CHAPTER 10 OCT 18, 2007
TENN-TOM WATERWAY (TTW)
TTW is 450 miles of winding waterway ending in Mobile, AL on the Gulf of Mexico.
The first half of the TTW is in Mississippi, and the second half is in Alabama. The TTW opened in 1982 at a cost of two billion dollars. More earth was moved than in the construction of the Panama Canal! There’s a total of 12 locks and dams, each lock is 110 by 660 feet. Oxbows (created when some of the bends were taken out of the river during dredging of the canal) are plentiful, but it’s generally not safe to anchor there because they were used as dumping grounds for canal construction materials. There’s a lot less barge traffic on the TTW than on the other rivers we’ve been on. It’s also very important to stay strictly in the channel because there’s lots of tree stumps. Local people have mostly small fishing boats or small pontoon pleasure craft. Forest products are responsible for much of the industry along the TTW (see picture). There are large machines that grind up 30 trees at a gulp! Practically every town we stop in has a Walmart. The most popular vehicle is a white pickup truck, and it seems that every restaurant has a sign saying the "specialty" is Catfish. We are enjoying the catfish, hush puppies, grits and all the southern foods, but most important of all, the people are very friendly and helpful. We are really loving the south!
Oct 18th – spent one last day in Tennessee to visit the SHILOH BATTLEFIELD (see pictures). It’s a 4000 acre National Park now, but in April 1862, 65,000 Union soldiers battled 44,000 Confederate troops, resulting in 24,000 men killed. Later we drove (love those courtesy cars!) to Savannah TN to visit the TENNESSEE RIVER MUSEUM (see picture).
Oct 19th - we leave Tennessee today and begin the first half of the Tenn-Tom Waterway (TTW) in MISSISSIPPI (see pictures). Passed the "Delta Queen" paddleboat (see picture) on the TTW today.
Oct 20th - we passed through the Whitten Lock which dropped us 85 feet (see pictures).
Locking procedure on the TTW: Have your life vest on, call the lockmaster on VHF 16 and switch to whatever channel he tells you. Enter the lock when the green light is on, and tie mid-ship to a floating bollard (see picture). Call the lockmaster on VHF and say "Summertime is secure". When all the boats are secure, the lockmaster starts the lowering procedure. When the gates open, wait for the horn signal before untying your boat, then leave one at a time. After you exit the lock, call the lockmaster and thank him!
Every marina we stop in has other "loopers" (boats on the Great Loop), and we often get together for shopping, happy hour, and dinner. Boats often travel together, called "buddy boating" - nice to have help nearby in case you need it! Great friendships are being formed, and good times are being had by all. The locals at one marina spent all day fishing from the docks. We all got to talking, and they invited us to a fish fry at the end of the day. A big fry pot was set up on the dock, the fish were cleaned and fried along with french fries and hush puppies – what a feast! Linda enjoying some sun and reading on the bow (see picture).
Oct 22nd, ABERDEEN MS was an enjoyable stop. Lunch at the "Tea Room" was accompanied by sweet potato fries (with a shake of cinnamon sugar), and fried green beans – delicious! Driving the courtesy car, we toured the towns many antebellum homes from the mid 1800’s.
Oct 23rd, as we approached COLUMBUS MS, we began hearing lots of jets from Columbus Air Force Base. Pilots are trained there on the T-37 and T-38 jets. We only meant to stop for an overnight at Columbus Marina, but ended up staying 2 ½ weeks because we liked it so much there! I absolutely loved the marina’s cat "RT", who faithfully visited each new boat arrival! There’s a great park right next door at the lock for walking and biking. Lots of other loopers were there, the courtesy car was available, and shopping was great – malls, not just a Walmart, and a great butcher shop! Many wonderful restaurants like the local "Proffitt’s Porch" (see picture) that served a yummy southern specialty of red beans and rice, and "Woody’s" where I had the best shrimp and grits dinner! Along with the shopping and re-provisioning, I found a wonderful place to get my hair done, and a local dentist to do our 6 month checkup and teeth cleaning. We also visited the historic downtown (see picture) featuring Tennessee Williams home and many other beautiful antebellum homes (see picture), and toured the famous Waverly Mansion.
