Sunday, July 29, 2007

North to Bay Springs & Pickwick Lakes

After stopping in at the Yacht Basin fuel dock Friday morning, July 6th, we left Demopolis shortly after 9:00 a.m. and traveled about fifty miles to Sumter Landing where we anchored for a few days. With only one lock to go through, we were settled in by 4:00 p.m. Friday afternoon. Sumter Landing is an Army Corps of Engineers public use recreation area with a launch ramp, tables, grills, drinking water, trash receptacles and rest rooms. We saw several fishing boats going in and out of the cove and also heard some picnic-ers toughing it out in the rain that fell off and on all day Saturday.

We went another fifty miles on Sunday, through another lock, and anchored at Harriston Bend Lower Cut-off for the evening. Harriston Bend is an old river loop that provides an adequate, if not especially scenic, anchorage just off the main waterway. We left Harriston Bend at 8:30 a.m. on Monday and went through one of the two locks planned for that day before stopping in at Columbus Marina to replenish our ice, and the Captain took the opportunity to wash the exterior canvas while we were there.

We pulled away from the marina around noon and were promptly hit by a thunderstorm. We could hardly see to drive for a while, but the heaviest rain passed within fifteen minutes or so and we arrived at Blue Bluff, across from the channel leading to Aberdeen Marina, about 3:30 p.m. where we tied to the public dock and enjoyed a beautiful, quiet afternoon and evening. Blue Bluff is another public use recreation area in a park-like setting with beautiful grounds and a launch ramp. Rain was forecast again for Tuesday so we stayed tied to the dock at Blue Bluff for the Captain's birthday and spent the day relaxing, reading and napping. The rain stayed north of us so the Captain also spent some time fishing in the dinghy.

Storm clouds threaten as we leave Columbus Marina.

"Life's2Short" docked at Blue Bluff near Aberdeen Marina.

Wednesday was a three-lock day and we were on our way by 10:00 a.m. after topping off with fuel at Aberdeen Marina. The water between Aberdeen and the Canal Section Cut-off (about eight miles) was extremely muddy and full of debris, courtesy of the heavy rain that hit Tupelo, MS the previous day. We anchored just above Fulton Lock and were enjoying a nice afternoon with a great view of the water by 4:00 p.m.

We tackled the final three locks on Thursday, leaving our anchorage before 8:00 a.m. and arriving at the final lock at 11:10 a.m. Unfortunately, they were doing some lock maintenance and we had to wait about forty minutes before we were allowed to enter the lock chamber. Once we reached Bay Springs Lake, we tied up in a nice cove across from Bay Springs Marina, took the dinghy over to get some ice and spent the rest of the day relaxing and floating in the beautiful, clear water.

A dredging operation we encountered at the Canal Section Cut-off, mile 366 on the Tenn-Tom Waterway.

The Admiral enjoys the beautiful, clear water of Bay Springs Lake.

As we have mentioned before, there are twelve locks between Mobile, AL and Bay Springs Lake, ten of which are in the 200 miles between Demopolis and Bay Springs. Eleven of the locks lift you between twenty-seven and forty feet; however, the final lock (Whitten) has an 84-foot lift and is just a bit intimidating. By the same token, a lock is a lock and regardless of its size, they are all pretty much the same.

After stocking up on ice Friday, we moved a few miles up the lake to Five Fingers cove to join our friend Mo who arrived a few days ahead of us. Mo is in her early seventies and generally boats alone except for her yellow lab, Honey. We originally met Mo when we were vacationing on Pickwick Lake in our 25-foot Sea Ray in September of 2005 and have crossed paths several times since we became live-aboards in June of 2006. Mo has been a live-aboard for more than thirty years and owned four sailboats before buying her current boat, a trawler named "MOTU," after losing her fourth sailboat to Hurricane Ivan in Grenada in September of 2004.

Shortly after getting anchored in our new location, we received a phone call from our good friends, Chuck & Pip, aboard "Miss Pip" who we planned to see on our way to Kentucky Lake later this month. They currently have a slip at Cuba Landing, about 130 miles from Bay Springs, and plan to be there for the next couple of months. At any rate, Chuck called and said to Todd: "Why don't you guys join us for dinner tonight?" And Todd jokingly responded "We'd love nothing better!" At that moment, "Miss Pip" comes boating around the corner into our cove and we are just flabbergasted! They left Cuba Landing Thursday morning and traveled as far as Pickwick Lake before stopping for the evening and then shocked us by showing up at Bay Springs Lake early Friday afternoon. What an incredibly special surprise!

