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Gary and Connie Hoffman's Voyage Down the Rivers of Mid-America
Written by David   

PART I  580 miles on the Mississippi River by Norseboat 1 Month, 2 Weeks ago   

Dear Norseboat owner,

I have put this narrative summary (sans photos) together for posting on the Norseboat website; there are 50 of us owners in the world and the website is our way of sharing experiences with our boats. I hope you enjoy reading our conclusions even if you have no personal desire to ever repeat it yourself!

Introduction: Gary and Connie Hoffman were releatively novice boaters in the fall of 2006 when we got the idea to fulfill a long-held dream of going down the Mississippi River as Huck Finn had done 150 years before. Not having a boat at the time but interested in a small sailboat that could be easily transported and used on our local Idaho mountain lakes, we researched on line and came up with the Norseboat, feeling that it could well be the perfect "day-sailor".

And, besides, the idea of doing the Mississippi (which later evolved into adding the Ohio, Tennessee, Black Warrior, and Mobile Rivers) on anything much bigger than Huck's raft was decidedly unadventurous. So the choice was made and the Norseboat was ordered from Prince Edward Island, Canada in December of 2006. The basic boat comes equipped for basic use; we opted for a full sailing package, 2 sets of oars/oarlocks, compass, solar battery with lights and charger for electrical nav instruments and so forth. To this "package" we quickly added a 6 gallon fuel tank, 4 HP Mercury 4 stroke outboard motor,
Garmin 378 GPS with inland waterway navigation, VHF radio, binoculars, mooring lines, waterproof bags for clothes and such, lantern and AM/FM/Weather radio, anchor, a $30 total boat/motor cover from Wal-Mart, sponge and bailing bucket, bungee cords, fenders (bumpers) for mooring, extra line and so forth. Safety was addressed directly with our radio, a LOUD horn to blow in emergencies, a full-sized life jacket to wear and another small one to strap onto our wrists; we also invested in a collapsible ladder permanently attached to the retractible keel shackle mid-boat since getting back in the boat if you fall out is quite difficult without a ladder. For camping out, in addition to the optional boat tent, we had a 9 footX 9 foot "shelter" with waterproof top and screen sides that we could easily erect to allow insect free and relatively dry cooking and sitting areas; a separate 2 person backpacking tent was included for absolute insect, snake, and rain protection. Costco provided a collapsible table/cooking surface plus folding camp chairs, folding propane stove with 2 burners, and a 10 foot X 10 foot tarp for ground protection. Then we bought a 5 gallon collapsible water container and brought out our old camping gear of nylon stuff sacks, 2 sleeping bags with foam pads for sleeping, ear plugs...we had read online accounts of floating/motoring the Mississippi including a canoeist who did the whole river to New Orleans in 1991 (!) and thought we would be camping out on sandbars or banks of the River on a regular basis. Wrong! The banks and sandbars are regularly cut by the high spring water flows and are too steep to camp on...those few that seem fairly flat are posted with "No Trespassing" signs...in fact, one River Rat told us that he suspected that the authorities even deliberately planted poison ivy on the sand bars they created from dredging to prevent camping!

Some things we learned almost immediately on the river:
1) prevailing winds are much more often from the south than north or west making it difficult to sail the boat as much as we would have wanted. The winds also had the undesirable effect of blowing 2-3 foot waves up the river at us when they reached 10-15 mph...over 15 mph, forget it, you're spending too much time in a vertical mode instead of proceeding forward. Using our motor we were able to get an honest 7 mph most times at just over 2/3 throttle. Occasionally we used our double set of oars but, again, when the wind and waves are against you, oars don't help much. The river current was less helpful than expected, I doubt that it ever averaged more than one mph since the 20 dams we passed impeded flow. Occasionally befow the dams we experienced a 2 mph current for a couple of miles or so...

2) National weather service reports are generally right on except that "mostly sunny" was not always mostly sunny...also that the wind speed estimates almost always seemed overly favorable compared to the real thing.

3) There are rail lines down BOTH banks of the Mississippi and they are very active; hourly trains are the rule day and night and anywhere near a town or grade crossing they honk their warning horns over and over...camping by the river banks or on the boat was difficult even with ear plugs and even motels nearby were noisy. We wound up camping on the boat 3 nights, camping on land 5, and the other 9 evenings were divided between motels and B&B's.