Nov 1st - WCBI TV came to Columbus Marina to do a piece on snow birds, and interviewed us on our boat. We were on the local news that night! (I have the interview recorded on a DVD, but haven’t yet figured out how to share it with interested parties. Can anyone help me?)
Nov 2nd - we visited the Bevill Lock visitor center and got to tour the Snagboat (cleans up the trees and junk from the TTW) "Montgomery" (see picture).
Towards the end of our 2 ½ week stay here, our nightly 5pm happy hour with the other loopers was interrupted by daylight savings time. Up until then, we had daylight until 6pm. That, along with the temperatures going down, helped us decide that it was time to move on down into southern Alabama!
Nov 8th - we started the second half of the TTW and entered Alabama’s low country (see picture). Had dinner in a little local spot called "Down Yonder". Really good BBQ ribs and the best ever home made lemon meringue pie. We’re seeing lots of wildlife – turtles sunning on logs, herons, egrets, coots (cute little ducks that skitter over the water when taking flight), kingfishers, deer, Canadian geese, vultures, and crazy fish called mullets that constantly jump out of the water. If you’re towing a dinghy, sometimes they mistakenly jump in them and can’t get out, so you find dead fish in the dinghy! We saw our first alligator (see picture) at mile 155. Later we passed by the spectacular white cliffs of Epes (see picture).
Nov 10th - we stopped in DEMOPOLIS AL. The barges fill up with fuel at this marina, 15 to 20,000 gallons at $50,000 plus for one fill up! We left Demopolis at sunrise (see picture) in the mist the following morning.
Nov 11th - we’re at the junction of the TTW and the BLACK WARRIOR RIVER. It’s very nearly primeval for this last stretch (see picture). This last 200 miles of the TTW requires a lot of anchoring and self-sufficiency. The anchorage’s are few and far between, and generally are just little spots where the waterway is wider, or tucked inside a creek using bow and stern anchors (see picture). It’s important to time it so you reach your next anchorage before dark. And, it’s very important to have anchor lights on, and maybe a nightlight to illuminate the interior of the boat so that approaching tows can see you at night. We even left the VHF radio on all night so we could listen for tows. (Tows run 24/7.) For the most part, there is no cell phone or internet service. This part of the TTW is known for it’s hairpin turns (see picture) – really scary when a tow is approaching! The procedure is to call out your location on the VHF so there are no unwelcome surprises. The morning temperatures are around 49 degrees, and there’s generally some fog, but warms up to the 70’s. The land is very flat and we’re now seeing fields of cotton, tree farms, spanish moss, cypress trees, pretty blue water hyacinths in bloom, a few houses and an occasional fishing camps up on stilts (see picture).
Nov 14th - we came out of the bayou and entered MOBILE HARBOR. Saw the first flocks of brown pelicans and cormorants. The harbor (see pictures) is huge and filled with commercial traffic, industry, and the Alabama Shipyard. After 3 nights of anchoring, we were happy to arrive at Dog River Marina in MOBILE for three days. Great to be able to walk around on land again and, cell phone and internet is back! Mobile is very big and interesting. One night we went with others in the dinghy across the river for dinner, and afterwards rode around the marina in the dinghy visiting other boats. Night Herons were flying all around us, kind of spooky but they are quiet, not like the Great Blue Herons with the ungodly squawk they make. At night, it really rattles you! The next day, a group of us (see picture) drove to BELLINGRATH GARDENS & HOME (see picture) – both were gorgeous! Then we went to Dauphin Island for lunch.
Nov 16th - our last day in Mobile, a group of us took the courtesy car to a local lunch spot called "Boiling Pot". We had heard about the Shrimp P’or Boy (aka grinder). It was about 5 inches high just piled with shrimp, and unbelievably good! We all left there with smiles on our faces.
So far we have traveled 2975 nautical miles on this trip, plus the previous 1000 miles when we brought SUMMERTIME up the Intracoastal Waterway from Charleston SC to Old Saybrook CT in 2005. We look forward to hearing from friends and family – please keep the calls and emails coming!