The many problems with Mims Ferry

Published 8:22 pm Thursday, July 9, 2009

In all fairness, the ol’ ferry was worn out and outdated and had served Chilton and Coosa counties for what it was designed to do. This was at least No. 4—soon to meet her demise.

There were lots of mishaps over the years. Cars have driven off before the ferry lands—some drove off the landing before the ferry was ready to load. Pulpwood trucks used it frequently and would strike the ferry with a heavy load, pushing the ferry away and following it into the lake.

It was hard to get a reliable operator to work the hours and under those conditions—so the combined effort by both counties sometimes fell a little short of the desired individual, thereby increasing the problems.

You might imagine the frustrations of the owner of homes on the Coosa side, driving down from Alabaster expecting to cross over, and, for many reasons, the ferry is not working. No other way to get there! A perfect setting for some angry folks.I remember my first safety inspection: Life preservers? Had none. The operator had a cushion type, and he was sitting on it! Fire extinguisher? Nope—excuse was that people stole them. I suggested a well-marked chest. They put a large lock on it, and nobody knew who had the key!Back in those days, as today, there was a lot of night traffic up there, especially fishermen. With the low silhouette of the ferry, it was very difficult to see in the darkness—a very dangerous situation. After a few close calls, I had to bring the board some news they didn’t need.Again, here I go, hat in hand. I don’t think anyone understood what navigational lights were intended for, and, as always, they were willing to cooperate. I explained that it would be a little complicated and had a sketch. “Just take it to the shop, and we’ll fix it.” It was complicated because the ferry would be traveling in both directions. Since the navigation lights are designed to let the other boats know your direction, they require that a red light be on the port side, a green light be on the starboard side and a white light on top of the cabin. Now, since the ferry will simply go in reverse to change direction, the lights would actually be on different sides—port and starboard. Got it?

I couldn’t wait to see the new nautical changes on the ol’ girl. She was about as “lit” as her operator. Looked like a floating 18-wheeler with amber clearance lights on all corners. I was about ready to take the Coosa County judge’s advise: “…just take it half-way and turn around and go back.” I saw my friend from the county shop, and he was so excited. “I put you some better lights on there. Don’t they look good?”It was just as well; they only lasted a couple more days. The ol’ ferry seemed to know that her days were numbered, and she was thumbing her nose at me.