Where we at

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Ocean Beach to Destin, marina

Technically, Destin is on the other side of the bay from us but near enough. We came to Two Georges, our marina, when we left Destin Harbor on our way up, 5 months ago. Normally we anchor out at Fort McRee (between here and Orange Beach) but we decided to make it a longer day, hoping to get to Apalachicola in 3 days. Cheaper fuel at Two Georges, so we tanked up. 

Also, Lizzie took a fall a couple of days ago so we're letting her leg recover a bit before dinghy rides.

inQuest at the Wharf.
Russ is on the top stern, and a
blue heron is on the pier.
The winds finally died down (2 days of bluster!), which was key for getting out of the slip we were in. The small fairway made maneuvering difficult in stiff winds. We were able to back inQuest out, winding our way backwards, right into the fuel docks where we pumped out. That got us underway around 7:15.

Then east! Following the ICW, mostly bounded by Santa Rosa Island, we made our way toward Destin.

When were reached the marina we fueled up before docking. The winds had returned, over 10 mph, so getting onto and off of the fuel dock was more exciting than normal. Thankfully, getting docked was less so. The wind was on our stern, and the slip was a straight shot in, and far from any other boats.

Moving from our slip to the pumpout, all done in reverse.

Then heading out on the amazing morning.

Oh, and we have dolphins again!

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Largely some snippets

 Snippets and movies only:

Last lock of the rivers, Coffeeville.

Before we could pass the sailboat we had to make our way around 2 tows. The first wanted to be passed on the 2 (we move left), the second the 1 (we move right). Then we got to pass the sailboat.

Russ titled this "Why I Love AIS". If we didn't have it, neither the tow nor us would have known where each other were. And since we turned into him and into the sun at the same time, that could have been a serious issue.

We pass a tow called Black Belt (which is an odd name for a tow), then turn onto the Tensaw river. Three boats were already anchored there. We chose to anchor in front of them all, making a little shorter run to the dock to walk a dog.

This we follow a tanker out the shipping channel for a while. Then we make that 90 turn to the left, between the spoil areas. You can tell when, since the beam seas rock us a little, causing the vid to be more jiggy.

Once we turn south again, the waters calm. Lovely day, overall.

Arriving in Mobile. We stop at the convention center to walk a dog, grab some lunch, and let the waters settle before making the bay crossing. It all went perfectly.

And after the long day we dock at The Wharf, which is a mall/condos/marina in Orange Beach. Our slip is tricky to get into, since the fairway is pretty small. We've done it before, though.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Tensaw River to Orange Beach, marina

Fun fact: There are 3 twilights each and every morning. Astronomical twilight, when there's just a hint of light blue in the sky. Nautical twilight, when you can just start to navigate with some confidence. And civil twilight, the brightest part before the dawn. Today we were underway at nautical twilight.

As a result we were drifting into Mobile, Alabama, right around 10:45 am. That gave us time to walk a dog then grab us some lunch before getting underway again. It also gave us some time to stall a bit. The winds were up and that meant the bay would be choppy. The couple of hours in delay allowed that to all settle, as predicted. As a result, our 3 hour trip across the bay was quite lovely. Seas about 1 foot, mostly on our stern, which is a comfortable way to take them. 

I spy Mobile!
You'll notice there's a 90 degree turn off the main channel to get us onto the bay. The channel, which goes directly from the gulf to Mobile, is wide enough and deep enough for two tanker ships to pass one another. To accomplish this, the channel is dredged almost constantly. What the dredgers bring up is dumped into well marked "spoil areas". Our straight line to the port was us going in between 2 of these areas. From then on the depths in the bay range around 7 to 12 feet. So, back into the skinny waters.

Tasty lunch at Squid Ink. Tuna poke bat,
street cauliflower, and fried deviled eggs.
Last long day, for a while. We hope. 

We plan on staying 2 nights, maybe longer. We're squeezed between the nor'easter and a major low, so the winds are going to be a thing for a while. Under normal circumstances we're 4 days from Appliachicola, then we'll start the trip around the Gulf. We'll see how the weather affects the near future.

First big water we've seen in a while


Getting settled in Turkey Point.
Keep in mind, this is RIGHT OFF the channel.
You can see a boat zoom by. We had a couple of tows
come by during the night, too.

