The Tenn-Tom From the Tennessee River to Florida
As fall approached I decided I wanted to make one more long trip before the frigid months of Southern Illinois set in. By chance a friend from my area whom had retired a year ago and moved to Destin, FL was coming up for a visit. I decided rather than him driving back to Florida with his wife (boring!) we would load up Therapy and I would take him home by water. Since I had already traveled the Tennessee River from end to end I decided to tow Therapy down to Pickwick Lake which is part of the Tennessee River and drop in at the State park . From that point the mouth of the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway (Tenn-Tom) is about an eight mile run along a scenic section of the lake. The plan was to follow the Tenn-Tom to its end at Mobile Bay (Mobile, AL) and there catch the Intarcoastal Waterway and continue on to Destin, FL. My friend has a home on the water in Destin right on the ICW. This would involve passage though twelve locks and since this was a round trip for me I would see twenty four lockages! As our departure date grew close everything looked great except one little problem - well actually two little problems - Isadore and Lilly. When making plans for trips in the past the weather wasn't a huge concern. Sure wind and rain could make it a little less enjoyable but storms and bad weather in the Midwest are usually measured in hours not days. And the twisting turning nature of rivers usually provides shelter from the wind and waves every few miles.
But now for the first time I had to think about hurricanes. Isdore was scheduled to come ashore a few days before we left and didn't look to be a problem. But another storm was brewing and looked to have potential as another hurricane. We watched the weather closely in the days leading up to our trip and it looked like we could probably make the run between the storms. So with an eye on the weather we set out to run to Destin. One other minor problem did crop up the night before we left. I was watching local weather forecast and in our area they were predicting cloudy conditions as a result of Isadore. They also made mention that the aftermath of the hurricane had dropped 6 to 8 inches of rain in Tennessee the day before. The sky was to be clear there by the time we departed BUT rivers all over the state were flooding. I logged on to the Internet and started checking river gauge reports along our route. In some places the water had been up more than 10 feet above normal pool but was it dropping everywhere. On the positive side the current would be high and actually help on our southward journey. My hope was with any luck it would recede by the time I returned so I wouldn't have to fight a more upward battle. But my biggest concern was that high water levels would sweep the shores clean of debris and dump it all in the waterway. I really hated to think of running 450 miles on the Tenn-Tom dodging logs!
We reached Pickwick State Park and slid Therapy off the trailer about 2:30 PM. The sun was shining; winds were light and the temperatures in the upper 70's - just perfect! We made our way up the Tennessee to the 215 mile marker where an unassuming channel delivers us onto the Tenn-Tom. As we snaked our way through the somewhat confusing channels we pass Grand Harbor Marina. It is a first class facility with new floating slips and high-rise lodging. There were buoys to mark the path so staying on course really wasn't a problem. After about six miles we reached the first "canal" section and all concerns of navigation are put to rest - your either going or coming.
This may be a good point to give a brief description of the Tennessee - Tombigbee Waterway. Rather than being the normal channelized river the Tenn-Tom is actually a series of waterways connected by canals. As rivers go this one is brand new. The Corps of Engineers began the project in 1972 and it opened for traffic in 1985. The goal was to shorten and improve the trip from the Midwest south. Until that point the Mississippi River was the only choice but its high current, hairpin turns and lack of services and anchorages make it a trying trip - especially for pleasure craft making the voyage to Florida. The Tenn-Tom not only makes it a much more pleasant run but shortens the length from Cairo, IL (confluence of Mississippi and Ohio Rivers) by about 250 miles. Since its opening many marinas have come to life along it shores and finding a nice place to anchor out is rarely a problem. It should also be pointed out that although the entire route from Pickwick Lake to Mobile Bay is often called the Tenn-Tom it is somewhat in error. The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway runs from Pickwick to the junction of the Black Warrior River at Demopolis, AL. From that point south it is the "Lower Black Warrior - Tombigbee Waterway". In order to have river charts of the entire route a chart for each of these waterways need to be obtained from the Corps of Engineers. But Tenn-Tom is much easier to say than "Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and Lower Black Warrior - Tombigbee Waterway". As a result, it is used by most to describe the route and for the sake of brevity I will do the same.
