We’re back in the locks again! Have I mentioned how much we HATE locks on this river system!?!?! (We have done 134 locks during the 6,500 miles we have traveled so far) The locks on the Tennessee and TennTom are much smaller than what we have been dealing with and there seems to be less barge traffic, so these are not as stressful (though the first lock is an 80’ drop, our largest drop to date).
The challenge is that we are hitting them on a holiday weekend and there is a schedule in place for when they will lock boats through; the first lock goes through on the even hours, the next on the odd hours and so on. As you can see, timing is pretty critical to success, or so we think!
We are designated to call the lock master at 5:30 AM (most likely because we are the only ones up that early) and then text everybody else the departure time. We find that he wants us there for the 10 AM lock through. It will take us 3 ½ hours to get there and so off we go as dawn as dawn is peeking over the horizon.
We pick up a few boats along the way that have anchored closer to the lock to be in ready-position, since they don’t travel as fast. We are constantly hearing this one sailboat on the VHF discussing how slow his boat goes and that he wants the lock and all of us to wait for him AND he wants to make sure there is a starboard side tie since he is carrying a stepped mast aboard and a starboard tie will make his life easier. Mind you, this is AFTER we are all already inside the lock and tied up (mostly on the starboard side!) He wants to be last AND to have it exactly the way he wants it. We just shake our heads. I am going to omit the name of the boat in the interest of political correctness because this story continues.
Arriving at the lock at 9:45, we are instructed to enter the lock chamber and secure ourselves to a center-tied bollard. The wind is directly from the stern and is blowing to beat the band. Jerry has become very adept at getting us right on the pin and I am now an expert bollard lasso-er so we are successful in tying on right away but it is rough. Usually once you enter a lock, it is pretty protected and wind is not too much of an issue but with the wind coming directly from astern we are getting beaten up inside the lock as the waves toss us against the lock wall over and over again. We have every fender we own deployed to good use and we are okay but it is very uncomfortable.
We just want the lockmaster to close the damn doors so this will settle down! And to make it worse, the lock master decides he will wait for the whiny sailor to arrive. We all groan. We get being efficient with the resources and all of that but to penalize the 8 boats (5 power and 3 sailboats) who managed to plan a timely arrival for one guy who delays us for 50 minutes is disconcerting, especially because this may jeopardize our ability to make the next lock on time vs. waiting 1 ½ hours for the next lock-through.
We try to make the best of it and are heartened to hear the lockmaster comment that because we have so many boats together, the next lock will probably open immediately for us rather than making us wait for the schedule, IF there is no commercial traffic. This actually ends up being the case but we spend all day waiting for the whiner at each lock along the way. SHEESH!
We all end up in the same marina and the game plan is identical the next morning. The first lock is nearby and he wants us there for the 7AM lock-through so off we go again, as dawn breaks. It is 29 degrees and I am wearing three shirts, a fleece vest, a sweatshirt and windbreaker on top, and then 3 pairs of socks, leggins under my jeans AGAIN, two pairs of gloves, a scarf and boots to try to stay warm. I feel and look like the Michelin Man and it is a nifty trick to get my PFD (which fits fine over a bathing suit) loose enough to strap over all these clothes! Have I mentioned how much I HATE winter clothes?!?!? There is ice on the docks and decks and this is getting old!
All of the 6 power boats are in the lock at 7 AM sharp and the lockmaster asks if anyone has heard from (insert name of whiny sailboat here). We all groan and answer that we have not. The last boat in says that he left the marina and not one of the sailboats was stirring at all. The lockmaster thanks him and says, “Well, let’s get this show on the road then.”
The cheer that goes up from all the power boats is deafening! No sailboats for a whole day that will include 4 locks and cover 60 miles is magical and we feel like we’ve drawn the get-out-of-jail-free card! WOO-WOO!
Photo Credit: Jackie Carlson-Hayes
The day turns sunny at noon and the temps climb to a balmy 50 degrees, which finds us shedding layers and turning our faces up to the sun’s warmth. We pass a majestic Bald Eagle, which is very fitting since it is Veteran’s Day today. It has been really uplifting to see so many of these birds especially the numbers of juveniles flying along the rivers.
As we get close to the marina around 3 PM we pass lots of white pelicans who have come south but I think they probably need to keep going; this is NOT warm! We enter Columbus Marina to see Mia and her sister, Ella (see Week 43 Post if you don’t remember Mia and her story) waving at us from the office. Their sweet little faces shine with happiness to be reunited with friends that are in our group of boats but I don’t think they have enough clothes on!