We were also joined later that same day by Tucker & Doris Ann, a couple we met while in Demopolis, aboard their boat "gipsea." Todd actually met Tucker when he and one of Fred's mechanics from the Demopolis Yacht Basin went to Bashi Creek to fix a problem Tucker was having with his engine. We had no idea they were coming to Bay Springs but they had been in touch somewhere along the way with Mo who has the same kind of boat and had planned to meet up here and get acquainted. When Mo told us she was waiting to hear from Tucker, via the VHF radio, we realized who she was talking about and told her the story of how we came to know him. It never ceases to amaze us what a small community it is among boaters!

On Saturday, Bud (Iceman) and his friend Rhonda rode his Sea Doo to Bay Springs from Pickwick Lake to spend the night with us. We had invited Bud to come down before we knew "Miss Pip" was going to show up and also before we knew about Tucker & Doris Ann, so we had quite the gathering in Five Fingers cove over the weekend! We all had a great afternoon visiting on the beach and then Chuck & Pip prepared a virtual feast of magnificent grilled filet mignon and a wonderful layered salad supplemented by a baked potato dish contributed by "Life's2Short." Tucker & Doris Ann didn't join us for dinner, but the remaining seven of us had an absolutely wonderful evening!

Sunday began with Bloody Mary's on the sundeck followed by a late brunch snack. We also discovered that our fresh water pump was not working, but such is life on board a boat! Tucker & Doris Ann pulled anchor and headed toward Pickwick late Sunday morning and then Bud & Rhonda left about 2:00 p.m.. We spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning up and relaxing on the beach before joining Chuck & Pip for grilled brats, grilled peppers and onions and corn on the cob for dinner. Monday consisted of various chores around the boat and then we retired to the beach for an afternoon cocktail or two before once again going over to "Miss Pip" for a wonderful dinner of grilled baby back ribs, baked beans and salad.

A storm is brewing on Bay Springs Lake.

Beautiful color surrounds "Miss Pip" in Five Fingers cove.

Post-storm rainbow (part 1 - left side) with "MOTU" in the background.

Post-storm rainbow (part 2 - right side).

"Miss Pip" and "Life's2Short" backed up to the sandy beach in Five Fingers cove. Dinghies litter the beach!

Bud, Pip, Rhonda & Mo pose on the bow of "Life's2Short" as Tucker & Doris Ann aboard "gipsea" leave for Pickwick Lake.

Chuck & Pip received a call about 9:00 a.m. Tuesday morning from some friends who were coming to visit them at Cuba Landing and learned that their friends were going to arrive earlier than expected - within the next day or two! - so they took off late Tuesday morning with plans to spend the night at Aqua Yacht Harbor on Pickwick before returning to Cuba Landing on Wednesday. Unfortunately, the fish fry we had planned for Tuesday evening had to be postponed but we sent the fish and some cole slaw with them and promised to stock up with more fish between now and when we see them later this month at Cuba Landing.

Todd took Mo's dinghy over to Bay Springs Marina Tuesday afternoon to pick up the new fresh water pump he ordered on Sunday and got it installed before going over to Mo's boat for a dinner of pasta with Mo's homemade sauce. We left Bay Springs Wednesday morning and headed to Aqua Yacht Harbor so that Todd would have access to a shop if he had problems fixing the leak in the port transmission. This is the same transmission that was leaking when Todd and Everett made the Gulf crossing a few months ago. Todd had fixed the problem while we were in Demopolis but he wasn't able to get the nut tight enough, so it loosened up again on our way up the Tenn-Tom and we had to go back to running on one engine most of the way.

