Into The Tombigbee (Days 79-80)


Fog. Cold. Spiders. Long straightaways. Three locks in one day.

And yet, quite fun!

We’ve entered the man-made segment of the inland waterway section of The Great Loop, heading downstream again for the first time in 20 days. It’s the most relaxing part of the trip so far – notwithstanding a cold morning without heat, a fog delay, some big spider sightings, and worries about multiple locks.

Shortly after leaving Grand Harbor, we entered the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway (the TennTom), starting with the 29-mile Divide Cut that follows the Alabama-Mississippi border. “The cut” connects the Tennessee River with the Tombigbee River. It took eight years to create and allows Loopers to avoid the Lower Mississippi. (Most do.) No stopping is allowed here. It’s quite an engineering marvel.

You wouldn’t think a man-made canal would be much fun, but it was! We saw deer, fox, and cows on the bank. A train passing overhead tooted at us, just for fun. We passed just one barge. The 41 miles from Grand Harbor Marina to our anchorage at Bay Springs was so relaxing, I even read a book.

We anchored within sight of Whitten Lock, the first of 11 locks we will encounter before we reach the Gulf. Since the water was warm, we dove under the boat to see if we could do some underwater work. (Jeff needs to add a metal gizmo to the prop to help reduce saltwater corrosion, which is a concern later.) Nope. The water was too murky. That task will have to wait for another day.

We got a visit, by paddle board and kayak, from fellow Loopers on Legasea, anchored nearby. I took the dinghy to shore to find a signal, and also found some huge spiders. (We have spiders on the boat, and I’m pretty sure they’re biting me, but they aren’t big.) I hustled back just before darkness. I can’t get used to this 6 p.m. sunset! It really limits your options when living on a boat. To think that it will get earlier and earlier! The heater stopped working during the night, so we woke to a chilly 41-degree morning. Jeff fixed the problem quickly. We also woke to fog, so waited for it to lift before calling the nearby lock. The lockmaster gave us an immediate “ok” for lock-down. We were under way within 10 minutes and inside the lock soon after, joined by another Looper boat that we hadn’t met before. We led the way through all three locks today.

I admit I was concerned about going through three locks in a day. With any lock, you can be delayed by tow barges–sometimes by hours. You can end up setting anchor in the dark. We know some who have.

But not us. Not today. All three lock passages went smoothly and quickly. In fact, after the big and often dramatic locks of the Illinois and Mississippi, it was downright easy! But we know we shouldn’t become complacent. Another challenge is sure to come. We know of people who took eight or even 12 hours to do this 20-mile segment. It took us just four. Fortune is following us lately.

I even got a jog in today. A rare pleasure – well, maybe not pleasure. More like necessity. 😉

We sit in Midway Marina tonight, enjoying the companionship of both locals and Loopers as we prepare to push further south. We are about 400 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. That sounds far to me, until I remember that we traveled almost that far through Lake Superior before we even got to The Loop. And we’ve come more than 1,700 miles since leaving Huron Bay. What’s another 400? Well, we’ll see, won’t we!

Entering the 29-mile Divide Cut on the Tennesssee/Alabama border.
The Army Corps of Engineers did an awesome job with this waterway, including engineering every creek entrance like this.
We sometimes use old paper charts as a back-up. This one shows how straight this canal is!
Many Moons at anchor in Bay Springs Lake.
Jeff chills out on the stern at anchor in Bay Springs.
Spiders are a frequent topic of Looper conversation because they’re common on boats. I found this one on land.
On this quiet day, I used the last of the Velveeta that came all the way from home. My sister recommended it due to its longevity. Hmm. Glad to have used it up! Its best use? See below.
Cheese sandwich! Yum!
Waiting for the fog to lift before heading to lock. Those are mooring cells for barges, on the right The lock is barely visible on the left.
Approaching Whitten Lock.
Preparing to leave Montgomery Lock as the gates open.

The floating bollard inside Rankin Lock didn’t drop right away, stretching our line taught. We called the lock master to report this, just as it began to move. Mechanical things can break down so we keep a close eye on things.
Many Moons leaving Rankin Lock.
Loopers gather on shore at Midway Marina. We even had a bonfire, our first since leaving home. I played my harmonica.

4 thoughts on “Into The Tombigbee (Days 79-80)

  1. Grandmother Hanson had a moldy piece of cheese in a tin container remaining after she crossed the Atlantic in the late nineteenth century. She was instructed to pack a lunch for thirty days before leaving Vadso, Norway. She crossed the Atlantic with her brother Andrew. She was the only girl on the tramp steamer. Uncle Fred’s story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, right? We can’t believe it either. It’s become more fun and more relaxing. (Jeff thinks it’s all fun, even the high winds and waves of the big lakes and negotiating with current and barges in the big rivers. 😉 ) Looks like I might stay until the Gulf. Nobody has signed up to replace me yet.

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