Last night as we sat at the table eating dinner and talking afterward, the boat seemed motionless, yet was pivoting on the bow anchor, apparently from the light and variable wind. There were some lights on shore near the boat launch ramp and the feeling was that they were slowly moving. We saw one or two barges pass on the waterway which was about 100 yards out of the inlet, but they were too far out to hear. And there was the one other boat nearby but beyond our drift range. The overcast prevented seeing the night sky.
We awoke to the same peace of the night before, but the overcast was still with us as well. We had a simple breakfast and then pulled up the anchor. The rule of thumb for anchoring is to have the length of the chain be about five times the depth of the water to assure a secure fix. We were in about 10 feet of water according to the depth sounder. The bottom clay needed to be sprayed off the chain as the power windlass brought it up and then we let the anchor drag for the first bit to clean it off.
Our first day took us from Columbus, MS to the Gainesville, AL area. Our destination today is Demopolis, which the guide book introduces as "no metropolis". It is at Mile 216 and so we should be arriving early afternoon. Demopolis is at the junction of the Tombigbee and Black Warrior River.
Tenn-Tom Waterway from Columbus to Gainesville
Gainesville to Demopolis
The Howell Heflin Lock near Gainesville dropped us from 109' to 73'.
All along the way we have been seeing great blue herons, cormorants, and turkey buzzards. Now we're seeing the occasional snowy egret. The cormorants and buzzards perch in trees in quantity. Buzzard flocks of 25 or so soar in a group.
Erosion is an obvious issue for property owners as well as the waterway. Some places the shoreline is rock and there is the rare beach, but most is soil. Much of the adjacent land is on the order of fifteen feet up. Some places the land at the edge of the water is littered with trees that have dropped down when the soil below disappeared. Mile makers are nearly all attached to trees and thus many are missing or have been replaced with others nearby, making the mile indications not match the published charts. Erosion would be mostly from the wakes of passing craft other than when flood conditions would exist. The waterway is about 300 feet wide. There is a slight current, perhaps 2 knots. (1 knot - 1.15 miles per hour.)
Mile 241 Luke's Landing
Jules spotted our first palm tree. Otherwise, trees seem to be mostly hardwoods (oak, ash, etc.), some pine, and an occasional sycamore. Few are very large. Looking at the highway map, this seems to be a very rural area.
We see a towboat with barges every couple hours. Actually, the boat is at the back of the barges and is pushing rather than towing. We've seen barges carrying stone, bark mulch, wood chips or pulp, coal, and benzene. The barges are individual units lashed together into a single entity. The locks are on the order of 600' long and 120' wide. Doug says that some barges are longer and must disassemble for the lock passage.
Eva Kelley with a load of coal.
Benzene Barge Plumbing
Mile 216 Demopolis Marina
We pull in at 1:00 PM. Radio contact results in questions about need for fuel, and make, length, beam, and draft of the vessel. A large Santa Claus welcomes us.
Santa Claus at Demopolis Marina
We are directed to a slip and Doug masterfully brings us in. Approaching the slip we hear saxophone music coming from a nearby boat. It seems as though some of the boats here may not go anywhere, but are people's homes. Later we saw a television on in a boat sitting in a cradle quite some distance from the water.
We check in with the marina and then have lunch on board. We purchased the full package that includes power and shower. Doug heads for the dial-up Internet access in the office, I get started with the log, and Jules hits the shower. When Doug returns, I head for the Internet access and Doug takes a snooze. I tried to post the first release of this log, something wasn't happy, but the office folks were getting ready to leave, so I was out of time for troubleshooting.
When I got back, they were both napping, so I checked voicemail. When I got back, happy hour was well underway. Then we went over to the restaurant for dinner. This was an experience in local culture. A group of young folks settled in next to us. They were friendly, starting our interaction asking Doug about his order of cajon scampi and they were trying to determine what to order. They wondered where home was for us. One of the guys was a forester and told us that forestry is the largest industry in the state of Alabama. We are amused by the local dialect.
After dinner, we walk over to view a vessel that we saw when approaching the marina. We had heard about the Christmas on the River extravanganza this coming weekend. The vessel was a towboat that had be converted to be the featured float in the annual river parade. A generator supplies power for a lot of lights. Apparently, the nightime event has the boat virtually invisible and leaves one with the impression that the figures are walking on the water.
Christmas on the River
We also came across a navigation aid and Jules and Doug posed for a photo. The perimeter was far more reflective than I would have guessed, making the marker easy to identify by spotlight from a towboat at night.
Jules and Doug with Mile Marker
Next stop was a stump that was being burned out and providing heat for a few people. We got chatting and they told us that they are here for the festival Saturday night (this is Thursday), having driven an hour. This is their seventh time coming and they joined the others in encouraging us to stay. They also told us about the barbecue cookoff that was happening across the creek toward town. (Doug is sensing the potential for mutiny.) And then we got onto cultural differences and one of the women was eager to point out that all those things we might have heard about the red neck folks, themselves included, were true!, at least to some extent. These people are friendly and seem to have a natural ability to have fun.
By the time we got back to Bravo!, it was getting on toward 10:00 PM. Jules headed for the phone and I for the shower. When I got back to the boat, things were very quiet.
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