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As I pulled in to the harbor I was again in awe of the large ships.  Obviously, you just don’t see things like this on rivers in the Midwest.  I decided to drop off plane and take a few pictures.  I was concentrating on getting the shots I wanted when I hear a voice shouting at me.  I turned and found a hard bottom inflatable coming quickly along side. There were two onboard but my eyes were immediately drawn to the machine gun mounted and manned on the bow!  I was told to stop taking photos "immediately" and I could tell by their look of determination they weren’t kidding (the 9-11 factor).  They informed me I needed to continue on up stream.  Since my mama always told me, “Never argue with a guy with a gun,” I decided to take their advice.  They escorted me out of the area. 

Because of the weather I decided to make my way as far north as possible.  While making my way towards Coffeeville Lock I decided it would be a good idea to call ahead to Bobby’s Fish Camp.  I was going to need gas and I want to make sure someone would be there as I would first have to lock through and be arriving a little before dark.  Bobby was there and said he would wait.

As I approached the lock I pulled off the throttle and the engine began to run rough.  I added power and it smoothed out but when coming back off the throttle it roughened up again.  Since I needed to get to Bobby’s I decided not to try to locate the problem but just let it idle while in the lock.  I was afraid if I shut it off it would not start.

The lockage went well and again it ran fine at mid range and above.  As I pulled in to Bobby’s I recognized the 50 ft cruiser with the brother onboard from the Benton, IL area.  They too were taking on fuel and planning to stay the night.  I shut off and refueled and then proceeded to try to find the problem.  This was complicated by fact that the sun was now next to gone and the mosquitoes were absolutely ferocious.  The gentleman from Benton saw me struggling and came over and held the flashlight while I pulled the plugs, checked spark, drained the float bowls, checked the fuel filters, etc.  Plus it is warm and humid and the sweat is dripping off my nose while I am working.  I found that the top cylinder was getting spark but not firing.  I changed the plug and started it again - still rough.

This was the first time I really question the sanity of running long distances with only one tiny outboard.  Sure, I have thought about it before but never worried enough to change my goals.  But now I was wondering…………

Since there was nothing else to do I retreated from the tiny bloodsuckers into the berth.  I lay there a while thinking about the engine but decided I really need to cool off and clean up a little.  I thought about the guys in the 50’ cruiser taking a shower and then sitting in the air conditioning watching TV.  My situation was just a little different.  Therapy may not have the same level of amenities but still she provides sophisticated means of comfort.  I strip down to my fruit of the looms and make a dash over the transom and into the river (sophisticated is a relative term you know).

As I soaked a while I pondered my predicament.  Actually, the situation wasn’t that bad.  I was fairly sure it would start in the morning but if it didn’t I thought I could probably catch a ride on the big cruiser.  They were heading to Green Turtle Bay Marina on Kentucky Lake, which would take them right by the marina where my truck was parked.  From there I could drive back and retrieve Therapy at Bobby's ramp.  If it did start but break down along the way they would be coming behind me and again I was sure they would accept an extra crewmember.

So that was the plan.  At morning light Therapy would reveal which option I needed to use so for now it was time to get some sleep.  But for the first time ever on one of my boating adventures I went to bed and totally forgot about eating an evening meal (maybe I was delirious from the loss of blood!).

Come daybreak the Honda 50 started right up but still ran rough at lower RPMs.  Oh well, I pointed her north.  I covered the next 95 miles back to Demopolis Lock & Dam with out backing off the throttle – I really didn’t want to know.  The Honda ran fine but I totally expected it to roughen up when I slowed down.  Didn’t Happen – idled perfect!  (And it hasn’t acted up since.) My best guess is a chunk of dirt or more likely epoxy from the tanked that failed was still floating around in the system and temporarily blocked an idle circuit passage or a low speed jet. Whatever the cause it appeared to have healed itself and I could breathe a little easier.

After Demopolis Lock I pulled into Demopolis Marina to top off the tanks and then once again continued northward. I was pleased that by now the water levels had dropped to normal and the current was moving south at its usual leisurely pace. Also, all the debris we had dodged on the outbound trip had since passed and nothing but clear water broke under the bow.  I kept the throttle on wanting to stay in front of the storm but still it was a pleasant ride.

As I was approaching the area of Stennis Lock and had a choice to make.  Because of the late hour I could make the lock before dark continue on to Waverly Marina where Quimby’s states there is a restaurant (when problems subside my hunger quickly returns).  The problem with this is that it would get dark while at the restaurant so I would have to overnight at the marina.  In all honesty,  I really prefer to anchor out – I like the quiet and solitude. 

The other option presented itself by the way of a sign on the riverbank. Although not listed in Quimby’s the sign said that there was a new courtesy dock at the city of Columbus, MS that offered access to the downtown area.  I had no idea of what was there and it was about 3/4 mile up a small tributary.  If I went to explore and found nothing of interest it would be to late to make the other marina before dark and I would be anchoring out BUT eating out of the cooler.

Somehow the name Columbus and the chance to explore just seemed right so I decided to investigate (nothing like a logical decision!).  I made my way up what was actually an oxbow.  It was not large but more than wide and deep enough.  Therealso was a little current as it was still open to the main channel on both ends.  Along the way there were a few docks with fishing boats and a small houseboat or two.  I approached the very small square dock and was going to moor on the end but realized that would fairly block it for all other users.  Since there was a little current I decided to just attach a bow line and allow Therapy to float away while securing it to the side of the dock.  This way it would clear the dock for others.

While I was preparing to do this I notice a young couple (early 20’s) approaching.  I could tell they were interested and when they walked out onto the dock we chatted a little.  They told me that they were both natives of Columbus and worked at the local WalMart.  They were looking Therapy over and mentioned that neither one of them had ever been in a boat of any kind!

Needless to say a short ride was in order.  Afterwards they both thanked me several times and I ask about restaurants in the area.  The said there were several but suggested Harvey’s and offered to walk with me there.  The small riverside park was very nice and the restaurant was just a short distance from the dock.  After saying good-by I enjoyed a nice meal.

By the time I returned to Therapy it was dark.  My first thought was just to stay put for the night but then I listened.  There was a highway bridge almost directly overhead and it must have had expansion joints covered with a steel plates.  Every time a vehicle crossed they clanked loudly.  No, not going to listen to this all night!  I decide to head back up the channel to find a quieter spot.

Although the sky was clear there was no moon.  There were lights in homes along the starboard shore but were of little help.  I pulled out my handheld spotlight and flipped in on occasionally to maintain a safe heading.  I ran a little faster than idle speed but still kept it slow enough not to produce a damaging wake.

The oxbow was narrow enough I that I couldn’t find a suitable anchorage.  I checked the chart and the main channel also offered nothing.  I did note that Stennis Lock was just three miles up stream from the oxbow and on the other side of it were numerous decent spots to drop the hook.  The nice slow ride was actually relaxing after a day of pushing hard.  Plus I had never passed through a lock after dark and thought it might be an interesting experience.  What the heck – we’ll shove a little more water out of the way and add a few more miles to the days log entry. 

Although offering a somewhat different perspective,  the nighttime lockage was very routine.  The entire lock area was well lighted and the darkness presented no problems.  While in the chamber the lockmaster ask how far I was traveling tonight and I told him just far enough to find a nice spot for the evening.  He suggested that once I clear the lock I bear slightly to the port.  He said there were several long barrier dikes and if I went in behind them I would be protected from the open river on the other side.  He added that for a craft my size there was plenty of depth.  I responded that that sounded good and thanked him for the info.

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