Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Back to the Harpeth River

  We woke this morning at 7 A.M. and I called the Old Hickory Lock and Dam, told them where I was, and was told to come on down and they'd lock us through. By 8 A.M. they had spit us through and we were headed toward the Cheatham Lock and Dam 66 miles downstream.

  A threatening sky prompted me to check the weather radar and a front was headed our way. The wind picked up and slacked off depending on which way we were headed on the twisty river and the temperatures were a relief from the ones we had over the sweltering weekend.

  As we made our way toward Nashville, two sights that we saw on our way upriver were worthy of pictures. The plane "crashing" into the side of a bluff below someones house is one. The people here have a banner advertising a website, Let me know what's on it if you check it out.

  There are a few docks along this section of the river and are in various states of disrepair, apparently due to recent flooding. Having lived on a river for many years, I'm fully aware of the work it takes to keep a dock on a wildly fluctuating river. The ingenuity of this fella is impressive. We've seen trams before, and we've seen BIG trams before, some even like this, but most people have a dock somewhere in the system, but this guy just carts the whole pontoon boat down the tram and away he goes. He must have worked for a barge repair facility at some point in his life.
  Right above Nashville we were treated to a brief shower and then the sun came out along with some oppressive heat. Neither one of us wanted much to do with the sun and we were glad to have the cover of the bimini to protect us.
  It was approaching mid afternoon and it's when I start formulating a plan for the evening if I don't already have one. I knew that Ashland, TN was  getting closer and we had heard about a restaurant and marina there called Riverview Restaurant and Marina. I slowed our engines down to 1000 R.P.M.s to stretch out the day but we still arrived in Ashland too early for dinner.

  Riverview sits below the bluff on the left, just upstream from the bridge. I had seen water outlets on the long dock out front and figured to see what there was to see, hang around for dinner, fill up our water tanks, and then head just a few miles down to the Harpeth River for the night.
  Two guys came down to help us tie up and we learned that they hadn't gotten the water back on the docks after rebuilding from the last flood. There was also no market or store, except "across the bridge", so provisioning was out too. Recent visits to restaurants on Old Hickory Lake had damaged our wallets some, but what's the use of traveling if you don't check out the local spots, especially one called "Riverview"? Early or not, we decided to eat anyway.

  We saw photos plastered on the walls inside of the last flood and I can tell you that a very nice job was done in rebuilding this place. It's airy inside and big. Outside is a great pavilion with plenty of seating. Too bad our early arrival meant not many people to meet but we had a great early dinner. Get the salad bar.
  We cast off in the heat and I was ready to cash in my chips and find an anchorage, but first the issue of a low water tank became priority one. Just down from the restaurant was a marina called Harpeth Shoals Marina. It had a giant high rise condominium complex sitting adjacent to it but when we pulled in, the slips were largely empty and no cars could be seen anywhere. I decided to avail myself of the water at the docks, seeing as there was no one to ask and all. Thank you Harpeth Shoal Marina.
  We passed an attractive anchorage behind an island and was going to try it out, but again the sky looked threatening so I decided that the protection of the Harpeth River would be a better choice.

  Again this picture is deceiving, but the sky behind Rosie was getting dark just after we set our anchor in about a half mile up the narrow ribbon of river where it opened up into a wider spot. A little sprinkle started and then down it came. Our anchor line was tight enough for the Flying Wallendas to do their act, the wind generators were singing, and the flags were beating at a  90 degree angle to the boat. Holly took up her regular spot behind the toilet like she does when the going gets tough. The only thing that can be seen when she does this is her two front paws and a little black nose. I hope it's clean back there.
  The storm didn't last but 20 minutes, so Rosie grabbed the iPad to catch up on some email and here I am, posting this blog and watching big drops of rain fall out the office porthole while we're snug as bugs inside, enjoying a much cooler evening after the front passed through.
  Can't wait to see what happens tomorrow.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend Wrap Up

  As planned, we spent the whole Memorial Day weekend on Old Hickory Lake. It seems like anyone with anything that would float was out this weekend and for once within recent memory it didn't rain the entire weekend, but boy was it hot here, as it was in most of the country.
  Some folks we met last weekend called us and we spent some time with them and had a real good time again at Rudders, which is at Anchor High, the marina at the Old Hickory Lake Lock. Afterwards, we found our way back to a cove just up the lake called Wedding Cove. I'm not sure what the pecking order was when it came to naming this cove and Skinnydip Cove, but one was sure to come before the other.
  As hot as it was on Saturday, it cooled down just fine on Saturday night for sleeping, but a big stork or something landed on the deck above our heads and woke us up. When I say "us", I mean Holly too, and her watch dog talents were again put to good use.

  We stayed put in Wedding Cove on Sunday and thought we would just chill out and relax. We discovered that Holly really liked the rafts and we found her climbing on them we weren't watching and laying down too. I thought two rafts would be enough, turns out I really need three.

  Here Rosie is taking a turn on her own raft, at times using the shade of the dinghy for a bit more relief from the heat. Our new friends Scott and Kay came by later in the afternoon to say hello, but left to attend to family and when the temperature cooled down some, we grilled some burgers and took a late swim.
  We stayed put again in the same spot on Sunday night, but only one other boat shared our anchorage for the night. After breakfast on Monday morning some fishermen came floating by and it appeared that they were having motor trouble. I told them that I could tow them to where they needed to go, but they eventually got their flooded engine started and happily motored on.
  We were in the mood for people watching, so it was back to Skinnydip Cove for us on Memorial Day. We just spent the whole day swimming and laying around, the heat making us lazy. Charging our batteries with a lazy day was just what we needed after a busy Friday and Saturday night.
  We had already planned to lock down to Lake Barkley on Tuesday and head back to Kentucky Lake, about 200 miles away, and then I found out that our friend, Little John Bicknese, was racing their drag boat in Pisgah Cove at Kentucky Lake next Saturday, so we have added incentive to get back there in time for that. I think they won the event last year.
  A storm came through Nashville and just missed us. We just got a little sprinkle, but again we get rain on this holiday, it never fails. After a very brief shower, Rosie and I had dinner and watched a little T.V., then I got to beat Rose at dominoes. I also wanted to fire off this brief blog post, plus it's still too hot to turn in.
  I hope all of our friends and blog readers had a nice, safe weekend, and spent at least a few moments remembering what this holiday is all about.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend

  Our day and evening spent at Pearson's Cedar Creek Marina was a fun one. We took it easy during the afternoon, but still managed to meet some people passing by the boat, plus the owner of the marina came by and talked to us for a while. He looked just like any other worker there at the marina, dressed in an identical T-shirt as anyone else. Vern pitched in like any of his other employees and he could be seen doing all the various things that needed to be done including moving tables and pumping gas on occasion. Truly a man interested in running his business well.
  The band started assembling their equipment right next to our boat, so by 6 P.M. we grabbed a convenient table and settled in with a bucket of icy cold Bud Lights.

  Here you can see just how close we were parked as the band just started playing. I took the photo from another covered area with a bar and tables and by the time it got dark every table was full.

  Here's another view from the area where you order your food. The items on the menu are ordered in the little store and cooked to order. They call your number and you come and git it. We didn't want anything heavy, so an order of sliders and a side of fries came out piping hot and filled us up just fine. Friday night was the catfish platter special and would have been plenty for two to eat.
  We had watched a big houseboat fill up with guests for the weekend and load after load of beer coolers were carted down the dock along with one long legged blonde after another piled aboard. At the times when I wasn't paying rapt attention, Rosie would issue a bikini alert when a more particular attractive woman would arrive. My trusty sidekick is good about things like that. The houseboat cast off before dark with a ton of people on board and left us to fend for ourselves. We can't be invited to every good party.
  The band was fun and played mostly rock and roll, lots of heavy metal with enough southern and classic rock to hold our attention and sing along after the third bucket of Bud Lights came and went.
  We reluctantly gave up our two extra chairs to others, hoping we might be joined by some new friends, but except for two of the employees, Larry and Bobby, no one came by to have a seat.

