Vagabum Coming Home Adventure - Daily Log

You are invited to view Burkett's photo album: Vagabum Maiden Voyage
Day1  Day2  Day3  Day4  Day5  Day6  Day7  Days 8,9,10  Mobile 

Leg2 Day1  Leg2 Day2 Leg2 Day3 Leg2 Day4 Leg2 Day5 Leg2 Day6 Leg2 Day7 Leg2 Day8 Leg2 Day9 Leg2 Day10 Leg2 Day11 Leg2 Day12 Who's Val Leg2 Day13  Leg2 Day14  Leg2 Day15 Leg2 Day16

Knoxville Leg June/July 2007

Other Links - Map Tombigbee  About the Ten Tom Waterway

Day 1

Vagabum II

March 9, 2007 Day 1

Purchase Date and Day 1 of Shakedown cruise to take her to Tennessee:


Formerly the Miss Lori Anne

65 Steel Motor yacht Trawler

20 Beam, 6 Draft, 103 Gross Tons


Custom built by Skipper Jones of Dyersburg, Tennessee on the banks of the Mississippi.

Begun in 1976 and launched in 1981. Purchased by Craig & Lori Anne Long in

1998 to use in their charter business between Vero Beach, Florida and the Bahamas.


I spent over two years researching and searching for the original Vagabum (50 48 ton Marine Trader Motor yacht) that I purchased in 2001. (Anybody in the market for a fine classic Motor yacht? The name Vagabum has been reserved and wont go with the sale). I have now spent enough time essentially living aboard (although I still keep a shore side apartment) to know Ill not soon be giving up this Naughty-cal life, but need more space!


So I've had my eye out to upgrade for the last several years and began my serious search a little over two years ago when I retired. My real intense search began in 2006 when I traveled to Mexico, the Caymans, Jamaica and Florida to see specific boats but without luck. The newly found Vagabum has three cabins, two with King-sized beds with lots of closet space and a roomy V-berth with 4 bunks. She has 3 full heads and a day head on the main deck.

The Galley is like a full-size kitchen in a typical 70s style ranch house.


It is my intention to charter, catering to dinner cruises. The new Vagabum is unique and especially suited for this type excursion. Ill be able to seat

12 at the same table indoors or out, year-round. Business meetings, Reunions, Weddings, Football Sundays, or just Frolicking Weekends should prove popular with those wanting to enjoy Old Hickory Lake but just don't want the expense and hassle of boat ownership.


Getting her home will be accomplished in two legs. The first we began today at 6:00 P.M. We left the previous owners Vero Beach home about an hour before sunset and made it to our first anchorage off Ft. Pierce at 8:00. Were headed to Ft. Lauderdale, Key Largo, Key West and then Mobile. Yesterday was Fueling, and Oil and Filter Changing Day. We added 3200 gallons of diesel to the 800 or so that was already on board and changed out more than 20 gallons of oil for the two 671 Detroit Engines and two generators. Today was Provisioning Day loading over $1,000 in food and staples for the trip home.


Although we were delayed a day from our scheduled departure time due to the complexities of closing the financial transaction, we utilized the extra time to better familiarize ourselves with the operations of the vessel.


 You'll be introduced to this legs crew tomorrow (Bill, Scott and Craig) and the plans for the Mobile, Alabama to Hendersonville run with the second

leg crew, Val.  


I'm shy on photos today, but hope to have time to do better as the adventure progresses.



Saturday, March 10, 2007 Day 2

Saturday, March 10, 2007-03-11


I think I'm in love! The new Vagabum is even more than I expected or hoped for. She's very comfy and most of the systems are very high quality and up to date. I'm so appreciative of my friend Captain D who made sure I had a new set of charts on my computer before I left. Wave found them to be very valuable and they have enhanced our safety as the old computer and electronic charts that came with the boat are unusable. 


We left Ft. Pierce before dawn at 6:15 and headed South staying in the Inland Waterway. Lots of radio chatter as we crossed the Stuart Inlet from the Atlantic that leads to the Okeechobee Waterway (that too shallow for us to cross Florida on). A small boat had capsized just on the ocean side of the inlet. Two needing to be rescued, one in the water and one standing on the up-turned boat. A commercial fishing boat had stopped to assist but the water was too shallow. The fishing boat had just passed and we knew we sat deeper in the water than they did so we also were not candidates to help. Smaller and official boats were soon on the scene and the report was broadcast that everyone survived.


I had about 6 good hours of maneuvering and handling practice this morning as we had to negotiate a dozen bridges with about half having to be raised for us.  Once I started using the wheel rather than the electronic joy-stick that Craig loves and says I will too one of these days I began feeling right at home at the helm keeping her in the road and out of trouble through the normal twists and turns and traffic of some of Florida's busiest waterway intersections. I headed out to sea at Lake Worth lined up about a mile off shore, set the auto pilot on a parallel to shore course, left the rest of the crew in charge, sat down on the couch and began sawing logs. Upon awakening, I spent the rest of the day charting.


The Crew so far is Craig Long, the previous owner who graciously agreed to accompany us until we had the hang of this particular vessel, Bill Moore, my new son-in-law (married to V) is the Chief Engineer and Head Chef, Cook and Provisioner. Scott Baker has also proven indispensable with his engineering and electronic knowledge. Scott and Bill grew up wrecking and fixing motorcycles, jeeps, trucks, etc. together and is also a close buddy of my son Arby since grammar school days (and is washing our supper dishes as I type this). Now how can you beat that for a crew? Craig's dog, Jasmine, a short-haired, short-legged Jack Russell Terrier has also been our friendly companion. She must have smelled Jo-Jo on me as she took up with me right off.

She's about the size of Jo-Jo and looks a lot like Jo-Jo in the face. Craig and Jasmine will be leaving us tomorrow in Miami. Larry Leach, the very capable agent who brokered the deal between Craig, me and the bank, is picking them up, taking them home to Vero Beach and bringing us a rented satellite phone for when we get out in the middle of the Gulf.

We ended our trip today just shy of our Ft. Lauderdale goal at 6:45 P.M. as the sun was setting. Were anchored about  of a mile off the Oakland Park Ft. Lauderdale suburb.


Thanks for all who helped with advice on how to reduce the size of the photos I had planned to send. I had no time for photos today, but Bill took a great shot of the lone female on board. I'm too tired to follow all those photo shrinking techniques but Bruce Pershke says has got them shrunk on the website I sent you day before yesterday if you want to access them.


Sunday, March 11, 2007 Day 3

Vagabum Day 3

Happy 86th Birthday Daddy!

I woke up at my usual 5:00 a.m. but did not do my usual (since retirement) crawl back in the bed. I went straight to the Galley, started the coffee and began pouring over the charts again. Its sorta like flying an airplane.

Once your in the air you cant very well get out and ask directions or look at the road signs. I tried to lay out the whole route before even flying to Florida, but as you know Okeechobee proved to be too shallow due to the lack of sufficient rain so we had to take the long way around the Keys. The same thing happened when Captain D and I brought the old Vagabum home from Washington, D.C. 6 years ago. But we brought the first Vagabum through the route north of the Keys and this time we are following the route south of the Keys called the Hawke Channel.


There are very few places we can anchor so we have to plan the daily mileage based more on where we can spend the night rather than on how many miles we can make. We stopped early today for that very reason. We found a great anchorage at the beginning of Key Largo about 3:30 P.M. and grabbed it and some much needed rest as we've all been hitting it pretty hard for the last

4 days. If we hadn't stopped, the next anchorage was 24 miles or 3 hours further down the line, which would have been near dark, assuming nothing held us up causing us to travel and find an anchorage in the dark. Katherine, Lauren and Humphrey said hello. (Ask someone older if you didn't get that).


To put it mildly, last nights anchorage sucked. We got caught in the dark and had to anchor in an unprotected wide open space with lots of wind and the effect of the strong Gulf Stream trying to pull us northward. So we were rocking and rolling all night. Craig and I slept like a logs but neither Bill nor Scott felt as though they got more than an hour and a half of sleep. So stopping early tonight was nice. Bill and I jumped in the ocean and smelled better afterward because of it. Hot baths and a steak dinner later (Bill is a great chef!), we are finally winding down. (Well, I am, anyway, as I type this. Bill and Scott are scurrying around exploring the cubbies, mounting gizmos and rearranging the whole boat even though they promised themselves they turn in early today as we need to make 88 miles tomorrow for what we

think will be our last day in the Keys).  


We let Craig and Jasmine off at Miami Beach Marina (backs up to South Beach) and were met by Larry the Broker. We shook hands all around, bought a few more supplies, added about 250 gallons of water and were gone within the hour. It was a very successful stop and especially important to me as it was my first new ship docking and departure. 


Our afternoon went great. I finally felt like the Captain of my own ship.

Craig was very willing for me to be the Captain, but it really didn't make a lot of sense to take command away from the mans last ride on the ship that has been so important in his life for 9 years. As soon as we were ready to leave Miami, Bill Scott and I had our first Captains Meeting and found that each member of the newly formulated crew will thoroughly enjoy being an important cog in the success of this voyage. Bill and Scott now have great detailed knowledge of all the workings and it gives me immense relief to have their competence on board and on call for the future. Now, their job is to teach me what I need to know when a system fails and I no longer have them with me.


Monday, March 12, 2007 Day 4

Day 4Bill and I got up in the dark at 6:15 EST (Daylight Savings) and checked fluids in all the engines. Bill then taught me how to transfer fuel. We can carry 6000 gallons but we run off of Day Tanks. Each engine has its own day tank. The two main engine day tanks hold 300 gallons each and the generators hold about 40. The gens burn a little less than a gallon an hour.

And the main engines a little less than 8 gallons per hour each.


As we cranked up and walked around the entire ship looking for crab pots that might have crept on us in the night, we determined that we had lost the signal on one of our GPS chart-plotters. We brought 3 GPS units and she already had one aboard that we had already stowed away because we didn't like it as much as the 3 we brought. But we gladly brought that one out of retirement and still have 3. Why so many? Like most of the other systems on the boat on a voyage such as this, we have lots of redundancy. We woke our GPS expert up while we got under way at the 7:15 first light and drove by sight for the first half an hour or so while Bill & Scott reconfigured our navigating instruments.


I had charted our route again last night and our goal for the day was 88 miles before dark to the channel between Bahia Honda Key and the Big Pine Key.

Although we had to dodge crab pots all day long (Scott did most of the driving while I went back to charting and Bill continued exploring and re-rigging the ship), we made it by 5:30 finding an excellent anchorage with another beautiful sunset.


Being in sight of a campground brought back nice memories of my parents taking us kids to Key West in the mid-60s and us riding the conch train on Christmas Day. We camped about a stones throw at Big Pine Key from where we are anchored tonight.


Bill fixed another fine supper. Tonight's fare was Grilled Boned Chicken Breasts (with his own concoction of delicious flavoring), mashed (real) potatoes, and English peas.


