2006 Adventure UPDATES


UPDATE #31 11/16/06 thru 11/23/06

 Howdy Everybody,

    We are very interested in hearing from ya’all.  If you have missed out on any of the previous emails and would like us to re-send them, please let us know.

Please let me know if these emails containing pictures are too large and we will send you a version with text only.

The period 4/1 thru 11/15 has been covered in Updates 1 through 30.

 UPDATE #31   11/16/06 through 11/23/06.

     As you may remember, we have been traveling and exploring along the Tennessee River in Alabama and Tennessee.  At the last UPDATE, we were spending a week at Florence, AL.   We now continue our adventure here in Florence, AL before heading back down the Tennessee River and south on the Tenn-Tom Waterway.




     The weather, well, Judy put it like this; “Yucky day outside, but the boat is warm and cozy with love.”  For breakfast, she made some of my favorites, waffles and corned beef hash.  Delicious.  We borrowed the marina courtesy van.  Now this is a piece of work; it probably has a gazillion miles on it.  The brakes squeal, the bumper has fallen off, the driver’s door is sprung, the back door is bashed in and doesn’t work, the spare tire is missing, the seats are worn out, the steering is loose, and it will put the ultimate level of fear into you.  We strained to remember that “beggars can’t be choosers”.  We went to town and picked up a few supplies.  Judy bought me a new, flannel shirt to wear while I navigate from the upper helm.  Quite dashing, I might dare to say.

     Last evening, we had a delightful visit from Fred and Joan Myers.  As many of you may remember, he is the amazing author of the CruiseGuide series of books that we use in our trip planning.  Fred and Joanie had read our log update and gave us a call.  They live here in Florence and we had a wonderful evening of chatting and visiting aboard AMARSE.  Although the weather outside was rather rainy and dismal, that opportunity to be with Fred and Joanie really brightened our day.  Our friends, the Myers, are headed off for a neat trip aboard a cruise barge that will take them from Nashville to New Orleans via the Mississippi River.  It sounds like quite an adventure.  Bon Voyage, mes ami.    

     It was especially nice that both Fred’s kids, his grandson Austin, and sister Carol all sang the Happy Birthday song, however unfortunate, his brother-in-law, Linc, refused to sing.  Oh well, maybe next year. 

Judy made my favorite dinner of Mushroom Chicken Breast and topped it off with a fabulous “Butter Chocolate Cake oozing with Sour Cream frosting.”



   I must say that she did everything she could think of, and more, to make this a wonderfully special day.  How could I be happier?





     A thick and soupy fog layer thwarted our initial plan for an early departure.  By 9:28 am when we departed the marina, the fog had sufficiently lifted to give us safe visibility out of the harbor.  We were only about 15 minutes behind “Ladyhawke” and “Cream Puff”.  The weather continued to improve and we had a great view of the Natchez Trace scenic highway bridge.  Last year, we had ridden the motorcycle over the entire Natchez Trace route.  We had even been able to enjoy the newly opened portion that had only recently been completed.  It was “Over” the bridge before; it is “under” the bridge now. 



  As we made our way along the final stretch of the Tennessee River, it was very evident that the peak foliage season had passed.  The wind and rains of this week have left the majority of the trees stripped of their autumn splendor.  Patiently waiting the coming winter, some of the mighty oaks are still tenaciously hanging on to their rusty-colored, withering leaves.



  Under clear skies and cool temperatures, we enjoyed gliding along in the calm, peaceful magnificence of this beautiful river.  We are both convinced that we would love to spend a lot more time in these charming waters.

     About 2 pm, we left the Tennessee River in our wake and turned south onto the headwaters of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.  We are now 450.5 miles north of Mobile, Alabama.  To be on the safe side, we stopped at Aqua Yacht Harbor and added some fuel.  We added only enough to ensure adequate reserve to get us to Aberdeen, MS. 

     We selected a lovely, peaceful anchorage only a mile or so from the marina to spend the night.  It was sunny and pleasant; we enjoyed it very much in the tranquil setting away from the hustle and bustle of marina activity.