  I had to take this picture of Rosie before it got dark. She looked especially attractive in her black shorts and halter top, not to mention her growing tan. She was seen shaking her booty on the dance floor later, joining some of the other women, but there were so many kids on the dance floor too that it looked like a south St. Louis wedding reception. It's hard to maintain a 21 year old minimum at an outside marina party. I was a little nervous about Rosie's dancing, reminded about an incident at the Duck Club a few years ago when on a similar occasion Rosie's enthusiastic dancing almost got us kicked out.
  One little nipper around 3 or 4 years old came up and asked if we wanted a beer. We declined and were tickled by his generosity until we found out that we misunderstood him. He asked if we wanted the beer. We learned that when he started to make off with our bucket of long necks, but only got it slid across the table towards him before I gently told him to leave it where it was. I really don't think we could have lifted it anyhow.
  We brought Holly out for a look see at the action and several woman came by to coo at here and make nice. One guy with a pit bull came too close and I had to suggest that he back off some. His dog looked too interested in having Holly for an hors d'oeuvre. (Don't think I didn't use the dictionary to spell that one.)
  The band quit fairly early due to the close proximity of houses in the area. We had been warned about how loud the music was going to be and our boat parked right there might not have been the best idea some people thought. Heck,we spent the last year parked next to the Bales at the Duck Club. We can handle anything.
  Things quieted down early and we retreated to our nicely chilled cabin for a good nights sleep. Larry and Bobby both wanted to see us off in the morning but they didn't get on duty until 8 A.M. By seven we were ready to go and set off with hot coffee and a nice breakfast sandwich, the fried bologna and egg that I didn't get yesterday.
  Rosie mopped dew off of Swing Set and I set a leisurely pace at 900 R.P.M., the batteries were charging nicely with our newly tightened alternator belts. Swing Set was sipping diesel fuel like a southern belle sips mint juleps on Derby Day. Of course, some of the belles I know are two fisted, downing cocktails in tumblers and wiping their lips with the back of their hands before asking for another.
  I had a suspicion that we would encounter that big party houseboat somewhere we were headed and I was right. Two other boats had joined it last night and they were seen sitting in Two Foot Cove, the place too skinny to get our boat into. They appeared to be sleeping off a fun filled night. We have all weekend to catch up with them and I see a dinghy ride in our future.
  Currently, we're sitting in Skinnydip Cove while I write this post and Rosie does her morning ritual. We'll be staying here for the weekend before fueling up on Monday or Tuesday and heading back downriver. If there are no posts for a couple of days it's because we are having "too much fun", a phrase that is also the name that our friend Don has given to two of his boats, and a worthy name at that.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Back to Pearson's Cedar Creek Marina

  This is our view as we pulled out of our anchorage yesterday morning at around 7A.M. We had our breakfast at the helm and it was a beautiful morning. We wanted to get to Gallatin, TN yesterday evening so we got an early start.

  We weren't in too much of a hurry to not try some stuff out. Here I'm trolling a line behind the boat going our normal 7-8 miles per hour to see how the rod takes it. It appears that this will work just fine, now all I need is a fishing license.
  By mid day we finally found out really where we were, according to the mile marker that was tacked to a tree. It's how it's done in these parts of the Cumberland River. We were ahead of schedule so we stopped for lunch and a swim behind a nice island and stayed over an hour.

  By mid afternoon the temperature was heating up and I stopped for a dip in the middle of the river. We still had seen very little in the way of other boats with the exception of a bass boat or two.

  Cocktail hour came fairly early due to the high temperatures, of course. Those little stainless steel ice cubes in Rosie's glass were a parting gift from our friends Carl and Mary. I wanted to show them that they are getting put to good use.

  We were leaving the river and getting more into the lake part of Old Hickory Lake. This house looked to be the oldest we had seen, sitting on a point with a gorgeous view.
  We started seeing some pleasure boats as we approached Gallatin. Although the people around here are friendly when we meet them, the habit of waving like a rube is not one that people seem to do around here. At home in St.Louis, we all wave at each other like it's our first day on our boats. When we first got down here we were waving at everyone like we were a couple of idiots and people just stared or didn't even look. We're still gonna wave.
  We got to the Cherokee Marina and Steakhouse right on time, at about 4 P.M. We pulled up to the dock and were met by Chris the harbormaster.

  We were nestled in for the night at the gas dock for $15 and extended our cocktail hour a bit too long. I started seeing the parking lot fill up and in my boating mind, figured it was holiday weekend boaters starting to show up but it was folks flocking to the Steakhouse.
  By the time we got our duds on and made our way up to the restaurant we found ourselves in the middle of an hour wait. There was benches outside for people to gather and a loudspeaker to call you to dinner, so we rolled with the flow and talked to anyone who would talk back and soon enough we were seated to begin our feast.
  I am no restaurant critic, so I'm not going to pass judgement on our dinner. Just say that we could have made better choices in menu items and the fact that the place does not serve alcohol doesn't mean we weren't three sheets to the wind by the time we finished dinner at nearly 10 o'clock.
  Finding the pillow was no problem once we got back to the boat. During the night Holly woke us raising a ruckus and when I got up to investigate I found two trespassers making a getaway from behind the boat. Holly was still barking as the varmints made a loud exit, quacking loudly as they swam away. The fact that Holly could detect two ducks mounting our swim platform proves that she will make a good watchdog for us. She got extra attention in the morning if that is even possible.

  We had offers to take us to the store but decided when we got up to take a walk to the closest store and left Swing Set alone with Holly. There was a convenience store at the end of the road to the marina at the main highway and the sign saying "Lakeside Market" looked like an oasis to us.
  Once we got inside and began to see what we could get, disappointment settled in upon finding that our choices centered on beer and Snickers Bars. There were some hamburger buns and we cleaned them out and took all four packs. I asked the nice girl behind the counter if they had lunch meat and she looked confused before remarking with some regret that they didn't. We were about to leave with a case of Bud Light, some buns and crunchy snacks when I spied a small cooler sitting in a lonely corner of the market and there was gold inside in the form of bologna, cheese, eggs, butter and some yogurt.
  I began to snatch stuff out of there like I had never seen flat meat before and Rosie had to put my brakes on.  With a wild smile on my face, I even waved a package of bologna at the girl behind the counter and explained to her that they did indeed have lunch meat. I was even able to broker a deal on a half loaf of bread near the checkout that was designed for some deli sandwiches that were advertised on the door but apparently the "deli" part was a significant missing item.
  We checked out our stash and even got $40 in cash. I wanted more but it would have cleaned her out at the early hour of our visit. I told her to call someone and stock up for a big weekend and she agreed that it would be a good thing to do.
  We barely crossed the busy highway and here came the harbormaster Chris in a big Cadillac and gave us a ride back to the boat. Had I known we were getting a ride I would have made a bigger beer purchase. Chris offered to let us take his car to the local Kroger store but we'll play the cards we're dealt. We don't want to use up all our favors in one place. Rosie and I both agree that getting provisions is an adventure and each one will be different.
  We gave Swing Set a bath and filled up her water tanks and cast off after leaving a RiverBill' sticker on an electrical box at the gas dock for them to remember us by.
  All that bologna made me hungry for a fried "baloney" and egg sandwich but our inverter had faulted during the night and we decided to wait until we were under way for Rosie to make breakfast. It was odd that the inverter had faulted because we didn't use any electricity after stopping, except for the twelve volt stuff.
  I soon found out why the inverter had faulted on low voltage when Rosie came up and said that there wasn't enough juice in the inverter bank to run the coffee percolator and the microwave after we had been running the normal amount of time for them to be charged. When I looked at the voltage meters on the instrument panel I saw that we weren't charging like we should and most likely weren't charging during the later part of our cruise the day before. Cocktail hour being early may have played some part in me not noticing.
  The fact that both alternator belts were replaced on the Caterpillars 100 hours ago made me suspect that the belts had stretched a bit and were too loose to spin the alternators properly. I calculated a plan and came up with a good one.
  We were only a couple of miles from our friends at Pearson's Cedar Creek Marina and I remembered not only did they serve breakfast all day, there was help in the form of a mechanic if we needed one. We pulled into the same spot we were in four days ago and decided to address first things first and order breakfast. We shared a breakfast burrito and some shrimp hash that was delicious, drowning it all with some fresh coffee before I attacked the alternator belts.
  Nearly an hour later in a hot engine room and we were back in business. I fired both engines up and the voltmeters were registering a charge. Before starting my work, the idea came to me that if the docking fee wasn't too stiff, we would just stay here and enjoy some air conditioning and the band that was going to entertain for the evening. I found out that we could keep our boat right where it was, at the center of the activity later, for less than $35. That's a deal we couldn't pass up and switched on the air.
  We had plenty of sun for the past few days and we decided to do some other chores on the boat before I caught up with this blog post. A nap is in order because the band is playing right next to where Swing Set is sitting and we like it that way. Everyone that has a boat here has to pass right by and we have already met some nice folks who want to know about our travels.
  The evening should prove to be a fun one before we head out early tomorrow and make our way back to Skinnydip Cove tomorrow. Some folks we met there last weekend want to get together again and we agreed to meet them tomorrow afternoon. Of course, we could just stay here until Monday....

