- The REST of the Story -
... The M/V Misty Sea ...

The M/V Misty Sea is a SportFish boat about 30-40 feet in length, with a flying bridge and a dinghy suspended from the transom. Our first encounter with her was late one afternoon about sunset while we were anchored up Bashi Creek in Alabama on the TennTom waterway.  We had pulled into this narrow and remote creek to anchor for the night, with our bow anchor out close to one shore, then tied by the stern to a tree limb on the same shore - a cozy and tight arrangement. The sun was just going down and we were viewing the river by twilight when we saw a boat roar by the creek and disappear down the river. Just prior to this we had heard him over his loudhailer shouting greetings and carrying on a general conversation with fishermen just around the bend. This was unusual by itself.  A short while passed after he roared past our creek, when we saw him return and turn into the creek with us as it was getting darker. He was immediately on his loudhailer calling to us (in contrast to talking to us over the VHF radio which I tried to get him to do) and asking us where he was. (This was the first sign - a boat pulling up after dark, after having reversed direction, then asking US where he was - he had no clue). I told him where we were and gave him the depths of the creek I had sounded out before he got there. He turned in front of us and pulled along the bank like us and anchored there. He had switched over to the radio by this time and was VERY jovial and talkative. In fact, I couldn't get off the radio with him. He just kept going on... and on... and on... He made the joke that he was slow to get situated because his sole and first mate was only a cocker spaniel and she couldn't help him much. We thought that he was a lonely guy out by himself and just wanted to talk to ANYONE.

The morning found us with dense heavy fog all around about 6:30. We could barely see his boat in front of us. I had wanted to start early, but waited a while for the fog to lift some. Finally at between 8:30 and 9am I decided to go anyway. The fog was still heavy but we were running out of time to make our next anchorage by dark that day. Misty Sea was back on the radio talking to us, and he said he was following us out. He started untying as we motored past him in the narrow foggy creek. As I turned into the main river it got even worse with the fog. I was running on radar with the fog horn going, and started making Securite calls over the VHF radio for upbound and downbound tow and barge traffic. I watched on my radar for Misty Sea to pull out of the creek behind us. I never saw his return on radar. We proceeded down the river. This was the day we were picking Joe Thomas up along the way, and almost missed him waiting at Bobby's fish camp dock. We got Joe by midmorning and proceeded downbound for the Coffeeville Lock. As we approached the lock we heard Misty Sea call on the radio (he had heard us talking to the lockmaster). His boat cruises faster than ours so it's not hard for him to catch up. He was just a few miles behind us. After significant hints on his part, I asked him if he wanted us to wait in the lock for him to go down. He graciously accepted. Then he said he had to get fuel at Bobby's fish dock. After some discussion about various options for fuel downriver to Demopolis AL, it was determined that he had to stop there. My part of the conversation was that we'd then see him downriver somewhere and that we'd go on through the lock. His part of the same conversation was thanks for waiting for me in the lock and I'll be as fast as I can. We entered the lock and tied to the bollard. I gave the lockmaster the story and asked if he just wanted to lock us through. The lockmaster said he'd been talking to Misty Sea since the day before about this passage and that he'd wait for him before we locked down. We were patient and just waited. - and waited --- and waited. An hour later we were still tied to the lock wall waiting. It was now getting late enough that our destination for an evening anchorage before dark was in jeopardy. We had heard nothing more from Misty Sea. Without a word from us the lock walls finally started closing for the lock down. FINALLY. The lockmaster was apparently as fed up with waiting for him as we were. This was a very significant lock since it was the last obstruction now between us and the sea. We locked through. As we were going down we heard Misty Sea call on the radio. The lockmaster curtly told him that we were going down, and that he'd have to check for upbound commercial tow traffic for a while before he would turn the lock around for him. It was obvious that the lockmaster was unhappy and was going to give Misty Sea a hard time locking through now. We passed two separate tows going up toward the lock so I knew it would take him HOURS to get through. We happily proceeded down the river and heard no more from Misty Sea that day. - Well sort of. We anchored in three sisters creek that evening and I could swear that I heard Misty Sea talking to someone over the radio - bumbling in to another place he had no idea of, and asking another boat about where he was and if he could anchor with him.

