Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Long Week On the Hook

  On Tuesday the 28th, after preparing as much as we felt we had to, soon to be Hurricane Isaac made his appearance here where we were in Alabama, but the most important thing for us was that Isaac was kind enough to make landfall two states away. The first wave produced some respectable wind but it only lasted about ten minutes. After that we had rain off and on for three days but only mild winds.
  We had two anchors out and they both held very well. Sticking them in a few days early helped them settle in to hold us adequately.

  The skies were ominous on Wednesday morning and we were expecting more wind, but it never materialized. We just had more rain and we stayed inside and read our books and played Scrabble and dominoes. Plus we ate good like always.
  Wednesday night was the worst though; there were tornado watches and warnings and the wind was substantial. The anchors were holding but the wind was coming from the one quadrant that brought us closer to the trees than anywhere else. We kept a close eye on things all night and sleep was sporadic.
  Isaac was far enough into the state of Louisiana to allow us to start heading south on Thursday morning, but we enjoyed ourselves so much at Bobby's Fish Camp last Saturday we decided we wanted to go there one last time and Thursday night was going to be the time as they are only open from Thursday to Sunday.
  It was a good thing we stayed around because tornadoes were around us all day on Thursday. We called Lora Jane on Thursday morning and asked if someone could pick us up a loaf of sandwich bread that we could pick up at dinner. She said there would be no problem and asked if there was anything else we needed.
  We dropped the dinghy in the water in between thunderstorms late in the afternoon and motored up to Bobby's. When we got closer, we saw four boats tied to the dock, one of them being the large houseboat that was there last Saturday. It turns out that they have been waiting all week the same as us, but can't leave because they will need fuel when they get to the coast and everybody down there is under water. They are headed for Morgan City which is to the west past New Orleans and cannot take advantage of the marinas that are functional to the east like we will be able to do. They hold less than 200 gallons on their 85 foot houseboat so range is an issue.
  Rosie headed for the dumpster with our two trash bags and went in to get a table and I stayed at the dock to fill our two water jugs. The fella in the houseboat had use of the water hose and as we were unhooking it so I could use it, he spied a ten foot alligator on the opposite shore. I took a picture of it but didn't include it here because it just looks like a log. Believe me, it was a gator unless logs can swim in circles.

  Rosie and I had a good dinner of fresh catfish again and we availed ourselves of several cold Bud Lights too. Somebody please tell Bill Kelly that you saw the sticker on the wall at Bobby's Fish Camp here on our blog. It's right there to the left of Rosie's head.      
  We sat around after our dinner was but a memory and talked to the waitress and Lora Jane until our loaf of bread showed up. They weren't even going to charge us for the bread but I insisted, a business like theirs cannot afford to be giving stuff away. I know we could have added to their coffers by staying at the dock and paying $1.50 per foot per night, but we have to survive too. We threw some money their way but didn't go crazy about it. We didn't have as much fun as when Harry and Linda came to see us last Saturday but it was a nice change after spending all week by ourselves.
  We said goodbye to the folks in the houseboat and headed back to Swing Set in the dinghy. We cruised near to the bank on our way back and saw another alligator. When we got close, it thrashed into the water so we knew it wasn't a log or our imagination. After seeing the gator, Rosie had a new respect for getting into the water. In other words, she may never get in the water again.
  Unless there is whitecaps on the river in the morning, we are going to lock through and take two days to get to the gulf coast. Water should be receded by then. I know this; there is going to be flooding on this river in the next few days and I want to be off of it, high water on the coast or not.
  We are sorry for the people over in Louisiana who felt the brunt of Isaac, but of course we are happy things were not worse here. I shouldn't speak too early because the there are still dark clouds streaming through the sky as I write this blog, but I think we are going to luck out.
  Like I've always said, "I'd rather be lucky than good".
  Have a good holiday weekend and "be safe".

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Still Waiting on Isaac

  Just an update on our current situation: We've gotten lots of well meaning advice from many friends concerned about us with soon to be Hurricane Isaac breathing down our necks. The forecast for Isaac keeps getting better for us and we are keeping a watch on each update from the National Weather Service and other weather applications that we have.
  The first advice which was to "stay put" has been the best so far. Thank you Greg and Mike. We are in an open area (not too open) where the boat can swing in a circle, essential because the wind will be shifting direction as the storm passes. There are creeks in the area that would provide wind protection, but not only are they narrow, the trees would interfere with our wind generators. The most important thing is that flash flood warnings have been issued for Choctaw County which is where we are. You don't want to be anchored in a creek during a flash flood.
  We also considered our quality of life while we have been waiting, which will most likely turn out to be a week or more. We are away from the bank where we would have a better chance to avoid snakes and alligators. Today looks like it may be the first day we won't be out on a raft enjoying the water.
  We also are not in the narrow channel of the Tenn-Tom where we would need to put out a stern anchor to keep from swinging into the path of traffic on the river. High wind and waves to the stern of our boat may sink it, not a good idea to prevent the boat from swinging with her bow into the wind.
  We could have high tailed it back to Demopolis, an attractive idea since we had so much fun there, but it's 90 miles north of here, a 180 mile round trip and still not too many open anchorages up there either. Where we anchored on the trip down in Foscue Creek would be good but  I like the idea of avoiding man made objects during high wind, and it's still a creek. We've seen enough peeled off metal roofs on docks along our trip to know that sheet metal is just one of the items that can become missiles when the wind kicks up. We are going to have 24-25 mile per hour winds today, we are accustomed to more, but if we don't feel safe, we'll still head upriver. It's a plan B.
  One friend advised to lock through and suggested an anchorage about ten miles down the river, but for the reasons stated above, locking through is out of the question, it eliminates too many options. I don't think storm surge would be an issue this far north, but tide would be. We can eliminate of factor in the equation by staying above the lock and dam.
  Another well intentioned email from a new friend suggested that we leave our boat somewhere and we could be evacuated by them. I think this suggestion was bent more toward the prospect of a good party than it was for our safety. Dave, you are a nut.
  Really though, anyone who knows us from our Meramec River days also knows that we'll stay with the ship, but really don't think we'll have to go down with it. Had Isaac kept to the original track that it was predicting a couple of days ago, we probably would have made our way back up the river. But now the track is predicted to go further north than St. Louis. Are we to beat feet back up the river to Iowa to get out of the way?
  This will be our first experience with a hurricane, and there will be many more to come. If I am posting something on Friday morning, you'll know we came out OK.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Waiting Out Hurricane Isaac On Coffeeville Lake

  It looks like we're going to be here for a week or so. We started watching Tropical Storm Isaac as soon as we got the notice from NOAA via an email. This type of travel is a good reason to sign up and get the updates on storms. You can do this from the Boat U.S. website or straight from the NOAA website.
  There is no point in tempting fate by going further south. We are 116 miles north of Mobile Bay and under current predictions, should experience nothing greater than 30 mile per hour winds by next Thursday, the 30th of August, and to be safe all we have to do is stay put. Seems like a no brainer to us.

  From our "front porch" we can watch the river traffic go by and we are well off of the channel with plenty of room to swing at one anchor, although we did deploy another bow anchor, Bahamian style, to let the new anchor settle in to the river bottom to provide better hold when the wind kicks up. We are literally hundreds of feet from the Coffeeville Lock entrance but shielded from their lights by an island that divides the lock from the dam. We keep our radio tuned to both channel 16 during the day as well as the lock's working channel, which is 14.