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Run to Carthage, TN and the Cordell Hull Lock and Dam

  By the time we left our anchorage this morning, pictured here last night once we settled in, it was nearly 10:30 A.M. and our goal was the Cordell Hull Lock and Dam, estimated to be 45 miles away or so.
  The Cordell Lock is controlled by a crew from the Old Hickory Lock and Dam and advance notice must be given before requesting a lockage, at least a day ahead of time. When we decided to cruise the Cumberland River, we figured to only see the lake part of Old Hickory and not travel up the river past the wider part of the lake, so even heading up to the tail waters of Cordell Hull Dam was beyond our plan.
  Our trip today felt like an expedition, sort of like Lewis and Clark short of a couple of coonskin caps. That is, if you can imagine Lewis saying to Clark, "Hey Clark old buddy, fetch me a cold one from the fridge while you're down there and I'll crank up some tunes."
  The river got very narrow the further we went upstream, but stayed pretty deep until we got to Carthage, TN where we were in a river not 50 yards wide and at times 10 feet deep. The current increased as we approached the dam and I hailed the lock but didn't expect a response and we didn't get one.

  The downside of this dam is not very scenic but this shot proves we were here and we wanted to make it this far on the Cumberland just to say we did. I know we could have said it anyway, but the truth is expensive sometimes and is worth every penny.
  Northbound Swing Set quickly became Southbound Swing Set at twice the speed as the current whipped us into the dizzying speed of 12 miles per hour. I had picked out an anchorage on the way upriver and we calculated it to be about 2 hours back downstream. On  the way up we passed what appeared to be a house under construction but no one was around, but on the way back down a guy was out and apparently was impressed with our presence heading downriver and he offered a friendly salute in our honor.
  It wasn't too long before the upper end of the island came into view that I wanted to stay behind for the night. We made the turn around the bottom end and sneaked our way along a rock wall before making another 90 degree turn to reach the backside of the island. A nice deep slough welcomed us and we went about half way up in 18 feet of water before dropping the hook and settling to a stop.

  Here's Rosie checking the tension of the anchor line before we took our river baths and tucked into the dinner Rosie prepared while we were underway. This slough we are in is not much different in the way of its width than a lot of the river we traveled on today.
  While I was writing this blog I looked out the porthole and noticed a view that was different from when I started writing, not a good sign. Mr. Anchor had decided to move, a plan that I was not in agreement with. We reset the anchor after two tries and finally got a bite. We'll monitor it for a while before going to bed and we'll also let the anchor watch on the iPad get some work. That rock wall at the bottom end of this slough won't be very forgiving.
  I did take a picture of that wall, along with some others, but we are in a very remote part of the country and pictures are taking forever to load up and I want to get this post finished. I decided to post this tonight so we can get an early start in the morning if the fog is not too thick like it was this morning. We want to be in Lebanon, TN tomorrow night for steaks at Cherokee Marina if they have enough water for us to get in there.

Cedar Creek to Beasley's Bend

  Our issue with the windlass seems to be solved. I made a call to the Good Automatic Windlass folks and while waiting for a reply, I checked on the circuit breaker to remind myself of how it looks in case the marina nearby had something that I could use.
  While investigating, I noticed one of the terminals on the breaker was loose, definitely something that could cause the breaker to trip. When I had installed the windlass a couple of years ago I had overtightened the connections on the breaker and had ruined it. Tom at Good Automatic Windlass sent us another one free of charge, so when I installed the new breaker I only tightened it about as tight as a mouse would if a mouse could use a wrench.
  We experienced no problem when hauling the anchor yesterday morning, so we are keeping our fingers crossed that the windlass is fine. I am going to remove the swivel at the shackle to prevent the anchor from hanging up in the roller again.

  After the storm on Monday, we anchored just outside of Pearson's Cedar Creek Marina and we again found the big ugly boat we had seen over the weekend. I found out later that the owner has brought this boat back from a much worse condition. He probably loves this boat as much as we love ours and I apologize for being so hard on her.
  I had called the marina when they opened and asked where to tie up as we were coming in to see about a part and to see what we might need at their store. The owner directed us in and just the man I needed to talk to caught us at the dock. Larry Morgan is the "service manager", retired from Bell South three years ago and just cannot get away. Larry showed me around and explained as to how the marina was just getting back to business after a major storm a while ago. Everything is new and very nice, but his shop was moved and he can't find anything. We both rooted through his electrical stuff and couldn't find a circuit breaker that we could use. He offered to drive us anywhere we wanted to go on his lunch break if we needed anything.
  I checked out the store while Rosie filled the water tank on Swing Set, and also filled our laundry tub in the bilge, an old cooler that we put some Oxy-clean and water in and let it slosh around for a couple of days.
  We promised to stop in on our way back through this area to sample the restaurant fare and we left with a very positive impression of the place. I hope we did the same for them.
  The homes are more like estates and mansions along this section of Old Hickory Lake and were very impressive. Once we got up into the skinny part of the river, the scenery was beautiful and the homes were more of the type we could identify with as ex-river dwellers ourselves. One place that appealed to me was a cabin sitting high on a bluff that appeared to  be about 10' by 20', with a nice porch and a big fireplace on one end. All that was missing was a jug of moonshine, and it very well could have been there but our view was from way down below.
  In our Quimby's Guide there is a general store advertised called Shady Cove Resort, the last stop for any business on the river proper before you get to the Cordell Hull lock and dam.
Rosie called them to see just what could be had there and get some direction as to how the approach was up the 2.5 mile creek. Her question as to if they had enough water to get into the place was answered by the boast that they had a 53 foot Hatteras at their docks and that "sure there was plenty of depth if we just stayed between the markers". They had snacks and would sell us a loaf of bread from the restaurant, so we decided to check it out because, well, because "why not?"
  As we snaked our way up a creek with questionable depths, I realized that the claim of being only 2.5 miles up the creek was designed to get you hooked, and not give up on the attempt to realize the truer destination, a bit further away. We rounded a bend and were met with a view of more campers than the sale lot at Camper World, and boat docks that had seen better days. We made a timid approach and as I finally arrived at the "gas dock", I had already decided to just drop Rosie off to make some convenient purchases and pick her back up, staying out in deeper water. A guy who could have been the owner came down to the dock and asked if we were tying up. I told him I would have but it was pretty shallow there at his gas dock, I was showing 3.5 feet and the churned up mud proved it. I did mention as to how we had called to receive some direction about coming into the marina and he claimed that he didn't know we would be "coming in this far". I all but said that I sure the hell didn't know where I was going to be coming and he offered to tie us up at the end of one of the other docks. I kept encountering skinny water as I approached a couple of different places to let Rosie off and that's when we both decided to chuck the expedition and buy a loaf of bread from a Stop and Gulp somewhere we could see from the waterway. The Hatteras could have been sitting on the mud as far as we knew.
  Once we passed through Gallatin, TN, the river became very narrow but still 60-70 feet deep in spots. I vowed to wait until 5 or 6 o'clock to start seeking out an anchorage and felt like anywhere just off the channel would be OK as we had seen no barges and only a couple of bass boats. The bluffs were high above us and each turn of the river gave us another reason to keep on. The lure of the next turn is an addiction for us, and our trips on the motorcycle offered the same attraction and we found it hard to stop on some days.
  At about 4 o'clock, we rounded a bend and we found the prettiest girl at the dance in the way of potential anchorages. A small island separated a narrow strip of water from the main channel and our chart promised very deep water. We felt is was a bit early to hang up our spurs for the day but the attraction of this spot was too good to pass up. We used caution and sneaked our way up beside the island and dropped the hook. We eventually dropped the stern anchor too as the wind couldn't decide from which way to blow around the tall bluffs and Rosie didn't want to be in the water around "snake city" that was getting too close to our swim platform when the wind shifted.

