From Mobile, Alabama to Pickwick Lake, Tennessee (May 15 – May 29, 2018)

From Mobile, Alabama to Pickwick Lake, Tennessee (May 15 – May 29, 2018)

It’s a long way from Mobile, Alabama to Pickwick Lake on the Mississippi/Tennessee border.  It would feel long even if there were not floating trees to dodge and massive barges to be navigated around, but add to the mix, the numerous locks to traverse, the very few anchorages or marinas to stop at, and the season’s first named storm brewing, and the distance seems even longer. In this situation, ten-hour days become the norm, and time off from traveling feels like a reward well earned.

IMG_2056This smiling guy swam by while we were still in Mobile, ALIMG_4403Leaving Mobile, we saw this ocean exploration vessel.IMG_4405Mobile, AL skylineIMG_2068Barges are king on the rivers.IMG_2073This little guy was along for the ride.IMG_2089I wondered where all the logs and debris could come from, and then it became apparent.  One side of the river has calm beaches but the other side has banks that are badly eroding, and trees fall from those banks and float down the waterway.  Here is the beach side.IMG_2094And here is a side with severe erosion.IMG_4425This cute little dragonfly rode with me for quite a long while!IMG_4438More beach vs. erosion on the Tombigbee River.IMG_4445IMG_4453IMG_4456The first of several locks we traversed.  We were alone in every one except this and one other.IMG_4459IMG_4461A beautiful morning scene.IMG_4468These rocks almost seem to be painted.IMG_4479IMG_2103Reflections on the river.IMG_2126IMG_2130A tiny hut for fishermen?IMG_2138White pelicans at the base of the dam.IMG_2140Next to the next lock were these pretty dramatic falls coming over the dam.  Apparently they are good for fishing.

We left Mobile on May 16thafter accomplishing everything we hoped for at Dog River Marina. It felt so good to be on our way again, and from reports we had heard, the Tombigbee River was in much better condition than it had been over the previous weeks.  It was good we waited because there were still countless huge logs and trees floating south as we moved north, and those that weren’t floating were sunken with little showing above the waterline.  For John, especially, putting in long days was truly exhausting.  Rest did not come easily, however, as many of the anchorages we expected to suit us well were too small or too shallow for us to squeeze into.  We managed to find small anchorages two nights, but one night was spent right on the river after asking a tugboat captain to warn others of our presence. Anchoring on the river itself is frightening as it is narrow and its path twists, often in 180-degree turns; there is always the possibility of a tug with barges three wide and three long, for a total dimension of 100 feet by 600 feet, passing by and needing to make wide swings to get around the turn. Cell service was almost non-existent for the 216 miles in this stretch; there were no houses along the way, and not a single marina, with the exception of Bobby’s Fish Camp that looked pretty weak and a bit sketchy to us.  There were, however, trees, lots of trees, but not a single palm tree.  And once again, we were back to locks that lifted us to higher water.

IMG_4482Along the Demopolis River WalkIMG_4491Scenes from the town of Demopolis, ALIMG_4492IMG_4499IMG_4506IMG_4509IMG_4510IMG_4512IMG_4515IMG_4517

May 19th brought us to the Kingfisher Bay Marina in Demopolis, Alabama.  We were happy to stop and relax, and I was thrilled to find a very nice swimming pool.  The marina also offered the use of a courtesy car, which is always a pleasant convenience. We didn’t need any groceries or supplies while we were there, but we did take the car to look around town one day and then I took it another day myself to take a few pictures and to check out the fresh produce market.  While we were in Demopolis we started seeing signs of a tropical storm forming in the southern part of the Gulf of Mexico.  As always, weather determines everything we do, and, although we had planned to take our time heading north, we realized that we needed to leave our safe marina and move quickly.  The heavy rains that Alberto was promising would once again add to the flooding rivers and floating debris, so we chose to fast track our way to Pickwick Lake in Tennessee, 240 miles farther north from Demopolis, along the Tenn-Tom Waterway.

