The photo album and map have been updated.
Leaving Pirates Cover Marina our first waypoint was to, of course, lock down at the Bevill Lock and Dam. There was zippo traffic on the waterway and as we communicated with the lock by radio in advance the lock was up, the gates were open, we had a green light. We idled right in, tied up and locked down. We then spent the next forty miles motoring down the same river conditions that we have become used to. The only difference with this leg is that unlike some of the pools that we went through back up the river this leg was a continual canal-ish kind of thing. What I mean is that in the previous sections of the waterway between locks there would be places where the surrounding land bottomed out and the water would expand into a lake, some of them pretty large. Not so with this leg. It was a ribbon of water all the way down to our second and last lock for the day, Heflin Lock. Pretty boring.
There was one interesting bit on the route. We were cruising down (South) a straight two mile long stretch that ended with a ninety degree turn to our left. While we were still up a ways from the turn we saw a tow coming at us up (North) the river and make the ninety degree turn to what would be his right. We were towards the right side of the channel so we had a direct view of the outside of his turn. I guess this was the first time we saw a tow maneuver like this from this vantage point. It was fascinating. The tow did not make the turn like a ‘turn’, so to speak. The maneuver, from the tow’s captain’s perspective, was actually to make a hard right rudder at the apex (car jargon – “hitting the apex”) of the turn to get the bow started up into the right direction and let the rest of the tow including the boat itself drift waaaay out to the outside of the turn. The entire barge is now at about a twenty to twenty-five degree angle to the straightaway. Then when he was in position add a bunch of power to the boat and, as he said by radio, dig his way out of the turn bringing the drifting aft portion of the tow back into line with the bow in the right direction. This was almost exactly like drifting a high performance car around a turn. There were even some smoking tires of a nature - the engine dumped a bunch of smoke into the air as the captain gave it the gun. Very cool.
Now, let’s talk about our anchorage for that night. I had picked a location called the Tombigbee Oxbow which is a part of the original channel of the Tombigbee River that cuts into the waterway just at the bottom of the Heflin Lock. It didn’t get the best of reviews but it was convenient. There was a better anchorage called Sumter Recreational Area a few miles up from the lock but I thought it better to anchor below the lock so we could get a jump on the next day. This turned out to be a bad decision on my part. The anchorage was pretty marginal. We dropped our anchor the first time and could not get it set at all. We could feel it dragging the bottom as if the bottom were made up of smooth rocks. We pulled it up and moved a short distance a bit further into the oxbow and dropped it again. We did get it set that time but unfortunately it undoubtedly got set under a rock and I was pretty darn sure there were going to be some challenges the next morning. There were.
Lisa was at the helm and I was working the bow. I pressed the deck button to raise the anchor and when it got to the where the anchor chain was straight up and down…the end of the line so to speak…it would stop dead cold. It would not come up anymore. We did all of the standard maneuvers to try to extricate a stuck anchor but nothing worked. We sat around for a few minutes so we could collect ourselves. This sucked! We contacted TowBoatUS to see if they could help. They could not though they did try. After a short while we realized that there was only one thing left to do: cut the chain and sacrifice the anchor. I got the RotoZip (EVERY ONE SHOULD HAVE ONE OF THESE ON BOARD THEIR BOAT!) from the engine compartment and with the metal cutting blade sliced through the chain like a hot knife through butter. I let the chain go, dropping it into the water and on down the river we went. We did not have a ceremony but I did flip it the bird as we cruised off. If there were any positives to take from this experience is that we had the right tool to get us out of this situation ourselves, we do have two extra anchors and we are going to a five-star marina where I can install it. Oh well.
We arrived at Kingfisher Bay Marina, sister facility of Demopolis Yacht Center in Demopolis, Alabama. It is a brand spanking new expanded marina that just opened this season. New docks, new everything. Wow! What a difference a few miles make. Our last marina, Pirates Cove, would be at the polar opposite of this being run down and a pretty rugged experience. Kingfisher is amazing. We are going to stay here for a few days, do some work and some laundry, as well as sit out a foul weather front coming through the area.