AL: Daphne (Mobile Bay) – 12/16/2016 – 12/23/2016

Parking: WoodSpring Hotel
Rating: 10

Mobile, AL
Unlucky Sailboat in Weeks Bay

Normally, we prefer to avoid hotels because it’s a large pain to haul stuff from the RV to the room – the reason we have an RV in the first place is not have to do that dance. When the local park is $50 / night and has terrible reviews, but the hotel is $36 / night and has great reviews, it’s pretty much a no-brainer to get a place with a private bathroom for less money. This is our second stay in a WoodSpring (the first was Fargo), and for what it is, it’s an excellent place. It’s an extended-stay hotel (with a kitchenette), and it’s the only place I’ve stayed in the last few years that was under $40 / night without having “business” being conducted in the parking lot. Plus the front desk and housekeeping staff are very friendly. Now I sound like a commercial for WoodSpring, but I really like their hotels.

We visited the USS Alabama (battleship) and the USS Drum (submarine). The scale of everything on board the battleship was massive. It’s really impressive that back in the 40s, they were able to go from laid-down to launched in only two years. Not only are the guns (and ammunition) huge, but in order to support a crew of 2500 sailors and marines, the living quarters, the food preparation facilities, surgery, dentistry, barbershop, and the laundry facilities had to all fit. Being in an RV, we think we have little space/privacy, but those men truly had none.

On board the sub, my partner barely fit because he is so tall (6′ 7″). The ceilings are short and bunks are only 6′ long on these boats, and we couldn’t imagine anyone of his size being able to serve. There was a volunteer in the Drum who had actually served on her, so we asked him about the height of the men, and to our surprise he said that they did have an engineer who was 6′ 7″ and they had to cut a hole in the wall at the end of his bunk for his feet, but the rest of the crew told him to put his head through the hole instead.

If you’ve found this page because you were searching for sailing Weeks Bay to Mobile Bay, here’s a tip – don’t. The charts for Weeks Bay show that it should be fine for small sailboats, but the charts have not been updated since the bay has silted in. It is shallow. Really, really shallow. Someone has put in some PVC markers to indicate the “channel,” but even there it is really, really shallow. We had to keep our eyes riveted to the depth sounder. For a good portion of the trip across the bay, there were only a couple of inches of water under the keel. We couldn’t even put the rudder down, and had to motor (with the motor pulled up high) the whole way across Weeks.

Once through the pinch point, it didn’t get much better until we were significantly off-shore. Eventually we got to the point where there was 4′ of water under the keel, and we felt more comfortable and could do some sailing. The wind was fine for a short while, but eventually, it just turned into a dead calm, so we turned around and motored back. It was enough to get Eidolon her Alabama sticker but not by much.

AL: Dothan – 12/14/2016 – 12/16/2016

Parking: Houston County Fairgrounds
Rating: 7

Dothan, AL
Lift and Tilt

As we pulled out of GA Veterans Park, the engine light came on. A quick check with the code reader said that there was something wrong with the boost sensor. The nearest Isuzu service center was in our stopover destination of Dothan, AL, so we called to find out if it was something that was safe to drive – it was but it would mean we would be going even slower than usual. Sigh. Fortunately, the route to Dothan was not on any interstates, so slow and steady was fine.

When we got to Dothan, we headed for the service center. We were hoping that we could just lift the pods at their facility, since it’s a fairly big operation to take them off. They couldn’t accommodate that, so with heavy hearts, we went to the campground. The lady there was very nice and told us it would be fine to de-pod and stay as long as we needed. Most parks do not allow truck campers to be removed, so it was a great relief to know we had a plan.

In the morning, we decided to just take a look to see what we could see before going to the trouble of removing the pods. We jacked up the living pod and tilted the cab forward. This was one of the things we had planned on being able to do, but so far, we had never done it. Once the engine was exposed, it was completely obvious what the problem was. One of those stupid squirrels at the last park had eaten the only wire insulation that was exposed. Fortunately, my partner was able to rewire it, and the whole thing was fixed in under an hour. Free and no de-podding required. Yay!