4) Virtually all the people we met in "Mid-America" were friendly and helpful especially when they saw our tiny boat and heard our story about what we were trying to do. There are some surprisingly good restaurants along the river; there are also plenty of fried foods and this is partly reflected in the waistlines of many we saw.

5) Powerboaters are generally oblivious of sailboats particularly the effects that their wakes had on us as they shot by at 30-40 mph...even 25 mph was enough to rock us considerably if they were within 150 feet as they passed.

6) Towboats with barges (15,000 horsepower, 15 barges carrying as much as 900 semi trailer trucks) are the undisputed Kings of the river; they have priority virtually everywhere and if you get in their way, they can squash you like a bug because it takes a long time for them to stop even if they are only going 7 mph tops. Their wakes were no worse than the powerboaters though because of the slow speed although we kept a very respectful distance
at all times. Going through a lock with them was out of the question! We chuckled at the towboat captains "river voices"; almost as if they deliberately tried to cultivate a slow, deep and confident speech similar to that of a 747 pilot with 30 years of experience. As the skipper of a 17 foot craft (860 pounds fully loaded including the two of us) I tried hard to imitate this professional speaking voice even though we were almost invisible until we got pretty close to the lock, bridge, or towboat we were speaking to. Loved the fact that the lockmasters invariably called me "skipper" or "captain". By the way, It was very easy to remember that the Mississippi is a heavily used industrial waterway in places with power plants, concrete and grain factories, fuel depots, etc.

7) We went through 20 locks for a combined vertical loss of 160 feet or so...the biggest drop was 38 feet, average was 7 feet, one was only 2 feet. These locks are usually 110 feet wide X 600 feet long. Frequently we were the only ones in the huge lock. Lockmasters were generally helpful and considerate for our safety but communications were sometimes not as quick or detailed as we might have wanted. We quickly learned the techniques of locking through safely. Dams adjacent to the locks are scary because if you get to close to the dam and lose power, it is possible to get sucked up close to the dam and swamp...even get sucked through the open underwater gate/spillway. Goodbye "Tide The Knot" in that case.

8) Small pleasure craft like ours have rights on the river; railroad bridges are low enough sometimes that we can't sail under them even with our mast height of only 17.5 feet. RR bridges either raise up or rotate 90 degrees of a major span to let towboats and us through. But the bridgetenders are not generally quick to respond to our radio calls even when they are not busy with a train crossing the bridge...some were downright negligent I thought.

9) Marinas for mooring overnight and gassing up were likewise lax with monitoring radios and having gas available...good thing we opted for the 6 gallon external fuel tank. We could pretty much depend on at least 20 miles per gallon at our normal cruise speed. 2 marinas lost getting a mooring fee from us because they were "closed" when we pulled in after 4-5 PM and hadn't opened when we left by 8 am the next morning.

10) We had little problem restocking our limited provisions as we went along. With rare exceptions there were markets within walking distance of the marinas for produce, lunchmeat and cheese, bread, milk and such. An occasional Wal-Mart or Dollar General store allowed us to buy items that we discovered we just had to have; for example a funnel to pour gas. Other examples: a cushion to put on the gas tank and rest our steering arms..this also doubled as a pillow in the tent! A large clear vinyl envelope from Office Max became very helpful for protecting the river charts from spray and rain. Two of the boat lockers leaked to the point of being unusable for refrigeration and we had to buy a portable cooler and add some extra blue ice...we were able to freeze the blue ice every couple of days or so in motels as well as recharge electrical items. Finally, an extra large tarp to throw over the shelter itself when the wind was blowing rain inside the screen walls.

11) Wildlife consisted of an occasional deer...and MANY migratory birds including pelicans, bald eagles, egrets, herons, cormorants, etc. We had expected to see flat banks next to the river but in most areas without civilization including miles and miles of islands and sandbars, the banks were a mix of tree-covered bluffs with sheer rock walls intermixed. These bluffs frequently went up to 200 feet; we never saw livestock or row crops on farms. Rarely, besides the small and large towns, we would come across little "trailer parks", large and small vacation "second-homes", fishing camps...sometimes these would have a small dock (private or public) adjacent...only once did we have to utilize one of the private docks to tie up the boat when the weather forced us off the river but it was nice to know that there was the occasional place to tie up if lightning, high winds, and bad waves threatened. It could be as much as 40 miles between tie-ups at marinas; that would generally be a day's worth of travel for us since the winds invariably came up by 1 or 2 pm and with them, bigger waves. Quite a few small towns had boat launching ramps but without tie-up facility. We never actually anchored in the river although we were prepared to do so if necessary.

