Did you know that it is extremely hard to see through fog?
Start: Smithville Anchorage, mm 376.2, 0746 (20 minutes too early)
End: Columbus Marina, Columbus, MS, 1544
Total Distance: 36.9 nm
Average Speed: 5.1 kts
Number of locks: 3 (and 10 minutes of waiting!)
We are definitely getting back into the river/anchorage swing of things. Lucky and I are up at 6am and pile into the dinghy for the quick trip to shore. Well…not so quick this morning. There is this thing called ‘fog’ laying over the water which makes it less than safe to go ripping across the water at a high rate of speed (in the dinghy…our boat doesn’t do high rate of speed). So we putter to the dock and Lucky bounds around in the grass while I use the porcelain. Have I mentioned how much I love any other toilet other than the one on our boat?
Then back to the boat, Jan and I put the dinghy back up, Jan has coffee already made, and we sit back and wait for the sun to rise and burn off some of the fog. We had planned on a 7am departure, but that was delayed. About 7:30 we could actually see shore and more or less see the area that the lock was in, so I called the lock master who told us to come on over 1 and by 7:45 we were moving.
We learned something this morning. Fog is not consistent from point to point in a given area. Matter of fact, the variability can be pretty dramatic going from ‘hey, this looks pretty good’ to ‘Holy sh!t, I can’t see Jan or AJ on the front of the boat’ in about 30 seconds. So when we lifted anchor in a relatively fog free area, we should have had little alarm bells 2 going off in our heads when we turned towards the lock and we couldn’t quite make it out. Even though it was closer than the shore. But we are intrepid3 adventurers…off we go to the lock.
Which we can’t see. Look. I have my chart plotter and it shows me clearly that the lock is no more than 1000 feet in front of our boat. I have my iPhone and iPad that have different versions of the same picture. We all have our memories of the night before when we could see the lights from the lock glowing in our windows. And the day before when we passed by it four times on the way to/from taking fuzzy tail to shore for pee duty. But damned if we can see it now. I slowly motor towards an anticipated collision with a very firm object when Jan cries out that she can see the red light! The signal from the dock that we have to wait. And it marks the beginning of the wall which we can follow Helen Keller style (run our rails down the wall) if necessary. We are in.
Light turns green and we move forward along the great wall on our right and a fog filled with undead (presumably) to our left. On the big locks they have feet markers that start at something like 800 and count down by 100 to zero at the lock door. I have noticed them before but this morning we were keenly interested, since they were the only indication that we were getting close to our destination.
We get in, tie off, the doors close behind us and we drop down. And as we do a miracle occurs; the sun burns through the fog and by the time we get to the bottom of the lock and the doors open, we can see clearly down the canal. Lesson learned for tomorrow…get another cup of coffee and THEN take off!
Three locks on tap today and synopsis is we get through all three with only a 10 minute (total) delay. The second lock we were entertained by a crane. As the back door started to close, he jumped on the top railing of the lock door until it closed. And then he watched the water drop. And when it dropped far enough to expose scaffolding lower on the door, he jumped down. And started scooping up fish that were caught. And repeated. Not sure this is as good an adaptation as say a prehensile thumb, but pretty darn good anyway! The lock master told us he doesn’t miss a ride–if that door is opening he is on it and getting some easy fish.
We pass from the canal section of the Ten-Tom waterway to the river section at some point in the morning. Our journey which was a canal between lakes now is a canal on an old river. Lots of ox bows and more greenery and wildlife. We certainly feel like we are all alone on this journey; we passed one tow/barge on the river, a handful of fishing boats and an old couple necking on the side of the canal at 8:30 in the morning.
We decide to finish the day at the Columbus Marina in Columbus, MS. The entrance to the marina was immediately prior to the Stennis Lock and dam. You approach the lock and just prior to entering or tumbling over the dam, you cut left (port) and follow the markers to the marina. Sounds easy, no? No. The trail looked like someone gave tequila shooters to Hansel and Gretel and had them run willy nilly across the bay spreading red and green markers at their whim. We are nothing if not brave, so we started down the trail and then were called by the harbor master who held our hand (over the radio) and got us into the marina.
T, the dock master, met us at the dock and gave us the rundown. While he was in the middle of his spiel, Lynn from Happy Wanderer came by and invited us to join them for a tour of Colombus and dinner at a local place. I get some fuel, we all shower (which we all needed) and we head into Columbus, MS.
DANGER, RANT AHEAD! How the hell did we end up in Mississippi? Not ‘on the Mississippi River’ but ‘IN MISSISSIPPI?!?!?’ Because like last week (or so) we were in Illinois. Then Kentucky. Then there was some banjo music, pig squealing and BAM we are in Mississippi! This trip is going gang busters!
RANT COMPLETE, back to our story.
Columbus is known for a couple of things. It has the first home of Tennessee Williams. And it has a bunch of old victorian architecture homes which are still around because Sherman in his march through the south, bypassed Columbus; it homes remain unburned today. We toured the Tennessee house, ogled the Victorian homes then went to Huck’s Place for some cajun food. All three were fantastic. Then back to the marina to get a load or two of laundry done and get ready for the next two days. We are looking at the weather for this weekend and it appears that there is some not nice weather on Sunday. We have 120 miles to a marina in Demopolis and we are going to try hard to knock the trip out in two long or two long and one very short day to get in before the bad weather.
1“come on over, you are the only idiots moving this morning.”
2 Klaxons. Like sub diving noises: AAAAOOOOGAAAHHH, AOOOOGAAAHHH. Or like the sounds of a lock closing that scare the crap out of Lucky each and every time (see below):
3 From the dictionary: adjective. fearless; adventurous. Or stupid. “Our intrepid adventurers went out into the fog and got hit by a freaking barge. Idiots.”