Getting into and leaving Demopolis lock, after our engine issue.
We're not the fastest boat but we were that day.

Alegria was already in the lock, ahead of us by just a few minutes.
We followed her into the anchorage.
We picked our spot due to its close proximity to the 
boat ramp for dog walking.

We hit something!!!
As we slowly move on you see Russ checking hatches for 
any water intrusion. It was that hard.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Turkey Point to Tensaw River, anchor

Day 2 of the 3 day march is behind us. We successfully anchored in the Tensaw River, which is really wide and hold well. Between Turkey Point and the Tensaw I would argue these are the best anchorages on the lower Tombigbee. We'll mark them for the future.

Two boats also anchored at Turkey Point, Buena Vida and Uno Mas. We call them "the Spaniards." Buena Vida had issues starting their generator and their house batteries were running low. Russ tried to help suss out their problem, thinking it was the starter relay (since we'd had that problem ourselves a couple of times on the engine) but he couldn't find it when he looked at the unit. Once we were underway Russ found the manual online and sent them the info. We hope it helped.

Buddy boats, Uno Mas and Buena Vida
Last lock today. Making a GRAND TOTAL of 78 this season. That will be the last lock we go through until next year, if we do the loop. Specifically the Dismal Swamp, which we both love.

Lots of looper traffic as well as tow traffic, which kept us on our toes all day long. But no issues or emergencies.

inQuest from our doggy dinghy run.
Another task Russ had to do while underway today was fill out the contract with a RE company in NOLA. I fail to understand why these people don't use DocuSign, but we've dealt with e-docs and a couple of different RE agencies. They all seem to have "their own." It's like reinventing the wheel. After arguing with our agent for a few minutes, he proved it was the software and not "user error." We got it done, nothing irks Russ more than when people tell him software bugs he finds are user errors.

Sunset on the Tensaw
Movies are still coming. Network has been sketchy at best, and non-existent at worst. We plan on spending a couple of days at The Wharf in Orange Beach which will give us time to put some vids together. And sleep.


Sunday, October 24, 2021

Demopolis to Turkey Point, anchor

12 boats came in on the same day we did. And since none of us could stay longer than 2 nights at the Kingfisher Marina, 12 boats had plans to leave this morning. Organizers set the "go" time at 6:30 am. At the stroke of 6:30 we were slowly moving out of the slip. By 6:30 and 5 seconds, I realized something was wrong -- we didn't have a port engine. It started fine, and ran, but I had no throttle control and therefore, could not use it to drive.

With one engine I managed to get inQuest out of the slip and immediately dock her on a t-head. Since lots of folks were already getting set to depart, they realized something was up and were on the pier waiting to catch lines. Once docked, Russ investigated

Loopers running to the Demopolis lock.
During our stay in Demopolis Russ did some engine maintenance, changing the oil on both engines and replacing the transmission fluid. Somehow the connecting pin for the throttle controls got disconnected. He found it and fixed it and we were on our way -- we weren't even the last boat out.

All 12 of us planned on locking down together. The lockmaster told us he had 9 pins (normally there are 10, but one wasn't working, or to be specific, was totally missing). 9 of us got on the pins, including us, and 3 rafted. Uno Mas rafted to us. We locked through without incident.

In the lock, out the front window...

...Uno Mas rafted to us...

...and out the back. 12 all in.

The plan was to get to the anchorage Bashi Creek, which we'd used on our way up in June. However, Russ started planning the next few days and taking a hard look at the weather. A massive low is headed our way, and with it some insane winds. And that will make the Mobile Bay a misery. Rather than dawdle we decided to put in a couple more looooooong days and get to Orange Beach, Alabama, by Tuesday night.

So Bashi is out, and Turkey Creek became the target.

This is our last "river" night. There's only 1 lock tomorrow, and we'll be back into tidal waters.

Sandy cliffs along the Tombigbee.
Side story -- We have now experienced the spectrum of "courtesy vans."

Fort Loudoun:  Keys are in the cars, so just take it.

Kingfisher: The car is available in 2 hour slots only. Sign up with the dockmaster for a time slot. You're handed the keys. Then told there's a Marathon gas station up the road. When you're on your way back stop there -- they know the car. Ask them for $1.50 of gas and be sure to get a receipt since you have to hand that in with the keys. Oh, and while there call the dockmaster so she knows you're coming back. (This is all true!)

