Saturday morning starts bright, clear, and cold as we push away from our slip at the Chattanooga Yacht Club. We have no traffic at the Chickamauga Dam and are soon through the lock and passing by downtown Chattanooga. Six hours later we arrive at Little Cedar anchorage where we spend our first night. With the below freezing temperatures overnight, we quickly decide to skip anchoring out and will stay at marinas with shore power as much as possible for the remaining trip. The next three days on the Tennessee River are pleasant with stops at Guntersville, Joe Wheeler, and Aqua Yacht Harbor. Aqua marks the beginning of the Tenn-Tom waterway. Reaching this junction, we say goodbye to the TN River after traveling 262 miles and five locks. We will be on the TN-Tom for the next 462 miles. Unlike the Tennessee River, this man made waterway is narrow, shallow, and twisting with lots of commercial barge traffic. We have long 10 hour days along with another 12 locks before reaching Mobile. Our nightly stops at marinas are at Midway Marina, Columbus Marina, Demopoolis. We had a way too close encounter one day with a fuel barge on the canal section of the waterway. The Captain was unwilling to give up much of the channel and we found our selfs only a few feet from the rocky embankment as we passed port to port. We held our breath as our depth finder showed a steady shallowing. Luckily we were soon passed with out running aground. Most of the Tow Captains were much more courteous and gave us plenty of room. We were forced to anchor out one night at Cooks Bend as there are no marinas near by. Our run from Demopolis to Bobby’s fish camp started an hour before daylight as we had 105 miles and one lock to travel. Going only 10 MPH makes it difficult to reach Bobby’s with the reduced daylight hours during the winter months. Today is also December 21St., the Winter Solstice and shortest day of the year. We were fortunate to tie up to the docks just as the sun was setting. The next morning found us up again before daylight to make an equally long run to the Tensas River anchorage in the swamps of lower Alabama. Just below Bobbys we pass through the Coffeeville Lock in the early morning darkness. This is our last lock for quite a while and we are now in tidal waters. We are only one day away from Mobile, Al and Dog a River Marina.
The last ten days have been tiring as we have traveled long hours utilizing all of the available daylight. We have taken no rest days as we wanted to reach Mobile before Christmas. Nate and Sebastian have enjoyed these days as they both spend lots of time in the pilot house watching the river banks go by. Sebastian, at 16 years old, spends most of his time sleeping. Nate seems fascinated by the ever changing scenery. This is his first time cruising in the pilot house and it will probably be his routine from now on. He seems to be adjusting to this new life after loosing his pal, Homer.
Our last day on the water begins with a predawn thunderstorm, hail, and fog. The hail was so large, Jeff was afraid our Solar panels would crack. Luckily, they came thru unscathed. We delayed our departure for several hours while the storms rolled over us. There are also tornado watches out today for the Mobile area. We consider staying another day at the anchorage while the weather calms down. However there are high wind warnings for Mobile Bay tomorrow. Normally we are weather weenies but have a mild case of ” get-there-itis” and would not reach Mobile by Christmas if we don’t leave today. Once out on the water, the AIS is alive with multiple targets of tows all heading upstream also trying to make their ports before Christmas. We are soon engulfed in a dense fog layer just 6 feet off the water. We have clear visibility above this layer in the pilot house but cannot see the many lurking deadheads, logs, and debris floating on the surface. We question our decision about traveling today but are now committed to our destination. Several hours later, we feel very fortunate to reach the busy Mobile ship channel without incident. After dodging the many working tugs in the downtown harbor, we are soon into Mobile Bay. We travel 10 miles through the bay alone except for an escort of Pelicans who seem to enjoy flying eye level a few feet from the pilot house. Nate becomes a little freaked out with these large birds drafting so close to the boat. He is much relieved to spend the last few miles in the safety of his cage down below in the guest stateroom. One pelican was so bold as to land on our starboard cap rail and hitch a ride for the next ten minutes. We race another thunderstorm into Dog Rive Marina. Luckily, we have our last line secure just before the skies open up. It is a relief to have the Tenn-Tom behind us. We will spend a few days at Dog River catching up on boat chores before continuing east along the Gulf Coast.
Total Miles Traveled: 724
Total Locks: 17