Monday, November 5, 2012

End of the Tenn-Tom

Days on cruise:  226

Distance:  68.4 miles

Travel time:  6 hrs, 33 mins

Total trip odometer:  5,145 statute miles

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Exactly two months after leaving Chicago to begin the “western rivers” part of the Great Loop, we’ve covered 1,900 miles on the rivers, and today we finished that stretch. In addition, 450 miles since leaving the Tennessee River, we completed the Tenn-Tom Waterway this afternoon. We found it interesting, but also felt compelled to keep moving as there were few towns or destinations to cause us to slow down, and for the most part, the weather was cold, urging us southward.

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Today we saw lots of Spanish moss (which isn’t really moss, but is related to the pineapple family), many brown pelicans, marshlands, and we detected the smell of salt water for the first time since we made our way up the Hudson River in New York in June. We expected to see alligators (as Looper friends who are ahead of us did), but didn’t see any today. Or dolphins, which we were also told to expect.

Locals refer to this as the Dolly Parton Bridge. Hmmm.

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Turning the clocks back an hour Saturday night threw us off, so we were up before the crack of dawn Sunday, despite not planning to be. The other two boats sharing our anchorage, Rienzi and Branchin’ Out, were also up early. We pulled our anchor shortly after sunrise and headed south.

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The river was placid but filled with lots of sticks, floating logs, and fixed deadheads sticking above the water.

We’d planned to anchor out somewhere north of the Mobile River, but given our early start and the forecast for some “weather” to arrive late Sunday, we decided to keep moving and make it across Mobile Bay if the conditions looked good when we got there. And they did.

Most Loopers encounter more boat, freighter and cruise ship traffic than we did, presumably because things are quieter on a Sunday.

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There were some odd-looking boats too. We assume these two warships serve some specialized purpose. Does anyone know what that would be?

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It was a bit of a shock to enter a larger city after so long in remote territory.  Check out the red triangles on the chartplotter below: these are boats equipped with AIS transmitters (we have “receive” only). We got so annoyed with the constant beeping and “a dangerous target has been detected” messages that Bob finally turned off the AIS altogether as it was too distracting for the 12 miles while we traveled the Mobile River.

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The waters of Mobile Bay are shallow, meaning our depth sounder often showed only 2-3 feet of water beneath the hull as we made our way across to Fairhope on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay.

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We also discovered we didn’t have paper charts for Mobile Bay, so made up the gap with verbal directions from two other boaters via VHF radio, though our electronic chartplotter also had everything we needed. We just hate to be without paper charts in case of some failure of electronics.

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Early afternoon we arrived at Eastern Shore Marina in Fairhope and settled into a slip adjacent to Looper friends Craig and Barbara on Blue Heron, and Joe and Edie on Seaquel. It was a treat to have such great friends catch our lines yet again!

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At 4:30, early because of turning back the clocks an hour, the six of us took our folding camp chairs to the adjacent beach to watch the sunset, and it sure put on a good show! Some weather arrived during the afternoon, so clouds, whitecaps and sailboats conspired to contribute nice scenery.

We’re busy reminding ourselves how to tie the boat to the dock to accommodate rising and dropping tides and other knowledge we haven’t needed since New York last May.

1 comment:

bandlrobinson said...

Boyd says it's a litoral combat ship (LCS) that is built in Mobile by an Australian company...pretty cool, eh!