  We took a dinghy ride on Friday, the day after we got here, and went back upstream to take a first hand look at two anchorages that we took a pass on, looking too narrow or shallow to get Swing Set into. Turkey Creek was our first stop and even in the dinghy it was narrow. The overhanging trees would have been playing havoc with the blades on our wind generators, plus I'd prefer to not have the prospect of critters dropping down from tree limbs while we're on the boat, thank you very much. We explored up into the creek for about a mile, keeping a sharp eye out for alligators which are supposed to be around here but we didn't see any. Another three miles up the river is Okatuppa Creek which was much wider at the mouth, and in a pinch we could have poked our bow in there for a stay, but I'd rather have some room if the wind picks up. Both creeks are in the Choctow Nature Reserve and we saw vegetation neither one of us has never seen before. I couldn't even fathom getting into the water in either one of these creeks. Let's just say that you're not talking to Johnny Weissmuller here.
  We cruised back by Bobby's Fish Camp and we tied up to the dock to top off the fuel tank in the dinghy. I couldn't roust anyone from the intercom at the gas pump, so I left Rosie and Holly in the boat and walked up to the restaurant/office/store and walked in. It was like entering a time warp where nothing had changed for about 50 years. The restaurant was closed but I figured someone would be around for me to ask about getting a few gallons of gas. While I waited I looked around at all the neat stuff on the walls and read a bunch of the many signs and notes posted about. When you deal with a wide variety of the public, you tend to make up the rules as the need for them come up. After reading some of the posts, it's fun to wonder just what transpired to make the proprietor issue a new edict and post it on the wall. I rang a bell over the counter, which by the way, held a variety of things a person could purchase if so inclined, included several alligator heads, minus the good eating parts. I started to wonder if they served alligator tail in the restaurant. I've had it before and yes, it does taste like chicken.
  I knew that Bobby had died a couple of years ago and his daughter Lora Jane was running the business now. There were pictures posted about depicting both of them, so I'd began to think I would know her if she came out from somewhere, but no one appeared and I didn't have my phone to call. I had already made up my mind that we were coming back to have dinner there on Saturday for Rosie's birthday. The place had just the appeal that promised a memorable time.
  On Saturday morning, even though it was Rosie's birthday, she insisted on doing her morning routine of mopping down the boat. I chipped in and washed the dinghy and scrubbed the scum from around the waterline of Swing Set. I must say that we are keeping Swing Set looking cleaner than she ever has, something we intend to keep up. We wonder how people let their boats get so dirty, especially if they are living on them. We both are attracted to clean, shiny fiberglass like some people are attracted to gold or diamonds, neither one of which we have much use for.
  At lunch time I was checking our messages and we had gotten one from some friends from St. Louis who happened to be in Pensacola visiting some friends of theirs. We knew Harry and Linda Steele from the Duck Club Yacht Club were they lived on a 55 foot houseboat and were Harry did a stint as harbormaster for several years. They had since moved off of the boat and are now vagabonds, traveling around where they want and looking for potential places to perhaps move to, or buy a second home. Linda mentioned stopping by to see us on their way back to St. Louis, and I started looking at the map, curious to see how our location was on the way to anywhere. My first thought was that they may not really have an idea just how remote this spot in Alabama is, and I told Rosie to call Linda and tell her that as much as it would be fun to see them both, that we thought it would be too much trouble for them to come by here, requiring them to find Bobby's Fish Camp for us to meet there. After finishing lunch, we lounged around on our rafts and let Holly swim, keeping a sharp eye on her as she would be considered prime alligator food. The whole time, it nagged at me that we may have given Harry and Linda the idea that we didn't want to see them, but nothing could have been further from the truth.

  We got ourselves cleaned up and left Holly in charge of the boat and arrived at Bobby's Fish Camp by 5 P.M. Little did we know that we would celebrate Rosie's fifty fourth birthday at such an interesting place. We went in and Rosie grabbed a table as the place was filling up quick. I arranged to have the gas pump at the dock turned on and went back down to the fuel dock to fill up the tank on the dinghy and to get some water in one of our water jugs that we brought along with us. I was told that the water faucet was "down by the tree" and it took me a good bit of time to find the right tree. I had to use my keen detective skills to follow the white hose coiled up on the fuel dock over to the bank where I eventually found a tiny faucet about two inches from the ground, wrapped in insulation to prevent freezing in the apparently harsh southern Alabama winters.
  By the time I had gotten the water and the fuel, another boat had pulled up and was wanting fuel. Lora Jane, the proprietor of Bobby's, had come down to the dock and we introduced ourselves and both agreed that it was unbearably hot for us to be out. Besides right there at the fuel pump, the dock was already taken up by a huge houseboat and a sailboat, but both were spending the night and I parked the dinghy between them, with Lora Jane's approval, of course.
  I walked back up to the restaurant and was soaked with sweat, my hair wringing wet. The air conditioning in the restaurant was a welcome relief and I found Rosie already hard at work on a ice cold can of Bud Light. "You can just grab a can there from the cooler", Rosie said. "They just count 'em up when we go to pay". Perfect. I joined Rosie and perused the menu. Catfish is the specialty, and all around me I saw folks with big platters of fried fish, hush puppies and french fries piled in front of them. "When in Rome", so we both ordered catfish fillets and grabbed another beer.

  I asked a patron walking by to take our picture and he kindly obliged. That little girl behind Rosie sat and watched us knock down beers while she quietly played with some Lincoln Logs. She probably thought we were strange.

  While we waited for our food to come, "and don't get in a hurry", Rosie took her turn to look around. See the alligator heads stacked on the counter on her left? I asked our waitress if we couldn't get a couple of warm cases of Bud Light to go when we left and she said we could, but first she had to go see if they had them. Things were working out all right.
  Rosie sat back down and our empty beer cans were piling up when our food came out on an aluminum platter, piled high with fish. I want everyone to listen, and listen good: I've had catfish at a lot of places on the Mississippi River on the Alton Pool; Kinders, the Fin Inn, O'Jan's, and the Loading Dock, being a small list. I have never  had catfish that tasted this good, anywhere. Period. The fillets tasted more like crappie than catfish. Rosie agreed and we dug in.
  We were slowing down on our feast when I looked up and who did I see but Harry and Linda Steele walking in to join us on Rosie's birthday! We couldn't believe it, not for a minute. They had used Mapquest to get them near, but then had to rely on people they had stopped to ask, to find Bobby's. I noticed that it was 7:10 on a clock over the door when they sat down. After ordering their dinner, they began to tell how they had left Pensacola around 3 P.M. and set out to find us. We laughed when Linda told us how she had mentioned to Harry that Rosie didn't sound too encouraging on the phone, but Harry was undaunted and set a course for Coffeeville anyway.
  The best part was when they pulled into a gas station and two police cars were pulled in there too, sitting side by side with doors open. Harry asked a fella sitting in one of the passenger seats which way was it to Bobby's Fish Camp and the guy got out and started pointing out directions, motioning with his arms in the direction in which they were to go. They heard one of the officers say, "Sir, I need to remind you that you are under arrest and need to get back in the car." The fella kindly giving the directions to Bobby's reluctantly got back in the car and Harry and Linda peeled off down the highway.
  Feeling lost again, they stopped in front of what looked like a bar. A patron was getting out of his four wheeler to go inside this block building with beer signs and bars on the windows and Harry asked him if we knew where Bobby's was. "Why sure, I know where that is", and then he proceeded to direct them to what Harry described as a road "that about knocked the springs out from under the car". All this to come and see us out in the middle of nowhere. When Harry took a break and went to use the restroom, Rosie started crying, and so did I, at the thought of anyone taking that much trouble to come and see us. Life is grand.

