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Sunday, July 29, 2012

One Last Party at Fort Loudon Lake

  Friends we met at Kentucky Lake back in May came to Fort Loudon Lake over the weekend. Steve and Dina met us out on Steve's brothers boat in a place on the lake called Prater Flat. It's their party cove area and on Saturday it was full of boats. I don't have a picture of it, but picture some water with a bunch of boats anchored on it. Some other boats tied up with us as the afternoon wore on and we had lots of fun and I won't go into it here.
  This morning we had to use our jumper cables to get one of the boats tied next to us started as the fella who owned it left his fridge on all night and killed his battery. Steve and Dina had a five hour drive ahead of them, so they pulled out early and we were right behind them. We were just a little under the weather and we didn't want to stay for the day, but plenty of people from the day before had wanted us to. Wasn't gonna happen.
  We drove down the lake to the Fort Loudon Marina and got fuel for the first time in 19 days. It was a deal at 3.59 per gallon. The fuel dock manager, Brett King told us that they like to keep their fuel prices low so people can afford to be out on the water. I wish everyone felt that way. We also learned that staying over night in a transient slip is only $30, that's with electricity too. We were tempted to stay just to enjoy a full day in the air conditioning, but we were itching to get down the river. Brett also offered us use of their courtesy car if we wanted to get some provisions, even if we weren't staying. The nearly $600 we spent on fuel helped, but offers like that aren't made every day. We didn't take him up on the offer, but we cannot say enough nice things about our short visit at the Fort Loudon Marina. We got fuel and water and called the lock and was told to come on down, the lock master would have the gates open for us in about five minutes. The Fort Loudon Marina is within sight of the Lock and Dam.


 We waited in the lock for three other boats and the lock master came out to chat. He was a really nice guy and we told him a little about our travels. He told us like many others do, that "we're living the dream" and thought it was great. He also said that "You can't have too much fun, and a woman can't be too pretty" as he motioned to Rosie. I didn't know they let lock masters drink on the job.
  We had a nice breezy day and we traveled another twenty-five miles on Watts Bar Lake to an anchorage we stayed at on the way upriver, near Kingston, Tennessee. It's a bit bumpy out here due to it being Sunday and all and a lot of boats are out. Things will settle down later and we'll get a much needed full nights rest.
  Rosie is making dinner and we're both looking forward to a good salad and the rest of the two inch pork chops we made the other night and couldn't eat because they were gigantic, rivaling the chops we got at Patti's in Grand Rivers, Kentucky. We failed to remember to eat dinner yesterday for some reason.
  We'll be traveling is some familiar territory as we make our way back down river to the Tenn-Tom but we don't expect it to be boring as we're seeing everything from a different perspective. Hopefully we'll have some good stuff happen that we can tell you all about.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Fort Loudon Lake

  I didn't find out until last night, but had we ventured up the French Broad River about four miles, we would have found the Knoxville Sea Ray plant. From what I understand, it's the plant that made Swing Set. I knew Sea Ray had a plant in Knoxville, but really wasn't looking for it, more importantly, we didn't plan on traveling up either the Holston, or the French, and didn't have charts for them. Navionics doesn't offer much in the way of detail either of these rivers, plus honestly, I am a little gun shy from our encounter with the tree stumps on the upper reaches of the Tellico River. Too late now, we're 40 miles back down the Tennessee River and there is no turning back. I would have liked to show them our office on the boat and see what they thought of it.
  I admit that where we had anchored at the junction of the three rivers was a little tight, but I was as far over to the bank as I felt we could safely be, given the room we needed to pivot if we had to, and usually the boat changes direction when the sun goes down if the current is not too strong, due to the changes in the air temperatures over the water. I'm no meteorologist, and won't go into the explanation, but if you are hanging on one hook, give yourself enough room to swing around the anchor because it will happen.
  I thought we had given plenty of room for other boats to pass us in the small channel, but some local wake boarders thought otherwise. Plowing through the water to produce the biggest wake for surfing behind their boat, they passed us between our boat and the closest bank, not 100 feet away at most. Had we been at home, or not spending the night there, I would have given them a friendly wave with one of my fingers. Better yet, they came back by anyway at 10 P.M., still skiing in the dark with no lights, using the light from a nearby asphalt plant to see. They didn't ruin our night, we thought they were jerks, but they apparently thought we were too. Had I given them reason to, it could have been a long night, but they made that one late night pass to show us who was boss and that was the end of it.
  On Wednesday, we lingered around that area until mid-morning and then decided to head back down toward Knoxville and spend the day anchored nearer to the downtown area and then go to a place called Calhoun's right on the water.


  Just upstream from downtown Knoxville is Volunteer Landing Marina. There are lots of condos just up the hill and it looks like it would be a fun place to live and have your boat nearby.


  Here's another view. Calhoun's is just past the bridge on the right. We had figured on anchoring before we got to this part of the river, but we didn't like the view, plus a nice breeze was blowing and we were really enjoying the cruise. We never get to cruise, you see.
We motored by Calhoun's and they have a courtesy dock we could have tied up at, but it was too early for lunch, and in addition, I thought the dock was a little shaky. Now, our friends up on the Mississippi know that we've tied up at some rickety docks, so they know that when I think a dock is too risky to tie up to, it must be a doozy.
  There is a real nice municipal dock right there on the riverfront too, and people were setting up for an event that was probably going to take place on the weekend, but we again confirmed our desire to keep on keeping on, and glided on by.


  You didn't have to buy a travel brochure after all; here is a picture of Neyland Stadium behind "The Boathouse". When there is a UT football game in town, the whole area goes crazy, people hanging off the balcony type crazy. I bet it's a fun time.
  We were really happy that there was a good breeze blowing and we were sight seeing. We were marveling at all the homes along the river, wondering what people do in homes that big. By 2 P.M. we were back near where we had anchored on our way up the lake at the 623 mile marker. There is a cliff in that area and people like to jump and dive off of, and boats anchor out where people can watch. We decided to anchor there too and cool off in the water some.
  I don't know what it is about our boat, but Swing Set seems to attract PWCs and wakeboarders. Many of them come unbelievably close; it takes a big wake to tipple our boat, but we just wonder what is going through people's minds when they do this, especially when they think we are impressed when they show off on their PWCs. I'm mentioning this because a friend and her daughter were sitting on the back of their boat on the beach back on the Mississippi River last night when a person on a PWC lost control of it and ran over the both of them. Our friend is in the hospital with multiple fractures of her pelvis and tailbone. Her daughter was lucky to survive with bumps and bruises, but it could have been much, much worse. So it was while we were anchored near the cliff, having a cold one and watching the jumpers that we were buzzed by a fair number of boats. We were doing our best to ignore the pit racers and wake makers, not letting it bother us too much. A pontoon boat full of people came over and asked about "those big fans", and we talked to them for a while. They left and then a 40 footer came plowing up the lake and that was our queue to pull up the anchor and head on down the lake.
  One of the couples we met in Kentucky Lake are coming to this area tomorrow. Dina and Steve are going to visit Steve's brother who has a boat at Concord Marina and plan on anchoring out at a place called Praeter Flats, which is across the lake from Choto Marina where a nifty little spot called Willy's is located. It all made sense for us to check out Willy's, given the fact that we had to go so near it anyway, so at 4 P.M. or so, we pulled in and took a spot at the courtesy dock. Happy hour just so happened to start at 4 P.M. It's uncanny how we time these things.


  We had checked out their website and learned that they were a "dog friendly" restaurant because they have an item on the menu that is a hot dog and hamburger served for the four-legged crowd. Comes with dry dog food on the side. This being the case, we put some duds on and hitched Holly up to her collar and leash and made our way up to the top outside deck. The lower deck is shown in the picture, and they were setting up for karaoke. Before we got up to the restaurant, however, we stopped into the little store at the gas dock where they had t-shirts, and more importantly, cold beer. They were mighty proud of their Bud Light, wanting nine dollars for a six-pack of it, so we took a pass. I wasn't drunk enough to pay that much for it. Yet.
  When we were told to sit where we wanted, our waitress came over with a big water bowl for Holly, confirming the dog friendly atmosphere. She also pulled up another chair for Holly to sit on, so she was all set to take in the scene and bark and the other patrons. We can't take her anywhere. People still came over to pet her, not knowing what a vicious dog she is.
  Happy hour means 1/2 price on most appetizers and a dollar off all drinks from 4-7 at Willy's, a pretty good deal. It was hot, so we ordered a bucket of Bud Lights, making it six beers for twelve bucks. More than at the gas dock, but then again, we weren't at the gas dock. Sweet.


