Luka, MS to Columbus, MS
Posted on October 26, 2019
Sunday/ Monday, October 13/ 14th – Aqua Yacht Harbor Marina, Luka, MS. Woke up at our Wolfe Island anchorage to a super foggy morning. Completely fogged in where you couldn’t see 10’ in front of you so had to wait for it to clear. We had called the Pickwick Lock earlier to find out status of locking through and lockmaster said it was really foggy down there and to be very careful. At one point, we thought it was clearing and were making preparations to get going when all of a sudden the fog rolled right back in. It finally cleared at around 10am and we got underway. Arrived at the Pickwick Lock (14 miles) and had to wait about 2 ½ hours as there was quite a bit of tow traffic up and down bound. Several other Loopers caught up with us as we waited and 5 of us locked through together. The lock lifted us up 55’ into Pickwick Lake which is big and beautiful.
We have been on the Tennessee River (206 miles since turning off the Ohio River) and would be turning into the Tennessee-Tombigbee River (referred to as the Tenn-Tom) at MM215. If we were to continue on the Tennessee River, it would take us past Florence, AL, Muscle Shores, AL and Chattanooga, TN. However, we opted out of side trips and headed south towards Mobile, AL. The start of the Tenn-Tom is at MM450 with Mobile being MM0. Which means 450 miles to go to the Gulf and back in salt water!
After finally transiting the lock, we arrived at Aqua Yacht Harbor Marina which was only 10 miles from the lock. Got settled into our slip and headed over to the Aqua Grill for dinner and to meet our friend Steve Palazzo from Fort Lauderdale. Steve and Bob had worked together at FLPD years ago and now Steve is working as a yacht broker with me at Denison Yacht Sales. Steve was in the process of delivering a 45’ Carver from South Florida to the Green Turtle Bay Marina in Grand Rivers, KY and we luckily were at the same place at the same time. The restaurant is on property and owner of the restaurant suggested I try the cauliflower crust pizza and I am so glad I did. It was fabulous. I had tried making it myself at home several times unsuccessfully but when its done right you would never know you weren’t eating regular thin crust pizza. Much healthier choice than all that white flour.
Monday, as it was fogged in again, and our friend Steve suggested we go to breakfast as he was buying. The Aqua Grill is closed on Mondays so we borrowed the courtesy car, asked about breakfast recommendations and headed to the Outpost General Store at Pickwick Dam. Had a good country breakfast including a biscuit and gravy and country ham while enjoying our time with Steve. When we returned to the marina, the fog had cleared and Steve and his crewman Bob headed out. Bob and I borrowed the courtesy car and headed to Savannah, TN to provision and go to the CVS. Our marina is right on the border (2 miles) between MS & TN. Returned, had lunch on the boat then jumped in the tender to go see the waterfall which is one of the local attractions. Nosed the tender right up to it and I jumped out for the photo op. Afterwards, we borrowed the courtesy car again to run a couple more errands and stopped for dinner at T. Freddy’s. We had dinner at the bar and spoke with one of the locals who drives a tour bus for celebrities and performers who are on concert tours. The restaurant did have a good selection of high end wines by the bottle (it is Luka, MS) including Opus 1 and Caymus. Food was pretty good.
Tuesday, October 15th – Five Fingers anchorage MM314. Departed around 8am as it had warmed up a bit so no fog. Fog as you probably know arises when colder air passes over warmer water. Our destination today would be to an anchorage 35 miles away and right before the Whitten Lock. This section of the river is relatively narrow with few marinas and places to anchor with the exception of Bay Springs Lake. This lake is very large and has all sorts of coves and anchorages. As the wind was blowing pretty strong from the south, we chose one of the coves in the Five Fingers area which was protected from south winds and 2 miles north of the Whitten Lock. Beautiful quiet anchorage that we had to ourselves. There was supposed to be an eagle sanctuary but we didn’t see any eagles. The forecast was calling for rain and it did so. Once the rain stopped, Bob and I jumped in the tender to go exploring. We went across the bay to check out the Bay Springs Marina then stopped by to say hello to Don & Glenys on Pearl and Nolan & Mona on Hoot Owl as they were in a cove just down from us. We were all anchoring here so that we could have an early start in the morning as we would be transiting four locks and a total of 37 miles the next day. Stopped in for a drink with Don & Glenys, officially met the crew on Hoot Owl and then headed to our anchorage. Nolan on Hoot Owl said he would call the lock at 7am to check status of locking through and we all agreed to stand by VHF channel 16 and make plans from there. It was a quiet evening until about 2:30am when the wind shifted to the north and began thumping on the sides of the hull. Our anchorage was not well protected from the north so it got bumpy the rest of the night.
