11-21-09 Bay Springs Marina, Belmont, MS

[Rick] Today was one of those days that reaffirm our decision to not make plans or schedules.
Our Goal for the day: We were to leave Grand Harbor, travel about 54 miles to Midway Marina. We would pass through three locks. All in all, a very easy day.

What actually happened: Before we could leave Grand Harbor, we had to place a call to the technician that had installed the new bilge pump yesterday. During the night the float switch came on, trying to get the new pump to pump, but there was no water to pump. The float switch stayed on and actually woke us both up around 0200 (that is 2am for the non-nautical types). I had to remove the fuse from the fuse box to cut off the switch and the pump. Naturally, I did not get much sleep as I was worried about the noise, and more importantly, would the Pickwick Marine Service be open on Saturday morning. Well, when I called at 0800 they were open and the nice lady said she would get someone over to look at the pump. About 0900, the same person that installed the new pump came over and discovered that he had placed the new pump at such an angle that made it contact the float switch, causing it to go on. He realigned the new pump, we tested it out and all was good.

We left Grand harbor at 1000 and proceeded per plan down the Tombigbee Waterway. The Tombigbee is a combination of lakes, rivers, and manmade canals that connect Mobile Bay with the Tennessee River. It was opened in 1985 as the most expensive civil project in history. In reality, it was an “earmark” for Senator John Stennis, the main backer in Congress. It was supposed to be a commercial waterway paralleling the Mississippi and take some of the barge traffic off the Mississippi. History has shown that while there is some commercial traffic, it is nowhere near the amount projected and supporters now talk in glowing terms about the recreational advantages of the waterway. For loopers, it is wonderful, as it provides a peaceful, well marked, and safe waterway without having to go on the Lower Mississippi River which is totally unsuitable for pleasure boats. The Tombigbee is 449 miles long, beginning at the convention center in Mobile, AL and ending at the junction of the Tennessee River just past Grand Harbor Marina. There are 12 locks on the waterway and there is a steady current, but not overwhelming, flowing from north to south.

After about 35 miles, we overtook a tow and in about a mile came upon the first of the three locks we wanted to navigate, the Whitten Lock. At the lock, one tow was just entering the lock, one was waiting, and the one we had just passed was right behind. The average tow takes about 50 to 60 minutes to pass through the lock. We inquired with the lockmaster as to the chances of passage and he said it would be “awhile”. We went to a nearby marina, Bay Springs Marina. After sitting for about 3 hours, it was now 1500, we decide to just spend the night at Bay Springs and make a good start tomorrow. After all, the next lock is only 5 miles and we would have been following those three barges for the next 3 locks, waiting at each one. Our decision to stay gives us hope that the three barges will get past the bunched up locks and our travel tomorrow will be uneventful. Overall we’ve been very lucky with locks. This is lock 100 of our trip, and it is the first time we’ve had to change our plans due to having to wait an extraordinary amount of time.
Bay Springs Marina, at mile marker 412 RDB, is a small but nice marina. It has no cable or WI-FI, but it does have a very nice courtesy car and washing machines and dryers. The restrooms and showers are certainly adequate. So, it is not a total waste of the day.

One highlight of the day involved some visitors to our boat. One of Betsy’s harmonica-playing friends (Mike Bruce), his wife (Faye) and daughter (Abbie) came to visit us. They live about 15 miles away. Betsy met Mike at her first SPAH convention several years ago, and they have become good friends over the past few years, partly due to the fact that Mike usually has a car at SPAH and chauffeurs Betsy and several others to dinner, etc. Betsy was pleased to finally meet Mike’s wife and one of his four daughters. They seemed like wonderful, down-to-earth people and we visiting with them.

Tomorrow, we strike out again, with a plan that is subject to change.

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