12) No matter what our online canoeist expert experienced, there are mosquitoes, even flies and yellow jackets along the river when you're camping! Our screened shelter made the evenings and nights quite bearable and was well worth the investment as well as the time and effort to erect it. We were told by locals that recent rains had brought the mosquitoes out in abundance but I find it hard to believe that they're not around all the time.

13) Putting our cheap cover on the boat at night meant not having condensation all over everything the next morning...well worth the one minute to spread out the elasticized cover.

14) Even though we draw less than a foot of water with the motor up (e.g. rowing) and 2 feet depth with the motor down (we know, we measured!), there are wing dams in the Mississippi below the water and off the 300 to 1,000 foot wide 9 foot deep "towboat channel; in low water times such as late summer/fall they can be pretty close to the water surface. Also, there are both fixed "deadheads" (trees wedged in shallower water) and floating branches or logs to dodge at times...fortunately the river is so wide most of the time (up to a mile across, more like a lake than a river) that it's pretty easy to keep a lookout.

15) A few words about navigation. Our large river charts with 7 miles of river depicted on each large page were most helpful; the GPS was most helpful where the red and green river markers/buoys were few or absent. It would have been very difficult to navigate the river safely even in our shallow and light boat without the nav aids...there were quite a few times when it was impossible to tell where the real channel was and where a false passage or chute lay without both of the above aids. At the very least we would have done some significant backtracking after finding we were in the wrong place.

16) It was truly disheartening to see the depressed and disintegrating nature of many of the older downtown areas of towns and smaller cities along the way. Whether it's Walmart type shops or flight to the nearby suburbs to escape the noisy RR trains, there were too many empty storefronts, too many buildings that looked abandoned. The few efforts that had been made to reverse the process (cleaning up Dubuque, Iowa and changing traffic patterns in the 1980's) seemed too little, too late. Hannibal, Missouri, Mark Twain's birthplace and boyhood home was a notable exception to this pattern.

The 580 miles we have gone from Minneapolis to St. Louis was only the beginning of this saga. I will be adding to this narrative account as we continue our journey south to Mobile, Alabama and eventually add some of the better photos when I get home to my computer. In the meantime, enjoy knowing that it is possible to take a tiny boat down the Mississippi River with safety and confidence gained from meticulous planning...I know that we will be comfortable doing anything except ocean sailing now that we have had our baptism on the waters; I also know that overconfidence can still quickly get us into trouble.

PART II   The short photo version of our Voyage down the rivers of Mid-America

Date: Tue, 20 Nov 2007 10:40:17 -0800

Good day, this mailing is to give a sneak peek at some of the hundreds of photos we took along the way, a very abbreviated version of the "Tour" we expect to unveil in time to come. That time will have to wait; we are swamped playing catching up with mail, bills, and many other chores that had been put on hold for the last 2 months. As you might remember, our journey was undertaken with the inspiration of Huck Finn's memorable trip in mind, the desire to experience some famous rivers of America in a tiny boat and commune with the people along the banks of these waterways. Happily our 1130 mile voyage as total learning experience was successful in every way. So until we are able and ready to help you put together an article or posting that deals with the entire trip, please keep in mind an observation of Mark Twain's that we became acquainted with along the way:

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Gary and Connie Hoffman

Gary and Connie Hoffman at the very beginning of our odyssey in Minneapolis...notice the clean boat with everything nicely stowed.

Camping on the riverbank in Alma, Wisconsin; missing in photo are our backpacking tent, 2 camp chairs, folding table and stove...you can see why rain can get in even if the wind isn't blowing...that's why we had a separate waterproof tent inside the shelter

Another riverbank campsite, this one at Spruce Creek, Iowa. Easy to see how we can get right up to the bank with only a foot of the boat in the water...even with the motor down we only draw 2 feet of water.

Retired heavy equipment operator Mikey and dog Buddy, one of the many interesting folks we met along the Rivers, this site was in New Boston, Iowa (surveyed in 1828 by a young Abe Lincoln). If it came to beer or food for dinner, well it usually turned out that Mikey would settle for the beer alone.