We were now running down our first stretch of canal and the chart showed to be about 22 miles long. The shorelines are rock covered up fairly high between the 250 to 300 feet wide channel. Also we are noticeably lower in the canal than the surrounding landscape. I was at first surprised by the lack of floating debris. On the driving trip down we had noticed several flooded streams and the water level here seemed to be about four feet higher than normal. The water was a little muddy but no junk floating. After a few miles I realized why this was happening. Because the surrounding land was higher by about 30 feet special care had been taken to allow runoff to enter the canal without causing erosion to the banks. The two methods used were what I call "slots" and "weir" type spillways. The slots were used for smaller creeks and were concrete troughs about two feet wide and eight feet deep following the slope of the banks. The larger streams were fitted with spillways divided by weirs. They are somewhat hard to describe but the photo to the lift should clear that up. What appears to be happening is not only do they control erosion but serve to "strain" the inflow of all larger debris. Although large volumes of water were still entering the canal through some of these passageways it was still relatively clear of flotsam.
About forty miles down the Tenn-Tom at the 411 mile marker we come to Whitten Lock & Dam which is the first of the twelve locks. We tied to the floating pins (again standard in all the Tenn-Tom locks) and began our descent to the river below. It is worth mentioning that lockage procedure on the Tenn-Tom is again different than what I have encountered before. First, channel 16 should always be used for initial contact. Although
most run on the normal channel 12 or 14 some are on odd channels such as 18 or 74. Just use 16 and they will indicate what channel to use for further communication. All the lockmasters instructed us to have the person handling the mooring lines to have on a life jacket (although this is required by law many locks are lax in enforcement). It was also requested that we inform him when we were secure on the pin and usually they would not begin to close the miter gates until we acknowledge we were secure. Also, several of the locks have very high floating pins with no provisions for smaller boats. In several cases we had to stand on gunnels and reach up as much as possible to attach the line. We are now sitting in Therapy slowly receding with the water level in the chamber. We kept going lower - and lower - and lower. Being my friend's first passage though a lock I could see the amazement on his face as we dropped 80 feet before the huge lower miter gates slowly swung open. (Photo at right).
Our southward journey continues and we find that along this stretch of the Tenn-Tom the locks are VERY closely spaced. Only six miles from Whitten we encounter Montgomery Lock and pass through making about a 25 feet drop. And then just eight miles farther and we enter Rankin Lock and repeat about the same descent. Rankin was our last lock of the day and we were running out of sunlight when we ease into Midway Marina near Fulton, MO at the 394 mile marker. The manager greeted us at the dock and had several questions about Therapy. After a short conversation he ask if we need fuel. Having covered only about 64 miles the tanks are only down seven gallons so we decline even though they posted what would prove to be the lowest price per gallon we would see on the entire trip. Since we don't need a covered slip or shore power he tells we can just moor to the courtesy dock for the night at no charge. He also volunteers that there are showers and a lounge with coffee in the marina building and tells us to make ourselves at home. It is hard to beat hospitality like that!
With sunset at about 7PM we find we have there is a good bit of time to waste away before climbing into the berth. There is a restaurant about 300 yards away so we stroll over and enjoy a pleasant evening meal.
As we wander back to Therapy I note a 36' Monk Trawler I had seen a couple weeks ago southbound just downstream of St. Louis, MO on the Mississippi. While we are checking Therapy's mooring lines another woman and her daughter walk up and we talk with them awhile. We find out that they are from Missouri and had been coming down the Missouri River several weeks ago about the same time I had made a trip to Leavenworth, KS. It is amazing how often the community of river voyagers cross wakes. They also told us that there were quite a few southbound watercraft holed up there waiting to see what happens with the approaching storm. Although this was a concern for us too I new that we had a two to three times faster cruise speed and could use that to take advantage of the window between the blows. That morning a little before sunrise we shoved away from the dock and pointed the bow south. Unfortunately, our progress was short as the locks are still short spaced. Just three miles from the marina we are looking at the gates of Fulton Lock & Dam (they are ones on channel 74). We have to wait while they raise the chamber and then lock through with approximately another 25 feet drop.
