Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lower Black Warrior River to Mobile Bay

Wednesday, November 19th, we left Demopolis, Alabama and were headed for Mobile—our last “leg” of the river system. We would be traveling all the way down in what is called the Lower Black Warrior-Tombigbee River. Our just-around the-corner and early morning lock was crowded; all ten “pins” held a boat. The lockmaster there was extremely concerned with the positions and names and documentation of all ten boats, so it took a long time to get everyone situated on his terms—then there was the exiting of his lock—again, still agonizingly slow. But we all did get through safely (I believe/know we were more experienced at locking “pleasure” boats than he was!), and we were underway by 8am. Whew. We had a long day to go—about 70 miles—and to a small anchorage—we were dubious if all of us could get into the reported small anchorage. Luckily, 7 boats were able to get in the anchorage—with rafting—we set our anchors just at dusk and were all tired.

“C-Life”, “Wanderin’ L & M”, and “Bella Luna” decided several nights prior to leaving Demopolis that the three nights it would take—on anchor—to get to Mobile, we would raft together each night and each boat take a night to cook dinner and share it with the other two. First night was Kay and Robert’s; they decided to make a Frogmore Stew. Delicious it was too—and with North Carolina shrimp, no less! Thanks, Kay and Robert! We ate early, and turned in early too—these next few days will be long—with no chance really to get “off boat”, except at Bobby's Fish Camp which is out in the middle of nowhere!

Thursday, we left our anchorage after the first raft behind us had broken apart—around 8am. We were headed down river –about 25 miles—to Bobby’s Fish Camp—this is a must stop for all Loopers. As we were making our way down river, we noticed for the first time Spanish moss in the trees—and I saw a few Palmetto palms up in the banks as well—we must be getting to warmer weather! It’s been very chilly lately, cold even—all of us are ready to get south and back into shorts.

Bobby’s Fish Camp is about 4 miles north of the Coffeeville Lock, having nothing but a short dock just alongside the river. Each boat pays $1 a foot—no electricity, no cable, nothing available but a delicious dinner (for an additional price), served family style, up the bank at Bobby’s Fish Camp beginning at 4pm. By the end of the afternoon, there were 10 boats rafted up to the Camp’s short dock—3, 3, and 4 at the back. It was impossible to get a picture of all 10 of us, but what a pretty one it would have been if we could have just talked someone into taking their dinghy down and going out in the river to snap it. (Just like us, everyone deemed it too much trouble!) So, just as the sun set, we all walked up the hill and had a really delicious dinner of fried river catfish and seafood. Interesting note: beers were $2.50 apiece or you could order an ice-chilled-in-the-bucket-six-pack for $6.00! Guess what our table of six ordered? (Hint-it’s been a long time since I’ve ordered a six-pack!)

The largest boat in our three rafts, a 59 foot Marquis, came in later in the day and happened to be alongside the dock (in the back raft) with 3 other boats tied to him. This particular boat was being delivered to Mobile—and the Captains of that boat wanted to get it to Mobile on Friday (burning the owner’s gas, they would waste no time in getting there either). They had contacted the nearby lock and requested a 6am locking—so we all went with him—no sense in wasting a lock on just one boat—and with all the tows on the river, if we could get through, let’s go! Rising at 5:30am, we were underway at a dark dawn of 6am (our earliest departure on this whole trip)—with all our navigational lights on, it looked like a parade! But we all got through the Coffeville Lock—our last one of the whole trip. How ironic too—the Coffeeville Lock and we hadn’t even had our first cup of coffee yet. “C-Life” and “Bella Luna” took several pictures of each other documenting our last lock—what an accomplishment for us both with all the locking we’ve done (over 130!)—and TYJ, we’ve had no accidents, incidents, or problems.

The second night at anchor was Bella Luna’s turn to cook dinner—we had homemade chicken and dumplings—a nice hearty dinner on what-would-be our coldest night on the water. Sure enough, the next morning, it was 26 degrees outside—even Robert’s bow anchor-wash-off hose froze and broke! Margie and Larry will be cooking for us tonight—their turn.

From Chicago to Mobile Bay is approximately 1200 miles. With our side trip to Chattanooga adding another 400 miles, we’ve come a long way in just two months. Seeing the skyline of Mobile today was exciting—yes! civilization—we’ve been in the river system long enough—time for a change. Salt water, warm weather, Florida, and the Keys—here we come!!

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