LA: Anacoco (Toledo Bend Lake) – 01/09/2017 – 01/16/2017

Parking: South Toledo Bend State
Rating: 10

Anacoco, LA
Visitors’ Center

Louisiana State Parks are fantastic. They don’t have a lot of ridiculous extra fees, the rates are cheap, but the parks are well-maintained and lovely. This is our third one, and I will miss them. Not only did the sites here have wooden decks and separate tent sites, but they also had boat docks at the RV sites.

On the day we arrived, there was only one other guest at the park, and it was heaven for a few days, but since Monday was a holiday, the weekend turned into a circus.

This was one of the cleanest places we’ve been – on the weekend, they must have cleaned the bathrooms four times per day – of course, the downside was that they needed to be cleaned four times per day because some folk are filthy pigs.

Toledo Bend is an interesting lake. It’s the fifth largest man-made lake in the US, and it’s the largest to not take any federal funds. It was a joint venture between TX and LA. The area regularly experienced severe flooding, so it was a good site for a dam. The charts still show the old farm houses, schools, and ponds that used to be in the valley.

Sailing info:

When I first looked at a chart of the lake, I saw a bunch of “roads” that went N/S along the TX and LA shores and that E/W across the lake. I’m very familiar with shipping lanes and channels, but those didn’t seem necessary on this lake – it’s a dammed lake with no locks, so there is no commercial traffic, and the lake is about 40′ deep and several miles wide so channels across the lake seemed particularly odd.

Once you are out of the inlet with the boat launch, the reason for the roads becomes apparent – none of the trees were cut down before the valley was flooded, and the lake is essentially one giant navigation hazard. The only places where there are no trees are where there were rivers and actual roads.

The roads are well-marked once outside the inlet, but it’s still disconcerting to see the tops of trees sticking out as much as 6′ above the water line just a few feet outside the road. If I ever have to build a pier, I want to use wood from whatever these trees are – nearly 50 years underwater and still standing strong.

For some odd reason, the road markers do not continue into the inlet, so if you have found this page because you were searching for information on boating Toledo Bend Lake, here’s what you do. After launching and heading out toward the main body of the lake, stay in the middle of the inlet until you can make a very wide right turn around the point and go between the island and the mainland. At the level the lake was when we were there (about 2′ down), there is a section at the narrowest area of the pass where we only had about 6″ of water under the keel (had to keep the rudder kicked up), so go slowly. The really shallow part only lasts a few dozen yards. Once it’s a few feet deep, the road markers start up, and it quickly gets to more than 40′ deep.

Despite the road being as narrow as 50′, the sailing was pretty good. The winds were from the south which meant our return trips were directly into the wind. Since the channels aren’t wide enough to tack, we did have to motor back. We did one trip up north along the LA coast and back, and we did another where we did a loop across E/W 2 into TX, up the S TX road, and back into LA over E/W 4. Everyone else was in small fishing boats, so we were an usual site.

Anacoco, LA
Sunset
Anacoco, LA
Covered bridge on the trail
Anacoco, LA
Dock
Anacoco, LA
Visitors’ Center
Anacoco, LA
Lake forest of doom
Anacoco, LA
LA side lake “road”
Anacoco, LA
TX side lake “road” marker

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.

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
Campsite

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
Tacking

FL: Carrabelle – 10/09/2016 – 11/08/2016

Parking: Bungalow Lake Retreat
Rating: 8

Carrabelle
Town and river

In Florida state parks, it is nearly impossible to find a camping spot that wasn’t already booked a year earlier, so were were looking at some private parks. They were nearly all crowed with no green-space/trees between sites, so we decided to rent a house for a month instead. The place we found was just outside Carrabelle (walking/biking distance) bordering the State Forest and on a pretty little lake. The house was small, but to us (after living in an RV), it felt enormous.

My mother-in-law visited us at the house, so we could have some nice one-on-one time with her, but unfortunately we had some mishaps that marred her visit.

The first was right when she arrived. We had just put the boat in the water as she was arriving, and when pulling into the driveway, we hit a sand trap in the driveway. The sand was about 18″ deep with a sprinkling of gravel on the top making it look solid, and we sank like a rock. Needless to say, we were pretty upset after the initial attempt to free ourselves just dug deeper. Eventually, we did dig it out, and nothing was hurt, but now I hate loose sand even more. Even just cycling on the sand-covered dirt road from the driveway to the highway was horrible especially in a recumbent.

Since we were going to be at this place for a while, we had the kick-up rudder and the Porta-bote that we ordered shipped to the rental agency. We had taken my mother-in-law out sailing in the ICW when we got a call that the boat had arrived 5 days earlier than excepted, and the agency was just going to leave it outside because they were going home. So much for sailing – we had to rush back, get the RV, and go pick it up.