Tomorrows goal is to reach Key West by noon and then be in the Gulf of Mexico and out of cell phone and radio contact for approximately 3 days. I might get another email out before were out of contact but don't be surprised if you don't hear until Friday or Saturday. Its about 520 miles between Key West and the ship yard in Mobile where I planned to have her hauled out and have the bottom repainted. I plan and hope to come home for a few days before Val and I come back down with a load of supplies and start the last leg home.


The picture today captured our view as we anchored and got settled.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007 Day 5 

We left Key West at Noon. We've altered our route. We are headed straight North toward Ft. Myers due to more favorable weather and seas. Once we near Ft Myers, we will stay about 20 miles off shore until we can shoot more directly toward Mobile. We will call via satellite if and when we decide to head straight toward Mobile. Otherwise, we'll follow the same route Captain D and I took in 01. Ft Myers to Tarpon Springs/Clearwater area and then to Apalachicola, Florida. If we don't call again, we're just headed to Apalachicola via Tarpon Springs staying about 20 miles out until Tarpon Springs.



1:00 P.M. (EDT)

As we leave Key West, our 1st GPS Waypoint is 26 degrees 50' N and 082 degrees 50' W about 20 miles offshore from Sanibel Island near Ft. Myers.


1:19 P.M. (EDT)

We passed last Key West Channel Marker, Bell #1, @ 1:13 EST. We are 161.2 miles from our next way point 20 miles off Sanibel Island. We are making 7.3 knots on a heading of 342 degrees.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007 Day 5 (continued)


We just hit the halfway mark between Key West and our arbitrary waypoint 20 miles out from Sanibel Island, near Ft. Myers, Florida. We made 80 miles in 10 hours. We'll make the turn at our waypoint and head toward Mobile, weather and calm seas permitting. We'll call V to forward the event and the actual mileage which will be around 400.


Scott and Bill are asleep (or at least in the bed). My 8 hour shift began at 8:00 P.M. and will end at 4:00 A.M. Bill will relieve me and then I'll have

16 hours off, until I pull the same shift tomorrow night and then again Thursday night.


I didn't get a chance to write about passing through Key West earlier today because we were having to pay very close attention to our markers. Even then, we missed our turn and had to turn around (about a half mile out of our way times 2). But we did get to see the Southern-most tip of the United States and a couple of Cruise ships at the dock. One of the cruise ships was the Imagination (or her exact duplicate sister ship Fascination) which I was just on in September with my friends Troy and Tami and his Mom and her friend. The harbor was very busy with charter fishing boats, whale watchers, tour boats and private yachts. Once we got out of the harbor, the channel out of the island was only about 4 miles long and we had to quickly set our co-ordinates, make last minute phone calls and get my final float plan co-ordinates sent.

Sorry, no picture yesterday. I hope we are close enough to a cell tower when we make our turn tomorrow that I can send this day's report with yesterday's photo of the day. All but Vagabum photo were made by Bill.


We saw Dolphins playing along side again today as we have each day. It is pretty impossible to get a photograph of them with a digital camera even if you can predict where and when they'll surface. The second or two delay from the time you push the button makes you only have a photo of water because they dive so quickly.


We watched birds diving for their dinner earlier today. They completely submerge before they come up with their catch and stay under longer than you would think they could.


The stars are incredible tonight. It's like being out West. There are so many more than we are used to seeing in populated areas (due to the wash out caused by city lights and the pollution in the air). There definitely are no buildings, trees or hills to block our view. We haven't been in sight of land since 2:00 P.M. today and don't expect to see even an island until Friday around Noon. But we have to keep a constant lookout for other boats, oil rigs, buoys and debris. Every evening's sunset and each morning's sunrise has been awesome.


Our zigzag course was chosen because we are trying to avoid 10 foot seas. In fact, we'd like to avoid anything over 5 feet. We'll let you know if we were successful when we enter Mobile Bay (which could also be rough).


After our turn (expected to be 8:00 A.M. Wednesday), if weather reports turn bad on us, we could make a run for a safe harbor in Apalachicola, Panama City or Pensacola.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007 Day 6


I was trying not to fall asleep at the wheel before 4:00 a.m. but thank goodness Bill got up early and took over at 3:30. I crashed and slept till 8:00 when we were scheduled to make our turn. We made the turn successfully and Bill called V to pass the word of us surviving the night and what our location was and what our new target waypoint is.


We were too rocking and rolling for Bill to cook his usually scrumptious breakfast of bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches, and besides, he was at the wheel and had four more hours on his shift. So I became the Chef and micro-waved us some ready-made Jimmy Dean ham and cheese Croissants. The steaming hot sandwiches with cold centers helped him appreciate his own cooking even more (and me, too).


I spent a couple of hours measuring and drawing to scale the only major modification I have envisioned since I first found this boat. The two main staterooms (cabins) have their own in-suite heads (bathrooms) that are side by side between the cabins. If I were to cut a new door from the master stateroom into the guest stateroom's head, the master would then have both a his and her bathroom, a luxury that is very nice when available. I also determined that by trading the King-sized beds for Queen-size, each stateroom would have room for a couple of chairs, which is also a nice luxury. After that exercise, my brain & body suddenly told me I'd only had 4 hours sleep and would be staying up most of the night again tonight, so I crashed again.

Sleep came quickly.


Later, I resumed my rummaging and exploring the many cubbies all over the boat. I discovered the original pencil on notebook paper design drawings by Skipper Jones of this unique one-of-a-kind vessel. Skipper Jones owned the Ford Dealership in Dyersburg, Tennessee, and got the wild idea and urge to build a boat capable of taking him around the world. He studied and read all he could find about boat design and building, then designed this boat, had a marine architect approve his plan, submitted it to the Coast Guard who have very stringent rules and regulations about such, and then literally built it over 5 years, launched her in the Mississippi and retired. He and his wife then enjoyed it for 17 years, essentially living on it. I talked to both Skipper Jones and his wife before I made my purchase offer and promised him I'd stop at Paris Landing if I bought it for him to see it again. (He liked and approved of my new door idea). I'm anxious to meet him. I was already impressed with the result of his efforts, but was just blown away when I saw those many pages of detailed drawings and notes. You could just feel the love and passion and hard work that he put into the project.


After traveling about 100 miles on our new course, the seas began getting a little rough. Even though we'd put out a great deal of effort to tie everything down, we had several pictures come off the wall, strongly latched cabinet doors fly open, and several items like vases and candle stands become dislodged and break. We are still trying the same route as this is the way we need to go. We plan to alter course at 1st light based on my pilot & boater friend Dennis Wooden's expert opinion. We feel better already.

We've traveled 330 miles since Key West. We're 230 miles from Mobile as of 2:30 a.m.


Update on Burkett's of 7:00 pm last night, their position was 27.14N 84.28W, which is roughly 100 miles due west of Sarasota, heading 310*.  They were a little concerned about the approaching cold front and building seas and were considering a northerly turn towards shore and possibly calmer seas.  The closest sea buoy to their position was reporting 15 mph winds and seas of 5-6'.  Based on the forecast last night, they decided to continue on towards Mobile with an ETA of 2:00 AM Friday and keep open the option of turning shoreward if they need to.

They have been in contact with V (spoke briefly with her this morning).

I'm sure everyone's following along wishing they could be sharing this adventure...I know I am!

If I hear from Burkett again, I'll pass it along, in the meantime we wish them fair sailing and a safe journey into Mobile.


Dennis Wooden


Dear Burkett,


What a thrilling call from you tonight.  I am sorry I was unable to get to

the phone just to listen to your news to Peggy.  You told of purchasing the

Miss Lori Anne (formerly INFINITY) which I designed and built.


The subject line on your email knocked me out


Please be sure to record me in your address book so I can follow your



My delay in answering was because I wanted to print the attachment view

over the bow, and I wanted it full page size.  I got it now!


Upon returning To the active state on my  email I find that your records

from day one to seven arrived.  Oh, thank you.  I shall cherish keeping all

of these to add to my personal notes about INFINITY.


You missed one item in my business bio.  I was a Butler Building Builder for

many years and built everything from churches, factories, strip shopping

centers, post offices in Arkansas and Missouri.  Some structures were not as

nice as the doctor's clinics and auto dealerships, simply warehouses and out

buildings.  This is of no matter to your adventure.


The trip up the Tom Bigbee could be boring unless you become attuned to the

wildlife and solitude.  It is simply a ditch attaching two bodies of water.

We saw many deer, turkeys a cougar (4 footed type), geese, ducks and more.

Keep your eyes open for a surprise now and then.  As I recall there are 14

locks on the river.  Radioing ahead always provided us with a fine lock crew

and an interesting break in scenery.  All of this is assuming you'll retrace

my steps in getting to salt water.  I had to take the boat upstream in the

Mississippi to the Ohio, then to the Tennessee.  At one point in the

Mississippi leg we had to hit a whirlpool to allow a long barge make his

turn.  All of the kitchen cabinets were emptied in the violent rolling and

pitching.  Avoid the Mississippi unless you are just seeking adventure.


I have one cautionary note to offer on your plans.  there is a 1/4" steel

bulkhead across the mid section around the heads.  It is not sealed at the

ceiling line.  I really like the his & hers head idea.  I felt on ocean

voyaging the additional safety of the bulkhead here added to the engine room

wall and the chain locker in the bow would allow more time to abandon ship in

a real catastrophe.  There will remain little value to this bulkhead if the

boat is kept up on the lake system.


I appreciate all the complementary things you said about me, but, I'm 6'2",

not 10' tall.


The craft is built hell for stout.  We had no problems in 3 hurricanes

during our living aboard.


We do look forward to meeting you face to face.  When you exit Yellow creek

you are only a mile upstream from Paris landing.  If you can slow down there

long enough for us to have a "memory moment" and to meet you.


I'll print and read the first 6 days log and the 7th.  tomorrow.  Again

thank you for remembering us in such a splendid way.






Thursday, March 15, 2007 Day 7


Scott says it was like an 8-hour car wreck. Bill says he wonders if the Skipper Jones was just showing off trying to prove she's not ready to be put out to pasture. I say, I thought this was going to be a boring 5 day trip and nothing much to write home about. We've now finished 7 days not counting the day Bill and Scott came down early to change all the fluids and filters and I certainly have more than I want to tell today. But this is the daily journal of the Vagabum (that's both mine and the boat's tag) and it should all be recorded.  Once we all got settled after the ordeal you're about to read about, Scott said, I thought you invited me to go on the Shakedown Cruise but it looks as if you should have called it. The Shake-up Cruise. Bill said after hearing the weatherman say the seas were freshening about the time we were taking a slam from a humongous wave that he was wishing for a little more stale-ness.