  While we were waiting for the first batch of our appetizers I posted a RiverBills.com sticker on their bulletin board and asked one of the waitresses to take my picture. I look like a movie star in this picture, don't I?


  Our waitress, Amanda, was doing double duty at the bar inside and serving us outside. She learned of the RiverBills sticker and wanted in on the action. She was so nice, but was happy when after we finished our food and our first bucket of Bud Lights, we took Holly to the boat so we could go inside to her bar where the air conditioning was. We ordered another bucket at happy hour prices, so we coasted way past happy hour with the discounted beer price. We have to watch our budget, we're on a pension.
  We met lots of locals at the bar and were told by a few that we were living their dream, doing what we are doing. We are told this a lot, but can only wish that others will eventually live their dreams too. This is a lot of pressure, living other people's dreams.
  I checked outside and found that the karaoke deck was jam packed, so I went to the boat to collect a very grateful Holly and we joined Rosie at the outside bar on the lower deck. Amanda had finished her shift inside and she came down and hung out with her friends too, some of them we met. Another couple was there with their puppy of nine weeks old. The puppy was the size of a gnat and I bet it didn't weigh a pound. Holly gave it a sniff and a bark, leaving the "weinerschnitzel", a cross between a Dachsund and a Schnauzer, trembling even more than it was in the first place.
 

  Watching Rosie dance like a twenty year old is hard work, and after more than six hours of "happy hour", possibly seven, Holly and I were beat. We all retired to the boat and didn't even consider leaving the courtesy dock until we woke up at 7A.M. this morning.
  We moved over across the lake to Praeter Flat and we didn't do much today. I finished reading a book I was reading and Rosie worked on her book too. I managed to get in the water for a while, and Holly took a short swim. Today is a lazy day and we're saving ourselves for some fun tomorrow when Steve and Dina will be here.
  We have the generator going with the air on because we need it. Some giant pork chops that we bought at Sloan's are grilling in the convection oven because it's too hot to sit outside to use the propane grill today. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

To The Tennessee River Headwaters

  We had anchored last night at the 619 mile marker, just outside of the RDB channel marker, or just outside of the green buoy on the left hand side of the river going upstream. There are so many homes along the Ft. Loudon Lake, it's hard to find a spot to spend the night on the hook without being in someone's front yard.


  Many of the homes on Tellico Lake seem to sit right on top of each other, but on the Fort Loudon Lake, there is a bit more acreage between the homes. This picture is of one of those.


  This home was no bigger than most, nor prettier, but we thought the boat house was pretty neat. One home is just nicer than the next, there is no way to pick a favorite. Personally, we thought the upper Cumberland River, or Nickajack Lake on "The Narrows", was a more scenic cruise, due to the absence of ostentatious homes along the banks.
  Yesterday was miserably hot, and today promised to be hotter. We started our journey early, and to avoid reaching our destination too early, with nothing to do but lounge around in bath water, we slowed our pace down even more to save even more on fuel and give us time to sightsee. Once we reached the outskirts of Knoxville, the homes were even more impressive. Most everyone had signs supporting the University of Tennessee Vols, and when we reached Neyland Stadium and went to take a picture of it, the camera battery was dead. It was still dead when we cruised by Calhoun's and Old Town Knoxville, so get a travel brochure if you want pictures of those places.
  Channel markers started getting sparse after downtown Knoxville and they became non-existent after a commercial dock at mile 651.5. At mile 652, the Tennessee River ceases to exist, where two rivers, the Holston River, and the French Broad River come together to make up the Tennessee.
 

  We were in 30 feet of water and we decided to anchor with a view up both rivers. This picture is looking upstream on the Holston River. We saw plenty of stumps in the channel and had no desire to go further. You could say we are stump broke.


  We may have been able to go up into the French Broad River pictured here, but there was some industry of some sort just upstream from where we were anchored and we didn't want to anchor in plain view of it. The absence of channel markers in this area lead me to believe that there is no barge traffic, so we shouldn't be in the way of anyone. The wind, and the currents, are keeping our bow pointed downstream towards the Tennessee River. It's odd but our anchor is set and we're staying put.


  This is the view looking downstream from the headwaters of the Tennessee River. We can say that we've traveled every mile of the Tennessee River from the Ohio River to here. The only other river I've traveled the complete navigable length of is the Meramec River in Missouri. Maybe the River Des Peres too, but those who know about it also know that it doesn't count.
  We were just settling in at our current spot and I wanted to cool off and jump into the river. I kept the transom door closed because the current is too swift here for Holly to be falling in the river. When I got in, Holly got excited and fell from the back of the cockpit seat onto the swim platform and nearly rolled into the river anyway. She was yelping bloody murder and at first we thought she broke something. We had passed a veterinary hospital as we cruised past Knoxville and I was thinking about how we were going to get Holly there as I was holding and consoling her. As it turned out, she just scared herself, and us too. But the event was a reminder that safety is utmost when we are usually in remote areas with no help for miles. Not only that, an injury can ruin a good day.
  If anyone paid attention, we surpassed 50,000 page views on the blog today. I mentioned it on Facebook and our friends wrote lots of nice comments. I've only had one complaint so far about the blog, but it seems lots of people are enjoying it. Some of my friends are calling me a writer, but I said that's like calling Adam Sandler an actor. I am humbled by the compliments, but a man's got to know his limitations and I usually know mine. I'm not looking for "another career", so please enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it, and we'll leave it at that.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Tellico River


  Our last picture we took of the Little Tennessee last Monday morning. This water was the clearest and coolest so far on our trip and the whole experience will stand out for years to come. The time was coming near to head back down Tellico Lake and start on our way to Knoxville, but first, we felt adventurous and decided to check out the Tellico River.
  It was too early for the River Rock Grill to be open, but one of the waitresses was there opening up when we cruised by and she gave us an enthusiastic wave as we passed. One thing I forgot to mention in the last blog was that when we woke up there at the gas dock on Sunday morning, Rosie was rummaging around in the boat and I asked her what she was looking for. She informed me that her purse was missing and that she was pretty sure she left it on the bar when we left. When she went out on the cockpit to go look for it, the purse was laid nice and neat on one of our cockpit seats where someone brought it down after we left. Nothing was missing from her purse. How many places can you go to where that will happen?
  We passed under a bridge on our way up the river and we knew that Sloan's was nearby. There was a dock there at a community park and we made a mental note to go there later and get provisions at Sloan's when we finished exploring the Tellico River. We poked our way up the river at a leisurely pace and marveled at the homes and how many little back coves and nooks were along the way, but one thing nagging at me was that our 12 volt battery bank was not charging like it usually does. I boosted up our speed some and we started to charge the bank, but something was still not right. The chart showed channel markers for about ten miles up the river and we were nearing the ten mile mark and we were in about 34 feet of water. I started wondering about when we should turn around, but honestly, my mind was still on the battery bank. I was contemplating another alternator belt tightening and wasn't looking forward to it in the heat. Fate made the decision for us as to when to turn around when I mistook a tree stump for a channel marker and we found ourselves in a tree stump forest, albeit stumps that were taller than 34 feet.
  KA-CHUNK..KA-CHUNK.. KA-CHUNK was the sickening sound just after the hull rolled up onto what was most likely a bent over tree trunk. I pulled the throttles back and then the shifters. The KA-CHUNKING stopped, but when I engaged the transmissions again, on either engine, we began to hit wood. Bits of wood were floating all around us and Swing Set was stuck on top of a tree in a very remote section of river. I tried coaxing her off with delicate applications of each engine, but to no avail.
  Keeping a cool head, we both dropped the dinghy into the river and tied it alongside, tugboat style, and tried to use it to move the boat away from the predicament. We could spin the hull around what seemed to be one tree holding it in place, but only managed to rub it against yet another tree trunk just downstream, helping to hold the hull in the spot it was in. I finally wised up and put on my snorkel mask and went for a look. There was nothing interfering with the running gear and I could see no tree trunks to our stern. I climbed out of the water and went to the helm. Slipping the boat around with the dinghy managed to help some because I was able to pull the boat off of whatever it was hooked up on by judicious use of the reverse gears. We could feel the hull drop down a few inches as we broke free from the tree trunk. As we slowly escaped the stump field, the motor on the dinghy towing behind us kept hitting trees, but the props on Swing Set didn't hit anything else. I asked Rosie to open the engine hatch to make sure we weren't taking on water through a hole poked in the hull. The bilge pumps weren't coming on, so I didn't think we put a hole in the boat, but she confirmed my suspicions and reported back that the bilges were dry.
  Once we were back in safer water, I applied some throttle and found a horrible vibration at our normal cruising speed. Backing off helped, so we limped back down the river and I was already calculating as to how we were going to get things fixed, but still not knowing just what was broke. We slowly made our way back to an anchorage in a large lagoon near the bridge where Sloan's was located. When we dropped the hook, I backed down on it, as is my custom and when I did, a pretty large stick came floating out from the bow. I didn't think the stick was there when we pulled in and neither did Rosie, so we were hoping that the maneuver dislodged the stick which was about 4 inches in diameter and nearly three feet long, more than enough to cause the vibration that we experienced if it was hung up somewhere.
  Once we got anchored, I put the mask back on and went below to investigate. I could see nothing visually wrong with the props or the shafts, but underwater with the naked eye can only verify that nothing catastrophic had happened to our running gear. It was when I exited the water and decided to go into the engine room again when I found out the reason for our low 12 volt battery bank. The engine room lights had been on for we don't know how long and I know that the current draw of the lights in the engine room is substantial enough to cause our problem.
  It was at this time that I should have taken Swing Set for a test drive to check for vibration, but we still wanted to take the dinghy to the public dock and walk to the store for groceries and a rainstorm was brewing. I decided to let my optimistic feelings last at least until the next morning and revel in our good fortune. We didn't sink the boat and our charging system probably wasn't broken. Yippee.
  There was a nice dock to park the dinghy at the park, but the 1/2 mile walk to the store was treacherous along the fairly busy highway with no shoulder and grass "full of chiggers" as Rosie says. We made it there and back without being splattered on the side of the road and was also happy to find the dinghy where we had left it.
  The rainstorm was still threatening when we got the dinghy unloaded. We cranked up the generator along with the air-conditioning. I wrote the blog I posted yesterday and Rosie started dinner. Tom and Abby had given us a string of LED lights and after dinner I set out to install them. I eventually settled on placing them around the valance next to our dinette, hidden out of sight, but providing necessary light for late dinners and dominoes. The little lantern we had been using eats AA batteries like no body's business, so we were glad to get rid of it. We played two games of dominoes using our new lights and it really pleased us.