Total lock count: 77

Friday, October 22, 2021

Heflin to Demopolis, marina

We think we've been on the move daily since Chattanooga. Even though this isn't our favorite marina, they do have a courtesy car and a reasonable town. So we're staying for 2 nights.

Btw, to future loopers, I don't recall the limitation when we did the loop in 2019 but there are so many boats that there is a 2 night maximum stay for transients. So plan ahead!

It rained hard last night. And, for some reason, they drained pool by about a foot. The result was that getting the dog to shore was a soggy and muddy endeavor. While there is a boat ramp, there is no dock, so we shove the tender into the sand and wade our way, dog in our arms, to land. It's not a far walk, just dirty.

Anchor came up clean and off we went about 7:15 am. A little fog, but nothing serious. No locks to day, so we just cruised down the Tombigbee for 4 hours until we came to the marina. We got enough fuel to get the $20 pumpout fee waived. I also got laundry done.

Tomorrow Russ will change the oil (which is overdue).

No rest for the weary.

Also, no movies. Russ has been doing some legal stuff to prepare for selling the NOLA condo. Again. Another hitch was he got an email saying that our boat insurance expires in 60 days. o.O 

So, yeah, he's been busy with more important things than the blog.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

DeWayne Hayes to Heflin, anchor

Just past the Heflin Lock was an oxbow labeled Tombigbee river. That was where we dropped the hook today.

Loopers, loopers, everywhere! We started early again (we just like traveling as soon as we can see anything). The next marina, which was jock full of loopers, was Columbus, about 5 miles downriver. We'd stayed there before so we weren't gung-ho about doing it again. Nothing wrong with the place, but not the best stop on the loop. We heard on the radio (and saw on AIS) that 2 boats (Alegria and Passages) were heading to the lock, hoping to get through early. Four boats were already in the lock and waiting. In their conversation with Stennis Lock they mentioned another group coming along from the marina in about an hour. That meant a wait for us but we kept quiet and let them go -- we weren't in a hurry. Besides, it would take less time for us to wait for the next group than those boats in the lock would wait for us to join them.

Odd things you see on the Tombigbee.
That is a phone booth.
Once we were sure they were being lowered we called Stennis Lock. The lockmaster gave us permission to hang on the long wall and wait for the other boats. They showed up promptly, and all 6 of us locked down around 8:15.

The six of us wandered our way down for a couple of hours (with us in the lead -- who knew we'd be "the fast boat") to the next lock, Bevill. He'd just turned the lock for the 6 leading boats and was filling it for us. He too gave us permission to hand on the wall, but only we did so -- the other 5 boats stood station. (I hate standing station, and you rarely get permission to get on the wall to wait so we were all too happy to do just that!)

Odd things you see on the Tombigbee #2
There is a totem pole on the bank.
Again we took the lead and made our way down the Tombigbee. About half way through that trip I went below to make lunch while Russ piloted. I felt a bump... bump... wham! With every bump I thought, "that's not good." Then the whole boat shuttered. Russ backed off the speed as I ran out the back to see what the heck we hit. We also immediately hailed those behind us that we hit something really big. It was bad enough that we thought we punctured a hole in the boat. I managed the helm while Russ checked all the hulls, then the running gear to see if a shaft was buggered. Everything looked good so we slowly increased our speed, waiting to feel any kind of vibration or shudder to indicate our props were pooched. But nope. Everything was just fine.

The last stern-wheel tow boat to 
work the Tombigbee.
As we continued to run Russ checked things over a couple of times. We felt like we dodged a bullet. There have been so many stories of people hitting things and sustaining damage to their running gear, we were sure we would be joining that demographic.

So far so good.

Slowly we were catching the boats ahead of us. inQuest passed 4 of the 5 boats in the first group. All of us were chattering about what anchorages folks were staying at. We decided to join Alegria in the anchorage just below the third lock of the day, Helflin. We were the only two boats that locked down and we joined a boat already anchored here. Two others of our group joined us as well, with a total of 5 in our anchorage. The other 6 are up at Cook anchorage.

As soon as we got the tender down we zipped around and introduced ourselves to our traveling buddies. The plan is up and out early, around 7, with a couple of other boats. No locks between us and Demopolis, so it should be an easy day. Finally.