I gave up the helm and turned in a little more than hour after my scheduled 4:00 a.m. relief time this morning because Bill & Scott had to transfer more fuel than usual due to us running for almost 24 hours straight. I had not been in bed but an hour or so when Bill was rapping on the door and hollering he needed me in the pilot house. I hadn't noticed because I'm such a sound sleeper but the boat was really bouncing around a lot. I could feel the reason for Bill's concern even before I got to the main deck because I had to crawl up the stairs rather than walk. The sea was really giving us a pounding. We had done all the weather checking we could and had expected no greater than 6 foot seas as all reports told us 3 to 5 would be the most encountered by our route, but we suddenly found ourselves needing to report 10 to 12 foot seas.


The Gulf was living up to her reputation of not only being unpredictable but of be able to become really routy suddenly. The weather beacon nearest us reported 9 foot seas (via V and our satellite phone a few hours before) but it was way too late for us to do anything about it. We had tried to skirt the storms and had been totally successful up to this point (we've still had very little actual rain) but the unpredictable Gulf lived up to her image.


For two hours in pitch black dark I had to simply point her into the wind (which took us in the opposite direction we were trying to go) to try to keep her from rolling (which is what throws furniture around). We certainly did a lot of pitching forward and aft but that would simply be more like riding a roller coaster that we actually purposefully paid money to do. The snap rolls to each side are more like the County Fair Octopus combined with a roller coaster, except carney rides only last a couple of minutes, and our ride lasted for hours. It lasted so long we all wondered how long our strength would hold out., but we didn't have a choice. We were working so hard at keeping the boat under control and from being hit with flying furniture, sailing guides, cans of food and coffee grounds that we didn't realize for many hours that we had not eaten breakfast or lunch nor even had our coffee. As we worked, we kept hearing thumps, glass breaking and crashing sounds from elsewhere in the boat or from the fly bridge. Bill took a snapshot of the salon floor when it subsided (see attached). Just picture such all over the boat. The source of the loudest and scariest thump was not determined for several hours until I finally believed it was safe enough for Bill and Scott to go check out the upper deck. The 18 foot Avon Inflatable Dinghy and the 50 horse Yamaha 4-Stroke engine were gone. The Davit Hoist was gone.  It had literally broken in two (the central core was a 4 pipe). The Dinghy lashing straps and the Dinghy cradle had both snapped. We surmised that those simultaneously snaps explained the loudest bang we had heard during the traumatic ride.


Old Captain Nelson has been so proud that he had hadn't been motion sick through many opportunities since climbing out onto the sprit spar on the sailing vessel Yankee Clipper in the Caribbean almost 30 years ago but hey, even salty old curmudgeons  deserve it every once in a while just so they can be more sympathetic to those more vulnerable. Sea-sickness can make you helpless even when dire times require you to be at your best, so I was really worried that if we got stuck in this mess for too many hours (or even days, which could have happened), we would succumb to the stamina and seamanship trial not from lack of boating skill but from pure exhaustion and sickness. Fortunately, three quick throw-ups with Bill holding the bucket cured me. Since I hadn't eaten nor had even a drop of water in over 12 hours, there really wasn't much in me to come out. It's also interesting how your other bodily functions shut down with the adrenaline pumping. No one had even the slightest urge for a bathroom break until everything calmed back down.  Calmed Down is a relative term. We laughed about how earlier in the trip we didn't care much for 3 foot seas and how they wound up feeling like a blessing.


A list of issues resulting from today's rough sea: (1). Starboard Main Engine and one of the (2) generators conked. The main Starboard was fixed once we anchored by changing the final filter and burping the air out of the fuel line. (The same thing happened to me in rough seas both on the Northern Loop to Canada and the Washington, D.C. to Hendersonville trips).  The generator problem was caused by the battery breaking loose and dumping its water. Just re-filling and recharging solved the issue. (3). Lost two-thirds of our fresh water supply and (4) lost ability to turn on what water we did have. One of the 4 portable sewage treatment containers (commonly called a bucket) that service each of 4 toilets that fresh water and chemical is siphoned from had turned over in the bilge causing the bilge to fill with our fresh water. Also, so much churning had occurred in our water supply that the water filter clogged and had shut off our total supply throughout the boat. (We take our instant producing water faucets and commodes for granted sometimes, don't we). Try living a day without even so much running water to brush your teeth, wash your hands, make a pot of coffee, etc. and it makes you appreciate it more). (5). Pilot House Depth Finder quit working. We solved that major dilemma by stealing the one off the fly bridge. (6). Aft Deck Refrigerator door ripped off and contents dumped. Solved by moving items needing refrigerating to galley fridge. (7). Broken dishes, lamps, pictures from off the wall, etc. just bagged up for disposal. (8). Newly repaired Anchor Light non-operational. Solved by leaving deck lights on all around when anchored. (10). Handles on Sliding Glass Door from Aft Deck to Salon broken. Thank Goodness for bungee cords, paperclips and duct tape for such crisis. (11). Sea water on wrong side of hull. Mop-up, wipe-up, clean-up, open portholes, turn on fans, buy Fabreeze at first supply stop.


boat_goneOnce the worst of it was over after a couple of hours even though we had 6 more of rough sea, we knew it was time to find a port. We had been having to travel in the opposite direction of where we were trying to go (Mobile).  We were 100 miles from any port. We chose Panama City because that happened to be the  most comfortable direction to steer (North) and Panama City was almost straight North. We entered the channel at 7:15 and dropped anchor in a flat-as-glass cove in the Inland Waterway's West Bay between Panama City and P.C. Beach at 8:00 P.M..  We sat down and debriefed each other. Bill and Scott put me to shame as they reported they had only felt queasy and didn't throw up. We couldn't think of anything other than tying things down better that we could have done any differently. We agreed we needed to include a photo of the lost dinghy proving that we in fact used to have one and that it was fully secured. Bill took the picture in calm sea the day before. (Bill has taken a lot of great pictures that Bruce will post for you later). Its attachment to Vagabum was sufficiently strong but the pounding just broke the Davit as well as the Cradle. The Galley was such a mess and the propane locker needed our attention before we were willing to turn on the gas, so we just grabbed cold cuts for our supper and put our attention to getting back in shipshape for tomorrow's continued journey toward Mobile which is still a day and a half away.


Fri 3/16/2007 9:15 AM

Sending a quick message to let you know the boys made it to Panama City last night.  They left Panama City around 8am this morning (Friday) and are taking the intercoastal towards Pensacola.  Crew is doing well.  Dad will get caught up on emails soon.

Virginia Moore

Sat, March 17, 2007 11:40 am


At 12:30 CST Daylight time, we are in Mobile Bay about an hour from the shipyard where we will be putting in for repairs. Bill & Scott will rent a car to head home. I'll rent a car and stay with the boat for a day or two or more until I can come home to regroup and for supplies and Val to begin the second leg. I'll try to get a report out soon for days 8 & 9.


Thanks for your interest and encouraging mails. Vagabum


Vagabum Days 8, 9 & 10

Friday, Saturday & Sunday

March 16, 17 & 18, 2007

 It is Sunday morning as I write. I'm all alone and listening to bluegrass gospel on Satellite XM radio. I'm tied up to a barge in Mobiles Industrial Canal which branches off the 3-mile creek. It sure beats the creek we were up last Thursday. Being Sunday, there is no industrial activities and therefore its very quite and peaceful, not even a ripple of a wave or wake. Bill & Scott arrived back in Nashville about midnight last night. They each needed to get back to work tomorrow. Scotts starting a new job tomorrow and Bill will have to work most of today preparing jobs for his crews to tackle in the morning.  I'll hang around here for a few days getting things back into shipshape in preparation for the next leg of the journey which will probably start in about a week. I do intend to drive home for a day or two before coming back down. Thanks again, Readers, for your e-mail, interest and support. And a special note of thanks for the support of former shipmates and continued mentors Captain D, Captain Troy, Captain Dennis, Captain Larry and Captain Kathy, each also Coast Guard licensed, insightful and helpful friends.


 Although nervous about docking this big tub (65 x 20) in the slip that now that I've safely tied up found to only be 75, I slid in without the slightest bump. Maybe too slow for my crew and Seaside Marine Services Foreman Steve and his wife Crystal who met us on his day off, but I didn't hurt anything or anybody. The primary rule of docking (after proceed slowly) is: If you are going to hit something, pick something cheap. That's the main reason I'm in a Ship Yard versus a Yacht Yard. Most pleasure craft of this general design (like my old Vagabum) are fiberglass. My new Vagabum is steel. If you read designer and builder Skipper Jones comments yesterday, she was built Hell for Stout.  Knowing that, I guess, is why I was only very uncomfortable and wishing the heavy seas were over rather than ever fearing for my life Thursday when we were encountering those heavy seas. I have been in similar (but not near as bad) in the Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic and Lake Michigan in the steel sailboat I did the Northern Loop to Canada in two years ago. I felt safe then as if I were in a little cocoon and was reminded of the guy who safely went over the Niagara in a steel barrel. Vagabum is too big too be considered a cocoon, but I felt she was strong and well-designed and that I should just ride it out. I should have realized that it was Bills and Scotts first experience in such a mess. They did not show it at all during the ordeal. They each competently did all that was required of them without hesitation but admitted in our debriefing session that they truly feared for their lives.  It didn't help much for the Coast Guard to be announcing that a 130 Honduran Cargo Ships epirb was activated somewhere West of us in the Gulf. (An epirb is a floating homing device that starts sending a signal identifying a vessel and its location when it is either purposefully or through an event tossed into the sea or manually turned on).  We also heard from the Coast Guard Radio of a capsizing that occurred during the storm near Pensacola which was one of the ports of choice for us to have diverted when we chose Panama City.


I've had a few e-mail questions thrown at me since we've been back in Broad-Band range. My sister Martha commented What better way to bond with your new son-in-law but for him to be holding the bucket you're throwing up in. Why didn't I hold my own bucket? It took both hands to hold the wheel and I couldn't leave my seat. In fact I remember wishing I had had a seat belt on. Son Arby asked, Just how high did the water come up on the boat and how do you measure? The measurements make no sense to us because Vagabum is over 20 feet tall (not counting radar, tracking dishes and antennas) and the waves were hitting the bimini (the roof over the fly bridge).  Our biggest fear was that the waves would break our windshield although it is extra strong plate glass. Was it just splash that we were getting?  No, it was the actual wave. Think of what a wave looks like when a surfer is under the curl and how it crashes back down into the sea. As many of you know who have seen or been on my first Vagabum, one of the uncommon features I had looked for and made sure I had in each Vagabum is a Portuguese bridge. The Portuguese bridge is the wall between the anchors in the pulpit on the front deck and the pilot house. It gives the crew a place to safely stand when water is coming over the front deck if they need to be outside the cabin for any reason. The Portuguese bridge is helpful in normal high seas but not really needed on Inland Waters such as the Cumberland and Tennessee River Lakes.  It also enhances the lines of a boat. I didn't just want a functional boat. It was also important to me that she be at least pretty if not sexy. Both Vagabum's are both pretty and sexy to me, but of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


The crew stayed up later than me tending to engineering matters Thursday night, so I was able to get up and get underway and several miles down the way before they roused. We had a very quiet ride all day and made 105 miles to our anchorage just on the Alabama side of Pensacola Harbor with only 55 more miles to go.  We arrived at the cove I had selected from the chart to find a Coast Guard Cutter anchored in our spot. I just called them on the radio and asked if they cared if we anchored in there with them if we promised to be keep the racket down (ha ha). The radio man was buffaloed with my question and tried to route my query to the main Headquarters in Mobile but after a while with darkness creeping in, the cutters commander came on the air and laughed and said they'd be glad to have the company.


