Nov 302021
 

We had a drivers meeting the night before we leave. Looks like 6 Looper boats are planning the departure in the wee morning hours to get through the Demopolis Lock together. The plan is to decide which side fenders go on for which boats, who is faster and should go into the lock first, and the designated time of 6:30 AM. The news of any alerts is also communicated.

This is a long day of 100 miles. We will go approximately 10 knts or more, even getting up to our comfortable 20 knts to get in during the daylight. There are no real anchorages for this size of boat. Smaller boats pull over just out of the channel but for us our depth and length make this not a safe option for if, and when, a tow and barges come through. Perhaps even a wind change would put us to shallow. So we must head to Bobby’s where we will our friends with the larger vessels. A long windy river with many, many hairpins. Scott calculated “the as the crow flies” mileage and it is 43 miles but by boat it is 100. There are lots of bald eagles flying overhead. I keep trying to get a close up but they are not taking my photo ops seriously.

It seems that there are more barges today. That would be number 5 and it is only 10:30. Water levels are finally at the levels as shown on our electronic charts. The current is running between 1 and 2 knots so we are getting a good push to help our long day seem shorter. The temperature changes swing here. Last night it was 0C or 32F. Today a high of almost 70F or over 20C. The swings in temperature are normal for this time of the year but rarely do they get snow and rarely does it stay at freezing for the day. They will shut off marina water for a couple weeks in January if needed.

Nov 292021
 

Waiting on the haulout for the Thanksgiving Holiday has been trying.  We wanted to get a haulout on Friday, yes Black Friday, but the marina gave their fellas an extra day off.  It has been extremely busy this fall with us Loopers coming in significantly more than past years.  So many so that not only was the marina completely booked but the bay was full of anchored vessels as well.  The fellas have been working non stop.  So we wait until Monday.

In the time we have til Monday Scott changes filters, gen oil, and gets ready for haulout.  When we haul out we will change out our fresh water mag anodes for zincs.  While she is in the sling Scott will change out the pod gear oil which is due.  She has been in the water since late April so she will get her booty scrubbed with the power washer to get off some of the grime before we head to the salt.  The job went so well that we were ready an hour before the fellas were so we had a quick lunch waiting to return to the water.  Then fuel up, pump out and get some water for the remaining river journey south to Mobile, AL. 

Satisfied Frog caught up to us as well.  We also met some folks going from a sailboat to a 46 Searay Sundancer called Highlander III.  Wine & Roses a 36 ft Catalina sailboat also are looping.  Corkscrew is waiting on some parts for a hydraulic hose and with us.  We also met some other Canadians aboard their new to them boat called My Girl.  They are from Vancouver, BC and will be continuing their loop later this week.  We are on the tail end of this journey.  I can’t imagine being on these rivers with the  mass that was here a few weeks ago, literally up til last week.  There were over 20 Looper boats here before we landed and it has been like that for weeks.

Kingfischer Marina is a well kept, clean facility.  There is a courtesy car, a Walmart nearby, full service yard with a large lift, laundry, showers and restrooms, and great owners.  The entrance is narrow but opens up into a fully protected bay.

Nov 252021
 

Boring but beautiful as we cruise south. There isn’t much change in the scenery. Every once in awhile a “home”, some damage from the floods or the wildlife shows up. A deer crossing the frigid waters (55F) in the morning sun to reach the other side. All we see is a cute nose and some antler buds sticking out of the water as it knowinly crosses our path. We always slow the speed for the critters. However, sometimes there are just some things that make you go “Huh?” Take the floating refrigerator. The person was cautious enough to remove the doors. That was nice of them. Then there are the places that is home for some while it is falling off the sand rocky bluff. Folks still living inside. The most picturesque beauty on this portion are the White Chalk Bluffs of Epes.

