Log #6i Demopolis to Mobile Bay

January 16, 1999 in Log Series 02 - 07, Logs by Series, Series 06 Mississippi - Ten Tom to Mobile Bay, The Logs

Log #6i Demopolis to Mobile Bay

Covers the period Nov. 5 to Nov. 9, 1998

Ready to weigh at 0700, we called the Demopolis Lock, which was only a mile down stream, to enquire about locking down, only to be told there was a gaggle of pleasure boats already being locked down, and a large tow waiting to lock up and we would have to wait another hour or so. If we had left a half hour earlier we would have saved ourselves two or more hours. Oh well, I am still not into a retirement mode of taking things easily as they come. However, we cleared this lock by 0900 and continued down the Alabama River.

About 1030, Judy, on the wheel called me up to look at a small flock of vultures along the shoreline. As I put the binoculars on them, I noticed why they were grouped on the bank; there was the carcass of a dead deer they were waiting to feed upon. I say waiting as there was a good sized grayish/brown wolf feeding on it already. It blended in to the shoreline colours and was difficult to see against the brown mud of the bank. We ghosted past this feeding scene about 25 yards from shore, and by the time I got up with the camera we were too far downstream to get a good shot. It was a scene out of some National Geographic documentary.

We anchored at 1530, at a slightly wider spot in a bend in the river called Barron’s Landing. There was already a small sailboat we had met at Demopolis with a bow and stern anchor out. We edged upstream of him and put out our bow anchor, and to keep us from possibly swinging out into the river, I took a stern line ashore and tied up to a tree. The shore line was horribly muddy along the bank. Then a third sailboat, with whom we shared the Demopolis lock earlier in the day, came along. These were the most sailboats we had encountered at one time along the river. Most of the other boats going down were power boats.

We got an early start at 0730 the next day, Nov. 6, and not having to wait for any locks we covered 48 land miles by 1415 and had an early anchorage at Okatuppa Creek at mile TB 123.2. This creek was at the opening of a bayou into the Tombigbee River. We dinghied several miles up the bayous into primitive swamps, lined with cypress trees, Spanish moss, mangroves water hyacinths, ferns, and other low-lying foliage. Stands of cypress trees stood out in the bayous like ancient sentinels. Overhanging boughs dripping with mosses created spectral arches that we reverently motored through. We expected to see alligators or water snakes, but the only life we saw were egrets and herons that would fly away at our approach. It was an eerie world back there, and one in which I would not like to get lost. The ground, what solid sections showed through, was low-lying and soggy from the daily flood and ebb of the tides. We had been in slightly tidal waters since Demopolis. A few times I had to tilt the motor so we could get across some of the shallow openings from one bayou to the next. This is one of the features I like about my 9.9 Johnson, that I can set the tilt for a slight angle and motor through very shallow water. Incidentally, the word bayou means slow moving water, not the land or the swamp. There was a feeling of relief when we wended our way back to the opening where Veleda was anchored. It was fascinating meandering up the bayous, but a bit intimidating in such ancient swamps. Back at Veleda, there were two more boats anchored in the opening, including the sailboat we were anchored above the previous night. We stopped and had a long talk with the single-handing skipper, after which we returned to Veleda to have a steak barbeque. It was nice to have an early anchorage so we could enjoy the surroundings before dark.

