Swing Set

Sep 1, 201209:13 AM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

Last Lock on the Tenn-Tom To Mobile Bay

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After three wet and soggy days sitting above the Coffeeville Lock and Dam, we were ready to get out of there last Friday morning. Isaac didn't bother us too bad, but we didn't sleep as well as we would have liked due to the boat swinging around at anchor in several directions. If I had any doubts about whether our anchors were going to hold, I found out that those fears were unjustified when we went to pull up our two anchors before we left.

I let out the bow anchor line until I could get over the top of our stern anchor. Pulling straight up on it, the anchor wouldn't budge. I have my physical health to consider, so not much pulling by hand was going to be tolerated by my back. I lashed the stern anchor line around the rear quarter cleat and fired up the Cats. We may as well have been tied to the Titantic; the anchor was not going to bust loose. I stowed away the bow anchor and made ready to give a try at seriously yanking our small stern anchor free. Rosie stood watch from the swim platform, and I put both engines in gear...but not much throttle. Rosie made a noise. I'm not sure what kind of noise it was, but at the time it sounded like a "better stop what you're doing" noise. The anchor line had gotten wedged under the end cap on our swim platform rub rail and popped it right off. Let's see, end cap to a rub rail...no big deal, right? Well, I know people running around with missing end caps on their rub rails because the piece is out of production and they can't find a replacement. To make things more interesting for us is that the rub rail on our swim platform was custom-made by cutting down a factory rub rail and making it fit, and the end cap was too. While I was contemplating what I was going to have to do to replace the rub rail end cap, I was also pondering just how dispensable our stuck stern anchor was. I gave it about a minute's thought and grabbed my dive knife and cut that sucker loose. The anchor is now living with the giant log or barge cable it was hooked to.

We had already called the Coffeeville Lock, and as we pulled around the corner to approach the lock chamber, an upbound tow was just pulling out of the lock. We let him pass, and the lockmaster called us right in. It was a quick ride down, and out we went. When we saw the spillway of the dam and realized we sat just above it for a week without going over it in the dead of night, we figured loosing one itty bitty old anchor was no big deal.

We had 116 miles to make before hitting Mobile Bay, and we knew we weren't going to do it in one day, so we began to consider our options and settled on three main ones. It's our typical plan for any given day if we are traveling; if we don't like the first anchorage we come to, we know we have a couple of back up plans. If option three is not the best, we make it do. As we were making our way down the river, I kept an eye on the weather radar. There were thunderstorms to both the east and the west of us, but all day there was a slim break in the rain and cloud cover, and it stayed right above us. I felt like Moses in a way. To be fair, I also felt like Barney Fife, but that has no bearing on this story.

We passed a trawler with some guys on it that we had met at Bobby's Fish Camp, and I asked where they were headed. They were headed back to Turner Marina, which is up the Dog River off of Mobile Bay. I asked them a couple of questions about their marina and then called the marina myself. Transient dockage is only 56 cents a foot if you are a Boat US member, and they had courtesy cars, too. A West Marine is right next door at Dog River Marina, so we decided to fuel up at Dog River Marina and stay at Turner Marina, spreading the wealth, so to speak. First on the agenda, though, was finding an anchorage for the night.

We didn't like the first option. For one thing, it was still too early when we got there, plus there was a public ramp up the creek it was in, which insured a steady stream of fishing boats passing us throughout the evening. We were approaching a cut-off over to the Alabama River when a bird landed on the boat.

Gull or tern, I know not what, but it sat on our fenders until we pulled up into the Alabama River cut-off and Rosie had to go forward to unhook the anchor stay. It flew away over 35 minutes after it landed on the boat. Not a bad way to travel.

We had around 15 feet of water well into this narrow channel, and we dropped the hook. A stern anchor was going to be necessary to keep us out from under the trees, so I used the little anchor we keep in the dinghy, and it held fine. We have another big fluke anchor we keep on the bow, you can see it in the picture, but it's very heavy and we'll only use it in an emergency, or in shallow water where I can retrieve it easily.

We sat in the cockpit and had a few happy hour beers and watched our friends in the trawler go by as well as two towboats we had passed earlier. Rosie kept the binoculars glued to her eye sockets in order to scour the bank in search of alligators. I thought it was funny, but after seeing the two gators on Thursday night, my river bath was completed with as little time actually spent in the water as I could possibly make do with.

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