Dick and Gayl's Cruising Adventures

Down the Tenn-Tom

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We couldn't get our air card to work anywhere along the Tennnessee-Tombigbee Waterway, and amenities like wi-fi (or clean toilets or showers for that matter) were unheard of at the marinas we frequented there.  Just getting a cell phone signal was cause for celebration. Consequently, I entered half our visit to Nashville and as much of our Tenn-Tom (the short name for the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway) experiences as I could find time to chronicle using the wi-fi signal at the Demopolis Public Library.  Demopolis is just above the last lock on the Tenn-Tom.
If you have already read this page, you can click one of the links below to go straight to Page 2  or Page 3(entered when we next could get internet access, in Pensacola).  Otherwise, read to the end of this page, and you will find another link that you can click to continue to the next page.

Click here to continue to Page 2 of the Tenn-Tom.

Click here to continue south of the Tenn-Tom from Demopolis to Mobile Bay.

November 4, 2005  Florence, Alabama to Grand Harbor Marina in Pickwick Dam, Tennessee
41.8 miles
The bass fishing tournament finalists were in their boats saluting a flag on a bass boat while the National Anthem played at 7 am.  Each finalist boat had a pro and an amateur aboard, a support boat with extra supplies and assistants, and a boat with a camera crew.  They tore out down the river, and were long gone by the time we got off the dock at almost 10.  But, as we cruised to Grand Harbor Marina, several of the contestants and their entourages went flying by us on their way to more productive fishing holes.  We slowed a pass a few finalists twenty miles or more down the river from Florence, fishing near the banks.  As is usually the case when we pass anglers, we never actually saw anybody catch anything. (If you haven't read about the bass tournament before, you might want to go back a day or so  in our Florence section to learn more about it.)
Grand Harbor Marina is located at the foot of a deluxe condo development in the middle of nowhere.  Fortunately, the Marina has four loaner cars, so boaters staying there are not stranded. 
We arrived in time to nab a condo developer's agent who was only too pleased to show us, Geminellie, and Main Course all the different styles of condos available in the towers she represented.
After touring, we joined other Loopers for the nightly Looper cocktail hour in the elegantly appointed boater's lounge.  Finally, we found ourselves in the same place as the Browns on Act II, the first Loopers to befriend us as we were beginning life aboard.  We haven't seen them since St. Augustine. Ted was at cocktail hour, but we missed Helen then because she was on a shopping spree with other cruising women.   We were delighted to spend a little time with both of them when they both came by for a visit before we left the next morning.
November 5, 2005 Pickwick Dam, TN to Fulton, MS
56.2 miles
Today is our first day on the Tenn-Tom, so a little background is in order.  More dirt was moved to build the Tenn-Tom than to build the Panama Canal.  At 234 miles in length, it was the largest project ever completed by the Army Corps of Engineers, and some would call it the largest construction project in all of history.  It cost $2 billion dollars and was completed during our lifetime (it was begun in 1971 and completed in 1985), yet I had never heard of it before this trip.  Have you?
The waterway was built to connect the Tennessee River to the Tombigbee River in a way that was navigable year-round.  It reduced the distance boats had to travel from the Tennessee River in Northern Alabama to the Gulf from 1500 miles to 800 miles.  Creating a shorter navigable course to the Gulf not only aided river commerce, but also provided snowbirds and recreational boaters like us an alternative to traveling the treacherous Mississippi River to get from Chicago down to the Gulf. 

Fall color cruising

Our first lock on the Tenn-Tom provided one of the biggest elevation changes of tour trip, taking us down 85 feet.  By the time we finished cruising today, we had gone through three locks, taking us down 149 feet.  We now have 151 lockages under our belt for the trip, and locking through has become routine, although every once in a while things still happen to snap us back to attention -- a boat will come into the lock too fast, leaving a rebounding wake to bounce us into the lock wall, turbulence from the lock filling will toss us about, the wind will make it hard to keep the boat off the wall or get it close to the wall, or I will fail in an attempt to lasso the bollard, and Dick will have to back up and give me another chance at it. But today, all went well.
We had a perfect cruising day, mostly traveling through the somewhat monotonous 39-mile long section of the Tenn-Tom known as the Divide Cut.  We arrived at Midway Marina just in the nick of time.  It was 5 p.m. when we got to the channel, and we needed to see the channel markers to get into the marina without going aground.  By the time we were tied up to the dock and looking back out over the channel, it was becoming too dark to see the markers clearly.
We are back to eating aboard for a while now, as the Tenn-Tom is underdeveloped territory.  Check out the box below for a great Dessert Dip recipe from Ellie.  It'll make you wonder how much the pumpkin actually contributes to pumpkin pie.

Morning at Midway Marina

November 6, 2006  Midway Marina to Aberdeen Marina (MS)
37 miles
We tried to fill up on fuel before we left.  At $2.39 per gallon, Midway had the cheapest fuel we have seen in many months.  It also had one of the slowest pumps we have seen.  We waited about an hour for Geminellie to take on a couple hundred gallons, then pulled up for our turn to get about the same amount of fuel.  When the pump got to 64 gallons, it just stopped.  The marina's fuel tank was empty.  If only we had know they were so low on fuel, we wouldn't have taken on any.  We got the dreaded bottom of the tank, where sludge dwells.  Dick was not happy, but took solace in the fact that he had just changed our fuel filters yesterday. 
Our first lock of the day was just around the corner, and we were a bit taken aback to hear the lockmaster call our boats "RVs."  This turned out to be just the first of many times we were to hear our noble craft referred to as RVs on the Tenn-Tom.
In the middle of the afternoon we passed the point where the Tombigbee River joins the Tenn-Tom, and the waterway started to look less like a canal and more like a river.
We took a well-marked, but shallow, channel that snaked about half a mile through a forest of cypress trees to get to Aberdeen Marina.  The "marina" was basically a gas station/convenience store with a wall with cleats on it and a couple fuel pumps out back.  The convenience store staff clearly knew nothing about boats or docking them.  Fueling up was a self-service affair.  The store itself had a huge inventory of beer, and seemed to be selling as much beer as gasoline. 
We ended the day with a big potluck dinner aboard Geminellie with Destinations and Just Us joining our cruising boat trio.

After you copy the recipe below, click here to continue down the Tenn-Tom.

Ellie's Pumpkin Dip
1 tub Cool Whip
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
Beat all ingredients together.  Use as a dip for ginger snaps.