 
  Not sure if you can see how the lights are on around the window but here is my favorite girls posing. Doesn't look too fancy here, but the lights have about 100 colors, dim at multiple levels, and even flash and strobe if you want. We're just happy to be able to sit at our dinette in the dark without going blind.
  This morning the moment of truth came and we headed out. We traveled 37 miles today and we both are not sure if the boat is vibrating our not. This means that if we did sustain some minor damage that I cannot see, it's not enough to have the boat hauled and props worked on our changed out. Even at idle with the transmissions in neutral, there is a slight vibration just from the Caterpillars chugging away, and both engines shudder like Clydesdales when I shut them down, so we'll live with what we got for now and count our blessings.
  Today we returned back to the Tellico Dam and started up the Tennessee River to Knoxville. It's hot, I'm tired, and I'll pick this up on another day. I will say this; the scenery so far on this leg of the Tennessee is nowhere near as pretty as the Little Tennessee. There is still too much development to suit me, but it's hard to beat Tellico Lake and its surroundings. We have ridden our motorcycle on a lot of the surrounding country around this area. You have the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Cherohala Skyway, and the Tail of the Dragon to cruise if you are into cycles. It may be a perfect place to eventually hang our hats, but we have a lot more places to see first.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sequoyah Landing and the Little Tennessee River

  Last Friday afternoon we made our way under the bridge at mile 19 on the Little Tennessee River, the river that largely comprises Tellico Lake. The Sequoyah Landing Marina in right at the mouth of theTellico River and is home of the River Rock Bar and Grill, a floating joint right at the gas dock, where we pulled up to see what we could see.
  Billy the harbormaster met us at the boat and helped us get tied up. It was a breezy day and just right to sit outside at the grill there and get a bucket of cold ones and some appetizers.



  This picture is from the next day, but I'll put it here to give you an idea about the place.  That Friday afternoon there was still a decent amount of people there and we grabbed a high top table next to four other people and started a conversation by asking about the availability of grocery items in the area. We were told about a place called Sloan's about three miles away but I explained as to how we where only there by boat and wouldn't entertain a six mile round trip on foot. The explanation about being there by boat led to the rest of our story and where we were from. Three of the people there were visiting from Chicago and one fella let us know that they didn't like people from St. Louis. When will people just get over the fact that the Cubs suck and to not take it out on everyone from a town that consistently fields a winning baseball team?
  We laughed about that for a while and the St. Louisan hater volunteered his wife to take us to the store if the money was right. I told him we could make a deal and started the bidding at an amount in the neighborhood of twenty dollars. I said that we would only charge his wife $20 to allow her to drive us to the store, but we'd have to get a look at her first because she wasn't present. More laughs about that and we got along great after that. The ring leader of the group had moved into the area once he retired, and I asked from where, and learned that he was the owner of two micro breweries in Cinncinatti, having sold them to finance his current lifestyle of golf and boating. We discussed the beer business some until they all had to leave, only after we loaded them down with our cards that contain our blog information. They were considerate enough to not throw them away while we were watching.
  We finished our bucket and headed over to an anchorage referred to us by Billy the harbormaster and it was a beauty. By sunset a rollicking thunderstorm rolled in and we enjoyed the show. It was a severe weather alert but the real nasty stuff missed us on two sides. By midnight the show was over and we had a quiet night.


  We had made plans to meet some old friends of ours from our days on the Meramec River the next day. Sequoyah Landing seemed like a good place to meet them and they agreed. They had a three and a half hour drive from Salem, South Carolina and the route they took is on one of the most scenic roads in the east, highway 129, and a stretch of it is called The Dragon's Tail due to the number of turns and switchbacks. While they were on the way, we pulled up anchor and headed back over to the landing. The picture above was taken of Fort Loudon at the historic sight near Seqouyah Landing. If you look closely on the lower left, you'll see evidence of an early invention by the Indians. The name even sounds Indian, it's called a "Porta-Potti". Seriously, when funding is let loose by the State of Tennessee, the parks service is going to install walls around all four sides of the thing.
  Tom and Abby were right on time and they did us a great favor and made a run to Sloan's for some provisions we were lacking in. While they were gone, we met a guy at the dock in his houseboat and got a line on the local party cove. By the time Tom and Abby got back, the game was on!


  We have other friends who haven't seen Tom and Abby for years either, so I'm including this photo for them. I took the picture as we started our mission to reach the farthest navigable water for our boat on the Little Tennessee River. I was barely able to keep an eye on the chart plotter with all the laughing and joking going on. We picked up right where we had left off twenty-five years ago. Like Tom said, "Nothing changes".


  Those concrete things sticking up across the channel are the remnants of an old railroad trestle. This pretty much marked the spot for us to turn around, even the charts after this point don't offer much in the way of information. You can see the Smoky Mountains in the background in this picture. I cannot stress to you enough how beautiful the river is here.


  Our new friend Brian on the houseboat called us on the VHF radio to invite us to their raft up and they had a spot saved for us when we rolled in. We did as much damage that we could do in such a short time until we headed back over to the River Rock Bar and Grill while we still had a chance to get a parking spot.
  Brian had his spot reserved because he is a fixture at the place but we had to make do. A pontoon boat was taking up enough room for three boats at the gas dock when we showed up and I was able to offer him the chance to show his courtesy and scootch down some to let us in. He obliged and we took the place by storm.