Dothan, AL
Lift and Tilt
Dothan, AL
Stupid Squirrels

GA: Cordele (Lake Blackshear) – 12/08/2016 – 12/14/2016

Parking: Georgia Veterans Memorial Park
Rating: 10

St. Augustine was the farthest east we planned on going this trip, so it was time to head back west. We wanted to see my in-laws one more time since they are more-or-less on the way.

This was the first time we have stayed at a place twice. This time around, they had lowered the level of the lake about four feet to allow folk to do dock repairs. That was simply too low for us to be able to launch the sailboat, but we did do some puttering around in the Porta-bote. The squirrels were not hibernating, and they were everywhere.

We got to spend some quality time with the family. My MIL is great about playing board games with us, and we had a most excellent time. We also got to see some family that we hadn’t the first time through, so that was a nice plus. Everyone had their places decked out for the holidays, and once again we were well-fed.

FL: St. Augustine – 12/04/2016 – 12/08/2016

Parking: The Conch House
Rating: 10


St. Augustine
Spanish Fort

As with most state parks in Florida, it’s impossible to get an RV spot for a contiguous block of days without having made a reservations months in advance, so we stayed at The Conch House hotel. I spent a lot of time in St. Augustine as a teenager (just after getting my license!), so I was very happy to get visit again.

There were some thunderstorms during our stay, but I was determined to get in some sailing, and we finally got one glorious day. We took Eidolon out past the islands into the Atlantic “proper.” Now I just need to figure out some way to get her into the Arctic when we visit Alaska, and she’ll be a three-ocean boat.

The sailing was glorious. We sailed right up along the sea wall (weaving amongst the boats moored there), and I think we are now part of about a hundred people’s vacation photos because people were snapping pictures like crazy. Why? Because we were actually under sail. We saw about fifty sailboats making their way through the ICW, under the Lions Bridge, and into town – but we were the only boat that was actually under sail. We looked quite picturesque skimming along.

Biking from the hotel to the city across the Lions Bridge was quite easy, so we went a couple of times to walk around town, see the fort (free! America the Beautiful pass is finally useful), eat at the restaurants, and have some gourmet popsicles – I had cucumber/mint/lime (like eating a frozen salad) and my partner had an Elvis (banana/chocolate/honey).

We finished up our stay with dinner at the Conch House (in one of their tiki hut nests), and my partner had his first taste of alligator.

St. Augustine
Lions Bridge
St. Augustine
St. Augustine
St. Augustine
St. Augustine
St. Augustine
Safe Channel Buoy

FL: Bunnell (Dead Lake/Crescent Lake) – 11/23/2016 – 12/04/2016

Parking: Bull Creek Campground
Rating: 9

Bull Creek Campground

Can you make a turkey in an RV oven? Yes, you can! The trick is to cut it into leg quarters, wings, and breasts and roast it in two batches. The bigger trick is getting the turkey, the green bean casserole (yes, I know that’s cliche), stuffing, and rolls all done at the same time.

With Thanksgiving, all of the state/national parks were, of course, booked months ago, but once again, a regional park came to our rescue. This little park had about five or six other RVs for the holiday weekend, and then only one other RV (but no occupants – weird) the rest of the time. Nice and fairly quiet. It has canals that go to each site, and we kept the Porta-bote there, with the sailboat in the marina. The marina had a surprising number of sailboats there, but they were some very sad boats that looked like they got a little beat up during the hurricane, and no one came out to protect them.

The sailing was probably the best fresh water trips we have ever done. Dead Lake is a tiny lake that empties into Crescent Lake which is fairly large. Each day we went out, we put the sails up about 20 seconds after motoring away from the marina and sailed through to Crescent City. On one return trip, there was a little squall, and Eidolon sustained speeds in excess of 6 knots over ground (against the current) – that’s about 10% over her maximum hull speed. It was SWEET! The channel between Dead Lake and Crescent Lake is fairly narrow, so we usually had to tack a lot one way while floating on a run the opposite way (see the GPS track below).

One unpleasant thing about this part of Florida – the water. We didn’t realize it at the time because we arrived with full tanks. When we refilled the tanks, it coincided with a new bag of coffee, so we blamed the beans. I drink normally drink coffee black, so good taste is important to me, but even dumping sugar and eggnog into it did not make it drinkable. If you’re ever in this part of Florida, do yourself a favor and use bottled water.

Crescent City
Restaurant Marina
Crescent City