Friday, November 2, 2012

Alligators, Pelicans, Deer and Turtles

Days on cruise:  224

Distance traveled:  97.5 miles

Travel time: 8 hrs, 37 mins

Total trip odometer:  5,007 statute miles


What a day! A number of boats, Loopers and non-Loopers, were at Demopolis Thursday night, and most agreed getting away at 7am this morning was a good idea, as the next marina is 97 miles south. So we were all awake at “oh dark:30” and some of us agreed to turn on VHF radios at 6:30am after calling Demopolis Lock to inquire as to status. The lock would drop us 50 feet, so if fog is present, the conditions are often worse at the lower elevations below the lock, something we can’t evaluate from looking out our windows. Bad news at 6:30: “FOG! Delays, tows with barges backed up, stand by on channel 16 and wait to hear updates.”  Ugh:  hurry up and wait!


And then, less than an hour later, the Lockmaster called to tell us to come ahead! Boats scrambled to leave, and 30 minutes later 7 boats, including 2 Loopers and 5 others, pulled into the lock, secured our lines, and went down 48 feet. Whew!


And what a day it was! There’s one anchorage midway, but it’s described as shallow and narrow, and requiring a stern anchor in addition to the usual bow anchor, so we weren’t keen on it. The other Looper boat, Branchin’ Out, with whom we had cocktails on board a couple days ago, wanted to go all the way to Bobby’s Fish Camp, and so did we.


So after leaving Demopolis Lock, all 7 boats sorted themselves out according to speed (faster boats passing slower boats), and off we went. For the first time ever, we bumped our engines up to 1800 rpms for the whole day (usual is 1200 rpms) thinking we wanted to be prepared for the possibility of problems, and wanted to plan to arrive well before dark in case of unexpected delays. So we traveled at 12.5 – 13 mph instead of the usual 9.5mph. Endeavor Trawlercat “Branchin’ Out”, Lori and Jay, stayed with us all day, and occasionally we communicated with each other about hazards (deadheads in the water) or cool sightings.


Two deer crossed the river in front of us. For the first time in a LONG while, we saw brown pelicans (instead of white) and loons. And lots of turtles warming themselves on logs. And a campsite on the beach.


And GATORS! No, not as in “football fans” but a real six-foot alligator sunning itself on the beach. Wow! We’re told we’ll see lots of large ones south of here to Mobile. Too bad we didn’t get a photo of the alligator before he disappeared into the water, disturbed by our wake.

We passed more tows pushing barges than expected and found the faster pace to be a bit stressful, as you can’t enjoy the scenery as much and have to remain on heightened alert for deadheads or other hazards in the water.


At 4:00 we pulled into Bobby’s Fish Camp, an iconic place for Loopers. This is one of those places where you know you’ll get to see true Americana: unvarnished and real. There’s a 100-foot dock here, so typical Looper boats fill it up quickly, thus any more than 3 boats have to raft up to those already tied to the dock. When we arrived, a 65-foot power boat and a 32-foot sailboat were already tied up, so we secured to the dock with our bow extending beyond the end, and Branchin’ Out rafted up with us. There’s electricity and water here, but we had to connect three electrical cords together to reach the electric pedestal.



At 6:00 we wandered up to the Fish Camp for dinner: lightly breaded catfish filet with hush puppies, cole slaw and fries. It was very good, and we had Lori and Jay from Branchin’ Out with us, so we had good conversation and story-telling.


We’re not yet sure what the plan is for tomorrow. We’re sort of “fried” from so many long days on the Waterway since leaving Aqua Yacht Harbor a week ago and covering more than 300 miles. But there isn’t anything more to see here, and no cities or towns to stop and see the sights, so moving on seems to be the way to go. We’ll figure it out in the morning. Meanwhile, we enjoyed our evening during which we spent the night with RVers, Bodine and Donna, and other locals full of character and color. It’s been a fun stop!


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