Sunday: We awake fully expecting to depart today for Smithville where we have reservations for tonight. I walk Frankie in a slight fog and a check of the weather shows that the forecast for rain has been pushed up to noontime rather than 2 pm so it may turn into a worse day than expected. Upon return to the boat with Frankie, Tracy looks outside and asks if maybe we should stay put today and go tomorrow instead. We agree on that strategy and let Whisky Business know we intend to stay here today. Jerry and Jim are preparing for departure and as I’m wishing them well, Breathless is moving out of their slip 2 docks over, so Jerry tells Jim to step on it as they need to leave and I help Jim with the lines as Jerry takes Whisky Business off the dock and heads for the Whitten Lock.
So today will be a chores around the boat day as we settle in for the day. With plenty of time, I make a French toast breakfast and we enjoy the morning. I go up to the office to let them know we’re staying, but nobody is here on Sundays, so I’ll have to talk to Chris tomorrow before we leave.
In the afternoon a beautiful 65 foot Marquis called Patty Time from Florence Alabama pulls in behind us and I help them with their lines. They are traveling from Florence to the Alabama Gulf Shores where they have rented a home for the winter. They will be leaving in the morning also so we make arrangements to look at a potential 8 am departure based on weather and the lock status. We’re still planning to get to Demopolis before next weekend and rent a car to drive back home for the holidays. So we have 200 miles and 10 locks to get thru to reach Demopolis, so if we have good luck with the locks and don’t get held up for commercial traffic too much, we should be able to make our goal.
Monday: Today is a much better day for travel. To start, there are clear skies with no fog although the air is a bit crisp. As I’m walking Frankie, I see that Patty Time is readying the lines for departure and I tell them that we’re planning for a morning departure also and we’ll see them down the road. Well I start thinking about it and is seems like a better idea to depart together and not wait for the lock to re-fill the pool some time later, so I rush to let Tracy know that we’ll be departing soon and we should star preparing the lines and vessel for departure. In retrospect, it was a bit too quick for Tracy and it felt uncomfortable and not right, but we did it anyway. Actually Nick released the boat from the dock before I had thought through the departure and decided on a plan of motoring out of the marina. We did have a rather intense “debriefing” after this. -tc 7:30 am we’re pulling off the docks of Bay Springs Marina headed for the Jamie Whitten Lock. This is the first of four locks we will need to go thru today in order to make our planned destination of Smithville Marina and it’s the tallest lock we will travel thru with a vertical drop of 84 feet. As we approach the lock, Patty Time is already secured to the lock wall and Tracy nudges Kailani in on the port side right behind Patty Time and lets the lock know we’re secure. I’m on the port side holding the bollard with our new system that we put together last night. I’m using our docking stick line attached to a boat pole and as we approach the bollard, I drop the loop over the bollard while the opposite end it already fastened to the midship cleat. Then as the vessel continues to drift forward a bit, I’m able to bring in the slack and secure Kailani right up to the lock wall with the one line secured to the bollard. The process gets better as the day goes on and we pass thru all four locks. The team of Tracy at the helm and me on the midship with the docking stick works very smoothly and our technique and communication get better and better Yayyyyyy -tc with each passing lock. So we now have a neat system for safe and efficient locking with floating bollards.
Our cruise today is 33 nautical miles and the 4 locks are all in the first 20 miles, so after cruising together with Patty Time thru the 4 locks, we are wishing them a safe journey as they soon are out of sight after our last lock of the day. Then we have a nice leisurely cruise the last 13 miles to Smithville Marina where we see Breathless tied to the transient dock right behind us. We last saw them depart Bay Springs Marina on Sunday in the fog. The dock master, Jim is waiting on the dock to grab our lines and at 12:30 pm exactly 5 hours after we departed, we are secured to the old dock with real good 50 amp power and have turned the heat on. Smithville Marina has a courtesy car and Tracy immediately looks for a spot where she can get her hair cut and and streaked. She finds a Regis Salon in the Super WalMart and makes an appointment for 2 pm. So we borrow the marina courtesy car and head out. While Tracy is in the salon for 90 minutes, I walk over to the Huddle House and have a quick bite, then walk back to the WalMart and do some snack shopping and as I’m finishing up the shopping, Tracy is paying for her service and we return to Kailani for the afternoon.