Retired high school science teacher Charlie Everingham at the Keokuk Yacht Club...gave us the keys to his pickup without hesitation when we needed to go to town to restock groceries. The bottom sign on the post actually refers to an island he owns in the Mississippi River!

No explanation needed for this landmark of St. Louis

"Deliverance Moment" in Saltillo, Tennessee...but everyone was friendly and we couldn't have been safer... that's the Tennessee River in the background. The Tennessee took us to the Tenn-Tom Canal, about 70 miles of huge excavation finished in the 1980's; that connects the Tennessee with the Tombigbee River which connects finally with the Mobile River that took us to Mobile.

There was an 85 foot drop in the Jamie Whitten lock, the most of any of the 30 locks we went through... welcome to Mississippi.

As the nights cooled more and more as we went south but the water temp stayed warm, we started to have river fog for an hour or two every morning, not to mention a hell of a lot of condensation inside our boat tent which would drip on us during the night unless I lay on my back and used a towel at 2 am and 6 am to wipe it off! You can see Connie emerging from the boat tent in this photo; a great alternative to taking everything off the boat and camping on shore.

The white cliffs near Epes along the Tombigbee River...at spring flood stage the water can easily be over the banks that you see in the photo...beautiful but no camping there!

Beaver Creek, a tiny inlet off the river in Alabama that we could pull into even though it was so shallow...not a good idea to anchor in the river itself with towboats and barges going by in the fog during the night

Part III Louisville, Kentucky to Mobile, Alabama

Here is the second installment of our trip; for the most part it covers the journey from Louisville, Kentucky to Mobile, Alabama, October 19, 2007 through November 4, 2007. When we last left our intrepid heroes, Gary and Connie, they had safely arrived in St. Louis, Missouri after enduring unbelievable privation and hardship...NOT!

Our car and trailer had already arrived at our friends’ home near St. Louis, driven there by Howard Courtney from Minneapolis. So when we arrived it was a relatively simple matter for Mickey and Clare Macheca to drive it to the boat ramp for us and watch while we brought TIDE THE KNOT onto dry land for the first time in 17 days. The 3 days we stayed with them was kind of a blur of sightseeing, partying, and just relaxing in almost record heat for early October. Mickey’s Catholic high school class was celebrating its 55th reunion that Saturday at his house and they wouldn’t hear of our leaving before then.

When Sunday rolled around we were ready to hit the road to visit family and friends in Chicago, birthplace and home for my first 22 years. After 5 wonderful days of visiting, shopping, sightseeing and entertainment all over the Chicago area we headed south again, this time to Louisville, Kentucky where my sister lives. The original plan had been to put back into the Ohio river there and take it downstream to the Tennessee River, continuing on through the Tenn-Tom Canal, the Tombigbee and finally the Mobile River ending at our destination of Mobile, Alabama, home to our good friends Henry and Diane Schwarzberg. But plans for a friend to drive the car/trailer to Mobile did not materialize and plan B was implemented, an ad was placed in the local newspaper to attract a driver. That driver in the form of Earnest Bryant finally appeared on the scene but by then it was October 18th and autumn was slipping away and with it the warmer weather and longer days that would aid our boating. So reluctantly we scratched the 330 miles and locks of the Ohio River and had Ernie trailer us to the new starting point in West Kentucky at Kentucky Lake; he returned to Louisville pending the prearranged drive to Mobile November 9th.

The second half of the voyage was from Kentucky Lake Dam on the Tennessee (first half was Minneapolis to St. Louis) by way of the Tenn-Tom Canal to Tombigbee River to Mobile River to Mobile, Alabama. Although the distances were similar (580 miles for the north half and 550 for the south half), there were significant differences between what we experienced north and south of a line drawn roughly between St. Louis and Louisville. For example, Italian restaurants and even pizza joints were not seen in the few small towns adjacent to southern rivers; on the other hand we had some of the most authentic Chinese food ever in tiny Aberdeen, Mississippi (!)…the takeout business rivaled that of a city and the three workers never stopped rattling off in Chinese to each other! Okra, grits, greens and hush puppies started to appear on menus with regularity and, of course, fried catfish and pretty much fried anything were everywhere. What was not everywhere was liquor, any liquor; day after day found us passing through “dry” Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama counties without so much as a beer available let alone wine or hard liquor. We were informed that almost everyone drank the stuff, just that the local Southern Baptist influence prevented its open sale. We even learned of dry towns but wet counties and the reverse depending on local voting custom. In any event, being unprepared for this development we had not stocked up in advance…there was a 9 day stretch without so much as a glass of wine. It was finally at the Midway Marina that the owners of a large pleasure craft took pity on us and treated us to some very fine scotch whiskey!

