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.