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by Mike Mangus - Columbus, Mississippi - USA
Dovekie #41 "Mulsae" anchored along the shores of Grenada Lake, MS

Friday, July 1st

A week and a half after sailing 100 miles of a 200 mile trip up the Texas coast, I was itching to go sailing again. The Texas trip wasn't totally satisfying and I needed to get out of the house, especially with a 4-day July the Fourth weekend coming up.

So I took a long look at the covered "Mulsae", the 1981 Dovekie hull #43 sitting in the driveway and thought, "We should get out and take that trip to Grenada Lake I've been wanting to do." The boat didn't answer back so I took that as an agreement.

First things first though; what is the weather outlook? Getting online finds that other than light winds and a rather small chance of a shower Saturday afternoon, the weekend was looking sunny. Sunny here in Mississippi means near cloudless skies, moderately high humidity, and 90+ degree temps. Other words, a typical Mississippi summer day.

Since I'm on the computer, let's see what comes up on Grenada Lake. Hmm, one of four flood control lakes in Mississippi on the Yalobusha River. Somewhat Y shaped with a 2.6 mile long dam, Grenada Lake can hold up to 1.38 million gallons of water at flood control stage, has 54+ miles of shoreline, and spreads across 9.8K to 64K acres. It hosts three Wildlife Management Areas; the 912 acre Grenada Waterfowl Refuge, the 1,400 acre Benwood Waterfowl Management Area, and the 330 acre Haserway Wetland Demonstration Area. Wildlife in these areas include fox, squirrels, white tail deer, woodpeckers, rabbits, beaver, turkey, opossums, quail, mourning doves, and numerous species of ducks. Additionally, there are several monitored bald eagle nests in the area.

It will be neat to see the wildlife areas, but this is only a two day trip and we might not have enough time. Still, I expect to put some miles under Mulsae's hull.

As an easy overnighter, no reason to pack heavy. A dozen bottles of water, some flavored drink mix, a few light snacks, a pound cake for breakfast, and finally one of those prepackage hiking meals. This will be the first time trying out the meal on a trip.

Saturday, July 2nd

Packing is easy with Mulsae still stored covered after the June 2016 Texas trip. Just need to put the rudder into the truck bed along with various camping gear and food and hitch the uncovered boat up to the truck. Within an hour, we were on the road for the 3-hour Saturday morning drive.

I've selected to launch from the Army Corp's Hugh White state park located on the southwest shoreline since that was the one listed online most often. The road into the park itself is somewhat narrow, twisty, and rather hilly, aka the typical road we see going into state parks here in Mississippi. Also typical is the empty locked up gatehouse with the ever-present metal fee box. $4.50 stuffed into an envelope stuffed into the metal box later, off we go to find the ramp.

The ramp itself is situated on a hill. It feels steep. At first I thought that couldn't be the ramp and went searching around for something less steep. But no, the first ramp is it. Well, this may be interesting. Heh. Without a schedule to keep and no set place to go to, I take a lazy hour rigging Mulsae. While attaching the rudder, a pair of local fishermen arrive towing one of those flat fast fishing boats. They are very interested in the Dovekie and we chat back and forth for a while with me telling stories of the Texas 200 sail and them telling stories about the lake. Eventually, they launch and head out for some fishing.

A couple more boats launch before I finally get Mulsae uneventfully in the water. A quick video to document the launch before raising sail and we are off!

The mild 7 - 10 mph wind fills out the tanbark sail and pushes Mulsae gliding across breeze-riffled water. Out of the little fjord hosting the boat ramp, the right shore turns abruptly away as we track north-northeast on a beam reach. Just around right side corner is one of the many sand beaches populated by weekend swimmers and beachgoers. A mile to the left on a diverging parallel path is the dam. Ahead? A few miles of open water to reach the bottom point of the V part of the Y.

It is an easy sail. With the mild wind keeping sailing unstressed, I lean back and kick feet up on the opposite bench seat. The bimini keeps the hot sun at bay. The day is warm but not scorching especially with the light breeze. All in all, very enjoyable!

The tentative plan is to sail up the left arm of the Y, round the slight bend to the right, and sail to the end where one of the wildlife management areas resides to anchor for the night and enjoy the scenery. Into the arm, we skirt relatively close to the eastern shore while minding the tree trunks sticking up out of the water. That makes me wonder how deep the lake really is as well as how many shorter trunks are hidden below the surface. Wouldn't want to run into one by accident! In fact, the further NNE we go the more tree trucks sticking up from the water. By the time we near the bend, there seems a veritable forest of tree trunks.

Hmm. Moving into late afternoon and faced with threading the "forest", I decide to come about and seek a western shore spot to camp for the night. Shortly after turning SW, a fishing boat growls around the bend. It turns out to be the two fishing guys from earlier on the ramp. We wave at each other while they zoom between trunks. Seems local lake knowledge pays off when running flat out on plane between the trees.

The rest of the afternoon passes and along with it the light breeze leaving just enough to ghost along with barely filled sails. The wind shifts from the SW, forcing me to take long tacks heading towards what appears to be the few clear shores on that part of the lake. Interestingly enough, there is a huge numbered sign in one spot. The sign is one of many scattered around the lake's shoreline, though what they are for confounds me. By the time Mulsae's bow touches hardpack shore, it is closer to 7 pm than not. Of course, 7 pm mid-summer still leaves a couple hours'ish of sun and heat.