The rivers were much narrower than the Mississippi had been except for the little lakes immediately above a dam; that and the smaller and fewer towns changed the makeup of the boating population. There were far fewer recreational power boaters and sailboats, no water skiers, fewer marinas, more distance along the river between the few towns/marinas, no railroad lines, far fewer flocks of migratory birds, less detailed river navigation charts, and fewer private docks even where “second homes” existed along the banks. On the other hand there were occasional boat ramps but without a dock, greater availability of courtesy cars , lower docking fees at marinas, alligator sightings and more luxury yachts headed south to the gulf with many continuing on to Florida for the winter. There was one significant development with regard to barge/towboat traffic; on a 300 foot wide river, a towboat with barges 70 to 100 feet wide coming around a sharp turn gets your attention pretty quickly. We immediately started to see the influence of “Southern Hospitality” in Southwestern Kentucky, a more relaxed and informal way of communicating easy friendship that became more pronounced as we floated southward to the Gulf of Mexico. One lasting memory is of a policeman in a small town in rural Mississippi waving hello to me from his parked cruiser at a convenience store. The kindly southern- accented drawl became progressively thicker and more difficult to understand on our boat radio though; I frequently had to ask lockmasters to repeat directions, using poor radio reception as my excuse, never indicating that their lazy drawl was difficult to interpret. I will never forget the Heflin lockmaster drawling an inquiry as to our starting point and destination; when we had told him: “Minneapolis to Mobile” there was a long pause followed by his drawn-out response “You are two brave souls, you really have the pioneer spirit” which left us with an emotional high the rest of the day. Likewise memorable was the lockmaster who referred to the large catfish that had swam into the lock, all the while jokingly referring to TIDE THE KNOT. Another moment was on the Mobile River when the dock manager at Bobby’s Fish Camp solemnly intoned that we were the smallest thing to navigate that distance he’d ever seen.

As on the Mississippi we were still having trouble with our goal of 40-50 miles average per day, initially because of pretty high headwinds and waves. One day this unpleasantness brought us to an unscheduled safety and comfort- related landing at Pat and Patty Butler’s private Kentucky Lake dock. They were the perfect hosts, not only letting us tie up till the winds improved but taking us to the neighborhood Oktoberfest celebration and then putting us up in the guest bedroom for the night…lovely! But a cold front moved in and 5 days of rain…The next day we boated only 6 miles to Paris Landing State Park; at their lodge we waited out 2 days of solid rain... even our boat got its own covered slip after we took down half the mast…our boating Kentucky Lake was apparently enough to bring Kentucky/Tennessee out of one of the worst droughts in years. My experiences with cold fronts had generally been that winds and decreased temps would remove the moisture rich clouds and there would be clearing and sunny skies following…not the same within 500-600 miles of the Gulf of Mexico where more rainy weather for days seemed the norm. The 5th day of cold rainy weather was somewhat more tolerable because we had a 15 to 20 mile per hour partial tailwind; they produced waves from BEHIND as well as frequently from the port side as well…9 hours of steering the boat and motor against side waves resulted in significant tendonitis in my right wrist the next couple of days! Sailing would have been possible but impractical as heavily loaded as we were and we wouldn’t have been able to make as good time and catch up some of our lost days to get back on schedule. It was desirable to reach Mobile by 11/9 because our car/trailer was being delivered by Ernie Bryant from Louisville and he needed to be taken to the Pensacola, Florida airport for his flight home on 11/10. We were also in mind of the weather becoming colder as fall progressed in spite of our south heading.

