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Day 30 & 31

2006 Sturgeon Bay to Mobile 125.jpgLocation: Dog River Marina, Mobile, Alabama

Distance Travelled yesterday: 72 Nautical Miles

Distance Travelled Today: 56 Nautical Miles

Total Trip Distance: 1381 Nautical Miles

As President Bush likes to say, “Mission accomplished, great job Brownie”, or something like that. The trip is complete and Steel Magnolia has been safely delivered to Dog River, where she will spend the winter getting fixed up and improved, a kind-of spa experience for the girl. I’m shown at right kissing the dock piling. After getting through the lock yesterday, we kept heading south until 5 pm when we pulled into a small lake around Mile 40 of the waterway to anchor for the night. We cooked a fine steak dinner to celebrate our last night on the river. As always, during the day we alternated for two-hour shifts at the wheel. There was only one incident all day while Early Uncle Randy was at the wheel but I promised I wouldn’t give him a hard time about it on the blog. But be sure to ask him and he’ll tell you all about it when we get home.

2006 Sturgeon Bay to Mobile 101A word about the Early Uncle Randy is in order here. Randy is Laura Lee’s uncle, and through that family tie, he has become a close friend of mine. He has now gone on six boat trips with me. He is always available when needed. He cooks a mean breakfast. He does more than his share of the household chores on the boat and is happy to handle his watch at the wheel. He really is early. He goes to bed early, gets up early, fixes breakfast early, fixes every other meal early, and goes to bed early again. He’s a joy to have on board and I appreciate everything he has done for me. Here’s to you, Early Uncle Randy. Thanks for the help. Let’s do it again soon.

This morning we awoke to another day of fog on the river, caused by air that is much colder than the 60 degree water. As usual, it began to burn off as the sun rose and warmed the air so we were able to get away before 8 am. By noon we were passing through downtown Mobile and at 2:15 we finally arrived at Dog River. There have been many times that I was anxious to get work completed and get a boat out of Dog River, but today I was mighty happy to get here. 

Now that we’ve completed our mission, I thought it would be a good time to begin summing things up. I’ll start with the literal summing up of what this has all cost. I don’t count expenses for groceries or dining out as these would be incurred even at home. I also don’t count travel expenses to and from the boat because, well, I just don’t count them. Maintenance so far is also not counted as it is considered a capital cost of bringing the boat up to standards. Fuel and dockage are not considered expenses because they are part of the delivery cost of the boat and are therefore capital costs. Therefore, the boat has no expenses so far.

Truthfully, the total costs for this trip have been $6,590.31. That comes out to $32.15 per engine hour or $4.77 per nautical mile. When we cruised our old boat at 10 knots, it burned 20 gallons per hour so the fuel cost alone was $50 per hour. If we ran it up to 18 knots, it burned 100 gallons per hour making the fuel cost $250 per hour. So this is beginning to look a lot more reasonable.

The largest items by far were the unexpected replacement cost for the shaft coupling which came to $1,549 and the cost and other expenses of hiring Peter the Great, which were $1,500. Both were necessary and Peter actually saved me money by troubleshooting the shaft coupling before the mechanic got there. Without these two big-ticket items, we’re running the boat at around $15 per hour and $2.50 per mile. Not bad for moving around a 100,000–pound house on the water.

To sum up the rest of the experience, I would simply say it has been an amazing trip. I’ve seen some great sights, met interesting people, and had a good time with the friends who have helped me out. I’ve learned a lot of geography about the river systems that I would never have known. While I’ve missed my wife and home and dogs, it’s pretty amazing to have the freedom to simply drop out for a month and do something like this.

Kris Kristofferson told us that “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose”, but I couldn’t disagree more. This kind of trip is a once-in-a lifetime experience. It requires that my children be grown and happy and healthy and pursuing their own lives. It requires an independent and understanding wife who knows and indulges my dreams. It requires good health, which I am fortunate to enjoy at the moment. It requires a degree of financial independence, although that’s entirely relative. There are many very wealthy people who have no freedom at all and then there are those whose only indulgence is a camper at Bobby’s Fish Camp who truly are free. I’m eternally grateful for the freedom I have at the moment, and I have enjoyed this adventure immensely. We only go around once, as far as we know.

Would I do the trip again? Probably not. It’s a long hard trip and I like ocean voyaging more than river trips. But I’m glad I did it and proud to have completed the mission. And the friends who have helped me out? I have felt all along that inviting someone on this trip is like asking someone to help you drive an 18–wheeler cross country. However, to a one, my crew members have seemed to really enjoy the trip. Each has made unique contributions in what they have repaired, the food they have cooked, the driving they have done, and the good company they have provided. To Peter, James, Laura Lee, George, and Randy, I cannot thank you enough for the help and I hope you have each gotten half as much pleasure from the trip as I have.

And I have come to love this steel boat. She certainly has her issues, but what great woman doesn’t? She’s solidly built, and her little diesel continues to chug along day after day and will still be running strong long after me. With a little work, Steel Magnolia promises to be a magnificent ship, destined to bring great adventures to my family and friends, and to me, for years to come.

I’ll post all of the trip pictures in the photo gallery over the next day or two. I’ll stay in Mobile until Friday afternoon to get all the work lined up with the boatyard. Then it’s back to Birmingham for a more normal life. Thanks for tuning in and I hope you’ve all enjoyed following along this journey with me. We’ll do it again real soon.

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Reader Comments (7)

Congratulations ! I really enjoyed the adventure and I'm looking forward to the next installment.
November 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAB
John ... I forgot earlier to add that when you say that your mission is accomplished, doesn't that really depend on what the meaning of the word "is" is ?
November 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAB
Bravo! Well done! This has truely been a fine adventure. Thank you for sharing it. Best, Jim
November 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJim Kyle
Amazing and a fun read. Steel Magnolia really is a great ship. I would be honored to serve again-sign me on for the Bahamas in May.
-Well done Captain.
November 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPerfect DHead
Hey daddy,
WOW!!! The boat looks amazing! You look so good, so thin! The boat looks like a southern bell, I simply love it. The adventure was great to read about...but now there are many more to come, I hope I am along for some of them! Can't wait for the pictures! Enjoy the last night on it! Now if only Nansea's was open!
November 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
What happened to the name SULADAN? I guess now we will have to earn new t-shirts.
November 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGrahame
Hi this is Keith the cook from Bobby's Fish Camp. I was just writing to let you know that we enjoyed your visit with us and we are glad you completed your trip sucessfully. If you are through this way anytime stop by and have a bite to eat. See you all later!

hmmm...not sure about this one.

Captain John
November 27, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBobby's Fish Camp

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