Total lock count: 76

PS. No movies yet. It's too late to get them posted, so I'll add them tomorrow. Russ pawed through our footage today to see if THAT showed what the heck we hit. It certainly wasn't obvious so stay tuned. Btw, we haven't had any GoPro footage as our camera was on the fritz over the last week. Russ gave up on reformatting the card and just put in a new one. It's a shame too -- we would have loved to see the trip in the fog from a couple of days ago.

Underway from Owens Bay...

 So cool I gave it its own blog post. Just pretty.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Owens Cove to DeWayne Hayes, anchor

While the plan was to put in 50 miles, and normally that's about 5 hours for us, our day turned long again. We left the anchorage around 7 am and dropped the hook a little after 5 pm. But we did get 5 more locks behind us. 

The first lock was the easiest as we locked through by ourselves. The 2nd lock (we could tell by AIS) had a couple of boats already in it. But the locks talk to each other so they knew we were coming. We offered to let them go and wait for the next cycle, but they held it for us. We jammed down there, hoping not to make the other folks wait too long.

This section of the Tombigbee has locks fairly close together, about 5 to 10 miles apart. As a result, you might try to speed off to the next lock, but odds are the lock master would hold for everyone. We were a group.

Glasslike water today. No fog at all.
The day went fairly smoothly, although we traveled slower than we normally travel since one of us was a sailboat. They tend not to move very fast. We only go as fast as the slowest of us.

At the last lock, the sailboat turned off to a marina. The remaining boats reached the lock only to find out it is in repair. We were allowed to tie on the long wall but had to wait about a hour for the work boat to leave the lock. Then they could raise it, gather us, and let us down. And after that, we still had a 2 hour ride ahead of us.

Us, taken by the
crew of Alegria.
Thank you, 
Rosemary and Clarke!
Fewer locks over the next 2 or three days, but there's no way we'll make Demopolis Thursday. Friday is the target now.

Total lock count: 73

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Waterfall to Owen Cove, anchor

It wasn't supposed to be a long day, but alas, locks. And fog. In fact the fog was a bit thicker than we thought it would be, so our progress was slow.

The morning started out wonderful. Nippy, but clear, with wisps of moisture coming off the water. We were going to meet with Apres Sail for travel today. They were anchored near Aqua. Anchors up around 7:30, we met them around 8 am. So far, still clear, but we could see fog in the distance.

The next hour was thick and slow. Since we have all the toys to deal with fog we led the trek. We have radar, AIS, an automated fog horn, and nifty glasses that make seeing in the fog much easier. At 6 knots we wound our way between the islands at the top of the lake, me at the helm following the magenta line while keeping an eye on radar for possible fishing boats who've wandered into the channel. Meanwhile, Russ sat outside on the bow, watching for any logs or debris we might hit. We've done this enough times that we're pretty comfortable in fog. In fact, our "no go" is if, from the helm, you can't see the burgees.

inQuest and the waterfall
Apres Sail, however, were not amused. Over the radio they commented we were crazy and they'd never do this again. I felt bad about that -- Florida and its fog has us trained, I suppose. This wasn't the worst we'd been in. 

The fog was suppose to lift at 9. Seriously, 9:01 the blue sky came out and the fog disappeared. The rest of the day was gorgeous.

Tow in the fog.
The other hitch was a lock, Whitten, the first of the locks on the Tombigbee. First we had to wait for a tow to come up -- fine, we do that a lot. But once up the tow didn't leave the chamber, but waited for his crew change, which took about another 30 minutes. Then we were allowed into the chamber, but a number of boats were also trying to lock down, so the lockmaster held for them. Which we get -- we'd been in that position ourselves. But it took another 45 minutes.

In the lock with 5 other boats.
We went through 2 locks, then turned off an anchored right before the 3rd for the day. By the time we dropped the hook it was almost 5 pm.

Total lock count: 68

Pensive man in the morning

Calm sunset at night

Monday, October 18, 2021

Florence to JP Coleman State Park (Waterfall), anchor

Foggy first thing in the morning so we waited a bit before heading out. The trip was only 3 1/2 hours, so no reason so jet immediately.

No locks, no excitement. We followed another boat all the way here. They left at the same time we did and since they were locals we let them lead.

