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Wild Raven Adventure

Tombigbee waterway / November 1 - 8, 2014

November 1, 2014

It was very windy this morning and the weather forecast called for a steady wind all day. We wisely decided to stay put. We spent much of the day inside the marina office working on the computer. It was a productive day, frankly and in addition, it allowed us to stay warm. It was cold outside … we were not the only ones to wear our hats.

November 2, 2014

We got up around 5:30. It was cold (27 ° F)! During the night a heavy frost developed and by early morning the temperature dropped below 0°C. There was ice on our equipment when we woke up.

We left the marina, along with three other boats, heading towards the lock (John C. Stennis). Around 8:00, we were ready to paddle after going through the lock. We warmed up quickly, however we kept an extra layer of clothing, unlike our usual attire. It was sunny all day.

We stopped on a sandy beach for dinner. We saw signs leading us to believe that there had been activity on this beach prior to our arrival. The ashes of what had been a campfire were still hot. We did not stay long at this place, because we had a funny feeling. We left quickly. Around 15:30, we arrived at the Pirate's Cove Marina, located in Pickensville. We met again with Brigitte and Peter. We first met them at the Columbus Marina. They are Swiss and they are making the Great Loop too. We were glad to see them. Then we emptied our canoe, portaged and set up our camp. We are located close to two other tents. These belong to other canoeists who we first heard about on October 23. Cindy and Grant ("As the Crow Flies") met them on the Tombigbee and told us about them. We are looking forward to meeting with them and sharing experiences. What we know at this point is that they started in Knoxville and they are paddling south toward Mobile. When we arrived at the marina, they were not there. When we went to bed, they had still not returned (they had gone to do some errands). So we will see them tomorrow.

November 3, 2014

When we woke up at 5:30, I did not feel good. I had very little sleep during the night, so we decided to stay here. This allowed us to sleep a little later and plan for the arrival of our new boat. We noticed that Pickensville is not too far from Tuscaloosa (actually Northport, where the new canoe will be delivered tomorrow). It therefore seemed logical to us to find a way of get from the marina to Northport by road.

This morning, we also had the pleasure to meet Doug and Rick, fellow paddlers. To our surprise, we learned that they were respectively 64 and 62 years. Wow and bravo! They left in September from Knoxville (Tennessee) and they are paddling down to Mobile, Alabama. They are also considering traveling to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. We were delighted to meet them. They have a lot of experience and many stories to tell. They take one day at a time. They are retired and now enjoy the beauty of nature and life. Congratulations!

By late afternoon, our transportation to Northport was confirmed. Chris Dawley will pick us up tomorrow morning. He is the V.P. and G.M. of StressCrete Group in Alabama. He has generously offered to pick up us. We look forward to meeting Chris and his team, including Josh, they have worked very hard to ensure that our canoe will be delivered to their plant. They took care, entirely, of the delivery, in collaboration with Lynne from Clipper Canoes. We are really look forward to seeing our new canoe. It is as if tomorrow is Christmas for us!

November 4, 2014

Chris arrived around 9:00 a.m. this morning to pick us up. We were really happy to meet him. We had heard nothing but good things about him from Michael Schwenger (our friend and owner of StressCrete Group). Despite his busy schedule, Chris gave us a very warm welcome and spent time with us.

When we arrived at StressCrete, we had a tour of the office and met with the employees. We also met Josh, who had made the arrangements for the canoe in collaboration with Lynne from Clipper Canoes. Then we went to dinner at Dreamland. It was really delicious! We ate local specialties: ribs, bbq sauce with bread and banana pudding.

Later, Chris took us on a tour of the city. Tuscaloosa impressed us. The city is very clean and there are several ongoing projects. The city seems prosperous and healthy. She is also the host of the University of Alabama, founded in 1831. Frankly, it was a surprise for us. The multiple buildings (297) belonging to the university are superb! It covers 1,970 acres. There are more than 36,000 students. Its football stadium can accommodate more than 101,000 spectators. The driveway to get to the stadium entrance is beautiful and it proudly depicts the exploits of past years. All coaches have their honours too. We thought we were in a movie during our tour. We had never seen anything like this before. We were very impressed!

In the afternoon, while we were on our way to Chris place, our new canoe arrived at its destination. Josh texted to inform us of its arrival and to give us bad news. The boat had been damaged in transit. From the first photos received, we hoped that we could fix the canoe, but after Josh sent more pictures and chatted with Lynne, we got the verdict that the canoe was a total loss. It was a shock to us, to say the least! We couldn’t wait to start paddling aboard the Sea Clipper. Pierre spoke with Lynne later on and she told us that a new canoe was already in production for us. Luckily, insurance was taken out on the canoe!