At any rate, to fix the transmission leak Todd needed a larger socket and driver than he had on board so he called Bo & Terri, friends of ours in the Pickwick area, and asked Terri to bring the necessary tools to him at Aqua Yacht Thursday morning. In the meantime, Todd cleaned the windows on the sundeck, among other things, while I got caught up on laundry. By Wednesday evening, we were both exhausted so we decided to go out for dinner at a local restaurant called Freddy T's where one of the guys at Aqua Yacht tends bar part-time.  Bud (Iceman) had stopped by Aqua Yacht on his Sea Doo just as I was finishing up with the laundry, so we invited him to join us at Freddy T's. We had a nice, relaxing evening; the food was really good; and Bud generously insisted on picking up the tab - thanks, Bud!

Terri brought the tools by Thursday morning, as promised, and the plan was for me to take the courtesy car to Savannah, TN to re-provision while Todd fixed the transmission leak; however, it turned out that none of the four sockets Bo had rounded up for us fit the nut that needed to be tightened - what are the odds, right?!!! So Todd ended up going with me to Savannah, was able to purchase the socket he needed, and by mid-afternoon we were ready to head to waterfall cove.

When we arrived our "spot" was occupied by a pontoon boat, so we had to float out in the main channel for more than an hour waiting for the pontoon to leave. We were just getting the anchors in place when Kelly & Melissa showed up in their new (to them and to us) 25-foot Bayliner with their dogs, Lucky and Harley.

Kelly had stopped by the boat on his way home from work that morning to deliver some supplies he had picked up for us on his way through Corinth, MS and had then gone home to get some rest. Bud (Iceman) also showed up on his Sea Doo a short time later and we all had a good time chatting and visiting on the beach. Kelly & Melissa brought a bucket of fried chicken and some cheese which we proceeded to consume just as it was starting to get dark. It felt good to be back at the waterfall among good friends after nine months of travels elsewhere - like coming home!

Friday started out with clouds and thunder but no rain, and by noon several other boats had joined us on the beach. This was par for the course over the next week and we were visited daily by one or more of our many Pickwick friends. Over the weekend we hung out on the beach with Tina & Keith, Ed & Wendy and Bo & Stephanie; and Tina & Keith's youngest daughter even stayed on the boat with us Saturday night. Bud came by Sunday morning with Mary and brought freshly baked biscuits with sausage to go with the Bloody Mary's supplied by Todd. Another eventful and enjoyable weekend at waterfall cove.

The weekend view from waterfall cove with a big barge heading downriver on the Tennessee River.

The weekend "gang" mentioned above with Wendy & Ed in the front row along with Tina & Keith's daughters, Sidney (front center) and Hillary (front right). The back row features Tina & Keith, Stephanie & Bo and Brenda & Todd (in case you didn't recognize us!).

Monday was relatively quiet, although there were still several boaters in and out of the cove all day. Bo & Terri showed up Tuesday and we spent the next couple of days hanging out with them. Kelly & Melissa also came out with Caroline and brought burgers with all the trimmings for the group. Kelly & Melissa left late Wednesday morning with plans to take Caroline wake boarding and we hung out and visited with Bo & Terri. Bud came by in his pontoon later that afternoon with Mary; and since we were planning to leave the next morning to start heading downriver toward Kentucky Lake, Kelly called to say that he would be back out at some point that evening.

Kelly arrived as we were eating grilled hot dogs, baked beans and fresh tomatoes and brought some nice tidbits from home to share with the group. Bud & Mary took off as it was getting dark and the rest of us retired to our respective boats shortly thereafter, only to be awakened at 3:00 a.m. Thursday morning as Kelly returned to the cove with Bo & Terri on board his boat, having taken a two-hour post-midnight cruise to Aqua Yacht Harbor Marina and back! The three of them stayed up until the wee hours of the morning and weren't feeling very lively when they woke up a few hours later!

We finally sent Kelly home so he could get some rest before going to work Thursday evening, and we did our best to rejuvenate Terri with Bloody Mary's! Based on a call I received from my mom Wednesday afternoon, our plans to head toward Kentucky Lake changed and we made arrangements to go back to Missouri on Friday, July 27th. We left waterfall cove Thursday around noon and headed to Aqua Yacht Harbor where we will leave the boat while we are in Missouri.

