For the majority of our trip the weather forecast has been treating us kindly. We saw sunshine on travel days and the rain only seemed to come when we were lucky enough to secure a covered dock. A few leaks in our boat kept us weary of staying out in the pouring rain just yet.
This post is going to be a bit different from my others, as I’m getting behind and want to catch you up a bit. This will be more in the form of a log book, which will also aid in my memory of what happened each day.
9 October 2017
Birdsong Marina – Lick Creek (24 miles)
We go to bed thinking that each morning we will leave at the crack of dawn and then each morning when we wake up the fog is telling us otherwise. Waiting for the fog to lift delays our departures and shortens our days, but in a most appreciated way. The entrance to Lick Creek was only about as wide as the length of our boat (at least that’s what it looked like from far away). There were plenty of reviews where boats mentioned bypassing because it looked too shallow, but we decided to proceed inward.
With a pontoon boat watching, eyes wide and jaw dropped, expecting us to hit bottom, we passed over the bar with ease. It felt like entering an enchanted forest. Trees standing tall on either side created a tunnel to places unknown. The creek opened up into a sort of pond, we anchored, and RJ took the paddle board out for his first time.
10 October 2017
Lick Creek – Clifton Marina (27.5 miles)
Waking up, we had enough time to eat some granola and secure the paddle board before the rain started. Rain is easier to see through than fog, so we put on our foul weather gear and pulled up the anchor. With rain plummeting down all around us, splashing all over the water, the wet morning made the green wall of trees even more brightly colored.
Around one o’clock in the afternoon, we finally started to see blue skies. RJ was anxious for the sun. With clouds and a broken alternator, our voltage had seen better days.
11 October 2017
Clifton Marina – Wolf Island (34 miles)
By the time we were climbing our stairs out into the daylight, most everyone had departed the Marina. The previous evening, we were the last boat to arrive. Just two things about Clifton Marina:
1. They do an amazing job of playing Tetris to fit as many boats onto the transient docks as possible.
2. RJ did the best job I’ve seen so far of maneuvering Patches. He was able to back into our small spot, between a boat and the community dock full of onlookers waiting for him to mess up. Or probably. just waiting with smiles and hello’s.
Not much to say about Wolf Island.
12 October 2017
Wolf Island – Zippy Cove (~24 miles)
One lock this day, Pickwick Lock, which slowed us down on approach. We could see the water dumping out as boats were locked down changing our speed from near five nautical miles per hour to just about two.
We were excited for the doors to open into Pickwick Lake, as the guidebook mentioned the most beautiful anchorages to see since the Georgian Bay (Canada) were located here. Disappointed when all the “amazing” coves were lined with mansions, houses, condos, and boat docks, the decision was to continue.
After grabbing fuel from Grand Harbor Marina, we moseyed our way across the river to Zippy Cove. Well protected, private, and most importantly, free.
13 October 2017
Zippy Cove – Bay Springs Lake (36.5 miles)
We spent about a half hour watching the sun slowly burn away the fog before lifting the anchor.
Our next anchorage on Bay Springs Lake was next to a visitor center and office for the Army Corps of Engineers and we were able to set our anchor about thirty minutes before closing time. Jumping into the dingy and running up the hill to the doors, we learned a lot about how the Tenn-Tom Waterway was created. Two fun facts: the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway is about three times the size in length and lift of the Panama Canal and the Tenn-Tom is also one of two man made monstrosities that you can see from space (the other being The Great Wall of China).
After getting some information on what to expect as we continue through the canal, we retreated to our boat with enough time to go swimming before sunset.
14 October 2017
Bay Springs Lake – Smithville (35.9 miles)
We planned on doing six locks, but only managed four, getting delayed at the fifth by a barge. With a safe anchorage above the lock, there was no need to fret. Being able to get through four locks with no waiting time was an amazing feat.
