We run out of gas in our dinghy. Again. But this time, IT ISN’T MY FAULT!!! And we have our first day on the Tennessee-Tombigbee (Ten-Tom) waterway.1

Start: Grand Harbor Marina, Someplace on Pickwick Lake in TN, 0836
End: Cotton Springs Anchorage, mm 412.5, Bay Springs Lake
Total Distance: 33.3 nm
Time: 5:55
Average Speed: 4.9 kts
Number of locks: 0 (but we are looking at one right next to the anchorage!)

We need to back up a day before we get to the Ten-Tom. When we last left you, we had pulled into Grand Harbor Marina, gotten setup and were hunkered down in the boat, happy to be out of the rain.

The next day dawned sunny, cool and clear and we got us a courtesy car from the marina to use for half a day. So we went to Shiloh National Battlefield which we had passed on the river on the way up the Tennessee (damn these north flowing rivers). It was well worth the time and the trip. There was a movie that laid out the context for the battle, why they fought there, the combatants and movement of the units across the two days of battle. We then went and drove around the site, thankful that we weren’t slogging by foot while being shot at by rifles and cannons.


Remainder of the day was spent relaxing (i.e. xBox for AJ, reading for Jan/Jim) and prep for the week long trip down the Ten-Tom.

Tuesday, Oct 17, we awake early, get a last shower, move to the fuel dock for fuel and pump out. I got a bit of a surprise…our gas mileage which has been at about .8/gal hour was up just over 1/gal hour for this past portion of the trip. Apparently going up river, against a wind and with the throttles wide open had a bit of an impact. Though I didn’t complain loudly. Dude next to us fueled up the day before–his burn rate was a gal/mile. Ouch.

And at about 0830 we were off. As mentioned last post, we are entering the Tennessee Tombigbee waterway, affectionately known as the Ten-Tom. It connects the Tennessee River at Pickwick Lake with the Tombigbee River at Demopolis, AL. It is a 253mile run and the next part of our journey. It was finished in 1985, so is relatively new (anything constructed of finished in the time I can remember is classified as ‘new’). The good news for us is we are no longer fighting a current. While we won’t have a great push from a current since the waterway is regulated by 10 locks, at least we won’t be against a current!

And the Ten-Tom is a nice waterway, especially the first 25 miles. This section is called the Divide Cut; it is the 25 miles from Pickwick down to Bay Springs Lake where we will spend the night. It is called the Divide Cut because it was cut through the land and gets to depths of 175’. The firs part starts off wide in the morning, changed into the cut but the sides were lined mostly with vegetation, not so much with rocks. It certainly wasn’t crowded, we saw one tow/barge all day. And it was cool and sunny When we woke, it was in the mid 40s. It warmed up to the low 70s and we had a breeze actually helping us.


By 1430 we had arrived at our destination. An anchorage in Bay Springs Lake just before the Jamie Whitten Lock and Dam. We had the place to ourselves. We got set, dropped the dinghy, PUT THE FUEL CAN IN THE DINGHY2, and the four of us (three with two legs, one with four) hopped in and motored to the dinghy dock. When we rounded the corner for the dock the motor coughed, sputtered and then shut off. I reached down and shook the can. There was fuel. I squeezed the ball and it was soft. No gas getting from can to engine. I took the top off of the fuel can and could see that the tube and filter that normally are connected to the hose leading to the engine were sitting on the bottom of the can. So no fuel. I flipped the fuel can on its side, forcing the fuel into the intake hole, restarted the engine and off we went. Then back to the boat where we broke the gas can open and reseated the tube. Fixed. For today anyway…

Back at the boat we swam (and by ‘we’ I mean AJ), made dinner (fajitas) and sat down to watch ‘The Voice.’ Except we were out of internet coverage. So Jan was unable to watch her show. We called an audible and played “Pandemic.” Excellent end to a great day.



Start: Cotton Springs Anchorage, mm 412.5, Bay Springs Lake, 0757
End: Smithville Anchorage, mm 376.2
Total Distance: 31.5 nm
Time: 6:08
Average Speed: 5.1 kts
Number of locks: 4 (and zero minutes of waiting!)


We awoke to another 40something degree morning. Light fog was hanging over the water as we pulled up our anchor and headed off to our first of four locks for the day. We planned for the worst…on the Ohio, we averaged one lock per day. So when we puttered out of the anchorage we were delighted to hear the lock tell the “Happy Wanderer” that they were ready and would take us in. We had travelled a short time with the “Happy Wanderer” yesterday and today would share four locks with them and the “Amika.”

The three of us were in the lock, dropped really quickly and were out within 30 minutes. Which was the pattern for the next three locks…we called and the doors were open and waiting for us to enter and we locked down with no mess and no fuss. So we quickly got through the planned locks and got to the anchorage by 2pm. The other two boats opted to continue on, but we opted to not push our luck and dropped our anchor outside Smithville. We all piled into the dinghy and headed to a dock and once again our fuel can decided to come apart. But this is old stuff–we barely missed a beat and got to the dock.

The dock is next to a boat launch and recreation area run by the Army Corps of Engineers. This is the second day in a row we have anchored next to a lock and been able to use their recreational area. And I am a HUGE fan! Because they have toilets. Not outhouses (thinking back to the Kaskaskia lock). Not Porta Potties (any number of places). But a no kidding building with porcelain, water and a handle that goes flush. Perfect for those people on a boat who don’t want to get a pump out every other day! I haven’t made it mandatory that everyone get off the boat to use the bathroom, but that is coming, rest assured.

1Apologies to all Army dudes for not defining acronym up front in the title. I’d feel bad, but, like, I don’t work anymore so I’ll sleep well tonight.

2: All caps. I admit that I may be a bit defensive. I have on at least two occasions (that were witnessed by multiple people) forgotten to put the gas can in the dinghy and taken off, only to come to a halt some long distance from the boat and was forced to row back. All while being heckled mercilessly by Jan and AJ (who were in the dinghy) and Don/Peg who witnessed both events.