Spirit of Courage

Hello virtual crew members and fellow adventurers!

The flow out of the Fulton Dam, mile 391 on the Tenn-Tom Waterway

8 Flow out Fulton Dam

xIncmedia has come aboard as our latest virtual crew member by following the blog.  Welcome Aboard! Hope you brought some warm clothes because it has been rather chilly lately.

Summary of week:


The crew made their way south to Columbus (5) where they enjoyed some deep fried Turkey on Saturday, provided by the marina staff.  To make Columbus, the crew made stops at Aqua Yacht Harbor (1), Bay Springs Lake (3), and Smithville Marina (4).  The crew also rented a car and visited the Helen Keller Birthplace in Tuscumbia (2).

Click here to read the day-to-day travel log. This includes weather report, sea conditions, captain’s log, a summary of the day’s experience, and a few pics of the route.
The voyage of discovery did answer the following questions this week:

  1. When was the Tenn-Tom Waterway opened?
  2. How many feet does the Whiten Lock step down a south bound vessel?
  3. What three states meet at the beginning of the Tenn-Tom Waterway?
  4. What state quarter has braille on the tails side of coin, and what does it spell?
  5. What was Sarah Fuller’s contribution to Helen Keller’s life?

At the Box Office

This week’s video shows Still Waters II working her way thru the largest lock on the Tenn-Tom Waterway at Whitten Lock and Dam.  She completes here day at the Fulton Lock and Dam. Enjoy!

Locking thru on the Tenn-Tom Waterway from Still Waters II on Vimeo.

To see past videos, click on the link to the Still Waters II Vimeo site.  The library contains videos of Still Waters II cruising America’s Great Loop.

Sunday, November 11th

The three boat flotilla prepping to leave Pickwick Lake

36 Pickwick Lake SP

There were a dozen Blue Birds fluttering around the dock. But they are hard to capture on film.

35 Bluebird

The crew left Pickwick Lake State Park and made the 11 mile jump over to Aqua Yacht Harbor. Along the way, they saw many large homes and some colorful countryside.

Home on a hill


This house suffered a little roof damage when the tree fell over. Wonder if they have already completed the glass repair, or did they get lucky and only have the roof issue?

House with a view of Pickwick Lake

37 Shores along Pickwick Lake

When leaving the Tennessee River at mile 215, the crew entered the Tenn-Tom Waterway at mile 450. At this juncture, the states of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama all communicate with each other at one point.


What it looks like in real life, the land is Mississippi, the water on the starboard side of boat is Tennessee, and the water to the port of the boat is Alabama.


After only a mile on the Tenn-Tom Waterway, the skipper turned off and headed to Aqua Yacht Harbor where the crew will stay for a few days doing boat projects and exploring the Helen Keller Birthplace museum.

Monday, November 12th

Back in 2016 when the crew stopped at Aqua Yacht Harbor, they limped in on one engine and had the port engine water cooling pump replaced. The core charge for the pump left them with a $300 credit at the service department after they left. The skipper was on a mission to redeem the $300 credit; hence, a few boat projects.

On top of the list was replacing the genny battery which had died earlier. Moving down the Tenn-Tom Waterway will require anchoring out a few times and the Admiral has expressed her desire for some heaters after they stop and drop anchor. With the battery replaced, her wish can now materialize in heat and comfort. A happy, warm, comfortable crew will diminish the chance of a mutiny onboard.

The skipper then bought a few other items that he can install or use later such as oil filters and electrical adapters.

Tuesday, November 13th

The flotilla decided that they would take a land cruise over to Tuscumbia, Alabama and visit the birthplace of Helen Keller.

1 Helen Keller

Once parked, the group walked up to the big house where a knowledgeable volunteer gave them the low down on the property. The big house was built in 1820 by Helen Keller’s grandparents. The four rooms downstairs all have their own fireplace. There are an additional three rooms upstairs.

Main House, in good shape for an 1820 model

1.2 Main House 1820

However, Helen was not born in the main house, she was born in the cottage adjacent to the house on June 27, 1880. She was born a normal healthy baby girl. It was at age 19 months that she was struck by an illness that left her blind and deaf.

The cottage

1.3 Cottage
The cottage would one day become the school house where Helen would be taught.
One interesting story told was about the miracle that took place at the now famous well pump where Helen first connected the ‘finger games’ her teacher was playing with her palm and the cool liquid that was delivered at the pump. Helen later wrote that the cool liquid flowing over her hand connected with a pre-illness memory of cool liquid that she called “wa-wa.” It dawned on her that the teacher was not playing ‘finger games’ but was actually trying to connect the objects with names. This stunning revelation led her to learn 30 words by night fall.

The famous well pump, between the Main House and Cottage

1.12 The Well Pump

But just how did Anne Sullivan come to be the teacher of Helen Keller? Well, that all started because of her parents persistence in finding a cure for young Helen. That journey for a better life for their daughter eventually led them to Dr. Alexander Graham Bell. (Yes, the same guy who invented the telephone, and much more.) You might not know it, but Dr. Bell’s wife suffered from hearing impairment. Much of his work and inventions were focused on ways to help his wife communicate.

