At this point, we’re about halfway into our river journey from Lake Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico. We’ve transited several locks thus far, but no other part of the route has as many locks as Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.

It’s one lock right after another on the Tenn-Tom. Some are more memorable that others, making weird squeaks and screeches we’re not used to. We transit the tallest lock on our entire route, Jamie Whitten Lock (84’), where water spews from the sides of small doors in the lock wall, unnerving us both.

All in all, we get another couple hundred miles closer to saltwater by the end of this episode — with only about 400 more to go!

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Lauren & Kirk

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Episode Dialogue

It’s beautiful, it’s like a whale song.

Bye Mississippi! Last time on Sailing Soulianis, we left the Mississippi River and turned upstream, onto the Ohio. It was one wild ride. At one point we were pushing almost full throttle against five knots of current.

After surviving the Ohio, we then turned upstream onto the Tennessee River. It seems counterintuitive to be heading upriver, but this is the route that most pleasure craft take to get from lake Michigan to the gulf of Mexico. We had a rough transit through Kentucky Lock but then we had a really pleasant cruise down Kentucky Lake. So, where we headed love?

We don’t know yet. South.

Kentucky Lake slowly turned back into the Tennessee River and we were reminded once again that we were still racing the cold weather to lower latitudes. ♪ And then I saw my swollen face ♪ ♪ Dancing on the swollen lake ♪ ♪ I ran from the wind and sky ♪ ♪ As I tried to hide ♪ ♪ But my arms opened wide. ♪

[Kirk] He doesn’t know what to think. ‘Sup buddy! ♪ You lovely smile gives mine a lovely name ♪ ♪ Oh to be the wind and sky ♪ ♪ As I dug a hole ♪ ♪ To the secret of the bowl ♪

[Kirk] Pickwick Lock was our last upstream lock transit, from here on to Mobile Bay the route is all downriver. In contrast to our experience in Kentucky Lock, Pickwick was a breeze. We think it had something to do with our location in the lock chamber.

Happy Thanksgiving!

[Lauren] Happy Thanksgiving, love.


Cheers. This was Pickwick Landing State Park Marina. It was quite lovely, probably one of our favorites, made all the better since we arrived over holiday and stayed for free.


So this is Kentucky. No, this is Tennessee. This is Alabama, and behind you is Mississippi.

[Lauren] It’s kind of a crazy intersection here, Pickwick Lake borders these three states, and right where Tennessee gives way to Mississippi, we turn off the lake and onto the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway. Yellow Creek makes up the first few miles of the waterway and then we enter the Divide Cut also known as The Ditch.

That’s what they call it.

It sounds so inviting.

[Kirk] At 280-feet wide by 12-feet deep, The Ditch continues on like this for the next 25 miles. These baffles, built to slow down creeks from flowing too swiftly into the channel, were the most interesting thing we saw. Four hours later, The Ditch dumped us out into Bay Springs Lake. Then we entered the tallest lock on our entire route between Chicago and Mobile, The Jamie Whitten Lock. I wonder if that’s where some of the water comes in?

[Lauren] I know.

[Kirk] Oh god I don’t like it. Oh, oh man. You got all the lines inside the boat?

[Lauren] Yeah.

[Man On The Radio] Hey, roger that Skipper, we’ll let ’em know you’re coming.

Thank you so much sir have a nice day. He’s gonna let ’em know that we’re coming.

[Lauren] To the next lock?

So I guess we’re going through!

Yes, adios Jamie Whitten! Montgomery Lock, Montgomery Lock, this is pleasure craft Soulianis.

Wonderful thank you so much! Was that the oh my gosh the doors are gonna break on the south-side see you later horn?

[Kirk] No, I think that’s the we ’bout to go down horn.

They don’t all do that.

[Kirk] They all have a horn.


[Kirk] That one was just a little more.

But don’t they, they give you the horn when you, before you come in, don’t they?

[Kirk] No, before they start dropping.

This baller is not going down.

[Kirk] Well that’s fun. ‘Kay so tell me about everything.

Well like a minute ago it was really peaceful.

[Kirk] The Ballards are talking.

[Lauren] They’re wailing.

[Kirk] It’s beautiful it’s like a whale song.

A Ballard song? Seriously, oh there it goes, okay, finally. The last couple days have been pretty awesome.


We had no idea where we were gonna be for Thanksgiving, we thought we were gonna be stuck, freezing our butts off at an anchorage. We ended up staying at State Park Marina, and it was really pretty with the hills behind us. I can’t believe I’m just talking right now.

The last few locks have been so quiet and calm and peaceful and this one’s just screaming. Lauren just said, hey pull out the camera I wanna get some video to talk about how quiet this lock is and how calm and peaceful this is.

The last one that we went through was 84-feet. That was creepy. There were little doors on the wall as you went down that were just spraying water everywhere, like they were gonna bust open at any second and drop a deluge of water onto our poor little boat.

[Kirk] Drop a douche of water?

Now we’re at a Ballard circus, a Ballard symphony.

[Kirk] Ballard symphony.

This one has a really high little squeak, and that, do you hear that?

[Kirk] Yeah, so you know what it is right? So watch what happens, each time one of those horizontal bands gets exposed, all the air rushes in, behind, and underneath real quick. It’s like a vacuum or suction. And then all the sudden the water way sucks it out and all the air goes rushing in. You don’t look amused.



It’s pretty calm and peaceful.

[Lauren] Yeah. Look at that, love, three locks, 60 miles, one day.

Whoop whoop. Check out this sunset. ♪ My love, you’re like a wire ♪ ♪ Unwind yourself inside my ♪

[Lauren] This was our first time seeing a cotton plant, I had no idea it actually grows on the plant as little balls. I guess I always thought that happened in a factory.

It’s so soft. That is wild.

[Lauren] Is that a traller?

[Kirk] Yeah, it’s more of a tugger than a traller, but yeah. It’s from Michigan City, Indiana! ♪ Come and swallow ♪

Roger that, thank you so much. ♪ Let’s nurse our troubled minds some more tonight ♪ ♪ If you said the word I would never speak again ♪

Mm I smell a campfire.

I don’t like this.

[Lauren] It’s dredging time.

Yeah it is. This part of the river had a ton of floating plants, and as we caught the first lock of the day, they had all collected at the down-river side of the lock. The last thing we wanted to do was to suck any up into the intake or foul up the propeller. That’ll steer it

[Lauren] Yeah.

Could practically row us through it. Thank God for the boat hook. Alright we are clear, thank you very much. Off we go.

It’s been pretty interesting to see the changes in the landscape as we go by. Every once in a while I’ll catch myself thinking, man, I really don’t like where we’re at. It’s kinda swampy and ugly and maybe it’s industrial, some spots are giving me kinda the willies, but then we just keep going, and all of a sudden we’re in someplace new and it happens so slowly, a lot of times it’s hard to even remember what it was like when you didn’t like the place. It’s a weird, slow progression, and then all of a sudden we’re in this new place, and it’s beautiful again. We look around and we’re like, wow this is cool. How’d we get here? When did the landscape change? And that’ll happen three or four times a day.