We ended our day in our hotel room. We were not super happy. Are we going to receive 100% of the amount from insurance? There will be additional charges for transporting and also other fees to make up the difference in price on the new canoe and equipment. It was not planned in our budget. This evening we questioned what to do. There are a lot of "ifs" in our thoughts. A new canoe also means two more weeks of waiting.

November 5, 2014

We did not sleep much last night; we had plenty of uncertainty in our minds. We did a few errands in the morning, and then we returned to the hotel room. We made several phone calls to find solutions and alternatives. The goal for us is to return to the water as quickly as possible and keep moving forward. We do not want to burn a hole in our budget due to this mishap, and add additional costs to StressCrete who have already payed all amounts related to shipping costs in addition to covering the time that Josh has to work on our behalf. We think about the short, medium and long term of our expedition.

Late afternoon, we went back to see Chris at StressCrete. He was worried about not having seen us during the day. While we were in his office, Josh arrived with news that seemed very positive. Earlier, he had spoken with the transport company and explained our project and our current situation. Josh believes we should recover 100% of the insured amount for the canoe, in addition to extra money that will cover the cost for a new canoe and transportation. Nothing is confirmed, but it looks like it is going in our favour. That news put a smile back on our faces! Lynne has worked hard to ensure there will be no additional costs to us. Chris remains very optimistic and invited us to enjoy our extended stay and explore the area. He also lent us a company truck to allow us to drive ourselves in the city.

November 6, 2014

Enough silliness, let get things going! We got up this morning saying that the day would be very positive and fruitful and at the end of the day, we would have made our decisions. So we finished identifying alternatives. We completed errands in the morning. We saw Chris and Josh to see if there was new developments on the insurance claim. Then we had additional information from Lynne.

During our visit at StressCrete, we had the pleasure of observing a stress and flexibility test of a pole. Stress Crete makes spun concrete lighting and electrical poles. We were greatly impressed by the quality of the product and its strength. Wow! Congratulations to the team!

Josh helped us to advertise our old canoe (to help fund us ... it is worth the try). We returned to the hotel and discarded items from our equipment that we won’t need in the next months. Then we visited Moundville archaeological site and museum. It was a pleasant and informative visit about the history of the region and the Native Americans who lived here.

November 7, 2014

This is it! We have made our decisions! Here's our plan: The new canoe is already under construction, thanks to Lynne. We will have it delivered to Mobile (Alamaba), with Josh's help (for transportation logistics). We will, for our part, find a way to get back to Columbus Marina where we will find "Blue Moon" and her crew (King and Sharon). They will be back on their boat on November 8. We will sail with them toward Mobile. Our old canoe will remain in Northport. If it is sold, we will be happy to have a little more money in our pockets. If it is not, we will ship it, later on, back to Canada. It needs repairs before going back on the water and now we can no longer consider it as an expedition canoe. In terms of the insurance claim, we will have to wait.

We went back to meet with Chris and explain our plan. Chris was once again very generous and offered to drive us to Columbus. Before leaving, he invited us to eat at the restaurant and gave us a beautiful gift. Michael was right. Chris is a generous, humane, friendly man and he has wonderful values. It was a privilege to meet him. He is now part of our adventure and we consider him a friend. Without his great help, StressCrete's help and Josh's help, we would not have had such a positive and rewarding experience. Despite the mishap, we enjoyed our stay in Tuscaloosa. Alabama has a special place in our hearts.

Chris thank you for everything! You have done so much to help us. We are very grateful to you. Thank you Michael, Greg Button and StressCrete for providing transportation, your time, consideration and all of your assistance. Sharon and King, thank you for giving us the opportunity to live with you aboard Blue Moon until we all get to Mobile.

This evening we are aboard the "Blue Moon". It's a funny feeling to go backwards in our travels. We are on familiar ground here at the marina. Tomorrow, our friends will arrive. We are looking forward to seeing them again. The last time we saw them, it was on the Illinois in Grafton.

November 8, 2014

We had a good night on the boat. We took advantage of the day to update and prepare for the arrival of our friends (who will arrive later tonight). It was sunny and the temperature was good. A few days ago, we "celebrated" the first five months of our adventure. It seems that today we begin a new adventure and a new chapter in our history.

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