Monday, October 28, 2013

Columbus to Mobile River

Columbus was a nice Mississippi town that had quite a few antebellum homes.  It came through the Civil War unscathed because the plantations here were commandeered as hospitals. We really enjoyed touring a couple of the homes, all of which are owned privately.  

Rosewood Manor was a lovely home from the early 1800's that you could tour by appointment.  Our 'tour' guide was the maid!  We didn't get much useful information about the home other than her saying "I couldn't live here"...what not want to live in a beautiful plantation home?? You would understand if you had seen the inside!  No photos were allowed but let me tell you I have never seen so many porcelain vases, figurines, dishes, sculptures, silk flowers, etc. in my life in one was so over done it was hard to see the walls.  I told the maid I felt sorry for her since she had to dust.  The owner should seek help from Antique rs anonymous a.s.a.p.  

I SO wish I could have sneaked a photo, it was unreal. In the main parlor inside the front door their were paintings on every wall space and vases and figurines on every surface that had room, not to mention the dried flower arrangements collecting dust everywhere.  The windows were all curtained to keep sun damage to a minimum so it was quite gloomy.  
The bedrooms were bedizened (love that word...look it up) and I couldn't imagine any man getting a good nights sleep in any of them.  
As in all of these homes, the kitchen was an addition.  They originally had separate kitchens away from the house because of fire hazard.  The (new) kitchen was part of the dining room in this house, and although it was granite and stainless the kitchen again was covered with "stuff"!  There was a massive table, covered with vases and dried flowers, a side board that not a speck of food would have fit on ....and china in every nook cranny and wall hanging display cabinets.  Definitely nightmare territory.

After that we were led outdoors to the lovely little chapel, which they rent out for weddings.  It holds 28 people so it would have to be a very small wedding party.  It was very sweet and I was allowed to take a picture.  
We went downtown to the dedication of the rebuilt bridge over the Tom Bigbee River where they had a Blues and Barbecue event going on.  The music was awesome and the barbecue was delish!

After that tour we went out of town to a large plantation 'Whitehall' which was near the Tenn-Tom Waterway.  Now this was more like it.  It had what I call "shabby beauty".  The current owner Robert Snow,who owned an antique store, bought it in 1962 after it had sat vacant and crumbling for 50 years! Talk about crazy!!  He and his now deceased wife and their children have lived in the house for 27 years slowly restoring it.  I told the guide it was too bad the state couldn't help with this landmark and he said "it would help enormously if they'd just give us a tax break"...after seeing the changes in Boldt Castle in the 1000 Islands we know what money can do!

It wasn't hard to look past the peeling paint outside and inside to the beauty it once was. It was built in 1852 for Colonel Young and was a vast cotton plantation. From its dual curving staircases to the period antique furnishings it is a beauty.  We were told how the owners spent years just picking the mud daubers out of the carved plaster crown molding with toothpicks.  The paint was peeling inside and out and in a way it sort of added to the charm of the place.  After 160 years it still has "it".  The owner, now in his late 80's was on site, sitting in the arbor reading the paper.  In the back of the property were the pens where they keep a dozen or so Peacocks.
No inside photographs again though, darn! 

Here is the slide show from Columbus

We anchored for three nights after Columbus in increasingly scanty anchorages.  They were getting 
farther apart and in very narrow little creeks.  We used a bow and stern anchor in all the anchorages. We had to really plan our anchorages due to the distance between them and our 8 mph speed so we wouldn't chance getting in after dark. The charts don't give you any depths so you have to rely solely on your depth finder when you get there.  Not something you want to do in a 25' canal in the dark. 

Another Looper Stop...Bobby's Fish Camp....Boondocks, Alabama...
Where you are a captive audience because it is the only "marina"...that moniker used VERY loosely..... and fuel in the 213 miles between Demopolis and Mobile.  The fuel pump was up by the building on the left.  It's like a long distance self serve gas station, with one person monitoring the pump  on shore while the other is pumping the fuel on the boat.  Lots of yelling back and forth.  The dock is a 150' face dock and the owner said they had had up to 14 boats rafted on it.  There were six of us last Tuesday with only one rafted.  The restaurant, located in the main building on the left above, is supposed to be famous for its catfish.  I opted out as the entire place smelled like heart attack on a plate!  
This was the stop we encountered another idiot on a boat.  I won't call them boaters because they are not and hopefully they will tire of the novelty quickly and get off the water!  

The Fish camp, with a small office/store/restaurant....some cabins 
and people living in their travel trailers

That's a million dollar 65' Grand Alaskan rafted to us...what a beautiful yacht!!!

The "Little Loopers"...yes there are three guys doing the loop (in segments) in these two boats...they trailer them to a jump off point, travel to their destination, then rent a car and go back and get the trailers.

