Sunday, November 21, 2010

Our Redneck Education Continues

Where we've been staying the past week--anchored in
 side channels off the main river, overhung with bald cypress
Our little burst of riverine internet access was a false alarm . . . we immediately cruised out of whatever zone we were in and have been unplugged till today.  And today, we are actually in Mobile, Alabama. But before I tell you about our trip through Mobile Bay, dodging ocean liners, I'll catch you up on where SlowBoat has been cruising since our last post, when we left Demopolis, Alabama.

That was a week ago Sunday. We were in the Demopolis Lock with five big white trawlers, choking on diesel fumes,   eavesdropping on the lockmaster as he chatted on the radio with the captain of the towboat waiting downstream to enter the lock.

Lockmaster: "Got a flock of snow buzzards comin' out, captain."
Tow captain: "I see 'em, I see 'em, looks like a little ol' herd o' turtles, comin' out of that lock."

A little pleasure craft meets a great big tow on the Tombigbee river
It never ceases to crack us up how tow captains refer to our 41-foot-long, 14-ton steel boat as "little."  You radio a tow captain to confirm what side the captain wants you to pass on, and he'll come back,  "Boo Cenac to the little pleasure craft on the left descending bank, roger that, ya'll come ahead on the two whistle."

We holed up Sunday night in a narrow creek, about twice as wide as our little boat, tucking in under the tunnel of overhanging branches.  A boat landing near the mouth of the creek had a small boat dock, so we jumped in the dinghy and, not bothering to set the oars, used the canoe paddle to travel the hundred feet to the landing.

When you're on the boat all day
it's good to stretch your legs
The day had been mostly cloudy and cold, and it felt good to stretch our legs and warm up.  We'd gone perhaps a quarter of a mile when a white pick-up with a camo johnboat on a trailer came down the country road towards us, moving fast.  Suddenly the driver jammed on the brakes, stopping a hundred feet past us.  The driver slammed his door and hurried back.

"Ya'll broke down?"  he asked.  "Need a ride somewheres?"

We explained we were stretching our legs after a day on the boat. "Don't usually see folks walking on this road, except they's broke down and need a ride," he laughed, and explained he was heading out to tend his catfish trotline. He held his hands three feet apart to demonstrate the river cats he was catching and said with some empathy, "Don't like to leave them on the line too long, they'll just drown."

We walked on a mile farther, the power poles leading to the fishing ramp plastered with campaign signs from the candidate for sheriff in the recent election--a guy who'd clearly identified fishermen as part of his constituency. Other than the bright red signs, there was no sign of human habitation, just gray sky and ditches running with water and dense forest behind them, leaves turning a dull autumn brown.  Somewhere in the woods, far away, we heard the faint crack of a rifle.

I was started to feel a bit uneasy. We had no idea where we were.  We had no cell phone signal.  It was threatening to rain.

A mile down the road, we spotted a sedan approaching.  It rolled to a stop next to us, two young black men inside.  The driver rolled down his window.   

He smiled, a big friendly smile.  "Ya'll broke down?" he asked. "Need a ride somewheres?"

Suddenly, the unfamiliar landscape didn't seem so scary after all.

By the way, our email server went out of biz, so SlowBoat has a NEW EMAIL ADDRESS. You can contact us at slowboatcruise@gmail.com.  If you tried to reach us recently at slowboatcruise@emailias.com and got a bounceback, we are so sorry for the inconvenience.

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