Since my last post we’ve travelled the short distance from Columbus at mile 330 to Demopolis at mile 217, crossing from Mississippi to Alabama along the way. Heavy rain during our stay in Columbus kept us captives aboard for a couple of days. But I started to go nuts sitting on the boat so despite the heavy rain, I put on my raincoat and opened my brolly and walked through the town of Columbus for some much needed exercise.
Walking by Tennesee William’s first home/Welcome Centre, the main area of Columbus is neat and tidy. There are a variety of restaurants including a Thai restaurant, coffee shops, a couple of tux and frock shops, plus stores already selling Christmas paraphernalia, while the remains of fall pumpkins are stacked on the street corners. A short walk from the river is Columbus’ famous ‘Catfish Alley’. Once the centre of African-American social and business life, it was also famous for blues, jazz and soul music although not much was happening when I walked by. To the north of the main town up highway 45 is the shopping precinct – Walmarts, Krogers, Starbucks, plus a variety of other outlets plus a bowling alley. To the east of the town I found a small Dollar Supermarket, Suds’n’Duds laundry opposite the Double S Laundry, a few gas stations, a pawn shop and a selection of hair and beauty salons. South of the town across the railway tracks are ordinary and simple housing authority homes opposite the Friendship Cemetery. It’s easy to get around all the places by bike which I did the following day.
With a break in the weather the next day I got up early and rode our dirty washing to the ‘Double S Laundry’. It was a Sunday morning and I was there with about a dozen local blokes washing their weekly work clothes. While my laundry was rinsing, spinning then drying, I chatted to one bloke, sat and watched a 70s sitcom, helped myself to free coffee and used the free wifi to type my blog.
Around the town of Columbus are some superbly preserved antebellum homes, that is, built before the American Civil War. The fact that they withstood that war and subsequent years is quite astounding. During the Civil War the town of Columbus was known as a hospital town where wounded men, such as from the battle at Shiloh, were transported to Columbus and cared for by the locals. At the south end of town beyond the railway tracks is the Friendship Cemetary where over 2,100 soldiers are buried, many in unnamed graves marked only by marble stones as ‘Unknown Confederate Soldier’.
On 25 April 1866 local women placed flowers on graves, not only of the Confederate soldiers, but also the Union soldiers. Decoration Day as it was known eventually lead to the U.S. national holiday known as Memorial Day. To show off the beautiul homes, each spring Columbus has a Pilgrimage event where the homes are opened up to the public and locals dress in costumes from that era. Supposedly one of the best and authentic home tours in the south. Columbus is worth the visit.
At the small dinghy dock I met a local guy named Charles. He was chatting to a yachtie from Florida, Paul, who had berthed his 26′ sloop at the dinghy dock. We chatted about sailing and travelling as one does and Paul told us he had had his dinghy stolen some time ago. A dinghy is the lifeline for a yachty to get ashore and he wasn’t very happy about having it stolen. Later that afternoon I returned to the dock and saw Paul grinning from ear to ear above his bushy beard. “Look what he gave me!” he said. Only then did I realise that a brand new bright yellow kayak was tied on deck. Charles had thoughtfully bought Paul a brand new Pelican kayak! Once again I’m overwhelmed by the generosity of the people we meet. What a fantastic gesture – good on you Charles!
Leaving on a sunny day we waved goodbye to Charles and Paul and motored to an anchorage at mile 308. This anchorage had us about one mile north of the Bevill Lock where there is a Visitor’s Centre and ‘Snagboat’ the U.S. Montgomery. This steam powered vessel built in 1925 was used to dredge and rip up snags and stumps from the bottom of the waterway. Unfortunately the impressive antebellum Visitors Centre and Snagboat were closed when we visited so we couldn’t see inside but I managed to get a couple of pics through the window anyway!
Motoring along the Tenn-Tom isn’t particularly scenic although some sections of the river have impressive white cliffs of sedimentary clay to add some variety to the view. The trees are not as pretty as around the Kentucky Lakes; the flora has changed and appears more scrubby. We’ve seen one deer swimming across the river, some water birds, but little other fauna.
At one point the boom of a shotgun blast way too close to us had me peering from behind a winch! I think the deer preferred to be shot by a Nikon D7000 rather than the shotgun!
On the morning of 11/11 – Remembrance Day and Veterans Day – the anchorage at mile 265 just below the Heflin Lock was thick with fog so we couldn’t leave until 8.30am. By the end of the day though we’d motored 40 miles and dropped the pick about one mile up Rattlesnake Creek at mile 223, and had the crew of Sweet Sensation over for drinks. We decided to stay here an extra day to enjoy some sun and take a break from motoring.
The last time we filled up with diesel was at Alton Marina back in September. We added a further 100 litres at Pebble Isle Marina. Although we have enough diesel to reach Mobile, Demopolis is the last place to get fuel, water and pump-out so to be sure we grabbed 30 gallons for the remainder of the trip (FYI $2.37 per gallon). The approach to the fuel dock is shallow and once again our depth showed 0.0m under the keel as Wayne inched us slowly forward.
From Demopolis we leave the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway and enter the Black Warrior-Tombigbee waterway. Once through the Demopolis lock we have one more lock and 213 miles to reach Mobile and the Gulf of Mexico.