Wednesday, October 16th – Smithsville Anchorage-MM377. At 7am, the lock informed us that he did not have any commercial traffic locking through and we were welcome to come on down. Everyone decided to go early so we all weighed anchor and headed to the lock in spite of the windy conditions. Our three boats were joined by another looper on Seamore Odyssey. The Whitten Lock would be taking us down 84’! The biggest drop or lift of any lock we have encountered in the locks we have transited so far. (about 135) All four boats cast a line around a floating bollard with two boats on the port side of the lock and two of us on the starboard side and we were ready for our ride down (photos).
Afterwards, the four of us settled into a routine and travelled through the four locks together. Next up Montgomery Lock (30’ drop); Rankin Lock (30’ drop) and Fulton Lock (25’ drop). The crews of Pearl & Hoot Owl were of the same mindset as we were that 4 locks in one day is enough so we had decided on an anchorage just before the Wilkens lock. As we have said, there are very few options so its either travel 80 – 100 miles or find something plausible. Seamore decided to continue on so we bid them farewell. It’s cooler today with a high of 63 and low expected to be down to 43 degrees. Our anchorage was just off the channel and not very protected but winds were expected to die down around 6pm. It did settle down and all three boats enjoyed a quiet night aboard their vessels.
Thursday, October 17th – Columbus, MS-MM335. Really cold this morning as it got down to 43 degrees and we had the hatches open. Our cabin temperature was 51 degrees so we didn’t want to get out of bed. We forgot to turn on our radio and missed the 7am VHF radio call to the lock so our buddy boats were trying to call us to inform us that we were heading out. The fog wasn’t bad but once we got on the other side of the lock it was bad. You could only see about 30’ in front of you. Pearl took the lead since Hoot Owl said his radar wasn’t that good. Locking with us was the sailboat Lady Love and they were so happy to fall in behind since they didn’t have radar at all. AIS yes but no radar and AIS is only good if the other boats around you have it as well. We were all going idle speed through the “pea soup” fog. At one point, we couldn’t see the boats in front or behind us (photo). Looking ahead on the Garmin chart plotter, we could see on AIS that there was a tow heading our way at the next lock (5 miles away) and Pearl was concerned as he was in the lead and couldn’t pick it up on AIS. Fortunately the tow heard our concerned voices about the fog, and his tow, over the VHF and decided to tie up at the Amory lock wall and wait for us to come into the lock instead of meeting us in the tight channel. We thanked him for the courtesy and headed in.
Today’s journey would be 42 miles and 3 locks (Wilkens, Amory & Aberdeen). We radioed back to Lady Love that we would wait for them at the lock since they travel slower than the rest of us and they were real appreciative. Sea Major joined us in the Aberdeen lock and all 5 boats were headed to Columbus marina. While we were checking into the office, we and Don & Glenys on Pearl, agreed to share the courtesy vehicle and head into town for dinner. At 6pm, we all hopped into the van and went to Huck’s for dinner. Good food, good wine and good company. We all chose the ribeye since of the local patrons said it was really good and it was.
Friday – Monday, October 18th-21st, Columbus marina. Originally we had planned on staying only 2 nights then heading out to an anchorage about 50 miles away but the tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico had us concerned. We prefer to be in a marina if there are strong winds and thunderstorms so we decided to stay put a few more days, rent a car and do a road trip. The next marina is 119 miles away and at 8.5 mph, that’s 14 hours. No thank you. While we generally could get up an run, we suspect we might have some prop damage from the Mississippi as there is a vibration when trying to kick up the RPM’s. We plan to have it checked when we get to Mobile.
Later in the afternoon, we got our rental car from Enterprise and invited Don & Glenys to go into town with us for dinner. We had seen a Thai restaurant while we were in town yesterday, and the four of us agreed that Thai would be good. The food was very good; the service not so much. Our server was very nice but she seemed amped up and scatter brained. Oh, and no wine.
