The sky was overcast with a slight breeze. The temps were in the 70’s. The sun peeked through openings in the clouds making the trees glow with orange and yellow light.
We passed a tow going south that was churning up the water in the river.
We ambled in slowly. Bob said it reminded him of the movie Deliverance. It was hard to believe there was a marina somewhere down the channel.
It took us an hour to fuel up and this would last us almost all the way to Mobile, AL. It gave us a chance to walk Murphy and let him stretch his legs. It was a long day for him to be locked up in the boat.
We registered at the office and checked out a few boats on the docks before settling in for cocktails after a long day. I found two more cute boat names #40, #41.
We finally got some high speed Internet so we could check our emails. As the sun set, we had pizza for dinner as a treat to ourselves after a long day’s travel. We relaxed after dinner with some TV as I got caught up on 3 days of blogging. It was 8 hours of traveling 79.5 miles. We will sleep good tonight!
Note: The Tenn-Tom Canal connects the Tennessee River at Pickwick Lake with the Tombigbee River at Demopolis, AL. It gets its name by joining the Tennessee and Tombigbee Rivers. This undertaking moved more earth than was moved in the construction of the Panama Canal. The canal shortened the trip for vessels to various ports by as much as 720 miles. In addition, vessels could avoid the swift currents of the Mississippi River when north bound. The canal starts at the pool level of Pickwick Lake and begins the long down hill run to Mobile Bay. When south bound, boats lock down 341′ over the distance of 450.5 miles to Mobile, AL. The Tenn-Tom has a total of 10 locks. The final section of the Tenn-Tom Canal is called the River and consists of a section from Amory Lock to the juncture of the Black Warrior River. The canal follows the old Tombigbee River. It is typical of what you find when a river is “canalized”. The river is straightened in some places with man made cuts, it is dredged where the water is too shallow, and finally locks and dams are added to keep at least 9′ of water in the canal when the elevation drops too fast. These dams create pools, or lakes, near the dam
October 14-Columbus Marina, TS
We slept really well last night and woke up to have a nice breakfast of pancakes. I worked on the blog for awhile while Bob did some miscellaneous chores. We had reserved the courtesy car for 10:00 so we could go into Columbus and do the historic driving tour. We left at 10:00 and headed into town, stopping first at the hardware store and then at the liquor store. We started our driving tour of the city with the home of Tennesse Williams who was born in Columbus on March 26, 1911.
Belle Bridge was a home that tended to wounded soldiers after the battle of Shiloh.
The Oaks property originally extended over an entire city block and is now under construction.
Rosewood Manor reigns over four and a half acres of landscaped lawn which includes three thousand boxwoods. Like many homes in Columbus, it was built on a hill because low places were considered unhealthy. Rosewood Manor was built for a Yankee bride who would not occupy it; she said vapors were unhealthy, and returned North.
Third Street boasts several fine Victorian structures. This home was built in 1869 and was put together with wooden pegs.
It was very quiet around the marina today. Some people left, and a few arrived. We had dinner and watched some TV. Tomorrow we have a short run through one lock to an anchorage where we’ll spend the night.
October 15-Columbus Marina to Warsaw Cut Off anchorage
It was a bright, sunny, cloudless day. The temps were expected to be in the mid 80’s and there was no breeze to speak of. We woke up by 7:00, had breakfast, and dried down the boat. The moon was still out as the sun came up.
We would be leaving today. Bob had to run to town for a part and put back together the starboard air filter after cleaning it yesterday. A Grand Banks called MoJo from Sarasota, FL was also leaving today, so we coordinated leaving at the same time for the lock that was literally, just around the corner. We pulled out together and were tied up in the Stennis Lock by 9:00.