  The clock said 7:10 when Harry and Linda's food came and I went over to the cooler to grab some more beers. The empties on our table were stacking up like bowling pins. A new set of diners at the table across from us and near the beer cooler each had tall ice teas in front of them and gave me a look like I was fixing to burn in hell right before their eyes. I said "howdy" and carried an armful of beers back to our table. Harry and Linda got us caught up with their travels and plans and we were enjoying the stories. Harry is retired Navy and always has a good story to tell. It felt like it was getting late but the clock over the door said it was only 7:10. That's when I figured out the clock was broke and had been for some time, at least since 7:10, on some date in the past. What's tragic about this is that I wear a wrist watch.
  It was really only 8:30 but the restaurant closes at 9 P.M. Harry and Linda were going to get on down the road and find a motel, opting not to stay at one of the cabins there at the camp. They figured it was early and they could use the time left in the evening to roll up some miles. We all hugged goodbye and went our own ways; Harry and Linda to the car and us to the dinghy, carrying the spoils from our visit: lots of leftover catfish and two cases of Bud Light for us to enjoy this week while we wait out Hurricane Isaac. We buzzed back in the cool night, dodging big islands of water plants that dot the waterway.
  Holly was overjoyed to see us. We'd been gone for over five hours and Rosie got her fill of "kisses" from our dog. Yes, as one of our friends recently said, we have become one of those people. Rosie and I sat up and talked about what a great evening it turned out to be. Isn't it wonderful when you don't expect much, but things turn out so well? Rosie was treated to one of the best birthdays that she will remember for years to come. And there was no singing.
  We'll be sitting here on Coffeeville Lake for the next five days or so. I doubt that I'll have much to post, so don't expect much unless something unusual happens. If we are here next Thursday night, we'll go back to Bobby's for dinner again. They're open from Thursday to Sunday now and we wouldn't mind getting some more catfish to take with us as we get back on down the river to Mobile Bay. Until then, we'll just be sittin' back enjoying life.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Demopolis Yacht Basin

  We spent a whole day in the Cochrane Cut-off. The river was calm in the anchorage there and we only say two barges and one jon boat. The two annoying things were that the crickets and cicadas were in a vocal mood and serenaded us the whole time. I am a firm believer that if the insects would all get together with a plan, they could drive us all nuts. All they need is organization. There was also an airport nearby and planes did stunt maneuvers all day. It would have been fun to watch, but we couldn't see any planes due to the trees and clouds, just heard the constant roar of their engines.

  Swing Set got a good bath, in and out, from Rosie, and my contribution to our floating society was a little Lexan bracket that I pop riveted to the radar screen cover so I can hold one of the guides we are using. A pop rivet tool is a good thing to have on the boat, along with a drill, sander, soldering iron, Dremel tool and jig-saw. This is the short list.
  We left our anchorage at around 9 A.M. on Wednesday and had a pretty long travel day, arriving at the Demopolis Yacht Basin at almost 5 P.M. Diesel fuel was $3.59 per gallon and we took on 133 gallons. We didn't need it, but I won't pass on fuel that cheap. We filled up our water tank too, and dumped our trash.
  I talked to the fuel barge attendant at length, along with the captain of one of the tow boats fueling up at the dock there. The tow boat was taking on 10,000 gallons. Can you imagine?
I asked about the restaurant there at the marina and was told that the food was pretty good. Sounded like a right fitting endorsement to me. The place didn't look fancy and that is right up our alley.

  The New Orleans Bar and Grill seemed like the perfect place to end our day and get a nice cold beer in some air conditioning, so we both took quick showers, left Holly on the boat tied to the fuel dock, and walked up to the restaurant.
  We took a seat at a booth, ignoring my rule about meeting more people at the bar than anywhere, but after making a quick survey of the scene, I asked Rosie if she wouldn't rather sit at the bar. I'm not sure if the nice waitress minded, but we told her that we'd rather have a seat at the bar where two fellas were there and gave us a friendly hello.
  First things first were two Bud Lights at Happy Hour prices, and then Rosie ordered Southwest Chicken and Shrimp. Shrimp and Grits was the special, so I had to try them since I liked them so much at the Docks at Goose Pond. Our bartender, Lane, kept us supplied with cold beers and she was fun to chat with too.

  I took this picture of Swing Set sitting at the fuel dock before the camera battery went dead again. Demopolis Yacht Basin is right on the river and is the perfect fuel stop, and we were about to find out how nice the folks we met in the restaurant were also.
  Lane found out we were in need of a couple of cases of Bud Light and offered to have her mother pick some up for us as she was about to arrive at the bar with some ice cream so Lane could make some specialty shots, the name of which I have already forgotten. We declined her offer about the same time one of the regulars came in and joined us and the other two fellas. We quickly met Tom; his family has lived in Demopolis for five generations and have a business there which he still runs with his 82 year old dad. Tom was trading conversations with us and the other two regulars at the bar when they started talking about college football, and since they found out we were from St. Louis, they admitted as to how they liked the idea that Mizzou was now in their conference, the SEC.
  The older man at the bar, Mr. Ed, asked me how big Missouri was. I had lost the thread of the conversation and I thought he meant how big in size Missouri was. I had just enough beers to answer that on the last map I looked at, it was about "this big" and drew my fingers in a fine circle. Then I added that, "but on one map, it was this tiny", pulling just my thumb and forefinger into a smaller shape. Luckily they found my smart ass amusing, but then proceeded to ask how far was it from St. Louis to Kansas City. I quickly responded that it was 256 miles. Mr. Ed answered that he thought is was much further than that, but I shot back that maybe it was a lot further when all they had was wagon trails to take a person from one side of the state to another, but we have an interstate highway now. We were all laughing at that one and then Mr. Ed came down and introduced himself properly and said it was certainly a pleasure meeting us.

  That's Tom on the left, then Lane. I don't know the other bums. We were likely to not get out of the place; Lane supplied us with a free shot of her specialty drink for the night, and Tom bought us a round of beers. If it wasn't for Tom having to leave to go pick up his daughter, we might be there still. Lanes mom had to take the picture because our camera shot craps. Lane emailed the picture right on the spot so I could use it here.
  We said our goodbyes and traded business cards. Tom told us about a book about the building of the lock and dam system on the Mississippi and as soon as I get done writing this blog post, I'm ordering it from Amazon. It's called "The Rising Tide" by John Berry.
  It was dusk as we headed about a mile down the river to  Foscue Creek and it was dark when I pulled off of the channel into a narrow opening in the trees. I knew there was a Coast Guard vessel moored up the creek, so I figured depths were no problem. I used the chartplotter and depth finder to good advantage and we dropped the anchor just past a huge Coast Guard tow boat.
  Our plan was for a full day of travel and this morning I was up at 5 A.M. I checked for some anchorages down river on Active Captain and printed a screen shot so I could find them later. Rosie got up too and I called the lock which was just down from Foscue Creek and they had us on the list and we sailed right on into the lock by 6 A.M., still dark.
  Once we were secure to a bollard, the lockmaster asked me for our vessel documentation number. I told him I'd have to go below to get it, but I added that he was the first person besides the Coast Guard or Water Patrol to ever to ask me for that information. He said to never mind and he locked us on through in nothing flat.