DoneWe turned in early again as we were still exhausted (as I think we still all are even 3 days later). I got up early again Saturday and put 15 or 20 miles behind us before the crew got up to attend to engineering. I wish I could properly tell you how lucky and appreciative I am of my crew. Although they have lots of small craft experience on Old Hickory and some deep sea fishing experience 20 miles or so off the coast, they truly were in a new element. But their natural talent, enthusiasm and years of mechanical, electronic and engine experience proved to be the difference in what could have been a voyage that could have turned out not so happily. Bill had studied up on all the systems he could find information on after our initial inspection and sea trial last month and recruited Scott as the second crewman. Their years of being a team really paid off on this trip. They not only knew and respected each others knowledge but they knew that they could each tackle different projects simultaneously without having to look over each others shoulders or second guess the multiple decisions that popped up constantly. It definitely took two engineers on this trip. One might could have done it if he had had 4 hands and agreed not to sleep at all for a few days. The next leg should prove to be a lot simpler as it is all inland. Bill and Scott are also great instructors. I learned so much from them, because I know about as much about engines and electronics as I do cooking. Its such a joy to learn from someone who enthusiastically and with apparent joy at the challenge will tackle any little or big system and wrestle with it until they understand it inside and out and wont treat me like I was a complete dumas incapable of understanding what needs to known.


After we tied up and called our cab to take us to get our rental cars, I toasted them and the trip crediting the two of them for its successful outcome. They said that although they had no desire to ever go back into the Gulf of Mexico again they would gladly go to sea with me again. 


Vagabum Log, Mobile to Home

Mobile Shipyard Layover Fiasco

March 17 to April 1, 2007


After the Gulf Crossing trauma the ship and the three of us had just endured, the Sunday peace and quiet I enjoyed March 18th kicking back and listening to XM Radio was over too soon. Monday awakened me with a multitude of shipyard sounds and closely passing tugs rocking me from my deep and badly needed sleep.


The foreman, the manager, the owner and the painter all greeted me sometime during the first work day I was in the yard. They studied the ship and made measurements and calculations.  I had been told it was a very busy yard where everyone worked 24/7 year round. I was also told there would be a 2 to 3 day delay due to our detour causing us to miss my dry docking and bottom painting appointment. A barge (like the coal-carrying kind we are used to seeing up and down the Cumberland) had to be slipped in ahead of me. It shouldn't be more than 4 days at the most before it would be my turn again. I started getting suspicious of their predictions when Friday noon rolled around and the yard emptied of workers until the following Monday. I got a new one-more-day promise everyday the next week with an apparent legitimate reason given each time (such as, We ran out of paint yesterday. We have to wait on the tide, etc.).


As it became clear it was going to be more than a few days before it was my turn, Val came down and to clean, shop and organize for the trip home AND brought JoJo. We explored Mobiles restaurants after each days hard work scrubbing, straightening, rearranging, stocking and repairing. We were impressed with Mobiles ambiance and can heartedly recommend NoJas, Felixs Fish Camp, Pickle Fish, Wintzells Oyster House, R&R Fish Shack and Heros sidewalk cafe. Mobile is a very old city with lots of beautiful old mansions, interesting museums, convenient and safe parks and 175 year churches. Mobile is where Mardi Gras began. We did some of our every other day Half-Marathon training by running at the Alabama Battleship Memorial Park as well as through the humongous train yard our shipyard was smack-dab in the middle of.  (Our race is April 28th and is one of our deadlines for getting home by early that week).


Finally, with pressing business pushing me to come home, I jetted, leaving Vagabum in the shipyard with a next morning scheduled dry docking and plans for zooming the 7 hours right back once she was dry, could be inspected and work order written. When the expected mission accomplished call came the next day it was to tell me they didn't think they should de-float her in their dry dock for fear of harming her. They recommended the traditional hoisting by traveling crane method that they didn't happen to have one of. I made the decision to just bring her closer to home for my bottom job as my bottom had had all the job promises it could tolerate.


While in Hendersonville, Val and I loaded up the SUV rented for the quick round trip with even more supplies complete with Kayak on the roof (since my Dinghy with a huge davit hanging off of it was now entertaining the fishes in the Gulf of Mexico). After a quick shipyard dust and grime wash job, the purchase of perishable food and the filling of our water tanks were ready

for an early tomorrow A.M. Day 1 Second Leg departure.  


Leg 2 Day 1 Tombigbee Map

Sunday, April 1, 2007


Val also did a log today, did it well and from a different perspective, so I'm including it:


Happy April Fools Day!

Nice BoatIts the first day of the second leg of the trip to bring the new Vagabum home to Tennessee. Burkett & I left Creekwood Marina in Hendersonville at 7:10 A.M. We got to Mobile exactly 7 hours later. We had rain the last several miles. Fortunately, it stopped as soon as we arrived but then it turned hot and muggy. After hauling the SUV load of stuff into the boat we sat down to eat and talk about what all we had to get done. First, because the Shipyard had just moved to this new location, no water was available. We had to move up the industrial canal channel to where Burkett had arranged to get a full load of 800 gallons. This was only Burkett's third time to dock the new Vagabum and he did a great job despite a bit of wind. We tied to some pilings (at the H&R Welding Shop) and he proceeded to wash her while I stowed things. The fitting on the borrowed hose didn't work, so Burkett had to rig one requiring that one of us physically hold the hose to the fill pipe for an hour and a half. Not ideal, but it worked.  The boat was covered with steel dust and grime so he spent hours scrubbing and rinsing. After all this, we were filthy and showers were in order. Burkett still had to walk a full mile to retrieve the SUV. Scaling down off the side of the boat was interesting but there was no other way down to the grass bank below. And then we were off to get a bite to eat at Wendell's, the oldest oyster bar in town, known for their hundreds of signs posted on the walls with funny or clever sayings. My shrimp & grits were the bomb! Then we were off to Wal-Mart for more supplies and to mail Bills phone back to him that Id inadvertently kidnapped.  Finally, he was able to drop me back at Vagabum to unload and stow the groceries while he took the rental car back. He got back by cab about 1:15 A.M. and that's the last thing I heard before sweet sleep. 


Leg 2 Day 2 Tombigbee Map

Monday, April 2, 2007


This was a long, eventful day  to say the least. My wake-up call was at 7:30 when Burkett started the engines.  I pulled in the lines and we slowly made our way out of the shipyard area toward our first railroad bridge a mile away. The bridge was down as a train was switching cars in the train yard, so we had to wait 45 minutes for them to raise it. A tug and barge from our shipyard full of the workers that Burkett had made friends with soon came up behind us. They held their position and waited in the same little area right behind us. Burkett would have been happier if they had waited a little further behind us as he felt crowded. When the bridge was finally raised, we let them pass and go ahead of us. That's when the fun began.


Even though we had announced our intention on Channel 13, (the channel that the whole Mobile Bay area monitors for traffic) just as soon as we cleared the bridge a tug pushed up against a huge ocean going ship fired up his powerful engines blasting a wake right at our side putting us into a spin. So suddenly we are out in the middle of the Bays Monday Morning traffic with no control of the boat. As Burkett was trying to get a handle on the situation, a tug captain came on the radio asking our intentions. Burkett responded that we were trying to head North. Several other captains, including the one Burkett knew from the yard, started radioing that we needed to get out of the way, as not only was there lots of traffic, but the tug that spun us was backing out pulling the big ship right where we were sitting trying to get control. Well, believe me, they didn't have to tell us to try any harder as we were already doing all we could. Our wheel was not responding at all. Additionally, the current was insane, seemingly coming from all directions instead of from just the North. So with commercial vessels all around us trying to go where they wanted to go, we were wandering almost helpless right in the middle of the channel.


It was nerve racking and a little scary. Eventually, we were able to get out of the way by heading Eastward (about the only way the boat seemed to want to go). Then by fiddling with the joy stick (that Burkett had previously already complained about not liking as much as the wheel he was more used to) we were able to head in the direction we wanted to go (Northward under the Suspension Bridge into the Mobile River and out of the craziness) by steering just with our twin screws. (If the boats rudders are centered in a straight position, you can steer with twin engines by revving or backing off one or the other



It took awhile to recover from the excitement, but we began to make good time.

We considered trying to get back into the shipyard but didn't have enough control or understanding of why we had lost it to get back into the melee of traffic. I ended up driving most of the day while Burkett tried to figure out what our problem was. He discovered the hydraulic system was leaking thereby causing us to have no rudder control. We were rolling right along to Mile 30.5 up the Mobile River until we got hit from the side again, this time from the current of the Barry Steam Plant discharge. This again sent us into a spin, having knocked our rudders out of the center position to far starboard this time. Needless to say, this causes big problems when you had little rudder control in the first place. Through phones calls to our Chief Engineer Bill and his call to the previous owner, Burkett located a 5 gallon bucket of hydraulic fluid in the Master cabin lazzerette (like a closet in the floor) and proceeded to add more fluid into the system allowing us to get the rudders centered again.


The next mishap occurred at Mile 38.5. We were rounding a bend with our depth finder showing we had plenty of depth, when we scraped the bottom and sent the rudders out of whack yet again. This time we were in a bad spot. While I kept lookout for tugs, Burkett went below to see if he could find a way to move the rudders. During the intensive search for the huge rudder wrench that came with the boat, with the wind pushing us, we kept getting closer and closer to the bank. Finally we make contact with it, and our engine and depth finder alarms started going off.  The only good thing about it was that we were out of the main channel.  So we just dropped anchor and plotted our next move. Burkett made lots of calls to Bill and then called his pre-arranged tow company to put them on the alert that wed probably want a tow in the morning. On trips like this, Burkett explained that you buy tow insurance with a national company that will come tow you from wherever you are if you are within 25 miles of shore for free if you need it.


Throughout the rest of the afternoon he tried and failed to get the rudders straight and to maneuver off the bank. Now being mentally exhausted, we decided to kayak up a slough we had passed that Burkett had remembered seeing some boats going into nearby. We wanted to run anyway as it was a run day, and thought we might get some help pulling us off the bank. After about a mile of paddling, we neared a house that we knew would have a road to it. The caretaker of the place spotted us and walked out to greet us, but his niceness was not of much use as he said he was under orders to not let anyone set foot on the property. He suggested we try a boat landing that was in the opposite direction that we had traveled. It was about a mile on the other side of where we were grounded. So after we paddled back the mile we had just covered, we paddled another mile and a quarter (Burkett measured it on the chart when we got back) past our boat around a bend until we spotted the landing which was yet another two miles further ahead. We had been paddling against the current, so we decided we had enough exercise for the day (4 and a-half miles

eventually) and we still had to paddle back against the wind.   