I check with Columbus Marina in Columbus and confirm availability for tomorrow night as we firm up our plans for tomorrow’s cruise, then we relax in our heated space while the air temperature outside drops into the 20’s! Tomorrow should be another cool but clear day for cruising with light and variable winds.
Tuesday: As predicted, the air temperature is cool, but there is no fog and waters are flat and calm, so by 7:30 am we’re starting to prepare Kailani for a departure and I’m calling the Glover Lock to check status of traffic. The Glover Lock is within our first quarter of a mile on today’s trip, so I’d like to know the lock status before we untie our lines so if there’s a long wait for commercial traffic, we can simply stay at the marina instead of floating out in the river. The lock master describes that he knows that there are a couple of pleasure craft coming down from Fulton and they will be at the lock within 30 minutes, so our preparation for 8 am is right on the money and we will be able to get a nice start to today’s cruise plan of 37 nautical miles and 3 locks.
So at the top of the eight o’clock hour, we’re dropping the lines and pulling way from the docks with a bit of frost on the decks of Kailani. Again, we’ll pass thru today’s locks just like yesterday with Tracy at the helm and me on the midship with the docking stick. It’s just a bit colder than yesterday, but every minute at the helm is another minute farther south, so eventually, we’ll be in warm territory. Come to think of it, we’re already way ahead of last year in terms of our southern migration. Last year at this time, we were still in New Jersey chasing marinas that were shutting off their water and pump outs as we travelled south. Here we have full operations at every marina we get to, and other people to meet with and chat. Today, we should run back into Paul and Diane of Sea Wolf as they are still docked at Columbus Marina.
We pull into the lock and the vessel already in the lock is Tortuga Verde, or Green Turtle. We’ve seen this vessel already and it was docked the whole time we were in Green Turtle Bay and we suspect that it’s the Owner’s vessel, but the voice doesn’t sound like him, so were sort of sure, but not really sure. Anyway, Tortuga Verde is a 17 mph vessel and we’re making 11 mph today (9.6 knots), but at each of the subsequent two locks today, he’s waiting patiently for us to arrive before locking down. So together, we drop a total of 78’ thru Glover Lock, Armory Lock and Aberdeen Lock.
After Aberdeen Lock we have 22 more miles to each our destination, so we wish Tortuga Verde a safe trip and again, a faster vessel is soon out of our sights ahead of us. The rest of today’s trip is quite picturesque with campgrounds, parks, small river cut-offs and as we are approaching the Columbus area, we are in the air space of the Columbus Air Base and lots of planes flying overhead on training maneuvers. This makes for interesting sights and the sounds of the aircraft will soon be a familiar sound for the remainder of our stay at Columbus Marina.
With 5 miles to go to our destination and a nice straight section of the Tenn-Tom ahead of us, we run the rpm’s up to 2,000 and proceed with our normal period of taking care of ‘blow-by’ on the diesel engines. Kailani handles the additional rpm’s beautifully and soon our gauges are telling us we’re traveling at 23 knots! In a few short minutes, we have the Columbus Lock and Dam in our sights and the cut-off entrance to port for the marina. As described by Steve in an earlier conversation, he instructed us to check with him on VHF-09 as we were approaching, so we follow orders and I call the marina on Channel 09. Steve has been following us on NEBO and is already prepared for our arrival. He talks us thru the entrance to the marina and Jim, the dock master is waiting at our covered slip to receive our lines as I pull Kailani into the slip right between Sea Wolf and Destination. We’ve never been docked in a covered slip before, but it’s quite nice and it will be especially nice if we decide to stay here rather than continue down to Demopolis for our Christmas trip home.
Tracy has done some research and first impressions are telling her that this is a very nice marina and we should consider this location as our home base for the month. Then to ice the decision, during the check-in process, Steve Arndt, the General Manager tells us that the monthly rate for AGLCA Loopers has a $3 per foot discount of their normal rate, So our decision is made, we’re staying here at Columbus instead of moving to Demopolis. The weather is virtually identical her and there and we are already situated in a covered slip so we won’t have to worry about rains over the course of our trip home. Its a win-win situation and there is an Enterprise Rental office within 3 miles of our location, so we’re now docked until 2019! Oh by the way, the power is great, they have slip-side pump outs and the Wi-Fi is very strong here, so the only downside to staying here is that in a town called Columbus (possibly named after one of the most famous Italians in American history), there is not one single Italian restaurant in the entire town! Apparently, the town is named after Fred Columbus, not Christopher (haha).