  The sun was just starting to peek out as we left the lock chamber. This is the spillway below the Demopolis Lock. It was a pretty sight with the fog rising from the water. I would advise anyone to make a stop at Demopolis if you ever pass that way.
  We cruised for ten hours today and are currently sitting just above our last lock on the Tenn-Tom, Coffeeville Lock at mile 116. The Alabama River comes in at mile 45 and we are going to pull in there for a day or two until we see what Tropical Storm Isaac is going to do. There is no point in heading further south into the eye of a possible hurricane, so sitting tight up here in the river is the easiest thing to do. Tom from Demopolis said that the Alabama River was a good boating river with lots of sand bars. We are familiar with such places and can make good use of them, especially on a weekend.
  Update: after weighing all the options, we are indeed going to stay above the Coffeeville Dam until Isaac passes and go to Bobby's Fish Camp for dinner tomorrow night on Rosie's birthday. We are off the channel on a good hook and the lock master has no problem with us being here, just upstream from the "No Boats Past This Point" signs. I am but a fool if I don't take the advice of someone who has passed this way more than once. Thank you all for your concerns sent to us on Facebook and they are heeded. Now, where's the rum?
  I got another email today from a blog reader who invited us to give him a shout when we get past his house some day. Jay lives in Seneca, Illinois, on the river, and wondered if we were going to do the Loop, if so, to drop by. I wish I had a way to remind me of all the folks who make similar offers, but I don't know how I would keep track of everyone. We get one or two invites like this per week. I always tell them to keep an eye on the blog and give us a shout when we are approaching their area. We missed one very nice man this week at Midway Marina as we were already past him when he let us know we were in his area. We are sorry to miss anyone, but it's going to happen that way sometimes.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Upper Tenn-Tom Waterway

  The sun is just starting to make an appearance over the low tree line on what is promising to be another beautiful day. Our anchorage is 50 miles south of where we anchored in Bay Springs Lake on Saturday night. If you are heading north, our anchorage is the last one on the Tombigbee River before it turns into mostly canal, but more on our transit later.

   On Sunday morning I installed our new Garmin GPSMap 640. It's in the picture slightly tilted above our older GPS unit. I had to cover the hole for the old chart plotter even if we bought a flush mount kit for the Garmin and it costs $150, so we saved the money and installed it as a surface mount where the old unit was placed. The black Lexan trim matches the trim around our stereo remote. It's in the picture on the far right. The radar cover on the lower right is going to get a makeover to allow us to hold a book, or guide, on it to be used while underway.
  We were at the first lock on the Tenn-Tom by 9 A.M. Sunday morning, and after about a 15 minute wait, an upbound tow exited the lock and we went in. The Bay Springs lock is fairly large, but the rest of the locks as went went south were small in comparison.

  The next lock is the Montgomery Lock, a much smaller outfit. One thing about the locks on the Tenn-Tom, there are lots of them and they communicate with each other. They all work on different channels, so instead of trying to remember them, just hail them on 16 and they will tell you what channel to go to. We got really lucky on Sunday; every lock was ready for us when we arrived, no waiting, and they were very polite. There was also usually only one car at each lock, so the lockmasters seemed to be anxious to be doing something.
  "The Ditch" is not a fair name for the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. It first opened in 1985 and perhaps then the name may have been apt, but now plenty of vegetation has grown and its quite scenic.

  There are homes behind those trees, and the water is very shallow. Be careful if you want to buy "waterfront" property in these parts. We have seen whole bays filled with nothing but stumps and homes sat on the shore. I don't know how they get in and out.
  We had no agenda for our travel on Sunday, but we wound up traveling 50 miles in 9 hours, but that included locking through 6 times, a record for us. Once we got on a roll, and the lock masters were waiting for us at each lock, it seemed a waste to not take advantage of it.

  Getting late in the afternoon and we were on the section of the river that would best be described as still being "canal", but the shore here was lined with pine trees and the cool air and the pine scent as we cruised down the river was a joy.
  The guide we got from the fellow boater at Aqua Yacht advertised an anchorage at mile 366, which was a section of the old Tombigbee River. From what we eventually found out, the upper regions of the Tombigbee were straightened out to make the canal, and many of the oxbows have been taken back by nature, but some parts of the original river remain, and we set our course for one of these.
  As we neared the entrance to the old river, we came upon two guys in a bass boat, obviously trying to start it. The motor was raised to the trailer position, and a person at the helm was cranking the ignition. The motor would occasionally bark back and sputter, but not start. I asked them if they needed to be towed somewhere, but they declined the offer. We then asked them how to approach the entrance of our intention, as the guide we have was not too clear on it.
  There were two pontoon boats full of afternoon revelers on a sandbar at the entrance to the anchorage we were pulling into and we still had 24 feet on our depth gauge and were heading for the spot in the river where the guide said to plunk the anchor, when nearly everyone on both pontoon boats started waving their arms in the international signal of "don't go there". Guide or no guide, when the locals get that animated about whatever it is I'm about to do, I quickly become a firm believer in whatever it is that they are currently believing in.
  I yelled over if I should not go any further up the river and they were all in agreement, so we dropped the anchor nearly right across from them and we didn't even stop drifting when one of them invited us down to his house "down the river in Aberdeen", to continue the great party they were having. I was about to ask if we should bring our own duct tape and chloroform, but instead just admitted to having a long day and we were going to just take it easy. We were asked if we "knew where we were" and I answered that, yes, we knew where we were. I wanted to add that we also knew what time it was, but figured it wouldn't wash too well under the circumstances.

  Once our "company" left, we had a quiet evening. By the way, one of the pontoon boats had to tow the disabled bass boat down the river. Maybe they should have tried to start it in the lowered position, but what do I know? There was no T.V. reception, so we played a game of Scrabble and turned in early. The picture at the beginning of the blog is what we woke up to and we were ready to get on our way.
  As I pulled out into the waterway channel, a barge was making way downstream. I called them and politely apologized for ducking out into the channel ahead of them and asked it I should wait for them to lock through before we did. The captain said that we would be there long before them and we should get on ahead.
  After mile 336 going down, there are plenty of anchorages, but we found out that what is advertised in the guide we are using is out of date, to put it mildly. It was written in 1995. We transited four locks today, still doing 50 miles, and we intended to stop earlier, but the anchorage we found in the guide was all but dried up. We traveled another 20 miles and pulled into a better spot, but it must be said that the guide promised 18 feet of water in the slough we are in, but when we weren't even 1/4 of the way up in it, I called it quits when we got down to four feet. If some of our river friends back on the Alton Pool think about how just our section of the river has changed up there in the last ten years, consider that the information in this guide is 17 years old.

  Before I end this blog entry, I have to share the only picture I wound up taking this afternoon. We have it on good authority that Superman owns this particular cabin along the banks of the Tombigbee. We understand he is shy about changing into his swimming trunks.
  We are on a good hook in some very quiet water. I think we will stay here for a day and recharge our batteries, the last two days have been enjoyable, but tiring. Tomorrow we'll clean Swing Set up some and I'll modify the cover on the radar monitor to hold one of our books we are using.
  I know we are miles from any civilization around here. We don't have any T.V. reception, but we have Internet. Last night we were just upstream from a somewhat large town and there was little Internet service. I'm glad to be getting this post in and hope you enjoy it. But honestly, this waterway has to be seen to be appreciated, don't let descriptions of it being boring sway you into avoiding it.
  Now I'm going for a late bath and Rosie is going to hold alligator watch for me, whether there's alligators here or not.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Heading Down the Tenn-Tom to Bay Springs Lake

