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.


  1. Marny and I are considering a trip to the Chattanooga area and now since we have your first-hand opinion, I think it's a done deal.

    You must be living right to get your zippers repaired so quickly and conveniently. Awesome.

    1. Chattanooga proper is rather industrial, but only a few miles down the river it gets very pretty and is where the upper part of the "Narrows" are. I still think you would like a cabin at Hales Bar near the NIckajack Dam and go upstream. Either way you will like it. Where we are now is awesome too. More about it later.
      By the way, you know I am always living right. Hahahahaha.

  2. Mike,
    Be sure to check out "Ari's" at Harbor Lights and "Steve's Landing" up Soddy Creek. They are the two better eating establishments on Chickamauga Lake. Harrison Bay State Park and Island Cove both have decent food too. You guys are finally in my lake. Look forward to reading your reviews.

    Lee Ball "Dawg House" Sea Ray 220 DA Sundancer

    1. I saw an ad for Steve's Landing and will try to go there. As much as we would like to try out every restaurant along the way, we have to pass some up, hoping to perhaps hit them when we come back down the river. Thanks for the tips, and keep reading! Chickamauga Lake is really a beautiful place so far.