Once clear of Fulton we have a longer run of 15 miles before we radio Wilkins Lock & Dam. The wait is again short. I should mention that when passing through these closely spaced locks be sure to inform the lockmaster of your final destination. This way they know you are not just local traffic and will actually alert the next lock of you pending arrival. Not always but often they will have the chamber ready and be waiting for you which can speed the process. Still to get through 40 to 45 minutes is about the best you can expect and an hour is not unusual. And this is if there is no other traffic. The next lock is Amory and it is only five miles straight up the canal from Fulton. In fact, if it is a clear day and you are sitting in Fulton's chamber you can see Amory when the miter gates open. Once through Amory there are a few more miles of canal but then things start to open up into more river like surroundings. Old oxbows enter from sides as well as streams and creeks. There are islands here and there as the body of water widens. This is much more pleasant to the eyes but also has a downside. The farther we go the more floating debris we are encountering. At this point is not a huge job to avoid it but forces the helmsman to keep a sharp eye on the water ahead. This can be tough hour after hour so we switch off at the wheel ever so often so we both have a chance to relax and enjoy the scenery.
Fourteen miles from Amory Lock is Aberdeen Lock and twenty-three miles from there is Stennis Lock. As we approach Stennis the lockmaster has the gates open waiting. But we decide that we really need to take on fuel. The next gasoline is available at Demopolis and that is 121 miles down river. We don't have enough to make it so we call the lockmaster and inform him we need to make a fuel stop first. Columbus Marina is located just a quarter mile from the lock and we stop in and top off the tanks. In less than 20 minutes we are back but now the lockmaster informs us there is a barge approaching and that it is a "red flag" tow. I wasn't familiar with the term but obviously it gave them priority. As the tow eased into the lock its cargo was identified as benzene so I assume the hazardous load provides them the right of way. In all fairness to this point there had been little barge traffic on the river and we had done very well with little or no delays. That thought made the two-hour wait a little easier to endure.
Finally the distance between locks were starting to stretch out. From Stennis to Bevill was 28 miles and then an unrestrained 40 mile run to Heflin Lock & Dam. Fifty more miles after Heflin had us approaching our destination for the night - Demopolis Marina. Entering the marina we had several things on our mind. The first was to refuel but unfortunately we found they had closed at 6 PM. It was 6:15. The next available gasoline was 98 miles downstream and right at the edge of my calculated range. I knew traveling downstream would give us some leeway but I really hesitated to push our luck. Dead in the water and floating down stream is not my idea of fun. To make matters worse they didn't open until 8 AM so we would lose and hour and a half of daylight the next morning. Another item we were thinking about was grabbing a room for the night. There is a motel right at the marina and we decided that a comfortable bed and bathroom might be a bad idea. Once we checked in the next thing to address was FOOD! There was a restaurant at the marina but it was closed. The marina also had a courtesy car but it was in use by another boater. We decided to call and have a pizza delivered to the room. Not exactly a sit down dinner but lots better than lunchmeat out of the cooler. The next morning I awoke very early. There was two hours or so before sunrise so I decided to better explore the marina area. I snuck out of the room and let my friend rest some more and wandered down to the dock to check on Therapy. There I ran into a young guy that worked on a river tow. He told me they had pulled in about midnight to refuel. "Refuel," I asked? He told me that they had a number to call and the marina had someone on call 24/7 to fill tows. He said they were there a couple of hours pumping diesel and if I had been there they would have fueled me too. Another missed opportunity!! I strolled up into their lighted dry storage area an admired the trawlers and cruisers sitting on blocks (shown at right). It was interesting to walk around them and look at the normally submerged hulls and drive systems. As it started getting light I walked back down to get the camera and came back for a few photos. Around home I never get to see this type of craft sitting on the dry.
It was about 8:15 before the marina office opened and we were able to fuel but then we were again on our way. Well, for about three miles anyway, as that is when we came to Demopolis Lock & Dam. I had read somewhere that during the flood on 1979 the water level was 59 feet above normal pool. As we sat there waiting I tried to image how this must of looked. Our next stop was 95 miles downstream at Bobby's Fish Camp at mile marker 119. Here there on the river channel there is a small floating dock with a gas pump on it - at least that's what it looks like. When I went to the "pump" I noticed there was nothing inside, just the hoses hanging there. Walking about 150 yards up to the office I found the actual pump with gallons meter. From there the gas and diesel lines run underground to the dummy pump on the dock. An unusual arrangement but workable. You just couldn't add a specific amount to the tank because you couldn't see the flow meters. We topped off the tank and continued south. Just past Bobby's at the 116 mile marker was the last lock. At Coffeeville Lock we had to wait about 45 minutes for a tow to exit before we could drop the final six feet to place us at near sea level . From here the run to Mobile Bay would be unimpeded. We did come upon one very low swing bridge but Therapy had about a foot of clearance so we did nothing but slow down a little. We also saw a few small craft with fishermen working the water. These had been surprising rare along the entire route.
