Saturday, November 5, 2011

Our Ups And Downs Are Behind Us

We had a great visit with Mary & Tony in Demopolis. They drove over 2 hours just to come see us. And they came bearing gifts, a dozen eggs fresh from their own chickens! Chris made me a tasty omelet while underway the next morning. YUM! Thank you Tony & Mary. Speaking of Demopolis, the tow boats stop there to fuel up. I managed to get a tour of one. Twin 1800 hp diesel/electric motors! Nice to see the insides of what we've been passing often for 2 months. Very impressive piece of machinery.
We shoved off early Friday morning, headed for 'Bashi Creek', allegedly a decent anchorage. The first of our pack of 5 boats went into the creek, barely. There was less than 4' of water and several logs. He did manage to anchor inside but the rest of us had to anchor in the river. The river that gets tow traffic with massive barges, any time day or night. This was a fairly wide section of the river and the tows use the one side only so we were fine. One passed around midnight, commenting on the large pack of boats on his radio. The second came by in the pre-dawn fog. Thick fog! I can't believe they can run massive barges up this very narrow, winding river at night in fog.
This Saturday morning the fog took an extra long time to lift. We didn't get underway until 9AM. And we're off to find another sketchy anchorage. This one is even worse, there is no wide spot out of the sailing line. I crept in to a small inlet till I found 6' and dropped the anchor, then backed out and dropped a second anchor out in the main river. I ran the stern anchor down the side and tied it to the bow so we can pivot in the wind if necessary. The mouth of the inlet is wide enough to allow me to swing. Not very good, but there is no wind so we should be fine. I think! This is reported to be the last of the poor anchorages...we hope so!

This WAS the last day of locks! No more ups & downs for S/V Freedom. We did 12 on the Tenn-Tom & 24 in all from Chicago on down. For the most part, they were very easy, especially the locks on the Tenn-Tom that all have floating bollards. I drive the boat up abreast of the bollard, Chris tosses a line around the pin and we tie the line off. Piece of cake. A few times we had to wait for tows/barges to use the lock but most of the time when we radioed ahead to the lockmaster, he'd have it waiting for us on our arrival. All in all, a very interesting experience.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Moments Like This

We're anchored in an off channel below the Heflin Lock. I like to keep the VHF radio on to monitor activity around us. The night lockmaster comes on the radio. In a fantastic Alabama drawl, she gives colorful instructions to a downbound tow entering her lock. That alone was priceless. I went up on deck to watch the action. In a black night with clear sky I can see the first wisps of fog rolling in as the massive barges emerge from the lock. They are pushed by one hell of a piece of machinery with 2 piercing spotlights shooting laser beams of light down the river. I just happened to look up to the million stars above when the biggest shooting star I've ever seen goes streaming across the sky. It was brightly illuminated for at least 6 or 8 seconds. I'm sure my wish will come true!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Living On The Edge!

We had a nice day of river cruising after departing Midway Marina. But we don't travel at night so we needed to find a place to drop the hook. Several guide books recommended a few coves above the Aberdeen lock & dam. When we tried to get into these coves, we ran aground. Now what? Called the lockmaster and he suggested anchoring above the spillway. Really? Above the spillway that the river flows to and drops about 30'? That spillway? Well, there was 10' of water there and it was a calm night and we were out of options. So that's where we anchored last night, on the edge of the spillway! I had dreams of our little "barrel" going over Niagara Falls!

We're living on another edge today, sort of. We're on the edge of the Alabama / Mississippi border. And we found a very peaceful anchorage on the edge of a deep side channel. Fired up the BBQ for some good grillin' while enjoying a fine sunset under a clear blue sky.

There was no fog this morning so we were able to get underway 2 hours sooner than usual, plus we timed 2 locks perfectly, avoiding delays of waiting on tugs. These variables of weather, locks and anchorages make scheduling just about impossible. Which is why 'we have no schedule and we're sticking to it'.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hot Tub Halloween

We left Grand Harbor on Friday morning. Nice place. We're now off the Tennessee River and in the Tombigbee Waterway. This canal was cut in the 70's, connecting the Tennessee & the Black Warrior Rivers, it was a bigger project than the Panama canal. We anchored out Friday night above the Whitten lock & dam. The temps dropped into the 30's but we stayed very warm by baking spaghetti squash in the oven. Toasty warm. We re-warmed up the boat by baking muffins in the morning. We did much better at staying warm than I expected.

Weather like this generates fog, a LOT of fog. Luckily it lifts fairly fast once the sun comes up. We got underway to the Whitten lock around 9am. This lock down is an 87' drop, the largest lock we'll travel. It's BIG! We shared the lock with 4 other boats, the largest pack to date. There are a string of locks along the Tombigbee and they like to coordinate lockings. So we 5 all traveled together to 2 more locks. Freedom was the slowest boat in the group but we didn't really hold up the pack by more than about 10 minutes.
We dropped out of the pack to stop at Midway Marina, they all pushed on further. We're glad we did. Stopping earlier in the day gives us some time off the boat, always nice to get out and stretch the legs. Midway was hosting a Saturday night Halloween party for their seasonals & us transients. So we got some free food, some time to hang out with the locals, a great costume display and some live music. Plus we met up with a new pack of boaters that came in after us. We'll all form up in the morning to lock down several more locks on Sunday. We topped off the evening with a dip in the marina hot tub, under a crisp starry night. WOW, that was the hottest hot tub I've ever soaked in!

Of course, it is another foggy morning. I'm getting some computer work done while we have good internet. Fog will lift soon enough.