These white cliffs are located on the Tombigbee River at Epes, AL. They are part of the Selma Chalk formations which were deposited at about the same time as England’s famous White Cliffs of Dover. On the state’s western edge, an alabaster memento of central Alabama’s former underwater life rises 50 feet above the Tombigbee River. The White Cliffs of Epes, formed around the same time as their famous Dover cousins, are made up of microscopic algae shells that drifted to the seafloor around 80 million years ago to become a massive chalk formation that spans three states. To give you an idea of the size of these shells, a sugar-cube-sized piece of the chalk contains between 4 and 10 billion shells. The striking, 2-mile stretch in Epes offers visitors gorgeous photo ops and a scenic backdrop for boating. Find the best viewpoint on the bluff side of the Highway 11 bridge or push up your small boat to one of the river’s many popular sandbars along the opposite bank. The cliffs are not open to hikers. Access to these White Bluffs of Epes is very limited to a railroad bridge or being on the waterway.

We are now getting close to Demopolis. We had planned to be at another anchorage tonight but the winds coming in are not pleasureable. Again a narrow Ox Bow, as they are called, with a stern anchor and no space for error. We make the decision to head into the marina.

Nov 242021
 

There is nothing like the Tombigbee Waterway for stunning sunrise photo opps. The river has so many twists and turns that you are guaranteed to catch the morning mist from the steaming river rising like tornadoes anxious to find the morning light. Some of our most beautiful photos are from “The Tom” both this journey as well as our last. Quiet mornings along this waterway are seamless with virtually no tows and barges and very little human interference other than the carving of this waterway itself.

We are leaving this morning with only Corkscrew. Satisfied Frog has some issues with leakage in the engine room that they noticed upon their evening checks. That being said they will be here in Columbus until a mechanic is available. This being the American Thanksgiving it may be a few days. Corkscrew runs about or speed so we will make good time to the anchorage. They plan on going through the last of the 3 locks while we will stay at an anchorage after the 2nd lock.

Twisting and turning in every direction on this river makes a few miles seem so long. I swear I could walk through the forest quicker and mee the boat on the downswing of the hairpin turn. We have noticed a lot of debris in the water. Looking at google it seems that there has been significant flooding here in June of 2021 and the last 3 years have had significant high water. A lot of water comes from the watershed to The Tom making its way to The Gulf. The leaves are mostly off the trees now but we are seeing lots of bird life and at night the cricket sounds. The days are running in the mid teens Celcius. For our standard friends thats in the 50s-60s. Nights are cold now ranging from 0-5C still (32-40F). Gotta keep pushing south which is not difficult being there is not a lot of places to see. This are a is in the middle of nowhere. Cell service is spotty as well.

On our way to Cook’s Anchorage after checking out Windham’s Bar. Windham’s is another good anchorage but with the winds we are in we keep drifting into shallow waters. We could put out the stern anchor however if a stronger wind comes in, not predicated, we would be onshore too quickly. So we abort this one and head on over to South Cook’s Bend anchorage where it is wider. With a larger boat we need some room for our booty. The larger size is a luxury and a curse however we feel very priviledged to call her home.

We do see a light at the end of the tunnel now. We are so close to the journey on the inner rivers ending within the next 10 days or so.

Nov 232021
 

We will pass into our 5th State of Mississippi today. Leaving Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Alabama behind us. Well, not Alabama actually. Mississippi and Alabama weave in and out of this waterway so we will pass back and forth between them before leaving Mississippi behind us and staying in Alabama until Florida. The Midway Marina is a family run marina who live on the property. There are lots of “liveaboards” here with their various styles of boats. Sail boats and houseboats are most common. In our opinion it is more of a scrapyard where old boats go to die. It is hard to believe that folks live on these.

The marina has a courtesy car to head to town for essentials. Gas and diesel are available and pumpouts at various stations on the docks. Not much around but a good place to run your pets. The long dock is mainly for the larger boats with covered slips available for the smaller one. No restaurant or extras available here. It is a good place to stay for the run to the next stop in Columbus, MI.

