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We bid good bye to Columbus early Monday morning. We were ready to get back on the river! Our float plan was pretty aggressive. We decided instead of doing an anchorage we were going to try to make it all the way from Columbus, AL to Demopolis, AL. 3 locks and 119 miles. This was going to be the longest travel day we’ve had so far. We had a plan b with a couple anchorages in case we changed our mind or the locks weren’t cooperating.
Travel days are early mornings and long days typically rising by 5:30am, calling the lock by 6:30 and if your lucky, locking thru by 7:30. That routine is if you're near the next lock and the lock gives you the green. If your next lock is a distance away you take off when the fog clears…. or sometimes not 😉. So Monday, right after we requested a southbound lockage for three looper boats (all in the marina just around the lock wall), a tug captain came on the VHF and requested lockage. The lockmaster told us then that we had to wait at least an hour for lockage. It was foggy and we were still wiping down isen glass 15 minutes later when the lockmaster came back on the radio and said “you south bound rec boats over in the marina, I’ll take you down”. YES! Our day got off to a great start!
However, our luck didn’t carry thru to the second lock. We had to wait for a tow for about an hour and a half, so we caught up on email and had a little breakfast. The third lock was about 40 miles away, so we got up on plane and got there in a couple hours and the lock was open. We locked thru and traveled the remaining 50 miles to Demopolis and Kingfisher Bay Marina. We fueled up right away, found our slip, had a bite to eat and hit the hay.
Traveling on plane requires both of us to be at attention constantly. I have the binoculars out (because I can’t see a thing) and I’m constantly scanning for fisherman. Our wake would really rock a fishing boat, if not swamp it and neither of us are interested in getting chased down by a pissed off banjo playing hillbilly fisherman!
Then you have the barges. On the Tenn-Tom and the Tombigbee there seems to be a barge around every turn and there are A LOT of turns. When you look at the waterway on a map, its as curvy as an intestinal tract! On the chartplotter, you’ll see an AIS symbol for a vessel in front of you and the curves are so crazy that it looks like it’s behind you, but it’s actually two curves ahead!
Then there are the Barge Captains. It takes both of us to listen to their directions for overtaking them or passing them. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve asked them to repeat themselves. First off they speak in a southern drawl (I call it hillbilly) that is indecipherable to these two Midwesterners, but it’s not totally their fault. Tom’s ears aren’t so good either so it’s a real challenge. So between my poor eye sight and Tom’s poor hearing we’ve been dubbed by Sam and Griff as Helen Keller. Kinda hard to believe we made it this far down the river.
Tuesday morning's walk in Demopolis was a warm one. I found ANOTHER cotton field. I think they are so interesting. Either that or I’m pretty boring. We also realized how many Looper boats were in the marina ready to head farther South. After beer and pizza Tuesday evening with Southern Style, we decided to head out Wednesday morning instead of Friday morning. We invited ourselves to join them on the junket to Bobby’s Fish Camp in Silas, Alabama. The last stop for fuel before Mobile Bay and a notorious Looper stop.
It was 97 miles. The first 20 were spent in the fog, but for most of the ride down we got up on plane with hopes of making Bobby’s before dark. As we got closer to Bobby’s we realized that there were a lot of other boats that were planning on staying at Bobby’s as well. Let’s just say the space is limited (about 150 ft of dock right off the channel) and it’s first come first served. Southern Style couldn’t get on the dock without a shift in the boats that were already tied up and in some cases fendered three deep. So needless to say they didn’t stay at Bobby’s. We were small enough to fender to a boat that was already fendered to another boat on the dock. We stayed but regretted their absence.
It was great talking with Mike. This is his second big kayak trip. He did the Mississippi from MN to New Orleans a few years ago. He typically does about 20 miles a day, camps at night, sleeps in a hammock, walks to the nearest town when he need groceries and is loving his time on the river. He is an inspiration to us!
Bobby’s was an experience. They have a restaurant that serves fried catfish on Thur – Sat nights but opened up since they had a dock full of boats on Wed night. Everything on the menu was fried, but it was fun trying the local fare. Tom and I got a kick out of the owner. He had just gotten back from hunting in North Dakota and had driven thru MN. He thought MN was beautiful. He definitely was a hunter. He drove around the camp with his dog and gun right beside him on the golf cart. It felt like we were in an episode of Duck Dynasty!
We stayed two nights because of weather. Had to walk over two other boats bows to get to the dock and I slept thru a tornado warning Thursday morning. Tom thought that was probably a good thing. We met a couple other new looper boats and at the crack of dawn on Friday left Bobby’s for the last lock on the Tombigbee and an anchorage north of Mobile Bay.
I’m writing this post as we traveled today (Friday) and we decided on Big Bayou Canot as our anchorage. It’s at MM 16 on the Mobile River. This will be our first anchorage since Little Division on the Mississippi, except now we are in gator country. Let’s just say that I’m NOT gonna spend any time on the swim platform.
Tom & Sue Slightam
Read along as we circumnavigate the eastern half of the United States and southern Canada on the Great Loop on our boat BELLA, a Cruiser 460 Express.