Saturday morning, our planned road trip this lovely morning would be to Memphis, TN as neither Bob nor I have ever been. It was a lovely 173 miles through beautiful rolling hills with cattle farms and cotton fields. We booked a room at the Hampton Inn on Beale Street in downtown Memphis and got there around lunchtime. One of Bob’s friends had recommended a few things to do including restaurants. We were looking forward to eating some Memphis BBQ and walked a couple of blocks to Rendezvous. On the way, we walked through the Peabody Hotel and enjoyed the ducks swimming in the fountain in the lobby of the hotel. Apparently the hotel is known for their duck march everyday at 11am & 5pm. Beautiful hotel but pricey. The food at Rendezvous was delicious. Their ribs are dry rubbed so not slathered in BBQ sauce but there is sauce if you so desire. We started with the cheese & sausage appetizer then shared a plate of ribs and brisket. Really good.
After lunch, we walked around downtown then headed to the National Civil Rights Museum and the Lorraine Hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. This was the highlight of the trip to Memphis. Very well presented with exhibits that take you through the civil rights movement, Dr. King, the room where he was staying when he was shot and the boarding house across the street from the hotel from where James Earl Ray fired the rifle that killed Dr. King. The Lorraine Hotel and the Boarding House were purchased for the purpose of memorializing Dr. King and turning it into a museum. Very sobering experience. If you go, plan to spend several hours as its worth it.
After the museum, we walked along Beale Street which is a smaller version of Bourbon Street in New Orleans & Broadway Street in Nashville with lots of bars, music, restaurants, and shops. Memphis is the home of B.B. King, Blues music, soul music, BBQ, Graceland, Fed Ex headquarters & Bass Pro headquarters. We were a bit worn out so we headed back to our room to rest a bit then ventured out around 8pm and listened to some music.
On Sunday, we decided to cross the bridge over the Mississippi River which puts you in Arkansas. I had never been to Arkansas so I can now check that state off of my list of states visited. On the way back into Memphis, we stopped at Bass Pro headquarters which is in the Pyramid building. So glad we stopped! This place is like Disney World. It’s huge and has giant trees, aquariums, boats, live fish, alligators, and ducks. You can also ride the elevator up to the top of the Pyramid to the lookout or the restaurant. Picked up a few items, then hopped in the car and headed to Graceland; the home and resting place of Elvis Presley. Graceland is the second most visited house in the U.S. (second only to the White House) with over 650,000 visitors per year. Another Disney like attraction with different touring packages available but we decided to pass on the tours and headed out of town.
Next stop, Oxford, Mississippi and home of the University of Mississippi or “Ole Miss”. We had planned on having lunch in town square but it was super crowded. Found out it was parents weekend for the school and the restaurants all had lines out the door. Pretty town and campus though.
After Oxford, we decided to head back to Columbus. Bob had been really curious about the cotton fields and decided to pull over and pick some cotton (photo). Once in Columbus, we stopped for at Buffalo Wild Wings for a late lunch / early dinner so we could watch some football. Bob ordered a beer and I ordered a glass of wine. Bob got his beer right away and I waited and waited. Apparently the corkscrew (only one in this big bar & restaurant) had gone missing and the bar staff and manager were frantically looking for it. Finally, they sent someone to the store to buy one and I got my wine after about 20 minutes. The manager did apologize and comped my wine. They obviously don’t get many wine drinkers there. All good.
On Monday, Bob suggested we take another road trip since we had the car until the end of the day so off we went to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Home of the University of Alabama and the “Crimson Tide”. This trip was only 56 miles one way and was very scenic as well. When we got close to Tuscaloosa, I spotted my first Publix grocery store since leaving Florida on our trip so we stopped so I could pick up a prescription. Yay. Then we drove through the university campus (very pretty and stately) and stopped for lunch at Half Shell. The char-grilled oysters were excellent as was the meal; Blackened red fish and seafood pasta.
Drove back to Columbus in the rain (cold front moving through) and upon returning to Columbus, we returned the rental car. So ends our weekly adventure. Sorry we are behind in the posting but the cell service and WIFI have been virtually non-existent. Stay tuned and see you next week.