Sunday, October 30, 2016


      We leave Aqua Harbor on Monday morning after fueling and servicing our boats. We are headed East on Pickwick Lake to have one last raft-up with "Somewhere In Time" before we head separate ways. We get to "The Rockpile" in the afternoon. We get a swim in. And we grill some chicken and have  a nice potluck dinner. There are two other boats in there. One, we will see again as we travel down the river system. There is fog in the morning when we get ready to leave. The air temperature dropped during the night, and made the fog because the water is still warm.

      Barbara and I head back west and turn down Yellow Creek towards the Tenn-Tom waterway. The waterway is a long straight ditch. It has a rock rip-rap to protect the levy which runs down both sides.

We see deer and some wild turkeys along the levy. We do not pass or meet any looper boats in the canal. Most all of the loopers have left going east to the America's Great Loop  Cruisers Association Rendezvous at Joe Wheeler dam on the Tennessee River. We do meet a tow going north. It is not too tight, but if two tows were to meet in this canal, it would probably  be close. We eventually break out of the canal and into the reservoir area, Bay Springs Lake, of the canal. We go all the way down the lake and pull into a small bay area to the east side of the lake and just north of the dam. It is called Cotton Springs Boat Ramp, and we go up the arm past the ramp to near the end. The water is 17' deep most of the ways.

The guide book warns of trees, stumps, and other snags in this "chain of lakes". The guide advises to put a trip line on the anchor so that the anchor can be retrieved from the "non-business" end if it gets into a snag. For the first time in my life on the water, I rig a trip line to the anchor, a short rope attached to a buoy and the non pointy end of the anchor, that theoretically can be used to pull the anchor out backwards if it gets hung. It is a nice quite anchorage, no one uses the boat ramp or surrounding park area. And the tows seem to have quit running by dark.
      We get going on Wednesday morning, and head out to Whitten Lock, a few hundred yards away. It will be the first of 4 locks today. It has an 84' change in elevation. This will be the deepest lock we have been in, including the Erie Canal System, Illinois River, Mississippi River, and Cumberland River. We get out to the approach and are told by the lockmaster we will have to wait for a tow arriving who has right of way to go down. We move our in front of the lock and drift in front of lock entry channel. At about 9 am we get into the lock.  An 84' deep box by 650' long and 110' wide is not for someone who is claustrophobic. When you are at the top, everything looks good. You look behind, and see the water and land at your elevation surrounding you.

You look ahead, and can see the tow going down stream, much lower than you, and he looks small. It takes a little longer to drop twice as far as we have been lowered or raised before.



One lock raised us 44' on the Erie canal, the tallest lock I can remember. We get out of Whitten Lock, but there is no need to hurry as there is that tow ahead of us, and he has enough lead that we can not catch him and get far enough head in the 5.2miles to get preference in locking into Montgomery Lock. We slow down and get to the lock as the tug with barges is being lowered. Another Looper boat radios the lockmaster after we are in. We agree to hold and wait for him, as that tow is stilll in front of us when we leave.
       It is going to be a long day as we head out of the Montgomery Lock, with the tow still holding preference over us for the next lock. It is 8.4 miles to the Rankin Lock. No need to hurry again. These are small lakes, or reservoirs between the locks. They are not wide, maybe a mile at their widest point if they have a small bay to one or both sides. There are some houses, both permanent, and summer homes along both side of these lakes. The boat traffic is mostly small fishing boats. There are some marinas along the way, and they have the fishing boats as well as some cruising and house boats at their slips. After Rankin Lock, we continue by the Midway Marina, which is probably the best marina along this route. After Midway, and about 6 miles after Rankin is the Fulton Lock. We get out of the Fulton Lock and head for Smithville Lock, slightly less than 25 miles away.
      We pull into the Smithville Marina just before the Smithville Lock. The other Looper boat goes to a peaceful pool just to the side of the lock and dam area. We covered approximately 36miles today, and did 8 hours of running. Smithville has a courtesy car which we arrange to use. We are told of a restaurant in town, and that is about all that is left in the town. The town was hit by a tornado several years earlier, and 16 people were killed. The grocery store was destroyed in that tornado. The restaurant is closed for the day, so we go back, and pass the marina and drive to Amory. We eat at a Hardees, the first fast food burger we have had in weeks. And we go to the Piggly Wiggly grocery store and buy basic groceries and carry back to the boat.
       The other looper boat has already left and gone down in the Glover Wilkins Lock when we get to the entry channel. We have to wait for a tow coming up. Another boat comes down the lake and joins us. Together we go down the Wilkins Lock at about noon. It is 5.3 miles to the next lock, the Amory lock. We go on through, and head for the Aberdeen Lock, a distance of 13.6 miles. Our new friends are not going all the way. They pull over at "Blue Bluff", a highly rated anchorage. We continue on the few miles to Aberdeen Lock. We lock through, and head towards Columbus, MS Marina. There are three of us together now going towards Columbus. There is a "Port" just before we get to Columbus. Most of the other "port" operations have been either, gravel, sand, grain, or logs/wood chips. The one at Columbus is different as it is doing grains and gravel.
As we approach the marina, we call to get directions in to the marina from the main channel. As we head in, we are now 5 in number. Our numbers have grown as we motored the 18.5 miles down from Aberdeen lock. The Columbus Marina is off the main channel, and the docks are in a pocket off this side channel. The manager, T, is on the radio giving specific instructions to each boat as they approach. I have not seen a marina manager this engaged since Delaware City when we took SummerTime to the Great Lakes. We did only three locks today, but we got 41miles covered in another 8hr day. We check in for 2 days, as we plan to do some touristing in Columbus. A haunt of Tennessee Williams, and home to some southern mansions.
      Friday, Barbara and I get up to do errands. Barbara gets a disturbing call from her brother while doing laundry in the morning. Her sister, who has been in the hospital since September 9, took a turn for the worse. The doctors are giving her hours to live. I have been working on cleaning up the Perkins main engine. There has been a small leak of diesel on the fuel injection side of the engine. I have not been able to see the leak, as it is either a mist, or drip with long times between drops. I only see the results. I use a cleaner to get all the surplus fuel off the engine. Sometime after lunch, Barbara's brother makes the dreaded call to her. I look at ways to get to SE NC where her family lives. On the suggestion of the marina staff, I arrange a rental car with Enterprise, who will pick us up and are having a special. The cost of the car, with insurance, is less than one plane ticket. And we can leave as soon as we get the car. We leave about 6 pm for NC and a family funeral. Family emergencies, even death, are a fact of life when you are older. And they do not care what your current plans are. Ours are now on hold. 

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