  After we got Swing Set back into the water last Tuesday we headed back over to Zippy Cove to wait for our props to be repaired. I don't know where the week went, but before we knew it, Friday morning was upon us. This may have something to do with our friend Bill, of, having declared last Thursday as National Rum day. We embraced the holiday and gave it the treatment any good holiday deserves.
  I do know we got our sump box cleaned out and a fair amount of waxing was accomplished too. Our weather had been very nice with the exception of a decent thunderstorm that we woke up for on Thursday night. We stood watch for the duration of the worst of it to make sure the anchor held, but it didn't last long.
  We had been tracking our package with the new Garmin GPS unit in it and we were still a go for getting it by Friday end of day. I had called the prop shop on Thursday and our props were finished and we planned on picking them up on Friday afternoon as well. By mid-day, we left Zippy and popped on over to Grand Harbor to fuel up and get a pump out. We also exchanged some books for three new ones. We both use Kindles, but take advantage of real books when we can and Grand Harbor has a book exchange. We took on 184 gallons, not bad since our last fueling was at Fort Loudon, about two hundred miles upstream.
  Next, we motored over to Aqua Yacht and after finding an empty slip, we walked up to the service department and were handed the keys to a nearly new Ford F-150 to go fetch our props. We picked up the props, which only needed "an adjustment". This means that only one blade per prop was bent, so the cost was minimal. We got out of there for about $400 for both props. Tony at Aqua Yacht gave us permission to run by Piggly Wiggly too, where we picked up a few items. It had been a week since we last shopped and there is always something we need. We keep a running list on the iPhone so we have it whenever we find ourselves in a position to shop. One more quick stop to top off the Ford with gas and we returned to Aqua Yacht to thank the staff there for all of their help. We also were able to pick up our new chart plotter as the UPS delivery had come while we were gone.
  Cafe St. Clair is at Aqua Yacht and we decided to go there for dinner. We had some time to kill, so we walked the dock we were on and checked out some boats and talked to some other boaters. Ronn Walker was washing his boat and we got to talking because I noticed his boat was for sale. Ronn is an airline pilot and may be heading for the Philipines for a job and has to sell his boat. He learned about our trip and loaned us a guide to the Tenn-Tom waterway. When we get to Mobile Bay, we'll pop it in the mail and return it to him. If it fits, it ships.
  We had a nice dinner at Cafe St. Clair, but we should have stopped with just a salad. We both hardly ate the pasta we ordered, but our left overs are safe and sound in the fridge for dinner on a night coming up. We returned to the boat before it got dark and took Swing Set back over to Zippy Cove for one more night.
  We took our time this morning over a fine breakfast and eventually shoved off at 9 A.M.

  Pictured is where Yellow Creek narrows down and becomes "The Ditch". There wasn't much to see for the next three hours until we came to Bay Springs Lake. At mile 415 we found a nice cove and put the hook out. After over four hours at the helm, I just wanted to read a bit and get a nap. The work I wanted to do on the boat was going to be noisy and there were two boats in the cove with us and I didn't want to disturb their fishing.
  By mid-afternoon, the fishermen had given up and I went to work fabricating a cover for the dash board to mount our new GPS/chart plotter. I had some Lexan left over from when we made the towers for the wind generators, so I used that instead of buying some Star Board. A flush mount kit is available, but the hole from our current chart plotter is still bigger that we need for the flush mount kit and some type of trim ring was going to be necessary anyway, so I decided to use the surface mount, but on the space where the other unit was. Work was delayed while some paint had to dry, pictures will come later.
  We bought some chicken at the deli at Piggly Wiggly and had that for dinner. I've just about cured my need for fried chicken for the time being. Rosie and I played a game of Scrabble and now here I am, writing this blog and fighting sleep and it's not even 9 P.M. yet.
  This lake is very pretty, but rustic. There are almost no homes and the water is clear, but not as clear as Tellico Lake. We may hang out here tomorrow while I finish up the installation of the Garmin unit, but we'll decide that tomorrow. Why not?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Good Day at Aqua Yacht Harbor

  We took Swing Set over to Aqua Yacht Harbor on Monday night, courtesy of the service department there, and plugged in at the transient dock. It was a cool breezy night and the air conditioning wasn't needed so much, but it was nice to use the cable for a couple of hours.
  We pulled over to the travel lift in the morning and Tony was waiting for us. Two of his crew had to switch to longer straps for the lift so Swing Set could be hauled up and checked out.

  By 8:30 they had Swing Set out of the water and already working on her. There wasn't too much growth on the hull, but there was some due to the fact that our bottom paint requires some friction from the water to sheath off the algae growth and we weren't producing much friction at 8 miles per hour.
  The bottom paint under our swim platform, and a spot on the transom, had flaked off, so we decided to power wash just the back of the boat and under the swim platform to remove any more loose bottom paint and to touch up the bare spots. I had a quart of Interlux Micron Extra left over from the paint job back in St. Louis, so Jason at Aqua Yacht used it, saving us some money.
  While the hull was drying so it could be painted, the mechanics got to work pulling off the props. We could tell that both props were damaged, but only one blade on each had a slight bend. They had to use a torch to heat things up to get the props to pop off. I can't see doing this myself underwater, I don't even have a pipe wrench big enough to take the prop nuts off. My main concern was the shafts, but when they blocked the boat and put the dial gauge on each shaft, I was watching the needle as Jason turned each shaft with a wrench.
"These shafts couldn't be more straight", we were told and that was a relief.
  To save us even more money, Rosie and I took the props ourselves over to Iuka, Mississippi, to Hoyt Peden, the local prop shop owner. We were promised a two day turn around on our prop repair which is going to work out great as we have to wait for our new chart plotter to arrive at Aqua Yacht on Thursday or Friday, being shipped from New York.
  Next door to the prop shop is a Mom and Pop hardware store and I cannot resist these kind of places. There were three employees in the small store and we were asked if we could be helped, to which I replied that I new there was something is the store I wanted to buy, but I didn't know what it was just yet. They got a kick out of that, and we looked around with Rosie carrying Holly in her arms. I found a Crescent Wrench that I needed, but couldn't find anything else, so we bought that at least.
  We drove the courtesy truck back to the shop and Tony said that he'd like to wait until at least 1 P.M. before putting the boat back into the water so the paint could dry some. He invited us to take the truck and go sight seeing and have lunch, so we did.

  We wound up over in Counce, Tennessee, at R&B BBQ, recommended by the fellas over at Aqua Yacht. They had a few tables outside and we seemed to be the only customers when we sat down at 11 A.M. Holly got her own chair and a bowl of water too. Her she is looking pretty as a picture. I mean Rosie.
  By noon, the place was packed; car after car kept pulling up with two, three or four people at a time going into this little restaurant. Rosie had a Reuben sandwich and I got a tried and true cheeseburger. The place was just like the Duck Club Yacht Club restaurant, but only for one reason: They serve tater tots with their sandwiches. Don't knock it until you've tried it.
  With us dealing directly with the prop shop, we were able to settle up our bill with Aqua Yacht when we got back there. The bill was very reasonable, even with the unexpected cost of touching up the bottom paint. The prop repair shouldn't be too much, so all told, our run in with the tree stumps on the Tellico River will cost us about half as much as our insurance deductible is. This makes for happy campers.
  When the mechanics got back from lunch, Swing Set was lowered back into the water and we idled away, as slowly as possible to avoid washing off any more paint than we had to. We're back in Zippy Cove for a couple of days. We'll do some more waxing while we wait for our props to get repaired, and I have a sump to clean out.
  Our gray water accumulates in a "box" in the bilge from all of the sinks and the showers, then gets pumped overboard. Soap scum builds up around the float switch for the pump that is inside the box, and eventually makes the float switch stick and the pump stays on. Cleaning out this box was usually an annual event, but with us using the boat on a continued basis, I expected the box to need cleaning out more frequently, so here we are. It's not a hard job, just a nasty one. A requirement for the job is a good wet vac, and we have one. I'll plan this chore for in the morning.
  But isn't that just the cutest face? I mean Holly.

