Leaving the Rivers

Jan. 13

Day 1

We traversed southerly (emphasis on the “erly” part, as the river is very snaky) on the Black Warrior Tombigbee Waterway, what was to be three long cruising days with no opportunity to set foot on dry land until we reach Mobile, Alabama. We felt a bit of anxiety, the rivers being fast and the journey even more desolate than normal, due to current flooding conditions.

Steve’s NeBo app reads:

6:23 Started voyage at Demopolis Yacht Basin

6:36 Arrived Tombigbee River

7:16 Departed Tombigbee River

7:16 Arrived Demopolis Yacht Basin

8:04 Departed Demopolis Yacht Basin…

Despite having checked with the lock master first thing this morning, we were bumped by 2 unforeseen commercial tows. Rather than “tread water,” we returned to our slip for a few moments, chafing at the bit, as we had a 70-mile day ahead of us and daylight is of the essence. But once we got the high sign to return to the lock, everything went smoothly. We found our remote anchorage at Bashi Creek, a well-protected spot, and all went well until the 4th and slowest boat in our entourage arrived. He broke with conventions of courtesy and safety and attempted to squeeze between boats already anchored, setting his anchor on top of ours. If we could have moved, we would have, but he was on top of our 100 feet of chain and rafted to the stern of one of the other boats, rendering us totally impotent over our destiny. This is the first of this type of ignorance and lack of courtesy we have experienced, but everyone has their stories. Darkness fell, and the only sound was the faint whir of Fourth Boat’s generator all night.


Day 2

Good Morning, World.

With overcast skies and rain in the forecast, we were on the river at 07:30. But depite the cold and occasional drizzle, we cruised uneventfully with companionable radio banter and observations shared. We passed Bobby’s Fish Camp, still flooded with no way from the dock to the restaurant. It certainly was not the usual hopping cruiser’s party stop, but rather deserted and lonely.

Usually Bobby’s Fish Camp is a hopping place, it being the only place to socialize and get hot food on a 200-mile stretch of the lower river. With the latest rains, it was inaccessible and dead.

Suddenly two floating sticks in the water (we literally dodged sticks and logs all day) became the ears of a couple of deer “hoofing it” across the river in front of us. They were strong swimmers, but they must have had desperate need to risk fighting the 4-knot current of this swollen river. 

Two deer blended in with floating debris as they valiantly swam across the river in front of us.

We negotiated our final lock of this river system. Coffeeville Lock was nearly a non-event with a drop that barely registered a few feet, again, due to the high river. From there we left fresh water and entered the brackish wash, heading to the salt water of Mobile Bay.

We located our second anchorage on Three Rivers Lake easily before the sun dropped, but anchoring was a challenge, with an apparent mash of soaked leaves on the lake bottom which was difficult to hook. By the time we dropped anchor a fifth time and were finally secure, the sun was dropping fast. Despite anchoring being the most rigorous exertion of the day, leftover pot roast, kale salad, and Apothic Inferno never tasted so good. And, as I spent the day sneezing and blowing my nose, and felt mellowed by wine and Zyrtec, I called it a day at 8:00. I don’t even know when Steve tucked in beside me.

Another boat in our caravan. One of many magical spots on this journey!


Day 3


We convoyed with just one other boat today, the other one having taken off as we poked our noses out at the cold morning. After a reverent viewing of the morning sunrise, we raised anchor at 7:15 and headed out of the protection of Three Rivers, past Boat Four, which found us after dark last night and appeared to be yet fast asleep.

Skies continued to be overcast, and it was cold,092e35fa-ba75-4135-b2de-b2ffe8d00399 so we stayed inside at the lower helm all day. The river speed abated as we neared Mobile and the telltale signs of an industrial river at work appeared. At one point there were 49 tows on our AIS cue! Some of them were not working, but we passed every single one. Right in the heart of Mobile we encountered a huge freighter being pushed downriver by 4 tows. Passing this guy was an adventure, as the churn of all those engines created an eddy that made steerage a challenge and gave us a pretty wild ride in the limited width of the river.

This freighter with four tows (only one tow is in this photo) threw an impressive eddy. Yikes! We were too close to photograph the entire vessel.
Each of these containers is the trailer of an 18-wheeler. Cranes are loading hundreds of containers onto this barge, and behind the cranes is a vast field of thousands and thousands of containers awaiting loading. Truly a stunning sight!

Once in Mobile Bay, we said, “‘Til we meet again,” to our companions who headed east while we headed west across the chop toward Dog River Marina. While her red hull disguises the mustache on her bow from tannins in the rivers, she still deserves a haul out and a good cleaning. We’re going to hunker down here for a bit and explore terra firma! 

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