But Dr. Bell did not offer a cure for Helen, instead, he challenged her parents to re-think their strategy. He suggested that they spend their time and effort in helping young Helen to cope and learn to live with her disabilities. He sent them to a school where they met and hired Anne Sullivan on March 3, 1887, for $25/month, with room and board. Helen would have been 7 years old, nearing her 8th birthday.

Alabama marble statue of Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller at the well pump


Helen’s life and accomplishments are well documented so I will not bore you with repeating them here. But the skipper noticed a picture in the museum. The picture showed Helen sitting in a chair reading a Braille Bible. Behind her were the volumes that contained her Braille Bible.

1.5 Reading Braile Bible

But the skipper was focused on the volume in her lap. He wondered, what book, what chapter, and what verse was she running her fingers over in the picture? He wondered if it was possibly Romans 8:28, his favorite verse in the Bible?

He wondered what she thought the first time she felt the words pop up on her fingertips, “…..all things work together for good,…..” ?  Did she think, ‘no there is nothing good about being deaf and blind.’

Did God whisper back to her, “feel the words again Helen, that is not what it says.”

Did God teach her the same lessons he had taught the skipper about life? Did she go back and feel the words, this time noticing: “And we know that for those who love God…..” Did she realize that this verse is Confidential, and the promise is only for those who love God?

Did she feel the words, “all things” and realize that this verse was Comprehensive?

That when it said “all things,” did she understand that it meant even her blindness and deafness?

Did she feel the words a second time, “work together for good,” and realize that this verse was Constructive? That the verse was teaching her that things that start out bad can be built into something good?

Did she feel the words, “even to them that are called according to his purpose,” and realize that the verse is Conditional?

Did she accept the notion that if she would dedicate her time and energy to God’s purpose for her life that he would work the good into the bad and transform her life?

Well, based on what the skipper saw at the museum and what little he knows of her life, that yes she got the message. She dedicated her life to improving the conditions of the deaf and blind, not only here in the U.S., but also around the world. She blazed a path for others to follow, and showed others afflicted with blindness and deafness that if she could be successful, so could they. It is never easy being a trail blazer and that is why Helen is known as ‘America’s First Lady of Courage.’

And one last observation and interesting connection to the Fuller name, a Sarah Fuller applied methods that she learned and developed from Dr. Graham Bell to teach Helen Keller how to speak.

Did you ever notice that there is braille on the Alabama state quarter, and that it spells Helen Keller?

1.8 Coin

The land cruise ended with a fine dining experience at the local 5 Guys joint.

5 guys

Wednesday, November 14th

The flotilla continued their journey south and made way towards Bay Springs Marina.  This would turn out to be the coldest most miserable weather day the crew has had in their three years on the boat.  But if Helen Keller could lead a life of courage, surely the crew could put their Big Girl panties on for one day and make it down river in the freezing temps.  At least there will be no locks today.

Yep, pretty miserable out there running the Divide Cut


The rain decided  to arrive just in time to wet the skipper and Admiral as they shoved off the dock. (It was only 33 degrees when they left, with a high of 34)  The cold weather and rain stayed all the way down the 24 mile long Divide Cut to Bay Springs Lake. This section of the Loop was completed in June 1985, and moved 150 million cubic yards of earth. If the Divide Cut did not exist, the Great Loop route would have to take the lower Mississippi River down to New Orleans.

When the crew entered Bay Springs Lake, the skipper lost sight of the two Nordic Tugs trailing behind due to the fog. Then the rain turned into sleet. Seriously! It is not bad enough to have freezing rainy weather all day, but now we have to have sleet? Gimmie a break.

Arrival near sunset made an eerie color on the water

4 From Marina

They did catch a break though, their slip assignment would be under a covered dock so they could be out of the rain and sleet. Just about the time the skipper was backing the boat under the covered awning the rain stopped. Now that is funny.

The skipper hustled to get the electric cord plugged in so the Admiral could get the installed heaters running.  It might be near freezing outside, but the heaters will warm the boat up quickly.

4.2 Bay Spring Marina

At least the view is good from inside the warm boat.


Thursday, November 14th

Both the Nordic Tugs needed to get some work done before proceeding out this morning. Based on the timing of the completed work, it was decided to sit out this cold day and wait till morning to shove off. Nobody really wanted a repeat of the freezing cold day they had yesterday, especially with four locks to navigate.  The cold spell is supposed to snap tomorrow and provide some warmer weather and better cruising conditions.

Friday, November 15th

Well the crew left in 29 degree temps with a predicted high of 54 degrees.  The clouds have lifted and the sun is shinning brightly.  The sun should heat up the helm like a greenhouse and make conditions tolerable today.