15 October 2017
Smithville – Columbus Marina (41.6 miles)
We watched the sun rise during our drop down Wilkins Lock. We made it to Columbus Marina at 3:30 in the afternoon, after three total locks. Enough time to do laundry, shower, go out to eat, and grocery shop. Not only that, but we had caught up to David, Kim and Salt on Skinny Dipper and had time for drinks and fresh baked cookies.
More rain and heavy winds.
16 October 2017
Columbus Marina – Pickensville (26.8 miles)
While RJ prepped our boat for releasing the dock lines, I took the courtesy car from the marina to grab some coffee from a Starbucks that was only 5 minutes away. Yay! civilization! Reaching the anchorage at half past noon, with the Dippers only an hour behind us, we all went to shore for a walk around the recreation area. RJ ran around playing with Salt for awhile before the imaginary dinner bell started ringing.
The wind swung us around, but the anchor stayed solid.
17 October 2017
Pickensville – Sumpter Recreation Area (38.2 miles)
We could see Skinny Dipper from about two miles away as they pulled into the creek and then turned around and pulled back out. The anchorage had a lot of reviews that mentioned an extremely shallow bar before it became deeper. Patches drafts a little over four and a half feet, while Skinny Dipper has an eighteen foot draft so they were sounding it out before it would be our turn. Our depth sounder ended up reading 3.9 feet, but we felt nothing. Our keel must have been either dragging in soft mud or it was just dense and grassy at the bottom.
This was our first night rafting to another boat while anchored. We all went swimming and stretched our legs walking around the recreation area before chatting the afternoon away. A dredge arrived in time to provide us with some exciting evening entertainment.
18 October 2017
Sumpter Recreation Area – Tombigbee Oxbow (4.2 miles)
Slept in, purposely, after deciding to take an easy short day before a long one. Started just above the lock and anchored in a creek just below it. After I took the paddle board out for a long paddle, RJ and I tried to do headstands on the board. Though unsuccessful, I am feeling confident that I’ll get it by the end of the year.
19 October 2017
Tombigbee Oxbow – Rattlesnake Bend (42.8 miles)
We departed into the fog.
We almost didn’t make it into this anchorage. There was a tow perpendicular to the flow of the creek, it’s stern pushing an incredibly fast current against the opposite shore, which was blocked by a barge. Approaching the wake at full speed and a significant angle, hoping to get by before getting slammed into the barge we were getting pushed towards, we narrowly squeezed through.
I took Salt out on the paddle board for the first time and decided once and for all that RJ and I need to get an Italian greyhound.
20 October 2017
Rattlesnake Bend – Demopolis Yacht Basin/Kingfisher Marina (7 miles)
We were docked at Kingfisher before ten o’clock in the morning, ready to make the most of our stay at the marina. We pulled the bikes out, assembled them, and rushed off to an alternator shop. The low voltages of the rainy days worried RJ, rightly, and we wanted to be sure our alternator would be reliable for future cloudy days.
About a mile away from the marina, we pulled up to an old garage. A graveyard for alternators. The man who owned the place, Ricky, had lived in Demopolis his entire life and his family had the alternator shop for at least one generation before him. Presumably, if they were working on an alternator and couldn’t get it fixed, it went into the pile of others. Piles of dead alternators and unusable parts littered the floor of the entire shop.
RJ bought a spare part and received a lot of good advice about what to do with the alternator and how to do it before we sped off on our bikes to explore the town. We bought some cucumbers and jam from a produce stand, checked out the Gaineswood Plantation and the town square, and stopped at Bluff Hall and the white cliffs along the river before returning to Kingfisher in time to take the courtesy car to Walmart to restock our galley.
We ended up staying three nights in Demopolis. RJ was able to fix the three significant leaks in our boat before heavy rain came down a day later, we played with a lot of dogs, met other transient boaters, went swimming, and enjoyed fresh fruits and veggies for a few days.
And suddenly, here we are. On the 23rd of October, 2017, heading towards Mobile, Alabama. We only have one more lock to go and we will be in saltwater. Maybe we’re imagining it, but can we smell the salt from here?