We plan to remain in the Columbus Marina for a few days as the weather is dismal and we want to try to visit a Rotary Club here.
I contact the Rotary Club and receive an almost immediate response, along with an invitation to dinner and we are thrilled. Many times we message a club and get no response. Bob Raymond, a French teacher here in Columbus picks us up and take us to the Welcome Center where the CEO of Visit Columbus, Nancy Carpenter has come in on her day off to welcome us and give us a gift bag of city must-do’s. We are so warmed by her southern charm and hospitality and feel instantly welcome in this city. Bob takes us on a driving tour of the historic district of Columbus and is very knowledgeable on architecture, history and the people of his city and we gain a real feel for the evolution of Columbus from being a civil war hospital town (for both confederate and union soldiers) to the very vibrant city that it is today.
We enjoy a wonderful dinner with Rotary President, Stacy Madison and his wife Heather and Major General (ret USMC) Tango Moore and his lovely wife Lee Ann. Tango was chief of staff of MacDill AFB for a year and so is familiar with our area. The evening is delightful with great stories and witty repartee between Bob and Tango that cannot be taken as anything other than an enduring fondness for each other. Again, we feel like family here!
The next day we grab the marina courtesy car with our Moon Dance friends. We take a tour of the home where Tennessee Williams was born and our friends drop us at Rotary where we enjoy a wonderful lunch and a great meeting.
Our friends pick us up again and we tour the Friendship Cemetery where many union and confederate soldiers are buried
and where Tennessee Williams’ grandfather Rev. Teasdale is buried. He was the priest at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and was so beloved, it was said that when he died, the angels wept, hence his grave marker.
From there we tour the Tom Bigby waterway museum which has a fun display where you sit in the pilot house of a tug and get to see how the controls work and some of the scenery from a pilot’s viewpoint. It is a nice little museum.
The wind is up and temps are dropping rapidly as we come back to the marina in time to do docktails and a planning meeting. Five more Looper boats come in. One is a sailboat whose captain has been outside all day at the helm of his boat and he looks painfully cold. “Ain’t no way in Hell, I’m leaving tomorrow!” he declares.
There is a lot of discussion about leaving tomorrow or staying. Because of the amount of rain this week, the river is flooding (expected to crest at 60 feet above flood- SHEESH, here we go again!) and is carrying a lot of debris, according to some of the Loopers who left yesterday. We had planned on going tomorrow but there is no marina until we get 100 miles and 5 locks down to Demopolis, AL. This means we will have to anchor out at least one night. And if the flooding and debris weren’t bad enough the lows for the next couple of nights will be in the 20’s with freezing rain and/or snow expected. Jerry and I decide we are going to stay put at least one more day. We just don’t think that venturing out under the current conditions would be prudent or safe.
We spend most of the next day on the boat (I don’t think I got out of my pj’s until around 3 PM). Since we will be back in salt water soon, Jerry replaces all of our zincs, which are the sacrificial metals in the engines.
Later that evening, we meet with many of our fellow Loopers for a concert by a university professor and fellow Looper, who taught violin making.
He has made his own violin which is impervious to the humidity on a boat because the wood he used was soaked for a couple of months in water and then dried before he even began creating this instrument. He says that you could throw it in the water, let it all come apart and then glue it back together and it would sound every bit as good as it does now.
Sorry this video is sideways, I can’t figure out how to right it but it is here more for the sound than the visual anyway!
The music is amazing, especially considering the fact that Tom broke all of his fingers, which now have pins holding them together. He is soft-spoken and kind and oh so generous in sharing his gift of music and knowledge about the history and evolution of the violin music that we enjoy that evening. What an experience this is for all of us!
After the office closes and the concert is over, we head out with our group and enjoy a wonderful dinner at Huck’s Place. On our way home, after dinner, we see bits of snow in the streetlights drifting down around us. REALLY!?!?!?
Today we will tour some of the historic homes but I am going to go ahead and post this because we will leave at dawn tomorrow and have been told that we will not have any internet until we get to Mobile on Tuesday, if all goes well.
Again, just wonderful. Thanks.
Hang in there, kids. You are almost home to us!!!!
Have been following your adventures from Missouri (Lake of the Ozarks). Retired after 35 years of marine law enforcement here at the lake and am a wanna be looper. Hope to have a boat and be on the loop in a year or two. You have a couple from here, Mike and Sallie Bogie, on the loop in front of you a few days. Tell them hello for me if you run into them (not literally, of course!)