Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Further Down The Tenn-Tom

Hello All-
The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway is a little-known connection between the Gulf and the Tennessee River. It's 450 miles long, so it's handy to consider it in three different sections. The northernmost sections are in northeastern Mississippi; they are the "Divide Cut" and "Canal" sections, which was a bigger engineering project than the Panama Canal. The middle is the Tombigbee River section, which crosses into Alabama, and this part along with the upper section has 11 locks. The southern section (which is about half the overall length) is also the Tombigbee River but below it's junction with the Blackwarrior River, and it only has 2 locks. The locks on the Tenn-Tom Waterway have a total drop (or raise, depending on which way you're going) of 340+ feet from the Tennessee River valley to the Gulf of Mexico. We've been traveling in this area for the past couple of weeks.

Here is a very well marked (but curvy, shallow, with lots of weeds and waterlilies) side channel leading into the small marina basin at Aberdeen, MS. We stopped here overnight with Jerry & Betty in their boat 'POGO.'

We toured Aberdeen in a borrowed Lincoln! We saw a few of the grand antebellum homes and the still-vital downtown. The Tombigbee River has carried commercial traffic since the area was first settled, and most of the small towns along the river have a long history as river ports.

Here is another photo of lovely scenery from the marina near Fulton MS. No boats have been by since the evening before, and there's not a breath of wind to make any ripples, so the water is like perfect mirror. The Tenn-Tom Waterway with its lockage and the wandering Tombigbee River results in many flooded areas, with flowers sprouting around trees and stumps.

This shot, like all the others on this blog entry, were taken by Kathie.

This is an afternoon view of the White Cliffs of Epes, a few miles north of Demopolis, Alabama. Check the scale by the size of the pickup truck on the bridge... there is also a rope swing hanging from the left-hand end of the bridge!

Here is our Hank, getting some exercise to work off his Thanksgiving turkey. His friend is a Portuguese Water Dog named Yogi. It makes us tired just to watch them!
As you could probably tell from our "blog silence" over the past week or so, we've been visiting family and friends over the recent holiday. We're back 'on the road' again, so more adventures; however, internet coverage is sparse, so we'll update when we can.

Best wishes to you all
Doug & Kathie

Friday, November 16, 2007

Chasing the Season (Tenn-Tom)

Hello All-

We apologize for not updating our blog recently. Our computer's "air card" has not been able to access the internet very well in this area. Cell phone service has also been spotty.

Lovely autumn day for sailing near Guntersville. The Tennessee River forms a wide (2 miles+) lake with plenty of open water. We haven't seen as much sailing up here as there should be!

Did somebody say "autumn"? This has been a very dry year... record-setting drought in some areas... so the trees are not producing their best fall colors. However we are definitely seeing the change of seasons here. This photo was taken by Doug, the Winnie W. is tucked into a lovely quiet anchorage near the northern end of the Tenn-Tom waterway.

Here is a nav marker near the anchorage pictured above. Very easy to tell which side to take this marker!

The upper part of the Tenn-Tom waterway was hacked & blasted out of very rocky hills. This part is called the 'Divide Cut' and required more earthmoving than the entire Panama Canal.

This red marker looks like it's been bumped into, although it's hard to see how a boat could reach it. Or maybe the Corps of Engineers piled up the rocks after it got bumped, to protect it? Anyway there is no doubt autumn is upon us... in fact we've had a frost on the boat the last few mornings... thank goodness we're headed south!

Sincere best wishes-
Doug & Kathie

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cooking with Gas! (We're in High Cotton)

Hello all:
The title of this post reflects not our cooking capabilities, but our heat! As you probably know, "cooking with gas" refers to the 1920s-era when gas started being piped into homes for cooking (rather than using a wood stove); "high cotton" is a southern expression referring to the best part of the crop! Alongside this text will be photos of the furnace (all except the heat shield in the aft cabin that Doug just tied around the insulation-wrapped exhaust with Monel wire).

As you know, Doug not only maintains the Winnie W, he *improves* it! Several years ago, knowing my (KK) intolerance of cold weather, he installed a diesel furnace that pipes heat to all sections of the boat, so the boat warms up *everywhere*, all at once! This is a big deal; our reverse cycle heater (or air conditioning, depending on the season) has two sections that leaves most corners of the cabin cold. Using water for our heat exchange helps somewhat but the same principles as with air apply here.

