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.


  1. I checked out Active Captain. Cool stuff. Looks like there's some sightseeing to do on Ol Hickory. Find a nice house for me ;) I could live in Nashville.

  2. Great read, I am glad to see your dinghy is finally going to get some action! ;o)

  3. I wish Active Captain was available on the iPad, but it only works on the Mac. I look at the info in the morning and use it to find anchorages. We have found the "party cove" and will inflict ourselves on others this afternoon. Went to a Yacht Club last night and it was packed. We met some nice folks and found the boat in the dark very late.
    Jeff, the dinghy will get more action today. :)

  4. I too have checked and downloaded Active Captain very cool app and by your writings very useful. Thank you and cheers