Cruisin' The Loop Aboard Kibon
Home Page            Log Index         Pearce's Paintings       

Monday, September 9, 2002
Cynthia came through again... the mail was delivered as we were finishing breakfast. Four pounds of bills, magazines and assorted etcetera...  Thanks, Cyn. We spent the morning catching up. By noon we decided that Green Turtle Bay had so much to offer boaters that we should either stay another week or move on and revel in the memory. We decided to revel.

After lunch we sidled over to the fuel dock, pumped out and filled up. Kibon is still averaging about a one-and-a-quarter-mile-per-gallon burn rate... most efficient cruise speed is a little over fifteen knots, on the plane, which keeps moving us ahead of our Looper friends from Kagawong, many of whom are driving trawler types at seven or eight knots.. We keep trying to stay at each stop a little longer, but run out of thing to do and get itchy feet for the next leg.
At about two o'clock we said goodbye to Green Turtle Bay and headed a mile up the Cumberland to the crossover from Barkley Lake into the Tennessee River and Kentucky Lake. Barkley and Kentucky Lakes together make up the largest man-made body of water in the world! This is not  quite like the Great Lakes, but impressive all the same. From here on for a while it's the Tennessee River, but it sure looks like a huge lake instead. Kentucky Lake goes on and on southward for about forty miles until Kentucky runs out then for another sixty or seventy miles in Tennessee before it starts looking more like a river. There are innumerable anchorages in little bays along the way, but, overall, the trip is a series of monotonous forest scenes on each side one after the other. Most of the left side is the "Land Between The Lakes" a national recreational area and, like most "national" areas un-buildable, therefore, devoid of anything that resembles civilization -- such as marinas that cater to boaters like us! When marinas finally start appearing south of Interstate 40, they are sparse and far between. Our first night out we anchored in one of those cozy coves... "Clay Bay." It was a delight; off the track of the tow barges, back in the Piney Woods and saturated with starlight.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

We awoke to a quiet cove with only the birds to keep us company.  We've been very surprised that we haven't seen any wildlife.  There were some wild turkeys climbing a bank along the Cumberland River, and there is plenty of waterfowl.  Perhaps our engine noise scares everyone else off, but I'm surprised we don't see or hear anything when we're anchored out.  As we were finishing breakfast several fishermen came into the cove, and when we continued upstream we saw many more at the mouths of the coves.  Pearce thought about stopping, but after his catch last night of two small Perch -- which he threw back to grow up -- he was tired of wasting his worms.  We passed only one tow all day.  Since he had just finished negotiating a curve, Pearce called to confirm the passing side.  But he couldn't figure out whether we were traveling North or South.  Supposedly if we are going upstream we are traveling North.  But the Tennessee River is the longest northbound river in the country.  So as it goes downstream it is traveling North.  Does that mean that if we are going upstream we are traveling South?  Pearce asked the tow captain.  That elicited an educated reply.  "Just say you are upbound, and that'll cover it all."  

We stopped at Paris Landing State Park for lunch and groceries.  Unfortunately, the restaurant was further uphill than we wanted to walk, and the groceries were a few lonely cans of relish and ketchup -- "We stop stocking things when we get close to Labor Day."  Macon, one of the dock attendants, offered to drive us up the road a few miles to a convenience store.  Kay got some snacks and milk and some home-grown tomatoes.  After she made some sandwiches, we continued on our way to Pebble Isle Marina where we spent the night.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002
We watched the 9/11 ceremonies on TV and thought about the people we knew -- and the thousands we never knew -- who were lost that day.  The enormity of the tragedy is still difficult to comprehend.

We had invited Tom and Teresa Wilson to come for a ride on the Tennessee, but Tom has been kept hopping with business trips.  He came by this morning for coffee on his way from Memphis to Nashville.  It was good to see him and hear about friends.  That's probably the only down side to this trip.  We meet other boaters with whom we can share stories of our trips.  Kay talks to the kids on the weekends when the cell phone works, and we do make phone contact with friends, but it isn't the same as spending an afternoon or evening with people you know.  I guess that is why some Loopers like to travel in groups.

