Archive for November, 2008

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

November 13, 2008

This week was a week of accomplishments.  We finished the Inland Rivers, and are sitting in Mobile, Alabama.  We finished our last lock in the US.  That means we have travelled through 117 locks.  Note the smile on MB’s face for the last one.  We have seen birds, turtles, fish, river otter, ducks, deer, some unidentified animals, we anchored at a place called Rattlesnake bend, and at mile 24.5 on the Mobile River, and we saw a ten foot long alligator sunning himself.  When we turned to get a close up picture he slowly slid into the water.  We did get a picture of his back and tail before he went under.  Swimming will be nonexistent here for sure.

We have not seen a marina since Demopolis, although we did stop at Bobby’s Fish Camp for a bag of ice.  Actually, we just wanted to stop and see it, as the guide books call it a “Must Stop”.  It was just a couple of docks on the river, would be an uncomfortable stop at night with the wakes from all the tows, but they have hydro for all those big boats with air conditioners that need to plug in, and they have fuel.  Really nice folks there, the restaurant was closed, so we didn’t get to test the local eatery.

At one anchorage, the entrance was small enough that to stay out of the way of other boats, instead of dropping two anchors, we tied to a tree (of course, I did not tell MB that snakes in Alabama climb trees until after we left).

The old bridge in the picture is a picture of the old Rooster Bridge.  In 1979, the tugboat Cahaba was pulled under the bridge and turned on her side and went under.  She went under the bridge and came back out, righted herself, and continued on her way.  The boat is still in service to this day.  Pictures are available on the internet, Google “Cahaba, Tombigbee, Rooster”.

We arrived in Mobile on Wednesday, have to pick up some supplies, do a couple repairs on the boat, put up our mast (yahoo, we’ll be a sailboat again), and we have rented a car, and booked a room in the French Quarter, New Orleans for the weekend.

In Demopolis, we toured an antebellum house, what the Smithsonian Guide to Historic America calls, “One of the three or four most interesting houses in America”.  This home (one of the few Plantation homes in the Deep South left) was designed and built by Nathan Bryan Whitfield over a period of 18 years, was absolutely fascinating.  Here’s a question for you, in a home where hot water had to be carried up a back winding staircase, and everyone shared bathwater once a week, who bathed first?

The property is called Gaineswood, if interested, do a Google search, there is way too much info to speak of here, but this home will be one of the highlights of our trip that we will not forget.

The air smells right (salt in the air again, it has been a long time), the boat sits a little higher, and we are finally in the Gulf of Mexico.  Not sure I believe it yet, but it’s true!

We have rented a car, booked a slip at the marina for a week, and we will be off to New Orleans on Friday for the weekend.  Jazz music, nightlife, and a big bed!  What more could we ask for.  We’ve booked a B & B in the French Quarter, so it should be a lot of fun.

Oh yea, I forgot our 33rd anniversary this week, so the few days in the French Quarter is my belated gift.

Love to everyone,
Joe & Mary Beth Amelia
S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold”

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The Tenn-Tom Waterway

November 5, 2008

This waterway running from Pickwick Lake to Demopolis, AL is divided into three distinct sections.  The first is called the “Divide Cut” and goes from Pickwick Lake to Yellow Creek.  The Divide Cut is 414 feet above sea level.  There is then the “Canal Section” which runs 52 miles, with 5 locks going down.  There is then the “River” which runs 149 miles and ends at the Black Warrior River, which we follow to Mobile, AL.  There are a total of 10 locks on the Tenn-Tom waterway, all with floating bollards, which make locking through much easier than other locks we have done.  Of course, there are times where the maintenance has not been up to par, and there is a bollard missing, which makes for an exciting minute or two!

We anchored out this week for the most part; there are some beautiful anchorages on this part of the waterway.  We travelled for a way with the catamaran “Arcadia”, dingied ashore, had dinner, and anchored within sight of each other (safety in numbers, remember ‘Deliverance’).  Bruce spends some time flying a kite from the boat while motoring.  We spent Halloween at an anchorage outside Smithville, MS, I wanted to get dressed and take our Dingy to go trick or treating, but we settled for cocktails instead.

This section of the waterway is by far the dirtiest we have yet seen.  Both with the color of the water, and the debris floating in it.  There was one area where MBA had to stand at the bow and direct the helm through the floating plants they were so thick (and some were attached to large logs) for about 10 miles.  Anchorages were thick with it, as were some areas in the channel.  The water color was a thick muddy brown.  There were pipes pumping something into the river every hundred feet for several miles.  Not sure what it is, but I wasn’t going swimming to find out!

The fall colors in this section are glorious!  It is still warm (in the 70’s during the day, and drops to the high 40’s at night.  (Keeps the bugs away.)

We anchored at the Bevill Lock for the night, and in the morning took our dingy to shore to visit the Bevill Visitor Center, and tour the last steam powered sternwheeler Snagboat (“Montgomery”).  These boats would cruise the inland waterways of the south removing stumps and trees in the navigable part of the waterways.

I learned a few facts about the Tenn-Tom waterway in the visitor center.  One barge (four by four) pushed by one tow carries the same amount of freight as 480 eighteen wheelers!  I wonder if the Pilot gets paid four hundred eighty times as much per mile?  One third more earth was moved for the Tenn-Tom than the Panama Canal.  This waterway was finally opened in 1985, although plans for it go back to the eighteen hundreds.

We have been on the water for a week, no marina’s, completely self sufficient.  Everything is working well!  We passed the white cliffs of Epes today (Tuesday) and they are spectacular!  I have no idea what they are, the guidebooks don’t say, and I haven’t had internet so I can’t find out.  I will when I get to Demopolis on Wednesday.

Tonight we are anchored at Rattlesnake Bend, Alabama (alone, we left Arcadia a couple days ago).  I wanted to take our dingy ashore and go hiking, to see why the place has its name, but I was outvoted.  We stay on the boat and close all the thru hulls.  Tomorrow, we will be at the Demopolis, Alabama marina for the day, we will provision, and get ready for our last leg, the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway which will take us to Mobile Bay, and our mast at Turner Marine.  That is the Gulf of Mexico, how exciting.  We are thinking about renting a car and driving to New Orleans for a couple days, see the French Quarter.  We’ll see when we get there.  For now, we are just happy to be as far as we are, and are looking forward to seeing blue water!

Love to all,
Joe and Mary Beth Amelia
S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold”