Paris Landing to Pickwick Lake

Paris Landing Marina MM 66

Nelson Miller, Zyg Durski and I departed

from Paris Landing State Park Marina at 9.30

a.m. Wednesday August 5th.  It was my birthday

week and it was to be a beauty.

The one thing Nelson told me before departing was that I had to have a bimini.  A month earlier I ordered a Sailrite bimini Kit. We mounted the bimini frame in the house and prepared to make a pattern. It took a month of watching videos, using friends’ Sailrite machines and long hard work from Sue. But we got her done with special thanks to Joe Ballard and Dave Brandon.


We watched the weather forecast and it showed highs in the 80’s lows in the 60’s with winds from the north. On short notice we decided the weather window was perfect. So two days before departure Zyg and I drove from Nashville to Paris Landing to install the bimini. Perfect installation and looked beautiful.





The day before leaving Nelson and I drove from Nashville to Pickwick Marina to drop off a car. Sue was in NY but would have loved to meet us. One other precaution I had taken was to physically measure my mast height. I was confident it was 50′. This would become very important information.

We had three forms of navigation aboard and all turned out important: Army Corp of Engineers Charts (old), paper GPS maps/charts of Kentucky Lake and Navionics.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

MM 66 Paris Landing State Park Marina

We topped off with fuel and left the dock at 9.30 a.m. Zyg brought with him the experience of sailing the Great Loop single handed. A font of wisdom. Nelson brought years of sailing experience, cigars and Rusty Nail fixins.







We checked pool level and it was down 2 feet (good to know for calculating bridge height), cast off and prepared the decks. It was a beautiful morning to depart on an adventure.

We each had sailed together for 3 weeks from Midland, Ontario up Georgian Bay to North Channel and finally to Mackinac Island, so we had history and experience together.


We cleared our first bridge upon leaving at Hwy 79 with 58′ feet of clearance.

It was a big, wide open Tennessee River with not a boat in sight.



We checked the discharge rate at Pickwick Dam to try and anticipate the current and it was predicted to generate 28,000 cubic feet per inch. I had thought our average speed would be 6 but we stayed steady at 6.9 mph.

We got settled in, lit up cigars, pulled out the bimini and enjoyed the day.  We cruised by Pebble Isle Marina MM 96. Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park MM100 and headed for Hickman Lockman Bridge Hwy 70, MM 100.5.

The Louisville and Nashville Railway Lift Bridge next to the Hwy 70 Hickman-Lockhart motorway bridge has a closed clearance of 24.6 feet at normal pool. When the bridge is lifted and open, the clearance is 62.6 feet. We called on VHF  but no answer. When we arrived, the bridge was in the open position. This may be the new normal as a result of Covid-19 but it could be that we were just lucky and arrived when the bridge just happened to be open.

Birdsong Marina was at MM 103.5  but I had a bad impression of it having researched it earlier. We attempted an anchorage at a beautiful cove that Navionics showed deep enough but we bumped the bottom three times and that was enough. We sailed on to Cuba Landing. Better than expected for our first day.

We had cocktails and cigars while waiting for the chicken to thaw. I recently installed a new Engle refrigerator and it did too good a job. Good anchorage except near interstate. No one here.






Venus, Mars, Pluto, Saturn visible.

MM115    Total leg 51 miles

Thursday, August 6th, 2020


We awoke to a setting moon and smiling faces.

We then prepared bacon and eggs, strong coffee and  enjoyed a beautiful cool morning. We determined to set sail for Swallow Bluff 53.8 miles away.

We cleared the I-40 bridge at 64′  MM 116 .

Perryville Marina MM134

Alvin York Bridge at MM135

Mermaid Marina MM140

A bridge that did NOT show on an OLD chart appeared. MM161.5

Riverside Marina MM162





It was only 4.30 p.m. and we considered going on to Wolf Island but it was 3 hours away so we dropped anchor and it was beautiful. Quiet. Sleepy waters. Well not really.

Zyg worked on securing a ladder to mid ship and I put out a rope ladder on the stern.

Confident Zyg’s ladder would hold, I jumped in. In a split second I was at the stern and moving fast in the current. I swam vigorously to the rope ladder and held on!!! Had I not I would have been swept away to a distant shore.

Nelson threw me a line and I pulled my way back to mid-ship and climbed back aboard. We decided no more swimming. I had a history of diving into challenging waters. Pickwick was dumping water and the current was deceiving.

Hamburgers and baked beans for dinner.

Rusty Nails and exquisite Black and Tan cigars were in order after dinner.

And then things got magnificent. We put on a Canadian radio station with a French announcer and the music was classical and grand.

At one point Zyg shared he had conducted the piece of music playing…the last 7 words of Christ.

The anchor held through the night. Beautiful stars and planets.

Zyg slept out on the deck.

Friday, August 7, 2020

We departed early excited to get to Pickwick. There was a slight fog on the water and conversation embarked on the origins of fog based on dew points and temperature.


We passed by Saltito.

Hookers Bend MM 179

Hwy 64 Bridge MM190    


Wolf Island MM 192.7

Pittsburg Landing

Shiloh MM 198


Pickwick Lock and Dam MM 206

Our approach was easy and we raised John the Lockmaster on VHF Channel 16.

He gave us a blast to let us know is was emptying lock and then a horn and green light to  enter in.


The water started to dump from lock, the gigantic doors opened and in we went. Zyg on the bow poling off and Nelson on mid-ship with loop for Bollard #5.


We celebrated we had made the trip safely. But we all knew we were not there yet.





As we were raised up and the doors opening, the Lockmaster asked “what is your mast height”? 50′ feet I said. Lockmaster ” the bridge has a clearance of 52′ but there is netting hanging down to 48′. I asked what I was supposed to do if I cannot clear. He replied, ” I will hold the lock open and you can go back.”

I am confident my height is 50′ but it had not been put to the test. Lockmaster told us the pool was at normal level.

My mouth was dry and adrenaline charged.


I remembered to say a prayer.

We found a spot to the far left where we did not see netting. I slowed Shadow to a crawl.




We pulled the bimini back so I could see the bridge. I tell the men I will not look up, they will have to do the looking. Harbormaster is watching on  his monitor.

If we touch I have to reverse course quick.


Slowly we crawl under the bridge. We cleared it. Beautiful Pickwick Lake appeared before our eyes. Paradise.


We docked at Pickwick Landing State Park at 1.15 pm, slip 53. MM 207

Total engine hours-23

Avg rpm 2500

Avg speed 6.7 mp

Total trip 143 miles

Attached is the Local Notice to Mariners for the Tombigbee Waterway in Alabama (Alabama lnm0831g2020.pdf) fot review. Page 40 is of special interest as it lists the lock closures currently in effect.

Link to LNM  They are published once a week.

Paris Landing to Pickwick leg 3 complete on the journey to Mobile Bay and beyond.



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