It was a 30’ drop which took about 20 minutes. We pulled out and were on our way down the Tombigbee River by 9:30. We had to go slow a lot of the way due to debris in the river and ‘no wake’ zones for piers and tows working. The color and clarity of the water decreased tremendously to a dark, murky brown. It made it difficult to see anything floating in it, that we didn’t want to hit. We passed a telephone booth and a totem pole on the bank of the river in the middle of nowhere. How or why they were there, we don’t know. There were a lot more homes and campgrounds along this section of the river. We crisscrossed over the Mississippi and Alabama border for a couple of miles and then crossed back into Alabama and will stay here for the rest of the river trip to Mobile. We arrived at our anchorage at 11:30 and dropped our anchor just off the channel, north of the Bevill Lock near the Tom Bevill Visitors’ Center. We chose this spot because we wanted to check out the visitor center and the US Snagboat Montgomery on display here. She was the last steam powered sternwheeler to ply the inland waterways of the South. For 60 years she labored to keep 7 of the South’s major rivers navigable. Built in 1926, the Montgomery is 108’ long. She was retired in 1982.
After waiting awhile to set the anchor, we discovered it was’nt holding in the mucky bottom, so we wouldn’t be able to spend the night. We also found we had 30 minutes before a tow would be coming to lock through. If we were going to move farther south today, we couldn’t spend a lot of time at the visitor center and still be able to get through the lock before the tow. Darn! Bob, Murphy, and I hopped in the dinghy and went quickly to shore. Bob was very worried that the boat would drift away so he walked Murphy and looked at the Snagboat Montgomery, while I went inside the visitor center.
It was just as beautiful inside as it was outside. The Ted Bevill Visitors’ Center portrays an authentic 1830-1860 Greek revival home. There is a Grecian theme both inside and out. The rooms are decorated and furnished in the American Empire Style popular then.
I couldn’t stay long, so I only viewed the lower floor, picked up some informational pamphlets, bought 2 T-shirts, and left. We dinghied back to the boat and were told by the lockmaster that it would be 30 minutes before we could lock through. Darn! All that rushing around for nothing! I made us some lunch and got ready to lock through when the other boat exited. It was’t long before it was our turn. We locked through the Bevill Lock alone and dropped 27 feet. We left the lock and motored at 23 knots most of the way, passing 4 tows, 1 sailboat,
and Ajax, the trawler that left the marina this morning before us.
(We actually ended up passing Ajax a couple of times today.) We passed a couple of potential anchorages, but nothing that looked that good for taking Murphy to shore. Finally, we got to our #2 choice anchorage. It was deep enough and had a boat launch for Murphy about ½ mile away. We decided to skip it and go 5 more miles to our first choice anchorage which sounded better in the guide. We motored about a mile before we decided that if #1 was’t good or had someone else already anchored in it (it was already 3:30) then we’d have to come back here, so instead of wasting gas, we turned around, passing the sailboat again going the other way, and dropped anchor in choice #2.
We had traveled a total of 63.7 miles today. After settling in, we decided to check out the boat launch with Murphy. As we dinghied around the corner, we ran into the sailboat who had also turned around and was heading for an anchorage nearby—ours! How ironic! There was plenty of room for both of us, so it wouldn’t be a problem.
[Note: On Tuesday, I found out from the Columbus Marina owner that the green sailboat was handmade by its owners out of ferro cement. Every piece on that boat was handmade. The owners are from England who sailed it around that part of the world to many countries and then across the ocean, doing the Great Loop. I learned that they started on their boat project when they were in their teens, got married, and began this extraordinary adventure. They have been living on their boat for many years.]
As we approached the boat launch, we found it smothered in floating water plants. They were everywhere blocking our way. Luckily we could motor through them to get to the pier. We just call it “making salad”. We scared up a couple of deer as we got closer.
They seem to be taking over the shoreline in many places and large clumps of them are floating all over in the river. Murphy did his thing and we went back to the boat to sit in the AC for awhile. It was very humid today and it didn’t take much to work up a sweat. We cooked dinner as the sun set at 6:30.
We noticed a beautiful white egret standing, like a statue, in a patch of nearby water plants and had to photograph it.
We ate dinner as darkness fell around us in the anchorage. We watched a DVD and then took Murphy to shore. The full moon was out helping to light our way, but it was hard to maneuver around all the clumps of water plants in the river. We got to the boat launch and found that all the plants were gone!! How can that be? The area was thick with them earlier. They must get pushed into shore with all the boats traveling down the river and get moved back into the river when people launch their boats at the boat ramp. Murphy did his thing quickly and we left. It was a beautiful still night, but this was the first time this summer that we experienced mosquitoes….and they were hungry! We got back, secured the dinghy, and went to bed. It was a nice cool night for sleeping.