Terri called later that afternoon and invited us over to Bo's boat (a few docks over) for pizza and then Bud stopped by "Life's2Short" for a brief visit on his Sea Doo. We met Bo & Terri at 8:00 a.m. Friday morning to ride with them to Corinth, MS to pick up the rental car. We plan to be in Missouri approximately two weeks and hope to continue the journey toward Kentucky Lake when we return - after another brief visit to the waterfall, of course!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Pickwick Bound

The trip to Missouri did not provide any insight regarding my mom's health condition, so I returned to Demopolis on Thursday, June 28th. The Captain and I had made plans several months ago to be on Pickwick Lake for a pre-4th of July party on June 30th at our friend Bud's (the Iceman) house, although we thought we would be there aboard "Life's2Short." Nonetheless, Bud graciously offered to let us stay in his beautiful home, so we took off Friday afternoon in the rental car and drove the four-and-one-half hours to Pickwick Lake where we enjoyed a beautiful evening overlooking the water and got reacquainted with Bud's other house guests, most of whom we met last year on Pickwick Lake.

Saturday dawned bright and beautiful and the guests started arriving around 10:00 a.m. Bud and his planning committee put together a virtual feast for the gathering - pork butts that had smoked all night, baked beans and cole slaw from Corky's in Memphis, and a plethora of other side dishes contributed by several of the guests. By 2:00 p.m. when the food was served, there were between 200 and 250 people in attendance. Many arrived by boat and were anchored near Bud's sea wall while others drove; all appeared to have a wonderful time at "The Iceman's Tribute to the Pickwick Lifestyle" whether they were singing karaoke, pitching washers, swimming, sunbathing or just sitting around socializing with other guests.

From left to right: The infamous Bud (Iceman) and houseguests Mike, Michael & Niki visiting from Indiana.

A sample of the "smoking butts" - pork, that is!

The lakeside view from Bud's lawn with several boats anchored nearby.

Bud with long-time friend Mike and a "butt-cooker" (so to speak) in the background.

The Iceman plays host.

Let the butt chopping begin!

What an amazing spread!

Is anyone ready to eat???

By 6:00 p.m., the party guests had cleared out and the rest of the evening was pleasantly quiet. Bud's house guests were leaving Sunday morning and he had his sons and grandchildren coming in to spend the week with him, so we readily agreed to help him turn the bedrooms around before returning to Demopolis. By 1:00 p.m., the laundry was done and the beds had been re-made, and the Captain had even put together a wonderful breakfast for us, so we said our goodbyes and began the journey south.

Within an hour after our arrival in Demopolis, a thunderstorm developed and we got some much needed rain which cooled the temperatures down enough to make for a relatively pleasant evening. After a quiet Monday, we started making preparations to leave Demopolis on Thursday to begin the journey north to Pickwick Lake. We stopped by the restaurant Tuesday evening to say goodbye to our friends there as we had a couple of 4th of July events to attend on Wednesday.

We went to Fred's house early Wednesday afternoon and enjoyed a feast of smoked ribs, baked beans, corn on the cob, cole slaw, homemade cookies and both vanilla and chocolate homemade ice cream for dessert. We returned to the marina about 4:00 p.m. and proceeded to join several of our marina friends for another feast organized by Rick & Peggy, a couple who live aboard their boat on B dock. The evening feast included smoked pork butt, two varieties of drunken chicken, baked beans, potato salad, garlic bread and a variety of appetizers and other side dishes too numerous to mention, plus more homemade ice cream for dessert.

After (over)stuffing ourselves for the second time that day, we watched the fireworks show and retired to the boat for the evening. Rick & Peggy really outdid themselves and we sincerely appreciate all the time, money, effort and energy that went into making the evening a huge success!

The master meat cooker, Rick, with his drunken chickens and pork butt.

The Boater's Lounge at the Yacht Basin decked out in red, white & blue, courtesy of our hostess, Peggy.

We made a final restocking trip to Wal-Mart this morning and will leave Demopolis tomorrow (Friday) morning to begin the journey to Pickwick Lake. Our plan is to spend about a week making our way north to Bay Springs Lake, spend three or four days there enjoying the sandy beaches and beautiful water and then travel the final forty miles to Pickwick, arriving on or about July 15th. Our Internet access will be somewhat limited along the way and after we get to Pickwick, so be patient if you send us an e-mail and/or are checking the blog for updates, although we should have Internet access while we are at Bay Springs Lake.