Mobile, Alabama

Quirky seas followed us across Mobile Bay. Dishes were rattling, the table walked across the room and the inclinometer sporadically read ten to twenty degrees. The heavy winds pushed us off the dock as quickly as Denny pulled us in but Dog River Marina welcomed us. Time to repair and regroup.

Ten Looper boats shared a transient dock with us and joined us for dinner at the Mobile Yacht Club.  The days brought warmth from the sun but the heater was on at night. 

Three nights and two days in port and Dream Seeker has a new stern light, fresh oil and new gaskets on the port engine. I found a Dillards but not enough hours to spend there.

Leaving Dog River the sun was shining and boaters wore only light weight jackets. The fuel  and water tanks were filled the holding tank emptied. We are on our way south east through Mobile Bay, toward the Florida panhandle and onto the Gulf intercostal waterway.

 Unbelievable! Mobile Bay, the water is like a sheet of glass, the seas are dead calm and seagulls are floating on the still water. The sun is shining.

Dolphins! At two o’clock! Straight ahead!  Dolphins! In Mobile Bay!  Dolphins are riding our bow waves they are all around us.

We are  almost home!

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Dog River Marina
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Marv and Nancy
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Switched to Tequila
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Mobile
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Dog River Marina
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Flat seas
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birds on calm sea
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Courtesy Car needs a handle
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Mobile
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Ken Marv

 Does the Black Warrior Run South?

Morning came sunny and cold. Untie the lines on deck! Oops! What’s on the deck? It’s very slippery!  Even in my sneakers I’m sliding.  Wow, it’s ice!  The thermometer reads 30.5 degrees. Are we still going south?  Yes, just not fast enough.

The next marina is at Mobile 200 miles down river we will have to anchor out for two nights or more.  Traveling in caravan through the locks everyone is accounted for. Can we get 65 miles down the winding river today before dark? Unfortunately, the way south is not in a straight line, it follows the river.

The port engine is overheating again!  I take the controls and throttle back while Denny goes to his holy place to pray.  Go on ahead we will catch up. Later, the proclamation, It just needed a little coolant.

The chosen anchorage was passed up by the other boats who radioed that It was too full of floating timber, trees and overhanging branches to stop there. We were behind the others and the sun was setting rapidly. Anchoring was imperative. Slowly and very carefully we enter the chosen anchorage.

Go further into the creek!  No, those logs are too big! It is probably better in further. Take the boat hook move that timber! I am dropping the anchor!  Oh no, the current is strong we need to turn the boat around. As Dream Seeker slowly turns we hoist the anchor!  OK!  Now!, drop it again here!

There is too much current here, we need to put out a second anchor. But Denny, you only have one windless.  I am the second windlass! The second anchor is deployed and we back into the trees that are close enough to put overhanging limbs in the cockpit and broken ones all over the fly bridge.

Otter, a thirty-four foot trawler, comes doodling in next to us waving and stops in the middle of the creek. In less than five minutes, drops his anchor, turns on his grille, gets his beer and he is settled in for the night. Calls to us “I have been here before.  This is as good as it gets for anchorages on the river system.”

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tree limbs on flybridge
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winding river
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chosen anchorage
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in the trees
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branches in cockpit
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Nina and Pinta follow us
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large barge
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Otter
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south the hard way
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in another lock

Demopolis, Alabama

Demopolis, Alabama, marks the end of the Tombigbee Waterway and the beginning of the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway. The entire span is called the Tom-Tom by the locals but the Black Warrior includes 14 more locks.

Sailing down the river and hidden around a bend, the calm suddenly turns to wonder. The White Cliffs of Epes come slowly into view.  They are part of the Selma Chalk formations which were deposited at about the same time as England’s famous White Cliffs of Dover and are surprising and absolutely stunning!