Monday, August 13, 2012

On Hold For Some Repairs

  When we left Florence Harbor Marina on Friday the sky was overcast and stayed that way for the whole trip down to the entrance to the Tenn-Tom at mile 215. I had never entered a waypoint into our GPS and set a course for it, but I got out the directions and were able to follow them. The chart plotter took us right to our destination with no hiccups. I feel less concerned about making a crossing in the Gulf knowing that our GPS is accurate. It's nice when things work.
  What doesn't work is the display on the chart plotter. Put this way; the display on the GPS unit is small and it works fine. The chart plotter unit sends a display to the radar screen. This is the display that is not working. I get a picture similar to how the old T.V.s used to do when the horizontal hold was messed up. We are less concerned because although the radar works just fine, the chart plotter is ancient and we don't have chips for it other than Lake Michigan. I think we'll remove the pad for the chart plotter and put a small Garmin unit in its place. Then between it, our GPS, along with the iPad and iPhone navigation apps, we may be able to find where we want to go.
  My last call to Aqua Yacht was over a week ago and Tony, the shop manager, and I made a tentative plan to get the prop(s) repaired on Swing Set from our run in with the tree stumps on the Tellico River a few weeks ago. Our plan involved getting some paint on our spare props to prevent barnacle growth when we get to the salt water, so this is something that has to be done before we swap them out. Aqua Yacht knew we were coming and Tom, the service manager, was not surprised to see us when he got back from lunch and we were relaxing in their nicely equipped ships store.
  Tom and I confirmed the plan that Tony and I had made and set a course to have Swing Set hauled out first thing Monday morning. We brought the spares up from the boat and left them to be painted that afternoon. There was one potential snag, and it was a vessel being hauled that afternoon for a fuel tank leak, which might affect our boat getting hauled, but I was to call Tom the next day to confirm the Monday haul out.
  Rosie and I brought Swing Set over to Zippy Cove, a nice anchorage we stayed in when we passed through here around the first part of July. We ate a snack and just relaxed after getting up early for our last trip down the Tennessee River that morning. Later, when we were eating the remnants from our dinner at the Joe Wheeler Lodge, and our left over chicken from Champy's, a boat came unusually close by and then anchored in the back of Zippy, but left later before sunset. We found out later that the owner of the boat follows the blog and sent an email asking if we needed to go to the store, offering to drive us. Since we got everything we needed in Florence, we declined the offer. We thought we'd see Marty again some time over the weekend but we didn't. People have been so nice that way.
  The weather has just been perfect. The nights have been nice and cool and temperatures during the day have been below 90, so we haven't had to run the air conditioner for a few days.

  Rosie insisted on taking this picture on Saturday. Believe it or not, I am actually very happy, but it's hard to tell. Holly is happy and it's very easy to tell. She has a tail to wag.
  Saturday and Sunday were spent doing some boat waxing and other minor chores in the mornings, and then lounging around in the water and watching the other boaters that congregate in Zippy Cove in the afternoon. For dinner on Saturday, I grilled some steaks in our cast iron skillet on the Magma Grill and I didn't burn them. Hi Judy.

  Due to the cool evenings, we have fog in the morning. This is from yesterday morning and shows a houseboat and some others that tied up for the night. Just a gorgeous day we had on Sunday! We topped off the day with some Pattie-melts that Rosie made in the convection oven, and then we used some "data transfer" gigs to watch a Netflix movie. It took 1.9 gigs to watch the movie, so we won't be watching anymore movies unless we get free WiFi somewhere for the next month. We are allowed 5 gigs per month with the plan we have. Good thing we like books and dominoes.
  I had called Tom the service manager over at Aqua Yacht on Saturday and our props didn't get the paint they needed on Friday, so they were going to get paint today, Monday. Tom asked if it was OK that we would haul the boat out on Tuesday. Perfectly fine with us. If all goes well we can be on our way by the weekend.
  While this repair was not in the budget, things like this have to be expected. We were able to build in a little cushion in our finances for the last three months, so we won't be hurt too bad unless a shaft is bent, but I doubt that that is the case.
  Overall, the trip has been what we have expected. One big troubling matter is the fact that we haven't gotten a viable offer on our condo yet. Now we are considering leasing it out, but still not sure if we want the hassle, although economically it would be the best thing to do. If we sold it and invested the money, we'd just have to pay our financial advisor 1% annually to watch it disappear. We could just sit on the condo and when we get sick of the boating life we could move back to St. Louis and stare out the window wondering "what if?"

Friday, August 10, 2012

Muscle Shoals, Alabama

  It rained here in Florence on Thursday morning so we didn't get Swing Set washed but we did get the engine synchronizer fixed, or at least the part installed. We'll know if it works when we head down the river on Friday morning.
  Rosie went to the dermatologist. The appointment was at 3 P.M. and we were 45 minutes early. We were walking out of there by 3 P.M. and it was nothing serious. The doctor froze off the small bump on her temple. I won't get into the medical details.

  After the doctor's appointment in Florence, we headed across the river to Muscle Shoals. We made another stop at the Tractor Store and Dollar General for some stuff we forgot to get on the day before. Then we went to Champy's for an early dinner at 4 P.M.

  There were plenty of customers in there at that early hour and we both ordered a three piece chicken dinner; mine was white meat and Rosie ordered dark meat. Look how big those chickens were! We both could eat only two pieces, so we brought the rest back to the boat. If anybody lives in Muscle Shoals, Daphne, or Chattanooga, you have to try this place. Nothing fancy, but goooood chicken.

  The important object in this picture is the sticker at the top. I took it with my old iPhone and there is no flash. I didn't want too much attention drawn because I didn't ask permission to put the sticker up. Judging by the decor in Champy's, I don't think anyone will notice and take offense, but you never can tell.
  We put some fuel in the courtesy car and returned to the marina by 5 P.M. in case some new arrivals wanted to use it. We went to the office to talk to Eva, the owner, one last time. She's really nice and helped us out a lot. Anyone passing through this way should make a stop at the Florence Harbor Marina.
  Holly was glad to see us when we got back to the boat. After taking care of some quick business we took Holly for a walk. There is a nice city park adjacent to the marina and plenty of walking and biking paths to use.
  Once back on board, we watched a Netflix movie. We used to watch current movies nearly every night in St. Louis. Now we watch older movies once or twice a month and it's really a treat.
  We're heading out early on Friday morning and setting the chart plotter for Aqua Yacht Harbor. If we get there before they close, we'll talk with them about our plan to get our prop repaired, and anything else wrong that we may find. This will mean a few days on the hook in the Iuka, Mississippi area. We were there a little over a month ago and enjoyed our stay. It seems a lot longer ago than that.
  The other big thing on our minds is that our condo was shown twice this week to the same client, but we haven't heard anything from our agent yet. We are keeping our fingers crossed hoping to get a fair offer so we can get it behind us. Some larger, and more complicated portions of our trip are in front of us and we don't need the distraction.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wilson Lock and Florence Harbor Marina

  We didn't get any more visitors in our little cove last night, so the water was calm and quiet and we got a good nights sleep. We got up early and had a quick breakfast with plans to weigh anchor by 8 A.M.

  While Rosie was straightening up the galley from breakfast, I took Holly outside for a picture of her new haircut. It took five tries before she would face the camera. The key word here was "treat". Gets her to perk her ears up every time.
  As soon as I got out of the cove we were in, I called the lock and was told that the chamber was full and we should come on down.

  Here we are approaching Wilson Lock from the upstream side. The tower is a tourist attraction and there are some big hotels at the base of it. We waited a few minutes because the lockmaster had stepped over to the auxiliary lock for something or other, but soon enough they signaled us in. This is one of the tallest locks in the world, but the ride was just as gentle as any we've had.

