Bravo! Adventure
December 8

Mile 9.8 Big Bayou Canot
We again awake to fog. No early departure today. So breakfast is leisurely since we can't leave for a bit.

Fog lifting at CSX railroad bridge at Big Bayou Canot
(Site of 1994 Amtrak derailment)

It's about 8:30 AM when we pull the anchor up and head out. We rapidly approach the Mobile Bay activity. Speed is reduced approaching the harbor area to comply with the "no wake" regulation. We see a cruise ship in dry dock, lifted out of the water by the bouyancy of floats on both sides. Around here is where a pelican landed on the railing on the right side, then jumped over to the area just in front of our windows. When we leave the river, we enter a shipping lane with frequent channel markers. We pass the Mobile Convention Center on the right. This is roughly Mile 0 for the waterway.

Pelican approaching Mobile Bay

Destination today is in the area of Orange Beach, Alabama, nearly into the Florida panhandle. The plan is to take the shipping lane into the center of Mobile Bay and then head to the southeast to the area of Bon Secour where we will join the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway). Much of Mobile Bay is shallow, so careful attention to channel markers and depth is required.

We hear the Coast Guard trying to make radio contact with Lady Bird, a fishing boat that was overdue returning to port. Later, they announce to all boats to watch for Lady Bird. It causes us to wonder about the possibilities.

Doug has had some concern about the bow thruster. This is a set of side-facing propellers in a tube of 8-10" diameter that goes through the hull under the bow. It is driven by a DC motor powered by a large battery under the fore cabin floor. A side-to-side lever on the control console activates the motor. It has seemed sluggish and on occasion turns itself off. This could be a problem negotiating in tight locations with wind or current. He decides that we should stop at the Dog River Marina, on the west side of Mobile Bay, which has the reputation of exceptional mechanical support. They have a lift system that would be able to lift Bravo! to allow inspection of the bow thruster. (Bravo! weighs about 11 tons.) One possibility is that the bow thruster could have become fouled. We discuss some troubleshooting efforts that we might try before lifting Bravo! out of the water. Doug got on the mobile phone and called the marina to organize help.

Lighted channel marker in Mobile Bay leading to Dog River

When we arrived, we docked in a location that would allow taking on fuel. Then we started our troubleshooting process and soon realized that there was no charging current when the charger was turned on. Also, the specific gravity readings of the cells were all about the same, but all were indicating needing recharged. About then, the service guy showed up and soon concurred that the battery was not getting charged. He then found a tripped overload protection device in the charging circuit and showed us how to reset it if it should trip in the future. We ran the generator for some time to put some charge back into the battery. Future generator time should get it topped up, but we'll need to monitor the condition periodically using the meter on the electrical panel. This was the best possible solution to the problem.

We hear another vessel contacting the Coast Guard with news that that they have had contact with Lady Bird and that they are hard aground somewhere, with apparently no injury to anyone.

Back in the shipping lane, we noticed that a number of dolphins had joined us and were swimming on both sides of us. This was quite a thrill. Trying to get good photos was frustrating because of the timing. So I swtched my camera to video mode and did get some nice action shots.

Dolphin in Mobile Bay

We join the ICW near the bottom of Mobile Bay and head east. The ICW crosses the shipping lane at Mile 134. The ICW mile marking system starts with Mile 0 at the western terminus, wherever that is. Even with the unscheduled stop for the maintenance issue, it's looking as though we will make it to the original destination. At marker 71 we turn north off the the ICW into Wolf Bay. This is just north of Orange Beach, Alabama. We are alone in this bay and drop anchor without going too far off the ICW. This is by far the closest to civilization we have been in the past several days.

During happy hour, we study the Bravo! electrical system diagrams and determine that the bow battery, which powers both the bow thruster and the bow windlass (used for raising the anchor), is charged both by the engine alternator and the auxilliary generator. Dinner is rice with tomato sauce and a salad. After dinner Doug shows us some video from their trip two years ago. He has compiled short segments from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Clearwater, Florida. Doug is a good videographer. When he gets at least the next bit done, he'll make copies for Jules and me.

We plan to get an early start tomorrow if the fog isn't a problem. The full moon is visible above the thin layer of broken clouds.

December 9

Return to Bravo! Adventure