We are up early with our new friends from “Satisfied Frog”. A couple out of Englewood, FL who will complete their loop in the next few weeks. “Oceanus” does not get up early so they will not be traveling with us. Today the 2 vessels will travel through 4 more locks and cover 60 miles to Columbus Marina. No anchorages for our size girls so they too will stop at the marina.

This stretch has a bit more life but not much. We are able to see more herons and bald eagles. There is a resident heron on the last lock we pass through who watches for fish being stirred up by the lock. I was ready with the camera but he was not so lucky.

The Columbus Marina is difficult to get into. Contacting harbourmaster, Steve, is a good idea while you come into the long, narrow stretch toward the harbour. As you round into the harbour the fuel dock will be to starboard. There is a narrow channel marked by green straight markers to keep you off the shoaled area. Stay away from the port side as much as possible. This area is only 6 feet deep but opens up after the entrance to 8 feet. Dockage will be to your starboard. The restaurant has long since closed. There is a great walking path to the park of about 1.5 miles. Also a courtesy car is available and laundry.

We meet up with another Looper heading south “Corkskrew”. They will be traveling with Satisfied Frog and us in the morning as we travel to Demopolis, AL.

Nov 222021
 

The stretch from this point forward has little anchorages for us larger vessels. We will have to find what we can and drop the hook or stay in some interesting marinas with shallow depths.

The Tennessee–Tombigbee Waterway links commercial navigation from the nation’s midsection to the Gulf of Mexico. The waterway boast 10 locks and dams, 17 public ports and terminals, a 175-foot (53 m) deep cut between the Tombigbee River watershed and the Tennessee River watershed, and 234 miles of navigable channel. Over 88,000 acres of land were reserved for public recreational use and wildlife habitat. Construction was completed in twelve years by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and opened on December 1984.

The Tennessee–Tombigbee Waterway, often called the Tenn-Tom, is a 234-mile man-made waterway that extends from the Tennessee River to the Tombigbee River connecting major inland ports from Paducah, Kentucky to Knoxville, Tennessee and ultimately connects to the Black Warrior River to Mobile, AL on the Gulf of Mexico.

Earlier work of the Tennessee Valley Authority in improving navigation along the Tennessee River was instrumental in driving down the cost of the original project estimates. The outcome has been a system of navigation that serves multiple states and opens economic opportunities to rural river communities. The Carter Administration selected the Tennessee-Tombigbee as a national demonstration program of how large public works projects can favorably impact rural America.

The channel or canal as it is can be boring. As the canal weaves its way the scenery rarely changes. There seems to be no civilization along the banks and the barge traffic is minimal. We have been seeing some other Loopers and have met us with the vessel Oceanus. A much slower vessel than us however the lockmasters will not put us through with them on our tail. So we slow down to travel with them making our day an hour longer. We need a break in the mileage between locks to get ahead of them. We will do 3 locks today.

Nov 212021
 

We are heading out from Florence and will be trying out the new battery system on anchor for the first time. After several checks we head south on the Tennessee River toward the Tombigbee River. The Tombigbee River was first considered by American settlers as a shortcut. Residents of Knox County, Tennessee first approached Congress in 1810 with a proposal to connect the two rivers, the Tombigbee and the Tennessee Rivers. The first survey was made by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1827. Serious consideration was delayed for more than 100 years because of the expansion of railroads. Construction of the Tenn-Tom Waterway was started in 1972 and completed in 1985. The waterway provides shallow draft boats and barges operating in some 16,000 miles of other navigable inland waterways with access to the Gulf of Mexico at Mobile, Alabama 412 river miles to the south of the Bay Springs Lock and Dam. The junction of the waterway at the Tennessee River is 47 miles north of lock and dam. The lock on the waterway is standard dimension, 110 feet wide and 600 feet long.

