WPSU

Monday, November 22, 2010

Jaws

Note:  For lots more photos, check SlowBoatCruise on Facebook

What creatures lurk beneath the placid surface of this marsh?
Years ago we took our children on a trip to Maine.  As we drove north along the New Hampshire coast, the Cap'n turned to the kids in the back seat.  "I predict we'll see a moose as soon as we cross the border," he said.


"Oh, sure, Dad."  Eyeballs rolled.


A few minutes later, there was the shiny green and white road sign:  "Welcome to Maine."  And just past it, another sign, the yellow "warning" diamond with the black silhouette.  "Moose crossing."


More groaning and derision. "A picture of a moose doesn't count, Dad!"


Right at that moment, a young moose shambled out of the woods by the state department of transportation storage barn and moseyed across the short grass at the verge of the road.


That incident earned the Cap'n legendary status for his ability to commune with and predict the appearance of wildlife.  And his prowess continues.

Does this count as a sighting of native wildlife?
A little ol' houn' dog?


This week we travelled 200 miles down the Tombigbee River--from Demopolis, Alabama, to Mobile.  


This stretch of the river looks fairly wild and unspoiled to our eyes.  Much narrower than the Illinois or the Ohio, the Tombigbee loops around like a sidewinder in the sun.  With so many deep S-curves, it can take 20 miles of travel to go 10 miles as the crow flies. 


Every dozen miles or so you might spot a little cluster of fishing shacks, or a rusty barge dock.  


But mostly there's just crumbling sand banks sprouting tulip poplars and willows, interspersed with white sand beaches that seem never to have been touched by a sunbather's bare foot. 


Tusks!  Wild pigs, too shy to let us get close.
This stretch of the river has no fancy marinas . . .  no marinas period (although boaters CAN tie up at the wooden dock by the legendary Bobby's Fish Camp.)  


We anchored out every night for a full week, tucking up into little creeks or just picking our way outside the buoys marking the main channel to drop anchor in the shallows, out of the way of the big barges.


The Cap'n has been looking forward to seeing his first alligator of the trip.  And as we passed through the lock at Coffeeville on Wednesday--a momentous moment, the very LAST lock on this stage of the journey--he said, "I predict we'll see an alligator right outside the lock."


And there it was.  Six feet long, ponderously fat, looking like an oversized rubber toy, motionless on the riverbank.


I can't wait to see what happens when we get out in the Gulf and the Cap'n starts thinking about when we'll see a shark . . .


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