Monday, June 3, 2013

Going Down the Tombigbee and Beyond

The river has been calling, the Caribbean Sea has been calling and today, Wednesday May 29th we depart the marina to become one with the current that will take us south to Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. This is the first leg for shakedown sailing and jumping off to the Western Caribbean.

True to our style, the first leg is our, "We gotta get outta Dodge." leg, which means; we have to make the decision that even though we could do more work on our boat, as well as help others with their boats, we must cast off dock lines and head south. Our first night out we will go two miles south and anchor at Foscue Park, just north of our first lock and get a good nights rest and set out Thursday morning.

There is a boatyard axiom; the longer you stay in the boatyard the harder it is to get out, and it is true. The camaraderie of working together with other boat owners, sharing stories of projects that have grown outside there original scope, how each person improvises - improvisation being a key talent of any cruiser - stories of sailing adventures, hearing all the locations of the best anchorages, fishing spots, eating and drinking joints, and getting to know all of our fellow cruisers personal stories takes time, yet creates a sense of community. We met some characters ranging from old salts to those that had been sailors but were now converting to river loopers, as well as sailors that were new to the adventure. The cast of characters each deserve a page of their own and over time we will probably write about them.

Demopolis Lock

Chalk Cliffs of Demopolis

River views

Bridges - always watchful of the river gauge for height.

A railroad lift bridge we were watchful of concerning height clearance. Today we have 45 ft plus the additional 40-50ft you see on the gauge.

Highway bridges are usually plenty high but, it would still be nice to have a legible gauge on the piling.

Tugboats and Barges. Seems we met most of them in the narrowest s-curve bends. Very few did we meet in the wide straight away. We had a refresher course in maritime lingo. One whistle, pass port to port. Two whistles, pass starboard to starboard.  The tugboat Captains were very courteous on the radio giving instructions about the direction we should take to pass. Some of these tugs are pushing 9-12 barges. Watching the maneuvering is impressive.

Various derelict operations can be found along the way.

The infamous Mile 14 bridge, the nemesis of large sailboats. It used to be a swing bridge but is now a lift bridge with a clearance of 55ft and for some sailboats that is too low and risky. We need 50ft for our antennas and windvane, 52 ft is nerve wracking. Depending on the water level,which today according to the gauge is 64ft; 55 plus the 10 you see on the gauge - we will not have to worry. This bridge is of concern for sailors, as we are 13.6 miles from Mobile Bay and when tropical storms or hurricanes are in the forecast boats by the hundreds are trying to get up river closer to the 200 mile range.

Leaving the City of Mobile behind

Hello brackish water! Capt. Charlie is taking in the scents and watching all of the freighters coming and going around us. We are in the Mobile Bay shipping channel on course to our turn off to the marina.

Eastern Shore Marina in Fairhope AL, our berth for the next few days for shakedown sailing.

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