The Tennessee-Tombigee Waterway has three main parts – the largest section from Demopolis, Alabama north to Amory, Mississippi utilizes the Tombigbee River, howver it changes and shortens the existing channel with dams, locks and shortcuts. From Amory, a canal section using a chain of lakes construction extends to the Bay Springs Lock and Dam. The final section cuts deeply through high ground to the Tennessee River. Its total length is 234 miles with the river section being 149 miles, canal section 46 miles and divide cut section being 39 miles. The standard width is 300 feet. There are areas along this that you cannot stop for a marina or anchorage so planning your distances is important. Those areas are not more than 25 miles but getting caught in the dark would not be pleasant.

We will be stopping near the north side of the Tombigbee River at an anchorage south of Goat Island. We have heard rumours of there being wild goats that live here. Rain is in the forecast so we will be getting there early to have the time to see if indeed this is true.

We notice that the winter pool water level has made the waterline more prevalent. The colours of the leaves are mainly brown now with the evergreens taking over. The nights have been dropping to under 10C or mid 40sF, more rain and wind has also been the nemesis for keeping the leaves hanging on a little longer. The winds are out of the south for the day today however shifting to north, so we will anchor on the south of the island with a calm night for sleep. It’s choppy but we set the anchor with a good hold. The goats are already on the shore grazzing. I cut up some yellow and red peppers and an apple with a very ripe banana as well. We drop “Otter” and head to shore tying a rope to a tree. As we were in the process of getting the tender secured the goats start running along the beach to greet us. A steer, 2 mamas, 1 adolescent and 2 little ones. They are in good form so they must be getting fed with hay too. We try to offer them the veggies and they won’t take them. Poppa goat decides there is nothing to see here and leads the families away only to come back on his own and take what we have to offer. The banana was the biggest hit. Soon the dominant female and her adolescent are in on the frenzy. Poppa goat did not like Scott going up to his women and literally horned him in the leg then stood on his hind quarters. Scott backed away and the guy charged him. Scott made a swift jump to the left and it confused Poppa Goat. At this point all but the little ones were all over us. Poppa is getting snarly with his family so we are chucking the food pieces away from us while I jump in “Otter” and Scott unties the rope on the tree, pushes us out in the water while I keep throwing the food away from us. It was fun until Poppa got narly. If you come to this island to feed the goats, stay in the tender, do not let any of your kids out, and throw the food to the goats. The guy with the horns rules and he is always there in front of his women.

The rain rolls in so we download some movies and veg a bit before we get into our sundowners, but more like drizzle drinks with this rain.

Nov 202021
 

Arriving in Florence knowing batteries will be installed tomorrow is exciting. Even though it wasn’t expected we were talking about replacing them in the next couple years. Instead of the lithium we now have 8 new AGM’s that can be installed fairly easily. As lithium hopefully becomes less expensive in the future these will get us by for the next few years.

Scott gets to work as soon as he can but we must wait a day until the rain ends. Our engine hatch is not fully covered, it’s cold out and raining. So today we clean the boat inside. Top to bottom literally washing ceilings and floors, seat cushions and vacuuming. Not exciting at all but it needed a good tidy. Scott ordered some parts to be sent to our next major marina where we will lift her and have her booty power washed, anodes changed from magnesium to zinc in prep for the months in the salt water coming up. He will also be changing the pod gear oil so that has been ordered.

This marina is a major fishing spot. A tournament is underway and the lights from the waiting bass boats on the weekend mornings is a sight to see. These fellas are putting in boats literally all day and the end of the day it is a constant trailer battle at the ramp. A bunch of fishers just fish off the docks.

We have met some nice boaters here at the marina. Some are Loopers and some are locals. It is the main stop for those heading up to Chattanooga and Knoxville or those coming back. Very few miss this marina after a day of crusing and locks.

Nov 172021
 

Spending time in Chattanooga was worth the trip. We could have continued into Knoxville, TN for another 200 miles but that would have required at least another 7-10 days. We don’t have the time as we have to retrace our last 200 miles back to Florence, AL before heading south towards Mobile, AL.