October 16-Warsaw Cut Off to Demopolis, AL
The sun came up after we did, to reveal fog on the very warm water.
However, off to the west, a cold front is approaching possibly bringing some rain later today. As we ate breakfast we spotted two minks swimming across the river-a mom and a baby. Bob took Murphy to the boat launch while I got the boat ready to leave. We want to beat the weather, although we have sun, blue skies, but lots of humidity already.
We hauled anchor about 8:30 and I motored us out of the bay into the river channel. It wasn’t long before we came upon our #1 choice anchorage from yesterday. We were glad that we had chosen to spend the night where we did. The #1 choice was full of water hyacinths and would have been troublesome to anchor there. We got to our first lock at 9:00 (Howell Heflin Lock) and were told that all these purple flowering water plants are water hyacinths. Makes sense…and they are everywhere!
As we went farther south, we encountered less and less of them. The banks along the shore became a little more rocky and after about 17 miles we rounded the bend and come upon the striking white cliffs of Epes.
They were perfectly reflected in the water and stood out among the greens and browns of the forest. They ran for at least ½ mile along the bank. They were like silent sentinels of the river. Bob called them the Mt. Rushmore of Alabama.
We passed the sailboat, Lucidity again down the river and will see them in Demopolis tonight. We passed a tow near more white cliffs.
We passed a mobile home just barely hanging on the cliff
and these 4 cabana-like structures sitting in a line along the beach with nothing else around.
We tried to keep a constant cruising speed of 20 knots, so I had to use the binoculars to scour the banks, looking for any fishermen or small boats that might be lurking along the shady side of the river. We didn’t want to swamp any boats or destroy anybody’s pier with our 3’ wake. I also kept my eyes peeled for alligators that can be found in the waters here. The sunlight sparkled on the water like diamonds, but it made it hard to see anything floating in the river.
The river took a lot of twists and turns along today’s trip. Here is what it looked like on our electric chart plotter/GPS. The little blue twisting line is the river.
We arrived at the junction where the Black Warrior River joins the Tombigbee River. This is the end of the Tenn-Tom Waterway. We arrived in Demopolis at 12:00 after 56.5 miles today and got tied up to the gas dock where we would spend the next two nights.
Demopolis is a place where the tugs fuel up. There were 2 sitting at the dock when we arrived. After getting tied up and settling in by 12:30, Bob went over to the tug, Chippewa, and asked if he could have a tour of the engine room. They were happy to oblige.
I think they were bored waiting around while they filled up their tanks with 20,000+ gallons of diesel fuel. They told Bob that the can receive 7,000 gallons/hour. Bob thoroughly enjoyed himself and got many of his questions answered. After lunch, we walked up to the restaurant to check out the menu for dinner.
It’s called New Orleans Bar and Grill and we’ll give it a try for dinner tonight. We walked over to the boat yard to see an Ocean Yacht sitting there in pretty bad shape. It was 2 or 3 years older than ours.
The “horsetail” clouds in the sky told us that the weather was going to change and the forecast was calling for rain tonight and cooler air coming into the area. That would be a switch. A couple other boats came into the marina. One of them was the sailboat, Lucidity that we kept running into on the river. We did some reading and had a cocktail at the boat before going to dinner. Dinner was very good and afterward we took Murphy for a walk in the boatyard to look at the boats on land there. Back at the boat we watched TV before going to bed. It was a long day and we were beat.
October 17-Demopolis Marina, AL
Overnight we had to get up to close the hatches because it had started to rain. It continued to rain throughout the night and into the morning hours. When we woke up it was still raining and was a cooler day of 65 degrees. The forecast is for rain, off and on, all day long, so we will have an easy, laidback kind of day. We had breakfast and walked Murphy in between the rain showers. At 10:00 we had reserved the courtesy car to go into town and see what was there. We stopped at WalMart for a few items and some groceries and then got back to the boat just before it started to rain again. I did a load of wash and some chores I had put off for a day just like today. The other boats had left this morning and we were the only ones left at the gas dock. We were able to watch a few tugs, come and go, throughout the day and that was interesting.
October 18-Demopolis Marina to Bobby’s Fish Camp, AL
It was a cool morning of 52 degrees with fog over the water.