The water is calf high and warm, the bottom very firm claylike material. In fact, it is so firm that planting the stern anchor deeply is impossible. I think it should hold. Mulsae is repositioned 20' off the shore just in case the lake level drops overnight. The bow anchor is led to shore where it is wedged as best as possible behind a small hillock. If anything, the dry shale-like ground is even harder, nearly cement-like. Eh. It should hold.

With the boat settled in, it is time to explore! First, what is it with that huge numbered sign? A short walk up a steep embankment doesn't lead to enlightenment, though the sign is even bigger than first thought. This thing can easily been seen literally a mile away. I find a shady spot to sit and relax. Off to the right down along shore towards the dam comes the sounds of ATV's. For a while it sounds like they may make it to my camp, but after an hour they turn back and recede.

With dusk approaching, it is back to the boat to boil that hiking meal. The little single burner is filled with water and 10 minutes later I'm fishing the hot meal out. Inside the package is two BBQ filled pocket breads which go down deliciously well. Not bad. Not bad at all! I make a note to possibly use them during the long multi-day trips in 2017. I get the canvas cockpit porch set up on Mulsae. Oh the convenience! After years of camping on shore or in cramped sailboats, sleeping on a roomy Dovekie is soooo easy! That was one of the major selling points to buying the boat in the first place and one put to good use on the 2016 Texas trip.

Fed, cleaned up, and boat sorted, I pull out the Kindle for some evening reading. That lasts a couple hours before the bugs drawn in by the only source of light within a mile drives me to put it away. By now it is pure dark moonless nighttime with glorious stars overhead. Somewhere deeper on land comes a loud grunting and bellowing that goes on for quite some time. It seems a deeper sound than hogs make, so perhaps it is cows or bulls or something else.

Off in the distance there is a rumble. That sound is familiar! The incoming storm is confirmed when lighting starts flickering in the approaching clouds and the wind briskly picks up from the SW. Now usually I sleep with the hatches open. Indeed, even the porch windows are open to catch what little breeze there was to abate the day's heat. With the threat of rain looming, I close the canvas hatch covers and windows. At first it is stifling inside the boat but storm's fresh breeze quickly cools the air.

Settling back on the camp style air mattress, I smile for how well the day turned out and how grand it is to be out here camping overnight on Grenada Lake. That smile carries onward into sleep that is interrupted as the storm winds rush through the shore's trees follow by a short rainfall. Snug inside and with a renewed smile, I drift off into sleep again.

Sunday, July 3rd

As usual, I wake up just as the sky begins to shed the night. The morning is a cool mid-60s with zero wind at all. The water is glassy until disturbed by the rocking boat's ripples. Getting the mild weather sleeping bag, deflated air mattress, and the cockpit's canvas tent sides stowed, I kick back on the bench seat to munch on the pound cake washed down with a breakfast drink and enjoy the dawn.

A faint mist hovers over the water. Out across the lake is nary a soul or movement all the way to the far shore a mile or so away. The songbirds seem to be greeting the dawn with a serenade of musical notes. The barest puff of wind is felt more than heard and makes one hopeful to find enough to sail.

The camp is little more than 4 miles from the boat ramp. With an idea to be home by 3 pm, I enjoy the morning calm for a few minutes longer before readying for departure. The stern anchor is retrieved from its position 15' closer to the boat than last night. Yeah, it didn't hold in last night's stormy breeze. With little wind, the newly raised sail hangs flat with droopy sheet. A final strong push sends us on our way.

Slowly. Ever so slowly. The GPS is barely reading 1 mph and even that is suspect. An occasional tiny wind puff briefly tugs the sheets out of the water. For the next two hours, we drift sail and make about 1 mile traveled. At this rate, we'll make the ramp sometime mid to late afternoon and still faced with a three hour drive home.

That will not do. So let's try a hand at using an oar in the yuloh socket. Like many new things, knowing how it is supposed to work and doing it are very different. I seem to getting the hang of it after 30 minutes though the boat doesn't feel like it is going any faster. Pulling the oar, I ready the boat for rowing.

Mulsae and I make much better progress under oars though I have to stop and rest hands multiple times. The constant clunking, twisting oars, and banging hands together cumulates in a resolve to find a better way over the winter to control the oars in the rowing ports.

At the bottom of the V part of the Y shaped lake finds a group of spaced out tree trunks sticking up out of the water. Amongst them is a small Johnboat with a father and young daughter fishing quietly in the early morning calm. We wave at each other across the smooth water and I smile.

Around 2.5 hours later, Mulsae's bow touches the rocky shore beside the ramp and I am very happy to finally make it! Yeah, the hands are blistered and arms/shoulders sore, but we made it! It also showed that rowing a Dovekie over a (relatively) long distance is doable. So although regretting leaving the outboard at home for this trip, I am happy to accomplish the weekend by wind and human power only.

It takes a lot less time to get Mulsae loaded and packed up. Within the hour, we are on the way home after stopping for lunch. Of course, Mulsae draws attention. In this part of Mississippi, sailboats are far less common than fishing boats. Three hours later, boat unpacked, parked, and covered in the driveway, I enjoy a cold beverage in the comfort of air conditioned home while thinking of the weekend's adventure.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Grenada Lake trip is a success. I got out of the house and gained more time/experience sailing the Dovekie after the Texas 200 trip hijinks. Although disappointed in not reaching the wildlife areas, there will be a next time on the lake to see more. In fact, wasn't there an old civil war fort somewhere near Grenada Lake? That would be something to see! :)

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