Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Tenn-Tom

Days on cruise:  218

Distance traveled:  56.4 miles

Travel time:  6 hrs, 23 mins (8:10 incl 3 locks)

Total trip odometer:  4,730 statute miles

The Tenn-Tom is 450 miles from the Tennessee River to the mouth of Mobile Bay approaching Mobile, Alabama 14 miles further south. It’s actually comprised of segments called the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway (234 miles to Demopolis, AL) and the Black Warrior-Tombigee Waterway (217 miles to Mobile), but given the mouths full those names represent, and lacking interest in distinguishing between the two, everyone calls it the Tenn-Tom.

With the exception of Georgian Bay and North Channel on Lake Huron in Canada, this is by far the most remote segment of the Great Loop. Even those Canadian segments are closer to “civilization” than this. The first third wanders through the northeastern corner of Mississippi, then crosses into Alabama for the balance of the distance.

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In 1946 Congress authorized funds to dig the segment  connecting the Tennessee River to the Tombigbee River, but it was quite controversial, so it wasn’t until 1985 that the ribbon was cut and it was open for business. More dirt was moved to build the Tenn-Tom than to build the Panama Canal, and in today’s parlance, this project would certainly be called “pork” at a cost of $2 billion. This is the Waterway that allows boaters to cruise from the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico without risking life and limb on the Mississippi River with all those tows pushing barges through levees which hide all views.

Shortly after leaving Pickwick Lake at the confluence of the Tennessee River and Tenn-Tom, one enters the Divide Cut, the man-dug segment that’s 24 miles long, 280 feet wide, and lined with riprap along the shore.


Gray skies, cold temps (40s to 50s) flocks of birds, and one wild turkey filled the view.


We found ourselves traveling with two other boats, neither  Loopers, and transiting three locks (the Whitten, Montgomery and Rankin) together, including the 85-foot drop on the second one of the day. We actually had a bit of trouble controlling to boat against the wall until the lock doors closed because the wind was so strong. Good thing Bob is stronger than Cathryn and willing to handle lines in such cases! He’s developing callouses on his hands from line handling.


By mid-afternoon the wind picked up, and we passed through cypress swamps, some with dead trees, others still alive and prettier.


Late in the afternoon we approached Midway Marina where we decided to spend the night as it was too cold to anchor out as planned.


There’s a Halloween Party at the marina tonight, but after a full week of Rendezvous and other non-stop socializing, we’re too tired to participate. We’re not “costume” people in any case. The forecast calls for another week of cold weather before the sun will re-emerge and temps will rise a bit, so we may spend more time in marinas on this stretch than we would otherwise. Fortunately, charges are uniformly $1.00/foot per night, so half the price of most places on the Loop.

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