POSITION: N34 59.580 W088 14.378




   A patchy, low fog veiled the area around Yellow Creek.  With the temperature at 38 degrees, we took nearly 20 minutes to raise and clean off the muddy anchor.



  At 7:26 am, we joined the Tenn-Tom Waterway at mile 448.8.  This canal has only a short history.  It was only completed in 1985.  Prior to that, this loop trip was not possible.  Any vessels traveling south had to make their passage via the Mississippi River.  I had first made this trip south along the Tenn-Tom about 1990 aboard “Picante”, a 35 foot Beneteau sailboat owned by Casey Fannin.  Together with his dad and his son, both also named Casey, I dubbed the trip “the C’s to shining Seas”.  We sure enjoyed that trip so early in the waterway’s existence.  The scenery has taken on a softer aspect now that nature has filled in the construction voids with flora and fauna.



     A special rendition, by “Bubba Fred”, of that country music hit “Sweet Home Alabama” sounds exceptional good on the “air guitar” (or was it the “air Banjo?”).



      The Whitten Lock is the first of the 12 locks that will drop us down on our way to Mobile, Alabama.  Fred Myers describes all the details of the waterway section in his book, “The Tenn-Tom Nitty-Gritty CruiseGuide.”  The lock is the ninth deepest single lift lock in the country and drops us the first 85 feet from our present elevation of 414 feet above sea level down to sea level at the Gulf of Mexico.





     At 3:18 pm, we were secure at the Midway Marina located at Mile 393.8.



     We dined at the restaurant located on the marina property.  Judy loves catfish and that is the specialty here.  I didn’t even know that a “grouper” had fingers, but I chose them anyway.  Perhaps, I’ll chose something else next time.  We both loved the baked sweet potatoes.

    The evening was clear and briskly cold.  The marina was already busily decorating the property for the upcoming Christmas season.



 POSITION: N34 17.863 W088 25.220




     At 6:45 am, I made a call to the Fulton Lock.  The lockmaster told me that if I could make it in 20 minutes, he would hold the lock for me or else I would need to wait several hours for a barge tow.  At 6:58 am, we were underway at full-steam to beat the barge that was bearing down on the lock.  We were in the lock secured by 7:15 am and, in only 13 minutes, we were out and on our way again in trail of “Babsea”, a large sailing catamaran from Ontario, Canada.

     Further downstream, we encountered this dredge busily digging and pumping away at the channel.  A sand bar has been shoaling in this area and this process will keep the channel navigable.  These “big fellows” take up most of the channel since that is what they are working on.  It is always prudent to contact the captain for special instructions.  Keep reading this day’s log for more on that.



     After several locks, we entered the narrow, winding, twisting, turning, stump-infested channel leading back to Aberdeen Marina.




    For some time now, we have been hearing the accolades about the place and the people.  Jeff Doty, the owner, has been much more than helpful to numerous “Loopers”.  When a reputation is built up like this, it fosters more and more business.  We have been anxious to come here and be a part of the future success of this place.  We filled the fuel tanks to the brim with some of the lowest priced fuel in these parts.

     The sideshow was about to begin.  A fast boat from Chicago had limped in recently with a damaged propeller.  Seems the driver had run his boat hard aground in the vicinity of that operating “dredge”.  We had initiated a call to this same dredge unit earlier today.  The captain was most helpful in warning us of dangerous areas and suggesting the safest route.  Apparently, the fast boat guy didn’t call or get the information right.  A diver had been called to pull the badly damaged prop for repair, however, he had been unable to get the part off.  A scheme was devised to lift the boat out on a very long trailer with the stern hanging out over the back.  Well, this attempt was filled with all kinds of excitement as a large group of guys went about their process.



     Each phase would meet with difficulty and the resulting solutions would be almost comical.  Before the boat was finally stable on land, at least three hours would pass.  Two four wheel drive trucks, and a power shovel backhoe would be needed, as well as, blocks and jacks and lifts and ropes, and chains, and nearly every other piece of anything within reach.  We just stood back in awe.  Note the blue pickup.  There was so much negative tongue weight on the trailer, that it almost lifted the back of the truck up off the ground.