Where the Tennessee River had a lush shoreline, lots of fishermen,lots of houses and parks and wide clear waters, the Black Warrior became narrow and twisting. ... The Corp of Engineers didn't do any "straightening here"

......there were very few houses, no towns on the water, more industry, no fishermen, lots of eroding shoreline, interesting for a while but not for 217 miles.  Glad to be in Mobile now...back to nature can get old after a while.  I guess one of the best parts was the last lock!!!, and of course the 8' alligator sunning itself, that made Gary rethink setting an aft anchor off of the swim platform!  

Hence, the stop at Bobby's Fish Camp...although the next day that gator didn't seem quite THAT big when we had to anchor one more time.  :-)

Here are some of the highlights:

Black Warrior River to Mobile River  Slide show

We are now at Turner's Marine Service in Mobile on the Dog River for a break.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Tenn-Tom

Requests have been made for a better idea of where we are and where we've been.  I hope this helps.
This is the entire waterway from Chicago to Mobile...we did not make all of the stops listed.

       We are now in Columbus, Mississippi and when we leave here we will soon cross into Alabama.

I was surprised to see a week has come and gone since we tied up to the barge.  Time is just whizzing by!  Since that night we have traveled 201 miles,  put 27 hours on the engines and have gone through seven locks.... which on one day knocked our travel time down by three hours!  We went through the first 4 locks with 2 other trawlers and a sailboat...the more boats, the more time.  The next day we did three locks by ourselves and flew right through them all.  That's why daily destination plans often run amok.

I do believe the Tennessee River is a new favorite of mine though.  The scenery was diverse and scenic. We have anchored in some spectacular anchorages and spent a couple of days just sitting and taking in the scenery. We have seen numerous Great Blue Herons every day.  Until today (rain, rain go away) the weather has been perfect.  No wind, no bugs, warm temps, couldn't have gotten much better that's for sure. Even though the Tennessee is over 650 miles long, we only traversed 190 miles.  If we would have continued (as a side trip) on the Tennessee we would have gone on to Chattanooga and Knoxville.  
The weird thing on the Tennessee is even though we were headed south we were up bound on the river. When you are down bound the red buoy is on your port or left side, and when you are up bound red buoy is on your starboard or right side . On the Mississippi river we were down bound, on the Ohio we were up bound ( going North and East) on the Cumberland we were up bound to Nashville and down bound returning from Nashville. On the Tennessee we were again up bound because even though we were going south it continued on north to Knoxville making it up bound.  Then comes the Tombigbee which is down bound to the Gulf of Mexico.  Confused?? betcha!

The Tenn-Tom Waterway gets its' name because it joins the Tennessee and Tombigbee Rivers.  The Black Warrior continues from the Tombigbee to Mobile, Alabama and the Gulf of Mexico. It was built by the Corp of Engineers between 1972 and 1985 , it cost almost two billion dollars and more earth was moved during its construction than the construction of the Panama Canal! This effort was undertaken to connect the Tennessee and Tombigbee into a navigable waterway shortening trips for vessels up to 720 miles over the Mississippi River Route.  The Tenn-Tom is divided into three sections, the "Divide Cut" which is a 25 mile cut through land joining the Tennessee with Bay Springs Lake, the "Canal Section", a canal which follows a channel through six locks and dams and the "River Section" which follows the old Tombigbee river. All of this earth moving not only links the river through small lakes, but straightens parts of the Tombigbee River from the winding path it once took........ 

There are thirteen locks from the Whitten Lock in Bay Springs, Ms. to Mobile taking you down a total of 470 feet.  There are very few homes on the waterway, a handful of small marinas and the further south we get the fewer anchorages are available.

The Jamie Whitten Lock with its 84' drop.......

                    An incredible feat of engineering!

Great Blue Herons are plentiful in Tennessee and Mississippi

        Views like this make my shutter finger go spastic!  Sometimes I get lucky and catch it just right

The leaves are starting to turn but only barely.  The nights have been too warm for the color to really start popping.  This week should turn the tide as the temperature is dropping with a cold front and the nights will now be cooler.  Living in Florida, where it is ever green, this Michigander really misses the beautiful colors of fall.

Halloween is coming and Tie A Knot has been decorated daily for the witching night.
(honestly, these spiders are driving me nuts!)

Anchored in Natchez Trace 

and the view we enjoyed in the day

and at night.....

                                          The narrow Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway

A tree forest growing out of the shallows

                                    Canadian  Geese and Herons sharing a log along the Tenn-Tom

A piece of 'yesteryear' along the Tenn-Tom

We are currently in Columbus, Mississippi .....

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Plan B

This is what happens when your anchoring plan A doesn't work!! 

We left Pebble Isle at noon yesterday with a tip from the 'locals' on what they thought would be a good place to anchor in an area that was skimpy on anchorages.  Well their idea was a total thumbs down, from no water in the "cove" they mentioned, to 39'  in the river.  Not gonna fly.  It was getting late and we tried the marina that was our next option only to find it closed.....then what to our wondering eyes did appear but a mile long area of barges loaded with sand and a big dredge.  
They looked closed up for the night and on close inspection we didn't see any 'no trespassing 'signs so we decided oh well " apologize later" and tied up to the dredge barge, thinking we'd get up at 6am and be gone when they got there.  We almost made it...we got up to DENSE fog and sure enough the guys showed up at 6 am and started warming up the dredge...they came and talked to us thought we were from the TVA as they sometimes stop in pleasure craft and tie up....but Gary nicely said we're just heading out.

