Monday, October 29, 2012

Things That Go Bump: The Morning After

Days on cruise:  220

Distance traveled:  54.2 miles

Travel time:  7 hrs, 55 mins (incl 2 locks)

Total trip odometer:  4,820 statute miles

We didn’t write all of yesterday’s story on yesterday’s blog post because we wanted to sort out “outcomes” first.  Yesterday afternoon when we learned we’d have to wait to get through  Aberdeen Lock because of tow-barge traffic, we  changed plans and headed into an anchorage at Blue Bluffs, recommended by friends.

The side channel leading into this anchorage is shallow but clearly delineated by red and green markers approximately 60 feet apart, more than a dozen all together. We slowed the boat to keep an eye on depth, bumped one engine at a time into forward gear so we could travel approximately 1-2 mph, and OUCH!  Halfway through the channel, definitely in the middle of the markers, not out of the channel, we heard “bump” and “bump” and “bump”. Adrenaline rush accompanied by a few bad words followed! We never saw what we hit as it was fully underwater, but presume it was a deadhead that had floated into the channel recently, as friends Jim and Sharon on Blue Angel were there only two weeks ago and had no problems in the channel. The red and green markers are barely visible in the photo below.


We worried we might have prop damage, so we called Jim on Blue Angel (our unofficial mentor) and asked what advice he had to offer. He described in great detail a safe but unmarked alternate channel out of that anchorage that would not require us to travel over the deadhead again.

This morning when we left the anchorage following Jim’s advice (which worked great!), we learned there was a tow pushing barges heading into the lock a mile away, and another one coming the opposite direction, meaning we’d have to wait a long time. Cathryn called the first barge, Chippewa, and asked if we might lock through with them. This is not a usual practice, but barges that are not red-flagged (those carrying hazardous/flammable cargo) have the option of letting others lock through with them or not. The Captain of the Chippewa was amenable and told us to let him get his 100-foot-wide load settled in the 110-foot wide lock, then we could come in and tie onto a spot in the barge that was only 70 feet wide and his crew would tie us on to ride through with them.  NICE!

While Chippewa was busy getting into the lock, we ran Next To Me upriver (wrong direction of travel) so we could run up the speed and determine if we had prop damage by checking for unusual vibration.  Woo hoo:  NO VIBRATION!  That means whatever we hit didn’t hit hard, and didn’t damage the props which are the lowest point below the boat.

Looper friends Gary and Christelle on Time and Tide report that they hit deadheads four times on the Tenn-Tom and had no damage, so we’re hoping if we have any further hits, we’ll have the same result. Meanwhile, we’re pleased to have this one behind us.

The photos below show how close the barges are to the wall of the lock (left pic) and the barge to which we tied with tow behind (right pic). These barges were carrying coal. Here’s a shout out to the Captain and crew of Chippewa for being generous and helpful getting us through that lock!


Scenery for the rest of today was pleasant.


We began to see more houses than we’ve seen in several hundred miles.


Huh? WHY is there a pay phone on the shore out in the middle of nowhere??? Presumably it’s not a working phone?


Late in the afternoon the wind was so high we decided not to anchor in our planned spot as there were whitecaps there. So we pulled into Pirate’s Cove Marina in Pickensville, Alabama (we’ve crossed from Mississippi into Alabama for the last time), a small marina with friendly folks who helped us tie up in the high winds (20-25 mph) and hook up our electrical cord.

We borrowed the marina’s courtesy car and drove to see the local sights. Sadly, both are closed on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, so we were able to walk around but not take tours.

The Snagboat Montgomery was our first stop.


An impressive looking vessel, and as folks who’ve had recent experience with underwater snags, we appreciate the work of such boats.


This Antebellum-style home is actually a replica constructed in 1985, but serves as the Visitor’s Center for this town and the Snagboat Montgomery. Sadly, it too was closed so we only walked around outside and peeked in the windows.


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