Because of a river’s meander, one doesn’t refer to the various banks as north, south, east or west, but rather as left descending bank (LDB) or right descending bank (RDB). This cuts down on confusion as one generally knows (or should know) which way the river is flowing (upstream or downstream) in relation to his/her boat. Additionally, currents tend to run faster on the inside of a curve and will switch sides as the river bends back and forth along its route to the sea. Uprooted trees and other debris tend to stay where the current runs the strongest.
We raised anchor and left Rattlesnake Bend entering the main channel of the Tombigbee River, picking our way through the flotsam and jetsam. The captain announced that he never wanted to anchor in flood conditions after dark again. Shortly thereafter, The Black Warrior River joined the Tombigbee and the debris increased. Within a few miles we reached Demopolis and took on 115 gallons of diesel fuel and filled the water tank. Beulah hid in the aft cabin and wanted nothing to do with the noise of the large tow filling up across the pier.
Directly after the Demopolis yacht basin is the Demopolis Lock. With this step down toward the Gulf, the current increased. We now had over three miles per hour added to our speed, and averaged over 10 miles per hour.
After 56 miles of picking our way between floating debris we approached Barron’s Landing, a relatively safe in-river, but outside of the channel, anchorage at mile 168 along the LDB. It was 1630 and we had plenty of time to anchor before nightfall. As it happened, the current was running strong along the LDB and debris was running swiftly and dangerously close to the boat as we turned across the river and made our way up to the anchorage, bow into the current. There are several dangers associated with anchoring in strong currents and things floating downstream and hitting the boat is one of them. Another is debris drifting and hanging on the anchor rode.
We knew that this would never work and that we would have a sleepless night, so instead we powered nine-tenths of a mile upstream to the previous location of Old Lock Number Two along the RDB. The current was swift but the debris was all on the other side of the river. We anchored close to a boat ramp and dropped back on the rode. The Traveler had her bow dead into the current as the anchor grabbed and dug into the mud. We lowered an anchor from the stern to keep her from swinging into the close-by bank should the wind pick up during the night or should we move from the wake of passing tows. I set the anchor drag alarm for 30 feet and we went below. We notified the first tow that we would be spending the night there and asked that he let others on the river be on the lookout for an anchored trawler at mile 168.9.
It was an uneasy night and we got up throughout it to check on our position. The spotlight on the front of the flybridge was focused on a large tree and that tree became our touchstone.