We continued upriver and  passed three tows today, plus another one making up!  We wondered if one or more would pass us when we pulled into a little creek to make lunch, but we had probably put a good distance between us because the only other traffic we saw was fishermen and two small pontoon boats enjoying the sunshine.  Today was not as hot at the last few days.  The temperature was only in the high 80s.  As long as we keep moving we create our own breeze.  We debated which marina to stop in.  There are several plus some possible anchorages.  We chose the Mermaid Marina because their ad mentioned a restaurant.  Actually, there are two in this cove (marinas and restaurants.)  But both restaurants are closed during the week.  We met another Looper -- Gary and Colleen Barger of "Calypso Poet III" who said they'd borrowed the courtesy car with another couple the night before and had become lost trying to find the town.  So Kay defrosted the chicken and made dinner.

Thursday, September 12, 2002
The river is down at least two feet!  During the night the water was slowed at the dam, which is about 60 miles upstream from us.  We looked across the cove and could see a mud flat where the water had been yesterday.  We've finally seen some wildlife.  There are many turtles swimming about looking for new resting spots.  The owners of the marina said that the water should come back up during the day.  Although the channel depth should not be altered too much, we've decided that we could spend the day here.  There is a golf course right next door.  We borrowed a golf cart from the marina to get to the pro shop where Pearce rented another cart and some clubs.  Kay decided that this was not the place to learn how to play golf, so she volunteered to be the driver. It's an interesting course... laid out around and among what will be a condo development yet to be completed. A dozen or so homes are finished, several others are under construction, but mostly there are just plots waiting to be sold. The course is completed and is a very good one but a golf cart is an absolute necessity. There are many long stretches between a green and the next tee... in one case almost a half mile! Golfing is great exercise, but for hiking, The Appalachian Trail is probably a better choice.  We'll get our chance to hike in another fifty miles upriver where we plan to visit the Shiloh Battlefield and National Military Park. It was here that one of the most decisive battles of the War Between The States was fought...

Took the courtesy car tonight... drove about twenty miles to the nearest restaurant that's open and had the best catfish dinner we've had on all these heartland rivers that are famous for catfish. And the Hush Puppies... we know we're finally getting down south when the catfish automatically come with Hush Puppies. We found our way back to the marina and fell asleep with a smile!

Friday, September 13, 2002
Another seventy-five miles up river today.  Past the Shiloh Battlefield at Pittsburgh Landing where there is no landing, we finish our part of the Tennessee River. The river dips down into Alabama then back up past Chattanooga, but we turn right at mile 215 into the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. This is the system, finished in 1985, that cuts 800 miles off the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico run and bypasses the huge amount of commercial traffic there.  Although there are several options for marinas here, Kay suggests Aqua Yacht Harbor because they advertise a swimming pool.  We fill up on diesel at $1.359 per gallon and moved down the transient dock to a spot close to the land.  The wind was blowing from the East so there was a bit of a bounce at the dock, although dusk brought a calming as pleasure boats put into their ports.  We had roast beef at their Cafe St. Clair, which is now only open on the weekends.  Good news/bad news.  Kay discovered that there were many cells on our phone (we've spent the past week out of phone contact in most ports), but the big R was prominent.  The only public phones here are outside -- hot and buggy -- and the one on the dock has no illumination.  Today is Tina's and Amber's 11th birthday (they were also born on Friday the 13th.)  We wanted to wish them a happy birthday, but it will have to wait until tomorrow.

Saturday, September 14, 2002
We borrowed the courtesy car and headed to Shiloh.  Pearce's distant cousin, General Leonidas Polk, had fought in that battle, and he wanted to see the Sunken Road, the Hornet's Nest, and the Peach Orchard.  We watched the movie that detailed the determination and successes and the ultimate defeat of the Confederate Army.  Since we had limited time on the car, we visited only a few of the battle scenes.  Everything looked so peaceful and serene.  If we had not just seen the reenactment of the battle, it would have been impossible to believe that thousands of men stood yards from each other and fired point blank at their enemy.  We've seen many of the Civil War battlefields through the years and Shiloh is, by far, the best maintained, signed and historically accurate. The battle was massive, over eighty thousand soldiers on both sides clashed in a relatively small area and battered each other for two days before the South finally retired. Each unit's location and movement throughout the engagement was recorded. The record exists today on hundreds of signs and monuments in the fields and woods of Shiloh. The tide of the War turned here in 1862; that memory is still real today as one walks these grounds. 
Sadly, we heard today of the passing of Herb Buerger on Thursday. Herb was a past Commodore of Narrasketuck Yacht Club, our home club in Amityville, New York, and a long-time friend and fellow sailor. Herb has been a valued spark in  our club for over forty years. He was one of those people that every organization must have to succeed... the one who can always be called upon to get the job done. We'll miss him.

