Today I’ll sadly be leaving the Mobile area. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my time here with Justine Herlihy and her little Schnauzer, Marley. Yesterday I did a short but a tad harrowing paddle from Blue Gill Restaurant where we enjoyed a wonderful lunch the other day to the Mobile Bay Yacht club, where Justine met me out on the water. This was my first foray back into the saltier water of the Bay as I near the intracoastal parts of the Gulf.
The clouds looked pretty darn threatening as I paddled toward the busy commercial side of the Mobile Bay. I had a slight “oh shit” moment when I looked south and saw the angry dark clouds accompanied by a fog that swallowed some of the land and appeared to be moving north toward me. I changed tact and headed to where it might be easier to asses how best to cross the channels and run down the Mobile side of the land and out of the way of the big vessels.
With my radio on I inched my way forward, watching the storm, watching for barges and cargo ships. I took shelter among the crab pots, where a couple-husband and wife? Boyfriend and girlfriend?-worked their boat, harvesting crabs. I asked them if they were Zirlott’s, the family that had rescued me back in ’09 (http://archive.onearth.org/blog/healthy-oceans-paddle-day-36-good-samaritans-on-the-water?device=mobile ). They were not, but they did confirm for me, though, the safest place to cross the channel which was the route I had picked. Yay for that!
It’s always a little tense for me in unfamiliar busy waterways to figure out what’s going on and where the best spot to cross the channel is. I was pretty lucky, because once I crossed the channel and was snug against the Mobile side below the USCG station I watched as the vessel traffic dramatically picked up. I had really gotten out there at the nick of time!
There were some good rain showers, plenty of pelicans-my favorite bird-and when I finally caught up with Justine, we saw a pod of dolphins. One even popped out of the water to look at us better! What a treat to see these guys fishing and hunting.
At the yacht club we enjoyed a snack and local beer served by Jacob Merritt, who also let me store my boat there, and had the great fortune to meet some of the members, including Josh & Corinna Murray, and a boat builder and ace sailor, Lee, who showed me a short cut to Coden. So today I’ll paddle down the Fowl River, which will save me about six miles and have me go by the Zirlott docks where my rudder cable was repaired thanks to the Good Samaritans there.
I also learned a sad fact about pelicans at the yacht club. Yacht club member Josh Dupree told me that they die because they eventually go blind from diving the way they do. You starve if you can’t see your food! They make big KERPLASHES when they hit the water; they are not nearly as graceful as terns or ospreys, and apparently that constant jarring takes a toll on their eyes. Funny, woodpeckers have evolved so that pecking wood for bugs doesn’t rattle their brains. You’d think evolution would treat pelicans better and have somehow allowed for an anatomical answer to their eye issues.
Today Justine and I will meet up again with KC Callaway, the head of the Mobile Baykeeper, for breakfast and then I’ll gear up with all my gear once again and be off. Mobile Baykeeper has its hands full in this area-issues abound and the big polluters are fierce, but they have a large groundswell of support and do a fantastic job of engaging their local supporters. I’m wearing a hat from one of their projects-the 100/1000 project where they planted oysters all around to help clean the water and create reefs to help prevent coastal erosion. That is a big deal down here, and will only get worse as I head toward the Mississippi basin and New Orleans. Just google coastal erosion or coastal land loss and Louisiana and you’ll see how Louisiana is losing its coastline and valuable marshes. “No wetlands no seafood” is the water counterpart to “no farms no food.”
I’m really excited to be back in this area-I’ve thought often about the Zirlott family members I met as well as the folks at the Biloxi Seafood and Maritime Museum that I met in ’09, before the BP oil spill. Such a blow after finally getting back on their feet after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The folks down here are resilient, tough, and resourceful, but BP was a real blow. Those that committed suicide because they lost the only thing they knew what to do will never recover. So many lost everything. The issues are ongoing, and the settlements continue. Can we really afford to keep allowing one industry to “mess up” and ruin our water, our air, and our food and ruining lives?
We know there are better ways to get energy. We know we can do better to be more efficient users of energy-we just need our elected officials to see the light, and that won’t happen unless we all become, even in the smallest ways, activists.
Please keep those prayers coming-the weather DOES look like it’s improving!