The Amazing Grace

Let Your Dreams Set Sail

The Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway

Grand Rivers, KY to Mobile AL

         Here we are beginning the last stretch of the rivers with about 650 miles to the Gulf.  We can’t believe the southern hospitality.  We are amazed that all the marinas we stopped at during this leg offered courtesy cars.  You sign out the car and for the next two hours you have wheels to run your errands and all you have to do is put back the gas you use.  We took advantage at Green Turtle and made a run to Gander Mountain, Sam’s, and Wal-Mart. We are thoroughly provisioned. 

         We usually average 5 – 6 knots per hour and we try to make around 40 miles a day. We flew down the Mississippi with our highest 80 mile day with the current.  We thought after fighting up the Ohio River and Cumberland River making 3 knots on our southern destination.  We were not ready for the next 190 miles upriver at our lowest speed, 2 knots.  First we crossed Kentucky Lake, a smallish lake since we could see both sides, and into the Tennessee River.  Here is a picture of one of the bridges with a span removed and an abandoned dock. 

After we placed some of the part orders overnight red and they didn’t arrived, we noticed that some objects are back ordered with the latest to be shipped/delivered by Dec. 18.    After 10 days, the marina converts to $10 per foot for the month instead of $1 a foot per day.  So we have decided to sit here and wait.  Economically it will be cheaper than going on and having to get the packages shipped to the next stop.  Scott continues to get all his honey dos completed:  installing the wind generator, water maker, inverter, resealing deck plates, installing the new anemometer,……  What an interesting afternoon at the dock, both a blimp and La Niña and the Piñta. 

Sights we hadn’t seen before was islands of grass caught by the buoys and a John Boat with an enclosure.

There were many gorgeous homes on the cliffs with very interesting stairs to the water. 

Also lots of RV parks with permanent shelters to protect them.  We think they must be for all those snow birds. 

During this stretch we went for 10 days without stopping in a marina. 

Actually we love anchoring out best.  We feel so stressed in a marina to get everything done from shopping, doing laundry, and getting any honey dos done.  We found many beautiful coves, inlets, rivers, cut offs, lakes, canots, creeks, and Ox Bows.  Our favorites were the ones that we were able to nose right up on the shore and tie our boat to trees. 

We listened to coyotes crying in the night and saw deer drinking from the water’s edge.  Scott would have loved to stop and explore the many caves along the way

and not comment is necessary about the state employee’s work on the levels of a bridge. 

         Finally we made it to the Tenn-Tom Waterway/Canal  (253 miles) which joins the Tennessee River and the Tombigbee River.  The canal was built between 1972 and 1985 for 2 billion dollars and was completed ahead of schedule. More dirt was moved than was moved in the construction of the Panama Canal.  More than 5,000 workers were employed at its peak.   We locked down 10 times for 341 feet in the 450 miles to Mobile and alleluia, all are with the current!   All the rest of the way down we averaged 7-9 and even hit 9.9. 

         As we entered the tallest lock we joined another sailboat, Maranatha which means “our lord cometh” in Aramaic.  We figured it had to be a blessed lockage down of 84 feet. 

Robert is travelling alone and so we travelled together all the way to Mobile.  Every day we would see a few barges, a few fisherman, and most days a few loopers.  It is very nice not to be travelling alone on the waterway. 

         What does a day in our life look like?  We usually wake up around 7, we aren’t good at getting up with the sun.  Besides we are retired, right! No alarms unless we have to.  We enjoy our breakfast time in bed too much.  We pull up anchor and head out usually between 8–9.  Then we travel around 8 hours to get to the next anchorage before dark at 5. Just love this daylight savings time.   Lunch is usually just sandwiches.  If we do have a long day, 10 hours + to get to the next anchorage, we get up and go quickly at dawn with just Pop Tarts and later have egg burritos for brunch.    Once the anchor or most times two anchors are set we also set an anchor alarm on our GPS.  It sets off an alarm when we move more than the distance we set. Then we have a hot dinner that we can usually have ready within 30 minutes of anchoring.  The next couple of hours are spent reading, playing games, (I am finally giving Scott a run for his money at Scrabble), and sometimes watching a video before we go to bed.  Now that it is cooler or maybe I should say cold, we snuggle in layers of clothing and even a nightcap ( I mean a hat) for the night with the temperature dropping as low as 48 degrees one night in the boat.  We keep thinking that it will get warmer as we get further south.  This hasn’t happened.  In fact, our first night in Mobile, there were freeze warnings.  How far south do we have to go? 

         On the Wed. before Thanksgiving we made it into Columbus, MS.  The marina had a courtesy car and off we went to Wal-Mart to buy all the supplies.  We had a wonderful dinner with Robert on  Maranatha and Ken on Pahoo

We first met Ken in Joliet, IL and have been keeping touch by phone since.  We spent the rest of the day being grateful for our many blessings this year. 

