The Tenn-Tom

It’s been a while since I posted anything, but it’s not for lack of trying.  Our Internet connection has been lousy at best, and is not the greatest right now.  But I will give it a whirl.  The Tenn-Tom runs approximately 450 miles from the junction of Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee to Mobile Bay in the Gulf of Mexico.  We are so close now, in an offshoot anchored out at Mile 39.1.

On 10/30, Tuesday morning, we left the Grand Harbor Marina and started our journey down the Tenn-Tom.  The first section was beautiful with many islands, then came the Divide Cut which is 24 miles long, and is a man-made canal, very straight and narrow.  We saw a coyote in this section.  It was not as aesthetically appealing, but made navigation much easier.  We came to the Whitten Lock in Dennis, MS, the first of 12 locks on the Tenn-Tom, which are referred to as the dirty dozen. The drop was 84 feet, quite an impressive sight.

Whitten Lock Gate Doors – 1st of the Dirty Dozen

In the 3rd Lock, the Rankin, we locked through with 2 other boats and a barge.  We had to tie up to ‘The Road’, our traveling companion’s houseboat.  We’ve tied up to another boat in a lock, but never with a full barge and tug.  It was quite exhilarating.   After emerging from the Lock we went a couple of miles downstream to the Midway Marina in Fulton, MS, Mile 394.  On our way we saw a big snake swimming in the channel.  It was a memorable evening, as we took the Courtesy Van to Wally World (yuck!) to do a little restocking of groceries.  All of us transients tied up on the long gas dock to spend the night.

Leaving Lock with Barge & 2 Other Boats

On Halloween morning we left the Midway Marina.  The water along the marina’s edge was full of dead trees and the fog settled in.  Eagles, herons, and egrets abounded.  It was a pleasant and peaceful way to start the morning.  The early fog burned off in the full morning sun, and we had another day with no wind.  We cruised downstream through 3 more of the dirty dozen, but got detained by a barge in the Aberdeen Lock.  Instead of waiting, we chose to go up a little channel which led to the Blue Bluff Recreation area.  We tied up to an old dilapidated fishing pier, and climbed our way to the top of Blue Bluff.  Later in the dark we heard some weird noises – we attributed it to being Halloween.

View from top of Blue Bluff

On 11/1 we left the fishing pier and made it through the Aberdeen Lock right before a barge.  We cruised only 23 miles to the Columbus Marina, as we wanted to check out this town.  It has an Air Force Base and survived the Civil War because it housed so many wounded soldiers from both the North and the South.  The historic district has many houses built in the early 1800’s.  We tried to go to the Tenn-Tom Museum, but it was closed for the day.  We did tour Tennessee William’s house and went out to eat at Huck’s with another ‘looper’ couple from Michigan on board a 35′ sailing catamaran called Catmandu.  Bill drove the courtesy van all over looking for a ‘Package Store’, which is where you have to go to buy wine and/or liquor.  Beer has to be purchased at the grocery store.  But we were in Mississippi, and that’s the norm here.  Hit the sack early due to a long cruise in the morning.

Heron from our boat at Midway Marina dock

Tennessee Williams House in Columbus MS

The next day dawned beautiful, and we left the marina to go through  the Stennis Lock.  Water hyacinth floated everywhere in the channel, and was difficult to avoid.  It is a rather pretty floating plant with dark lavender flowers, although after research I found out it is considered the worst of the invasive plant species.  It was perfect weather again, with a high in the low 80’s, no clouds and a light breeze.  We locked through 3 of the dirty dozen, leaving Mississippi behind, as the rest of the Tenn-Tom goes through wesstern Alabama.  In the late afternoon we cruised into the Demopolis Yacht Basin at Mile 216.7.  While tying up the boat, I got a huge sliver in my foot from the dock, but it came out as easily as it went in.  I will wear some sort of footwear in the future when going on the docks.  We had crackers & cheese on the boat with Dawn and Melby (‘The Road’ from St. Paul), then went out to dinner with them at the New Orleans House.  It was a fun evening.

Fun at the Demopolis Yacht Basin

In the morning of 11/3 we gassed up, pumped out, got ice & fresh water.  Right after heading out we locked through the Demopolis Lock.  After emerging, we discovered a beautiful waterfall over the dam.  This was my favorite day on the Tenn-Tom.  Amid sunshine and mid 80 temps we drifted through one of the many bends in the river.  We dangled our feet in the 72 degree water, and sang and yelled.  Our echoes reverberated back to us.

Demopolis Dam Waterfall

About 4:30 we pulled into Bobby’s Fish Camp, the last fuel stop on the Tenn-Tom at Mile 118.9.  It is a unique place, and by the accents of the locals I know I’m in the deep south.  We were told that alligators hang out on the opposite shore, and that in the dark you can see their eyes glowing.  We didn’t get to see that, but I was on the look-out for them nonetheless.  We docked with ‘The Road’ and the ‘Northern Spirit’, a couple from Toronto, also doing the Great Loop.

Opposite Shore from Bobby’s Fish Camp
where the Alligators Hang Out

Bobby’s Fish Camp

Today we cruised from Bobby’s Fish Camp through the last of the Dirty Dozen.  This stretch of the river was a little different, not as many cliffs, and much more isolated.  We saw a deer, some wild boar on the shore, and a flock of wild turkeys on an island.  Dried Spanish moss hangs from the trees, and in some areas bright green Cypress trees flank the shores.  The Alabama River joins the Tenn-Tom at Mile 45, and now this stretch of the Tenn-Tom is called the Mobile River.  We pulled into the Tensas River, which ends at Mile 39.1 and heard hoot owls and loons.  White egrets and Great Blue herons were plentiful along this section. We anchored out for the first time on the trip, and the anchor seems to be holding well. Life is good.

Our First Anchorage

Tomorrow we go into big Mobile Bay (technically the Gulf of Mexico) and go through the shipping channel and into the Intercoastal Waterway.  We are planning to go south through the entire bay, but we shall see what happens.  The travels on the Tenn-Tom will be ended, but will remain a remarkable stint of the trip in our memories.  We have already gone through 50 locks!  I’m not sorry that I won’t be seeing them for a while!

Until next time…talk to y’all later!

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3 Responses to The Tenn-Tom

  1. Don and Judy :) says:

    Good Luck in the “Big” water…should be fun..you made it!

    • rossmanpj says:

      Thanks for the confidence. We’re on our way to Mobile Bay. Hope the weather holds! I was able to add pics to the blog this morning and made a few edits. Thx for sending Jill’s info!

      Sent from my iPhone

  2. Mz Vic says:

    I can definitely hear that southern accent in your writings. You’re starting to sound like Charlie.

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