Gammel Dansk at Whitten Lock

5 Gammel Dansk in Whitten Lock

The Whitten Lock steps south bound vessels down 84 feet, the largest drop on the Tenn-Tom Waterway.

Still Waters II on the wall in Whitten Lock, about half way down

5.2 In Whitten Lock

When the crew arrived at the Montgomery Lock, they had to wait for a tow to push out of the lock.  Once the tow cleared the lock, they got a green light and entered the lock.

Waiting on tow to leave lock


The next two locks were waiting with open gates when the crew arrived with their little Armada of five boats.  The lockage went smoothly and the boats headed to the Smithville Marina.  The skipper had warned Gammel Dansk and Chip Ahoy that the marina was not much.

The marina might not be much but the views getting there were spectacular


In fact he characterized the marina as the land of misfit toys from the Rudolph Christmas cartoon, except it is the marina of derelict boats instead of misfit toys.  The skipper had heard a rumor that the marina had sold and was in the process of being upgraded.  Well, when they arrived it was intuitively obvious to the most casual of observer that the place was in worse condition than back in 2016.

Derelict house boat with propane leak


While the skipper was returning from paying for the night’s dockage, he met two guys standing at the stern of the houseboat smoking cigarettes.  One of them mentioned that they could smell and hear a propane leak coming from the houseboat, as he took a drag on his cigarette.  That was a bit alarming for the skipper so he walked up to the bow of the boat and sure enough, there was a strong propane odor and loud hissing sound coming from the two ten gallon propane bottles sitting on deck.  The skipper knocked on the boat but nobody was home.  He boarded the boat and isolated the leak by closing the valves on the propane bottles.  The skipper will sleep better knowing there should not be any propane explosions or fires.  Bill of Chip Ahoy went back to the office and reported that there was a leak and that it had been secured.

On the up side though, Jim, the Marina Manager, was doing well.  The last time the crew saw Jim, he was down and out, and living on one of the derelict boats barely making ends meet.  He confirmed that the marina had had a contract to sell, but before the buyer could close the deal, the buyer was killed in a car crash.  Jim did say that the original owner was committed to try and upgrade the facility.  Hope they are successful.

As Capt’n Dan said, “that place just needs some TLC.”

Saturday, November 17th

The crew and flotilla got off the dock before eight and headed to the first lock of the day.  The flotilla was down to four boats today.  One boat had decided to anchor out rather than come on the dock.  When leaving, the skipper noticed the boat a few miles north of them, but it was not moving.  While the flotilla was being lowered down the lock, Chip Ahoy learned that the boat had gone aground leaving the anchor spot.  Not a good way to start your day.

Chip Ahoy leaving Smithville


Still Waters II leaving Smithville


The flotilla had exceptional timing at the locks today, with all locks waiting on the boats with open gates and green lights.  This allowed the flotilla to make excellent time down the waterway.  The no wind and smooth conditions also aided the speed of travel.

Glassy conditions again today


After leaving the third and final lock of the day, the crew set their sights on the Columbus Marina.  Columbus was celebrating an early Thanksgiving, and the staff had deep fried a couple of birds.  The crew was hoping to arrive in time to enjoy the good food and fellowship.

Making way to Columbus

19 mile 337 approach to Columbus

As hoped, the crew arrived in time to find plenty of good food available.  The crew also ran into the crew of Miss Utah enjoying the turkey dinner.  The crews last crossed paths in May 2016 at Havre de Grace on the upper Chesapeake Bay.

Boat Name of the Week

Owner must of had a baseball scholarship


Next Week –

The crew is still trying to determine where they will be on Thanksgiving.  There is only one marina in the 335 miles between Columbus and Mobile.  That marina is 120 miles south in Demopolis.  With few options people have begun to slow and stop for Thanksgiving.  Demopolis is full with no vacancy.  If some boats leave Demopolis and the crew can get a reservation they will move south to Demopolis for Thanksgiving.

If not, they will be thankful that they have a good spot right here in Columbus and enjoy where they are.  Then begin moving south once Demopolis opens up.

Hope all the virtual crew members have a blessed and wonderful Thanksgiving!

If you have made it this far in the blog this week, how about leaving a comment about one thing you are thankful for this year.

Loop On – Where the road ends, the water begins. The water goes on forever, and the adventure never ends.

Eric the Red

6 Comments on “Spirit of Courage

  1. Happy Thanksgiving!
    I have so many things to be thankful for but I’ll just leave one here. I am thankful the Skipper knows Erick the Red so that Erick keeps me up to date on my brother’s location and travels.


  2. Happy Thanksgiving – I am thankful that the Good Lord s always with me and he puts the right people in the right place at the right time.


  3. I am so thankful that our son has a friend like you who is sharing their travels up and down
    the rivers of our great United States.


  4. The cold weather seemed to follow you on this trek via the Mississippi and south! Needless to say those were our High temps! And snow on Friday night!!! The deer hunters liked it, but not so much me.
    Safe travels and Happy Turkey 🦃🦃🦃🦃


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