         The Tom Bevil Visitor Center made us feel like we were in the south. 

         On display here is the US Snagboat Montgomery, the last steam owered sternwheeler to ply the inland waterways of the south.  It was retired in 1982 after keeping the seven of the South’s major rivers navigable. 

the beautiful white cliffs at Epes.  During this stretch we also went by the place in the river of that famous video on youtube that showed the tugboat Cahaba overturn under the Rooster Bridge in 1979 and right herself on the downriver side of the bridge.   We also had very spotty cell phone coverage.  This sight, should of given us a clue. 

We heard tell that you can tell the weather by looking at the great blue heron.  If he is wet, it is raining, standing on one foot with the other leg tucked up close to his body, it is cold, ……., leaning over it is windy, and if he is falling down, it is really windy or he has gotten into the grog.

         We had lots of experiences with barges from Chicago on down.  On most of the waterway the most barges a towboat can push is 15.  That is how many can fit in a lock w/o the towboat.  They put the barges in and then they have machinery to get the barges out so the towboat can lock back to them. On the Mississippi they can have as many as 60 barges.  The most we saw was 27.  We feel lucky to have talked to a barge captain we know that runs the intra coastal and so we knew what to expect.  We passed one barge that had run aground and had to break them apart to be able to more.  He was loaded with coal, so we decided he had to hurry to make deliveries by Christmas. 

         5,000 miles have passed under the keel since April 15.  Yahoo!

         With bad weather called for in the evening we pulled into Okatuppa Creek, anchored bow and stern, and Maranatha tied up along side.

         As we entered the creek we saw the Spanish Moss hanging from the trees which is really from the pineapple family and is not a parasite but gets its moisture from the air.   Within the first 30 minutes the current shifted direction putting to much strain on our stern anchor.  It lost it’s hold.  Before we could get it up, we got the anchor rode stuck in our prop. 

         Scott got all geared up and into the creek he went.  In less than 15 minutes, the anchor was reset and he was in a hot shower.  We both felt good proving again that we are self reliant.   This is the shore of the last anchorage on the Tenn-Tom waterway. 

The waterfall from the last lock and dam.  We are at sea level! 

         Port of Mobile Sights

         We had never seen the bow wave shield on a ship.  We couldn’t figure out what it was from a distance.  This is the LITTORAL COMBAT SHIP being built at the Austal Shipyard by many of the locals we met.   The Lady of Fatima at work in Mobile Bay. Yeah, we are out of the rivers. 

          We planned a little down time to get our masts put back up, order parts, and get the boat ready for some gulf sailing.   First on the list was a wind generator and water maker.  We had a Four Winds Wind generator that was destroyed in Hurricane Ike.  We tried to buy a new one but none are available.  Scott had been researching what other brand to go with and we were going to order and install it as we put up the masts.  As we were checking into the marina we notice an ad that had a Four Winds for sale.  We couldn’t get back to the boat fast enough to call.  We still cannot believe the blessings.  The people selling the wind generator live on a boat just like ours, a Bayfield 40 named Yogo.  They also had a water maker to sell.  We spent an enjoyable day meeting them, touring and comparing our boats, and even going shopping.  The weather held and we were able to get the masts and generator up on the boat. 

While we have been at the marina we have met many other loopers.  On Steveadore, Sharon and Steve from Jackson, MI, who had just completed the loop.  They invited us over for dinner and an enjoyable evening of telling tales.  Sometimes when we get passed by big boats we think that we are roughing it.  On our last day on the river we saw 4 sailboats smaller than us.  Two were Buzz from IL on the 17 foot  Dalamar on and Tug on a 14 foot boat he made himself from Iowa. 

Also, we got to see the local Christmas Boat Parade. 

According to the news, Mobile is the wettest place in the US with an average of 5 feet per year.  We can attest to that. In fact on December 18 we set the record for the most rain in a month since 1853.  It has been rainy and foggy all but one day so far.  It is kind of neat to lay in bed and listen to the ships fog horns as they travel the channel.   We were blessed on a rainy Saturday to have a visit and lunch from my cousins, Randall and Sharon Ware.  Sharon had been Cindy’s babysitter back when she was born. 

         After reading cruising guides that recommended checking your passport,  Scott found that his passport had only 2 pages left.  So it is sent off to get more pages added.  So that puts us here for at least two more weeks or sometime between Christmas and the New Year.  So….

This Christmas Season, may you and yours have the gift of faith, the blessing of hope, and the peace of His love always.

Next we plan to head to the Caribbean.  The weather will continue to decide our course.  Will we go straight across the Gulf to the Dry Tortugas or will we hop down the west coast of Florida???

         While we were waiting Scott got to go to the top of the main mast and put up the new wind anemometer...Wheee!!

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