The next day we made it all the way to Mobile Alabama and went up the Dog River in Mobile Bay. We docked at a very nice mom and pop marina called Grand Mariner there.  Joe was still with us. The people are VERY friendly there. The marina office was run by Barbara and her mother Louise - quite a character. I was hanging around the office there a while before sunset and heard the radio call come in from Misty Sea. He was totally lost in the massive Mobile Bay, with no charts and no clue of how to get into the Dog River and Grand Mariner Marina. I was laughing. Louise is the classic matriarch - been there forever as a family owned business and as familiar with the sea as anyone there. Very friendly and helpful, but extremely tough and doesn't take crap from anyone. You could tell her patience was wearing pretty thin with trying to give him directions. I told her my experience so far with him. He seemed amiable enough, but freely admitted to his own stupidity and kept saying that his cocker spaniel was his only secretary and she couldn't take notes while she was talking, so please slow down and give him one thing a step at a time. I was laughing my head off at this point. He couldn't even follow basic directions to get in. I went back and forth to our boat while this was going on. Lisa got on me. She correctly pointed out that while he might not have any clue about what he was doing on the water, at least he was out there and trying. I acknowledged that was true and felt bad about ridiculing him so much. I went back to the office and this kept going on. Louise was getting more frustrated and he (his name was Cal) was getting more and more panicked. It was very apparent that he didn't even have the basic boating skills to follow the directions she was providing - just compass heading and daymark numbers. He didn't seem to know what a daymark was. It was getting even closer to Sunset. I started to feel really bad for him, so I asked Barbara and Louise if they had a small skiff or runabout at the marina I could take out and I would get him. (To undo our boat now and take it out would be a major endeavor). They didn't. I started asking around. Louise kept trying to coach him in, to no avail. I met a friend there at the Marina who lived aboard his boat - Chris. Chris and I ran around the dock and I found a guy fueling his older 20+ft fishing boat at the dock. I thought he was local too and that Chris knew him, but turns out that he was just passing through. I put the question to him directly, and commandeered his boat to go out and retrieve this guy. The boater was a character chewing on his cigar, and had a friend on board. He said he had no radio or binoculars so I ran back to our boat to get the handheld and my binoculars. Off we roared from the fuel dock - just the four of us - in search of the lost Misty Sea. We could hear the frustrated conversation over the radio between Louise and Cal. I called Louise up and told her we were on the way out to get him, and that he should just STAY PUT. Joe stayed put on the dock while we went. Good thing too since it took us so long he would have missed his ride. It was several miles out to the channel and we started looking for Misty Sea through the binoculars. On the way out the engine started to falter on this boat. Thought for a while we were going to have to call someone to get us - but Chris looked in the Engine compartment for flooding, and the skipper reset the transmission - it seemed to work OK. In talking with the guys on the boat, they said that sometimes they get riverboaters down into Mobile Bay who have never seen an open body of water before, then they panic because there's no lateral reference to ANYTHING and they are totally lost. Sounded like the case to me. I was the only one who had any idea of what he looked like. We were talking to him over the radio and told him to stay put where he was, and that we were coming. Finally we saw him a couple miles or more out. Chris wanted him to start heading toward us to meet us - which is logical - but I knew this guy. I knew it would be easier for him to do nothing and us to just get him. Chris started talking to him over the radio to get him to move. He gave him a heading and our description. Cal came back on Misty Sea with another heading he was facing. I called him back immediately. I told him I could see him and we was NOT heading the direction he said he was - almost the entire opposite . I told him again just to stay put and we would get him. Chris and I started talking about it and decided that he and I should board his boat with him to help him get in, and to help him to dock. The other two would stay on the chase boat. I won't do that again so quickly.

