Thursday, June 22, 2017

Biloxi Blues

We are docked at the Point Cadet marina in Biloxi, Mississippi (map), one of several run by the city. Notwithstanding my prediction in the last post that we'd be docked within the hour, a last-minute snafu had us circling the harbor and even anchoring for a brief time before we could get in to the marina.

Vector docked at the Point Cadet marina.

Shortly after I posted here we were passed by a USCG 45-footer. They had passed us in the other direction as well, and we were also passed in both directions by CBP. It was a beautiful day on the gulf so we just figured them to be out breezing out the boats. But as we approached the western entrance channel to Biloxi, we spotted the 45 with his blue light flashing, preparing to board a small express cruiser.

We'll never know the reasons, but the express cruiser turned around and returned to harbor with the Coast Guard escorting them. We had to slow down briefly to give way to them in the channel. Earlier we had just been remarking, as two law enforcement boats passed us twice apiece, that we've never been boarded in the four-plus years we've been on the water, defying the odds.

The western channel is skinny in sections; we had less than eight feet in several spots at low tide. But we made it behind the breakwater with no problems and the depths in the harbor increase to 12-14'. We steamed past the Beau Rivage, the Hard Rock, and another instance of The Blind Tiger on our way to Point Cadet, whom we had called in the morning to make a reservation.

Approaching Biloxi. That's the Beau Rivage and the Hard Rock on the left, with Margaritaville, the Golden Nugget, and Point Cadet ahead in the distance.

As requested when I made the reservation, we called the marina when we were 20 minutes out, in the approach channel, just after the Coasties passed us. There was no answer, and we continued to call on both the phone and the VHF for the entire remainder of the cruise. My phone log shows we tried nine separate times.

When we were finally abreast of the marina, which has three different entrances, with no guidance on where to enter, what slip to use, or depths in the basin, we ultimately turned around and steamed back toward the small craft harbor. A call to them revealed what I already knew -- 50' was their absolute limit on length. A call to another marina across the river in Ocean Springs, where our friends on Adagio Gul happen to be staying, resulted in an answer of no space available.

At one point we even contemplated returning to Gulfport, with a storm bearing down on us and needing to be securely tied up by the end of the day. In order to sort things out, we finally dropped the hook off-channel near Schooner Wharf, between the Hard Rock and Margaritaville. I called the main number for the ports office, in charge of all of the city marinas, even though I had gotten no answer there 20 minutes earlier. I finally reached a live person who told me the dockmaster at Point Cadet had his hands full with a sinking boat.

We were eventually able to get a slip assignment and directions into the marina, and the lone dockmaster even met us to take lines as we backed in. All told we probably spent an extra 45 minutes between trying to get hold of someone and anchoring, and just in that time the winds had picked up another five knots and it was a bit of a challenge getting backed into the slip.

We did our storm tie-up straight away. This involved a spider-web of lines keeping Vector centered in the slip and well away from the finger pier and the pilings. We put some fenders out on the leeward side, where the pier was, in the event we couldn't get the lines tight enough in the storm. This tie-up has made for some acrobatics getting on and off the boat, but has proven advantageous in the wind and waves we've had throughout the storm.

Vector snug between two sets of pilings and held off the dock. This photo was taken at high water -- it's a looong step to the dock.

We realized we might well be confined, if not to the boat itself, then at least to the closer Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino, whose covered parking is just 500' or so from the boat, for the duration of the storm. So we opted Monday night to walk instead next door to the Margaritaville Resort for dinner. We chose the Landshark Grill, which had better reviews than either the Margaritaville Restaurnt or Does Eat Place, the other two dining venues at the resort.

I was rather surprised to find that Margaritaville has no casino. Biloxi is a casino town, and almost every resort here, even family-friendly, is centered on casino gaming. Ol' Jimmy had other ideas, and the centerpiece of his resort is a massive pool complex complete with water slides. Second fiddle to that is a huge game arcade. Unsurprisingly, the whole joint was overrun by kids. The pool looks like fun and I am sorry they don't offer day passes.

Tuesday night's winds started ripping the awning from this unattended RV in the parking lot.