  This is the last photo fit to show before things got, well, they got a little nuts. They had a great band playing and there was lots of dancing going on by those inclined to do such things. Holly and I mainly held court at the bar and told lies and stories to anyone who would listen. It was way past sunset when we all cashed our chips in. Tom and Abby had gotten a room somewhere down the road and we all said our goodbyes. We'll see them again when we make our way up the East coast and slip by South Carolina.
  We had gotten permission to stay at the gas dock that evening, but I didn't know it. We stayed anyway, but when we were finally able to roust ourselves awake by 8 A.M., I thought it best to move from the gas dock for the early morning boaters getting fuel.
  Brian brought his houseboat over to where we were anchored and we just sipped on some cold ones all afternoon, not really in any position to raise the bar from the previous day.
  By late afternoon, Brian returned to his slip at the Tellico Marina where he lives on his boat and Rosie made us a delicious dinner of sauteed shrimp and pasta. Sleep came early, in fact, sleep came during some T.V. watching and neither one of us had much control over it.
  We had a little mishap today on a cruise up the little Tellico River, but I'll save that for writing in the morning. Today my work is done.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Tellico Lake

  We haven't seen a whole lot of Tellico Lake yet, but we've traveled seven miles up into it so far, and considering that the lake is only about 20 miles long, we aren't doing too bad. Our plan when we left our anchorage near the dam was to only go 10 miles or so and find a spot to enjoy the day, one issue is that on one side of the lake, the homes are virtually sitting on top of each other, and coves are limited on the other side of the lake on the land that sits between the two rivers, the Little Tennessee and the Tennessee. We know there is a State Park near the end of the lake, but we didn't want to go there yet.


  These homes are actually sitting rather far apart compared to some other areas. On some hillsides there are tiers of homes. The 10 million dollar homes are right on the water, and the 5 million dollar homes set behind them. There are big community docks in these areas so everyone has a spot for their pontoon or runabout. I hardly want to mention the folks with the 2 million dollar homes on the third tier. Those poor pissants.


  Like I said, we dropped our hook into a cove devoid of homes at the 7 mile mark. We took this picture from the dinghy of Swing Set sitting way back in this cove, not a house around.


  Now we are not on a house seeing tour, but it's hard not to notice just one house after another more beautiful than the next. It's impossible for us to choose a home that was the most impressive, but this home in the picture is sitting just across from the cove where we are at anchor, and it impressed me enough to stop the dinghy and take a picture. I don't know what the real estate tax is on this beauty, but we have the same view and our tax rate is zero. We is neighbors!
  Looking at other people's stuff, whether it's homes or boats, can leave a lot of people with feelings of inadequacy, sort of the way viewing a porn film leaves the average male member of our society. Rosie and I usually take a practical view, and never are envious of what other people have in the way of possessions. In the first place, we aren't doing too bad, but we are rich in other ways which mean more to us than material things.
  We mainly popped the dinghy in the water to run the motor some. It had been nearly two weeks since we had run it and the carburetor on our Mercury outboard doesn't like to sit for very long with fuel in it. So, after a brief ride it was back to our little tub where we blew up or rafts and soaked in the sun for the rest of the afternoon.
  I have to mention dinner, even though it was leftovers. We don't care if we eat the same thing two nights in a row as it keeps the refrigerator from getting loaded up with a lot of them, so we had the rest of our pork tenderloin from the night before. The twist was that we smothered the pork with more BBQ sauce and laid open a can of spiced apples to heat up next to them in the microwave. A heap of our leftover spinach rounded out the meal, but the spiced apples mixed with the BBQ'd pork tenderloin was absolutely delicious. I also have to mention that the juice left from the big can of peaches we had opened previously was dumped into our pitcher of Tang so it wouldn't go to waste. I wonder if people that live in those big houses do stuff like that?
  I read the forum from the America's Great Loop Cruiser's Association every morning and I get a kick out of some of the questions. Yesterday someone asked if 200 gallons was enough fuel to get from St. Paul, Minnesota to Mobile Bay. I couldn't help myself, but I wrote, "Not if you are in a canoe". My answer wasn't very constructive, but I was on the iPad and didn't have time to really poke fun at this person. Another member did admonish them a bit and rightly so. If you gotta ask a question like that with no other information to back it up, there is a good chance that you are just asking to be a hazard to navigation.
  Another question was, given the choice, should a person use a dinghy or a PWC? There are distinct differences between the two, and if you don't know them and can't think for yourself how each will address your needs, then I'm not sure I want to share a lock chamber with you.
  Another person wrote, in regard to the fuel consumption issue, about "you trawler types" that only want to go 8-10 miles per hour that it "was too boring". Swing Set will do a respectable 34 miles per hour when not completely full to the gunnels with fuel and provisions, but our rate of 8-9 miles per hour may get tedious on large bodies of water, but we occupy ourselves with conversation, or even menial chores on the boat, to pass the time. Oh yes, we even engage in sightseeing where we really get to enjoy what we are seeing. It's rare that I even run over the smallest stick due to our leisurely pace.
  I know I should have written all of these things in the AGLCA forum, but I don't have time to write this blog and post things on there too. I save the good stuff for you folks anyway.
  We had another rain storm last night that woke us at midnight. We checked the radar,  we also saw that we had not moved at anchor, so after some late night reading it was back to sleep. This morning it's threatening more rain, so today we might chuck our hectic schedule and relax a bit. Later we'll putt on down to the Sequoyah Landing Marina and anchor nearby to meet some friends there in the morning. I think we'll all go together to the farthest reaches of this lake until I get nervous about the depth. I bet it's not boring.
 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Upper Watts Bar to the Fort Loudon Lock

  The Clinch River comes into the Tennessee River at Kingston, Tennessee, and we poked our bow about two miles up into the Clinch to see what we could see of the town. We saw lots of church steeples, but won't hold that against them. Better yet, we saw a few docks that we could pull the dinghy up to for a trip to the Dollar General or to one the riverside restaurants that we saw. On our way back downriver, we'll take a side trip up the Clinch up to a dam. We won't lock through as the lock there is not manned all the time.


  We were at mid-afternoon, having traveled 25 miles or so, and we were approaching a very narrow part of the river with no easily identifiable places to anchor for the  night, so when we saw a wide spot on the lake where Stamp Creek makes its appearance, we decided to snake our way through the shallows and plant the hook. We soaked up some rays for about an hour until yet another rain front moved in, seen in the photo above. When these catastrophes happen, the only sensible thing to do is to grab a book and get into nap position.
  Thunder and lightening rudely woke me up a while later, Rosie was still hard into her book and didn't notice it, but we had dragged the anchor some in the big lagoon we were in. No big deal, but when the storm passed, we reset the anchor, making sure it would hold during anything nature would throw at us during the night.
  As the rain had stopped and the sun threatened to show once more, I fired up the Magma grill and we had one of the best steaks we ever had, along with baked potatoes and canned peaches for dinner. I put a grill over our frying pan on top of the Magma grill to avoid grease dripping onto the grill and then onto the boat. Makes for easy cleanup.


  After dinner, Holly and I sat outside in the cockpit to enjoy the sunset. It would appear in the picture that Holly was already getting sleepy and nearly ready for bed, but her work was not over yet.

 
  When I went to the bow to check the tension on the anchor line one more time before calling it a night, Holly joined me and spied an intruder in the form of a plastic jack o' lantern and commenced to warding off the beast with some cacophonous barking. The lantern, a victim of the rainstorm blown off a porch somewhere, floated away unfazed. Reminded me of the soccer ball in the movie Castaway.


  After a peaceful night with no wind or rain, we woke to find that fog had settled in. While the open parts of the lake were not socked in, I could see where the river narrowed, and what was our route, was as thick as soup. We took our time preparing to depart until the fog dissipated.