We came alongside Misty Sea and Chris and I scrambled aboard her with Cal. He's probably in his late fifties, with a ruddy complexion and stocky build. He was glad to have us aboard, and the cocker spaniel left us alone. Immediately the jovial but naive character we'd come to hear over the radio became displaced with something more cynical and acidic. He was really getting down on Louise at the Marina as a "woman" trying to give him directions that didn't work. It was him that didn't have a clue. He said the boat had made the trip of several hundred miles from Tennessee to here. I got the impression that was his sole boating experience. Then he hit his leg on the leg rest under the helm and all hell broke loose out of his mouth. Then we looked around the helm and noticed the loaded arsenal of weapons around the steering station. Chris and I just looked at each other wondering what we'd gotten ourselves in to. I was glad that Chris was on the boat with me so at least there were two of us in case things got ugly.  Cal was talking about an altercation earlier that day with a fisherman (He'd waked him), and that it had come close to a shoot out on the river. Cal started apologizing about his language and said his leg had been really bad down the rivers - did we want to look? Chris declined but I said that I did want to see it (being medically oriented and all). He pulled his pant leg up and it was bizarre. I think gangrene was beginning to set in. It was red and swollen with circulation deficiency, and the light discolored areas associated with gangrene, with a large ulcerated area in the middle. I ask him if he was diabetic and he insisted not - but I'm sure that's what this was. He said he had seen a doctor before leaving Tennessee but the antibiotics had run out. I tried to stress the importance to him of immediately seeing another doctor and getting this thing treated. I spared no niceties and talked about him losing the leg quickly and/or getting septic and dying. He didn't care. He said he had to get to Pensacola Florida. Never said why but he HAD to get there before he would do anything. Since we thought his boating skills were marginal, I asked him politely if he'd ever docked a twin engine boat at a tight dock in heavy current before. I was trying to be polite and offer to take it in for him. He got VERY defensive - almost paranoid -  and said he was the captain on a Navy Destroyer and that if he could dock that Destroyer that he certainly could dock this boat! -- OK - I'll back off here -- he can dock his own boat -- only problem is that it will be right behind mine and I don't want him to crash into me. (This guy has no charts, doesn't know what a daymark is, has no clue of where he is EVER, and was the captain of a Navy Destroyer.)  Then he looked up into the sky and saw a biplane flying low over the water toward us. He perked up and said that THAT is where he should be rather than on the boat, that he was a pilot and would do well in the sky. Chris and I just looked at each other. Chris had asked him about whether we could pilot from the flybridge since that was easier. Cal said he'd disconnected everything up there and had to stay at the lower station. Then he proceeded to point out all the sophisticated electronic instruments he had at this lower station. He said he always piloted from down here because he always could know where he was at all times with all these instruments. Chris and I just looked at each other again. Cal went on for a long time.  He said he owned a trucking company in California, and had brought this boat down from Tennessee and was heading for Pensacola. He did put away his weapons before we got into port. As we approached the docks I asked him his preference for port or starboard docking. He said he didn't care so I had him come starboard side to in order to be the same as the rest of us. As we approached this way he changed his mind at the last minute and turned the other way. We seemed to get in to the dock (with some dock side help) with no incidents. Chris and I QUICKLY got off his boat.

Lisa and I (Jessica too) had dinner that night with Chris and Kim and daughter Noel in the marina restaurant over the marina. Cal was sitting at a booth by himself off to the side. The waitress came by and said he had bought us drinks - nice gesture. As he left he stopped by and thanked us for coming out to get him. Chris and I both felt very uncomfortable. The next morning Cal was at the fuel dock very early fueling and getting ready to depart for Pensacola. I was still uncomfortable and tried to avoid him but did cross paths. I tried to persuade him that charts were important and that he should get one and go through the intracoastal to Pensacola rather that the open ocean. His attitude was that in the open ocean he didn't have to worry about running aground - though I knew he could never find an inlet once he was out there. Barbara told me that he did eventually buy a chart before he left, but it was a large scale planning chart and not sufficient to navigate with. I don't know how he ever got out of there. A day or two later Barbara at the marina asked me if I knew where Cal was going in Pensacola. It seems he had written a bad $4000 check while he was there for work. I don't even know how he could spend that much money in one day! We've come and gone through Pensacola since then and haven't had a hint of Misty Sea since. I hope he does well but he scares me. I'm not for sure but I think he really is a diabetic having a crisis, which would explain the delusional mentality and ulcerated extremity. At least Chris and I didn't get shot, and I've heard no reports of dead sailors at sea between Mobile and Pensacola.

Now you know - - - the REST OF THE STORY.

Use your Browser Back Button to go back one page