Sunday, September 15, 2002 

As usual, a leisurely breakfast before departure... banana pancakes. Unlike most transient boaters who leave a marina or anchorage at the crack of dawn, we tend to laze around until mid-morning. We've decided that this trek is not the kind of adventure that fits into a schedule. In fact, if you've looked at our so-called "Float Plan" lately, you'll see just how far-a-field we have flown. According to that piece of misinformation, we should be somewhere in the Florida Panhandle today. Actually, we're about five-hundred miles north of there and enjoying every slow mile. Whoever figured out that "Float Plan" anyway?

Finally, depart we do! We are southbound on the Tenn-Tom Waterway, the largest civil works project ever undertaken by the U. S. Army Corps of  Engineers. The idea of a canal linking the Tennessee and Tombigbee Rivers was first proposed by French settlers in the early 1700s, but Louis XIV had other fish to fry. The first formal U. S. proposal was made when Grant was president. That survey called for a canal 28 feet wide and four feet deep with 44 locks. The finished  waterway, which opened in  December 1984, has a minimum depth of nine feet, overhead clearance of 52 feet and ten locks, each 600 feet long and 110 feet wide. The system is five times longer and has a lift three-and-a-half times greater than the Panama Canal. The rip-rapped, 24-mile, 280 foot wide section that begins just a few miles south of Aqua Marina is called Divide Cut. According to Fred Meyers in his Tenn-Tom Nitty Gritty, the Bible of the waterway, "When the Tenn-Tom opened, this section was about as lovely as a strip mine." But this is the section that breaks through the dividing hills that separate the Tennessee River Valley from the Tombigbee Valley. "Without it," writes Fred, "there would be no Tenn-Tom and you would be rolling the dice on the Mississippi River." The cut may seem uninviting, but the 800 mile difference the Tenn-Tom makes gives it a sparkle like a jewel.

Although it is Sunday, there are not very many boaters out having fun.  There are a few water skiers and some jet-ski boats.  We slow down for the former and try to give the latter a decent wake.  Two of them followed us for a long time surfing on the curl of our  wake.  After we go through the narrow Divide Cut we come into the wide water of Bay Springs Lake formed by the Jamie Whitten Dam.  There seem to be many tree stumps outside of the channel on the early part of the Lake, but there are many launch ramps along the lower edges.  We decide to go through the lock and dam tomorrow and look for an anchorage for the night.  The guide book suggests going behind an island at mile 419.  There were several boats pulled up on the shores while their occupants splashed in the clear waters.  We anchored and tied a line to a tree on the shore.  We went swimming, and then Pearce took the scrub brush and cleaned the water line.  He was able to relax after dinner by surfing the TV movies because the shore line kept the satellite dish on station.

Monday, September 16, 2002
Since we were in sight of the Whitten Lock, Pearce called ahead before we pulled up the anchor.  "Green light's on... come on in," we were told.  We had all our information ready (name, destination, documentation number, etc.) like the books say is necessary these days,  but we were not asked either at that lock or at any other today... reminded us of U. S. Customs coming out of Canada last month. The ride down in the lock was rather quick for its 84 foot height.  The whoosh of the water and the clank of the bollards were very impressive.  So were the lock walls when we looked up after reaching the bottom.  We traveled through three more locks within 20 miles and had to wait at only one.  There were two tows waiting to go up close to each other.  We passed one shortly after it exited and had to wait for the other to come up.  We debated whether to go into a marina for the night or anchor out, but Kay read about a restaurant in Smithville that serves catfish, so we went into Jesse Cox's Smithville Marina.  The advertised restaurant is closed on Mondays, but Jesse recommended another one, Mel's, which had tasty catfish.  As we were pulling into the marina in the afternoon, storm clouds were gathering.  We were securely tied up and reading our books when the storm hit with a fury.  Tonight, not too long after we got back from dinner and were again snug in our boat when another downpour hit.  The rain is needed, and we're glad we stayed dry.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002
The northbound boat that had spent the night in the marina with us left shortly after 7 o'clock.  They had come from Demopolis yesterday and were headed for Florence, AL.  We thought they were too eager to leave, but when we called the Wilkins Lock to travel through, we discovered that a southbound tow was close enough to take priority.  We should have taken the hint and started earlier.  We eventually locked through with two other pleasure craft -- Baron Rose out of Toronto and Mahana (another Looper)  out of Fort Lauderdale.  We and the tow all traveled south through the next lock.  Fortunately, the tow was empty and stopped to pick up sand, so we all traveled through the next lock on our own speed.  The river/waterway  does change along this section.  The Tombigbee has begun to travel up and down, across the dug waterway.  For a long time it is only a creek.  After a while it begins to become a waterway.  The chart shows a water flow and a direction of travel.  Our chart does not show depths, but a visual inspection shows pontoon boats and docks up some of the waterway crossings.