  Our target for the day was the Fort Loudon Lock and Dam, which was roughly 27 miles away. Four miles from the lock, in a very narrow part of the river, a deck boat buzzed by and I figured they were on their way to the lock for a trip up to Fort Loudon Lake like us. Lest they get to the lock and get lucky enough to cruise right in, leaving us to wait, I hailed the lock on the VHF and let them know we were 30 minutes away. The call was unnecessary as the lockmaster was already in the process of locking another vessel up and she said she would "turn her around" and get us next in 45 minutes. We slowed down a mile per hour or so, to prevent having to jockey around below the lock with the addition of another vessel in the vicinity.
  As we got within sight of the lock we could see the white water rushing out below the dam, indicating the water in the chamber was being dumped for our entry. We only had to wait minutes behind the folks in the deck boat before the gates opened, the horn sounded, and the green light was given for our entry into the chamber. We had contacted the lock and were given directions as to what side we should place our fenders and Rosie already had them secure and a line was attached at our spring line cleat amidships. The skipper on the deck boat was not nearly as prepared. As he banged into the lock walls three times with his boat, one of his crew was finally able to slip a line around the bollard but he attached it to a cleat on the bow and the boat was sitting bow to the lock wall. The crew member was apparently proud of his ability to lasso the floating bollard and even looked back at us to make sure we had witnessed the feat. I gave him a head shake in the negative manner and he furrowed his brow, not understanding how his achievement wasn't met with resounding applause.
  I leaned out of the flybridge and said, "Skipper, if I was you, I'd tie that line to my midship cleat and get your boat sitting alongside the wall, not bow to." All four faces responded with a quizzical look and I repeated the statement about the midship cleat. Their body language told me that they knew "nuthin' bout no midship cleat", so I said that it was the cleat right next to the woman in the blue shirt. Bingo. About this time, I get a call from the lock master asking if we were the larger boat in the chamber and I responded to the affirmative. She asked for me to tell the boat in front of us to get their boat alongside the lock wall, not bow to. I told her that I had already gave them the word and they were hard at work making it happen. Meanwhile a vessel downriver had called and said they were on their way. The lock master actually asked us if we didn't mind waiting for them and I answered that we would be happy to wait. I shut down the engines and we chilled out.
  By the time the other vessel arrived and we were taking a gentle ride up in the lock chamber, a rainstorm had moved in and Rosie was getting drenched at her station on the bow. I took her my hat to protect her from the rain and I zipped up our new zippers on the flybridge enclosure. Dry as a bone. Finally, the rain stopped as fast as it started and the gates were opening. As the folks on the deck boat were fiddling with their line, getting it off the bollard, a downbound houseboat came drifting into the chamber before the three of us could even get out. The lockmaster was out on the pulpit of the lock admonishing them as we just barely squeezed by them. The motley crew appeared unfazed by the lecture, and kept on a zig zag course, (I used "zig zag" on purpose. You figure it out.) towing a canoe and a jon boat, causing the vessel behind us to lay on the horn as they became blocked in.
  As the folks on the deck boat waved their thanks and the rain started again in earnest, we took a hard right across the lake to enter the canal over to Tellico Lake and the Little Tennessee River. By the time we were nearly out of sight of the lock chamber, I still saw no evidence of the vessel behind us. I almost wished I would have stayed to watch the show.


  We are impressed with the improving water clarity with every new lake we enter. Here is Rosie's legs as she is standing on the swim platform ladder, and this is with an overcast sky!
  We had anchored in the second cove on our port just as we entered Tellico Lake. We set a hook for storm conditions in a wide harbor to account for changing winds, but they never materialized. I connected our LP tank to the grill again and we popped a celebratory Bud Light or two and grilled some pork tenderloin for dinner. The menu included canned spinach, doctored up with bacon bits and minced onion. The rest or our canned peaches were on the side too.


  The skies cleared up and I asked Rosie to take this picture because you don't get to see my smiling face much. I don't know if you could consider the look on my face a "smile", I think it looks like I have gas, but it's the best I can do under pressure. There is lots and lots of pressure.
  The navigable stretch of this lake is only 21 miles or so. We're meeting Tom and Abby on Saturday, friends from our days living on the Meramec River back in St. Louis, so we have two days to make our way up the lake. Skies are clear this morning as I write this blog, but the forecast calls for more rain this afternoon, but we're thankful for it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More On Watts Bar

  When we left the Watts Bar lock and headed up the lake we noticed fewer homes on the water, and the hillsides were steep. Steep hillsides mean deep water from bank to bank and the charts verified this fact. There are lots and lots of nooks and crannies to find anchorages, most of them private, but with not a lot of room to move around if a wind picks up. Also noticeable was that a lot of the coves had narrow entrances, leading you into a larger lagoon type body of water once you get inside. It's interesting how the topography changes from one area of the river to another.
  Along the way to Blue Springs we encountered lots of islands in the river, some big and some small. Some you could take a shortcut through and save some miles, but some of the shortcuts were for small craft only. This may mean us, but I don't take too many chances on short cuts. We were told about one island, a comparatively small one, at mile 538, near the Euchee Light. Coincidentally, the Euchee Marina is just across the river. Go figure. The island was lined with boaters, but more so, the water from the island to the mainland wasn't very deep, and many smaller boats were anchored in the shallow water and lots of people were congregating, it being a Sunday and all. We like a good party even though we were still green in the gills from Thursday and Friday night, but we perused the crowd with the binoculars to see if we might drop the dinghy and join in. Seen close up, the venue was more like an Aqua Romper Room than a party we'd like to attend, so we pressed on.
  Another thing we noticed about Watts Bar was the clarity of the water. The dark blue green color was painted right up to the lake edge, where a light brown or tan lined the last couple of feet to the rocks or trees. This proved that there was deep water bank to bank and the light brown was the bottom of the lake you could see through the water due to its clarity.
  We approached Cane Creek where Blue Springs is located, and like some of the other coves we saw, the creek empties into the lake through a narrow cut, and once inside the cut, the cove widens up. It was too early for dinner, so we found a spot to drop the anchor and enjoy the water. The water temperature is cooler than some of the lakes we've come across so far, so we all swam and watched the boaters come and go from the marina.
  We cleaned ourselves up and put on our Sunday best and popped a Bud Light to wait for time to head over to the Crow's Nest for something to eat. Swing Set is still loaded with provisions, but weekends are the best time to try out these restaurants on the water, plus there isn't many, if any, other restaurants on Watts Bar and we wanted to try at least one of them out. The wind had been kicking up and clouds were rolling in, and docking any boat during in a wind is something to avoid, so we headed over to the fuel dock to inquire as to where we could tie up.
  Two uniformed attendants came down to the boat and when they came within earshot, Rosie asked the question and we were told that we could park right there at the fuel dock. I turned Swing Set around in tight quarters so the bow would be into the wind, plus I moved back as close to another boat as I could to give someone else room at the fuel pumps if necessary. Before I got within 40 feet of the dock, one of the attendants asked me "what are those wind turbines for", and as I was backing down the boat with the wind against me and was rather busy, I told him that I'd be more than happy to explain once we were secure at the dock. As is our custom, and good practice, Rosie tossed him a line from the bow, and then as I moved the stern over, she stepped off and began tying the stern to some questionable cleats. I came off the bridge and stepped onto the dock and the bow line was secured to another wiggly cleat, but the line was not tight and the boat was swinging away from the dock.
  There are two things a person can learn from this the preceding paragraph, if not more. Don't toss the stern line first. It's nearly impossible to steer a boat if you cannot move the stern. The stern moves the bow, not vice versa. Also, just because someone at the pier offers to take your line, it's no indication that they know what to do with it, especially at a restaurant with summer help at hand. We'd really prefer to handle our own lines most of the time, but we try to be nice and give the help the benefit of the doubt, sometimes to our dismay. If you do anything, double check someone else's work, even if it offends them.
  With the storm looming, we tied to extra cleats and put out a spring line too. I told the story about the wind generators to the curious dock attendant and we made our way up to the restaurant. Our docking job was performed in full view of the diners on the patio and we were given congratulations on our accomplishment. Rosie and I took a table on the patio and each had some gigantic sandwiches and overall we enjoyed our meal. As one group left the restaurant, a woman came over just to tell us how beautiful our boat was, something she certainly didn't have to do. I don't know anyone with a boat that doesn't enjoy that particular compliment. As we were getting ready to leave, one of the dock attendants came over and asked if they could move our boat. I politely declined her offer and said that we'd be moving it as soon as we paid our bill. We picked up a couple cases of Bud Light at the well stocked ship's store there and away we went.