Due to our house batteries unable to charge anymore Scott spent some time finding 8 new AGM batteries to replace the lead acid ones that have prematurely died. He has disconnected the 2nd battery charger to allow the charger to not overcharge. That being said, after 3 years of overcharging the lead acid will no longer hold a charge. We must stay in marinas heading back to Florence. Our favourite part has been the nights at anchor but there are more to come. He has ordered 8 new ones from a reference from Florence Harbor Marina. They will have them by Friday and this is Monday. We were going to stay in Florence anyway so this will give Scott time to remove the old ones and replace.

We stayed at a free dock at Shellmound Campground located along the river and a park. A good spot for a hike and dog walk. The one T dock is about 45 feet and the smaller one is approx. 35 feet. No services. The depth at winter pool was over 12 feet. This is where we found out that the batteries would hold a charge. Sure we could keep the generator on to keep the charge but with no back up Scott does not like the situation. So marinas it is until the new batteries are installed.

Then it was off to Guntersville Marina. A sweet marina with courtesy car if needed. You cn hop in your tender for groceries. We dropped the tender, “Otter”, and headed across the small bay under a couple bridges of at least 8 feet height and popped over to Publix. A fabulous dock was available to tie with a cement path leading to the grocery store. This is the best tender dock we have ever encountered. We picked up some provisions, jumped back in Otter and headed back to the boat. I truly think this is quicker than taking the courtesy car, lugging all your wares down the docks to the boat.

We left fairly early this morning trying to get a bit of a jump on the day. It will be 76 degrees and we thought it would be nice to enjoy a walkabout once we do get to the marina. Heading along the river we thought we hit a fairly large log. There was a thud and the boat shook. Scott did a check on the engines and pods and checked for hull leaks. Seeing no damage we continued making our way. Then another larger thud. By this point we were wondering where these deadheads were. Nothing came out after we crossed over the area. Usually you will see something as the deadhead gets moved around before just sinking enough that you can’t see it again. I opened the main rear doors and there was a percussive explosion that hurt our bodies and left our head’s ringing. We thought something on the boat exploded. Then I saw smoke. Smoke billowing above the trees not far from the river. We realized it was an explosion. A big explosion on land. At this point even though we knew where the sound had come from it scared us both. We just wanted out of there. Then another blast. Neither of us have ever heard exposions like this before. Another blast of mushroom smoke. At this point the boat had shaken again with an immense thrust. I am not exaggerating. The blasts were so intense. Scott got us the hell out of there. I looked up explosive operations in the area on google to find that the ATF/HME – IED testing courses were held here for military, police and fire. Something should be posted for this area but there is no indication that this could happen. I have posted it in Waterway Guide for future boaters.

Continuing south we also stop back in Decatur but at a marina. The Riverwalk Marina is an older marina but very keen on helping out. Gas only and the office is fairly far away from the transient dock. The only thing available here is the local restaurant unless you wish to cross the very busy and long bridge to the city. I would recommend the free dock just south of this marina because of its better options to the city. The winter pool brings the water level down to 10 feet on entry to the marina, 5 feet within the marina and 4 feet directly at the dock. We keep our touche out in the 5 feet as we draft just over 4 feet. We are low on fuel, which will get us where we need to go, and 1 empty water tank so we are closer to 4 feet draft about 5 inches less than with full tanks.

Our last day of the trip back to Florence was originally to be a stop at a State Park. Scott suggested to contact the Wilson Lock as it has strict hours due to the collapse of a floating barge dock. To our surprise the lock has a tow that went through and then there will be divers looking at some maintenance. After the clearance from the divers there is no traffic whatsoever. We seize the opportunity to get through right to Florence today and bypass the State Park. It will gain us the rest of today and tomorrow and we got the call that the batteries are in and ready for pick up.

We barely waited at the Wheeler and Wilson Lock and landed in Florence Harbor at around 2:30. Again with the laundry. Scott researches more, pays some bills. It feels great to be back after heading out 2 weeks ago. Tomorrow will be a work day with taking out 8 heavy batteries and installing 8 new ones. Walmart run is also in our near future.

Nickajack Free dock

Guntersville Marina

Decatur Marina

Florence Marina