As we approached Mobile Bay the lazy wandering river became a seaport with huge ships unloading their cargo containers while other sat high in dry-dock. Near the mouth of the river we slowed to take a look at our situation as for me it was a little unusual. If you have read any of my other river travel stories you know I am big on charts and maps. I like to know where I am at all times. But since this trip came together a little quicker than normal I did not have time to order the NOAA charts for Mobile Bay and the rest of the Intracoastal Waterway we were planning to travel. This wasn't a huge concern as the mapping GPS would prevent me from getting completely lost and I understood that the ICW was well marked. But without the charts I made a couple of assumptions that were proving to be wrong. The main one was that I reasoned that right near the mouth of the river there would be marinas. Wrong! This is a highly commercial area for ocean going vessels not little toys like Therapy. Next I assumed that the channel marker buoys in the bay would display "mile measurements" like the markers on the river. Wrong again. Now none of this would really be a big problem without the one other factor, it was late. It was right at sunset and I knew there was only about twenty more minutes of twilght. After that we would be running in an unfamiliar bay with huge ships in the dark. Not my idea of fun!
Cruising guide books told us that the closest marinas were on the bay's west shore and directed us to follow the ship channel to between markers 63 and 65 where we would turn starboard on a heading of about 300 degrees to run to the Dog River. With that bit of information I advanced the throttle looking for our first channel marker. As we passed the first couple it became painfully clear that this wasn't going to be a quick trip of a few miles. I honestly don't remember what the markers were but 63 was still a good ways off our bow. I pulled back on the throttle to once again take stock of the situation. This wasn't going to work. The light was almost gone and I sure didn't want to be out here in the middle of a busy shipping lane in the dark on a moonless night. Time for a change of plan. I grabbed the GPS and moved the cursor to scanned to the west. Fortunately there was an icon showing the location of the marina and I punched it in as a waypoint. The handheld electronic marvel drew a straight-line from us to the marina. This was to be our new course - but not without some reservations. I had read that the bay can be extremely shallow in areas (much of it is only 6 to 9 feet deep). But I decided that running about 20 MPH with one eye glued to the depth sounder was our best choice. This would cut several miles off the route and with any luck get us there before it was completely black.
As I advance the throttle and turned out of the shipping channel the bottom quickly rose to 4 ft. There it held and the sounder displayed that it was very flat and hard. Naturally, running this speed in this shallow of water grinds a little on the nerves but the 4 ft level was holding solid. I pushed the throttle down a little more. Did I mention I really hate running in the dark. It didn't take long and the lights on the Highway 163 Bridge crossing the Dog River came in to view through the haze. As we made our way there dodging a few crab pots was the only distraction. We eased under the bridge into the no wake and as Therapy settled off plane so did my adrenaline level. We passed nearby two gentlemen in a small fishing boat and ask if one of the three marinas in the immediate area had a restaurant (a subject never far our of my mind). They directed us to the two story building on the port which was the Dog Rivera Marina. We finally made it to the restaurant and enjoyed a great meal of fresh seafood ? something that is hard to find in So. Illinois! Afterwards we spent another hour or so chatting with other boaters tied off at the marina for the night. About 10 PM we decided to take a shower and hit the rack. We wanted to be off at daybreak hoping the wind would still be low and Mobile Bay reasonably calm. Although it was October the night was fairly warm. I had take care to moor with the bow to the wind and it now paid off with the open hatch dragging just enough breeze into the berth. We both rested well.
By first light we were pulling in lines and shoving off the dock. I had been grateful for the breeze that had keep us comfortable during the night but was now wishing it would lay low. We passed back under the bridge and brought Therapy on plane. In our conversations last night a couple of the locals stated that we could make a straight run for the mouth of the Intracoastal on the lower east shore line. They said that the water was somewhat shallow but would be no problem for a craft our size, once we got past the "island". I wasn't sure what island they were talking about. Remember, we didn't have a chart. But when looking at the GPS I didn't remember seeing any island in this part of the bay. Oh, well, I guess we will figure it out. I marked Oyster Bay on the east shore of Mobile Bay as a waypoint and the GPS responded with the proper heading. I must admit to being somewhat in awe. This is the largest body of water I have had Therapy on and it was quite an experience. A light morning haze was still lingering and most of the time there was no land reference off the bow, just water. Something new for me. A few miles out a land mass started to come into view. I knew it wasn't the other side of the bay which was still miles away. As we approached I realized that it was the island that had be mentioned. Looking at my mapping GPS showed me nothing but water. Yes, it is a very useful tool but not always completely trustworthy! Next time, l get the charts.