We had finished eating when Burkett heard over the radio that a tug was coming. He radioed the pilot and told him our situation and told him he was going to try to use his wake to get off the bank. The Pilot (Terry on the

Chippewa) agreed to help and also informed us that we were in a dangerous spot if a North-Bound tug was to miss his turn. What he actually said was, If he misses his turn, it aint gonna be purty. Burkett said to me, Well, that's encouraging. So, the Tug passed us, held his position a little longer than usual letting us have his backwash, and low and behold, it worked!

Vagabum was again free. Then we had to use the spotlight and radar to get us a few more miles upstream to the mouth of the Tensaw River.  Terry had let us know that we would be safe there because Tugs weren't allowed in the Tensaw.

 This was precarious in the dark, but we made it. I let the anchor out and the stressful ordeal was over. It was a good thing or Burkett would have had to stay up all night watching and listening for tugs so he could warn them of our position. Sometimes I think he's a Machine!


He wanted me to mention how much he's bragged on my driving ability. He says I'm a natural, and that I'm a better driver than he is. I don't know about that, but I do know that I've had an excellent teacher. That's all for now. Thankfully, this day is over. 


Burkett Note: Photos to come later. We are in such a remote area with such poor cell tower support, we can't send them efficiently right now.

Leg 2 Day 3 Tombigbee Map

Tuesday, April 3, 2007


Today, I got to sleep in, and it was a beautiful thing. Burkett woke up at the crack of dawn, of course, and got to work looking for the hydraulic leak. (He found it by tracing a dripping that was causing an oily sheen on the river). It was coming from a pipe that runs down from the upper deck leaking right where the starboard walkway meets the back deck. This area had been slick for days and we didn't know why There you go. (A scuba air tank had been tied to and was covering up this area and had apparently banged a small hole in a rusty area of the pipe during the Gulf crossing). He strapped down the rudders with ski-boat cover straps, filled the fuel day tanks and put a clamp on the starboard engine water pump. He had been busy. I got up at 9:00 and we got under way at 9:45 headed to Bates Lake 14 miles ahead. The trip was graciously uneventful, except our hunt for the elusive alligator was finally rewarded.


TenTom AlligatorBurkett spotted him sunning on the bank. He was long and fat and looked really content with himself.  We snapped a picture. He's the only gator sighting so far. Upon arriving at the lake (Mile 54) with Burkett driving, we tried to get into the entrance.  It was too shallow, so we just backed out and anchored behind a green buoy out of the way of the tugs.  Burkett then realized the depth finder had been set 4 feet higher than it should have been, so we found ourselves in only 6 and a-half feet of water. This was a major revelation, and needless to say a good thing to know. Especially since the boat needs at least 6 feet. (The number showing on the depth finder was actually showing the water to be 4 feet deeper than it really was). 


Once we got settled, Burkett got on the phone to find a mechanic and set one up for the next day at Ladys Landing (Mile 79.9). We both must have been very tired, as we laid down and took a nap. Afterwards, Burkett waved a fisherman over who told him the tide would start going out at 5:00 A.M. and that the water would drop 2 feet in 2 hours, and that wed find ourselves sitting on the bottom. The fisher-guy also filled Burkett in on the area, telling him that right around the bend and up the lake about a mile was a public boat launching ramp, and beyond that a road. This was good news because a run was due for both of us. We gathered our stuff for kayaking and running, launched and had an interesting trip getting to see quite a few houses on stilts, house trailers and home- built shacks and docks floating on barrels.


Burkett is intrigued by the many cypress tree stumps he calls cypress knees.

I'm more intrigued by the alligators (or maybe the lack of them).  I'm told its at night when you can spot them with a light because their eyes shine.


The run ended up being great. Close to half of it was on an Alabama red-clay road. The rest was paved with a grassy area along the side. After an hour and a-half run, and another 30 minute kayak trip made harder by the wind blowing against us we were back. By then it was dark and Burkett was whipped. I love it when he's more tired than me. (It doesn't happen that often).


After I made us a little something to eat and had some chill out time, it was shower and sleep.  5:00 A.M. will come awfully early.

Leg 2 Day 4 Tombigbee Map

Wednesday, April 4, 2007


This morning was another exciting one.  We pulled anchor shortly after 5:00 A.M. and it was still very dark. The wind immediately picked up and it began to rain. Next thing you know, were being taken downstream while we were attempting to go up. Even with Burkett using all the power Vagabum could muster, we were still losing ground. After a few tense moments we realized that the problem was not only the wind, but the current from the tide going out so quickly. We started believing the fisher-guy from the night before, that the rate was a foot an hour. We decided to just drop anchor in the middle of the channel and announce our position by radio to any concerned area tug traffic. Then we just waited to leave when there was a little more daylight and a little less wind. After an hour and twenty minutes we left, still fighting the current, but able to make some forward progress. 


Although Burkett constantly warned everyone in the area by radio that the boat was being steered by engine controls only, and requested that those in the area announce themselves, before long an unexpected tug poked his nose around the next bend. Luckily, we were in a wide spot in the river. After talking to the pilot, we were able to hold our position out of his way.


We made it to Ladys Landing (Mile 79.9) around 10:00A.M. The water was deep and there was plenty of room out of the path of tugs. Burkett immediately called our connection to the Jackson, Alabama NAPA Parts Store, and the mechanic said he'd be there in 20 minutes. Burkett grabbed a bite to eat and then kayaked across the channel to the boat landing.


Meanwhile, I washed the dishes and did some more much-needed cleaning. I also cranked up the music and enjoyed some Just Me time. I think I was half-delirious from lack of sleep. An hour and a half later Burkett showed up with David, the NAPA mechanic guy. He had been delayed and had tried to call, but the message wasn't received.  While waiting, Burkett just climbed up on a picnic table at the landing and took a nap. They went to work about 1:00 P.M. and didn't stop for hours. About mid-afternoon I lay down for my own nap, and upon awakening found them still at it.  

Hydraulic DavdBurkett figured he kayaked round trip across the river 8 times, either taking David back across so he could go for parts, or bringing him back.  It turns out that David Batley is the owner of the NAPA Store and has specialized in hydraulic hoses for the 14 years he has had the franchise. He had to make 3 trips to the store by himself and one with Burkett. I don't know what all they did, but it took all day. When he left on the 6:00 P.M. trip with Burkett, he said that if he could get a bite to eat, he'd keep working until the project was done. So while they were gone, I made supper. Nothing special- just Sloppy Joes, a green bean casserole and macaroni and cheese. They were gone for a couple of hours and probably half-starved by the time they got back. When they did get back, they were done in about an hour. We sat down to eat, chatted and reviewed what they had accomplished. As Burkett was taking him across for the last time, David said, I hope I don't have to see yall no more. As nice as he was and as much as we enjoyed meeting him, we hoped we didn't have to see him anymore either. David really did go out of his way to make sure he did everything in his power to get the leaks fixed. He truly went the extra mile and more. After paying the normal bill, Burkett showed his appreciation by sending his 9 year old son, Tucker, a sealed note telling him what a great Daddy he had along with a $100 bill. Thank you, David!


Burkett was whipped after a very long day. We decided to chill out a bit to wind down, journaled, and looked forward to a day with a working hydraulic

system and normal steerage.       


Leg 2 Day 5 Tombigbee Map

Thursday, April 5, 2007


We both slept in this morning, although Burkett's idea of sleeping in and mine are very different. Upon awakening, he decided that even if we had to skip or delay the Pickwick to Knoxville and back detour, we were going to relax and take our time. That being decided we spent the morning finding homes for the things scattered all over the boat. Organizing the load that was brought down Sunday had been neglected for lack of time and opportunity.

Things had just been dumped and thrown down upon arrival, and basically ignored as more important matters had taken priority. After spending most of the day doing this and working the rudders to get the air out of the hydraulic system, we pulled anchor at 2:00. Our new friend David called as we were leaving to see how things were going. Burkett thanked him again and sought his advice on a good place to anchor for the night closer to Jackson, as he

(Burkett) wanted to stay close by until he knew our hydraulics were no longer leaking.  Plus we wanted cell phone service. David suggested the launching ramp he had pointed out to Burkett when they went to the NAPA Store yesterday, which was right at a bridge about 10 miles from where we had spent the last night. Burkett studied the chart and feared it was right in the way of tug traffic, so he asked a tug pilot by radio what he thought. The pilot confirmed it would be dangerous and suggested the same area, but on the other side of the river tucked up under the part of the railroad bridge that the tug traffic could not get to. He said it must be plenty deep as he had seen commercial passenger boats anchored there before.  We anchored at Mile 90 at 5:00 P.M., almost directly under a span of the Southern Railroad Bridge. We were prepared to listen to train traffic all night but felt so safe and secure there we didn't care. The barge traffic had not been bothering us any other night and tug boats can be just as loud as trains.


After making a few long-overdue phone calls we hadn't been able to make due to poor reception, we launched the kayak, loaded it with dry clothes and running shoes and crossed the channel to the launching ramp. We then locked the kayak to a convenient piece of scrap metal and began the run. We immediately had to run up the longest hill we've ever encountered, but felt good that we both were able to do it without strain or having to stop.


We entered the outskirts of Jackson at the top of the hill and found it to be a small but pleasant community. Lots of people waved and spoke. I got the feeling that a pair of runners was a sight they didn't see everyday. We ran through an interesting and pretty graveyard, past old, well-preserved houses (Burkett said they were turn of the 20th century Victorian Houses) and then right through the old town center to the new business area. Eventually we got to Davids NAPA store and made it our turn-around point. We detoured by their high school baseball field and football stadium on the way back. The run was exhilarating and we made it back to the kayak in an hour and a-half right at nightfall. After a quick supper and some long phone calls, (Burkett had 28 e-mails and 9 phone messages to answer) we settled into journaling and

computing. Sleep, as usual, was well-earned.  


Leg 2 Day 6 Tombigbee Map

Friday, April 6, 2007


Burkett was even busier than usual this morning. He did sleep in, but then spent an hour and a-half in the engine room mostly cleaning up hydraulic fluid and reorganizing and putting away tools. He filled up the hydraulic reservoir (yet again), measured the height of the boat, with antennas both up and down, permanently posted height labels at the helm for ready reference, gauged the remaining fuel and updated the fuel transfer log.


After I got up, we practiced tying fenders and handling lines, checked the fresh water level, practiced raising and lowering the antennas and attempted to get the rudders moving the way they should. We left this nice anchorage at 9:30. As we headed out, the bridge tender radioed and asked up if the trains kept us awake. They certainly did not. Either we are well insulated from outside sounds or we are just very tired, or both.


