Anchoring in the River (Day 87)

We’re anchored tonight in a river that has traffic all night, thinking about a day of record-breaking. Today was a record for Many Moons in both miles and hours — almost 86 miles and 10 hours under way.

We’ve entered the desolate stretch, from Demopolis to the Gulf of Mexico. (See last post.) The idea is to make progress while you can, and maximize options later. It’s gone wel …one lock, good traveling companions, and good weather.

Except for that sudden fog bank.

We entered our 20th lock with six other boats. Because of that upcoming lock, we had planned our departure at a “Captain’s meeting” in Demopolis the evening before. (I’m not a boat captain, just a Navy captain, which doesn’t have much influence here … but I ran the meeting anyway because I was nominated to do so. You know how it is; whoever speaks up gets nominated!) With a large group of boats, it’s helpful to plan for the lock in advance. The skipper of War Eagle volunteered to call the lock in early morning and notify everyone when it was ready for us. The boats self-organized by speed and size. Everyone found the right spot in the lock. Amazing teamwork, really.

Almost all the boats wanted to make a lot of miles, so we were under way by 0700. The lock-down went very smoothly, and then … the fog. Not predicted, and not very lasting, but it was very dense. Since we were the last boat, we lost sight of all the others pretty quickly. We then lost sight of the channel buoys, and almost lost sight of the river banks. I don’t mind admitting that it was unnerving. We turned on our old radar, grateful that we had one, and then had to remember how to use and “read” it. In cases like this, Jeff and I make a good team. We each have a job, and we both need to be on the job in order to stay safe.

After that excitement, it was a long but mainly enjoyable cruise down the Tombigbee River. Somewhere in this stretch, we leave “the Tenn-Tom” (Tennesee-Tombigbee) and remain on the natural river which preexisted the dams and canals and man-made components. Later, this river will join the Black Warrior River and then the Mobile River. So many rivers! I’ve lost count. But then, we’ve also lost count of the day and many other things.

If it wasn’t for this blog, I’d have no idea how long we’ve been under way. Each day runs into the next, and the same with ports, and you enter a kind of twilight zone where all that exists is The Great Loop and the next destination and where your Looper friends are now and when you will see them again.

We traveled all day with War Eagle and, keeping an eye on the weather forecasts south of us, agreed that we should keep going while daylight lasted. We anchored at Turkey Point, on the side of the river but out of the channel. A barge came by right after we anchored and I asked him by radio if we were in a good position, out of the way of passing traffic. He confirmed that we were and even offered us a “slow bell,” meaning he slowed down to reduce the impact of his wake on us. It was only our 2nd time anchoring in the river itself, alongside barge traffic. That sounds unnerving, but we slept well knowing the barges knew we were there.

Photos and captions below.

Leaving Demopolis Lock behind six other boats. (Two are already out of sight.)
After leaving the lock, we ran into sudden fog that got much thicker than this. That’s War Eagle, another 34-foot Mainship, in front of us.
The Tombigbee riverbank is sometimes sandy and sometimes rocky … and sometimes striped!
We didn’t see many bridges on this long day, or even much sign of life, so this RR bridge was exciting.
Dredging is an ongoing challenge on this river.
Sandbars and sand piles pop up like this all along this twisty river. Which is why dredging is so important.
A barge passes astern as we sit at anchor, lighting up the trees on the river bank with its searchlight.

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