In Demopolis, the wind is whistling through the gauges, the flags are straight out and I am wearing my new hat and gloves.  The sky is grey and the 20 mile an hour arctic winds are following us south. Everyone says this weather is an anomaly, it should still be very warm. Winter doesn’t usually come to Alabama until January. I guess the only explanation is climate change.

We are marooned with about ten other Looper boats waiting for the forces of nature to subside. Traversing the locks requires two people on deck to control the boat and no one wants to be outside in this inclement weather.

The marinas party room is upstairs and outside but warmed by the many bodies and good cheer. Two courtesy cars are shared and a shuttle runs twice a day. The female dock master runs the organization with an iron hand. We made the mistake of handing off the car keys to another looper without handing them first to the dock master and were properly reprimanded.

4PM.   Meeting in the laundry room! When it is really cold the ample laundry room serves as a closed party room.  The agenda, “Who wants to leave in the morning?”. It is easier on the Lock masters for us to travel in caravan.  Ok two groups the first leaving at five AM, the second at 7AM. Thank God we are in the second group, this is supposed to be fun.

The wind should die down by morning and the sun promises to be shining, Let’s go!

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Bruce looking for attention
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Laundry room meeting
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Chalk Cliffs
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Party room
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Chalk Cliffs
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Epes. White Cliffs
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easier steps on river
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White chalk cliffs
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White Cliffs
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Epes

 

Columbus, Mississippi

The sun was shining and soft breezes blowing as we glided easily into our covered slip with room to spare. Welcome  to Columbus! I’m Jimmy the dock master! Throw me a line!

Docktails at 5 tonight!  About nine looper boats were docked with us at Columbus Marina. An opportunity to renew some friendships and make some new ones.

Two courtesy cars were available for our use in two hour increments, one van and one truck. Denny immediately signed up for the truck and we went in search of bolts, having gone through our last supply quickly. The propeller shaft with its keyless compression cup is still  spewing out broken bolts at a rapid pace. 

Columbus is one of the largest cities in Mississippi, but according to “Maps”, the nearest hardware store is 23 miles away. God’s Grace joined us on what became our journey to nowhere in search of hardware. Lots of talking and revelry caused us to miss a turn here and there and 50 miles later the hardware store was in sight. Unfortunately, the store had no bolts but we left fifty dollars poorer because there is always something you need in a hardware store.  It was only 23 miles back to Dream Seeker.

We cannot seem to get south fast enough to stay with the good weather. The following day turned rapidly from 70 to 35 degrees, windy and dreary. This time we took the van and shopped for hats and gloves. A big front is coming down east of the Rocky Mountains and we are experiencing the result of it. 

Denny says, this weather pattern is similar to Texas, where his Uncle Bob used to say, “there is nothing between West Texas and the North Pole but a barbed wire fence.”

We are leaving our good friends on God’s Grace in Columbus. It has been fun traveling with them but they are taking a hiatus from Looping and flying to Polynesia. We wish them Godspeed.

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Bumper to bumper traffic
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Denny Ken Celeste
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Ken Arden Celeste
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Crane Barge Tow
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Stennis Lock
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difficult to get around
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Ken Me Celeste

 The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway

At the convergence of three states, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi is the beginning of the Tenn-Tom waterway, constructed by the US Army Corps of engineers. Originally proposed by a French explorer in 1792, the project, to connect the Tennessee River to the Tombigbee River was finally authorized by congress in 1946. 

After a big harangue over whether the project was worth the cost and how much the project would stomp on mother nature, the waterway opened in 1985. The total cost was two billion dollars. 

Miscellaneous fact: more dirt was moved to build the Tenn-Tom than was moved to build the Panama Canal. The waterway runs from the Pickwick Dam in Tennessee to Demopolis, Alabama. It is 234 miles long, 300 feet wide, has a minimum depth of nine feet and includes a series of ten locks.

Trees are usually removed before flooding lakes but weren’t entirely on this waterway. Drowned trees are rising out of the deep and causing  a hazard to navigation. Baffles are used all along the sides of the waterway to control the flow of water and prevent erosion from the tributaries.

