wet rugs, your socks get wet. We've got piles of wet clothes and wet socks and wet towels laying around everywhere on our wet rugs.

About two o'clock the rain stopped. The clouds started breaking up and we actually saw some blue skies and sunshine for the first time in days. We motored over to the Grand Mariner and got water and a pump-out so we would be ready to head out the next morning. Then we went back to our little anchor spot in the Dog River and spent the night there.

Day 122 - Monday, November 20
Ingram Bayou
Mile 163 on the Intracoastal Waterway, Alabama

Today came with bright sun, blue sky and no clouds. The lack of clouds made the temperature dip below freezing during the night. There was ice on our boat in the morning. All of the ceilings above our bunks were covered with dripping water from where our breath had condensed during the night.

The winds were strong and coming from the north, so we were very happy. A strong north wind on Mobile Bay means lots of speed and small waves because there's no water for the wind to push. It takes us six hours to cross Mobile Bay at our normal motoring speed of 5 knots. Today we shut off our engine and let our sails take us, and we made the crossing in four hours. Our top speed was nine knots.


Middle Bay Light in Mobile Bay
(Click on picture for more detailed view)


Middle Bay Light in Mobile Bay
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

Dan and Zion did the sailing while Tricia and I laid up in the front cabin. We wrapped up in blankets and let the sun shine through the windows. We did some bracelet weaving and solved some word puzzles (Thanks, Grandma Sherryl, for the Nutcrackers book you gave us years ago. We finally had time to do them and they're lots of fun.) I'm happy to report that with this extra care and attention, Tricia made it across the Bay without any serious seasickness.

About noon, the weather was warm enough to hang up all of the wet stuff outside on the lifelines. We used up all of our clothespins. We put the rugs on top of the boat, too. The combination of wind and sun dried everything out in a few hours. Because of the sun the temperature got up into the sixties this afternoon.

Our destination was Ingram Bayou, a secluded and well-protected anchoring spot that we had stayed in before. We got there at three o'clock and anchored for the night. Our cabin was now comfortably dry, but we knew we were in for a cold night. The weather report said it would drop into the twenties overnight. We pulled out every blanket on board and wore several layers of clothes to bed.

Day 123 - Tuesday, November 21
Perdido Key
Mile 178 on the Intracoastal Waterway, Florida

Again we have clear blue skies and cold temperatures. The weathermen say that for the next few days the nights will be in the twenties and the days will be in the low fifties. Normals for this time of year down here are forties at night and high sixties in the daytime. We're experiencing a record cold snap. We don't feel too bad, though, because the temperature was 3 degrees and snowing in Wisconsin this morning, at least that's what the weatherman said. In fact, the whole country is cold today.

This cold weather is much easier to deal with than the hot weather we had this summer. We can bundle up to stay warm, and we can make hot food and drinks. In the summer it's impossible to get a cold drink when the weather is hot and you don't have a refrigerator. Food keeps well on board now and we don't even need to buy ice. And we always feel like doing something to stay busy and keep warm. In the heat, lethargy just takes over. The one advantage of the heat this summer was that I never had to heat water to do dishes or wash up.

By 11:00 it was warm enough to start sailing again. There is still a brisk wind from the north, so we were actually able to sail east on the narrow Intracoastal Waterway. We started seeing dolphins again, swimming around our boat. The water is still 76 degrees, so I don't think the cold is affecting them much.

We made good time with our sails again, and anchored at Perdido Key in mid- afternoon. The kids and I went up to shore in the dinghy. This is where we had our wonderful day on the beach three weeks ago. Today it's too cold to swim, but we can still go shelling. Zion was very chivalrous, rolling up his pants and pulling the dinghy through the shallow water up onto shore where Tricia and I could get out without even getting our feet wet.


Sunset at Perdido Key
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

Day 124 - Wednesday, November 22
Perdido Key
Mile 178 on the Intracoastal Waterway, Florida

Today we wanted to visit the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola. It's the same place we visited by car last week to see the Air Show. There had been so much to see at the outdoor Air Show that we didn't have time to tour the permanent museum there.

Our only problem was how to get from our boat to the Museum. It's located inside of the Naval Air Base which is a restricted area. We can't just pull our boat up on the shore. Dan tried contacting someone by radio, but couldn't get a response. So we went to a nearby marina and he got on the phone. The Naval Port Authority said there was a little marina for naval officers near the Marina. We could dock there if it was OK with the marina harbormaster.

So we motored into the little marina. It was a very narrow passage between some big piles of broken concrete - not very inviting, but very private. When we docked, the harbormaster came out to meet us. We explained what we were doing and he very kindly said we could dock there for the day. There was a beautiful path through the woods to the museum, about one mile away. We met several joggers on the path and got a botany lesson. Many of the plants were marked with signs, so we learned what a Carolina Laurel Cherry and a Devilwood Pine looked like.

The museum was very similar in design and feel to the EAA museum in Oshkosh. There were planes parked everywhere and hanging from the ceiling overhead. This museum was a little bigger than the EAA, and all of the planes were military craft. One wing had three of the old Blue Angels hanging in formation overhead.

Zion logged all of the airplanes that he saw. He wanted to compare them to his encyclopedia. My favorite exhibit was a small one on Viet Nam POW's and MIA's. They had a replica of a POW cell, and real POW clothing. Most moving, however, was a display of poetry written by the POW's during their captivity . All of the writings were neatly done in small printing on the inside of cigarette packages. One talked about the friendship that rats and mice could provide. Most were about waiting to be free again. All were very powerful.

We ate lunch at the Cubi Bar, a restoration of a military bar. When we shut down our air base in the Phillipines, all of the contents of the Cubi Bar were sent to the Museum and reconstructed. There were hundreds of squadron plaques decorating the walls. Each one listed the name of the squadron and all of its members, usually from ten to twenty people. They often had nicknames listed, too, which made them interesting to read. Each plaque was very creative and usually carved from wood. Some had pretty ladies, or flying tigers, or eightballs or things like that. And of course there were men wandering around searching the walls trying to find the one that had their name on. I'm not sure that they all succeeded. There were just so many of them.

We noticed that there were turkey sandwiches on the menu, so we made a desperate attempt to get some turkey for our Thanksgiving meal. After eating we asked if we could buy a pound of turkey to take with us. We had all of the food on board that we needed for our Turkey Day feast, except for the turkey. I hadn't been able to buy the turkey because I didn't know how to keep it fresh without a refrigerator. (As it happened, I could have bought the turkey a week in advance and it would have been fine. Temperatures had stayed below 50 degrees all week!) After eating we asked if we could buy a pound of turkey to take with us. The restaurant workers were very helpful and saved our holiday for us! They sold us a pound of sliced turkey and we were thrilled. Having a Thanksgiving meal without turkey would have been a real bummer.

As we were leaving the Museum, we met a volunteer tour guide who was interested in boating. He had been an A4 Skyhawk pilot for the Navy, and then became a commercial pilot after that. Now that he was retired he liked to go cruising in his boat. He had travelled down the Tombigbee Waterway just like we did. He gave us a ride back to our boat, and we gave him a little tour before we headed out to anchor by Perdido Key again.

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