Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Trip up the Waterways - Day 2 - 7

We had a good night at anchor on March 23. We did have a pretty strong current, but our anchors held well and we got some sleep. We were now ready to go a bit further on day 2. We set our goal to make it to the three rivers anchorage at mile 63.8. That was 47.2 miles away. We headed out just after sunrise. I was a bit concerned about the current while pulling anchors, but that went well.

Sunrise on Day 2

The captain settling in for a long day.

Serendipity leading the way down the river. We let Byron and Mary lead because their AIS and radio were working better than ours.
We headed out into the river in the strong 2.5 knot current. We did have some strong wind predicted from the south and were able to raise sails and get some help, but we found that the terrain was quickly changing as we made our way north. The hills got higher and the trees got taller creating more wind protection than we would like. The wind was also funneling down or up the river with each bend, so we either had a pure head wind or a tail wind. Neither are great for sailing.

After just a few miles we went under the I 65 bridge. That was a very impressive bridge.

I 65 bridge ahead

A large double span bridge. We had plenty of clearance.

Looking up the mast between the spans

We were in front at this point, I don't remember why.
I will insert a story here from day 1. Our first bridge is considered the shortest bridge on the river. It is a Railroad lift bridge at mile 13.6. We approached the bridge and tried to call the bridge tender. We did not get a reply. We held up and Byron and I kept calling. They finally answered Byron with a reply that was very difficult to understand, but the bridge went up. We went through, but Byron was taking down a sail, so he was a bit behind. We cleared the bridge with about 5 feet to spare, but then the bridge started to come down. Byron called the bridge again and the tender claimed that he thought we were through and he could not raise it again for a while because a train was coming. Byron had to wait for quite a while before he was finally able to get under with just a few feet of clearance. It was a very strange situation made worse by a very inattentive and difficult to understand bridge tender.

I was looking forward to mile mark 45.0. It was at that point we would take a left turn on to the Tombigbee river, leaving the Alabama/Mobile river. I was hoping that the two rivers together were causing more current and we would see less on the Tombigbee. At this point we were averaging about 4.5 knots because of some help from the sails. That is still very slow.

At Mile 39 we hit the exit of the Tensas River and the river got much wider. We also saw more current, but the wind picked up and we got the Genoa up and we sailed the next 6 miles to the Tombigbee intersection. The river was rougher than any other point, but we gybed our way up the river in a strong tail wind that at times was over 20 knots.

Rough water on the last few miles of the Mobile river.
We rounded a corner and everything was different. We were now protected from the wind, so the water was flat, but the current was as strong as ever. I was a disappointed. We motored along at an average of 4.0 knots Speed over ground. The scenery was beautiful and we had plenty of time to look at it. I was very happy to pull into our anchorage at mile 63.8.

Three rivers was beautiful. We came in a tight channel that opened up into a small lake with no current. We dropped anchor and settled in for the night. At almost 50 miles, it was our longest day on the river. We saw a couple of fishing boats go by, but it was very quiet except the owls again and beautiful. I was trying to study the hydrology on the NOAA web sites about the river. What I saw was concerning. It looked like the river was going to rise over the next few days to a low level flood. I was still trying to determine how that affected current, but the high water was actually good because we had deeper water than what was shown on the charts. At Three Rivers it showed 10 feet and we had about 15.

We decided to try to anchor the next night at a place called Old Lock 1 at mile 100. I was not sure we could get in there, but we had an alternative if we couldn't. I was still concerned about my engine. It was putting our more steam than I thought it should, but was still not overheating and sounded fine.

We got up a bit later and cruised up the narrow channel to the river.

Kim took a couple of shots from the bow as we cruised out the channel to the main river.

It was short, but it felt so good to be cruising without current pushing against us.
As we moved further north the topography was quickly changing. The hills were getting higher and we were seeing rock bluffs along the side of the river. It was now impossible to sail.

Taller hills and a wide river.

White limestone bluffs along the river. 
We made it up to the channel into "Old Lock 1" park and Byron led us in. We saw about 11 feet at the bar, but then it went to 15 feet. We went back into a beautiful little lake by a boat ramp. We dropped anchor in 16 feet. We were very protected and it was beautiful other than the gnats, but they did not bite, so we settled in for the night. We decided to stay for a few days to see what the river was going to do. We dropped the dingys and went ashore. There was a nice bathroom and water available. It was there that we met the campgound host named Bob. He told us he was surprised to see us. Normally the bar does not have enough clearance for most boats, let alone a sailboat. We would have to watch the water level very closely or we could get stuck in there. The forecast for the next few days was for the river to rise to minor flood level, so we would be safe for now.

A beautiful calm night at Old Lock 1

SHIFT resting comfortably at anchor
We spent time over the next 4 days going for walks on land, meeting some local fishermen and relaxing. The water rose each day, by day 4 we were in 20 feet of water.

Our new friend Bob, who was the campground host at Old Lock 1 park

Meeting some locals, but keeping our social distance. The virus was getting crazy at this point.

Beautiful flowers and many cool birds to see.
Old Lock 1 could have been one of my favorite anchorages of the entire 6 month trip. This is the site of the first lock on the old river way that was built back in the 1800's to move cargo up and down the river. Much of the lock and dam are still there.

We now had a decision to make. Should we go on or stay a while longer. In my next entry, I will tell you what happened next.


  1. It's certainly not easy to be a nomad these days...

    1. That is for sure. I hope you guys can find a place to stay after Canyon lake.

  2. Scary situation with the bridge lowering! You certainly are seeing some beautiful country though!