Monday, July 9, 2012

General Joe Wheeler Reservoir to Guntersville Lake

  We anchored in a big lagoon near the tailwater of the Joe Wheeler Lock, in Wilson Lake. We had some rain that woke us up during the night but nothing major happened. After some minor chores on the boat I called the Joe Wheeler Lock and Dam and the lockmaster said that I had "just missed a pleasurecraft locking up". Can anyone tell me how I was supposed to know that? I apologized for my grave error and asked for a lock up anyway. He said to come on, and we did. In no time at all we were up into the General Joe Wheeler Reservoir. Right past the dam is the Joe Wheeler State Park and we picked a nice quiet secluded cove a few miles up from the dam and decided to chill out for the afternoon.

  We were floating around on our new "Springfloats", without the aid of swimming attire, tucked back into a nice little spot, and the sky darkened. I had put out just enough bow line to keep us from swinging around too much on the anchor because the cove was narrow, but I then put out a stern line to keep the bow pointed forward to insure our privacy. No point in giving the kiddies nightmares.
  By the time we got out of the water and got situated, the wind started blowing and our bow anchor was showing us that it wasn't going to hold. I kept the stern line attached to a side cleat and fired up the engines, pulled up the bow anchor, and dragged the stern anchor and us to deeper water away from the bank. When I went to drop the bow anchor again, a tangle in the bow line prevented me from letting out enough scope and the bow began to turn and we were blowing into the other bank again. I had made a mistake and tied the stern anchor to a cleat that was in line with the running gear and the anchor line was tight against the hull, running under the boat. I figured the port prop was fouled, so I started the starboard engine and dragged us again to deeper water. I deployed the bow anchor but the anchor line got jammed in the winch again. I found out later that the line had tangled in the anchor locker and I could retrieve the line, but only pay so much out, and we didn't have enough out. The bow turned with the wind but luckily it held. The stern anchor was stuck too, but the line was wrapped around either the prop or the rudder. We were sideways to the wind and that is never good. I decided to ride it out, figuring to fire up the starboard engine again if I had to, but the storm abated in about 15 minutes.
  My first order of business was to figure out what happened to the stern anchor line. I swam under the boat and could feel the line around the prop but wasn't sure how to get it off. After a few tries I swallowed a big gulp of lake water. I must say this; It wasn't bad! I detected some off notes and a definite skunky taste, but still it was better than my last Miller Lite. I finally asked Rosie to hand me my diving mask and once I took a look with it, I saw what I had to do. The wind was still tugging at the anchor, keeping the line tight onto the cleat that it was attached to. I told Rosie to pull the line off the cleat right as I went beneath the surface of the water; that put enough slack in the line to allow me to lift the line off of the propeller blade that it was wrapped around. After that, it was quick work to pull up the bow anchor and get out of there.

  The Elk River comes into the Tennessee River just upstream from the spot we were in, so we headed there and found a nice big open anchorage in front of the Elk River State Park. Once I untangled the line in the bow anchor locker, we put out enough line for even the worst of storms, should one happen to arrive. Here's Rosie and Holly posing, very happy that no permanent damage was done during our ordeal. Permanent damage like me drowning, for instance.
  Sunday marked two months that we have been traveling and we celebrated with grilled ribeye steaks and fresh corn on the cob, plus a bottle of wine. While I was grilling, a guy came by in his fishing boat with his son. He was curious about our boat, saying he doesn't see many like ours up this certain part of the river. He pointed out his home across the river and I think he could buy several boats like ours if he wanted to. He invited us to come knock on his door if we needed anything at all during our stay.
  I was up before sunrise this morning and we were on our way by 6 A.M. Quimby's mentions the lack of anchorages on the upper end of the reservoir, so 60 miles or so of ground had to be covered today. It turns out Quimby's was wrong about no anchorages.

  This section of the river has some nice homes, but I would say that they fall into the "more affordable" category than some of the homes on other lakes on the Tennessee River. The reason is that there is lots of industry on this part of the river, be it paper mills or power plants. The smells and the views are something the very rich folks like to avoid.
  We settled in to a hot trip into the upper reaches of the Joe Wheeler Reservoir, stopping every hour or so for a dip. Once we reached mile 335, we were in the Appalachian Mountains and the terrain was impressive.

  This is called "Painted Rock" and is a bluff just a few miles shy of the Guntersville Lock and Dam where I soon called them and inquired about locking up into the Guntersville Lake.

  We were directed into the auxiliary lock which is unusual. Most auxiliary locks are no longer in service and we haven't locked through one in many years. Rosie found the floating bollard to be very low to the water, more suited for a bass boat or runabout, and she had trouble getting our line around it. She finally managed and we were spit out into the very beautiful Guntersville Lake.

  We only traveled a couple of miles into the lake to find a big cove so we could swing at a well set anchor. See? "Swing" and "Set". It's how we arrived at our boat name. This is my story and if I say it's true, then it's true.
  We haven't seen any houses, but the town of Guntersville is right around the bend. We cooled off in the lake some and then had a nice chicken salad for dinner and then Rosie went to work writing emails and I started this post. Our plan for tomorrow is to try to find a canvas person to install some new zippers on the front windows on our bimini top. The zippers are eight years old, but they get used a lot. Something that I figured today was that in the 60 days of our trip, we have probably used this boat more than most people do in a five year period, maybe more. Stuff is going to wear out, we just have to figure out how to get things fixed when we don't know anybody.
  We did make tentative plans to meet a couple that have been following our blog. It's amazing how many invitations we have gotten like this.
  That's it. We've had a very long day and we're both beat. It's still hot but I think there will be some relief tomorrow. Don't feel sorry for us though.


  1. Glad to hear everything worked out well. Sounds very exciting and fun! Stay safe, Jim & Cyndi

  2. All of the secondary locks on the Tennessee River were the original locks. They're still maintained and used anytime they do annual maintenance on the newer, larger locks. I live on Wilson Lake, and those 100' tall gates require lengthy yearly maintenance and a rebuild of the seals every 2-3 years. Even though they're moving barges thru the secondary locks, they'll have 25-30 tows waiting for days to be locked thru.