Twenty-seven miles upriver we arrived at the first lock of our trip, Coffeeville Lock, Mile 117. Like anything else that hasn't been practiced, it was on the awkward side. I couldn't lasso the bollard on the first try, so Burkett had to back up and come back to it. Then we got so close that we scraped the lock wall and popped one of the fenders. This time, I was able to double loop the bollard but the line got twisted on the initial loop and had to be adjusted. When Burkett came out to help with the line adjustment, he had hilarious trouble with his thick and cumbersome Mae West life jacket. He ended up getting tangled up with it, his glasses, the marine radio mike and the head set radio (that we talk to each other on) with its cord running to the radio clipped to his belt. The glasses, headset and life jacket wound up on the deck and we were lucky the whole tangled up mess didn't slide overboard. It probably sounds worse than it was, but it just proves we need the practice before we go commercial.


The lock spilled us out into a beautiful lake. Deep and wide with lots of foliage, it was reminiscent of Tennessee waterways. Just north of the lock we passed a really nice campground and a fuel dock called Bobby's Fish Camp.

Lots of fishing boats were in the area.


We anchored at mile 164 just short of the Nanafalia, Alabama State Highway 10 fixed bridge. By the time we got the engines turned off at 7:30, it was dark.

We had traveled 74 miles! Quite a haul in comparison to all the other days. It

felt good, and so will a good nights sleep.  


Leg 2 Day 7 Tombigbee Map

April 7, 2007


Yes, it is very cold here, too. I guess we all got spoiled by those warm temps, but lest we forget, it is still early April. We left out this morning at 10:30. The anchor came right up today. Several times in the last week, it has been stubborn and gotten stuck for whatever reason (Burkett says it has just got a good hold in the mud, which is a good thing as long as we can get it up the next day). When it does this, I have to let some more chain out and then try to bring it back with more momentum to try to pull it loose. And same thing over and over until it either comes up, or Burkett has to use the engine controls and the whole force of the boat tugging on it to get it freed. Today, I was happy to not have to work so hard at it. It came right up on the first try with the push of the windless switch. When I got back inside the boat Burkett said, Hurry, go back and drop the anchor, something's not right.  So I did, and then came back inside to see what the problem was.

The engines were running but weren't responding to his gears and therefore his control. The problem ended up being that Burkett neglected to turn the key on When I told Burkett that I was going to include that in the journal he said that's OK, because everybody will think you're the dumas anyway for putting your life in my hands in the first place.  We got a laugh out of it anyway.


On the way to Demopolis Lock and Dam (Mile 213) Burkett tried to get us more prepared for the lock-thru. He set up a TV camera on the starboard deck handrail so he could see the side of the boat, as well as me handling the lines while he was at the controls. (It worked great like a rear-view mirror on your car). He fixed the hand operated mikes on our head-sets so we wouldn't have to hold the button down in order to talk. We really need both hands free. He also switched to a more manageable lifejacket and gave me some hints on lassoing the bollard.


Several miles before the lock, huge limestone bluffs came into view. They were a brilliant white and very interesting.


 As we approached the lock, we had everything ready and talked out. We got in just fine, and I looped the right bollard on the first try and got the mid-line as tight as possible. The lockmaster was very friendly and advised Burkett to use the engines controls to keep the boat from swaying as the water came rushing into the chamber. When we told him that this was only our second lock through with this boat, he said we had done an outstanding job.

Pretty good, we thought, considering yesterdays experience!


Going Home Ten TomOnce we were clear of the lock, it was only 3 miles to the Demopolis Yacht Basin at Mile 216. We had made 52 miles today. We used these last few miles (about 20 minutes) to communicate with the fuel dock man, Mike, who was standing by waiting for us. The lockmaster had called him ahead of time to let him know that we were coming. Mike encouraged us to pull up to the commercial pump the tugs use because he had a bigger hose and it would be much faster. To use that side of the fuel dock, we had to tie up to what they called and what looked like A-frames made of huge steel pipe. It was some what awkward as there was no dock you could step out on, and the fenders didn't match up very well to the pipe. But we made a relatively smooth landing anyway. We got all fendered up and tied securely, fished the huge hose over the railing and found the 2 nozzle was just a hair to big for the 2 and a quarter inch

fill- pipe. This forced us to untie and start all over again by moving to the other side of the dock, which our boat looked way too big for as it was geared for much smaller recreation/pleasure boats. By then another boat had arrived and taken the spot we needed and that had been empty when we got there. When we were finally able to move, Burkett did a beautiful job maneuvering us into the small space. Because we were fueling at the small hose, it took about 2 hours to get half of what we needed, so we decided to get half today and the other half tomorrow. (for a total of 2000 gallons). While Burkett monitored the fueling, the filling of water tanks, and calling his Daddy, I washed dishes. We then took off a weeks worth of trash, and checked out their restaurant. We decided to borrow the marinas courtesy car and go to town to eat and buy groceries. While I was downstairs in the boat, Burkett hollered to come outside. He had been chatting with the dock master and was puzzled as he saw this long log floating upstream against the current. As he was staring at it, the log turned around and looked at him. That's when he realized it was a very large alligator. That solved the mystery of the upstream floating log.

By the time I got upstairs, he was gone, of course. Darn it!


When the fueling was done, we headed into town in the loaner Lincoln Town car (a real tank with no shocks, gears that hardly meshed and a stubborn ignition.

But it did have leather seats, was clean and beat walking the two miles to the Red Barn Restaurant and the four miles back from Wal-Mart).  Exhausted from yet another fun but busy day, we still had journaling and winding down to do.



Leg 2 Day 8 Tombigbee Map

Sunday, April 8, 2007


Happy Easter!


Val on TombigbeeUpon awakening, Burkett finished fueling our 2nd thousand gallons and then worked with the rudders again. For the first time since the Mobile Bay tug blasted us with his turbulence blowing out the already weakened hydraulic line, he was able to move them all the way starboard and port. He had been waiting to try when we were safely tied to a dock for fear they would again freeze all the way to one side.


After he paid the Marina, we chose a land route through a park we could see from our moorage for a beautiful day of running - 55 degrees and sunny. We ran alongside the waterway past the pre-Civil War Mansion White Bluff built by slaves in 1832, and several grand Victorian homes complete with intricate gingerbread trim and large beautiful stained-glassed windows. We spent extra time in a picturesque cemetery admiring the over a century old stonework and wrought iron. We completed our hour and a-half jaunt through downtown Demopolis, yet another pretty and historic little Alabama town.


We cast off at 1:30 stirring up mud as there was not much maneuvering room.

Safely away from the marina, the 35 miles to our next anchorage proved very quiet.  We didn't pass a single boat- fishing, pleasure or towboat. And other than the one man I saw at some distance from the bank (and he was gone before Burkett saw him), we didn't see a single soul. At Mile Marker 225.5 we passed the halfway point between Mobile and Pickwick Lake where the Tom-Bigbee ends at the Tennessee River, and agreed that it was a victorious milestone.


Then the brilliant White Cliffs of Epes greeted us, with the afternoon sun just at the right position for a great photo. We will eventually get to share our best pictures when were back in broadband range. So far, we've barely had enough telephone reception each day to check in at home.


Our anchorage goal for the night was the I-20/59 Interstate Bridge at Mile 253 in hopes there would be telephone AND internet reception. We achieved our goal and were able to get 4 days of our daily log to you. We ended the day journaling as usual and planning tomorrow.


Received: Tue, 10 Apr 2007 06:30:10 PM CDT

Captain Hubert Reed's thoughts


Thanks for the running info on your adventure.  After all, most seafaring endeavors are an adventure in many ways.  For one, you are mostly on your own...many decisions to make..right or wrong.  If must take the consequences.  If right, HOORAY.   Fortunately most incidents work out pretty

well in the end.  One way to get 24 hour security is to go to jail.  Pretty high price to pay. Some authorities maintain that all sailors go to heaven as they have already had enough hell on the sea.  After a rough day it is doubly satisfying to arrive at a calm anchorage for the night.  The boat is sharing your troubles as well as your victories,.  Actually, the boat has a soul as well as a heart.  She sometimes is just as scared as you are....trusting you to help her out.  Don't let her down.  In all fairness, however, Some authorities point out that the reason a boat is referred to as "SHE" is that it is very unpredictable.  If you do not give her the attention she wants she has a way of getting your attention one way nor another.  All this bull aside....Bon Voyage.  Much better than looking forward to the evening at the senior citizens home. GOOD LUCK.


Leg 2 Day 9 Tombigbee Map

Monday, April 9, 2007


We pulled anchor at 9:45 and Burkett drove most of the day while I napped as I was not feeling well. We made the Heflin and the Bevill Locks without problems. We anchored just out of the waterway in the old Tombigbee River Channel just 3 miles on the high side of Bevill lock at Mile 309.3.


Leg 2 Day 10 Tombigbee Map

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


I woke at the firing of the engines at 9:30.  This was unusual, because Burkett normally waits until I'm up. When I got to the Main Deck, he was on the forward deck pulling the anchor, which is usually my duty while he stays at the controls. When he came back to the helm, he was nervous and sweating.

He explained that he had been working more air out of the hydraulic fluid line by turning the wheel all the way port, running down the steps to the engine room to see how the rudders reacted, and then back up to the pilot house to turn the wheel all the way starboard, and then back to the engine room. He then repeated the same process over and over many times for about 30 minutes.


At some point he noticed the boat had moved toward the channel quite significantly even though it had stayed put all night. The boat was nearing the bank and a pile of almost submerged limbs (that probably meant a whole tree was submerged) and he had to react quickly. He had to get the engines started, the anchor up and the boat somewhere else before he got tangled in the debris. He succeeded and we patted him on the back for paying attention and reacting quickly.


Our morning plan had been to kayak to the campground across the channel from where we were anchored for a run, but since the anchor was already raised and we were under way, we decided to just go further on up the river and drop anchor somewhere else to run. This proved to be a mistake because we then had lots of trouble finding another suitable place out of the towboat channel with a place to land and secure the kayak near a road. We first tried with no luck, The Nashville Ferry Landing. We even had advice from some guy watching us who had a marine radio. Further up river we anchored behind a green buoy at Mile 321 where the chart said a road ran parallel to the waterway. We launched the kayak, paddled to a landing, climbed the hill and found the roadway to have been abandoned enough years ago that is was all grown up in a thicket. We couldn't do anything but retrace our steps to try again later. While we were kayaking back, we were passed by a towboat. After speaking with him by radio and learning his speed was only 6.2 mph, Burkett knew that we wouldn't be able to catch him by the time we got to the next lock. We therefore decided to sit still for an hour and give him plenty of time to lock through. We pulled anchor again (this makes the 3rd time today) at 1:30.


We then passed our first oncoming towboat with me driving. There was plenty of room, but it was still a big deal for me. Burkett had been taking over the wheel when this occurred, but he was sure that I could do it just fine, and I did. You especially have to be careful as soon as a towboat passes because of the wake turbulence from his huge engines. 


Once we arrived at Stennis Lock, we had to hold our position for about 15 minutes while they let the water out of the lock from the tow that just went through. We then approached just as soon as the doors opened and the light turned green. Whoops! Another mistake for the day. We should have waited a little longer as the turbulence (the lockmaster called it an eddy) caught Vagabum and tried to pin us to the wall outside the lock. Burkett regained control, but hit so hard that we popped another fender.      


