16 DEC 2001 . . . ?


Mobile, Alabama - Dog River


Hey Y’all


So, here we are in the last stop of the river system - OR - as we prefer, the gateway to the Gulf. Here we feel we have begun another phase of our adventure. We’ll be here in Mobile 'til April, trying to replenish the cruising kitty and rectifying every imperfection on Windigo. We have established a home on a long pier in the Dog River on the West Side of Mobile Bay ten miles south of downtown Mobile.


Before I begin with the description of life here, let’s review the Inland Waterway Statistics of the Voyage of Windigo (this includes the trip from Chicago to Mobile, including our side-trip to Nashville:


Windigo log = 1600nm, (1840 statute mi.)


Engine hours & underway hours = 280*

{*there was time spent under sail alone, but the amount of time the engine ran while NOT underway (in locks, before & after anchoring, etc.) made up for the little bit of sailing time}


Average speed=5.75kts, (6.5+mph)


Total of 118 gallons of fuel used (446 liters)


2.33 hours / gallon of fuel


37 minutes / liter of fuel


0.42 gallons / hour


1.6 liters / hour


A teaspoon of fuel was burned every 11 seconds



From our base here we venture out on our bicycles [mine FINALLY was returned repaired], a 50cc Yamaha scooter I rebuilt, or borrowed automobiles. Karin is working security for the FAA at Mobile Regional Airport. I have yet to finish all the boat projects and will probably work in a boatyard soon.


The marina here has a phone for local calls & internet access, showers, laundry, courtesy car and a TV room. The are many liveaboards here and a few transient vessel residents make an interesting(!) mix of neighbors. There are many subtle differences and a few major ones from ‘people up north’; but as we have pleasantly discovered everywhere we have visited - folks here are very friendly & hospitable. We have learned a lot and have managed to assist many fellow sailors with boating AND non-boating problems.


Right at the end of December they closed everything here because of the threat of snow, but alas, none came. I guess Birmingham got smacked and Atlanta got buried – closing the airports for a couple days. There has only been a couple times since then that the temperature has touched the freezing mark, hardly long enough to actually frost anything, but the weathermen use “DEEP FREEZE” graphics and there is a mild panic about burst pipes and inoperative vehicles. About the only place with a legitimate concern is Flowerland, an enormous commercial nursery right next to the marina here. They cover their acres of plants with sheets and everything is fine.


My NetZero internet connection has been pretty flaky, and for a while in January I wasn’t able to get online. The mail bounced 'cause I managed to get 'spammed' with hundreds of copies of the  "make DVDs at home" message. Great.


The biggest event occurring here so far was Mardi Gras, the festival of excess prior to Ash Wednesday & Lenten sacrifices. Parades and balls are scheduled for EVERY night for two weeks before Ash Wednesday, with ‘Fat Tuesday’ being the climax. Doug & Shannon Perryman befriended us just at the right time. Doug is a longtime member of the Knights of the Ecor Rouge. The sole purpose of this organization of approximately 400 men is to conceive and construct lighted parade floats along a theme. They own a large building in which this is accomplished. Also in this building is a large party hall, where monthly meetings and periodic gatherings are held to eat, drink, dance & be merry. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.


A couple dozen men are assigned to each float. On the appropriate day, they load up with thousands of bead necklaces, MoonPies, aluminum coins, stuffed animals, candy, cups, bags of peanuts, and dozens of other types of worthless trinkets to throw to the masses of people along the parade route. It is said here that it’s not a parade unless you throw stuff.


So there is more than one parade every night. Each parade has a couple dozen floats and about a dozen high school & college marching bands. Mounted police ride along with dozens of clowns and a few local celebrities. Floats in each parade are manned by the private organization that built them, with one or two others joining in from local governments or public groups such as the Coast Guard; colleges; city or county employees; etc. On the weekend before Fat Tuesday, festivities ramp up – parades start in the morning and run non-stop ‘til 9 or 10 at night. A couple hundred thousand spectators line the streets of downtown and surrounding neighborhoods to grill-out, play music, party, watch parades, and of course, fill bags with MoonPies!


The weather has been nice enough since the end of January to warrant a few days of sailing out on Mobile Bay. This is a real treat for a Great Lakes sailor like myself. Because of the uniform shallow depth of the bay, sustained winds of 15 to 25 knots do not kick up much wave action. And the wind can blow from the same direction ALL day. So Windigo has enjoyed speeds of five to seven knots all day, sailing with ‘planned’ sail changes. We were able to utilize the Mainsail, Lapper, Trysail, Stormsail, Decksweeper, and Spinnaker in that order in 9 hours of sailing without any panicking or being uncomfortable. Try that on Green Bay!


We have been visited by our good friends the Hart’s & the Smith’s from Jackson, AL. Bringing their Southern Hospitality along with a large venison roast and HUGE soup bone. I had spent Christmas Day at Tommy & Brenda’s daughter’s home here in Mobile where I was suitably ‘stuffed’ with all manner of holiday treats.


I know this letter has been kinda boring – we might as well live in a house! But the daily routine of caring for Windigo and readying her for traversing the Gulf of Mexico has been paramount, and adds an air of adventure to even this mundane dockside existence.


Just to mention one preparatory project in particular . . .

We have pondered and debated and investigated the ‘self-defense’ thing for years. Some cruisers carry firearms aboard. Some have watchdogs that serve as pets also. Both of these have huge drawbacks and are obstacles for staying in certain countries. We concluded that we did not want the responsibility of either the animal with its enormous daily needs or the guns with their legal tangles and ‘finality’ of use.

So I conceived and constructed a ‘weapon’ that doesn’t need to be “used” on a potential enemy. Simply displaying it’s function to approaching ‘pirates’ should deter further advance. So much better than whipping out an Uzi and starting a gunfight!


Kevin & Karin Hughes
S/V WindigoIII

Grand Mariner Marina, Mobile, AL