  In no time they were opening the huge gates and spitting us out. Just a short ride down the canal and we were at Florence Harbor Marina.
  Eva, the owner, hailed us on the radio and recognized our boat as soon as we told her who we were. She directed us to a nice slip and came over to help tie us up. One of her employees brought a package for us that we had shipped from Glenndinning Products. It's the parts we need to fix our engine synchronizer. We got the air conditioning cranking away and then we went to pay for our slip and get the keys for the courtesy car. There was a snag, as the battery in the courtesy car was dead. We tried to help get it going, but Eva eventually just gave us the keys to her brand new car and off we went.
  Our first stop was lunch. Mickey D's, hadn't been there for ages, but it was quick and passable and we were again on our way. We stopped at the tractor supply because they could fill our propane tank. While we were waiting for the tank to be filled, I started shopping around and found some good prices on the oil we need for the next oil change. I also bought a new grease gun because for the life of me I cannot find my other one. I have a feeling I left it at the Duck Club back in St. Louis. Turned out they couldn't fill our tank because, "The big tank wasn't working", whatever that means, but they told us about a location where we could get the tank filled and it wasn't too far away.
  Next it was Wal-Mart where we got four cases of Bud Light, two new pillows and new pillow cases, plus some other junk we didn't really need. When we got back out to the parking lot, I tried to get us into a vehicle that wasn't the one we came in. Same brand, same color, but not the same car. We eventually found it and got on our way.
  Next stop was a credit union that is associated with the place we bank at in St. Louis. We got cash, but could have gotten it at the tractor supply, or at Wal-Mart, but I wanted to make sure our system will work, so we got the cash where a person is supposed to get cash, at a bank.
  Then it was on to a Save-a-Lot grocery store. We've never been in a Save-a-Lot, but it's like an Aldi's but they provide grocery bags. They actually have pretty good prices if you don't mind off brands. We don't. It all looks the same in the end.
  The directions we had for the Clark Gas Company were good ones and six bucks later we had our propane tank filled up. On the way there we had passed a place called Champy's Chicken and we stopped in to get some chicken to go. It was 2 P.M. and the place was packed. That is a good sign. Instead of getting chicken to go, I got worried about the groceries in the car getting hot, so we decided to go back there tomorrow after Rosie sees the doctor in the afternoon.
  The last stop was the gas station to put some fuel in Eva's car, which she said later was not necessary. When we got back to the marina, Eva was getting the marina courtesy car jump started and then she was headed for Auto Zone to have the battery checked. She asked if we needed anything, but we were anxious to get our groceries packed away on the boat.
  Rosie found a place for all of the groceries and I found good places for the 12.5 gallons of oil we bought. The next oil change isn't for another 80 hours, but now we're ready.
  We have free WiFi here in our slip, so we're going to take advantage of it and order a pizza to go here at the marina restaurant, The Barge Inn, and then come back to the air conditioned comfort of the boat and watch a Netflix movie. We may be in heaven.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Joe Wheeler Reservoir to Wilson Lake

  We had a long day yesterday, starting out at 8 A.M. and traveling the whole length of the Joe Wheeler Reservoir. In our opinion, it's the least scenic of all the lakes along the Tennessee River. There is lots of industry, meaning smokestacks and power lines galore.
  One interesting thing was that we hadn't seen any towboats traversing the river for days or weeks, but when we came up on the stern of one of them yesterday, it was the first time we had done that in over a month for sure. I called them on the VHF and told the captain how fast we were going and if we could pass him, if so, on which side? He said it didn't matter to him, that we could pick one. He was making a wide left turn on a bend, so we took the "two whistle" and passed him on his port side. We just got to his bow and here come another tow upriver, so we had to bump up our speed to get over and out of their way. First time we did that in three months. The captain of the upbound tow stepped out of his pilot house with a pair of binoculars and waved as we went by. Must be lonely out here on the river.
  When we got to Decatur, Alabama, we called the railroad lift bridge there and asked for passage. The lift bridge operator said the call for us had already come in. It seems that the tow boat we had passed was nice enough to call the bridge and tell him that we were about four miles ahead of him and we'd get there before he did. We didn't even break stride and the bridge began to lift. It's amazing what a bikini on the flybridge can do. Maybe we'll both start wearing them.
  General Joe Wheeler State Park and Lodge is just a few miles from the dam and that's where we found ourselves by 5 P.M. We parked at the transient slips and after some nice hot showers we went up to the restaurant for dinner.

  Not many people were around on a Monday, but this is a big stop for the Loopers in October, I think. I can see why; they have lots of transient slips and lodge rooms for the overflow.
  We had a nice dinner and then we took Holly for a rare walk all the way down past the last set of docks in the marina. By the time we got back, she was tired and so were we. We pulled Swing Set out of the slip and headed for the back of the cove to a very quiet spot and set a hook. There wasn't any T.V. reception to speak of, so we watch a Netflix movie since the Internet service was passable.
  In the morning we had Cheerios with fresh peaches that we got from our friends in Huntsville, David and Jeanie. Thanks again! Then it was time for a haircut for Holly. She gets better behaved with each haircut, but trimming her nails is an ordeal. If she could spell ASPCA, she just might call them one of these times. Pictures are forthcoming.
  We lounged around reading and playing in the water until mid-afternoon and then we headed for the lock. After a call, we learned that nothing was going on there so we were signaled in as we approached the chamber. We weren't sure if we were going to lock through at Wilson Lock or not, but we found a secluded little anchorage in sight of the lock.

  The only structures in this little cove is a pavilion, part of Camp David. The two signs on each side of the property prove it. We didn't see a summit, or any world leaders, so we dropped the hook and swam around some.

  On the other side of the cove, the ground is covered with the bane of the south, Kudzu weed. There is evidence of some great structure here, but you can't tell what it was do to the weed growth. Rosie said that she didn't think those weeds were doing the trees any good. This is so.
  The generator is cranking and the air conditioning is pumping its guts out, and Rosie is making something good to eat. This will be a good place to spend the night if a storm doesn't pop up because there isn't enough room to put out much scope. It's still a good anchorage we didn't expect to find, which makes it all the much better.
  There is one drawback, however. This lake is lined with homes from bank to bank and we stumbled upon one of the few mildly secluded spots on the whole 16 linear miles of this waterway. Even though we didn't know about it, the locals do. One ski boat came in with six or seven younger people and they all seemed to be pretty close friends as they all share the one cigarette they had. Another lone person came in on a PWC and went way back to the end of the cove and sat there for quite some time, maybe in prayer since Camp David is in the vicinity. None of these things bother us unless we are in the way for some other activities later that we may not want to be part of. Might make for a good story next time.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Guntersville Lake

  We left our anchorage behind Burns Island on the upper end of Guntersville Lake with intentions of traveling about half of the 75 miles to Honeycomb Creek, where we wanted to be late Friday afternoon, or Saturday morning to meet up with David and Jeanie, the couple we met at The Docks at Goose Pond Marina on the way up.
  Let me tell you that the trip down the lake yesterday was one of the most pleasant we’ve had in a few days. There was a pleasant breeze blowing on our bow all day that made for cooler temperatures on the flybridge. There are few homes on this stretch of the Tennessee River and we found it refreshing. The mountains are tall alongside the lake and in spite of more industry than we’ve seen lately, we both thought it was a scenic trip.
  It was a good thing there was a breeze, as it was still hot. We stopped a couple of times along the way and took a dip behind the boat, just shutting down the engines long enough to get wet and get out. We’re running low on sandwich bread but had enough to make sandwiches for lunch one last time, but we can always resort to a hearty cup of soup in our stainless mugs for lunch as we cruise. We did that a couple of days ago and we liked the change. It was mid afternoon when we decided to go ahead and cruise all the way to Guntersville in one day. It would make for a long day, but it would give us a whole free day near the town to sight see a little and maybe pick up some things we needed for the weekend, namely beer.

We passed the entrance to Goose Pond Marina. In the picture you can see the narrow channel through the weeds that grow in the lake here. I mentioned them on the way up but didn’t get good pictures.

  Just past the entrance to Goose Pond Marina is the channel cut through the weeds to get to The Docks, a nice restaurant that we stopped at on our way upriver. Another spot we didn’t get a picture of earlier. I’ve learned to charge the camera battery more often.
  I made us each a small cocktail for an early happy hour in celebration of our decision to cruise late into the afternoon. We don’t need much reason to celebrate, as you might have gathered. We were still celebrating, and on our second cocktail, when the head wind we had been enjoying all day turned into quite a gale. The lake is very wide in some spots and the wind can really whip up some waves. Nothing like the Great Lakes or anything, but white caps are something we don’t see much of, so it was exciting. Rosie asked me if I was scared. I said I wasn’t. She said she wasn’t either. We might be too dumb to be scared, but whatever the reason, we’ll go with it.