IMG_4519Our first sight of the white cliffs along the way.IMG_4540IMG_2153Watching a flock of white pelicans get into formation.IMG_2160IMG_2171IMG_2178IMG_2189How would you like to encounter these two tugs with their barges when going around a curve?IMG_2191Signage on most of the barges we pass.IMG_4547And on to more cliffs, the White Cliffs of Epes.  These cliffs are part of a formation called the the Selmas Chalk Formation and were deposited about the same time as the White Cliffs of Dover. IMG_2194More beautifully colored rocks.IMG_4557Sumter Recreation Area anchorage.IMG_4572This large lock lifts boats 85 feet.IMG_4575Birds often hang out in locks as they seem to be great fishing grounds.  I watched an osprey catch two fish while we rose.  But here, on the bottom of the right, in the horizontal bars, a great blue heron sat waiting for his chance to fish.  Can you spot him?IMG_4576Now can you see him flying as the water interrupted his stay?  He did this over and over during the time water was entering the lock.IMG_4605For those interested, these locks are slightly different than those we have used before as most locks give us a way to tie up bow and stern.  Here, however, just one tie is possible.  The line handler (John) wraps a line around this post that rises with the incoming water.IMG_4589The walls are rough and dirty and have completely destroyed our fender covers.  I will replace them when we finish with the rivers!IMG_4596Up 85 feet and onto the entrance of the Tennessee River!IMG_4604And the friendly great blue heron makes his last stop before starting on the descent.

We left Demopolis on the 24thand once again, we traveled long nine to eleven-hour days. Thankfully, the rivers were much more clear of debris, but there were still plenty of barges and lots of locks to deal with.  Our first night took us to Sumter Recreation Area, which really just consisted of a boat ramp and a tiny but beautiful anchorage.  Then, on May 25th, we arrived at a marina in Columbus, Mississippi.  We would have like to have stayed there, but, with Alberto churning in the Gulf of Mexico and making us hurry along, that town will be added to “On Our Way Back” list.  After yet another long day we arrived at Midway Marina on the 26th, and finally at Grand Harbor Marina on Pickwick Lake on the 27th.  Grand Harbor is a lovely marina with a great pool, courtesy cars, and nearby attractions.  We are happy to be here because it is from here that we will rent a car and drive to Jacksonville, FL next week for Madison’s recital and for a visit with Kelly and her whole family.

Our plans have changed now, for the summer.  While our original goal was to head up the Tennessee River to Kentucky, the reviews of the River from Pickwick Lake to Knoxville, Tennessee are just too glowing to pass up. There seem to be lots of towns to stop in and calm and protected anchorages along the way.  We look forward to a leisurely trip with beautiful sights to see as we make our way towards the Smokey Mountains.  Today we sit in heavy rain, but Alberto seems to have lost some of his steam; it’s peaceful on AfterMath now, although we have just gotten flood alerts on our phones. I guess the good part of being on a boat is that we can just float away if need be.  In the meantime, we will stay comfortable and cozy in our house on the water. And to all of you, stay safe this summer and make sure you take some time to enjoy every single day.



Almost a Month in Mobile, AL, with One Wedding in Arkansas and a Few Side Trips (April 20 – May 14, 2018)

Almost a Month in Mobile, AL, with One Wedding in Arkansas and a Few Side Trips (April 20 – May 14, 2018)

Who would have thought we would have stayed in Mobile, AL for almost a month?  Certainly neither of us had it planned that way, but here we are. Hopefully we will leave tomorrow, but we know better than to say that will happen for sure.  If we have learned anything on this adventure, we have learned to take one day at a time, and, I suppose, we have discovered how to find some good in every situation.

IMG_3862Mobile Yacht Club hosted a crawfish boil the first weekend we were at Dog River Marina.  The food was delicious and endless.IMG_3864

After leaving Lulu’s in Gulf Shores, LA on April 19th, we traveled 32 nautical miles to the Dog River Marina in Mobile, AL.  The marina is small, but safely tucked in on the Dog River, and, although it doesn’t offer anything in the way of entertainment, it does have a courtesy car to use.  The only restaurant in walking distance is at the Mobile Yacht Club, and there are no stores that can be reached by foot, so a courtesy car was a welcome perk.  Dog River Marina was perfect, however, for our main mission; we wanted a safe place to leave AfterMath when we drove to Conway, Arkansas, just north of Little Rock, for our nephew, Matt’s, wedding on the 28th.  Although we had a few days before we needed to leave for the wedding, we knew we could use the time on chores while we waited for our road trip to begin.