     They needed to get the power shovel to push down on the tongue to release the hitch and insert blocks under the backend. I don’t know if or when they will get the thing fixed but we haven’t seen anything more of them.  Now, try not to laugh too hard at the pictures because they represent only a part of these poor souls’ problems.




     Judy borrowed the courtesy car and we took a little tour of the historic town.  There are numerous, wonderful Antebellum mansions in the town.  They are delightfully restored and maintained.  This first one is called “The Magnolias”.



  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to take the tour covering five of these lovely mansions.  Although not all are antebellum, there are lots of fabulous, historic homes in Aberdeen.






Unfortunately, the marina restaurant only serves dinner on Tuesday and Thursday for the fall season.  Their country home cooking has a great reputation.  We fixed up a huge pot of Chili to stave off the effects of another cold night.




     Shortly after 6 am, we were seated in the marina restaurant.  It was early and it was cold out.  We wanted to check out the breakfast here.  Everyone has raved about “Paw Paw’s Biscuits”.  I must say that they were quite good and I enjoyed the eggs and bacon.

     At 6:59 am, we were underway to snake our way out of the unusual, cypress-studded channel.



     AMARSE was in the Aberdeen lock at 7:10 am and out just 18 minutes later.  As we travel generally southward, the waters of the Tombigbee River wander back and forth across state lines running in and out of Alabama and Mississippi numerous times.  At one point, Mississippi is on the right and Alabama on the left.  This conjures the imagination to ponder the fact that Judy was in Mississippi and I was in Alabama while traveling in the same boat at the same time.  Can you see it in the pictures?  Judy in MS and Fred in AL; How’s that for “photojournalism.”




      In the era of steam-powered riverboats during the early days of navigation, the fragile wooden hulls of the boats were especially susceptible to damage from huge logs that often jammed the river.  Often, the dangerous tree trunks would get lodged just below the water surface.  To improve safety, sternwheeler “snag boats” worked constantly to clear the hazards.  The “Montgomery” has been historically preserved as a remembrance of those times.  Built in 1926, this 108-foot relic scoured the riverbeds of seven of the South’s navigable rivers for well over a half-century and until her retirement in 1982.



     The Stennis and Bevill Locks provided two more mechanisms whereby we continued to descend toward sea level.  Note the powerful outflow being discharged from the dam located just adjacent to the Lock.  The downstream flow rate will help propel us southward as we exit the lock.



 At mile 287.3, we dropped anchor at 3:12 pm.  This lovely and tranquil spot provided a secure location for our evenings rest.  The holding was superb and the scenery spectacular.

     It was another cold, clear night and we were glad to have lots of that delicious Chili to warm our innards. 

POSITION: N33 02.683 W088 13.292   




     We arose early to get underway for a long day.  This was the coldest night and morning so far.  The upper helm isinglass was coated with heavy frost and ice.  The decks displayed a slick covering of frosty crystals.  How cold was it?   I can tell you that we were surprised to find that our anchor washdown hose was frozen up.  It surely hit well down into the twenties to do that.  We were, once again, comfy warm in our cabin using those terrific Nautica blankets.  By 6:20 am, we were moving out into the Cochrane Cutoff.  The Heflin Lock instructed us to wait upon our arrival at 8:30am.  At Mile 266.1, we waited twenty-five minutes before entering the lock.  The lower gates were cleared at 9:27 am. 

     Ranking with some of the most unusual and interesting sights along this section are the formidable, white cliffs at Epes.  In the vicinity of Mile 233, the chalk cliffs rise sharply from the river’s edge and their brilliance is stunning in the midday sun.  The many changes in topography and geology throughout this entire adventure has constantly amazed us. 




     At 2:20 pm, we marked Mile 217.0.  This is the point where the Black Warrior River joins forces with the Tombigbee River.  The official termination of the Tenn-Tom Waterway occurs at this location.  The proper name becomes the “Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway”. (BWTB)

     Immediately downstream at Mile 216.7, AMARSE turned into a small embayment housing the docks of the Demopolis Yacht Basin.  This place is one of the most famous stopovers along the waterway.  Very few cruisers pass by without making an almost obligatory respite.  We snuggled up to a secure long dock between two large houseboats.  Our friend, Pete from “Woodja”, eagerly grabbed our lines and helped us tie up.  He will spend the rest of the winter months right here before returning to Harbor Point Yacht Club in W. Alton, Missouri.

     Judy borrowed the courtesy car and we found the supplies we were looking for including that replacement for our rapidly dwindling jug of vodka.  We dined in elegance with our host, Ronald McDonald.




     Our alarm clock not only wails out our wakeup call, it also indicates the inside and outside temperatures.  Showing 38 degrees at 5:15 am, we turned on the heat pump to warm the cabin and made that carafe of 100% Arabica coffee. The caffeine jolt would enable us to be away from the still dark dock at 5:55am, and in the Demopolis Lock at mile 213.2 at 6:20 am.  Heck, it would not even be sunrise for another 8 minutes.  We had an aggressive day ahead and needed to be putting those miles under our keel for an arrival to occur before sunset.  The locking was favorable and the river current was very helpful in speeding us down the BWTB waterway.  Note the volume and force of the open river waters constantly draining the upper regions of these Southlands.  Interestingly, this is one of the more placid times of year.  Imagine this view in times of flooding.



     The forces along the riverbank create large areas of erosion and wear.  From year to year, and sometimes even day to day, the river constantly chooses its own path.  Man often tries to intervene, however, nature always prevails in the long run.



     My friend, Harry Field, prompted me to do a little research on the following incident that occurred here some years ago.  On April 19, 1979, the captain of the tugboat “Cahaba” learned the hard way about the fierce power of the river currents. During the record flood level of 24 feet above flood stage, the water had risen to within a few feet of the “Rooster Bridge” spanning the river.  Even with her powerful, 1800 horsepower, twin diesel engines, the tug was no match for the river. Unable to buck the ferocious current, he released the barges, then, still a victim of the raging stream, lost control of the tugboat.  Now sideways, the “Cahaba” struck the bridge and was forced down and under the span.  Miraculously, the tug self-righted, kept running, and managed to regain control south of the bridge.  Amazingly enough, the tug is still in operation.

     I downloaded these pics from the internet of the actual event.  I bet the captain’s laundry bill was very expensive that day.






  The bridge, which had already been designated for replacement, was later torn down to make way for a huge, twin-span, modern bridge.  The bridge abutment is all that remains of the original bridge.



     A photograph of one page from our navigation charts clearly indicates the turning, winding natural path of this river route.



     As the afternoon progressed, it became increasingly positive for our arrival at Bobby’s Fish Camp.  At mile 118.9, we were to travel just under a 100 miles in the shortening hours of a late fall day.  Bobby’s has been a fixture and a landmark around these parts for over 50 years.  Thousands have stopped by on their journeys and vacations.  It is also the last place to get fuel before Mobile, AL.  The dock is fine, however, there is no electrical power for our heaters and the restaurant is closed today.




  Judy made up some wonderful sandwiches using some very nice, toasted sesame bread with white Albacore tuna.  Nobody does it better.  We wanted something kind of light so we could sleep well and be underway early again tomorrow. 






     At 5:15 am, the alarm sounded its familiar signal to “get up you sleepy heads”.  The routine of turning on the heat and making coffee only differed because we would need the generator for power.  A cell phone call to the lockmaster informed us that we would have at least an hour wait.  Oh, well.  A few minutes later, he hailed us on the VHF radio with an offer that if we hurry down, he will lock us through now.  We started the engines, cleared the frost from the windows, and got ready to depart in the patchy fog.  The boat tied behind us looked as though it were encapsulated in a frozen crystal.  As we untie, the lockmaster hails us again with another change.  We would now have to wait for a tow and then lock down with him in the same chamber.  We took our chances an continued down to the lock in hopes that he would change his mind again.  It took us 20 minutes to reach the arrival point at 6:30 am.  About a half hour later, the “Gilbert Taylor”, a full size tow materialized out of the fog.