  Here we are tucked behind the island, safe from the current and any passing vessels during the night, both of which were not to be found. Nothing but birds and a drifting log or two has passed by. Before dinner we took our baths as nature had intended and I wetted a couple of fishing lines as Rosie made a quick but delicious supper. We sat in the cockpit until the sun hid behind the high bluffs and enjoyed an after dinner cocktail. Rosie beat me again at another game of dominoes as Holly watched.
  I woke early as Rosie slept in and there was as thick a fog as I had ever seen surrounding us. I was glad we were anchored where we were, but still no boats of any kind has passed by. I was trying to find the news on the T.V. after auto-programming our channels, but only got cartoons and infomercials. No need for the distraction, so we ate a scrumptious breakfast of bacon and pancakes with only the sounds of the birds and fish jumping for entertainment.
  Our loosely knit plan is to make our way to the Cordell Hull Lock and Dam, about 35 miles upstream from where we are at Beasley's Bend. The Cordell Hull lock is somewhat of a pain to get through, requiring a call before noon on the preceding day to lock through. We're not that regimented, so if there is no one there to accommodate us, we're just going to turn around and head back down river. The lock is at mile 315 here on the Cumberland, so we've made quite a trip of it so far. Rosie wants to head back and be in Old Hickory Lake near the action for the weekend, and there is a steakhouse/marina we want to check out in Gallatin on the way back, so by the time we cruise up to Cordell Hull reservoir and back, probably stay here again tonight, and spend a night in Gallatin at the Cherokee Marina, it will be the weekend before we can get back to Skinny Dip Cove.
  Meanwhile there is another bend ahead in the river and I'm getting anxious to see what is around it. We're in for another very pretty day and comfortable temperatures before some hotter weather this weekend sets upon us.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Short Travel Day But We Have Our First Mission

  The conversation with our new acquaintance Jerry the other day came back to me as we passed the burned down home of what used to be Johnny Cash's house. One year after the almost 14,000 square foot home was bought by Barry Gibb in 2006, it burned to the ground and it remains so today. I didn't take any pictures.
  Not even 20 miles up the river we both were tired and decided to find an anchorage to have lunch and take a swim, maybe even a nap. We found Cedar Creek that was home to a private marina and a public one, Pearson's Cedar Creek Marina. I anchored out of the way along a tall bluff and eventually took our swim.

  Here Holly is showing her form, but making a bee line back to the boat from where Rosie swam out with her. We're trying to get her used to the idea that swimming is a fun thing.

  Before this shot I had noticed some clouds moving in and checked the weather radar and forecast. A spot shower was predicted, but nothing severe and winds were not predicted to exceed 7 miles per hour, especially by nightfall.
  I knew I didn't have enough rode let out on our anchor but we seemed to be holding OK. More anchor line was only going to put us closer to the bluffs that lined our anchorage, complete with very hard looking rocks at the waterline.

  This picture shows how pretty the sky looked with the sun contrasting with the big, dark, ugly clouds rolling in. Most people would have gotten nervous at this point and I did too.
  We battened down the hatches and got ready to ride out the storm and when the wind picked up, I mean really picked up, our proximity to the rocky shoreline became increasingly closer...and closer.
  Remember me mentioning our snarled anchor the other day? Over two years ago I installed a swivel at the anchor shackle and never had a problem with it on the Mississippi River. Several times so far, the anchor has been spun around and got caught on the pulpit and tripped the automatic reset breaker on the windlass. This means waiting a couple of minutes until the breaker resets after unsnarling the anchor and trying it again. Apparently the breaker has now weakened and wants to trip at any and everything. The idea that I was due to find another breaker at some point has been growing in my pea brain for the last couple of days and the idea has now sprouted into a full grown weed.
  An uncooperative windlass is bad enough on a calm day, but when a storm is threatening to blow you into some rocks, the matter grows in importance. The breaker on the windlass tripped several times and I kept Swing Set away from danger using her power. I kept calm between sips of Bud Light. No reason for panic. Panic never solves anything.
  With the anchor back on deck, we motored over to another cove with a gentle sloping shoreline, sure to mean nice soft mud; a much better place to get stuck as opposed to granite. We were just outside of the no wake buoys of Pearson's Cedar Creek Marina and not only let out about 100 foot of anchor line, I deployed a stern anchor too as the calming wind was doing more of a swirl and we weren't sure from which direction the wind would wind up coming from as the night wore on.
  Our storm had passed and a gentle rain fell as we had a hearty bowl of beef stew, one of several cans in our larder. Rosie trounced me in a game of dominoes before we watched a movie on our Roku player from Netflix. I'm not sure how much of our data plan we used up watching the movie, but didn't care.
  We slept like babes and here we are again. My mission for the day is to find a 30 amp resettable breaker, or have one (or two) shipped to us from the people at Good Automatic Windlass. I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Pulling Anchor and Heading Upriver

  We're becoming right at home here on Old Hickory Lake but are getting antsy and will head upriver this morning. Yesterday started out beautiful again weather wise and the cove we have called home for the weekend started filling up early with weekend boaters.
  Before it got too late, however, I took the dinghy to resupply the beer cooler and went back to the marina that sold us the older beer on Friday. A nice girl was taking inventory of the beer cooler when I walked in and I started checking out packaging dates on the available Budweiser and she said that she thought the date on the 12 pack was September of 2013. Sigh. I remarked as to how it couldn't possibly be that date and began to worry that it was September of 2011, but found that it was February of 2012, a bit long in the tooth but acceptable. The girl took up her post at the cash register while I continued with my selection when a well dressed gentleman asked me if there was a problem with the beer. I prefaced my response by saying that I wasn't complaining, but he did ask, so I told him about the beer we bought the other day that had a November date on the package.
  He immediately told me that he would refund my money if we only returned the product, but I said that I'd take responsibility for my mistake but that his distributor was not doing him any favors by trying to palm off last years beer to his customers. He agreed and was very appreciative of my comments, going as far as introducing himself as the owner of the marina and helping me to the dinghy with my purchases. I still paid way too much for a case of beer but I told Rosie that if I wanted to pay Stop and Go prices for beer, we better sell the boat and buy a camper. I feel like we made a friend with the marina owner and he'll be glad to see us come back. Still, this is what it's like selling beer to an ex beer factory employee.
  By the time I returned to the boat, Rosie and Holly were both ready for a swim and the cove was filling up with boaters. A 100 footer had pulled in and I took a picture of it, but it apparently didn't turn out. Just picture a very large fiberglass boat with a hull having classic lines, but with a superstructure from out of a Star Wars movie. Just plain big and ugly, similar to a couple of my high school gym teachers.

 We were taking in the scenery when the fella that owned this boat motored in and calmly dropped his hook and took a swim. We he returned to his boat, I took the dinghy over and chatted him up about his classic vessel. He was the second owner but had owned it many years and has just about rebuilt the entire boat, a 1968 Sidewinder. I was interested in the boat because a friend of ours from the Meramec River days had a Tahiti that looked almost identical to this boat. Don will appreciate the memory.
  It turns out that the owner of the Sidewinder grew up on Old Hickory Lake and Jerry lived "right around the corner" and gave me his complete address. He was "in the music industry" and dropped names of some country music stars who I didn't know and he also directed us to cruise by Johnny Cash's house on our way upriver when we go, a house now owned by Barry Gibb. Barry won't be home today, I suppose. His brother Robin died yesterday. Another coincidence we have encountered, albeit a sad one.
  I make note of Jerry's calm placement of his anchor as he putted into the cove, and watching boaters drop their anchors is an interesting thing for us, especially the ones with smaller boats with no windlass. A small Danforth or mushroom anchor is typically deployed and it's the anchor tossing that we get a kick out of. I don't know why people think that tossing the anchor is going to get it far enough away from the boat to do any good, but various methods of tossing are used; anywhere from the golf swing toss to the shot put style. I have yet to see the Will Rogers method, swinging the anchor around the head and letting go, lasso style, but I'm surprised that I haven't.
  After my comments yesterday about kids and the weather, two things happened yesterday that dripped with irony. First, a whole tribe of kids swam over to visit Holly. One of the little girls was named Holly too, and she got an extra helping of face licks from her namesake, and a couple of extra happy barks too. Their parents seemed to be interested in my offer to babysit, cheap, and I was almost afraid they would take us up on the offer.
  The other thing that happened was that some clouds tried to roll in, along with some thunder and lightening. The threat chased some boaters off but nothing serious developed and things returned to normal. We grilled some hot dogs for dinner and had a feast of dogs and cabbage salad. Yum. It was very calm when we turned in after some T.V. and reading but at around 12 A.M. I heard a strange noise and got up to investigate.
  Swing Set had pulled anchor and we were setting alongside a private dock as if we had planned it. I probably should have put some fenders out and tied up, but instead we positioned our boat in the middle of the empty cove with the bow pointed into the wind and about 200 feet of rode out. It was "a breezin' and a blowin'" as a friend from Meramec Marina used to say, and Rosie and I stood watch until we were satisfied that our anchor was happily stuck in the mud bottom. No rain materialized, but justice has been served, my chuckle over how other people cast their anchors has been adequately repaid.
  Speaking of a mud bottom, as pretty as this lake is, there are still litterbugs around, or at least the remnants of past litterbugs. I was walking on the bottom near the boat yesterday and I stepped on what felt like a rusty old steel soda or beer can and as the can collapsed around my toes, I sustained a scratch on one of the middle ones. This morning I applied some antiseptic to my toe to fend off infection. I wondered aloud to Rosie about the possibility of contracting lockjaw from my injury and I think she was genuinely concerned about my health but I did detect a wistful look on her face about the prospects of me getting lockjaw. I've long given up using the silent treatment as I know Rosie enjoys it too much.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Old Hickory Lake...Still