After locking through without further incident, we started looking again for a place to anchor so we could run. The first few spots selected proved too shallow. As we continued along, Burkett spotted a beaver swimming across right in front of us, a welcome sight as we have seen so little wildlife thus far.


We neared another portion of the old river that veered off the channel, knew there was a Marina there, and radioed the Marina for depth advice. The woman on the radio said she wasn't sure, so we just inched our way along ready to back out if necessary. She then came back on the radio and told us that the owner said there was plenty of depth. Burkett continued to ease in but the depth finder kept showing less and less water. By the time we tied up to the Marina pylons, the depth finder read 4 feet. This was bad, but we were already there and ready to be somewhere. It was raining hard by this time, so we just ran to the restaurant and ordered supper.


Waverly Marina has a huge covered deck with tables, a tiki bar, humming bird feeders, ceiling fans and a disco ball. With lots to keep our eyes entertained, we ate and chatted with Cliff (the owner) and Kay (the cook).

Upon hearing Burkett's concern about us probably being on the bottom, Cliff measured the depth with our sounding stick (an extended boat hook). Low and behold, it measured 8 feet at the stern and 7 at the pilot house. Great news, but we are even more puzzled by the depth finder.


Cliff offered us the courtesy van and we were ready to take him up on it. As we headed toward town (Columbus, Mississippi), we saw a sign pointing toward Tupelo, the hometown of Elvis. Burkett wanted to sit on the front porch of Elvis's birth house (as I had already done in the past). We headed that way, but the rain picked up and the windshield wipers didn't work (these courtesy cars are a story to themselves). We also found out that Tupelo was much further than Columbus, so we just turned around, drove downtown and admired the architecture of the churches, homes and businesses. We spotted an old horse drawn fire engine enclosed in glass in front of the fire station.


By then, a little hungry again, we stopped at a unique-looking restaurant called Tampico Bay. It was new but made to look old. The owners had purchased the negatives and had prints of the city hanging in every room dating from the late 1800s. One could hardly stay in his seat for wanting to wander around looking at them, so that's what we did. We made friends with the owner and found out that he was from Tampico Bay, Mexico and had opened less than a year ago with his father as his active partner. They were very cordial and fun to talk to, making for an enjoyable stop. We refueled the van and headed back to do some daily journaling.


Leg 2 Day 11 Tombigbee Map

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


We slept in and awoke to a hard rain. Burkett said he wasn't interested in running or heading up river in such a mess so we just tended to housekeeping.


When the rain let up, we finally were able to start the run, although a day late. We ran for 2 hours and a quarter, passing by another historic mansion, Waverly and got a good picture. When we got back to the Marina, the owners said that they were almost ready to come looking for us as a Thunderstorm Warning with 60 mph winds and a Tornado Watch were in effect until 8:00 P.M. Burkett re-tied and re-fendered Vagabum and decided wed go nowhere today. When all was clear we borrowed the van again and went into town and ate at what was once an Elks lodge. Well surely turn in early tonight in hopes for an early start tomorrow.    


Leg 2 Day 12 Tombigbee Map

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Tombigbee WaterwayBurkett began planning an exit strategy from our Waverly Marina dockage as soon as he got up. He talked to the locals, including Cliff, about the depth of the water around the marina and our route out. While studying the proposed path, he noticed a thick line stretched across the bay, floating on the surface right where wed be backing up. He pictured the props eating it and with that in mind, visited the office of the Tom Soya grain shippers next door (whose line it was) and asked for help getting it out of the way. The guy running the weighing scales just said our prop wash would push it out of the way and wasn't too interested in the problem.  Fortunately, the manager overheard, came out of his office and offered his assistance. The manager personally walked out to the area, jumped upon the beam from the bank to the dolphin (the pylon) and walked it like a tight-rope walker, gathered the line up and stowed it away.  Burkett said that it was a responsible thing to do and that he was very appreciative.


I woke up to the start of the engines as planned. We then climbed to the upper deck and discussed how wed back out of the narrow and shallow channel, around the bend, past the tied up barges at the grain complex and then back into the main Tenn-Tom channel.  Burkett had decided to do his backing from the fly bridge, even though he had no depth finder up there, because he could see better behind him from there. We had been driving from the lower helm on all the rest of the trip because when we start chartering, well be doing some cold weather excursions and will need to be very comfortable from that more restricted viewing position. The plan worked perfectly and we got out and underway without incident by 8:30.


We went through 4 locks today! 20 miles to Aberdeen lock, then 14 more to Amory, 5 to Wilkins and 15 to Fulton. We got in trouble at Amory Lock. I had let loose our lines from the floating bollard before the lockmaster blew his Clear-To-Go horn. This is a real no-no apparently. I wont let that happen again as the lockmaster kindly reprimanded us and explained that this shouldn't have been done.


We also busted another fender in our lockage routine today. That makes 3.


Then after exiting Wilkins, our next to the last remaining lock of the day, the depth finder went down. The friendly boat captain of Chillin right in front of us (who we had waited on while he caught up so that he could lock through with us without having to wait for the next turn), offered to let us follow in his wake to avoid the shallow spots.  Meanwhile, Burkett turned off the depth finder and then turned it back on. To our surprise, it started reading again and showed we had 30 to 50 feet of depth. Although we were glad to have it back, the deep reading seemed odd considering that we were having to maneuver through a narrow maze of navigational buoys. Burkett then checked out the cords of the depth finder, (as a defective cord is what conked the last one) and discovered that it had just become unplugged. Why it was showing any reading at all, who knows, but our actual depth was the more expected 14 to 15 feet once he plugged it back up. We got another good laugh out of that one.


Once we cleared our 4th and final lock of the day, we started looking for a place to anchor. Burkett had been discussing the possibilities with the Fulton lockmaster who had advised that the depth was fine on either side of the dam when exiting. We slid behind a green buoy about a mile from the lock and immediately ran into shallow water.  We then turned around and headed back toward the dam, and called the lockmaster for more explicit advice. As we slowed in the area, he directed us to Mile 390.1, much closer to the dam. Burkett had a Mike in each hand, one for the lockmaster and while also handling the dual controls he was talking to me on the hailer/intercom mike with the other hand. He had one slung over each arm for ready access.  It had been a rather long and taxing day with the 4 locks and no doubt he was feeling a little drained. When it was time for him to tell me to lower the anchor, he pushed the button and said, If your clutch is loose, you can drop it now. The lockmaster replied, OK, that'll work fine right there, Captain.  When Burkett shared that he had told the lockmaster to drop anchor, I was laughing so hard that I could barely get the anchor down. We were indeed happy to be somewhere yet again. We spent the rest of the evening planning the remainder of the trip, with me trying to teach Burkett to cook (and that would be a whole another story).     


About Vagabum Val, by Burkett:


Boy, do I know how to pick em.


When I brought the first Vagabum home from Washington, D.C., a complete novice to large boats, I picked Captain D to be my sailmate for 3 weeks. Darrell Alford had been my patient for years and every time he came in, we talked river boating. He had 33 years experience at the time with everything from towboats to the Nashville excursion paddleboats. You can read about that fast and exciting trip on my friend Bruce Pershke's website: Captain D was not only a superb pilot and instructor but fortunately (as you can read about) a great engineer and cook. He's been a very valuable friend that has been close to my whole family ever since. I still get almost daily advice from him when I'm on the water.


And I've already expounded on how smart I was to choose Bill Moore as my son-in-law and as Chief Engineer for my new Vagabum (Crossing the Gulf to Mobile at


I've had lots of inquiries as to this legs sailmate, Val Maners.


As we end the last day of the 2nd leg of Bringing Vagabum Home, its time to brag on Val. I found out quickly that I was not going to have time to keep the journal this time as it would be a full-time job being my own chief engineer, navigator and pilot. When she wrote up her version of our wild and crazy first day, it was a simple choice to let that duty be hers. I hope you have enjoyed her daily accounts as much as I have.


Val is a natural boater. She's got nerves of steel and has had a very settling effect on me. I have a tendency to want to go-go-go, getting up at the crack of dawn and pushing till dark. We found out quickly at the beginning of this trip, that my typical style of traveling just wouldn't cut it on this boat and on this trip. Its just too complicated a vessel.  Slowing our pace has made such a difference in the enjoyment of the endeavor, but most importantly, in the safety of it.


Val is a Creekwood Marina neighbor and was previously an Anchor High Marina neighbor. She and her boyfriend Bill have spent many enjoyable days on the old Vagabum, which is how her natural boating skills were discovered. She has also worked in the food service business for many years, lately working mostly for private caterers. The experiences she's had being the primary, and many times the only, server at small dinners and banquets made her a natural person to seek advice from as I dreamed of opening my retirement chartering business.  She helped me understand that I would never come out ahead trying to cater to 6 people or less, and that what prompted the need for this larger boat. Ill now be able to gear my excursions to 12, which she has also advised me to be about the most one server could handle proficiently.  From there, I was able to develop a workable business and marketing plan and find the right boat for the enterprise.


And now that the boat has been found and bought, you've been reading about the shakedown cruise and how we are learning to master the craft before we start hiring ourselves out to the public. She will be the Chief Stewardess as well as 1st Mate (although we are trying to come up with a term that doesn't sound like she's my soul mate. She already has one of those). Her duties certainly have and will continue to include a lot more than just serving as hostess and server. She is a fine boat and line handler. A key skill needed from a crewmate is quick response time which comes from experience and good communication skill and trust in the Captains ability and his orders. When there has been plenty of effective communication during non-stressful, no need-to-hurry times, the team can act swiftly and safely when split seconds are crucial. I wish I could snap a picture of her leaning over the railing lassoing a bollard while I'm trying to get our mid-ship cleat lined up while we are in high wind and a strong current. Ill try to get her to stage a photo so you can get the idea.


I've told Val many times on this trip how she's been perfect for the job. I couldn't have hired a more well-rounded and flexible crewman for this leg of the run. I needed to spend my time planning, navigating and engineering and she has expertly filled in the gaps. I've not had to think too much about shopping, stocking, stowing, cooking, cleaning or keeping the log and I've had a skillful relief driver and lookout for the whole trip. And as anyone who has ever been cooped up with just one person for almost three weeks could tell you, compatible personalities are the basic most important ingredient for a challenge such as the one wave successfully completed. As I write this on what should be the last of 450 miles at an average speed of 8 miles per hour, we haven't spoken a single cross word to each other nor felt the least amount of strain between us. (At least that's my viewpoint. You'll have to ask her for her opinion). 


