Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Off canon

We are anchored in a chute behind Wolf Island, in the Tennessee River just south of Savannah, Tennessee (map). We've been here two nights already and tonight will make the third. While we've been sitting here, perhaps a dozen or so Loopers have passed by, most of them on their way from Clifton Marina to Pickwick Lock, and beyond it, either Aqua Yacht Harbor or Grand Harbor Marina.

Those, after all, are the canonical stops on the Loop. Long-time readers may notice I use the term "canonical" a lot, owing to my nerd background in the computing and networking industries and in particular the DEC 36-bit community (see "jargon file"). But in this case, it's true: there really is a Great Loop "canon," and, like actual religious canon, it's promulgated at meetings where the faithful gather to listen to the elders.

Got a kick out of this sign in Saltillo. To be fair, the road ends in the water.

While we have made our fair share of the canonical stops, and especially in places where the choice of stops is limited, such as on the canals, we are definitely not on the usual program. Perhaps that's because we are full-time cruisers, and the various sections of the loop for us are just another cruise and not "The Adventure of a Lifetime" (really). More likely it's because many of those stops are at commercial marinas charging anywhere from $1.00 to $2.50 per foot, and we just can't see the need to spend that kind of money every night just to have a place to sleep. Even anchorages, when used, are canonical; we overheard some folks on the radio discussing stopping at an "approved anchorage."

The last time we did this stretch of waterway, we were going the other direction, which is decidedly uncanonical. Most of our time on the Tennessee was outside of "looper season," and we just caught the tail end of the migration as we came down this stretch. So it was not really noticeable that we were "off canon." Now that we're in the middle of the pack, as it were, I think we kind of stick out, and we can almost hear the other loopers scratching their heads as they go by.

The end of the road, now a boat ramp, but formerly the landing for the last ferry across the Tennessee in the state.

Since the last time we came through here, we more or less perfected our technique for getting ashore in riverfront towns lacking marinas (which is most of them). That was forced on us by our decision to take the Lower Mississippi River route, where there are just two marinas in 900+ miles of river, and we began that exercise in Paducah, Kentucky (which is on the Ohio), which also lacked a marina at the time.

Fortunately, we've found small docks at the boat ramps in these towns; the last place I had to do unnatural acts to get ashore was in Cape Girardeau, where I had to land at the riverboat landing. And so it is that Sunday afternoon around 1:30 we dropped the hook off Dickey Towhead, in the chute behind Swallow Bluff Island (map). We had anchored at the other end of that chute on our last trip.

Downtown Saltillo.

From there it was a 1.75 mile dinghy ride to the public landing at Saltillo, Tennessee, and I headed ashore to scope things out. There was a nice floating dock for the ramp, with its shoreward side aground but the other side in water plenty deep for the tender. I walked the 3/4 mile to "downtown," a small cluster of mostly defunct buildings with a handful of going concerns.

One of those was a well-rated Mexican restaurant, El Potrillo, and I stopped in to make sure they would be open and that they served beer. I also stopped at the market/gas station; they had a few essentials but nothing we needed. I did fill up my 1-gallon gas can so we would have some more tender fuel on hand. We returned together at dinner time; the food was excellent, other than the chips and salsa, which were uninspiring.

Sunset over Wolf Island on the Tennessee.

Monday we had a lazy morning and weighed anchor for the short three hour cruise here. This spot is just about two miles from another small dock at Savannah's public boat ramp in their riverfront park. That's only a seven minute trip in the dinghy, whereas it's nearly 20 minutes in Vector. It rained most of the day Monday, including while we were setting the hook, so we remained aboard with the dinghy snug on deck the whole day, enjoying a nice dinner in.

Yesterday after lunch I headed ashore to scope things out, this time with the e-Bike in the dink. That was to get me the two miles or so out to Lowes and Walmart and back, the first ones we've seen since St. Louis, and the last ones we'll see until Demopolis, Alabama. As long as I was running errands on the bike, I dropped off a package at the post office, and deposited a couple of gallons of used engine oil at Advance Auto Parts.

Monument to Grant's HQ.

I also spent a little time before my shopping spree wandering around the historic downtown, even spending a half hour in the Tennessee River Museum. Some exhibits are dedicated to the nearby Battle of Shiloh, and some to the Union occupation of Savannah and General Grant's headquarters here. The town also has the nicest farmer's market pavilion I've ever seen.

We returned ashore for the 3/4-mile walk to dinner at Ma Ma Fia's Italian restaurant. The food was good, notwithstanding all the corny Godfather references. I had stopped in earlier in the day, learning they had no liquor license but allowed BYOB. Thus I picked up a nice Italian Pinot Grigio on my shopping trip, which we brought with us.

Cherry Mansion, overlooking the river. Grant's actual HQ.

One day was plenty for Savannah, but we have some packages en route to our next stop, and they have another day or two before arrival. That stop, near Pickwick Landing State Park and the eponymous lock and dam, has fewer services and unknown Internet connectivity, so we opted to remain here an extra day and take advantage of what Savannah can offer.

That gave me a chance to go back out to Lowes and exchange a couple of items that didn't quite work out, and also pick up a few more things at Walmart for which I had no room in my pack yesterday. Those chores would have been daunting before I got the e-Bike, which makes fairly quick work of them. Tomorrow we will weigh anchor and head upriver through Pickwick Lock.

1 comment:

  1. Is this your latest "trip for necessities" and it is really beer in those bottles?


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