    He entered the lock, secured, and then we were summoned to enter in behind him.  The space left behind did not allow us to pull up far enough to secure in the usual manner.  Judy, in her skillful way, looped the tether with enough slack that I could hold our position with small applications of power.  It was very nerve wracking, especially for Judy being right down there next to that behemoth.



   This Coffeeville Lock is the final drop and the final lock on our “Loop Cruise”.  Perhaps this level of excitement will etch the memory even deeper.  At last, we eased out of the lock behind the tow at 7:50 am.  The fog had lifted, the temperature had warmed, and the delicious breakfast of Judy’s special recipe, hot French Toast could not have tasted better.  We have so much to be thankful for.  I am especially thankful that I have such a terrific soul mate and first mate – I JEZ LUVZ DAT GAL !!!!

     The ever-changing land along the riverbank is evidenced in this photo.  The powerful waters will continue to eat away at the banks pulling trees, logs, and soil along with it on its southward journey.  Scenes like this are very typical along this portion of the BWTB, especially at the outer reaches of the sharper bends where water velocities increase significantly.



     There are not any marinas and only a few acceptable anchorages along this stretch of river.  To attempt the more distant options would risk problems if they became unsuitable for any reason.  We decided on the prudence of a timely anchorage.  Bates Lake at Mile 54.0 looked perfect and the approach was clean and splendidly attractive.  The anchor hooked right in with about 12-15 feet under our keel.



    This was perhaps the most perfect place for us to celebrate our thankfulness.  We rested, enjoyed cocktails, and feasted on a magnificent dinner that even the pilgrims would have envied.  Although not turkey, the tender Chicken Breast served with all the fixin’s like herb stuffing, mashed potatoes with sour cream, and gravy was better than we could have ever hoped for.  I was reminded of another Thanksgiving Day many, many years ago.  Being a young “Yankee” from Boston, I was in Alabama for the first time.  All alone, I decided to go to the finest hotel around for a special Thanksgiving Day meal.  I certainly was surprised!  Heaped upon my plate were the traditional slices of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and gravy.  Now here’s the big difference from Mama’s recipes.  The stuffing was made of cornbread, something I had never seen or even heard of.  Everything was covered with some kind of gravy that was full of chopped –up, hard-boiled eggs.  Now, what the heck was that all about?  I hate hard-boiled eggs!  As you can guess, I didn’t enjoy my meal very much, however, the experience has remained fresh in my memory for over 40 years.  Now, let me tell you, what Judy prepared is “what I like about the South!”



      Judy even made a creamy cheesecake for dessert and served it slathered with whipped cream. Everything about this wonderful gal makes me more and more “thankful” every day.

The coolness of the night, coupled with the ultimate in tranquility and peacefulness of this remote setting, allowed for a night as pleasant as the day. 

POSITION:  N31 12.620 W087 56.826      BWTB MILE 54.0



       The next installment UPDATE will continue with our voyage downriver along the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway (BWTB).  We are nearing the finalization of our great Loop Adventure.

       We sincerely hope that you are enjoying these email UPDATES.  Tell us how you like the revised format enhanced with larger print size and the use of staggered photos.  We thank those of you who have contacted us recently and we are looking forward to hearing from each of you in the near future.


       My Verizon AirCard that operates my computer internet still operates slowly and sporadically.  We will be sending out updates when we can.

     Judy has Cingular Wireless cell phone service.  So far, it seems to work even better than the Verizon Wireless (except Canada where Verizon’s North America Plan worked well).  Judy can be reached at 361-550-5353 and Fred can be reached at 210-296-4933.  We can be reached at either number.  Please call us if you like, we’d really like to hear from you.

"AMARSE".  is pronounced "AM-ARE-SAY".  Our website is:   www.amarse.net   .

Check it out while we will attempt to keep you informed via email

  We would like to hear more about what is happening in your lives.  Let us know as we very interested in what’s going on with our friends and family.  Please call or email us with your thoughts and comments and ideas too.  Thanks

Lot of Love,

Fred Reed and Judy Law