So....we headed into the fog with our radar and our GPS.  It was heavy at first and then became pockets where we could see about a half mile, then back to heavy.  We creeped along for about 90 minutes before it finally lifted.

 The real concern was the small bass boats, they are everywhere and love to fish in the middle of the channel.  Fortunately even they were not up to the fog this morning.
Anyway, our first experience with traveling in fog this trip went off without incident.  The river is spectacular....even better than the Cumberland, probably second only to the 30,000 Islands in Georgian Bay for unbeatable scenery.....and the trees are even turning a little...late because of the warm weather that is holding on but better than nothing!  

We did see some interesting houses today.....

I found this one with the cross quite interesting

This place made out of truck trailers stacked was creative don't you think? He was next door to the house with the cross and did his own thing with his steps to the river.

This makes you wonder why people take chances building on bluffs

This was a common sight ,lots with travel trailers.  The price on one lot as we went by was $17,500.  Right on the Tennessee River, what a deal, (until it floods.)  They probably move them out before spring flooding and use them as summer cottages....not a bad idea

Quite a few homes had boat launch ramps on their property for launching their bass boats

The most common sight of all, sprays of white darting all over the river...the bass fisherman running from one fishing spot to another....they have more trouble than I do sitting still!!

The river has been lowered to "winter pool" about five feet down from "summer pool".  But the channel itself goes almost to the shoreline and the water averaged about 40' deep....alas the anchorages that were 10' are now only five (or in some cases less) so you have to choose carefully as we learned last night! is still 'drop dead' gorgeous!!!!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Have meant to do this for days, but alas, Verizon coverage has been iffy lately.  Our connection has been minimal for days now....and you know how I hate to get behind!!
So I am sitting at a table at Pebble Isle Marina with, finally, a good wi-fi connection. We stopped here to do laundry and get fuel (cheapest we've seen since last spring) use there courtesy van to get groceries, the usual pit stop for us.  Actually it's a pretty good deal all around.  It's .95 cents a foot per night which is around $40. for our boat.  With that you get to do laundry cheaply, use a car to buy groceries (at Wal Mart yet) for free, get a pump out and fuel (not free :-( ) and meet another nice bunch of people, Loopers and marina employees. It is nestled in the crook of  the Johnsonville State Historic Park on Kentucky Lake in Tennessee.

They even have a dog that you can 'borrow' when you go for a walk, an he helps with the lines, but hear he was just interested in that pesky old flea!

                       NASHVILLE!!!    WAS A BLAST....

We got there around 10:30 on last Monday and promptly walked up the hill from the town dock right onto Broadway where all the action is.  We went to the visitors center to get a feel for what to do and after a quick lunch went to our first Honky Tonk. (euphemism for bar)..yup, the music starts early here and goes all day and half of the night!  Everyone playing for tips and hoping to make it big in Country Music.  We saw some great bands and some that were, to be nice, were pretty bad.  The main problem we thought was that the acoustics were awful.  The band could have been great but the instruments were so loud they overpowered everything.  It was still awesome!  We made ourselves take a nap every afternoon so that we could stay awake to go out past eight at night (SO SAD, that's the level we've sunk to) this boating life is not conducive to late nights, unless you're 21!!   But we did stay out for four nights in a row.  
We went to the Grand Ole Opry and saw Vince Gill and a few country singers from the past and a few up and coming artists.  It was one of the best concerts I've ever been to and can't wait to go back.  We decided since our anniversary was so close (44 years....can't hardly believe that) we would justify the fun we were having (that means $$ spent) by celebrating it for a change!!  So we went out every day and night,  A Blues Club ...some of the very best music...Honky Tonkin', the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Tennessee State Capitol, Nashville farmers market, and the Parthenon and Vanderbilt University.  We also ate out, the entire time. "What" you say, you cheapo's eatin' out??)   No dishes to wash, no toiling over a hot stove, yeah, I could get used to that...... great fried cat fish and the best Barbecue ever thanks to son Cory who told us we couldn't leave Nashville without eating at Jack's.  He was right, seriously good and seriously reasonable.  
As in every city Nashville has a homeless population and I'd say more than their share.  You couldn't walk down any street  without someone asking for a dollar or at least looking like they were going to was pretty hard to say no in some cases.  
The slide show highlights some of the things we saw.  I'm sorry I couldn't label every picture but if you have any questions just ask and I'll be glad to tell you what it was.

Nashville   slideshow

As always ( a reminder for those with a memory like mine) click the i for the captions and the speaker if you don't like the music!  Enjoy