The waterfall
Took two tried to set the anchor. The little bay is one of the loveliest anchorages we've ever been to. Called the Waterfall Anchorage we saw many write ups on its beauty. However, it's small, so we had to stern tie a line to a tree.

We'll meet up with friend tomorrow and we'll start heading down in earnest. The plan is Demopolis by Thursday, Mobile by end of week.

Lovely place.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Wilson Lock to Florence, marina

Wheeler Lock gate. Beefy, aren't they?
(part 2 from last night)

Despite arriving at Wilson Lock around 2:30 yesterday, we didn't get locked down until 8 pm. Not the worst delay I've heard (that's closer to 24 hours) but it did give us a couple of firsts: first time locking in the dark, and first time docking in the dark.

Quick video of the loopers waiting to get thru Wheeler.

Getting dark. The light is the moon.
The lock was well lit so getting to and through it wasn't hard. There was a tow below waiting to lock up but he was small. Getting around him and over to the auxiliary lock wall wasn't at all difficult. Neither was tying up there. We had permission to bunk on it for the night. Although we were tired, it went very smoothly and ultimately we had a good night's sleep.

The next morning we were up early. As we had our coffee and breakfast we watched the crowd of looper boats gather to lock up, eight in total. That meant there should be plenty of space for us in the marina. Once the loopers headed into the lock we headed out and snagged a spot. We got the packages we'd ordered and did some provisioning. And ended the day with dinner at the restaurant.

On the aux wall at Wilson.
Now the whole lock story:

When we arrived nothing was happening. The lock was open (as if beckoning us to enter) but a red light meant it wasn't for us. Two tow boats were there, not moving. We hailed the lock, and we called the lock, and go no response. It felt like everyone was in a holding pattern for some reason. Since Russ had already received instructions to wait on the aux wall, that's what we did. 

Wilson is about 100'. 
Being in it at night was freaky.
Doors open, you can see the waiting 
tow on the left.
Listening to the radio we started to hear some chatter. The tow in the process of locking down (we'll call it Bradley) held up the show. He was a full tow, so he pushed 3x5 (so 15) barges. These are smaller locks so no way he'd fit without breaking up the tow, but add the lack of a wall, and that equals an insanely slow lock down. But Bradley already had 9 barges lowered. Everyone was in a holding pattern because, while pulling that bundle of barges out of the lock someone dropped a line and stuff started to drift (we didn't see this, only got a quick idea from chatter). The lock hailed another tow waiting to lock up to give a hand, which meant he had to drop his stuff to help out. Needless to say, lots of delay before anyone was ready for the next batch of barges.

Hours later, Bradley was given the 'go' to put the rest of his barges in the lock.

Here's how this has to go: No wall. Tows move really slow to get themselves into the lock. But no wall means there's a current pulling them into the dam. And no one wants that. The solution is another tow whose sole job is to be "the wall". I'll call him Wally. Given Wally isn't actually a wall he can only handle so much weight. Therefore, tows are only allowed to push 4 barges at a time, figuring between the pusher and Wally they could handle things if something happens.

Once in the lock because it's so big the lake
side door rises from the depths.

Off Bradley goes to get 2 more barges (9 already down, 6 to go). At this point we've figured out what station Bradley's working channel. The communication seems terrible among the crew. It takes a long time for Bradley to bring down the next 2 barges. They are secured to Wally and the first pin in the chamber. Apparently, they want to build the tow before they shove the thing in.

Bradley goes off and gets the next 4 barges, slowly brings them in. And the next few hours are spent connecting all six together. There's arguments, there's comedy, there's lack of communication. 

For example-

Setup: everyone is waiting for crewman2 to finish tying a line. After many, many minutes...

Crewman 1: Did you get that line tied?

Crewman 2: Oh. Yeah. 

You could almost hear the eye rolls and facepalms.

Here's another example (this was kinda funny)-

Crewman: Hey, can you hear me?

Captain: Yeah. Everything okay?

Crewman: Yeah. I think I just couldn't hear you.

Captain: Well, you hear me now, right?

Crewman: (hesitates) Nope.

Made it to Florence.
Lovely, albeit nippy, day.
Finally, Bradley shoves his barges into the chamber and locks down. Now we just have to wait for him to reconnect the 6 to the original 9 before he leaves the chamber. Then, there are 2 rec boats locking up.... then we can lock down.

