Saturday, May 22, 2010

First, I want to thank everyone who has left comments on the blog. Other readers enjoy them too.

This morning I left Pickwick Lake Landing State Park Marina after the fog lifted and entered the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway known as the Tenn-Tom. Traveling 100 miles I ended up at Aberdeen, MS Marina traversing 6 locks. Watching a tug exit one lock, the remainder were almost drive-throughs as the upstream lock notifies the next one that you are on your way. Not much commercial traffic today but some beautiful trawlers and cruisers, and a trimaran sailboat were heading north, presumably to escape the FL hurricane season. I will be there to report but hope early June will not produce any hurricanes until after I head north on the Atlantic Intracoastal. Many of the big boats cannot get insurance if they remain south during hurricane season.

Red buoys, riverway navigation aids, are on the right when going up river to the source... giving meaning to the rule of "red right return.” Green is on the left. After leaving Pickwick Lake however they changed to red on the left, green on the right, as the river is going down to the ocean. Beginning at Kentucky Lake is part of the huge Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) project that began decades ago to harness the vast water resources of the south and producing millions of jobs. The TVA controls most of the water, locks and dams I've traveled the past few days and it is only a fraction of the total. The Tenn-Tom is said to be America's best kept secret both for beauty and scope. Work began on it in the 1800s (long before the TVA) to connect Mobile Bay with southeastern waterways thus shaving off 700 or more miles for commercial traffic traveling the mighty Mississippi. The canals to connect the rivers were completed as recently as the 1970s and their construction reportedly required moving more dirt than building the Panama Canal did. Time to wash some clothes in the sink. Cheers.
Photos: Waiting for Montgomery lock. First lock of the day was 80 FT DOWN, largest of Tenn tom. Tug in fog early.

On Friday morning, I left Kentucky Dam Marina at 9:45 and arrived at Pickwick Lock and Dam (top photo) at 6:00 P.M. traveling about 180 miles. I do not intend to do that again but the spacing of marinas prompted a longer day. Guess I had to work off some energy with all the past week’s waiting to get started. Kentucky Lake is beautiful and tapers into the Tennessee River. Cloudy and windy all day into the bow. Homes along the river range from tiny "home builts" to roofs for travel trailers to fancy brick homes with lawns that run down to the river. Ranch House cruises nicely in the 30 to 35 mph range. The GPS is specific to waterways on my trip, but a chart on my lap is necessary for backup. The wind and motor sound preclude the phone most of the time but that is ok until evening. The marine radio is tuned to Channel 16 in case of emergency, mine or someone else’s. Some of the river seems rather remote and it fits the people who are very friendly and eager to strike up a conversation.

Today I begin the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway towards Demopolis and in a few more days Mobile Bay, AL. Thanks to my wonderful wife, Joanne, for transferring my pics and narrative into the blog at night. It saves me time that I need to plan the next day’s journey. Today was too long - time for a beer.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

After departing on the Mississippi Tuesday and being turned around by the closing of St. Louis Harbor it was back to decision time. Yesterday the Coast Guard said the harbor could be closed for a week or more as they expected additional rain from the storm moving from the west. Fern Hoppie at Hoppie's Marina below St. Louis said her boat ramp was blocked due to high water and that the only reasonable option for me was to take the boat to Kentucky Lake, a place I would have ended up in 3 days via the Mississippi and up the Ohio and Tennessee River. So, after leaving the great folks at Alton Marina it was a 4 hr. drive to Kentucky Lake near Paducah. The beginning of the loop has changed from Alton, Il to Kentucky Lake. Two more days of storms here and I should be departing by Friday or Saturday and on my way to Pickwick Marina 160 miles south and the beginning of the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway. Adventures are full of tests. (Photo is my breakfast view.)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Launched yesterday from Alton Marina and locked through the Mel Price Lock headed for the Chain of Rocks lock and on to Hoppie's Marina in Kimmswick. My sister Brenda and her husband Jerry traveled from Kansas City to see me off. After transiting the Mel Price Lock I received information that the St. Louis Harbor below me was closed to recreational traffic blocking my intended route. The river is at lower to moderate flood stage, still safe for small craft, but the Coast Guard deemed it necessary to close the area due to potential wake damage from heavier recreational boats. The river crests on Wednesday and I hope the restriction will be lifted soon. After returning to my slip at Alton Marina Brenda, Jerry and I took the Mel Price Lock tour and watched the 1/4-mile-long tugs pass through the lock. Later I spent some additional time on the Mississippi with Dave, a longtime local, in his center console boat. He explained the history of the Alton, IL area to me. Everyone I've met is very willing to share their knowledge of the River and I am a good sponge. Now in wait mode.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

950 miles from home in CO to Alton Marina past two days. Beginning in snow, ending the last 300 miles in rain and traffic. Passed through Goodland, KS, my boyhood home, and where my parents operated their ranch for 60 years. Now you know the origin of Ranch House!

I'll wait at Alton until I know how much more rain Nashville got today as it affects my travel up the Ohio to Kentucky Lake. No point in going to Hoppie's Marina in Kimswick when I have a covered slip here. The Mississippi is at low flood, and crests in two days, but not a problem for travel - the drift (stuff in the water) is not too bad. Saw small boats going out today. Folks here at Alton Marina are very accommodating and I have a few days to re-organize after the travel and gain local knowledge. My sister and brother-in-law will arrive tomorrow for several days. We'll visit the Corps of Engineers Great River Museum.