We make arrangements with Enterprise to pick up a month long rental on Thursday and start heading home on Friday morning. We’ll spend the next two days preparing Kailani for hibernation and getting ourselves ready for the minimum three day drive back home.
Wednesday: There’s lots of activity here at Columbus Marina and some familiar faces. Today, Sea Jamm pulls in with Alan and Sherry Johnson. We haven’t seen them since we were in Cape May in May. They hosted Dock Tails on their boat and we were introduced to Bruce and Buffi Miller’s delicious donuts. Well we had a nice time reminiscing and talking cruise plans together. They are now sporting the Gold burgee as they have crossed their wake already. For dinner, we get the courtesy car and head over to Harvey’s with Paul and Dianne. The meal is tasty but Tracy’s meal is delivered lukewarm I like my food hot, hot. -tc and she has to send it back for heat. Other than that, it’s a good meal and on the way back to the marina, we spot a Krispy Kreme and Dianne has never had one, so we are compelled stop in and get some to donuts for breakfast. However, a few of the donuts are missing from the boxes before we reach the marina and there are now less than the original total come breakfast time the next morning.
Thursday: We spend today picking up the rental car and getting as much packed as possible so we can get a fairly early start tomorrow morning. Paul and Dianne get a courtesy car and bring me to the airport, then head off to do some shopping of their own since they will be cruising by Saturday morning. At the Enterprise counter I sign the documents and the clerk tells me he will be giving us a free upgrade from the compact car we reserved and he gives us a Chevrolet Malibu. It turns out to be fortunate for us because once we’re finished packing the car, there’s barely enough room for Tracy, Frankie and me!
For dinner tonight, we have Paul and Dianne over so we can use up as much food as possible before we leave. The less food we have, the less food we’ll have to carry home with us. So Tracy makes a delicious spare rib dinner with beans and macaroni and cheese, all preceded with a garden salad. We have a nice meal aboard Kailani and the crew of Sea Wolf turns in for the night as we spend our last evening aboard Kailani for at least a month.
Friday: We wake to a rainy day but since we’re in a covered slip, we stay perfectly dry while we get a final pump out before departing. Our plan for a 9 am departure is off by 90 minutes as we don’t officially leave the marina until 10:30 am so the 8 hour drive to Ashville, North Carolina will end in the dark since the days have shorter daylight now and that’s exactly how it goes down and it’s dark and rainy when we pull into the Comfort Inn-Biltmore at nearly 8:00 pm. Our actual driving time was an hour less, but I had erred in neglecting to include the change back into Eastern Standard Time Zone. Oh well, the room is spacious and comfortable and we get all unpacked and settled into our room for the next two nights. We even had a bit of luck checking in when they had a sign promoting discount tickets for the Biltmore Estate. So we saved ten dollars buying the tickets here rather than waiting until we got to the estate tomorrow.
Saturday: The day is spent touring the Biltmore Estate where George Vanderbilt built the largest private residence of it’s time in the United States and amazingly, it still holds that distinction today with nearly 180,000 square feet of space spread over 250 rooms including an indoor swimming pool, a bowling alley, 65 fireplaces and 43 bathrooms! So that’s how we could spend nearly the entire day at one house.
We did feel that for the opulence of the estate and the price required to get in, they could have done better than paint on the blacktop of the parking lot for directions. -tc
Dinner is a nice relaxing meal at the Cracker Barrel and amazingly, we simply can’t resist buying some Charles’ Chips and Moose Tracks candy on the way out. Hey, you gotta have some snacks available when you’re in your motel room. Tomorrow we’ll get up and travel again to Harrisburg, PA where we’ll rest for a night before finishing our travels back home for Monday. Weekly blogs will take a holiday break now and we’ll get back to posting travel blogs when we return to Columbus, Mississippi and continue our loop voyage in January, 2019. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!