 
 Across the lake from Blue Springs Marina was several smaller coves and we picked one to spend the night. The narrow cut between the trees, seen in the picture, opened up into a wide lagoon with no homes on it. Nice and quiet for a good nights sleep. It was still early, so we all swam a bit and watched some T.V. The storm didn't develop, but we did find out that we had zero Internet connections. We tried again in the morning, thinking something miraculous might have transpired during the night, but we couldn't even make a phone call, so we hauled the anchor and headed out to find us some 3G.
  Just three miles up is Thiefs Neck Island and State Park and we were getting a strong signal on both the phones and the iPad. There are no buildings on the island that we could see, so we anchored in a shallow cove. Once our computer and phone transactions were finished, we lounged around in the water until lunch. Right after lunch the sky clouded up, so a nap was in order. The day was progressing perfectly.
  We got some more sun at mid-afternoon, so I decided to finish wiring up the water maker. This involved fishing wire to the D.C. panel in the cockpit from the engine room where I had coiled the wire I fished from the transom, back in Kentucky Lake. The going was slow as the humidity was nearly 95% but I got 'er done and triumphantly switched on the breaker to test my work and got nuthin'. Rosie was quietly observing, keeping Holly away from the toolbox, and she asked "isn't that where you turn off the electric?" which was my reminder to turn the battery switches back on that I had turned off in the interest of safety. I switched the breaker back on for only a second, two at the most, long enough to know if my wiring was successful, and to find out how loud the pump for the water maker actually was. I was pleased to find that the pump was no more noisy than our refrigerator. The 11 AMP draw on the motor meant we could make water for hours at night at 3GPM, or even if we were in the cockpit, and it wouldn't be annoying. More about the water maker can be found in other posts. Just search "water maker".


  Back into the water we went after a job well done. Another thunderstorm was coming as you can see from the picture. It skirted us for the most part and we grilled some chicken wings and watched the show from the cockpit until dinner was ready. We finished up the rest of the lettuce for a nice salad before it went bad on us, and the wings were perfect. We tried to watch the evening news but had zero T.V. reception, so I posted the previous blog and then we watched a movie on Netflix and really enjoyed it. We could tell a storm was moving in as the movie ended. The anchor, albeit with a short scope, had been holding all day, so we watched the lightening a while from the cockpit and then turned in.
  At midnight, the "thunkity thunk" from waves slapping on the bow woke us up, one advantage of a berth forward. (If you want quiet, get an aft, or mid-cabin.) The wind had picked up considerably and the radar indicated that we may be in store for some severe weather. I started the engines and moved us over to center ourselves more in the cove and let out some more scope. A test on the bow of our anchor line told me we were stuck very well, maybe too well, we'll find out later. I set the anchor alarm and we went back to bed where we rode out the night and woke at 6 A.M. to a clear sky and cool morning.
  I split this post up because I like to keep them brief enough to write and proofread within a couple of hours, but I also got a complaint yesterday via email that my posts needed to be more brief. I think they are just right; some of you think they should even be longer. I do know a way to make them very brief. Don't read them.
  After breakfast, and maybe a bit of waxing, we'll head towards the Loudon Lock, about 58 miles upriver. I don't know if we'll get there by this evening or tomorrow, it depends on what we find today. Before we get to Knoxville, we're taking a side trip down the Little Tennessee and Tellico Lake. We have tentative plans to meet friends from our Meramec River days near the Fort Loudon State Park, but we're still not sure when. We're shooting for the weekend.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chickamauga Lake to Watts Bar


  The view from Kirk and Jeanne's home is spectacular. Harrison Bay is dotted with small islands and presents a great view at sunset but this picture is one I took at mid-day. Lots of traffic goes by on the way to the Island Cove Marina. We had plenty of fenders out and we did just fine. Island Cove is doing some major rebuilding as there were some recent straight line winds that demolished several docks there. I don't have pictures to share but I saw some and the devastation was unbelievable.
  Kirk arrived back home on late afternoon and had our five isinglass panels in hand, all wrapped up in protective paper.


  I installed the panels and Chad did a great job, better than any canvas job I ever got back in St. Louis. Notice the piping on the inside of the zippers? Fine tooth number 10 zippers were installed, something that should have been done in the first place. The zippers meet at the bottom in the middle, something I wanted originally. Our flybridge enclosure should be good for a few more years now.
  We had invited our four new friends to dinner to repay them for the hospitality they had shown us so far, but they are inclined to stay "on the compound" during the weekends, so we were invited for dinner there.
  All sorts of people started showing up and the deck party had begun. Mike and Lisa are chefs, along with all of their other talents, and they whipped up a feast for about 14 or 15 people. On the menu was grilled steaks bites, chicken, scallops, and jumbo shrimp, served with three different dipping sauces, "dirty rice", grilled vegetables, and a gargantuan salad. This all on short notice. If that wasn't enough, Kirk had thrown some ribs on his smoker when he got home and by 11 P.M., he brought them down the hill to where the party was going on at the guest house and we all dug into those ribs too. There was dancing to the music videos and some impromptu drum solos by those less inclined to actually perform drum solos, but they didn't last long mercifully. No one had the energy. Things wrapped up for us at nearly 3 A.M. but others held out for more. There was a lot of late risers the next morning.
  We were going to be enlisted to help move Kirk's Fountain powerboat, but he was unable to get his trailer that morning, so after some Bloody Mary's and final stories, we untied Swing Set and headed up the Chickamauga Lake at mid-day into an approaching thunderstorm. We promised to return on our trip back down the river as we were having some medicine and a couple of other things delivered to Kirk and Jeanne's home


  There is an abundance of beautiful homes along Chickamauga Lake. These are two of them and they sit upon a development that we had discussed the evening before. Now, these homes are mutli-million dollar babies and if a person has the number of nickels to rub together to build one of these:


  Why would you build it across the lake from this view? I'd pay more for a better lot and build smaller if necessary, and yes, the homes were built after the nuclear power plant construction.
  We got a few sprinkles of rain from the thunderstorm and we only made our way up the lake a few miles to where the Hiwassee River comes into the Tennessee River. We initially started up into the Hiwassee River to look for an anchorage but Mr. Quimby said that anything outside of the channel would be dangerous, and I usually take these precautions with a grain of salt, but in this case, the warning proved to be a good one. The Hiwassee River splits when it empties into the Tennessee and goes around Hiwassee Island. Across from Hiwassee Island is a small island on the opposite side of the channel of the Tennessee and there were several boats tied up around it for their Sunday afternoon boating pleasure. I say "island", but it was really just a shallow spot in the river with trees growing on it. No ground could be seen at all anywhere, just folks wading around in calf deep water.
  We threw our anchor out just behind that island, and in between another, in about 14 feet of water and very little current. We were done in from the night before and our long 23 mile trip that afternoon, so with an overcast sky providing a dreary day, we were happy to retire to our cabin for some reading and a nap.
  Some river traffic kept us bouncing for some of the night, but eventually things calmed down and all was quiet.


  The next morning Rosie rinsed out some laundry and hung it up to dry on our way up the river. The Clampetts were on the move again.
  Watts Bar Lock and Dam was 30 miles upstream and that's where we were headed. The river got narrow and we sat back and slipped along at our normal 8 miles per hour.


  We arrived at the Watts Bar Lock and the sun had begun to shine on us again. The lockmaster had invited us right on into the chamber and gave us a gentle ride up. He came out to chat and brought along a "goody bag" like the one we had gotten on the Cumberland River at the Cheatham Lock. He asked if we had already gotten one, and we said that we did, and to be honest about it, I told him I didn't know what I'd do with even more crayons. He got a big kick out of that and he admitted that the frisbees included in the gift bag usually wind up littering the lake anyhow. Some friends had brought a paddle wheeler through his lock a few months ago and he remembered it. He also clued us in on a good place to have dinner that evening, so when we left the lock, instead of finding a close anchorage like we planned to, we headed 18 miles up the lake to Blue Springs Marina at mile 547.
  That all happened yesterday and I wanted to post last night but we had no service, not even for a phone call. I have more, but I'll save that for tomorrow morning. Right now, we're going to attempt to watch a movie on our Netflix instant movie queue. 3G isn't always very G.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Rainy Trip Through "The Narrows"


