Monday, August 20, 2012
Upper Tenn-Tom Waterway
The sun is just starting to make an appearance over the low tree line on what is promising to be another beautiful day. Our anchorage is 50 miles south of where we anchored in Bay Springs Lake on Saturday night. If you are heading north, our anchorage is the last one on the Tombigbee River before it turns into mostly canal, but more on our transit later.
On Sunday morning I installed our new Garmin GPSMap 640. It's in the picture slightly tilted above our older GPS unit. I had to cover the hole for the old chart plotter even if we bought a flush mount kit for the Garmin and it costs $150, so we saved the money and installed it as a surface mount where the old unit was placed. The black Lexan trim matches the trim around our stereo remote. It's in the picture on the far right. The radar cover on the lower right is going to get a makeover to allow us to hold a book, or guide, on it to be used while underway.
We were at the first lock on the Tenn-Tom by 9 A.M. Sunday morning, and after about a 15 minute wait, an upbound tow exited the lock and we went in. The Bay Springs lock is fairly large, but the rest of the locks as went went south were small in comparison.
The next lock is the Montgomery Lock, a much smaller outfit. One thing about the locks on the Tenn-Tom, there are lots of them and they communicate with each other. They all work on different channels, so instead of trying to remember them, just hail them on 16 and they will tell you what channel to go to. We got really lucky on Sunday; every lock was ready for us when we arrived, no waiting, and they were very polite. There was also usually only one car at each lock, so the lockmasters seemed to be anxious to be doing something.
"The Ditch" is not a fair name for the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. It first opened in 1985 and perhaps then the name may have been apt, but now plenty of vegetation has grown and its quite scenic.
There are homes behind those trees, and the water is very shallow. Be careful if you want to buy "waterfront" property in these parts. We have seen whole bays filled with nothing but stumps and homes sat on the shore. I don't know how they get in and out.
We had no agenda for our travel on Sunday, but we wound up traveling 50 miles in 9 hours, but that included locking through 6 times, a record for us. Once we got on a roll, and the lock masters were waiting for us at each lock, it seemed a waste to not take advantage of it.
Getting late in the afternoon and we were on the section of the river that would best be described as still being "canal", but the shore here was lined with pine trees and the cool air and the pine scent as we cruised down the river was a joy.
The guide we got from the fellow boater at Aqua Yacht advertised an anchorage at mile 366, which was a section of the old Tombigbee River. From what we eventually found out, the upper regions of the Tombigbee were straightened out to make the canal, and many of the oxbows have been taken back by nature, but some parts of the original river remain, and we set our course for one of these.
As we neared the entrance to the old river, we came upon two guys in a bass boat, obviously trying to start it. The motor was raised to the trailer position, and a person at the helm was cranking the ignition. The motor would occasionally bark back and sputter, but not start. I asked them if they needed to be towed somewhere, but they declined the offer. We then asked them how to approach the entrance of our intention, as the guide we have was not too clear on it.
There were two pontoon boats full of afternoon revelers on a sandbar at the entrance to the anchorage we were pulling into and we still had 24 feet on our depth gauge and were heading for the spot in the river where the guide said to plunk the anchor, when nearly everyone on both pontoon boats started waving their arms in the international signal of "don't go there". Guide or no guide, when the locals get that animated about whatever it is I'm about to do, I quickly become a firm believer in whatever it is that they are currently believing in.
I yelled over if I should not go any further up the river and they were all in agreement, so we dropped the anchor nearly right across from them and we didn't even stop drifting when one of them invited us down to his house "down the river in Aberdeen", to continue the great party they were having. I was about to ask if we should bring our own duct tape and chloroform, but instead just admitted to having a long day and we were going to just take it easy. We were asked if we "knew where we were" and I answered that, yes, we knew where we were. I wanted to add that we also knew what time it was, but figured it wouldn't wash too well under the circumstances.
Once our "company" left, we had a quiet evening. By the way, one of the pontoon boats had to tow the disabled bass boat down the river. Maybe they should have tried to start it in the lowered position, but what do I know? There was no T.V. reception, so we played a game of Scrabble and turned in early. The picture at the beginning of the blog is what we woke up to and we were ready to get on our way.
As I pulled out into the waterway channel, a barge was making way downstream. I called them and politely apologized for ducking out into the channel ahead of them and asked it I should wait for them to lock through before we did. The captain said that we would be there long before them and we should get on ahead.
After mile 336 going down, there are plenty of anchorages, but we found out that what is advertised in the guide we are using is out of date, to put it mildly. It was written in 1995. We transited four locks today, still doing 50 miles, and we intended to stop earlier, but the anchorage we found in the guide was all but dried up. We traveled another 20 miles and pulled into a better spot, but it must be said that the guide promised 18 feet of water in the slough we are in, but when we weren't even 1/4 of the way up in it, I called it quits when we got down to four feet. If some of our river friends back on the Alton Pool think about how just our section of the river has changed up there in the last ten years, consider that the information in this guide is 17 years old.
Before I end this blog entry, I have to share the only picture I wound up taking this afternoon. We have it on good authority that Superman owns this particular cabin along the banks of the Tombigbee. We understand he is shy about changing into his swimming trunks.
We are on a good hook in some very quiet water. I think we will stay here for a day and recharge our batteries, the last two days have been enjoyable, but tiring. Tomorrow we'll clean Swing Set up some and I'll modify the cover on the radar monitor to hold one of our books we are using.
I know we are miles from any civilization around here. We don't have any T.V. reception, but we have Internet. Last night we were just upstream from a somewhat large town and there was little Internet service. I'm glad to be getting this post in and hope you enjoy it. But honestly, this waterway has to be seen to be appreciated, don't let descriptions of it being boring sway you into avoiding it.
Now I'm going for a late bath and Rosie is going to hold alligator watch for me, whether there's alligators here or not.