We didn't do a whole lot except wait. But it made for a long day and an interesting night.

Total lock count: 66

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Second Creek to Wilson Lock, wall

Thunderstorms came during the night, as predicted, and dropped temps by nearly 20 degrees. It's gonna be a nippy night. But that's not the interesting part of the day...

While at Second Creek we noticed a bunch of tows around (again!). Russ called Wheeler Lock around 8 am and was told to call back in 3 hours. He called at 11 am and we were told we'd be able to go in the next hour or so. We hoisted the anchor and headed out. The lockmaster gave us permission to tie up onto the auxiliary lock wall while we waited, and that we'd lock down with a small tow. 

Side note: From below Chattanooga all the locks have smaller chambers, or auxiliary locks. They just don't like to use them. We -- everyone -- must wait and go through the big chamber. 

In Wheeler Lock with a barge.
The day was blustery, probably the windiest we've had in months. It made getting onto the lock wall a little challenging, but we managed.

The tow entered the chamber. We got ready ourselves, getting off the wall, and standing station at the lock. Once he was secured we got the green light, and were instructed to pull ahead of him and tie on the port side. We would be out first. We were so close to the lock door Russ could have reached out and touched it when it opened.

It all worked well. When we pulled out we were greeted by 11 or 12 looper boats waiting to go up. They were headed to the Rendezvous.

AIS sigs of all the loopers waiting at Wheeler
The wind had made the Wilson Lake choppy, something we haven't experienced since we got on the rivers. We'd been really lucky. It was in no way the worst we'd ever been on but a reminder of what lies ahead in a couple of weeks once we get to Mobile Bay and the Gulf.

We arrived at Wilson Lock around 2:30 pm. The lockmaster was hopeful about locking us down tonight. All that had to happen was this tow (who was in progress of being broken down) had to get the rest of its barges in the lock, tie 'em together, lock down to his other barges, tie them together, then be on his way. Loopers down there would lock up, and we'd lock down. The process should have taken a couple of hours.

On the wall above the aux lock.
Those are the doors...
that's a little unnerving.
It's 4 hours in and the lower loopers still haven't gotten into the chamber. The current time is 6:30, and it's getting dark.

The plan: There still is no room for us at the marina. So, when we lock through, we're going to tie off on the lower auxiliary wall for the night. The trick there will be not to run into the tow that's also parked there.

So, yeah. Gone be an interesting night.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Huntsville to Second Creek, anchor

Second Creek doesn't sound very romantic, but the anchorage is lovely. We're very close to the Joe Wheeler Lock which we'll get through tomorrow. 

We've been planning the next few days to target Florence on Sunday. We can't be there sooner since they are chock full of loopers staging to get to the resort at Joe Wheeler for the big looper extravaganza called "The Rendezvous." It starts Monday, so folks will head there Sunday to get ready. They want to head up, and we want to head down.

That in and of itself is a staging problem for us. But the larger issue for everyone is Wilson Lock. Recall on our trip to Florence we heard the long wall of Wilson sunk. SUNK! As a result it takes a long time to get tows through and, well, "rec boats" are not going to make it if any commercial vessel is around. 

Dawn at Ditto Landing.
There is a loop hole. They are only locking tows down in the daylight hours. So if you show up early in the morning (as we did when we came up) or after the sun goes down, you'll probably get through without any hold ups. But... darkness.

Moreover, if we get through the lock early, there's no place to anchor near the Florence marina. None. So we have to do it on Sunday.

To recap, we have a reservation in Florence on Sunday. We'll get through the Wheeler lock tomorrow and anchor near-ish the Wilson Lock. We'll call the lock and see if there's a time we can squeak in but we may have to wait until darkness, Sunday night. Darkness...

My Dad asked for a nighttime pic, 
when the boat was all lit up.
I'm all aquiver with antici-pation!

No locks today. 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Guntersville to Huntsville, marina

Bad locking day, today. Well, no damage or danger or anything, just a long wait.

The day started lovely, sunny and warm. Even though our destination was only 2 1/2 hours away we thought we'd get an early start. As it turns out, it was about 30 minutes too late, and that cost us 4 hours of time.

