A Beginning

Cavendysh moored next to Manatee in Dog River

It is fitting that this entry is not the first on this blog.

“Where are you from?”  “How far have you sailed?”  “How far are you going?”  These are the questions that I am asked most frequently when I meet new people.  Everyone wants to know how far I have come on this voyage and how much farther I have to go.  The easy answer is to say that I began in Dunkirk, NY, in the month of October, year 2010.  That is where I set out with the JJ Taylor (Contessa) 26 named Cavendysh with the goal of sailing far enough south that I wouldn’t freeze in during the winter months.  That is the last time that I saw Dunkirk, which is where I bought the boat in the early months of 2010.  It is an arbitrarily chosen beginning, however, because this voyage has been a long time in the making.

I remember when I did a project on the Erie Canal in my sophomore year of high school.  That was when I began to become interested in the canals and rivers that cast their web across the heart of America.  I was 13 years old when I first had my first pang of desire to travel the thin blue lines linking the Atlantic to the Great Lakes, and the Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.  I could easily say that the beginning of this voyage happened in a school library as I thumbed the pages of an old but barely turned book and looked at the images of engravings of men digging a trench to link the Hudson River with Lake Erie.

Today is the beginning of a new section of this voyage.  Today I leave Dog River and point my bow south and east to Florida.  I don’t quite expect to make it to Pensacola today, but it would be possible.  Cavendysh has salt water beneath her keel and is feeling the effects of tides, but has not yet traveled any significant miles in this environment.  Before I took her on this trip every mile of water that she had ever parted had been fresh.  Her first two owners had kept her on Lake Erie and sailed her during the summer months on the short waves of that shallow basin.  Now she is floating slightly, but noticeably higher.  The scum line that the river left on her topsides where the surface of the water carried small amounts of oil and other staining substances is now slightly above the surface of the Dog River brine.  I have a new set of challenges to meet in the tidal waters of and around the Gulf of Mexico after having become used to the rhythm of river life.

Impressions of Dog River

I don’t really have as many profound thoughts as I thought that I would want to share on this blog, so I will do the one thing that might be of lasting value–document my trip. I will write about what I see and the places that I go. I have seen a side of the US that I hadn’t before experienced on the lakes and rivers that I traveled since leaving Dunkirk, NY three months ago.

Dog River marks my return to salt water after about 1,900 miles of fresh water travel on the Great Lakes and the rivers that bisect the continental US. There are a few marinas here in Dog River, not far from the southern end of the Tenn-Tom/Black Warrior waterway. I needed a break here to catch up on all the work that needed to be done on the boat–work that has been accumulating for the last 1,000 miles.

I am staying at Dog River Marina because it is where Ted from the Manatee has been coming for many years, so I went with the recommendation.  I have Cavendysh tied up alongside the Manatee.  She is used to this arrangement by now, as she was towed this way for about 900 miles down the rivers from St. Louis to here.  On Thanksgiving day we had some bad weather that caused a lot of damage to both boats, so my boat was really looking forward to some R & R–Repair and Refurbishment.

There is a West Marine outlet right here in Dog River Marina, which has been very convenient for buying the supplies that I needed to repair gouges in my hull, a crushed genoa car, and a broken bilge pump.  Tom Dabney, of Dabney Sailmakers, Inc., made me a new port sidestay to replace the one that was crushed in the Thanksgiving Day collision.  Dabney Sailmakers is located only a couple of miles from the marina.  I don’t always find sailmakers in the places that I stop, so having Dabney Sailmakers so close to the marina is a great convenience.  Tom also supplied me with some new tell-tales for my mainsail and beeswax, thread, and needles for my repair kit.

Outside of the convenience for getting things done on the boat, there isn’t much to see or do around here.  A car is necessary to visit town or to run errands like doing food shopping, so it is fortunate that a courtesy car is provided by the marina.  The airport is a 35 minute drive away from the marina.  The good food stores are about a 10 minutes away.  I haven’t visited downtown Mobile because it is so far away.  There are suppliers for just about anything in between  Dog River, which is south of the city, and the city itself, so it isn’t necessary to go downtown.  I haven’t really had the desire to go downtown because when the weather has been nice I have had work to do on the boat, and when the weather has been unpleasant I haven’t wanted to go anywhere.

The weather has been colder than I had hoped, with about 10 freezing mornings since I have been here.  That isn’t anything unusual, though.  It is winter, after all.   I had enough good weather to remove and re-bed the port, forward porthole, which was the leakiest one on the boat.  It was a big project because it had been bedded in polyurethane, which has a tenacious grip and has a big flange, which means that there is a lot of surface area for the glue to hold on.  I eventually managed to remove it using Life-Caulk’s “Release!” solvent, which did a good job of loosening the grip of the adhesive sealant.  I worked the porthole loose over a half-day using wedges and solvent.  It took another day to clean it up and another half of a day to test fit it and bed it.

The river where the marinas are located reminds me a bit of the marshes of Georgia.  The most part of the river is muddy and shallow and bordered by marshes.  The scenery is monotonous, a panorama of green and brown.  That isn’t to say that it is boring, though. There are numerous pelicans, night herons, herons, egrets, and of course seagulls to hold my interest.  The grey trees are festooned with spanish moss.  There are boats coming and going, providing an occasional change in scenery and the possibility of new people to meet.

At the dock at Dog River
At the dock at Dog River


New Year, new endeavor

As part of a New Year’s resolution to write more I have decided to start a blog, so here it is.  Why not?  I am sitting inside with a good Internet connection and a bit of time on my hands.  Eve is here to and was instrumental in forcing, er… encouraging me to actually get this thing started.  I have talked about working on a blog for ages.  It was always going to be “someday”.  Now it is a reality.