24 September 2016 on board Viridian started pretty much like any other day with one exception, the Captain of the pirate ship came to us to introduced himself and asked if we were going up river and at what speed. I told him we don't tell Pirates our cruising plan... , nahh, I told him who we were and that we were indeed headed up river turning about 6.5 kts. He said that he would depart Columbus after we did and time his arrival at the next L&D so that he could get up and out by the time we got there, cause he was in a hurry (typical Pirate, always on the run). Sounded like a fine plan to us so we swung Viridian away from the dock, dodged giant lily pads, slid over the bar around the fuel dock to backtrack our way back to the Tenn-Tom. As we set our speed at 6.5kts and motored North toward Midway Marina, the crew tried to speculate as to what the story was behind the odd craft that would soon be catching us and passing us as it races North to who knows where. What we did know was that we had to lock through four dams today to make our destination. Depending on tug traffic, we could be in for an interesting day.
As promised, about an 30 minutes later the pirate ship showed itself as it came around a bend. The white bow wave looked like a mustache under a big black nose as it chewed its way closer to Viridian's stern. We were overtaken by the pirate ship and found ourselves looking down the non-blinking black holes of her cannons as she came along side us to port. Her bow wave rocked us as we pulled in behind to follow in her wake. The ship disappeared around the next bend and that was the last we thought we would see of her and never learn the story behind the mysterious vessel.
Our first lift for the day was at Aberdeen L&D. We heard the Captain of the pirate ship radio the Lock Master and request a lift. He also informed the Lock Master that another pleasure craft, us, was headed North and expected to arrive about the time the lock cycled back down. However, the Lock Master said he would hold the lock open for us instead of putting each boat up individually. Well, this didn't suite the Pirates which explains why they looked a little ticked when we pulled in the lock opposite them and tied up on our port to the last bollard. Once we got secured, I radioed the Pirate Captain and asked what was going on. He asked me for my cell # and called me back. It turned out that he had been hired to transport this Federal boat from Wetumpka, AL, where it was made, to somewhere on Lake Michigan and deliver it to a Federal Park where it would be used as a tourist attraction ferrying passengers to islands in the park. (Although he didn't technically have any passengers on board, he nevertheless invoked his unique privileges whenever he thought he should). The mast and rigging had been shipped over land where they would be mated with the ship once she arrived. Anyway, he carried a Federal Transport Permit tucked inside his Pirate belt that allowed him priority over all vessels, with the exception of US War Ships. He was also under contract to deliver the hull by a certain day, was not to allow anyone on board the ship and must stay at a marina over night (no anchor). He tried to explain this to the Lock Master but the Lock Master was Boss and let him know, Federal Permit or not. So, it appeared that we would be traveling together, Viridian and the Pirate Ship whose Captain had itchy feet. The next two L&D's were so close together that it only made sense for the Pirate to match our speed and lock through at the same time. And that's what we did all the way to the last L&D and on to Midway under a clear blue sky and a relentless hot September sun. We chatted with Pirates while locking and learned about their Spartan living conditions, no beds, no chairs, kind of like rough, primitive camping. No wonder they were in a hurry! The locking process was now second nature to the crew of Viridian, but we still learned some good radio techniques listening to the Pirate Captain communicate in a professional manner.
Midway Marina was a mile or so North of Fulton L&D. A 90 deg turn to starboard into the marked channel took us straight to the transient dock behind the Marina Store. We could see a forest of tree stumps to our port sticking up about an inch above the water so we made sure to stay in the marked channel. The pirate ship was already at Midway Marina all tied up and facing out. The Dock Master motioned for us to pull in directly behind the ship and in front of a Looper trawler. As we began our approach, (think of parallel parking in a 13 ton boat), the Dock Master shouted for me to flip her around 180 deg and dock pointing out like the pirate ship. Well, I shouted down to the first mate that we would be doing a port tie instead of a starboard tie. (While all this talking was going on Viridian was making way and last second maneuvers to spin around and dock to port). The first mate quickly moved the fenders from one side to the other as the bow thrusters swung Viridian hard to port. At the right time, the Captain shifted into reverse, to stop forward momentum, and took advantage of the prop walk to starboard that a counterclockwise rotating prop delivers, to helped swing the bow even faster to port. A nudge into forward and a few thruster blasts happily landed Viridian perfectly in her spot alongside the transient dock, directly behind the pirate ship and in front of the trawler. The dock hands simply tied off the bow a stern lines, Viridian was shut down in an orderly fashion and the crew plugged in the power cable like we had been born on the water. Well now, for the first time I was addressed as "Captain" when stepping off the boat and some old dock hands greeted us with a nod and a handshake saying, "nice job" as the crew swaggered down the dock looking for the restrooms. The first mate asked, "What did we just do?" The Captain said, "it had to be a stroke of Good Fortune because I certainly didn't plan any of that and was not real sure it would work!" But it did so we let on like we knew what we were doing.