Gorgeous start to the day
Russ had finished the engine checks and the engines were running when Lizzie and I returned from her morning walk. I happened to look up the channel and notice a tow heading down river, soon to be our direction. About 10 miles down is our next lock, Guntersville. But he's moving slow, about 4 knots, so we think, "no worries, we'll pass him, and be through before he even shows up." Then I happened to notice an AIS signature about 2 miles already ahead of us, we'll call him the Thompson. Odds are we wouldn't pass him before the lock. "Okay, just one tow, that's not so bad..." Then I noticed a third AIS signature, one coming out from Guntersville. Jared Phillips.

What we see with AIS,
his name, and his speed.
Thompson is about a mile
ahead at this point.
At this point I almost said, "We should bag this and try again in a few hours." But we pressed on. (Seriously, we haven't seen so many tows at one time since the Ohio, and that was because the lock was broken.)

The 4 knot tow slowed as the Jared Phillips pulled in front to make a sweeping turn down river to get under a bridge. We, too, slowed to let him get his move done, not wanting to crowd the bridge to pass him under it. The slow boat then turned up to Guntersville, so was no longer part of the story.

We hail the Jared Phillips, tell him we'd like to overtake, and asked if he preferred a side to do so. He said it didn't matter (he was polite about this). We picked the one-whistle, overtaking him on our port side, which kept us on the inside of the turn. It becomes clear, however, that this isn't happening. I mean, minutes and minutes go by and we're not overtaking. We increased our speed, so did Jared. Eventually we were going almost as fast as we can and we just can get by this guy. Neither of us have ever seen a tow go this fast. He had 7 barges, only 1 of which was full (we know this since they have to tell the lockmaster what they're pushing), which is a pretty light load, but man! He topped out over 10 knots. There's a tow ahead -- he ain't locking down first, anyway.

We gave up. Ultimately, we may have gotten ahead of him, but there's no way with a commercial vessel on our tail that the lock would take us down before him. We think that may have been the point. Jared didn't want to wait for us to lock down, so he made clear we would not.

By this time we both gained on the Thompson who was hailing the lock and getting the green light to enter. Russ called the lock on the phone and explained we're with 2 tows and we'll be standing by, ready if there's any space to lock with them. But that was not to be.

Once through the lock we got some lovey views.
We get it. "Rec boats" are not anyone's priority. We're 4th on the list, as a matter of fact, behind commercial vessels, power generation, and water management. But if way back at the bridge, when we hailed Jared, he said, "I'm in hurry and I'm about to put the spurs to her at 10 knots so if you can pass me, fine, if not you might stay clear," we would have backed off, or even turned around and gone back to the marina for a couple of hours.

I found the situation pretty frustrating. In the end we still got to the next marina around 1 pm. Just a frustrating day.

Total lock count: a bitter 64

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Shellmound to Guntersville, marina

We're in a yacht club, to be specific. One of the handy things about being in a yacht club (Longboat Key Club Moorings) is reciprocity. Typically, things like dockage and fuel are cheaper. So, woo hoo!

Up before dawn we noticed the fog -- patchy, but occasionally dense. We waited until there was some light only to discover that sometime after we last walked the dog (around 8 pm) another boat had joined us on the dock. Willing was the vessel name. It was a delivery and headed up river to Chattanooga. 

That's Willing, who docked in the night.
Our first task was to get through the Nickajack lock. We called, then as we approached we hailed. We only had to wait a few minutes for the doors, then we were on our way.

The last time we passed through here we docked on the free town dock, took a dinghy to a restaurant, then decided to move to an anchorage. The town dock was near a busy road. The experience was more like sitting in a rest area. Handy, but not a place you want to spend the night at (and, believe me, I have, so I know -- RV history).

Gray and dramatic. But lovely for boathing.
We wanted to stop here and catch up with Beth and Rip Tyler, who kindly let loopers like ourselves use their private dock off the Pamlico River in North Carolina. They sold that home and now do a combination of RVing and boating. And they're in Guntersville. However, we didn't want to do the town dock again. Russ found us this yacht club and made arrangements. We're thrilled. Here for $20 (!) and we fueled up and pumped out. All good.

Taken by the crew of Scout as we passed.
Thank you, Lisa and Ray!
Also, we're back in Central Time. So we gained an hour.

Total lock count: 63

Through the foggy morning, into a lovely day.