  Holly wasn’t too scared either. Here she is looking rather relaxed as she waits for Rosie to return to the bridge after a trip down below. We got a few sprinkles, not even enough to zip up our new zippers on the bridge enclosure. I kept an eye on the weather radar and most of the bad weather was going around us.
  We were going to go on past the town of Guntersville a few miles to Honeycomb Creek, but I saw a nice potential anchorage in Short Creek, which is just past the Guntersville State Park. The park itself is under reconstruction due to a tornado last year, but the uninhabited cove we chose to drop our hook looked just fine. We sat outside until the sun went completely down and we didn’t even turn on the air conditioning last night to cool down the cabin.
  On Friday morning, after breakfast, I addressed some minor mechanical issues and then Rosie and I left Holly in charge and we went to explore. Our first stop was Guntersville Marina, where under a threatening sky we pulled in with our empty water jugs and a bag of trash. We were just walking up to the marina office when the proprietor came down to meet us. I asked Allen if they had a parts department as I was going to get a spare 20 AMP circuit breaker if they had one. He said they didn’t have a parts department as they just order parts as they need them for their service department. I then asked if we could dispose of our bag of trash and fill up our water jugs, to which he gave us permission to do both. My Internet search of a grocery store led me to believe there was a market just behind the marina, but I was wrong. I had my wires crossed and Allen told me that the market I had mentioned was a couple of miles down the cove. I asked if there was a dock near there that we could tie up the dinghy and walk to the market and he said he had a better idea. Allen gave us the keys to their courtesy vehicle and let us drive to the store. He even declined my offer to fill it up because he had just done that.
  The “market” turned out to be just a liquor store. The man running the counter look at us like aliens when we asked about getting some bread. “Bread?” he asked.
  “Yes, bread. Like a person would make sandwiches with”, I said.
  “We’re a liquor store, we don’t have bread”, was his reply. They were only a liquor store, but they had plenty of racks full of pork rinds and bags of potato chips and when Rosie asked me if we were going to get some snacks there, and I said, “No, this is a liquor store, so we’re only going to buy some liquor.” Even though we did also buy a 12 pack of Coke.
  We went to the gas station next door and got a precious loaf of Bunny Bread and some chips at Yukon Gold Rush prices and drove back to Guntersville Marina. We could have driven to a grocery store further down the road, but Allen was nice enough to lend us a vehicle, we didn’t want to overdo it.
  When we got back, we thanked Allen profusely and promised to write something nice in our blog, so here it is. Running into nice people like the ones at Guntersville Marina is only one of the great things about our travels. If you are ever through this way, stop in there.

  We took the dinghy back to the boat and got this picture of Swing Set all by itself in Short Creek. We think this is a very pretty cove and are glad to be here. We unloaded our purchases and gathered up Holly for some more sight seeing, and possibly lunch somewhere. When Holly saw her leash and knew she was going in the dinghy, she was ecstatic. The leash means a walk, and she really likes a walk. It’s something rare for her.
  It started to sprinkle on us as we cruised up the lake past the State Park. The devastation was evident from the tornado, but the park was obviously being rebuilt. I was looking for a “Bait and Beverage” store that showed up on our search for a supermarket, but when I saw it, I was thinking what was for sale in there was mostly “bait” and we turned around. We went back down towards the town of Guntersville and towards another marina across the lake from Guntersville Marina that we had seen on the way upstream. The marina turned out to be the Guntersville Yacht Club and was for “Members Only”. They had transient dockspace, and there were two very nice boats tied up at them, but honestly, I would have to be hard put to tie our boat up at the broken down docks there. They probably wouldn’t allow us in there anyway.
  We shot back across the lake to the municipal docks and there was a family walking back to their cruiser that was tied up there. I asked them if they had just come back from lunch and they said that they had, and told us where it was, just a couple of streets over.
As it was lunch time for us, we clipped Holly to her leash and started our walk. We passed the “336 Cafe” and walked the entire length of the business district there. Old Town Guntersville is very picturesque, there are lots of antique stores and small clothing shops. We didn’t see any bars, but I had to wonder about the number of bail bonds scattered around the town.
  We walked back to the 336 Cafe and Rosie went in to see if we could sit outside on the patio with Holly. Not only were we given permission to dine outside with Holly, we were invited to come dine inside. We know how she barks at people, so Rosie politely declined the offer to sit inside, as the place was packed with customers.
We took a picnic table on the patio and I raised the umbrella as it was starting to sprinkle again. Holly and I waited while Rosie went in to order. Holly sat next to me quiet as a mouse until Rosie came out with our food. Holly got her own cup of ice water and while we enjoyed one of the best smoked ham and bacon club sandwiches we ever ate, Holly lapped on her ice water occasionally, but didn’t fuss or beg for any of our food. When folks walked by on the sidewalk, she looked, but didn’t make a peep. I think she might be sick. No, not really. But you should see her walk on her leash! During the whole walk, and especially on the way back to the dinghy, she pranced alongside me, but I keep her on a short lead, like she was in a parade. We get a kick out of her.
  We were both full as ticks but I didn’t want to go back to the boat just yet. On my search for supermarkets, I saw where there might be a Piggly Wiggly just around the corner from where we were, but under the bridge and in the back of a huge cove just down river. We cruised under the bridge and as we approached the back of the cove, we came upon a vision similar to what the Spanish Conquistadors must have experienced the first time they laid eyes on the Aztec Temples. Rising up from the foothills below the nearby mountains was not only the Piggly Wiggly, there was a Dollar General, a Goodwill Store, and a place called Fred’s. I don’t know what Fred sells, but I wanted to buy something there. When I asked Rosie if we shouldn't perhaps tie up the dinghy and go on over to the Piggly Wiggly, I could tell that she was not as enamored as I was to get to the grocery store. I was about to resubmit my request when the Mercury outboard began to make that sound it makes when something is grabbing at its ankles and I looked over the side of the dinghy to see the giggly weeds poking their heads up just inches under the waters surface. The prospect of getting trapped in the clutches of the giggly weeds brought me back to reality and I decided to turn the dinghy around and get back into deeper water. Thoughts of a trip to the grocery store became secondary to having to drag the dinghy across yards and yards of shallow water to get back to the channel.
  Once the bass boats quit making trips back to the backwaters of Short Creek, we had a quiet night after a nice dinner of frozen fish that we got back at Wal-Mart in Florence. I won't be buying fish again in a package that only shows a picture of what's inside.
  On Saturday morning, David and Jeanie showed up and they had another couple with them, Tracey and Sandra. They tied up and in spite of an iffy weather forecast, we had a real nice time with all of them. David and Jeanie brought us a case of Bud Light and we put it to good use, along with a whole bunch of neat stuff to munch on. We talked about meeting up the next morning, but Rosie and I weren't sure if we could make the call.
  Sunday morning came and the weather looked promising, so we emailed our friends and told them we'd meet them near where they keep their Baha, Nauti Behavior, on rack storage at the Sunrise Marina in Honyecomb Creek. By noon, David and Jeanie were pulling up and we had another day of floating, sipping on cold ones, and telling stories. I had mentioned on the previous day that we were missing having fried chicken for dinner and they broke out a big bag of KFC and all the stuff that goes with it. We had a real nice late lunch and they even gave us some extra chicken we didn't get to. 
  David and Jeanie left as it looked like some rain would move into the area. They make frequent trips to Florida, so we are pretty sure we'll get to see them again.
  Took a few days for me to get caught up with the blog. We had some long travel days, and our anchorages have had spotty Internet signal. I'm writing this as we're running down the river near Bluff City, Alabama. I'm doing a quick proof read, so there may be more mistakes than normal. I hope you get over it.