We are traveling through four of the ten locks today like an oiled machine, quickly and efficiently. Now we can cruise between the Gulf Coast and the Midwest and not have to face the wrath of the Mississippi River, which is amazing considering I didn’t even know this waterway existed two years ago.

The compass is pointing due south, the sun is out and the afternoon temperature is in the sixties. This man made incredible waterway is taking me home.

Things are looking up.

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Resurrected trees
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still colorful
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John Rankin Lock
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Baffle
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Whitten Lock
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Drowned trees
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Compass heading due South

 

Iuka, Mississippi

Are you familiar with the idiom “out in the middle of nowhere”??;  Well I just found where that is. 

Aqua Yacht Harbor in Iuka Mississippi, pronounced, i-you-Ka, is surrounded by woods and according to the book, lots of wildlife.  We traveled for many miles along windy hilly roads with the courtesy car but never saw any wildlife;  probably because it was Sunday. But we did find a Baptist Church and a closed liquor store.

A stop in Joe Wheeler State Park in Alabama proved to be another “nowhere”, an appealing park but no courtesy car, no Uber, no Lyft, no rental car; but they did have the Nina and Pinta replicas.

The Wilson Dam is one of the most significant structures on the Tennessee River. The dam is 137 feet high and 4,541 feet long. The dam was completed in 1925 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966. It was a long way down.

The lock masters an all these river locks have been extremely helpful in expediting our progress up or down the river system. The lock master on the Joe Wheeler Dam told us that the river was very busy that day and there could be a four hour wait to get through the Wilson lock. 

The tows and barges were lining up and The American Princess Paddle boat out of Memphis was coming through,  but if we hurry and could get to the lock by 1PM they would lock us through before the traffic.  Denny  was motivated. He pushed his engines to the limit, from 8 to 9 knots and watched our ETA to the dam slowly decrease. We made it!

Pulled in early to Florence Harbor Marina in Alabama. A house boat convention took up the courtesy car time for the day so the Looper Harbor Host lent us his car to get to the obligatory grocery and hardware stores; southern hospitality or just downright thoughtfulness?

Docktails with three other Looper boats, although it was cold it was fun.

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Top of the Lock
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gate comes up to start
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We are going down
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And down
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not the bottom yet
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Courtesy truck
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Me
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American Queen Paddle
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American Queen
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Paul at Aqua Harbor
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Russ in Florence
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Courtesy van
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monitoring the lock down
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Aqua Yacht Harbor

Frost

Frost is on the sidewalks and no one is walking anywhere. We are in Decatur Alabama and freezing.

It is so easy to forget, in this climate, that Florida is the Sunshine State. So aptly named. My friends tell me it is still hot and humid there, where I long to be. My current world is freezing, literally 32 degrees this morning.

For the past two days the winds were so high we had to spend two nights and one full day tied up to the town wall with the generator blasting and 20 mile an hour winds forcing their way through Dream Seeker’s hull. The drapes in the salon were waving, the driving rain caused seepage through secret apertures and there was pooling condensation on the pilot house windows.

This must be what it is like to be in prison. Many of my options  for living are taken away. It is too cold to go outside. It is too windy to move the boat.

We watched many small fishing boats trying to brave the wind and partake in their local fishing tournament but everyone of them was forced back by the sea. The wind is blowing us onto the dock. The fenders are crushed against the dock doing what they are designed to do. There are white caps on the river.

But then I realize:

I can still read! I can still knit! I can still play games!; and sometimes even with Denny.

I can write my blog! I have four bars and a hotspot on my phone, I can still communicate with the outside world. I can shop! We are securely tied to a floating dock. We are safe!

It is morning again. The winds are quieter! I am trying to hurry Denny (an impossible task). Finish your breakfast we need to leave here!

The sun is shining and we are off and running south.

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We are the blue dot Decatur
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railroad bridge up
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Railroad bridge down
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US
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Chilly

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