  We had planned on locking through the Nickajack Lock at the end of a long, wet ride when we left the Goose Pond but I noticed an appealing anchorage behind Burns Island, about five miles downstream from the lock and what was even better was we were getting a loud and clear signal from our friends at AT&T. In the photo you can see the main channel through the cut, with the mountains behind it. The clearing on the side of the mountain had cows on it and we could hear them mooing away. The photo was also taken between rain showers, but there was no wind to speak of and we had a quiet and pleasant evening.
  Our friends Gary and Judy back in St. Louis had dinner on this same night with friends of theirs from the Chickamauga Lake area, near Chattanooga. It just so happens that Kirk has an upholsterer in his building that could possibly do our zipper work, and Kirk and his wife Jeanne were coming home the next day.
  I called Kirk in the morning and he told me he would call his upholsterer and get back with me. We also asked permission to have some medicine sent to their home so we could pick it up either in a few days or on our way back through. I promised that we wouldn't have any fireworks or other illegal items dropped at their door, so Kirk said it would be OK. I told him that we should be at their house no later than the next morning, which would be Friday. We had two locks to transit and there is no way to predict how that was going to go, plus we had about 50 miles of river to negotiate too.
  I called the Nickajack Lock on the phone and got no response, but now we had a mission to get to Chickamauga by the next morning, so we pulled up the anchor and headed up to the Nickajack Lock by 9 A.M. I finally was able to get someone to answer the VHF call from the Nickajack Lock and they were dumping the chamber to allow another Northbound vessel to lock up and we could share the chamber with them if we got there in time. I kicked Swing Set in the butt and we arrived just as the gates were opening and the light changed from red to green. We motored in and secured our lines to the floating bollard on our port side, right behind a fifty foot plus motor yacht called "Lady Laurel". The bottom end of the chamber when locking up gets a little turbulent and we sustained a bump on the front port quarter and it was all my fault, I didn't react fast enough to the bouncing around we were getting. I typically keep the engines running while locking through in order to shift forward or reverse as needed to keep the boat alongside the lock wall. The bump only put some flaky rust from the lock wall on our rub rail and it rinsed right off, but Rosie and I decided that four fenders instead of our normal three will be used in the future when we lock through. Had I been drinking beer at the time, none of this would have happened, but it was only a little after 9 A.M.
  When we got the horn to leave the chamber I called the "Lady Laurel" and asked if they were going to Lake Chickamauga. The captain said that they were going "clear to Knoxville", so I suggested that they may be going by way of Lake Chickamauga and were they going to be staying in Nickajack Lake, or going straight to LAKE CHICKAMAUGA??? like I asked.
I finally got the message that they were going straight to the Lake Chickamauga Lock, and they were going to travel at 9-10 miles per hour and we could pass them if we wanted to. I allowed as to how we were going to run at a bit over 8 miles per hour, so we let them go on ahead of us. Just as an aside; Do men name their boats after their wives to placate them in some way because they don't like the idea of getting a boat in the first place?
  As soon as we settled in for our trip up the Nickajack Lake, which is basically no more than a narrow section of the Tennessee River that meanders through the mountains as you get to Chattanooga, Rosie did some business on the computer and got some medicine ordered for me and Holly too. I hope I don't get them confused.


  Just past the Hale's Bar Marina, the river gets narrow and for this fact, this part of the river is referred to as "The Narrows". I would suggest to anyone that wants to see this 50 mile section of the Tennessee River to stay at Hale's Bar where they have land and floating cabins, rent a pontoon boat for a day or two, and run it up to Chattanooga and back in a day. I think it would be one of the best two or three day vacations you could have.
  By the time Rosie got her business done, the rain had socked in for the day, but it was cool, so running with our flybridge enclosure zipped up (as good as we could zip it, anyway) wasn't as hot as it could have been. There was some neat looking little houses and cottages along the river, right up to the water's edge. Flooding doesn't seem to be a problem along there as none of them were raised up at all.



Our friend James back in St. Louis asked us to keep a lookout for some homes down in this area is why I am supplying this photo. There was only one home along here that looked more modest, but there were so many junk cars and trucks surrounding it that the view of the house was obstructed. Actually, most of the homes were cute as buttons and I think living along this part of the river would be neat. There wasn't nearly as much weeds growing in the water as the the Guntersville area, maybe because the current is greater, I don't know.
  We got a call from our real estate agent and we missed it, so before we called him back we were fantasizing that maybe we had an offer on our condo for sale in St. Louis, but when we called him back we only found out that he was only calling to make a suggestion that we lower our price yet again. We declined to take up the suggestion. If everyone just gives their homes away, who needs an agent to do that? I know it shouldn't affect me, but the incident put me in a dark mood, along with the incessant rain, but I got over it.


  Like I said, the rain kept up, but the views were astounding, and we hear that the scenery gets even better as we get to Knoxville. Rosie kept her binoculars glued to her eye sockets and remarked on each house and rock as we passed them. During a break in her sight seeing, Rosie made us sandwiches to eat at the helm. We had no intention on stopping before locking through the Chickamauga Lock which is past Chattanooga.


  As we exited the "Narrows", the rain abated a bit and I got this picture of downtown Chattanooga. It looked like a good place to stay for a night or two, but we'll save that for the trip back down perhaps.
  I had forgotten about the time change here in eastern Tennessee and we had to still get through the lock and get fuel at Chickamauga Harbor before they closed at 6 P.M., so I bumped up our speed and got to the Chickamauga Lock just as the "Lady Laurel" had begun her rise up in the lock. We only waited for about twenty minutes when we were invited into the lock for our turn. The lockmaster was very pleasant and on our exit from the lock, he reminded us about the lock closure coming up in late July. We told him we already found out about it on the America's Great Looper Cruiser's Association forum that I read every morning.  (I also found out this morning that the lock will be closed entirely from August 21st to September 21st, so we will have from August 2nd to August 21st to get back through on our return from Knoxville. These are very good things to know.
  We pulled into the Chickamauga Marina, just upstream from the lock, and got 154 gallons of fuel, our first fill up since in a week. ($4.07 per gallon) The attendant said that we were only the second vessel to stop for fuel since Sunday, four days ago. The rain is keeping the boaters at home, but I'll take it over the heat we've had anytime.


  Our destination was Kirk and Jeanne's home, 6 miles or so up the Chickamauga Lake, in Harrison Bay. As we were searching for their dock, we wound up one cove over from it and we passed the Chattanooga Yacht Club. Most of the boats there are in sheds like the ones pictured here. For as stuffy as the place is supposed to be, you would think they would regulate the kind of construction that people are allowed to place over their tubs. We have a strong notion that they would not have us as members. Too bad for them.
  We finally found Kirk and Jeanne's dock and home. Kirk and his friend Mike met us at the dock and helped us tie Swing Set up. It turns out that Kirk and Jeanne are Con Trios Yacht Club members and we had met before. The world is very small indeed.
Kirk supplied me with the name and number of the fella that was going to install our new zippers and I called him. Normally Chad doesn't work on Fridays, but he planned to come in the next morning and put our new zippers in. Talk about Southern hospitality! I pulled the panels off the flybridge enclosure and Kirk and I walked them up to his truck. Mike and his wife Lisa live in Kirk and Jeanne's guest house that sits below "the big house" on their hillside lot above the lake. The guest house is bigger than any home we ever owned and is beautiful inside and out. Lisa and Jeanne came out of the house and invited me up to the deck. Rosie came up, beers came out, and we remained on the deck drinking cocktails and beer to nearly midnight. Our dinner plans were scuttled in favor of some delicious egg rolls made by a mutual friend in St. Louis and brought down by Kirk and Jeanne. We were barely able to make our way back down to the dock later to crash in our comfy bed aboard Swing Set.


  Across the cove from where we are docked sits the Island Cove Marina and this is the picture I took this morning when I got up. Lisa came down to say hello on her way to work and we had a nice big breakfast normally reserved for the weekends. Kirk also came down later and told us that Chad was already at work on our zippers and wondered if we wanted the zippers on our side windows replaced too. I know an opportunity when I see one, so we took off the side panels and Kirk took them along with him to his office to drop them off with Chad. We'll have all new zippers by this afternoon so the rest of our trip will be a dry one for us when we ride out the rain on the flybridge.
  Everyone around here is doing their normal Friday thing and I am doing this and Rosie is washing the boat. We might drop the dinghy in for some sightseeing this afternoon and we hope we can get together tonight again with Kirk, Jeanne, Mike and Lisa. I hope Rosie behaves herself, word might get back to the Chattanooga Yacht Club and we might apply for membership.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Two Days on Guntersville Lake


