#67 Counce, Tennessee to Fulton, Mississippi

Written by The Crew

Rev writes all the posts as "The Crew" at What Yacht To Do. It's just part of the First Mate duties. That list just keeps growing...

December 3, 2019

Sam was leading our two boat convoy.

We traveled with B-Side and left Grand Harbor Marina at about 7 a.m.

I went up to the bridge and Sam and I were chatting having a great time.

Then, thankfully, we noticed, our boat wasn’t near the dotted line we were supposed to be following on the chart plotter.

What is happening here?!?

What kind of leading is this???

Anyway, Sam made the adjustment and radioed back to B-Side that we had made a “course correction.”

Like they didn’t know.

So, on we went.

The Cruise to Fulton

The morning was a partly cloudy, chilly day.

And we watched the world on the Tennessee-Tombigbee River wake up.

Such beautiful houses along the river.

Their boathouses were large and some were garage-type to keep the boats protected.

Such a lovely ride.

Tennessee-Tombigbee River

The Tenn-Tom is an historic waterway.

The rock edges of the Tenn-Tom show clearly the draw-down to winter pool level.

In the winter, the pool is 5 feet lower than the summer level.

At the time we went through, it still had one foot above winter pool level. Notice the difference in the rock coloring.

It connects the Tennessee River near Pickwick Lake in Tennessee to Tom Bigbee River near Demopolis, Alabama.

The Tenn-Tom is considered a National Marine Highway.

It is 250 miles long and has 10 locks.

It was first conceived in the 1700s by the French, and then a proposal was made in the 1800s.

In the 1900s a number of studies produced various plans and in 1946 one plan was approved.

In 1968, President Johnson approved an engineering study.

In 1971, President Nixon approved $1M USD to start work on the waterway.

Work on the waterway started in 1972 and it was completed in 1985 at a cost of $2B USD.

Baffles along the Tenn-Tom to control gushing of water run off.

A trip from Pensacola to Chattanooga is now 770 miles shorter than going up the Mississippi against currents.

With the rivers running into it and the waterway itself, there are more than 4,500 miles of navigable waterways, 15 ports and 10 locks that have a tremendous economic impact.

Crazy Garmin

Garmin “Auto Guidance” has it’s nuances.

Just like using a GPS in a car, you don’t blindly follow it.

In our experience, the Garmin “Auto Guidance” is not very reliable drawing a route.


We do run a separate Navionics program and it’s “Auto Routing” function is much better in our experience, but again, one needs to oversee where it is going.

For almost 90% of the river navigation, we did not couple the autopilot to the magenta line.

Instead, we used the “Heading Hold” function of the autopilot.

Here you can see the magenta line drawn by “Auto Guidance”. It is way off the channel line. So here we use the autopilot’s Heading Hold Function to steer the boat. We keep the Auto Guidance route on the plotter for reference and rough calculations (distance and time).

Waiting for a Lock

When we had called the lock master of the Whitten Lock earlier in the day, he said we wouldn’t have a problem and should be able to go on in.

Well, a tow barge came from the other direction and messed with our plans.

We had to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Although, it was quite lovely.

We finally made it in and locked through.

Eighty four feet down!

Anything to Slow Us Down

You know those days where it seems like you’re in quicksand?

You can’t get anywhere fast?

That’s what today seemed like.

After our lengthy wait in the Whitten lock, we then run into a dredging machine that has it’s equipment strewn all over the river.

We definitely cannot pass!

Then, after we get past it, a tow barge calls us and asks us to pull over and wait until he gets past us .

Just waiting on the lock, the dredging machine and the tow barge seemed like it added so much time to our already long day.

Now We’re Talking!

After those slow downs, our luck then changed.

We were able to get right into the Montgomery lock.

In and out!

And then we got right into the Rankin lock.

In and out!


And the other barges that we passed were easy going.

River Forests

On this stretch of the Tennessee-Tom River, there were several places where there were trees growing out of the water.

Trees and stumps.

It looked so weird.

Midway Marina

We finally made it to the Midway Marina in Fulton, Mississippi and we were rewarded again.

The replica ships, Nina and Pinta of Columbus days, were parked there for tours.

So that’s exactly what we did.

But not the Santa Maria.

It was too big for them to make a replica of so they stopped after the Nina and the Pinta.

Look at all the knots those sailors could tie.


They’re Loopers!

That’s right.

The Nina and the Pinta are going around America’s Great Loop just like we are.

Isn’t it interesting who you can meet out here?

Our Thoughts

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  1. Loved your comments on the Nina and Pinta. Last year we locked through with those boats and tied up together at Bobby’s Fish Camp. Very Cool!

    • That is so incredible! I didn’t know you had done that. They were really something. I can’t believe they are doing the loop!

    • WOW what a unique experience that must have been!

  2. Another great post and more adventures on the loop. I vaguely remember hearing about the Nina and Pinta on our LST 325 Goodwill Cruise on the Tennessee River this summer. I believe our paths crossed, perhaps in Lake Guntersville. I remember the scuttlebutt about them but must have been on watch or even in the rack when they were sighted. http://www.lstmemorial.org

    • It was an incredible and humbling experience to be on those ships. What a difficult journey. I can’t even imagine going across the ocean in one of those.


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