  On Friday we spent the better part of the morning on a fact finding mission after two of the crew here on Swing Set got haircuts; Holly and myself. Both haircuts were not worthy of payment which is a lucky thing because none was expected. Rosie's only defense being her truthful admission that, "I'm no beautician". My excuse for the doo on Holly was that she wouldn't hold still, a ploy that will hold up for quite a while, I think.
  Using the dinghy, we later visited several marinas and a couple of anchorages nearby. We found a great disparity in the price of fuel, and in the price of beer. At one place I had two cases on the counter ready to purchase and found out that I was about to pay $1.50 per can of the nectar. I must have looked desperate. I respectfully declined being the victim of such robbery and helped the nice girl return the beer to the cluttered corner where I found it.
  We were luckier at another stop, although it took some savvy negotiation on my part just to get the price down to under $1.00 per can. A rather huffy capitalist did her best to explain beer pricing to me, but I wasn't born yesterday and I know a little about the cost of beer. I was so caught up into the deal I missed checking the age of the beer and made a mistake for which I'll take full responsibility, not return it, and drink every drop. It'll still taste better than Miller Lite, no matter what the born on date is. We'll drink the older stuff later in the day when our taste buds get numb.
  By late Friday afternoon we decided to get around some society and took the dinghy to Anchor High Marina, near the lock, and to a restaurant called Rudders. The place was packed and we thought a wedding was taking place or some other reception, but it was a typical Friday night crowd. I saw two fellas enjoying lots of elbow room at a high top table for at least four and asked Rosie to go over and see if we could join them while I did battle at the three customer deep bar. Neither of us had to wait long as Rosie was offered a seat, and a waitress asked if I was to be sitting nearby and that she would be glad to bring over our ice cold bucket of beers.
  The two guys turned out to be very friendly and full of good local advice. They stayed and talked for about an hour before moving on and leaving us to attract some other patrons to join us.
  We found Swing Set in the dark with no problem and was happy to find Holly behaving herself, left all alone on watch. We woke on Saturday to another beautiful morning, a quick breakfast, and a mission to accomplish.
  By 8 A.M. we were on our way up the river to get fuel at Creekwood Marina, at $3.89 per gallon their fuel price bested others as high as $5.17 and was probably delivered by the same truck. They open at 9 A.M. and we pulled up to the fuel dock on the button. 210 gallons later we were topped off and even the $820 dollar fuel bill left me a happy camper. We had traveled way over 520 miles and even adding the 19 gallons we acquired at Hoppies, and the other 20 gallons we stowed away in the bilges for the trip and added once we got into Kentucky Lake, we still did better than 2 miles per gallon at our turtle like pace of 7-8 miles per hour. With still over 100 gallons left in the tanks before filling up, I could depend on over a 600 mile range in a pinch. Rougher water will decrease that number, but it's something to work with. We won't make it to Spain, but most other crossings can be made with no sweat.
  We got a line on a local party cove called "Two Foot Cove". We knew the place would be skinny, but the river is down a bit and this anchorage turned out to be just too shallow for us to properly inflict ourselves on the clientele. Not only that, but judging by the amount of deck boats chock full of kiddies making their way into the hot spot, Two Foot didn't seem to be up our alley. We like our entertainment to be more of the adult variety.

We chugged back to Skinny Dip cove and found things more to our liking. We spent the afternoon visiting in the dinghy and also had some nice folks swim up to our boat and visit us too. One question we got was what we do when the weather turns bad and my incredulous answer was, "You mean the weather turns bad?"
  This picture was taken early in the day and the attendance at least doubled by day's end. Of course the battery on the camera failed again. Time for a new camera, as the battery was replaced last winter.
  We made some roughly knit plans for Sunday and next weekend too, as we have decided  to head upriver on Monday again as there is still over 100 miles of navigable river upstream from us and we'll see what we can see up there and be back here on Old Hickory for the Memorial Holiday weekend.
  The partying was still going strong when we ran out of gas and decided to have a nice dinner and chill out for the rest of the evening. The sun and heat got to us, not to mention those high priced Bud Lights.

  Once again we were treated to a pretty sunset as we sat off the channel behind two islands, keeping us out of the boat wakes for a quiet evening once the other boaters went on their way. We watched a little T.V., read some on our Kindles, and called it a night.
  On Sunday morning, there was one other boat in the cove and they had to be a late arrival, either too pooped to keep going or someone wanting an early start on the partying.
  After a healthy dose of Cheerios for me and a yummy breakfast bar for Rosie, along with the customary two cups of coffee each, I'm hard at work on this post and Rosie is mopping the dew off of Swing Sets decks. I'm starting to like this regimen.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Harpeth River to Old Hickory Lake

  We got a slow start on Thursday morning as we didn't intend on traveling too far yesterday. Nashville was less than 40 miles away and we decided to take a couple of days to get there, anchor somewhere close, and then go to a club we like in Nashville on Saturday night. I had some reservations, though, because the information available to us on Active Captain didn't give very good reviews about the docking in downtown Nashville. More on that later.
  As we made our way upstream by 9:30, we were impressed by the beautiful homes along the Cumberland River. The land in this area downstream from Nashville is fairly flat, and the homes are raised, but not on stilts. The river is wide and anchoring along the banks would have given us some distance from barge traffic that I would have been satisfied with.
  We approached Rock Harbor Marina, the home of the inflated diesel prices, by 3 P.M. The entrance is made through a very narrow channel lined with rock as it's in an old quarry. The guide book advertises a 25 foot depth in the harbor but the entrance is a bit less than 6 feet. Plenty of big boats were seen inside, so I figured access to the harbor was doable. The harbor is in a state of construction and is not the prettiest place. Noise from an adjacent sand and gravel business can be heard and probably gets tiresome after a while. I believed the harbor depth of 25 feet or more because a sail boat was sunk near the fuel dock and judging by the diameter of the mast still poking above the waterline, the hull was at least 25 feet below it.
  We pulled into the fuel dock and was met with an "open" sign on the door but no one was home. I hailed the marina on the published channel of 79, as well as channel 16 and got no response. Note that the fuel dock is on the "other side" of the harbor and a drive was necessary to get over to it from the main area.
  As we were only going to get a minimum amount of fuel in order to justify filling our water tank, I wasn't too worried about rousing anyone and started topping off our water. We finished the top off and my conscience told me to call the harbor on the telephone, so I did. (I blame this trait on my Catholic upbringing but am trying to overcome it.) The nice person that answered allowed as he was the only person around. I feigned some disappointment but was delighted not to have to buy even a nominal amount of diesel and told him that I thought we would be OK on fuel and could wait until our return through the area in a few days to get fuel. He expressed relief that he would not have to leave his post and even offered for us to use the pump out station if we needed it. We declined but asked about an anchorage upriver that we had seen on the chart and he said that boaters did indeed use it, so we thanked him and pulled out of the harbor.
  We figured to anchor just downriver from Nashville for a day or two but I nearly passed by what I thought was the entrance to a slough just off the channel that we could plant the hook, but learned that the slough was barely wider than our boat. I wondered what boaters used this slough, according to the nice guy back at Rock Harbor. Our options were running low as we approached downtown Nashville.