The sunshine warmed things up a little while we had breakfast and wiped down the boat. There was a slight breeze with clear, blue skies.
We left the dock and went just around the corner to the Demopolis Lock and Dam at 8:50.
We entered the lock alone and did the drop of 40’ in 20 minutes. As we exited the lock, we saw the spillway for the lock on the other side. It was like a large waterfall. We passed more white cliffs and
came upon the remains of the Rooster Bridge which has a story all its own.
The true story goes like this: The tugboat, Cahaba, was about to overturn and sink under the bridge during a flood in 1979. He had disconnected himself from his barges when the current turned him sideways and pushed him under the bridge. The tugboat did not sink but popped up on the other side and continued on, under its own power. Check the Internet and Google “Rooster, Cahaba, Tombigbee” to see for yourself. It’s quite amazing! The trip on the river today we very pleasant and relaxing.
We passed the MaraBob, from Longboat Key, FL who had left the marina yesterday.
We motored on the section of the river called the Rentz Ferry Oxbow. This would have been a great place to cut a channel through and straighten out the waterway.
This section of the Tombigbee was never “canalized” like the lower portion of the Tenn-Tom. Here we found 180 degree switchbacks with regularity. Being that it’s Saturday, we passed a lot of fishermen out for a day of fun on the water. We always have to be on the lookout for fishermen! They were dressed in their warm coats and hats like it was winter-having fun none-the-less. About every mile, there was a boat landing of some kind with a local’s name attached to it like Pritchard Landing, C.B. Cheney Landing, etc. Some of them were paved ramps and others were just a path cut through the trees. One was called Democrat Landing. There they wanted to redistribute our wealth, but we just waked them instead! J We were starting to see hanging moss in the trees now.
We passed another boat, the Sue Sea Q, from Grafton, IL who left our marina early this morning.
After talking with them on the radio, they are headed to the same place we are. (That’s what’s nice about having a boat that travels a little faster. We can leave the dock a little later and still get there before everyone else, waiting with a cocktail.) We came upon White Bluff at a large bend in the river.
It was near an area that looked like a tornado had come through and snapped off all the trees. We had passed 4 tows today. One was traveling south and the 3 were going north.
We arrived at Bobby’s Fish Camp at 1:00 after going 95 miles today.
We had to tie up by ourselves in a strong head wind and current. I used the “happy hooker” to loop around the cleat on the dock and tie off so that I could jump off the boat and tie off the bow. Bob came down from the bridge to help tie off the stern line. We got everything secure and waited for Sue Sea Q, the other boat we passed, to arrive.
They pulled up about 20 minutes later and we helped them tie off. They got fuel, dropped off one of their crew, and left after about an hour. We settled in ourselves and had lunch. There is no power or any other services here except fuel, so it’s like being at anchor, but tied to a pier. Our only concern is boats coming by and laying down a wake, but hopefully it should be quiet and peaceful here for one night. There shouldn’t be anyone else coming this way from the boats we saw today. We walked up to the office to register and relax for the afternoon. This is quite a unique place.
It has some permanent campsites, cabin rentals, and a restaurant that serves a lot of catfish. This place has been around since 1956 and has a lot of memorabilia to check out.
Often, when there are many boaters traveling through the area, they have to “raft off” or tie up to one another. We saw pictures to that effect posted in the restaurant, but we were the only ones spending the night tonight. It was quite breezy all afternoon, but it calmed off as the sun set.
The temperature dropped as well. It was time for sweats and fleece. We closed everything up and went inside to have dinner. We watched a DVD and went to bed early. We would be setting the alarm and leaving early for Mobile tomorrow with one more lock to go (and just when we were getting so good at it).
October 19-Bobby’s Fish Camp to Dog River Marina, Mobile, AL
Bob woke before the alarm went off at 6:15 and I got up with the buzzer. It was a chilly 49 degrees and totally fogged in.
We were planning to wait until the sun came up and burned off some of the fog before we left. It was a beautiful sunrise.