The toughest part was the furnace exhaust; it required a long pipe to be bent & welded so as to run from the engine room to the aft cabin roof. The whole system worked well until the heat shield for the exhaust shook loose, probably during those rough days on Lake Michigan. Doug has been mulling over this repair for several weeks, and last night, arrived at a solution (the Monel wire), and we had *heat* last night and this morning! This is important because it has been in the high 30s and low 40s at night, and will remain so until we get further south.

These photos show the furnace itself, in the engine room; the installation of one of the heaters (small radiators with 12V fans) which provide about 7500 BTUs of real heat; and the installed heater in our head (bathroom) which makes showering on a cold night just as comfortable as you'd be at home.

And here is where we spent last night (Nov 10), anchored near Goat Island on Guntersville Lake (link to GoogleMap). You can see the dam and lock chambers at the lower left.

Hope you all are well & happy, Kathie & Doug

Saturday, November 10, 2007

On the Road (River) Again

Hello again all!
We're underway again, heading back down the Tennessee River towards the Tenn-Tom Waterway. We departed from the dock at Chattanooga about lunchtime on Friday (11-9) and immediately began hustling. The weather has turned colder than we'd like, and although the boat has heaters, we are definitely interested in getting south to warmer climates!
This first photo is from Chattanooga, taken on Doug's cell phone! There is a wonderful aquarium there, which has a Butterfly Room among its nature exhibits. It's got the best flora and butterflies of anywhere that we've been.

Among the "boat jobs" done at the dock in Chattanooga is replacing a fuel filter element. We prefer to do this before they clog and cause trouble! The filter on the left has been in use for about 3 1/2 months, and was not yet gunked up enough to restrict fuel flow. The fuel we get is usually bright & clean (marine diesel is dyed red) but still contains trace amounts of tar & other contaminants in it. Another factor is that the Winnie W's tanks are 23 years old and sat mostly idle for that time, collecting more gunk.

Here is a view of the edge of the Cumberland Plateau, abouot 20 miles or so downstream (southwesterly) from Chattanooga. This escarpment rises over 1,000 feet above the river. This area is sometimes called the 'Grand Canyon of Tennessee' and it's only a slight exaggeration. This is one of Doug's rare photos.

We've spent a long time on the Tennessee River and its tributaries, almost two months. The river itself is over 650 miles long and has so many beautiful places to stop; we could spend longer if we weren't being pushed by the advancing season. We've covered approximately 600 miles along this river system and wish we could see more of it. We have about 240 miles to go before we turn left onto the Tenn-Tom waterway, which is another 450 miles long and leads to Mobile.

We saw this along the way; not everybody takes such good care of their boat!

This is more of the Cumberland Escarpment, from a vantage point just downstream of Nickajack Lock & Dam. The fall colors are lovely. You can also see the channel markers, red on the left ("red right returning;" we are headed the opposite way) and green on the right.

Hope you all are doing well-
Doug & Kathie

Monday, November 5, 2007

A Brief, But Very Nice, Photo Retrospective

Hello all: We're pausing briefly in Chattanooga to sightsee and do boat projects; Doug says it's so Hank can get his four walks each day!
Here are three more of the photos that Kathie took on the Hiwassee River.

We are lucky to have been able to make this side trip off the Great Loop; it is a beautiful place.

It may be a big yawn for others, but we are fascinated to be on the water, and the sunset light on the rocks & trees with their reflections are among the loveliest we've seen anywhere. The photos truly don't do it justice, but these come closer than most.

Another reflective shot: the water is so still that you almost can't tell which way the photo is rightside up. I know; I tried inverting the picture and showing it to people who either didn't catch it at all, or took a long look before catching it.

In contrast to the shining clarity of the last few photos, here's one that is rather foggy. It's also the latest entry in our long-running "Hank In The Dinghy" series.

In the creek leading to one of our recent anchorages, we saw a popular turtle hang-out. The guy on the far right has climbed a 45-degree angle to the tip of the exposed branch. An athlete and daredevil among turtles!

We'll keep you posted on our latest exploits! Doug and Kathie