Sorry I couldn’t get this post out sooner, but its been easier to find a mermaid on the river than internet.  Not that that is a bad thing.

Life on the river can be unfamiliar, but welcoming.  “You just never know.  I’ve seen plenty of people come out on the water temporarily to have it turn into a lifestyle.”  The wisdom from a sailor just out of Fulton, MS at the Midway Marina.

We for sure have picked this life, but only for a moment.  It has also been a bit unfamiliar, but welcome.  The people have been overly inviting and eager to learn more about our planned adventure than who we are.  And so the journey begins.

After leaving out of Iuka, MS to start the voyage, we found ourselves 42 miles further down the Tombigbee Waterway on our way to Florida.  One of the unfamiliar things we had to face was our first time, individually or as a group, traveling through a lock.  The Bay Springs Marina provided a great escape to stop and enjoy the success of a first day out on the water.

Once we were able to get set up in a slip at the marina, we did a walk through inspection of the boat.  This was the farthest any of us had pushed El Guapo under our ownership.  We were able to get hooked up to power, but no water.  Thankfully, we had an almost full tank from filling up at Pickwick.

Next, we decide to walk around the marina and meet a few gentlemen sitting on the slips opposite ours.  They told us about stories of all the Loopers headed either south or north.  It really is another world happening just minutes from your front door at times.

The boys got the boat a day before me.  With this extra time they went grocery shopping, and even had time for a bite to eat at Smith’s in Corinth.  One of the things they bought at the grocery store was Portabella mushrooms.  Since we don’t have many spices on the boat, we made due with what was available.  Honey Heads Honey, Lagunitas, and black pepper rounded out the mushrooms after high heat with the Jet Boil.

It rained through most of the night, but we were fortunate to be under a covered slip.  The temp dropped into the 40’s.

We all started moving by 7 am.  Ground up some Monmouth coffee I brought back from a trip to England, and got the day going.  After 30 minutes of Kettle Bell training and one full “Walk the Plank” set of lunges down the dock, we decided to clean up and head out.  Next stop, Whitten Lock!

Whitten Lock and Dam Facts– Mile 411.9

  • Lift of 84 feet
  • 4th highest single lift lock in the nation
  • Located in Tishomingo County near Belmont, MS
  • 6,600-acre lake
  • Cost $75 million
  • 12 recreation areas scheduled

Whitten Lock and Dam is the northernmost lock on the Tenn-Tom. The Lock raises and lowers barges and pleasure boats 84 feet, the difference in the elevation levels of the water above and below the dam. This is the fourth highest single lift lock in the nation. The dam forms a 6,600-acre lake that joins the so-called Divide Cut canal, and ultimately connects the Tenn-Tom with the Tennessee River. The structure, named in honor of Jamie Whitten, a former Congressman from Mississippi who served over 50 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, cost $75 million.

So not only is Whitten Lock the 4th longest drop of any lock in the U.S., and it was our first!  So we were all a little anxious, but confident.

Due to this anxiousness, we figured we would put the bravest and most capable person out front; Heath Stanley.

The lock was pretty impressive.  Trust me on this, but the first thing to learn about going through this lock is that it is a FELONY to video and/or photograph the lock.  I tested both boundaries and learned the hard way with a stiff reprimand over the loud speakers.  I honestly had no idea.  Oh well.

If you are reading this and this is your first lock, no worries.  Just make sure you call ahead on your phone or you can use channel 16 on your CB Radio.  You really need to call ahead and coordinate your passage.  Sometimes you might catch traffic coming through, and the larger tugboats have the right of way.  One sailer at Midway Marina told us that he had to wait 2 days for traffic to pass before he was allowed thru.  But, if everything works out for you like it did for us, you can get through this lock in around 20-30 minutes.

Also, we learned that as you drop further down the lock, the wind seemed to build up and would kick the boat away from the wall.  Be sure to have a knife ready if you tie up.  Sometimes the ballards can get caught.  That means the water falls but the boat stays.  Not good.  This is not supposed to happen.  I am just saying that it could.  It’s better to be prepared than dangling from a boat 80 feet up in the air.  We chose to just keep the lines loosely wrapped around the boat cleat and held by hand.

Sawmill along the river.

We made it through two more locks and finally landed at the Midway Marina.

G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Lock  – Mile 406.7

  • Lift of 30 feet
  • Located in Itawamba County, MS
  • 851-acre lake
  • Cost $47.3 million
  • 1 recreation area scheduled

Montgomery Lock is located in northern Itawamba County, Mississippi and named after a former U.S. Representative from Mississippi.

John Rankin Lock  – Mile 398.4

  • Lift of 30 feet
  • Located in Itawamba County, MS
  • 1,992-acre lake
  • Cost $43.9 million
  • 2 recreation areas scheduled

Rankin Lock is named in honor of former Congressman John Rankin of Mississippi, one of the waterway’s earliest champions in the Congress

At Midway Marina we met several amazing people.  The operators of the marina, Scarlet, George, and Shane, were amazing!  They were extremely helpful, and more than willing to talk and share stories with us.  Not to mention that hot showers and a marina car didn’t hurt either.

One small interesting insight I have noticed on the river is that each marina is its own unique entity.  Each one will tell you things about the other marinas.  “Watch out for Ed down there at such and such marina” might be something you here.  They will also let you know which lock operators they like. Which ones are friendly, and which ones to not mess with.

The Midway Marina is known for several things, and one of those things is fishing.  As soon as we pulled up, our neighbor reeled in a huge catfish.

On the way back from paying for the night at Midway, we noticed that the Mariner 4 got loose.  Thank goodness Capt Heath (Bill) Stanley fished her out with a Carolina rigged worm.  Once she got close enough, he threw the fishing rod over his shoulder to me and jumped in.

A great meal down, it is now time to call it a day.  We have an early start in the morning and 60 miles to try and tackle.  Columbus, MS, see you in the afternoon.