We’ve become pretty comfortable with our life on the river. Each morning, once we’re underway, Kirk takes the helm and I make breakfast in the galley. Then we switch back and forth with steering, giving each other a chance to get something done. One afternoon, Kirk installs buttons on the handrail covers I sewed back in Wisconsin. We travel most of the day, often until sunset, drop the hook, then do it all over again the next day.

The further south we go, the more we feel like we’re in the middle of nowhere. The towns grow thin, the marinas are few and far between, and we anchor out more and more. Because we have such cold mornings, our Westerbeke diesel engine needs some extra coaxing to get started. Thankfully, we’ve figured out a trick to warm him up.

Even though it feels remote, we’re now closer to the Gulf than ever. This is our last full river episode, so if you’re getting antsy for open water, hang on, we’re almost there!

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Lauren & Kirk

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Episode Dialogue

What do you think? It’s about as wide as our boat. Last time, on Sailing Soulianis, we left Pickwick Lake and turned onto the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. This part of the route is jam packed with locks. In a single 150-mile section, there are 10 of them.

Montgomery Lock, Montgomery Lock, this is the pleasure craft Soulianis.

[Man] Yeah, I see you there, captain.

Practically row us through it.

A minute ago, it was really peaceful.

[Kirk] The bollards are talking.

[Lauren] They’re wailing.

[Kirk] The further south we go, the fewer towns, marinas, and services we see. We’ve been anchoring out more and more, and have had to figure out how to start our diesel engine, which doesn’t have glow plugs, during some very cold mornings. We do have a preheat system, which consists of a tiny little diesel burner that heats up the air right at the engine intake, but sometimes, this isn’t even enough. After our very first night anchoring on the river, we got everything ready to go, and our Westerbeke 40 wouldn’t start. We quickly figured out this was due to the cold, and throughout the process of coaxing our engine back to live, we gave him the name Mr. Beke. After about 20 minutes of troubleshooting, Lauren came up with this ingenious idea to bring Mr. Beke back to life. Love, how are we doing?

[Lauren] It’s a little colder than yesterday, but.

[Kirk] Really? Is the engine not very hot? We good? All right.

[Lauren] You’ll let me know when you’re gonna start it?

[Kirk] Yeah, I’m gonna start preheating. Okay, starting.

[Lauren] Okay.

[Kirk] Here we go.


Love, I noticed yesterday, we can’t follow these paths. This chart plotter doesn’t update its reference points exactly. It only updates about that far apart, so when you cut corners, it always makes the corners tighter because it just draws a straight line between the two points. On a broad scale, we could use it to go back to where we went, but we can’t use it in and out of an anchorage. It’s not usable to follow dog legs.

[Lauren] You mean the path that we made?


[Lauren] I noticed that too.

Sorry, I walked up to the bow. Oh, Nutella. Lauren made these lovely handrail covers, scrambled to finish them the week before we left with the intention being we weren’t going to be sailing and the boat wasn’t gonna be heeling over, so we weren’t gonna need to use the handrails for the next two months. Well, it’s a month and a half into it, and I’m just now getting the snaps put on so that we can actually use them, but I still think they’re gonna come in handy the further we get south. We really haven’t seen that much sun either anyway, so I suppose we didn’t miss out on a whole lot. Look at all that. That’s cool.

[Lauren] How’s your yogurt?

[Kirk] Very good, thank you. You’re 19 feet. Oh, the sun’s coming out. Okay, I’m gonna pull us backwards. That seems pretty good, eh? Stern’s holding. I think we’re good. What do you think?

You know, it’s funny because you think this whole business of hanging out and living on a boat is just cool, and mellow, and yeah, you know, you just go when you want to go, and do what you want to do, and I think I can count the minutes of how much we’ve actually spent doing this.

[Kirk] Sitting and relaxing?

Yeah, and doing nothing.

[Kirk] It’s definitely been less than a handful of days we’ve had the opportunity to do this so far.

Yeah, because it’s been cold, so that’s kind of a problem.

Even the summer, there was an afternoon in Charelvoix at the marina after we successfully completed our MI goal. Made it all the way up to Charlevoix. Feeling pretty stoked. We hung out at Charlevoix marina, but I was working, so it was not even, but it was fun to work in the cockpit. There was the hanging out in Chicago at the Playpen.

For, like, a half hour, and you had your computer–

When I was working, but today’s Saturday.

Mm, yeah.

So I don’t need to work right now.

Although I feel like I do.

Yeah, I actually have stuff I could be doing, but.

This is nice.

[Kirk] You really think you saw an alligator, huh?

Yeah, I think so. It was just his nose, and maybe his eye bumps, I don’t know. I mean, he could’ve been a log or anything, but the reason I thought it was an alligator is, he was holding his position in the river against the current, and there was a little V coming off of him. Then, after that, I was like, “Is that an alligator? “Is that an alligator?”

[Kirk] Cheers to that sunset. Cheers.

Cheers. ♪ This city has the same name ♪ ♪ But it’s different than the one I left ♪ ♪ The sights and sounds have changed somehow ♪ ♪ And I’m struggling to catch my breath ♪ ♪ Maybe I’m growing older ♪ ♪ Maybe I haven’t grown at all ♪ ♪ But I measured myself on the train tracks ♪ ♪ And I found I was two feet tall ♪ ♪ The subway prophets who laid in their coffins ♪ ♪ They begged me not to nag ♪ ♪ So I covered all their faces up ♪ ♪ With an old and faded ♪ You see that stick sticking out of the water?

Yeah, there’s one right here too. It looks like the depth isn’t gonna be too much of a problem. Still in 20 feet.

[Lauren] Well, isn’t this a cozy little spot?

It is a cozy little spot. Just glad it’s not even cozier, ’cause it’s about as wide as our boat.

[Lauren] Is long.

Is long, plus another five feet, maybe.

[Lauren] I would say another boat length, but if we’re talking shore to shore, if we’re talking navigable water, yeah, it’s probably our boat length. Look at that moss. Right? Moss, anyone?

[Kirk] Spanish moss.

Spanish moss. Okay, what’s your thought.

We’re at 120.7.

[Lauren] Turkey Creek.

[Kirk] This is mile 57. It looks plenty deep enough.

That’s not in the guidebook?

It’s not in the guidebook, but it looks quite a bit wider than what we’re on.

Right now?

Yeah. Or 64, this is the one that’s in the guidebook. We have to go another nine miles after this, so if it’s getting late, we don’t really have an option in between there, which is an hour and a half. If we can get up super early, if we can get straight through the lock.

As long as the fog is lifted.

If it’s not foggy, we might be able to make it. 120 minus 57, what’s that?

[Lauren] 63.

63, we could do that. Then we only have 57 miles in a thunderstorm on Tuesday.

Yeah, well, storm isn’t until 4:00, right? But the rain is supposed to come-On the other side of that wall, saltwater.

Lauren, it’s the Gulf of Mexico. We’re gonna be a sailboat soon.