  This was our view from our anchorage in Honeycomb Cove, just upstream from the Guntersville Lock, when we pulled up anchor there yesterday. No houses on the water in this immediate area but just around the bend towards the town of Guntersville there are some homes that have to be seen to be believed. The idyllic settings in the pine trees are just so beautiful.
  We were headed to Alred Marina because I put out a feeler on the American Great Looper Cruiser's Association forum that we were looking for someone to repair the zippers on our isinglass windows and we got a suggestion to go to Alred. We got a good lead there and I called Norm of Norm's Upholstery and he could have gotten the work done in about four days but we didn't want to wait in the area that long for two reasons; one was that a couple following our blog wanted to meet us 20 miles upriver at Goose Pond, and another reason was that the Nickajack and Chickamauga locks were going to start experiencing outages during the day starting on July 16th. I told Norm that if we didn't get the work done upriver some where that we would call him on our way back down the river. He was OK with that, and we at least had some sort of plan.
  While making plans with the folks from Huntsville that we were going to meet in Goose Pond, we were warned about the weeds that grow on the water in Guntersville Lake and we started seeing evidence of these weeds as we entered the creek leading to Alred. We also left the channel to take a look at the Guntersville Municipal Marina and to check out the public docks near the town of Guntersville. As we were leaving the harbor we got an important phone call and while Rosie was on the phone I was listening along, I mistook some hazard buoys for some no wake buoys, as they look identical, except the writing on them. Who reads the writing? Well, I do from now on. We touched bottom and I glanced at the depth finder to see a reading of 3.1 feet. I pulled back the shifters to neutral as we were already just at idle, and looked toward the stern to see lots of sand and mud swirling behind Swing Set, that luckily was not stuck.
  If you read the last post you know that we had a close call on the day before. Let it be noted that in both cases I was not drinking beer and I was not following the rules properly that I have set for myself in regard to boat operation. I have learned that in order to avoid mishaps in the future, it will be necessary to drink more beer and listen to myself more.
  We set the throttles at our normal 1200 R.P.M.s and I was trying to ascertain if any vibration was occurring and Rosie was acting smug, as she will when I make a mistake, ever so seldom that it occurs. I didn't feel any vibration, but the whole episode played on my mind until I could eventually get under the boat and check the props. They were still nick free, probably just the tips got shined up a little.
  We started seeing vast carpets of this milfoil and hydrilla weed, some were miles long. The weeds do not block the navigable channel, but they block the back creeks and get around the private docks. Spraying them has been cut back due to a shortage of funds, plus when they are sprayed, they get killed along with the fish, so not everyone is happy. I took a picture or two of these weed fields but somehow they did not appear on my camera when I downloaded the photos for this blog today. New camera is on our agenda for sure now.
  Since May 24th, a couple from Huntsville has been following our blog and like I mentioned, we planned to meet them at a restaurant they suggested, called "The Docks" at Goose Pond Colony and Marina, which was 20 miles up the river. We saw many very nice homes along the way and were impressed with the area. Guntersville Lake is on the part of the Tennessee River that lies as far south as it goes, so weather is warmer here generally, but I couldn't get those weeds out of the equation when comparing it to the other parts we've been on.
  We neared the entrance to Goose Pond, or rather the entrance to where the restaurant is. Goose Pond Marina is on an island; an entrance off the channel takes you to a big lagoon where the restaurant and dock for it is, and the entrance to the harbor is up the river a bit. Both entrances are blocked by islands of the weeds but have a channel cut through them for boats to pass. The channel we took was about 50 feet wide and several hundred feet long. The lagoon is not very deep and we had to keep a sharp eye out on the depth finder. Since it was mid afternoon we figured we'd hang out on the hook and then take the boat into the dock to tie up around 5:30. This was a good plan but a weather front was moving in.


  We battened down the hatches and made sure our anchor was stuck as fast as it could be. We took our stations on the flybridge and got ready to drive the boat if the anchor busted loose.


  The wind, rain and lightening came and we kept an eye on not only the depth finder, but the weather radar and it was saying we were in for a long one. The window on the starboard side of our isinglass enclosure couldn't be zipped all the way down and the zipper on the port side was threatening to come undone. I was worried about the iPad getting wet, so I used some Yankee ingenuity and came up with a solution.


  Here is a Ziplock bag placed over the iPad in our RAM holder for it. It functions perfectly with the bag in place and cost only pennies. I used the word "Yankee" here only for your benefit, I'd never utter that word aloud around here. Let's just keep that between us, OK?


  During one of the lulls in the storm activity I took this picture of Rosie and Holly so you could see Holly's new haircut that we gave her before we left our anchorage in Honeycomb Creek. If you go back and view the photo of Rosie and Holly when we were anchored in the Elk River a few days before to compare the way Holly looked before her haircut, and then after, I'd say you don't have enough to do.
  The storm came again, and I remembered an old saying of mine, "When the going gets tough, the tough drink a beer", so we popped a couple of cold ones and rode out another wave of the storm. When the wind abated again, we made for the dock in front of the restaurant that we were going to.
  We had just enough water under our hull to tie up Swing Set, so we did, and we both took wonderful hot showers and got our fancy duds on. For me, that meant clean underwear and regular pants and a shirt, something that is becoming more rare every day. (Not that I ever wear dirty underwear, but....hell, keep reading!)
  We were to meet David and Jeanie at 6:30 but we walked into the restaurant at 5:30 and asked Luke the bartender if they served drowned rats there. He said yes and I said, "Good, how much are they and what comes on the side?" We immediately became friends. "The Docks" is a restaurant/bar that is part of the Goose Pond Colony Marina complex and has recently been voted the best restaurant on the Tennessee River from the Kentucky Dam to I don't know where by Life On the Water Magazine. Read about it on lifeonthewater.com if you want. I asked Luke to pose for a picture of him holding one of our RiverBills.com stickers and he obliged. I took the photo and it's another one that didn't download this afternoon. I said "New camera" and I meant it.
  Luke referred me to Mark Hall, the owner of The Docks when I asked about putting the sticker up somewhere. I went over to meet Mark and he was a really nice younger guy with a great personality. I liked him more when I found out that he keeps his restaurant closed on Sundays and Mondays so he and his staff can enjoy getting out on the water too. Life is too short.
  Rosie and I were making friends at the bar; one fella we met was 75 years old and lived a mile away, been there all his life. He served in the Indo-China war that we all know eventually became the Vietnam War, and was an active member in the American Legion as well as the VFW. I told him about my father's involvement in the American Legion back in St. Louis, and also how lucky I consider myself to be that I didn't have to go to war. I wish everyone was so lucky.
  A big group of diners were filing out and one guy was very obviously lagging behind and he  came up to us and asked us "if that was our boat out front". We told him a brief synopsis of our story and he was impressed. "You two are living everyone's dream, you know that?" he said. I don't know about everyone's dream, but we're living ours, that's for sure.
  David and Jeanie arrived right on time and they turned out to be just as delightful as their emails advertised. We drank beers and told stories and had a great time. We ordered dinner at the bar and if you ever go to The Docks, get their signature dish which is Shrimp and Grits. I kid you not; you don't even have to like grits. This dish is awesome. It has fresh jumbo shrimp piled on stone ground grits and mixed with andouille sausage in Mark's pepper cream sauce. Due to the suggested Four Cheese fritters we had as appetizers, we have some Shrimp and Grits leftover that we'll eat tonight.
  David and Jeanie were leaving for the Gulf Coast the next morning, so by 10 o'clock or so, they asked for a tour of Swing Set and we obliged. The tour is short but we don't charge, so they left happy. We plan to meet up with them with their boat back in Guntersville Lake in Honeycomb Cove where they keep it when we come back through there in a few weeks.
  We slept like rocks, tied up at the pier. Mark gave us permission to stay all night, so we did, but woke up early and headed out in the rain.


  It's been a wet and dreary day all day, but no wind and no storms. A few miles up the river we entered Rosebury Creek to get a look at Scottsboro, Alabama. There were some nice homes up in the creek but we didn't get a view of Scottsboro at all. Maybe we'll use Google Earth.
  We initially figured to run all the way up Guntersville Lake and lock through at the Nickajack Lock into Nickajack Lake, but as we neared 50 miles for the day, we were both tired and I found a great anchorage about four miles short of the dam in a slough behind Burns Island, over 70 miles up Lake Guntersville from the Guntersville Dam. Not a bad two days at 8 M.P.H.
  We dropped the hook and then took a much needed nap after getting up so early and afterwards the rain stopped long enough to mop the boat down and take our river baths. I took some "laundry" out of our laundry tub in the engine room, rinsed the items in the very clear water, (this is when I checked our props for damage) and then Rosie hung the stuff up to dry.
  It's clouded up again, but we don't care. Dinner awaits, delicious leftovers and then maybe some T.V. if anything worthwhile is on. In the morning I'll call the lock to see when we can get through and we'll do another 20-30 miles tomorrow. Chattanooga, here we come.