Nov 6, 2016
Longtime CY staffer Lynn Lortie and her husband Pat left Midland this summer to make their way into the Great Loop and head out on a three year sailing odyssey. Follow their progress right here in CYOB. Photo Credit: Country Dancer; Adamant 1’s buddy boat.
Last blog, we had just left Green Turtle Marina and we were headed into Kentucky Lake. Geographically, Kentucky Lake is separated from Barkley Lake by a large land mass known as The Land Between the Lakes. On the Kentucky Lake side, it is a cruiser’s paradise with many lovely bays and anchorages to choose from. As we aren’t in any hurry to be south (one day we only travelled six miles!), we chose to explore four of them. We were the only boats in all but one anchorage.
There is so much to see as you travel down the Tennessee River – lovely homes high on the hills, birds and wildlife to watch for and heart stopping scenery. We travelled through wildlife refuges where there were hundreds of white and blue herons, many, many white pelicans, hawks and bald eagles. Deer along the shoreline twitch their ears as we pass by.
The homes built along the shoreline are all raised on stilts, much like the Illinois River, and for one stretch of about ten miles, it looks like they had one builder with one set of plans, just different colours! Also along this stretch the hills dramatically climb up so high they cast a shadow right across the river. Along the way is the battlefield of Shiloh where 20,000 men fought in a three-day battle during the Civil War. We asked some local boaters that night who won the war but the answer seems to depend on whom you ask. Funny!
Through the Pickwick Landing Lock we enter Pickwick Lake cottage country – there aren’t any poor people living on the lake. Some of the mansions appeared larger than 20,000 square feet, and some are so high up on the cliffs I am sure they must be accessed by cable car. The architecture is amazing and the colour of some of the homes was so unusual. The lake is huge, perfect for sailing if we had our mast up. We found a lovely little bay; full of coloured leaves drifting down into the calm water that was so relaxing we stayed for three days! The leaves in the breeze remind us that it was fall, even though the temperature remains in the 80’s every day.
We begin down the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, known as the Tenn-Tom, on a bright clear morning. We’re now 450 nautical miles from Mobile Alabama, having already completed 883 miles since Chicago. The Tenn-Tom Waterway connects the Tennessee River at Pickwick Lake with the Tombigbee River at Demopolis AL. Originally proposed back in the late 1700’s by the French as a way of connecting the two rivers, construction did not start until December 1972 and was completed January 15, 1985, six months ahead of schedule. More earth was moved to construct this waterway to build the Panama Canal! In some places, the canal is built into the side of the hill, an amazing feat of engineering!
Along this section we went through ten locks, the largest, the Jamie Whitten Lock, has a drop of 84 feet. This section is also known as The Chain of Lakes. As we travel through the canal, we come to open areas, large lovely lakes, but very well marked with numerous buoys. The area was once forested; they cut down the trees and left the stumps, then flooded it. You do not want to stray outside the channel. It makes for wonderful photography moments though, especially in the early mornings. We discover many recreation areas with launch ramps, and picnic sites as well as bays to anchor in. It is nice to meet up with fellow travellers for happy hour at a picnic table.