We also had a problem with the bears. They really liked our garbage and made a mess several times. Even after hauling it up a tree, they still got it, so we had to rig a higher mount with tow straps. They’re cute, but after the fourth or fifth time picking up garbage everywhere, the cuteness wears off.

My mother-in-law was a very good sport about all the mishaps, but I felt pretty terrible for spoiling her vacation with the chaos.

After she left, we settled into a routine. We kept the sailboat in the water at a marina (note: that’s too long to go without hauling the boat out of the salt water and washing it off), and we’d cycle over there, sail in perfect conditions, attempt to fish, and then cycle back. Sometimes we’d stop at a really good country buffet on the way home. It was a pretty idyllic life, but the open road still beckons.

Carrabelle
Mama bear
Carrabelle
Baby bear
Carrabelle
Bear piñata
Carrabelle
Marina
Carrabelle
Dolphin
Carrabelle
Dolphin
Carrabelle
Driveway of sand
Carrabelle
Deck
Carrabelle
Backyard
Carrabelle
Nook
Carrabelle
Living Room

GA: Cordele (Lake Blackshear) – 09/24/2016 – 10/07/2016

Parking: Georgia Veterans Memorial Park
Rating: 10

Georgia Veterans Memorial Park
Campsite

My partner’s family lives in Americus, but this was the closest available RV parking. It’s a lovely park with the ability to beach the boat right at the campsite like in TN, so we were happy with that. The only problem is that our rudder is too long for the drop-off angle, so we’re finally going to have to order a kick-up rudder. Oh, and for some insane reason, they have low power lines over the boat ramps which meant raising/lowering the mast while on the water.

My in-laws are really sweet people, and they graciously took us on a tour of all the family. I haven’t seen most folk in twenty years or more, but everyone was very welcoming, and they all cook amazing country food. We did a lot of catching up and had some time with various folk to play board games, go sailing, and sit around the campfire. It was great to trade stories with everyone and see how much all my nieces/nephews have grown. My mother-in-law is a fountain of knowledge about the doings of the family, so we got a great update on everyone. She is such a wonderful, hard-working lady, and I am constantly surprised at how much energy she has.

My partner drove his parents’ car while we were there, and the very first night, he hit a deer – or rather, the deer hit the car. Fortunately, the car and the deer were fine, but that certainly made me extra careful when motorcycling those highways, but I did take a spill when my tire got caught in a sand trap on a driveway. I am not used to loose sand being used on driving surfaces. Fortunately, only my dignity was injured.

Georgia Veterans Memorial Park
Lake Blackshear
Georgia Veterans Memorial Park
Small swamp
Georgia Veterans Memorial Park
Alligators

TN: Carthage (Cumberland River) – 09/06/2016 – 09/21/2016

Parking: Defeated Creek Campground
Rating: 10

Carthage, TN

(There I am on the trike.)

Nearly perfect. The campground allows campers to beach their boats for free. We have never done that (though we have seen other Montgomery 17s do it), so we figured this would be a good time to try. It’s even better than having a transient slip. Any time we felt like sailing, it was so easy to just untie from shore, kedge off, use the electric outboard to get in the channel (less than five minutes), and then raise the sails. Sometimes we’d anchor offshore to paddle board and swim in deeper water.

We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary while in Carthage. I made korma, and we ate on the fancy china. To celebrate, we bought a 20″ sailboat (one can never have too many boats no matter the size). It needs some work before it will be ready for launch, but it gives me a project for rainy days. Since we were planning on being here for a while, we went ahead and had some other deliveries, too – random stuff from Amazon, a screen room, and the mail that has been piling up in our box back in Washington (which was mostly just junk since we have gone as paperless as we could). It was like mini-Christmas!

Carthage, TN

Carthage, TN

Carthage, TN

Carthage, TN

Carthage, TN

I cannot pass the occasion of our silver anniversary without expressing how fortunate I have been to be married all these years to my best friend and love of my life. There are not many folk who would take care of a nutter like me, who would put in all the study required to take care of our financial future, and who would build all the crazy things I’ve dreamed up. I have no idea why he hasn’t chucked me out (probably Stockholm Syndrome), but I am very grateful to have been able to share this time together, and I look forward to experiencing all the unknown adventures yet-to-come.
</barftastic>

IL: Carlyle (Lake Carlyle) – 08/11/2016 – 08/24/2016

Parking: Dam West Campground
Rating: 10

Carlyle, IL

Dam West is the Dam Best. Lake Carlyle has the reputation of being one of the best sailing lakes in the country and it did not disappoint. The winds were great (even went out in a bit of a storm for some extra fun), and there were sailboats everywhere. Normally, we’re excited when we see one sailboat for every five or six powerboats; here at one time I counted over 80 sailboats and 10 powerboats. Awesome. We were also able to watch several races.