IMG_3870Part of our scenic Gulf drive took place on a ferry.  It was interesting to see the oil wells in the Gulf waters.IMG_3880Kirby liked riding with his head out of the window when the car was on the ferry.IMG_3887We were passed by this huge Navy ship.

We rented a car a couple of days before our drive and took a scenic ride around the coast of Alabama. Finally the time came to leave for the wedding; we loaded up our rental car, put Kirby into the back seat, and started off for Arkansas.  We arrived in Little Rock on the night of Thursday, April 26th, and took off early again the next morning for Conway.  Kirby was dropped off at Hounds Hideaway, where he was ready to have lots of fun with all of the other dogs.  We know he had fun, because Hounds Hideaway posts pictures twice a day on Facebook, and we spotted Kirby with other dogs, dripping wet from splashes from a kiddie pool and covered in mud from rolling in the dirt. Thankfully, we signed up for a bath before we picked him up.  For us, though, the weekend was far less messy, and absolutely wonderful.

IMG_3893Kate at the rehearsal dinner.
IMG_3898And Charlie enjoying his beverage.IMG_3904Madison and Michaela, all dressed up for the party.IMG_3905Kelly and Caroline, happy to be together again.

It was so good to see relatives we hadn’t seen for a few years as well as those we have seen more often, and, as always, Kelly and her family.  First we had lunch with some of the family at Hendrix College where the wedding was to take place.  Hendrix, in Conway, is the college Emily attended.  She and Matt, who is a pilot for the US Air Force, met when he was stationed in Little Rock and, after years of being apart while Emily attended grad school and Matt was stationed in Germany, they are back living there. Friday evening brought the rehearsal dinner, hosted by Kathy, John’s sister, and her husband, Steve.  We all had such a great time being together at this celebration of the wedding to come.

IMG_3914Left to right, Jim (John’s brother), Julie, Rich (also, John’s brother), Kathy, Carter, Michaela (in rear), Madison, Kelly, Craig, and John.IMG_3939Along the way at Petit Jean State Park, AlabamaIMG_3946IMG_3953IMG_3963

Kelly and CraigIMG_3966IMG_3968This is also in Petit Jean State Park.  A beautiful overlook.IMG_3977I love this picture of Craig, Kelly, Michaela, Carter, and Madison.  

The wedding was not to take place until 5 o’clock on Saturday, so we had plenty of time to plan some fun.  Kelly and family, Rich and Kathy, Jim and Julie, and we met at a state park about an hour from Conway and started out on a hike through the woods.  We thought we were taking an easy stroll, but ended up climbing up and down rocks, walking through the woods, and all together having a great hike.  John took the camera from me so I could concentrate on not breaking an ankle; this made him the photographer of the event, and I must say, he did a great job. Madison decided she would walk with me and tell me exactly where to put my feet, so I had my very own guide through the forest.

IMG_3982Emily’s brother and momIMG_3986Matt watching Emily come down the aisle.IMG_3999During the ceremonyIMG_4003IMG_4022IMG_4030Steve and KathyIMG_4037Left to right, John and Barbara, Steve’s brother and sister, Sarah, Jason, with Annie, Julie, Jim, and other guestsIMG_4060Annie and CharlieIMG_4064Kate and MarkIMG_4075Michaela, looking far too grown up already, Carter, and Madison.  We were so proud of them all the whole weekend.IMG_4076Madison with Aunt Kathy, John’s sisterIMG_4092That’s a fine looking family!IMG_4113IMG_4118IMG_4126Emily and her dad.IMG_4153Matt and Kathy


Five o’clock came quickly, and we were all so excited to see Matt and Emily get married.  It was a beautiful wedding in a lovely setting at the Hendrix College Chapel, and the reception at the nearby country club was beautiful as well.  Dinner was delicious, and everyone had fun getting ice cream from the ice cream truck that arrived soon after.  Then the dancing began and Carter was one of the first on the dance floor with his “other Aunt Kathy”.  Madison loved dancing with the groom, and then with everyone else.  Carter didn’t let anyone he knew off the hook; he’s got some dance moves!

Sunday morning brought us all together one more time for breakfast before the group began splitting apart.  Some the family stayed a couple more days, and some of us began the drive back home. As always, it was sad to say goodbye to everyone, but the time together will be remembered forever.

