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.