Here is the second installment of “setting the record straight”. It would appear that some folk back home have got the impression that our trip is a series of disasters and we are simply lurching from one to the next. In the attempts to be helpful and informative, I seem to have overlooked to tell people whether or not we are enjoying ourselves. Well, the answer to that is in the heading/??
The most common question we are asked over here (after “did we really bring the boat all the way from New Zealand” - which gets a variety of responses, depending on how mischievous I feel that day), is “are we enjoying the trip”. The answer is an (again) unequivocal “ yes”. When asked why we are enjoying it, we tell people that it is everything we hoped for, and better than we expected. Every day is different from the day before, as each one brings a change of experience, scenery and people that are immensely interesting. I never thought that driving a boat for up to 8 hours a day at 8 knots for mile after mile after mile could be as enjoyable as it is - when doing the planning, the sheer magnitude of the distance to travel was somewhat daunting. Then there are the other bits, like locking through, getting bridges lifted so you can pass under, cruising in “skinny” water 10-12 feet deep (with the occasional 6ft), passing massive tows that appear out of nowhere in the tightest of places with tug captains that talk a language all of their own, dodging floating logs and anchoring amid sunken ones….all of which spice up the daily routine. As Carolyn said to me today; “how could you NOT enjoy this?”
There are also the totally unexpected happenings, like yesterday. From responses to an AGLCA posting a few months back about where alligators could be expected in the Tenn-Tom waterway, we understood they were a rarity and unlikely to be seen. Well, yesterday, 158 miles and 1 dam and lock upstream of the Gulf, this puppy was sunning himself on the bank of the river. He was every bit of 12 feet long and sat there while I stopped and got his pic (excuse the quality, but I was hurrying and he was a bit of distance away, and my camera ain’t that good). I called Carolyn from her afternoon nana nap to come and look, but by the time she got to the bridge to see, our wake had caught up with us and scared him back into the water.
We are also asked what we have enjoyed the most on the trip so far, and the answer is “nothing in particular and everything in general….but if there was any one thing, it would be the people we meet”. We have met a lot of really cool folk, but therein lies the only downside. Each time you meet people you like, when you part company it is with the feeling that you may probably never see them again in your life, and many times this will be the case….in the words of the Seals and Crofts song…”we may never pass this way again”. However this is balanced out by the pleasure of running into someone further along the way who you thought you may never see again, and being able to spend more time with them. There are also people with whom we communicate that we may never meet, like some of the followers of this blog, tow captains, lockmasters etc. who provide us with advice and entertainment, which we hopefully reciprocate.
A good example of this was today at the Coffeeville Lock, the last lock on the Tenn-Tom before Mobile (pronounced “Mobeel”), Alabama, and the sea. As is the usual protocol, we called the lock on approach, requesting to be locked down. As his first response was in a VERY thick southern accent, asking me to repeat what I said, I knew we might be going to have a communication issue. I repeated the request more slowly and he replied that we could lock down in about 15 minutes and to stand by until he called us into the lock……all standard procedure. Then he asked for our name and registration details. When I replied with them, he asked if I could speak English and could I spell the boat name. I told him I would try with my very best southern accent and proceeded to spell (phoenetically): Lima..Oscar..Oscar..Papa..Yankee…..Kilo..India..Whiskey..India.
This got the response “don’t give me that military stuff – just spell it!!” (and I thought the ARMY Corps of Engineers ran the locks!). So he got back: “Ell oh oh pee wah….kay ah dubblya ah”, which he seemed to get. Of course the registration was En Zee 1844 (zed just doesn’t work over here) and hailing port was Noo Zeeland. No doubt it kept other listeners to VHF channel 16 amused for a few minutes.
So, apologies to anyone who was unsure if we are having a good time…because I can assure you we are.
PS This was written at anchor on Sunday 4th, but won’t get posted until tomorrow when we reach Mobile and WiFi. I’ll also continue the Travelogue then