After navigating 20 locks on the Mississippi we thought we were ready for the remaining 10 on the southern leg of our river trip; what we hadn’t counted on was the ropes vs floating bollard system of tying up in the lock. These locks with bollards are also smooth- walled but without a rope or two to catch as in the Mississippi locks, we had more trouble stopping our forward momentum. Tide the Knot was light and streamlined enough that the slowest speed we could go in forward gear was at least 3 mph, a significant force (total weight including us was only 860 pounds) to try to stop by grabbing onto the recessed bollard cans…putting the motor in idle or shutting it off left us with no steering ability…after a few minor mishaps we finally came upon the best solution…I would cut the power 150 feet from the bollard and then coast to it, making slight adjustments with a canoe type paddle we had bought expressly for that purpose. The average lock on the Missippi had 8 feet of “lift or drop”, it was closer to 40 feet on the Tennessee and Tombigbee with one monster 85 feet drop, the Jamie Whitten lock. Another impediment was the height of the bollards which serve boats whose decks can easily tower 6 feet above the water line as opposed to our bow which isn’t even 2 feet above the water…since “one size fits all”, we frequently felt like short people trying to slam dunk a basketball! The increased number of boats in the locks coupled with increased barge traffic and much higher locks combined to significantly impair our progress down river. Even though the weather improved substantially as we traversed Mississippi and Alabama, the fewer hours of daylight, fewer marinas, lock delays and morning departures delayed by river fog resulted in diligent searches for the few creeks and inlets that would accommodate our boat and allow us to be off the river itself after dark. The larger boats of course couldn’t avail themselves of these places of refuge but didn’t need to with cruising speeds 2 to 5 times that of ours; they could easily make it to the next marina even if 100 miles away.

From Pickwick Lake on the border of Tennessee and Mississippi on down we enjoyed sunny, warmer weather and made good time every day. There had been a problem with our motor dying on us for no apparent reason (usually at inconvenient moments) during the Mississippi boating; a full service 100 hour tuneup in Chicago seemed to have solved that but it started to act up again in Mississippi. After having the motor quit 4 times within a 12 mile stretch we elected to pull in at the next marina and find a mechanic. Derek at the Aberdeen Marina thought that it was a problem with the fuel delivery and proceeded to connect the external 6 gallon fuel tank directly to the fuel pump with the insertion of a transparent fuel filter as well. This bypassed the internal fuel delivery system of the motor with its redundant lines and 2 sharp turns of 90 degrees…suffice it to say that that was the end of our motor problems. The only real difficulty remaining was to try to make at least 50 miles a day in spite of at least an hour delay every time we went through a lock. For safety sake we never wanted to be looking around for a river mooring or marina after dark…that had been an absolute nono from the very beginning. Yes, we had two anchors for emergency use; but no way did we want to anchor in the river itself with tugs/barges going by in the night fog. And we quickly learned that the Army Corps of Engineers river charts we were using (dated 1989 and 1991) showing little creek and other inlets were horribly outdated in 2007; many of the creeks/inlets were no longer in existence or totally overgrown. This resulted in a moderate amount of anxiety as the afternoon wore on and the sun was going down without a mooring spot appearing. In fact, passing the Heflin lock with its separate dam spillway for the bend in the Tombigbee, we knew that we couldn’t reach the next marina 20 miles down by 5 pm. We had only one thought in mind: tying up at the first inlet or creek that looked capable of holding our craft. As we were leaving the lock with several other boats the lockmaster suggested the possibility of anchoring in the river bend below the lock. I inquired about current flow below the spillway and he assured me that it was minimal, especially since he had shut down the water release. We quickly found a “flat sandbar” that was protected yet accessible to our boat, about a foot deep at the bow. Making camp on the shore gave us a lovely night under the stars. The sight that greeted our eyes the next morning was anything but pleasant; the water level had dropped enough during the night that the keel was now resting on the mud, slippery mud that stymied our best efforts to push it off. Finally, with a combination of prolonged rocking and pushing sideways we had it floating once again and we wasted no time in getting underway!

The last two nights went beautifully; night one was in the tiny Beaver Creek inlet, as private and secure a mooring as you could ask for…the banks were too steep for much more than toilet calls and so for the first time we cooked dinner (carefully!) on the boat. The last night we proudly motored into the famous but fairly primitive “Bobby’s Fish Camp” where “Mr. Bobby” has been docking boats, selling gas, serving food (when available) and renting several cabins since 1956…he was a legend on the lower Mobile River. It was good to rendezvous there with some of the friendly yachts that had been leapfrogging with us for hundreds of miles; we had been on the rivers every day but others would occasionally take a day off to sit in a marina. To our relief there was a boat ramp there, also a sequestered place behind the only dock where we could park our boat until our car/trailer arrived. From there we went our friends’ home in Mobile and then the 2400 mile drive home to Idaho…but that’s another story for another time…!

All the best from Gary and Connie

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