  The area is as industrial as I suspected and as we spied the docks downtown, one across from the other, we knew we wouldn't be staying there.
  My instincts have gotten me far in life, and "judging a book by its cover" is a fault I may have, but you have to make decisions on what is available to you. Around the municipal dock there is an abundance of vagrants, strike one. The guidebook says to call for overnight dockage and there is no one to take your money, so there is also no security. Strike two. The thought of leaving Swing Set tied up there with Holly inside and no one but the homeless folks to keep watch was out of the question. Strike three.
  The other interesting thing is that we were to incur a surcharge of over 3% to pay by credit card, but there really is no other way for anyone to take our money over the phone. I guess people mail checks. The honor system may be the way its done, but I didn't see much honor lurking about and I wish we were making 3% on our money right now. We took a pass and decided on another plan.
  I have to explain here my theory about finding anchorages: It's like going to a club and trying to find a date. You don't pick up the homely girl at 8 P.M. You wait until the last possibility is played out before you resort to a compromise, unless you are into racking up high numbers, but that's another story. We won't pick a questionable anchorage unless hard put to do it, but in fact will if we have too. Good choices early pave the way for better anchorages later.
  We knew that the lock into Old Hickory Lake was three hours away at our pace, which put us there by 6 P.M., no problem if we could get through the lock quickly, so we settled back and enjoyed the scenery. The narrow river doesn't offer much in the way of anchorages, so locking through increasingly became the plan.
  We had been listening to Pandora on our iPad all day and was enjoying the variety of music, a departure from our catalogue of songs and we had a good signal all day without any problems. Remember my comment from the other day about a towboat ringing our ship's bell while we listened to Yellow Submarine?

  We were listening to the Flying Burrito Brothers singing "Wild Horses" as we rounded a bend and this is the view we came upon, I kid you not. These are the only horses we have seen on our trip so far, and the only ones we have seen since. Now these horses weren't wild, but these coincidences are too weird. Next time we hear "Money" by Pink Floyd come on the stereo, we're keeping an extra eye out.

    We were approaching Opryland, USA and passed under this pedestrian bridge. It looks bigger than it does in reality, only being wide enough for cyclists and such, and the structure is a single I-beam, albeit a very tall one. This is for all you engineer types that follow this blog. I mean, what else do you have to do?

  These are paddle wheelers for Opryland and they were waiting for weekend passengers I guess and right after this shot the camera decided it needed a battery charge, so we were forced to omit some pretty neat pictures we would have taken.
  The river here is very narrow and is carved through deep rock. The homes sit high on cliffs and one enterprising person erected a small plane seemingly crashed into the cliff below their house, pretty funny for some people. I took a photo with the iPhone but it didn't come out. I'll try on the return trip.
  We called the Old Hickory lock when we were about ten miles downstream from it to see what the possibility of getting a timely lock through would be in about an hour, and was told that we would be in good shape if we were on time because a down river bound tow wasn't due for two hours. I knew we could make it at our 7-8 miles per hour speed but decided to let Swing Set run a bit. I wasn't on plane for more than a couple of miles when we rounded a turn and came upon two bass boats parked in the channel. I backed off to not offend or swamp them and just settled back into our customary speed, secure in the fact that our slower pace still made sense all around. They waved as a sign of thanks, made us all happy.
  A rough estimate of our mileage results in about 500 miles traveled so far since May 8th and we still show a quarter tank, which means a minimum of 80 gallons, probably more, so waiting to fill up once we get into Old Hickory and Creekwood Marina was a good decision.
  I hailed Old Hickory lock right on time at 6 P.M., and as we came into view, they blew the horn and the gates started opening. We coasted right on in and with minimal delay because of the wind, we were buttoned up and raised into the Old Hickory Pool.
  I had consulted our chart on the iPad and loosely picked out an anchorage and as luck would have it, it turned out to be perfect.

  We watched the sunset as we made sure the anchor held in the 11 feet of water we were in. The shores are lined with homes and we intentionally picked out a spot that was lined with trees and we picked right. The night was one of the more peaceful we have had and we kept all the windows and hatches open and enjoyed a nice cool nights sleep after a dinner of delicious leftover sirloin and pork steaks.
  An example of just how lucky we get sometimes can be shown by what I found this morning before starting this post: I was looking at the Active Captain site to see what was around here on the order of good anchorages, even though this one seems perfect, and I found that right around the corner from where we are is an anchorage named "Skinnydip Cove". Now, they don't name coves "Skinnydip" for nothing, so we're going to take the dinghy over there later and we don't expect to find a church service in progress, especially tomorrow or on Sunday.
  Our intended fuel stop is right up a long cove nearby too, as is some restaurants, bars, and other marinas. We think the dinghy will be put to good use at least through the weekend as we'll probably stay put right here at least until Monday. This is what it's all about for us.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Clarksville, TN to Cheatham Lake and the Harpeth River

  The courtesy dock at Clarksville lived up to it's name and was a courtesy for sure. It was quiet and we slept like logs and woke to another morning of dense fog. Our dock neighbor had already departed by the time we got up at 6:30 and we enjoyed a relaxing breakfast before Rosie attacked the bugs on the boat using the morning dew as the cleaning agent.
  I took Holly for a walk along McGregor Park and she didn't miss barking at anyone and everything, but did walk proudly beside me, albeit on a very short leash.
  By 9 A.M. we were ready to depart as a young girl came down to the dock and offered a hello before she sat down on the edge of the dock and started assembling her morning joint. I can only guess it was her first. I cautioned her to watch her legs as I backed away from the accumulated river debris hugging the bow of Swing Set and she gave a friendly wave goodbye. It was only her absence of several teeth that prevented me from suggesting she take a ride with us to the next port. This is a joke. The ride, not the part about the teeth.
  The Cumberland in this area is very narrow, and even more so with the pool being so low. We passed the Clarksville Marina which is still under construction but looks like it will be very nice. Some workers gave a wave and gave a honk. We passed several river homes stuck to the cliffs along the way, nice views but very little river access.

  This is the Clarksville Boat Club, a private marina right on the river channel. I had called them the day before and was told that they did have diesel, but their uncertainty as to when they last filled their fuel tanks gave me enough information to pass them by. I saw perhaps two vessels in the line up that may have taken diesel, so my instincts were right on to not stop for fuel at this place. No matter, we have plenty to get us to Old Hickory Lake; still running on Hoppie's fuel.
  We kept hearing about the necessity for AIS on the Cumberland River due to the narrow channel and the many twists and turns when encountering towboats. We haven't seen this to be the issue if we pay attention, and the key is that we go slow. Running any faster will just enrage the many fishermen we pass, so our pace is good for not only seeing the barges ahead of time, but also to keep the natives friendly and save on fuel.

  We had called the Cheatham lock one hour before we figured to arrive and was told that a southbound tow was in the chamber and would be spit out in time for us to cruise in and lock up into Cheatham Lake. We arrived one hour later on the dot and hailed the lockmaster and was disappointed to learn that there were some "difficulties" and it would be at least an hour and a half before we could lock up. We took up residence among several fishermen below the dam to wait it out and have lunch...and a nap...and play with Holly...etc. etc. until nearly three hours passed.
  While we waited I called ahead for fuel availability as we will need it eventually. Twenty five miles away there is diesel and they are charging a very proud $4.99 per gallon for it. Seventy five miles away we can get it for $3.69 per gallon. Guess where we are going.
  We had a couple of mishaps of our own as we raised our anchor and found it to be twisted around in spite of our swivel at the shackle, just to prevent what eventually happened. I don't like Rosie to be putting her fingers anywhere around the windlass or chain when something goes wrong, so I wound up leaving the bridge to unsnarl the anchor from the chain.
  We still pulled in right behind the southbound tow as he pulled out, and grabbed a floating bollard and chatted with the lockmaster a bit. He was sorry for our wait and before we pulled away, he brought a little gift bag to us full of water safety goodies and other trinkets. The coloring book and crayons are already thrown into the trash. We might keep the frisbee; at least until the first toss.
  I had an anchorage in mind for the afternoon, but with the hold up at the lock I picked a closer spot but it turned out to be a bust. My intended mark was a place called Johnson's Creek and it advertised a depth of 13 feet off the channel. Even with a normal pool, Johnson wasn't co-operating so I made for my intended anchorage in the Harpeth River, a spot I found this morning on Active Captain.
  The mouth of the Harpeth River off the Cumberland River was as narrow as the chart suggested, but it looked deep once the cut was passed and we were not disappointed. We slipped along in 30 feet of water for about a half mile before we came to a nice pool that opened up and had a lot of privacy. The river seemed to abruptly end right at the end of the pool we were in and the depth below our hull dropped to 4.5 feet so we figured we were at the end of the navigable river and dropped the hook.
  The river looked to continue along some bluffs that I thought would be fun to explore, so we popped the dinghy in, grabbed Holly and a couple of Buds and took a ride.

