Wednesday, October 31, 2012

On to the Black Warrior

Days on cruise:  221
Distance traveled:  90.1 miles
Travel time:  9 hrs, 20 mins
Total trip odometer:  4,910 statute miles
Tuesday’s distance is in the “top 5” for this Loop, and it was not our plan for the day. But the wind was high all afternoon and we decided anchoring wasn’t what we wanted to do in that kind of weather.
At 7:15 a.m. we called the nearby lock to check on its’ status, and they informed us the tow Chippewa was pushing his barge load into the lock “right now”, and if we’d hurry up we could lock through with him.
Cathryn was still in pajamas, Bob was dressed, and we hadn’t had breakfast, but we raced into action, and 15 minutes later were tied up to Chippewa, the same tow with whom we locked through the day before! It perhaps says something about our experience level that we could do this “fire drill” without making any mistakes.
This time Chippewa had barge loads that spanned the full width of the lock, for the full length, so we had to tie directly to his tow boat at the back, which made us nervous as we’ve heard disaster stories about boats that got banged around by a tow’s prop-wash. The Captain of Chippewa confidently answered our questions about how he’d do this without  damaging our boat and gave us specific directions about what to do at every point. What a guy!
Check out the size of our black dock line compared to Chippewa’s blue one. Our black line is wrapped around the cleat 5 times in the photo below!
Today’s trip on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway was another circuitous, winding route with a surprising number of tows and barges headed both up-bound and down-bound.
Unlike the past few days, we started seeing clusters of homes along the bank again; all were built on stilts to protect from flooding. The bright yellow and orange Fall leaves we saw further north are not present here.
A deer swam across the river in front of us, a small doe who safely made it to the other shore.
We began seeing large rafts of floating plants. They don’t look like lilies, and we need to find out what they are. But it made for some tricky navigating to get through without picking up any on our props.
Late in the afternoon we passed the White Cliffs of Epe’s, an attractive stretch of chalk cliffs near the town of Epe, and geologically similar to the White Cliffs of Dover in England.
The formation below reminded us of Mount Rushmore if you don’t look TOO closely.
At 5:00 we arrived at the official end of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, at the confluence of the Black Warrior River. From here the official name is the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway, though for the whole 450 miles from the Tennessee River to Mobile, most people just call both segments the Tenn-Tom for short. We arrived at Kingfisher’s Marina at Demopolis, Alabama and parked near Looper friends. This marina has golf carts for boaters to use to get to the office 1/4 mile away.
We spent three hours on Blue Heron with Craig and Barbara, Joe and Edie (of Seaquel) and of course sweet Joey and Bailey, the yellow labs who travel on Blue Heron. So nice to see them all again. They’re leaving in the morning, and we’re not, so we hope to re-connect in Fairhope, AL on Mobile Bay in a couple of weeks.
It continues cold at night (30s), sunny and warmish in the afternoons (60s) and very windy in the afternoons. Boreas, the Greek God of the north wind, looked kindly upon us as we docked, and the wind died down just long enough for us to get settled in our slip before showing his ferocious face again. Whew!

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