We diverted around the island and got back on heading. The wind had picked up a little and the two-foot waves were quartering off the port side of the bow. I used the tabs to force the bow down and by slowing to about 16 MPH yielded an acceptable ride. I enjoyed watching various shrimp boats working - another first for me. As we made our way across I decided to check the weather for information about the approaching storm. What I heard I didn't like. It was approaching and indeed was now hurricane Lilly. At the moment the winds were about 10 mph but they were predicting by late afternoon they would be 25 to 30 and the bay would have six foot breaking waves. We continued on and listened to the forecast.
This by itself wasn't all that bad. Our idea was to make it to Destin where my friend's wife had arranged to have Therapy lifted out and set on the dry. I was confident that we could make it there before the blow hit. But what was a problem for me was that they were predicting the high winds for the next four days and I had to be back in 6 days. This left only two days for the return trip IF the forecast was right. That's cutting it close and if the wind didn't decrease on shedule I had a real problem. I mulled this over in my mind as we continued east. As we approached the Highway 292 bridge near Gulf Beach Heights I realized we were now in Florida. Destin was only about 55 miles away, which at most would probably 3 to 4 hours depending on the amount of no-wake zones. But still I had a return deadline to meet. We discussed our options and finally it was decided that we would call my friends wife and see if she could make the two-hour drive to pick him up. She said it was no problem.
But I was disappointed. I really wanted to make Destin and spend a few days while they showed me around. Plus I hated the idea of dumping him off at the Oyster Bar to wait for his wife. But we both came to the conclusion that it was the only safe option. If I tried to wait it out I may well been tempted to leave in marginal weather to make it home in time. But if I departed now I still had time to make the return run across Mobile Bay and up the river before the wind came in. So that is what we did. We said our good-bys and I snapped a picture of him standing on the dock as he snapped one of me pulling away. Not what I had planned but the bottom side is still down and the motor is still running so what the heck. (Photo at right)
It took a little over an hour to make the 20 mile run back to Mobile Bay (no-wake areas). I had decided adjust my course to stay a little closer to the east shore which would be a little more scenic and provide quicker cover if needed. The water was shallow averaging about 6 ft but very consistent. I was pleasantly surprised that the wind was dying. Midway across the bay the water was like glass and I pushed the throttle down a little more to hit my normal 24 to 25 mph cruise. As I pulled in to the harbor I was again in awe of the large ships. Obviously, you just don't see things like this on rivers in the Midwest. I decided to drop off plane and take a few pictures. I was concentrating on getting the shots I wanted when I hear a voice shouting at me. I turned and found a hard bottom inflatable coming quickly along side. There were two onboard but my eyes were immediately drawn to the machine gun mounted and manned on the bow! I was told to stop taking photos "immediately" and I could tell by their look of determination they weren't kidding (the 9-11 factor). They informed me I needed to continue on up stream. Since my mama always told me, "Never argue with a guy with a gun," I decided to take their advice. They escorted me out of the area.
Because of the weather I decided to make my way as far north as possible. While making my way towards Coffeeville Lock I decided it would be a good idea to call ahead to Bobby's Fish Camp. I was going to need gas and I want to make sure someone would be there as I would first have to lock through and be arriving a little before dark. Bobby was there and said he would wait. After Demopolis Lock I pulled into Demopolis Marina to top off the tanks and then once again continued northward. I was pleased that by now the water levels had dropped to normal and the current was moving south at its usual leisurely pace. Also, all the debris we had dodged on the outbound trip had since passed and nothing but clear water broke under the bow. I kept the throttle on wanting to stay in front of the storm but still it was a pleasant ride.
