More of the Same: Inland Rivers and Fall Foliage

Fall Foliage at Pickwick

Since we knew we would not be able to travel much while David was on his all-day quarterly planning meetings, we decided to stay on the hook for several days, moving ~10 miles every couple days before morning meetings started to slowly make southerly progress. The anchorages were peaceful and we were surrounded by the amazing colors of the trees around us everywhere we went.

After some long weeks and a lot of marinas, it was nice to spend a few un-interrupted days on the hook. Thursday was Veterans Day which I had off from work, so we decided to use this as a travel day with me driving while David was on his calls. We stopped for fuel at Pickwick, which had extremely slow pumps. Even with two hoses filling each tank concurrently, we still spent about 3 hours on the dock filling up. This, combined with the early sunsets of winter meant that there was not much light left in the day. As a result, we determined that we would head to AquaYacht Marina, which was still another 8nm away and essentially marked the beginning of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. We pulled into the marina just as the sun was setting and found a large group of other Loopers on the dock. They invited us to join them for dinner, so we had our first Looper dinner in a long time.

We had an early morning wake up on Friday in order to move pre-meetings. We went through one lock and set up anchor in Bay Springs Lake. There are tons of anchorages here on the many fingers that offshoot from the lake, so we picked a random one and dropped the anchor.

At sunset we both signed off from work and opened a bottle of bubbly on the balcony to mark the beginning of the weekend, and the end of David’s long planning week. Golden hour here on the inland waterways in the fall is truly glorious – it really is quite breathtaking as the light hits the trees and you can see the soft glow of all the many shades of the leaves.

We had decided that our new goal was to get to Mobile on Wednesday before Thanksgiving so that we could rent a car and spend the holiday weekend in New Orleans. With that in mind, we knew we had a ways to go on the weekend. We are currently only about 200miles as the crow files from Mobile, but on the winding river, we are more like 4oonm. Our day started out with an 84 foot drop in a lock – the largest change in height we’ve done on the trip so far! It just kept on dropping.

We ended up doing 7 locks this day, and an endless amount of planing in narrow canal sections. These are pretty with the changing leaves, but otherwise 100s of miles of the same views. Just as the sun set, we pulled into Columbus Marina, with a very sketchy entrance marked by 4 sticks marking a “chute”, and just over a foot under both our hulls as we entered. We borrowed their courtesy car and went into town to do some much-needed grocery shopping, then ensconced ourselves on the boat for the night as temperatures dropped. Just as we got back from the grocery trip, one last boat had pulled in (well after dark) to the marina, and we coordinated doing the lock (that was just outside the marina) at 7am with them.

Sunday morning, we woke up to extensive frost/ice on the docks and decks (crunch crunch) and carefully made our way out of the slip. We called the lock right at 7am and they said “we have a boat in here about ready to drop, get on over here”, but the other boat said they weren’t ready to leave yet and we should just go on without them. They traveled at 26kts, we figured we’d see them later in the day.

We only had 3 locks to do today, and they were well-spread-out, allowing easy timing of reaching them, so we had no waits for any locks. Just as we pulled into the third lock and they closed the doors, we hear out on the radio “boat turning the corner north of us, you coming to the lock?” and the doors opened back up. Lo and behold, our buddy boat from Columbus Marina had caught up, ~60nm into the day, so we chatted with them a bit while the lock dropped us. After the doors opened, the other boat took off ahead of us, and we continued at our lesser but brisk pace.

While the vast majority of this section has been pretty identical scenery, we drove past the White Cliffs of Epes, about a mile-long stretch of cliffs along the river. These were actually deposited around the same time as the White Cliffs of Dover. Unfortunately when we passed by, the sun was mostly directly over the cliffs casting most of them into shadow, though there were a few small sections in direct light reflecting the brilliant white of the walls. It was still neat and pretty.

After two long days of cruising, we finally pulled in to Kingfisher Bay Marina in Demopolis, where at least 12 other Loopers were staying for the night. We joined them for a happy hour gathering where those who were leaving in the morning were coordinating to go through the lock just south of here. We decided to pull out our scooters for a very cold ride to a nearby restaurant recommended by one of the dock workers at the marina. At the restaurant, we ran into a group of Loopers who were using the courtesy van from the Marina as we were gearing up with our scarves, gloves and helmets. They invited us to sit with them and they would give us a ride back to the marina! There was six of them, so we all piled into the van, plus our scooters and David in the boot :).

Unfortunately, there’s not much in the way of marinas or anchorages on the next leg of the journey to Mobile, which makes it hard for us to do our usual 15-20 miles pre-meetings (especially in the Central timezone, where we have lost an hour of the morning on our work schedules), so we have decided to spend the week here in Demopolis and make our way to Mobile next weekend, and we’ll use the week to get some much-needed packages forwarded along to us.

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