Back in Mobile, we had some work to get done.  Dog River Marina’s motto is that they can fix anything, and we decided to take them up on that challenge.  First of all, our freezer stopped working the day before we left for Arkansas.  The freezer is one of AfterMath’s biggest assets, as far as I am concerned, so we really needed to get it taken care of.  Also, it seemed that, as they can fix anything, it was time to deal with the chronic issue with the master bathroom head.  One last project was to have the boat hauled and to have the props removed, changed, and have the ones taken off repaired, as a diver had told us that one was slightly bent.   Like any boat work, everything takes far longer than expected. John ended up replacing all of the components of the freezer himself, thereby saving a ton of money, but this meant we had to wait for the parts to be shipped to us.  The props went smoothly, so that project was done quickly, but the hose that was sent to repair the head was the wrong one, so once again we had to wait for a shipment.  The men are downstairs working on that project as I write this entry. Hopefully it will be finished today.

IMG_4182Dauphin Island, ALIMG_4190IMG_4203IMG_4212IMG_4215At the Blessing of the Fleet in Bayou la Batre, ALIMG_4218IMG_4220IMG_4233IMG_4244These people served up tons of shrimp and fish IMG_4248My shrimp came with a little bonus!IMG_4250The land parade beginsIMG_4253IMG_4254IMG_4258IMG_4266IMG_4290And now the boat parade.  Here the pastor of the church is ready to throw the blessed wreath into the water.IMG_4300IMG_4304IMG_4307IMG_4311

So, while these repairs may seem disappointing, we have used our time well.  Last weekend we rented a car and made a trip to nearby Dauphin Island, AL, to see the beach and the sights there.  Later the same day, we drove to Bayou La Batre, a tiny shrimping town in Alabama.  Bayou La Batre was the hometown of Bubba in the movie, Forrest Gump.  It is a town that gets beaten down over and over by hurricanes but each time it picks itself up and builds again.  The attraction the Sunday we went, May 6th, was a 69thannual Blessing of the Fleet.  For this event, the town gets together at the Catholic Church and a festival takes place.  There are crafts and food, shrimp, of course, a land parade, and then a boat parade.  A bishop is in attendance and, after introductions, a short service, and the reading of the names of the people in town who were lost at sea, he boards a boat and goes out to bless each boat in the boat parade.  It was beautiful to see all of the decorated boats float past in this little town that has overcome so much and just never gives up.IMG_4315Along the Dog River

This past weekend was a busy one.  I was able to restock my freezer as John has it completely fixed and, believe me, it is now filled to the brim.  After getting all of the groceries put away, we took Tangent, our dinghy, for a ride up the Dog River.   The river is beautiful, long and winding, and full of cypress trees and beautiful lily pads. There are a few little beaches where boaters congregate, and the water is clear, clean, and fresh.  Our ride was a joy.

IMG_4318Mother’s Day in New OrleansIMG_4328IMG_4337IMG_4338IMG_4339IMG_4343IMG_4345IMG_4346IMG_4347IMG_4349IMG_4356IMG_4359IMG_4362IMG_4368IMG_4374IMG_4375IMG_4380IMG_4381

Yesterday, May 13th, was Mother’s Day.  John asked me what I would like to do for the day and the answer was simple.  From the marina, New Orleans was only a couple of hours away.  I have always loved New Orleans, so I asked him to take me there for lunch.  We had a wonderful time riding and walking around the French Quarter, dining on muffalettas in a great little café with the obligatory New Orleans band that, of course, ended their set with “When the Saints Come Marching In”, and just generally enjoying an outing that was unexpected.

It seems that this chapter in Mobile may be about to end, but we are watching weather again, of course. While there has been a dry spell recently, and that is good for traveling up a river that floods and brings debris along with the rushing water, seeing that the rains may start again is a little disconcerting.  We will go as soon as possible as we have new places to explore!  While we have been thinking about spending the summer in Kentucky and will still go there, the glowing reports we have been hearing of taking the Tennessee River all the way up to the Smokey Mountains are making that excursion very tempting.  And next month, I have plans to get to Jacksonville for just a short visit to get my last check on my eyes and to attend Madison’s ballet and tap recital; I missed it last year and vowed then not to miss this one!  I’m not sure how I’m getting there yet as who knows where we will be when it’s time to go, but as always, we will figure it out.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” Henry David Thoreau