As predicted, the first salvo of the storm, the leading edge of Tropical Storm Cindy, began having it's effect on us Monday night. Winds picked up considerably and we had rain on and off. But the main event was yet to come. Tuesday morning it was still pleasant enough to get off the boat and stroll, and we wandered in to the casino for breakfast.

After breakfast we finished our tropical storm preparations, securing all loose items on deck, removing Textilene covers, and assembling Angel's cat carrier should we need to evacuate ashore. We scoped out the evacuation route at breakfast, settling on a secure elevator tower in the east parking garage as our shelter and assembly area.

By Tuesday evening we were being pelted with rain, and winds had increased into the 20s. Still, there were periods when the rain let up considerably or even stopped briefly, and we made the 500' trek, dodging puddles, back to the casino for dinner, where we regrettably overate at the buffet.

Docks to the east of us fully awash.

The brunt of the storm started hitting Tuesday night. Winds increased into the 30s and the rain came down in buckets. Between the storm surge and the rain, the water level was rapidly approaching the tops of the docks, and I was prepared to get the heavy rubber boots in the event I needed to wade into possibly electrified water.

That fear proved unfounded, because the power to the docks went out at half past midnight, before the docks were awash. High tide was not until 9:30am, at which point several docks were underwater or awash. Our section of the dock was above water by mere millimeters, and I was able to snap some photos. The power remained off and the Internet was inoperative until late afternoon, when the receding tide again brought the level well below the dock pedestals.

Our dock, nearly awash.

By a mere accident of storm timing we again got a window last night to get off the boat and go to the casino for dinner, albeit involving something of a leap from the boat to the dock. I used the bow thruster to get Louise a bit closer before taking the leap myself. We had the happy hour apps at Morton's for dinner -- a very reasonable way to eat at the otherwise spendy steakhouse. The Golden Nugget, like its cousins we've visited in Atlantic City and Lake Charles, is a Landry's property and features Landry's restaurants like Morton's and Bubba Gump's.

Last night the power managed to stay on most of the night, finally tripping off before 5am this morning. It remained off most of the day. The docks were again awash or underwater by mid-morning, and with the increased winds and waves we had water splashing over our dock for a couple of hours. Today has seen the highest winds of the storm; we just recorded a gust of 39mph (34kts) a few minutes ago, and earlier today we saw 44mph (38kts). The awning ripped off a trailer in the parking lot like a paper towel off a roll.

Our anemometer display. These speeds are in mph, showing a peak of 44.

While this location is a little more exposed than some of our other choices might have been, it's been a fine place to ride out Cindy. The all-around pilings and heavy dock cleats allowed for the spider-web tie up, and having the casino just 500' away gave us a lot of peace of mind for any possible tornadoes. The weather alert has gone off myriad times at all hours of the day and night to warn us of tornadic storms, but none threatened us and we have remained aboard. One tornado was reported, north of Gulfport.

In addition to the evacuation opportunity, it's been nice having a full-service resort right here. Long-time readers may remember we parked here in Odyssey, but back then it was the Isle of Capri, and Landry's has made many improvements since taking over. Tuesday afternoon we went to the spa and enjoyed massages before dinner, and a new pool complex has been added in front of the resort with a swim-up bar. Day passes are available for $20, and I would love to take advantage, but the storm has closed it down for the duration of our visit.

Wednesday night finished it off.

Our friends Jeff and Cindy from Madisonville, across the lake from New Orleans, reached out to us to ask if we would like to get together for dinner tonight. It's a three-hour round trip for them, but we are looking forward to seeing them. We hoped to connect while we were in the yard in New Orleans, but Cindy was out of town until after we shoved off. It's very nice of them to offer to make the drive, in stormy weather.

With any luck this will mostly have blown over by tomorrow morning, and we will drop lines and continue east. It's a two-day cruise to Mobile Bay and Dauphin Island, where we hope to make the jump across the gulf to Tampa Bay. It looks at this writing like we will have a window for that from mid-day Sunday to late Monday afternoon, so that will be perfect timing.

It's a wet walk for this boater on another dock.

1 comment:

  1. I really like that area of the Gulf but last time we were there in the motorhome we were being chased by tornadoes. First job in the morning was to check the Internet weather sites to see if it was safe to stay another day or two or if we had to find another safer destination. The tornadoes did not deter us from sampling the Gulf seafood or exploring the beautiful, historic cities though!


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