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.

1 comment:

  1. Great to actually see "YOU".keep the blogs coming and bow into the wind.AbbyNormal