As I was approaching the area of Stennis Lock and had a choice to make. Because of the late hour I could make the lock before dark continue on to Waverly Marina where there is supposed to be a restaurant. The problem with this is that it would get dark while at the restaurant so I would have to overnight at the marina. In all honesty, I really prefer to anchor out, I like the quiet and solitude. The other option presented itself by the way of a sign on the riverbank. A sign said that there was a new courtesy dock at the city of Columbus, MS that offered access to the downtown area. I had no idea of what was there and it was about 3/4 mile up a small tributary. If I went to explore and found nothing of interest it would be to late to make the other marina before dark and I would be anchoring out BUT eating out of the cooler. Somehow the name Columbus and the chance to explore just seemed right so I decided to investigate (nothing like a logical decision!). I made my way up what was actually an oxbow. It was not large but more than wide and deep enough. There also was a little current as it was still open to the main channel on both ends. Along the way there were a few docks with fishing boats and a small houseboat or two. I approached the very small square dock and was going to moor on the end but realized that would fairly block it for all other users. Since there was a little current I decided to just attach a bow line and allow Therapy to float away while securing it to the side of the dock. This way it would clear the dock for others.
While I was preparing to do this I notice a young couple (early 20s) approaching. I could tell they were interested and when they walked out onto the dock we chatted a little. They told me that they were both natives of Columbus and worked at the local WalMart. They were looking Therapy over and mentioned that neither one of them had ever been in a boat of any kind! Needless to say a short ride was in order. Afterwards they both thanked me several times and I ask about restaurants in the area. The said there were several but suggested Harveys and offered to walk with me there. The small riverside park was very nice and the restaurant was just a short distance from the dock. After saying good-by I enjoyed a nice meal. By the time I returned to Therapy it was dark. My first thought was just to stay put for the night but then I listened. There was a highway bridge almost directly overhead and it must have had expansion joints covered with a steel plates. Every time a vehicle crossed they clanked loudly. No, not going to listen to this all night! I decide to head back up the channel to find a quieter spot. Although the sky was clear there was no moon. There were lights in homes along the starboard shore but were of little help. I pulled out my handheld spotlight and flipped in on occasionally to maintain a safe heading. I ran a little faster than idle speed but still kept it slow enough not to produce a damaging wake.
The oxbow was narrow enough I that I couldn't find a suitable anchorage. I checked the chart and the main channel also offered nothing. I did note that Stennis Lock was just three miles up stream from the oxbow and on the other side of it were numerous decent spots to drop the hook. The nice slow ride was actually relaxing after a day of pushing hard. Plus I had never passed through a lock after dark and thought it might be an interesting experience. What the heck, we'll shove a little more water out of the way and add a few more miles to the days log entry.
Although offering a somewhat different perspective, the nighttime lockage was very routine. The entire lock area was well lighted and the darkness presented no problems. While in the chamber the lockmaster ask how far I was traveling tonight and I told him just far enough to find a nice spot for the evening. He suggested that once I clear the lock I bear slightly to the port. He said there were several long barrier dikes and if I went in behind them I would be protected from the open river on the other side. He added that for a craft my size there was plenty of depth. I responded that that sounded good and thanked him for the info.
I wake the next morning to a colorful sunrise (photo at left). Remembering the old adage about "Red Sky in the Morning", I know it is time to continue my quest northward. In fact, the rest of the trip is quite uneventful. The lockages go with out a hitch as almost all were waiting for me with miter gates open. As a result, I make excellent time and end this final 123 mile leg when I idle into Pickwick Marina about 2:30 pm, exactly five days after we started. I also had out run the rain that would roll into the area the next day.
The entire trip had covered 1034 miles and logged 51 hours tach time. On the long drive home I had a chance to reflect on the highlights. Among them were my first experience with the Intracoastal Waterway, watching shrimp boats work, out running a hurricane AND being threatened with a machine gun. I also had somewhat of a personal milestone when near the 186 marker I logged mile 10,000 on Therapy. Kind of a special moment being an 18' watercraft.
But once again this little wooden boat proved can pass muster as a long haul voyager. It is not fancy or flush on creature comforts but a solid river runner that once again delivered me back home physically safe and spiritually satisfied. It also serves to prove the point that to make long cruise on rivers and the Intracoastal Waterway you don't have to have a 30 or 40 ft boat and a big wad of money. Anyone with dependable watercraft and the desire (an understand wife helps too!) can duplicate any of my trips. For me it has been well worth the effort and if you have taken the time to read this whole story I am betting you would enjoy it too. Why wait? The rivers maybe timeless but we are not. Pack the cooler, fill the tanks, cast off the lines and make memories that will last a lifetime. See you out there!