Starting Up the River System

Valt & Sandy
Wed 19 Jun 2013 19:31
30:54:380N 087:90:781W
June 16, 2013
After an uneventful trip from Pensacola we pulled into Fairhope Yacht Club. A small sailboat club off Mobile Bay, it's a regular stop for us. The first marina we tied up to in six months, we marveled at the electricity and the fresh water. We filled our tanks and charged up everything on the boat. We borrowed a car for laundry, groceries, and repair parts. I detailed the boat while Valt repaired the radar and other small jobs. We especially enjoyed meeting with club members, some who have become old friends.
Up the Mobile River we stopped at a commercial fuel dock, filling the tanks with diesel, and restocking our supply of Shell Rotella motor oil. On our way once more, we motored upriver, losing more than a knot of speed as we ran against the current. We watched for the elusive alligators, but saw none. The river was a series of loops and turns, making us wonder who designed such a thing. Couldn't he have straightened out the loops a liitle? Maybe connecting some of them with straight canals? Surely the designer did not consult with the people who would have to dredge the many extra miles of riverbed and maintain miles of marker buoys. He also ignored boaters and commercial towboats who would waste much time and fuel maneuvering this mess.
The original Army Corps of Engineers river navigation charts are very inaccurate. Depths are not marked, nor shoals. Charted in 1984 before GPS, and ignoring even latitude and longitude readings, the hand drawn maps are not even placed correctly on the grid. This means that the chartplotter often shows us running off the waterway and onto land. Equipped now with two newer version chartplotters, we are amazed that we trusted the old one without mishap.
The Demopolis Lock is notorious for rude lock tenders. This time was no exception. He started filling the lock before we were completely secured to the bollard. Although we had looped the Alabama Bill Loop, we had not snugged the line tight. The turbulence in the chamber caused the bow to lurch forward and hit the lock wall. Luckily we had a row of fenders on that side to prevent damage, but a fender holder was pulled off the rail and broken.
Anchoring in Rattlesnake Bend, we sat back to enjoy the quiet. The lush green trees, the bird song, we could be on the Amazon River for all we knew. Later We picked up a PBS TV channel on the antenna and enjoyed a show about pelicans.

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The river zigzags along. Poorly drawn river charts circa 1984