On our way back to Viridian , there were several people gathered around a grill that was giving off a wonderful aroma of hamburgers cooking over coals. As I went by I commented that they sure smelled good. One of the cooks said, well, why don't you just pull up a chair and join us? OK, let me get my wife and we'll be right back. There were about 6 people sitting around the grill at the intersection of the dock T. They were marina employees and residence who lived aboard their boats. They explained that they had bought the cheapest hamburger meat and Bunny Buns at Wal-Mart and there was plenty to go around. We built simple burgers with just mustard and ketchup and pickles and they were mmmm mmmmm goooood. We learned that one young man was a Mississippi St. EE graduate and lived here on his non-working sailboat. Another man was a big rig truck driver with lots of stories about his hauls. A woman, who never spoke, rocked back and forth on the stern of her husband's boat chewing her burger. Her husband was the Marina Foreman. A few younger men were Marina employees. We told them what we were doing and why we flew the Looper's Flag but were going backward on the Tenn-Tom. We finished our meal and thanked them for their hospitality and made our way back to Viridian. Later that evening we got a chance to meet the Crew of the pirate ship and discuss a strategy for going from here to Grand Harbor Marina on Pickwick Lake in the Tennessee River. He encouraged us to tag along and take advantage of his special privileges going North. (Right, so you can board us in some remote section of the Tenn-Tom and steal our new teal folding chairs!) We smiled agreed that he had a good plan and said we would be ready to leave first thing in the morning. Our immediate future was looking good and confidence was growing in our abilities as cruiser boat captain and crew. This does make for a good nights rest, but we must keep our guard up and not get too over confident in our abilities. Some wise veterans of cruising boats all told us that just when you think you got it all figured out, watch out!
That's the news and here's the views:
Route from Columbus Marina to Midway Marina
Midway Marina is just above Glover Wilkins L&D
Midway Marina is just above Glover Wilkins L&D
Aberdeen Lock and Dam – Mile 357.5
- Lift of 27 feet
- Located in Monroe County near Aberdeen, MS
- 4,000-acre Aberdeen Lake
- Cost $43.3 million
- 4 recreation areas
Named after the city of Aberdeen, the dam forms a 13.5-mile long lake covering over 4,000 acres. The project cost $43 million. This and the following three locks and dams make up the so-called River Section where the waterway generally follows the course of the Tombigbee River.
Amory Lock – Mile 371.1
- Lift of 30 feet
- Located in Monroe County near Amory, MS
- 914-acre lake
- Cost $23.3 million
- 1 recreation area
Named after the nearby Town of Amory, the lock is the southern most facility in the Chain of Lakes section of Tenn-Tom Amory Lock. It has a lift of 30 feet. The 914-acre lake caused by the lock was the site in December 1984 where the last remaining section of the navigation channel was removed. After 12 years of construction, this allowed the “mixing” of waters from the two river systems and permitted unimpeded flow of commerce through the waterway.
Glover Wilkins Lock – Mile 376.3
- Lift of 25 feet
- Located in Monroe County near Smithville, MS
- 718-acre lake
- Cost $33.5 million
- 2 recreation areas
The Lock is named after a former administrator of the Tenn-Tom Waterway Development Authority, who was instrumental in making the waterway a reality.
Fulton Lock – Mile 391.0
- Lift of 25 feet
- Located in Itawamba County near Fulton, MS
- 1,643-acre lake
- Cost $28.3 million
- 2 recreation areas
A look at the Pirate Boat in Aberdeen L&D as we Discussed his Situation
Amory L&D Opening Up
Another Shot of the Pirate Boat in Wilkins L&D
Entering Fulton L&D after the Pirate Boat is Secured (you can barely make out the canopy in the corner of the lock)
Nice Place to Anchor