Leg 2 Day 13 Tombigbee Map

Friday the 13th, April 2007


So much for Friday the 13th being an unlucky day. You couldn't prove it by us. Burkett's morning started with his routine in the engine room, transferring fuel, checking oil and water, etc. It took him 2 hours to transfer 515 gallons as he hadn't transferred for the main engines since Demopolis. Then while he checked his e-mails, I journaled until we were ready for the days run. We kayaked just a few hundred feet to the shore to a trail that ran right along side the river all the way to Fulton, Mississippi. We passed a beautiful Jr. College campus and then ran through the small nice community, passing several interesting dogs during our hour and a quarter of hoofing it.


Back on the boat, Burkett radioed the next lock (Rankin) to request a lock through. The lockmaster told us that he had a towboat coming from the other direction that had priority on us. Burkett told him we'd just drop anchor and wait until the towboat got on through, but the lockmaster said, Just bring it on, and well deal with it when you get here.  So we pushed our normal 8 mph up to 10 for the remaining 7 miles.  The lockmaster had the gate open for us and we drove right in. As we were leaving, the towboat was almost there. We had overheard the conversation between the lockmaster and the towboat pilot and knew that he had slowed down the good speed he was making to accommodate us. We thanked them both for taking care of us so courteously.


8 miles further upstream, we had to hold our position about 10 minutes before entering Montgomery Lock, which was one of our smoothest to pass through. Then at mile 410.8 just before entering the Whitten Lock, we went under a familiar looking, narrow and pretty, but long bridge. It looks just like the one in Nashville that is also a Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge.  Right after the bridge, the lock rose up into view several times larger than any we had been through before. We found that with an 85 foot lift, it is the 4th highest lift in the U.S. We entered the lock at a depth of 16 feet and, at the top, found that the depth finder did in fact read 101 feet.


We congratulated ourselves on getting through all 12 locks (and the final lock on the Tom-Bigbee) without major incident. The Whitten Lock gates opened into the beautiful and clear Bay Springs Lake. We anchored in the first cove to the east at about 4:00.  With a pretty gusty wind blowing, we put our feet up, settled in and made some phone calls. Then we noticed that the scenery started changing. The anchor had pulled loose with a wind change, although the boat hadn't drifted far. We just pulled our anchor back in and moved to the next cove for better wind protection. We did let out a little more chain this time.  The wind then really began to blow as a thunderstorm came rolling in. The storm came complete with a fantastic light show, so we turned the boat lights off to marvel at it better. We both decided that Mother Natures show was better than television at home.  


Leg2 Day 14 Tombigbee Map

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Awakening to rain, it was a good day for us to sleep in. When I got up at 9:40 and asked Burkett what he had accomplished so far, he said, Absolutely nothing.  We had stayed up late last night enjoying the lightning storm and were starting to feel relief from the long journey. We didn't feel pressed to get up and at em as Burkett says. We had no more locks to fret about getting through and could see the end of this leg of the journey in sight. We pulled anchor, crossed 7 miles of the beautiful Bay Springs Lake and entered the 23 miles of what is called the Divide Cut. It is completely man-made and without the hairpin and horseshoe curves and bends weve been negotiating. It was a very relaxed run. At mile 425 we made note that we were at the watershed dividing line between the Tennessee and the Tom-Bigbee rivers. All the water on the north side of this marker flows down the Tennessee, to the Ohio, to the Mississippi, to the Gulf of Mexico. All the water south of this point flows to Mobile Bay and into the Gulf. Burkett said it was like we had finally reached the top of the hill, and that it would be downhill from here.


We spotted the shipyard at mile 447.5 and slid into the berth they had waiting for us without any problem. We are getting good at this and have pride in ourselves that we just traveled the whole length of the waterway with only the engines to steer us. We never got to use the rudders with the wheel or the electronic joystick a single time.  Just as we started tying up, the owner, Lee Spry, and his wife came out to greet us and to help finish the tying off. He and Burkett discussed the lift occurring first thing Monday morning. Burkett thinks hell be much happier in this shipyard in comparison to the last one.


We made our usual calls and borrowed the shipyard truck to go find a place that we could get enough signal to get the journal sent out. We then had supper at the nearby Aqua Yacht Harbor Marina Restaurant.


Tomorrow is a big Day. Skipper Jones (the designer and builder of the new Vagabum) and his wife Peggy are driving down from Vagabum's birthplace (Dyersburg, Tennessee) to come aboard. We are very excited about the visit and have been trying to get her as shipshape as possible in preparation.   


Leg 2 Day 15

Sunday, April 15, 2007


When I came up from below this morning with my running clothes on and my running shoes in my hand, Burkett looked at me like I was out of my mind. It was cold, windy and drizzling rain. He had already been out. He had borrowed the shipyard truck and driven back to the top of the hill that was found yesterday to have enough reception to send out the log. He said, We aren't going to run in this mess. Are we? I said, I am, but if you're that big a wimp, you don't have to. Of course, even though he complained about it as usual when the weather is not the best, he reluctantly put on his rain garb. When we finished, he said he was glad we didn't skip out. Its less than 2 weeks until the race and we've got to be ready.


Once back, we grabbed a quick shower and did a bit of last minute preparing for Skipper and Peggy Jones. They arrived promptly at noon sharp as promised, and brought their son, J. Gordon and Peggy's sister, Mary, with them.  Excitement was in the air. 80 year-old Skipper clamored out of the van complete with 4-legged crutch and oxygen bottle and raced (as fast as he could shuffle) ahead of all the others toward the boat. Vagabum was tied up under the lift track. We had to go down a 40 foot long, steep, wet ramp to the dock at water level. Once on the first dock finger, we had to climb over 8 waist-high dock lines that secured other boats and then cross diagonally over to another floating dock finger. Now try to picture the boarding procedure.


First, Skipper (and then the rest of the crowd) climbed the 5 steps on the staircase that the shipyard owner had dragged over for us. Then Burkett held a 3-step stool in place that he had positioned on top of the steps. Then, since the door through the side rail was too far from the dock to reach, Skipper had to throw his leg over the railing while Burkett steadied him and carried his oxygen tank. Once the huffing and puffing by everyone had settled down and all were on board, the reunion was underway. Skipper said, I told you I'd get here come Hell or high water. I'm stubborn and bull-headed and get what I want. I wouldn't have built this boat or got Peggy who I've been married to for 60 years if I wasn't. Peggy stood quietly for a few moments, gazing all around and said, Seeing her again is like a dream. We didn't think wed ever see our pride and joy again. We could see the emotion in all their faces as the many memories came flooding back. Over the next 5 hours, they told us of many happy events and good times that they shared on their Infinity. They each expressed their happiness and appreciation many times for bringing her back to Tennessee and for inviting them onboard today. They had owned her for 17 years, and had even sold their house to live on her full-time for 3 of those years in Orange Beach, Alabama. They survived 3 hurricanes on her. (The boat successfully survived two more during Craig & Lori Anne Long's ownership). We learned that she was actually owned for 6 months by another couple between the Jones and Longs, who had taken her to Havana, Cuba and back before they quickly resold her. It sounded like a drug run to us.


Skipper told Burkett many details of the building process, including the difficult challenges like the rub rail curling the wrong way when it was created by splitting a 4 inch pipe; and the things that fit perfectly without a single adjustment like the steel panels he pre-fabricated in his shop and the Pennsylvania Amish-built cabinets. He said the port-holes were authentic, salvaged from a battleship. Skipper went into every room, and poked his head into every nook with constant chat about events during the creation of his dream. He said he spent 6 years planning and building her and tried to think of everything. Burkett said that it showed. So many things were done that would never have been feasible on a standard production boat. Skipper was very pleased but not surprised that the Boat Appraiser/Surveyor said the new replacement value would be 2.2 million. (Burkett said to be sure and tell you that he didn't pay anything near that, but that he also wasn't going to tell you what he did pay. He said everybody already thinks he's crazy enough).  


All four of them were disappointed that the cherry woodwork in the Pilot house had been painted, but Skipper was pleased to learn that it was not the original davit post that got ripped off with the dinghy in the Gulf. He said that he had been really worried about that and explained how his especially strong support system had been taken out and replaced with an obviously weaker system.


Peggy talked a lot about the fun times the two of them, their 3 children and their other family and friends had experienced on her over the years. She relayed many funny stories about certain instances, such as when their pet Blue Heron lured their cat into the lake.  


During the visit, we marveled over the coincidences related to where the boat was born. Chief Engineer Bill Moore (Burkett's son-in-law who was on the first leg of bringing her home) was born in Dyersburg and spent the first several years of his life just two blocks from the Jones home during the time Skipper was building the boat. Bills grandmother actually kept books for one of Skipper's companies for awhile. Skipper bought parts for the boat from Bill's grandfather's Dyersburg NAPA store. After the Gulf Crossing, Bill's mother (Laura Jordan Moore, who now lives near Gallatin) began a correspondence with the Joneses. Peggy asked us to express our appreciation to Laura by giving her a cookbook that was put together by Peggy's Dyersburg Sewing Circle (which was composed by many of Laura's growing-up years acquaintances). The following is a reprint of the paragraph following one of Peggy's recipes:



Maybe it was in the stars, or maybe it was because he had been called Skipper from childhood, but for whatever the reason, Skipper Jones felt compelled to build a boat. Not just a boat  an ocean going yacht! And build it he did, on the bank of the Mississippi River. We all watched in amazement as the beautiful craft became a reality. When the big day arrived, we all went trooping to the river, complete with champagne, to watch the launching. What fun it was to be entertained by Peggy and Skipper aboard the elegant Infinity when she was docked at Kentucky Lake.


One last coincidence.  I was born and raised right across the Mississippi River from the launching site in Caruthersville, Missouri during the same period of time that the boat was being built, and the Joneses even know some of my extended-family.



Leg 2 Day 16

Monday, April 16, 2007

Last Day of Leg 2


During Skipper Jones and his family's visit yesterday, my boyfriend Bill, and our dog JoJo, arrived and got to be a part of the momentous visit. Bill agreed with Burkett and me that it was a privilege and an honor to meet the people who envisioned such an incredible vessel and did whatever it took to make the dream a reality.


Burkett woke us up banging on my cabin door this morning saying that they were going to pull Vagabum out in about an hour and a-half. Then 5 minutes later, he banged on the door again and said that they had changed their mind and were pulling it out in 20 minutes. We scurried off and then just stood around watching and taking pictures for 3 hours. Once they got her on blocks and jacks, we re-boarded by way of a 12 foot ladder and the swim deck, packed the stuff we hadn't packed into Bill's truck last night, plugged in the fridge and freezer to shore power and headed the 222 miles to Creekwood to be warmly greeted by our marina friends and neighbors 5 hours later. (We had stopped at the beautiful Pickwick State Park for lunch).


Vagabum will now get some much needed repairs. Hopefully, Burkett, Bill Moore and Captain D will go down in a few days to get the hydraulics working properly again. The shipyard has orders to wash her good, paint the bottom, fix the tachometers that prevented us from knowing our RPMs on the whole

trip and replace the transducer on the non-functional depth-finder.  


Burkett and I are ready for what we think is a well-deserved break before starting the 3rd leg of bringing Vagabum home to her new (but original) Tennessee home.