Today was the big day – our first “century”. We spent last night near a Coast Guard cutter station in Demopolis, AL. The next morning we were up at 4am for the second day in a row. Shortly after, we were on deck, in 30* temperatures, a flawless starry sky above and ready to get wet and muddy. Anchors stowed and transmission coaxed into forward, we headed out into a deep fog.
The morning’s fog lasted for three hours. In this time, we passed three oncoming barges. Needless to say, we had every forward and rear facing light on the boat turned on, air-horn at the ready and eyes peeled forward. After finding the first barge, we were in a better situation because we were able to ask him for the positions and names of the next barges behind.
The fog lifting off the river on Thanksgiving morning was a sight to see and we soaked up every beautiful moment. Orange sunrays escaping from the holes in the trees along the bank cut swathes from the dense fog. Herons called out from the shoreline and every so often we would find ourselves alongside some towering loading dock or derelict pier.
The next 8 hours of sailing were uneventful. Hour after hour of humming diesel engine setting the mood. Around 6:00pm, just as the the sun made its last valiant stand, we saw an outlandish sight – captain Jack Sparrow. This Captain Jack looked to be in his mid-twenties, had dreadlocks, a raggy vest and 28-foot schooner made entirely of bamboo, old plastic soda bottles, blue plastic tarp and string. He had obviously been on the water for weeks or months, based on the condition of his craft and accumulation of garbage in the boat – two things we can relate to. Dumbstruck, we doubled back for a chat.
Jack turned out to be Zachary. Without home or job in Tuscalusa, AL, he happened upon a stand of bamboo and decided to build himself a boat. After its completion, he hit the river, planning to sail to Mobile, AL. Three months later, winds have been against him all too often and the current, which changes seasonally, is extremely slow – about 1 mph. Intrigued by Zachary and the boat, we offered a tow to the next dock. Towing the somewhat fragile boat meant that we could only do about half our previous speed, effectively doubling the length of the very last leg of our 100 miles, 14 hour day. The slow speed did leave time for good conversation, stories and some singing.
In reflection, 100 miles did not feel that long. Shifting our much anticipated arrival time at the end of the day did stretch us a bit thin, but it was well worth the odd meeting. Our Thanksgiving meal? Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the last few minutes before passing out for the evening.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!