We decided to look for an anchorage described in Fred Myers' book just beyond the Waverly Marina.  His book described an entrance into the Waverly Recreation Area where we could anchor and then dinghy to the launch ramp for a walk up the road to the Waverly, "one of the South's most impressive antebellum homes."  We followed his directions, correcting the "come even with the launch ramp before entering" to come perpendicular to the launch ramp.  In spite of doing that and coming into deeper water within the cove, we could not access the area near the launch ramp.  We decided we didn't want to anchor near the old railroad bridge.  Instead, we took the advice of the "Waterway Guide Supplement" and tried an anchorage half a mile further down in a branch of the old Tombigbee.  The entrance and the length of the branch up to the old railroad bridge (where we could see the afore mentioned cove) was deeper than the Waterway.  It was deeper than Pearce was comfortable using one anchor and allowing for a long swing.  Since we are beginning to enter the section where we will need two anchors, Pearce decided to practice his two anchor technique in this quiet cove.  He was happy to exclaim, after several ups and downs, that we were secure.  He set up the satellite dish which was keep on station by the double anchor.  We enjoyed our evening shows and are thinking about a trip by dinghy tomorrow to the Waverly Mansion. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2002
The double anchor system worked beautifully for TV viewing, but was a disaster when it was time to pull it up. The Danforth astern came out of the muck somewhat easily. But the Simpson-Lawrence Sprint 1000 Windlass gave up trying to pull the plow up forward. The same part that had disintegrated twice before -- the plastic, Rope/Chain Fleming -- again tore itself apart. The machine refused to go up or down so Kay held Kibon in place while Pearce slooooowly cranked the anchor up. Looks like we won't be anchoring for the next few days. A few miles downriver we passed under an Interstate highway and found enough cells to call Rich Karrasch at Silverton. Rich keeps saving our neck whenever something goes awry and has become our Mister Silverton! He's overnighting the parts we need to fix the windlass. We'll pick them up in  a couple of days in Demopolis, Alabama. Thanks again, Rich.

Let's back up a moment, figuratively, to passing "under an Interstate highway..." and editorialize a bit about cell phones in general and Verizon in particular. When we were planning this trip we talked to the Verizon people who assured us that by buying the "All USA" package we would have coverage everywhere in the U.S. When we got to Canada and had no service, Verizon sold us the "All Canada" package. Well folks, let us tell you, as soon as you get away from civilization or any major highway, there just ain't no service. That fellow on TV who roams around the country saying, "Can you hear me now?" must be sticking pretty close to the Interstates and staying far away from the Waterways. Technology has a long way to go in this department! Hey, guys, there are a lot of us boaters out here who'd like to use your phones... how about building a few cells for us?

Moving downstream a few more miles we stopped at the Tom Bevill Visitor Center in Carrollton, Alabama.  Congressman Bevill was the force behind the bill that gained the funding for the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.  He also  spearheaded the building of a Center to tell the story of the Waterway.  It is housed in a reproduction of antebellum mansions of the area.  The hall and parlor are furnished with antiques or reproductions of the period when Pickensville, Alabama was a bustling port on the Tombigbee River.  A display on the second floor allowed us to finally see the wildlife that lives along the river.  Unfortunately, the US Snagboat Montgomery that is moored on the Waterway next to the Center was not accessible.  The riverboat tow captains complained that it was in their way as they maneuvered into the adjoining Bevill Lock.  So the Army Corps of Engineers is building a land locked dock and will pick the Montgomery up out of the river and place it on land.  This boat was the last steam-powered sternwheeler that traveled the rivers in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia to remove the trees, sunken logs, and other flotsam that obstructed the traffic on the rivers.  (We've seen a lot of debris now that we are on the river portion of the Waterway.  We could use a river sweeper in front of us!)    Fred Ellis, our host at Marina Cove, brought us back to Kibon when we finished touring the Bevill Center.

Back to Log Index page
   -or-    On To Next Installment