The campground was another Army Corp of Engineer location. So far, we have not been disappointed with one, so we are now actively seeking them out as often as possible. Dam West has large wooded sites, bike/hiking trails, a beach, a marina, and showers/bathrooms/laundry WITH AIR CONDITIONING – really good A/C, too. Not only that, but they had soft toilet paper. Most campgrounds have sandpaper (80 grit). I have actually had my butt bleed on more than one occasion when I have forgotten to bring my own because the toilet paper has been that bad. I know that I talk a lot about bathrooms, but having taken them for granted my whole life, I have learned to really appreciate an excellent one.

Carlyle, IL

Carlyle, IL

Carlyle, IL

Carlyle, IL

WI: Calumet (Lake Winnebago) – 08/03/2016 – 08/10/2016

Parking: Columbia Park
Rating: 10

Calumet, WI

In the PNW, we’re used to trees that are tall and straight – Douglas fir, black cottonwood, alder, western hemlock, ponderosa pine, cedar, etc. Even our travels so far have only added trees such as redwood and palm that are of similar build. In Wisconsin, we started seeing oak, maple, and ash – the kind of trees that have big trunks and fork off to make a wide canopy. At first it was just a few at a time, but by the time we arrived at Lake Winnebago, we were seeing forests of them, and their shade was very welcome. Our campground had a five-story observation tower, and from the top, the forest looked like a bunch of broccoli with at least 80 windmills (yes, I counted) waving their arms as if ready to harvest it all.

Lake Winnebago is different from the places we usually sail. We’re used to Puget Sound (900′ deep), Lake Washington (200′ deep), and Strait of Juan de Fuca (900′ deep). On our trip so far, we’ve sailed Pend Oreille (1100′ deep – they test submarines in there!), Flathead Lake (350′ deep), and some smaller but still reasonably deep lakes, but Lake Winnebago has a maximum depth of only 20′ despite having a large surface area. We had to be a little more vigilant being without charts (bad sailors!). Sailing down to Fond du Lac at the southern end of the lake was excellent – fair winds, and the marina there is adorable with an old lighthouse and an adjacent park with canals around the ball fields.

At the campground, we were able to keep the boat in the water which makes it nice to quickly be able to head out when there is wind, and it’s not too hot. The camp hosts were nice enough to let us stay in a slip instead of on the sea wall (which gets crowded with weekenders), so Eidolon was extra protected.

They had a nice shower house, but the city water supply smelled massively like sulfur. It’s safe to drink, but it’s rather off-putting initially. On the plus side, my hair has never been so detangled and smooth.

Calumet, WI

Calumet, WI

Calumet, WI

Calumet, WI

Calumet, WI

Rant:
We’ve kept the TV tuned to NBC since the start of the opening ceremony. The tape-delayed finals for the team competition of women’s gymnastics was going to start in about 90 minutes (since NBC won’t show gymnastics live on TV), but at the time, the NBC Nightly News was on. Lester Holt said (with a little smirk) that since the results have already been announced all over the media, he might as well let us know that the US women won the gold. First, nowhere else on NBC had that been reported because they were going to broadcast the event, so we were unspoiled (especially with no internet). Second, if it was already all over the media, then anyone watching the Nightly News was either already spoiled (so, Lester, you weren’t actually reporting anything new to them), or they were deliberately NOT seeking out the results so as to stay unspoiled for watching the competition. Either way, there was NO POINT for you to report the results before the broadcast of the event. Lester, you are a giant jerk, and I will now make it a point to turn off the NBC Nightly News whenever it comes on.
[edited to add: the jerk did it again a couple of days later within five seconds of starting his broadcast before I could change the channel. Of course, he had his usual giddy demeanor that he sports whenever he is reporting really bad news since he knew he was about to spoil gymnastics for millions of viewers.]

ND: Devils Lake – 07/14/2016 – 07/19/2016

Devils Lake, ND

Parking: Spirit Lake Casino and Resort
Rating: 8

After missing sailing in WY and SD, we were starting to think we wouldn’t sail in ND either, so to make sure we had a usable boat launch, we went to a casino resort that also had transient docks.

We put the boat in the water shortly after arriving even though we knew another storm was coming. SLCR has an excellent marina where there is a good breakwater to protect the boats and the docks are floating, so there is less risk of a gunwale getting caught under – plus we put out a lot of fenders and tied her well. There were some issues with other boats; we requested the marina contact the owners of two boats – one had broken its bow line and the other had had its PWC turtle.

We stayed a couple days longer than we had originally planned to get a nice perfect sailing day. It was clear with winds high enough to get us to top speed, and we had the lake pretty much to ourselves.

My partner won $11 at the casino (I didn’t feel like playing this time), so that paid for one of the days of docking.

Devils Lake, ND