Next day, Nov. 7, we got off early, and cleared the Coffeeville Lock by 0900, – the last lock! By 1430 we were alongside the decrepit floats of Lady’s Landing at Mile 79.9 for a much touted steak dinner arranged for a few days earlier while in Demopolis. The floats were partially on shore at an angle to the water. held off by long pipes permitting them to rise and fall with the tide. We were nestling in a furrow in the sand when we were assisted alongside but were assured it was now low tide and we would have another foot and a half below our keel by morning. We topped up with fuel, taking 11.5 gallons, the first since Demopolis. at Mile 220. We had motored for 22.5 hours at an average speed of 2800 revs, consuming 0.51 gallons per hour over the 140 miles, to average 12.7 statute miles per gallon. After refueling, we went up the embankment and petted the goat that dominated the top of the steps, with no intention of moving over for us to pass. There was a pack of large dogs on the property that had been adopted by the owners. Several of them were of interesting breeds, including a light colored blue-eyed part-wolf part-husky, and a Labrador, both friendly. Shortly after our arrival, a gaggle of six power boats in turn came alongside to refuel. When some of them thought they could raft off each other, with only the dockside boat paying the dockage fee, the lady owner set them straight that the fee was .75 cents a foot regardless. She was one no-nonsense lady.

The meal, which had to be arranged for in advance, was huge. They brought it down to the boat on platters wrapped with tin foil, accompanied by a large jug of iced tea. The steak was about two inches thick, juicy and tender. A large helping of mashed potatoes, sweet corn on the cob, green beans, biscuits, a salad, and some delicious brownies gave us leftovers that we ate over the next two days. The price for this extravagant meal was $35.00 each, but we still had to pay the dockage on top of that. There was no restaurant as such. It was a trailer/office, beside a few cabins and trailers in an clearing alongside the river. The steaks were cooked on a barbeque sitting outside the trailer. We were the only boat that had arranged for a meal this particular evening. All in all, the conditions were primitive, the meal good, the mooring O.K., fuel available, and the people friendly. This is the only stop between Demopolis and Mobile Bay, a 220 mile stretch.

The next day we got an early start at 0630, and by noon hour we had reached the junction where the Alabama River entered the Tombigbee River, and this stretch below the junction became the Mobile River. We anchored just after sunset at 1710 at Big Bayou Canot South, having motored 70 statute miles that day. The area is the delta of the Mobile River as it enters into Mobile Bay. It is a warren of bayous and swampy islands spread out over several miles. The bayou we were in had a low level railway bridge running across it about 300 yards up from where we were anchored. Apparently a few years ago a heavily laden barge took a wrong turn, got into this particular bayou, and wiped out the railway bridge, which is a main railway link to Mobile. There was also a significant loss of life, as shortly after a train plowed into the torn up bridge and several cars and the engine were submerged.

After another early start at 0630 we entered under the bridge across the Mobile River at 0800, into Mobile Bay at last. We continued past the industrial docks of Mobile, past several large ocean freighters and container ships, and could see across the peninsula from Mobile the outline of the superstructure of the battleship Alabama, now part of a naval museum. I also noticed a large navy supply/container ship that was sitting empty and possibly mothballed. This would have been one of the navy’s pre-packed supply ships ready to sail off at a few days notice with supplies for the U.S. army on foreign shores. I’m not sure if it was the end of the cold war or financial constraints that has reduced the number of these pre-provisioned ships, but it is a good omen for peace to see such high readiness for war de-escalated. After going past Mobile, we entered the channel leading south out to the Gulf of Mexico. It was a narrow channel at first as the bay is shallow at the north end. We had to maneuver around a gigantic container ship up-bound, a few shrimp boats with their nets extended, and a couple of overtaking vessels before we exited the main channel to the east to head over to Fairhope, Alabama, arriving at the Fairhope Yacht Club at 1010.

We had completed another major leg on our odyssey, arriving in Mobile Bay before exiting into the Gulf Coast Intracoastal Waterway. We stayed at this yacht club for two weeks, renting a car to travel to Melbourne, Florida, just south of Cape Canaveral, to a Seven Seas Cruising Association rendezvous, and then in the opposite direction to New Orleans to visit that famed town. As we were members of a Canadian yacht club, we got preferred rates of only .08 cents a foot per day, with the first two days free. This was a very economical and friendly place to leave Veleda and see this part of the States.

This ends my series #6 logs. To this point we have sailed 3250 nautical miles since leaving Toronto July 3, 1998.