  I took these two shots before we headed up the Harpeth River in the dinghy and we had a pleasant surprise as to how far we could go. We passed a campground and several fishermen and cruised along for at least a half an hour before turning around and heading back to Swing Set. The river reminded me of the Huzzah in Missouri, and we were enjoying the ride.
  Back at the boat, we saw Holly take her first swim, unintentional it turns out, as she got too curious with something floating in the drink and slipped in. We turned a mishap into a bath and she recovered from her ordeal none the worse for wear and gained some experience to boot.
  I made a sirloin steak on the Magma grill as the sun set and dinner was as peaceful as can be. The water is so still here that the corn shucks that Rosie tossed out earlier are still bobbing around the boat. It should be a quiet night.
  For now, Rosie is catching up on some email on the iPad and I'm doing this blog on the desktop Mac as the cell service here is perfect. We'll yank the dinghy back onto the brackets and maybe catch something on T.V., or play some cards. Both activities will bring on the yawns in no time. All around, it has been a very good day.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lake Barkley to Clarksville, TN

  We've been MIA for a few days and there is good reason. Our friends Brett and Christine Thompson, along with 'Tines parents Madge and Jerry Koerner, keep their boats at Green Turtle Bay on Lake Barkley, just a canal away from Kentucky Lake.
  When we were resting after a long trip last Friday in Shedds Creek on Kentucky Lake, Brett brought a dinghy over and we caught up on gossip and then met him over at Green Turtle Bay where Madge and Brett helped us into the dock. Jerry was on his way and Christine needed to be picked up in Nashville, so we spent the evening with Madge and Jerry at the Club at Green Turtle Bay and had a blast.
  On Saturday morning, Christine took Rosie to the local IGA where she stocked us back up on stuff we might not see in a while, one of the items being cabbage that Rosie thought was iceberg lettuce. It made for an interesting salad.

  We also got to tour Madge and Jerry's 480 Sea Ray. It is absolutely gorgeous and Madge keeps this boat spotless.

  Brett and Christine's 42 foot convertible Silverton is a beautiful boat too. The layout is very efficient and the best thing is that the previous owner opted for an additional refrigerator in the galley instead of an oven. Brett uses it for beer only. There is a reason we are friends.

  When we got back to Swing Set, parked for a few hours in a slip, we threw rocks at it, our friends boats are that nice.
  On Saturday afternoon we took Swing Set and followed Blonde Moment to the rock quarry on Kentucky Lake. It's the local party cove and we did the place justice, even though it was cold and rainy. Brett and Christine's friends Allan and Agada came by in their 340 Sea Ray and we were troopers and made an afternoon of it.
  If that wasn't enough, we cruised back to the dock by dusk and we dropped Swing Set off, said goodbye to Holly, and jumped aboard Blonde Moment with Brett, Christine, Allan, Agada, and two more friends of theirs, Dave and Wendy, to motor up to Buzzard Rock to have dinner. I can attest to the fact that life is not complete without several orders of "Buzzard Balls", and some other dishes that are usually found on the floor somewhere, but taste like heaven.

  This is the dock that we visited at Green Turtle Bay and this is only about 3/4s of it. Don't forget anything in the car; it's a long walk back. Almost every slip has a patio area and it's a non-stop flow of boaters coming back and forth and everyone is friendly and offers a hello or two.
  Sunday was overcast and nasty and we joined everyone is some non-productive lounging until Brett and Christine had to cast off for St.Louis. Rosie and I shared a cocktail or two with Madge and Jerry and were happy when they let us join them at the club again on Sunday night.

  The club at Green Turtle Bay sets on stilts and is very nice inside. On Sunday night, Terry the bartender holds court and it's an event that shouldn't be missed. Some of the staff comes by and Terry and them usually have some good natured ribbing to dispense with during the course of the evening. It turns out that Terry is also from St. Louis and we had quite a few mutual acquaintances, some of them that actually stayed out of prison or didn't get blown up.

  Here's me, Rosie, Madge and Jerry having a real good time. Right after this, I tried to take Terry's picture and he politely declined having his picture taken. In fact, he declined so politely I was lucky to get a beer afterwards. It was a fun evening and we were the last to leave.
  Rosie and I got a slow start on Monday morning and headed up the Cumberland River on a very dismal morning. We didn't know how far or where we would wind up on Monday evening, but we quickly found out that the advice we got from some savvy captains at Green Turtle Bay about staying in the channel on Lake Barkley was true. From what I could tell, the lake was about 6 feet below normal. I began to wonder about where we were going to be able to drop a hook for the night.
  I saw some promising spots late in the afternoon and made an approach to one at Devil's Elbow and didn't like what the depth finder was reporting, so we pressed on. I saw another spot on the chartplotter that had some secondary markers, indicating a place to anchor off the channel, but others like it looked pretty skinny to me. I called a marina at Bumpus Mills, Tennessee and the nice lady told me to come on in but don't stray from the marked channel. I asked about a place to anchor and she said there were plenty of them, even knowing we wouldn't wind up as customers because they didn't serve diesel.
  We followed the markers in, but I wasn't sure of where to drop the hook when an older fella in a bass boat told us to follow him and he took us right to a perfect anchorage where we spent the night.

  I BBQ'd some pork steaks and then we sat on the deck to watch the sunset. You've seen sunsets, but you haven't seen Holly hold still like this for a picture. No sunset, just this shot.
  I tried to write the blog but cell service was poor. We played dominoes and turned in before 10 P.M. We woke after a delightful nights sleep to a soupy fog that lifted shortly after we had breakfast and Rosie was able to get a million bugs off the boat only using several buckets of Cumberland River water. I offered moral support because Rosie insisted on going it alone.

  We headed up the Cumberland River and set our sights for Clarksville, Tennessee, knowing that we could arrive around 5 P.M. doing our customary 7 miles per hour. I did find out that I had to be judicious about my union breaks with Rosie at the helm. She mistook a guy in a red tee shirt for a starboard marker: Understandable until you find out that he was in a jon boat with three other fellas.

  The Cumberland today was a slow, lazy river, not much bigger than the Meramec back home. The crystal clear water soon gave way to a murky debris field due to some recent rains, but it wasn't too bad.
  I checked earlier in the day on Active Captain for anchorages but didn't find any, but did see a courtesy dock at Clarksville. They offer free electricity, but no water. There is no charge at all. Ding ding ding. We're in.

  Here's Swing Set at the city dock at Clarksville where we left her and Holly. We walked up the hill to a neat little district lined with bars and restaurants. We picked out a place called Kelly's and met with some of the locals and had a nice time.
  Another vessel was at the dock when we got back and they were headed back the way we had come. We traded information and were both glad to get it. I know where the best place to get fuel is now in Old Hickory Lake, and he knows where to toss his anchor tomorrow night at Bumpus Mills.
  We plan on locking through at the Cheatham Lock tomorrow but are in no hurry. We're less than 70 miles away from Nashville and really don't want to get there until Friday or Saturday night. I hope tomorrow we can find a place to set the hook and spend a day and do nothing. We'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cape Girardeau to Kentucky Lake

  It wasn't as dark as this photo indicates when we finally finished dinner and took hot showers before relaxing with some wine; one of our parting gifts from Duck Club friends Sonny and Neecie Robbins. I'm keeping a firm hand on Holly, as having her on my lap only wearing a robe is....dangerous, with the sharp claws and all.
  We slept so well in the Diversion Canal that we missed our early wake up time but as it turned out, we should have slept in longer. The sky was clear in the canal, lots of dew on the boat, as we hauled up both anchors with some difficulty. That Missouri muck didn't want to let us go.

