Saturday, November 3, 2012

Milestone: The Last Lock!

Days on cruise:  225

Distance traveled:  68.5 miles

Travel time:  7 hrs, 47 mins

Total trip odometer:  5,076 statute miles

The dock at Bobby’s Fish Camp was alive and hoppin’ before daylight. Calls to Coffeeville Lock yielded the fact it was clear at the top, but foggy at the bottom. So we all waited an hour before heading south. Six boats (two Loopers including us) traveled in lock-step until we’d dropped 37 feet and the lock gates opened. 

WE’RE DONE! With locks, that is. We’ve done 112 locks (we think; we’ll check our math) and now find transiting locks to be “no big deal”, a long way from where we started!


The “parade” heading to the Coffeeville Lock.


Rienzi (left) and The Thomas B (right) would travel near us  all day, along with Branchin’ Out, as all of us travel about 9.5 mph.


Do you think birds are stupid? If so, think again! In the locks that take you down (not up), birds sit nearby as the water begins to drop and watch for fish that get caught in the lock doors. Easy feeding for those birds, no dummies!


We passed many more tows pushing barges today, and the parade of 4 boats all followed instructions to pass on the 1 or 2 whistle together.


After many, many miles of remote land with nothing much to see, we spotted a few houses occasionally. This must be the definition of “upwardly mobile”.


We first thought this was a golf cart, but on closer inspection using binoculars, saw it was more like a beach buggy.


The route continued in serpentine fashion, explaining why it takes 450 river miles to travel from the north border of Alabama to Mobile at the south end. The river current pushed us along about 1/2 to 3/4 mile per hour faster, which was nice.


Like so many other barges we’ve seen on the inland rivers, this one was being loaded with coal. Most of the news we’ve read about coal over the years has been about the environmental hazards of burning coal to produce electricity, or else about the fate of miners trapped when tunnels collapse. This provides a different view of how ubiquitous the use of coal is to heat or air condition our American homes.


Yet another long-abandoned barge on the shore with surprisingly large trees growing on board.


Early afternoon our entourage of 4 boats was contacted on the VHF radio to warn of work being done just down river.


High voltage electric wires cross the river overhead, and the boat below informed us they were stringing a rope to pull more wire across, so we should stay far to the right where the water was hopefully deep enough, and hopefully the rope wouldn’t fall on us and we’d be okay. Say what?


Rienzi with her 5-foot draft led the way, so we knew if she made it through ok, we wouldn’t have shallow water problems. Branchin’ Out just behind us draws even less so was in great position third in line. All went well.


Late in the afternoon we noticed black smoke coming from the stern of Rienzi so called them on the radio to notify them. They checked it out, said their engine was over-heating, and did a U-turn to an anchorage we’d just passed so they could change out an engine impeller and hopefully solve the problem.

Later still, Branchin’ Out and Next To Me pulled into an anchorage at Alabama River Cut-off. We went 1/4 mile in and dropped anchor in 15 feet of water, deeper than we prefer for such a narrow anchorage, but there’s a slight current that should hold us in place. 10 minutes before dark Rienzi arrived and pulled in behind Branchin’ Out to drop anchor, informing us they’ve solved their over-heating engine problem. We sincerely hope so!


Now it’s pitch dark, and all we see is anchor lights from the other two boats. All we hear is owls, cicadas and an occasional coyote.  Beautiful!


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