The high today should be 75 degrees. We had breakfast and dried off the boat as best we could. It was a futile task because of all the moisture, and besides, my fingers and toes were really cold. We heard, but never saw, some cardinals in the area producing their very distinctive call. Bob went up to the office and met the one-and-only “Bobby” from Bobby’s Fish Camp. He was just a jolly old guy having his morning coffee. We left about 7:30 and motored slowly down the 2 miles to the Coffeeville Lock. The lockmaster was waiting for us and we were tied up and secure by 8:00 for the 34’ drop to sea level. That was our 10th and final lock. We pulled out 20 minutes later and saw the water pouring over the spillway in one section and the steam rising up from the other.
The sun was fully up and burning off the fog quickly. The sky was cloudless and the sun warmed us up nicely on the bridge. The shoreline is much sandier with beachfront right to the water’s edge.
We passed 2 bass boats where the passengers were wearing crash helmets. What’s up with that?
From the Coffeeville Lock on south the waters are tidal. (We have to check the tide charts.) Tides will be a part of our life from now on. We passed 7 tows going north and 1 going south. Quite a few tows throughout this trip were pushing benzene-a cancer producing agent. At least that’s what the sign said. They carry a flag that prohibits any other boat from going through the lock at the same time. We scared up a few deer as we came around a bend in the river.
They seemed to care less and kept on about their business of eating. The river continued to make a lot of twists and turns as we traveled south. We encountered a houseboat traveling north and only a few fishermen today.
There were fewer houses and communities along this part of the river. It seemed much more desolate and we’re still keeping our eyes open for that alligator sunning himself along the banks. We passed the junction where the Alabama River meets the Tombigbee River to become the Mobile River.
The Mobile River is a much wider waterway. We saw a couple of places falling down the banks into the river and one that was barely floating.
Along the banks, we were beginning to see cypress trees and pygmy palms.
We must be getting close to Mobile Bay now. There were 3 or 4 paper companies and steam plants along the river the farther south we got. The closer we got to Mobile, we ran into our friends, Kathy and Ned, from Appleton on their sailboat, Journey.
We had spent time with them in Green Turtle Bay, KY back in September. Unbelievable! They are continuing on their way to the Carribean. We chatted with them for awhile on the radio and then said our goodbyes-only to meet again somewhere down the way. Six miles later, we had to ask the 14 Mile Swing Bridge to open for us. That’s a first for this kind of bridge on this trip. We made it into Mobile harbor about 2:30 and had to make our way slowly through the working tows and huge ships getting loaded or in dry dock.
We passed a man driving a house on a raft, literally a “houseboat” pulling a dinghy. We slowed down so as not to flood his house as we passed.
The downtown skyline of Mobile is quite unique from a distance with 3 tall skyscrapers-the tallest being the RCA tower.
They have some really unusually shaped buildings as well.
We came across a “stealth ship” in the harbor that Bob has heard about.
We also saw the Hawaii Superferry. These were two very unusual looking boats.
It took us an hour to idle through the harbor and out into Mobile Bay to the channel for Dog River Marina.
We turned at the wrong marker and got ourselves into some shallow water, so we had to call and get directions to the harbor. We passed a commercial fishing boat and a shrimping boat.
We took a spot on the gas dock in Dog River Marina and would be moving to the haul-out slip tomorrow.
We are here for a couple of days to see the sights and to get some work done. We noticed a vibration at our cruising speed, so we are having them check the cutlass bearings and replace them as needed. They are also removing the propellers and having them computer tuned (MRI Scan) because they are out of alignment. If all goes well, the boat should be back in the water on Tuesday. There is also an oil leak that we’re going to have checked out. We don’t want to have any problems crossing the Gulf. We got all tied up at the dock and settled in to watch some football on TV. We couldn’t get the Packer game, but we were able to watch Brett Favre and the Jets play (lose). We decided to have pizza for dinner and just take it easy after a trip of 132 miles today. We saw a beautiful sunset over Dog River.
Note: On top of everything else we seem to have developed a problem with insects. The boat got ants and Murphy got fleas. We must have picked up the ants in Demopolis at the pier and finally got rid of most of them after 2 days. We discovered fleas on Murphy today, treated him with Frontline Flea and Tick medication, and got all of the fleas killed off. Insect problems solved….hopefully! Thank goodness! We had dinner and watched some TV before retiring early. We’ll have to get up early to get the boat to the haul-out slip for service.