  As we pulled into the Mississippi channel we were met with some wispy fog skating across the river surface and buoys were hard to see, but not impossible. I motored up to our now comfortable speed of 12 miles per hour at 1100 R.P.M., slipped on my sunglasses and sipped my second cup of coffee as we stole what warmth we could from the sun behind the welcome isinglass on the bridge.

  We came around a sharp bend in the river and was met with very thick fog, as the channel entered into a section of the river protected on the east by a tall bluff. Coming in our direction was what seemed to be a large house floating above the mist. Of course it was a towboat, but was far enough to my port to be of no concern. I hailed him on the VHF to let him know that I saw him and he said he saw us too, even better. He said the fog was thick as soup approaching the bridge, but was starting to clear up. I said I would slow down to let the sun do it's job and clear up the smoke. I also turned on the radar to help see the channel markers and by the time we reached the bridge, we could see the buoys just fine so we gave the radar a rest.
  The rest of the 50 odd miles down to the mouth of the Ohio River was uneventful except for a tow that felt a need to exert his authority over little old us and hogged our side of the river. I heard someone mumble something about a "pleasure craft" over the radio, so I answered back with something along the lines of "Are you hailing us?", to which he replied, "You're on a pleasure craft ain't you?"
  My answer was, "I sure hope so."
  He passed us on our port about a bass boat length away with our starboard nearly against the bank. We gave a friendly wave but really wanted to give a Sicilian Salute.
  The Ohio River was a welcome sight but our speed dropped off naturally as we started heading back upstream. I bumped the CATS up to 1400 RPM to keep us at a slow, but progressive 7 miles per hour. The still murky water of the Ohio looked like the Caribbean Sea compared to the Mississippi and was flat as my wallet.

  As we settled in for a three hour cruise to the first lock, Rosie went down below and left Holly on the flybridge with me to co-pilot. She was more interested in napping and was miffed that I woke her for this photo.
  Now my next few comments will give the more prepared captain the shivers, but is an indication of how much I prepare in the way of plotting our course, which in short, is minimal.
  So far, to navigate we're using our Navionics App on our iPad and a Quimby's Guide. Not bad until you learn that the Quimby's Guide is 12 years old. How I feel about it is this; any older chart or guide may not show a new bridge or lock, but a brand new chart or guide can't show you logs or other boats either. So you just have to pay attention. Sometimes you have a pleasant surprise.
  In my last post I mentioned three locks we had to negotiate before locking into Lake Barkley or Kentucky Lake. My old Quimby's Guide mentions Olmstead lock but no information, and then Lock and Dam 53 just two miles upstream. Even I know that the Corps of Engineers isn't going to put a lock and dam two miles apart, so I figured the Olmstead lock was going to replace the older lock two miles away. We could see some major construction up ahead and knew it was the Olmstead Lock, but didn't know at what stage the construction was in. I called channel 13, the supposed contact channel for locks on the Ohio, and got no one. I then called the phone number listed for Lock and Dam 53 and a sweet old lady told me to just call Lock and Dam 53 on channel 13 and they could direct me.
  As I was trying to hail someone on channel 13, we got closer to the Olmstead Lock and realized that we could idle through the construction zone on the Kentucky side of the river, so we just peeled our eyes for Lock 53 and the impending delay. We passed a pretty building on the Illinois side of the river at the point where Lock 53 used to be, now just a memory. Something tells me that the nice lady I talked to on the phone must be the great aunt of the current Colonel of the Corps of Engineers and no one bothered to tell her that Lock 53 has been demolished. They also didn't tell her that Lock 52 was demolished either, because the same pretty building was present where the Lock and Dam 52 was supposed to be. Still present was plenty of flags flying and dozens of cars parked outside of the official looking building. Our tax dollars at work, but we were happy about not having to lock through.
  My impression of the lower Ohio River was mixed due to this little misunderstanding on my part, but because two locks have come up missing and the third yet to be built, the members of the Corps who place the navigation buoys seem to have to supervision. In fact, the buoys on the last 50-60 miles of the Ohio River seem to be place with the aid of a B-1 bomber, with no rhyme or reason to where they go. Either this is the case, or the Corps folks are in cahoots with the fuel suppliers, because the sail line bounces from bank to back like a pinball.
  I was dutifully following my red buoys on the right when I crossed under the Brookport Bridge and the buoys disappeared. I saw a towboat way over on my starboard side coming our way and hailed him to ask if he had a preference on which side we were to pass, hoping he could give me some clue as to what side of the river I was supposed to be on. I wasn't too worried, because the depth finder always over rules a possible errant marker, but I try to gather my intelligence where I can.
  I hailed the tow and the captain asked where I was. I said I was right ahead of him just coming under the Brookport Bridge. He says, "Is that you waaaay over there on the Illlinois shore?" I looked to my right. I looked to my left. I said, "No, I'm right smack in the middle of the river", to which he replied, "Just stay over there". Damn pleasure boaters.

  By late afternoon we were pulling into Paducah Harbor and needed to formulate our plan for staying the night somewhere. The entrance to the Tennessee River was fast approaching and we had to make a decision whether to head up to the Kentucky Lock, or take the Ohio upstream for a few miles to the Cumberland River and then into Lake Barkley. There was anchorage there in Paducah, but was a bit too much industrial for our tastes, and I did see spots on the chart upriver at the Cumberland River entrance where spending the night was possible, but our future was decided soon after we rounded the island that fronts the Paducah Harbor and the slough meets the mouth of the Tennessee River.
  Nearly crystal clear water was mixing with what now looked like a filthy Ohio River. We made a quick phone call to the Kentucky Lock to ask how business was and then did the math. The trip upstream on the advised Cumberland River route to avoid a delay at the Kentucky Lock meant about 20 more miles to travel, along with the accompanying fuel cost. The lockmaster at the Kentucky Lock said we could do much better by coming that evening than waiting until morning. With over three hours of daylight left, we decided to head up the pretty Tennessee River.
  The current was slower on the Tennessee, so at 1400 R.P.M.s we were making 8 miles per hour, plenty of speed to get us to the lock and a place to get on a hook to wait. As I had mentioned the water was very clear, in fact, men were bow fishing along the waterway. The only thing taking the shine off the scenery was a lot of dead fish and plenty of industry along the route. If anyone remembers the Boat At Riverbend that was moored in Alton for a few years, they would be as surprised as us to find it moored along the lower Tennessee River, destined for the scrap yard perhaps.
  Here's Rosie at the helm as I stepped out onto the bow of Swing Set to enjoy the ride for awhile. The sun was trying to get below the horizon as we tried to beat it and make the Kentucky Lock before it set.

  Holly wasn't trying to do anything but stay nestled in my abandoned jacket and was disturbed just one more time for this photo. She's becoming quite at home aboard Swing Set except when we leave her below for needed potty breaks and we pass a towboat; then she hides behind the toilet until the boat stops bucking. She'll get used to it.
  We neared the Kentucky Lock and saw not one, but two tows in line to lock through. We hailed the lock and were surprised to learn that they were waiting for us to show up and would lock us through ahead of the two tows, just as soon as they got a southbound tow locked through.
  Rosie made a phone call to our friend Jen Dixon and we had dinner while we waited for less than an hour, but it was still dark by the time we entered the lock chamber. Our exit was met with the complete blackness of the vast expanse of Kentucky Lake and no moon. I had already decided where we were going to anchor for the night, but still had to find it. We employed our Navionics, the depth finder, our handheld spotlight, and the radar, along with good old eyeballs, to head over to Shedd Creek and our anchorage for the night.
  The radar was useless at our sphincter friendly speed of complete idle because it's designed for use at cruising speed, and the reflecting tape on the buoys here on Kentucky Lake seem to be the size of postage stamps. We followed the plotted course to a "T", but it was still nearly midnight before we were satisfied with the bite of our hook and turned in. I still set an anchor watch on the iPad.
  Thursday was an eighteen hour day, but we were able to wake this morning with nothing on our agenda except to write this blog and clean the bugs off the boat that did their best to find Swing Set last night, even a half mile off shore. Guess who got to write the blog.

  This was our view at 6:30 this morning looking into the back of the cove we are in. Rosie is out mopping, and as soon as this blog is published, I'll check the oil and dump the diesel we have in our jugs in the engine room into our fuel tanks. I don't know the tally on the fuel usage from Hoppies to here, but I'm guessing less than 100 gallons judging by our fuel gauges. Not bad, but you have to consider our slow speed. We don't care. We have more time than money.