Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chickamauga and Nickajack

  Our anchorage at Sand Island was just upstream from the Watts Bar Lock. When we got within 30 minutes of the lock, I hailed them on the VHF and got a report on their activity and there wasn't any. The gates were opening as we got within sight of the chamber. The horn sounded, the green light came on, and in we went.
  We were going to stay that night at the mouth of the Hiwassee River, where we had stayed on the way up river, but the cruising was pleasant at a mere 1000 R.P.M., so we set our sights for the 477 mile marker were Kirk and Jeanne live. We had some dog and people medicine shipped there, along with some LED light bulbs from SuperbrightLEDS in St. Louis, and naturally we planned of collecting our packages.
  Meanwhile, I contacted the Glenndinning Corporation and ordered two flex shafts for our engine synchronizer, plus an adjustment tool. We are having these items shipped to Florence Harbor Marina.
  Rosie had also been playing phone tag with a dermatologists office in Florence, the phone service all day had been spotty. I also called the Chickamauga Lock by telephone to get a report about their lock closure between 7 A.M. and 5 P.M. The lock master said that if we could get there at 6:45 A.M., we might be able to lock through before the divers doing their inspection got into the water. Nothing guaranteed, and nothing expected.
  It was a long day of traveling for us, and Kirk and Jeanne had just gotten back from dinner when we showed up at nearly 8 P.M. We politely declined an offer to have a couple of drinks for a late Happy Hour. Jeanne had our packages for us, and we chatted with Kirk some. Upon learning about our prop issue, Kirk offered to give us the number of a diver he knows who could change our props out. Not knowing if we needed other things too, I decided to go ahead and schedule the change out at a yard with a travel lift and the capability to get our shaft straightened if we needed that too. Jeanne also offered the use of a vehicle to go get something from the store if we needed it. These folks couldn't do enough for us and we felt bad about not spending more time with them, but it was a "school night", and they might have been just as happy to retire to a comfy T.V. after working all day.
  Before we got a chance to turn in for the night, a severe thunderstorm broke out and we were bounced around at the dock a little, but after a long day at the helm, we were happy to be tied securely at the dock and have our shore power plugged in. We were soaking up some real nice air conditioning without the added noise of the generator. I messed around with the circuit breaker on our master stateroom unit and found that the breaker was tripping with the unit off. Then I found it was tripping when I closed the door to the electric panel in the salon. Has to be a bad breaker. I think I have a replacement and will try changing it out before I get too worried about our unit going bad.
  We set our alarm for 4:30 A.M., our time, to get us down to the lock by 6:45. Neither one of us slept very well that night, knowing that we had to get up so early, but naturally we were dead to the world when the alarm on my iPhone went off, and Rosie and I didn't hear it. But our other crew member, Holly, earned her keep and she heard it and started barking until we woke up. This dog thing may work out yet.
  We left the dock in pitch black darkness and got out into the channel. I didn't turn the radar on, knowing the sunrise was soon to come, but I saw some strange lights down river and I asked Rosie if she thought it was a barge. Rosie offered up her assessment of the lights as being "something on the bank". I agreed, but also mentioned that most lights one sees on the water are either on the bank or on the water, and mistaking one for the other is how accidents occur. I also mentioned that if the lights were in the sky, we were all in trouble.

  As you can see, we safely made it to the Chickamauga Lock and saw this tow sitting in it. I waited until 6:45, about five minutes, and I called the lock on the telephone. I explained my conversation on the previous day, there was some background consultation, then we were told that the tow was soon pulling out and we could lock down right away. Ding Ding Ding.
  When the tow soon pulled out, the gates began to close and I got nervous. I called the lock on the radio and asked if they forgot about us. They hadn't. Once some "foot traffic" got across the chamber, the gates again opened and we were signaled in for a quick ride down to Nickajack Lake.

  It wasn't pea soup, but visibility was reduced by the fog as we approached Chattanooga. With our mission of getting a doctors appointment looming, we decided to forgo a day or two to enjoy downtown Chattanooga. We passed the city and the docks at Marine Max where Kirk has his houseboat. He had just gotten a contract on it the day before, and it should be sold by the weekend. Always nice to be able to sell big ticket items like a 95 foot houseboat.

  I don't know how many times over the years we have travelled along I-24 on our way to Florida, pictured here, wondering what it would be like boating on "that river down there". Now we know.

  We were getting into "The Narrows" which comprises most of Nickajack Lake. On the way upstream, it was raining and over cast and we thought we'd have to view this section of the river through the clouds again. We saw some signs of sunshine poking through the clouds which were mostly below the mountain tops, and we knew the view was going to get better.

  The sun did come out and we slipped along on the glass smooth water. This view of a small jon boat with two fishermen in it reminded me of something you might see in Alaska in the summertime.

  There are some cute little cabins along this section of the river, and this one impressed me on the way upstream. It's just a simple little place but in a very nice setting. More home than this for two people is overkill.

  Now this fella is taking things to the other extreme. The little brown house is still under construction and is about the size of a garden shed, but we're both pretty sure it's a home, all right. This is getting into minimalism in a maximum way.

  Now this person has the right idea. A little cabin on the bank with a sturdy trawler at a nice dock to use when wanderlust sets in. I bet this guy would have been interesting to talk to.
  As we made our way down Nickajack Lake, I had contacted the shop foreman at Aqua Yacht Harbor and explained the situation with our running gear. He put us on his schedule to swap out our props, put a dial gauge on our shafts, and get one or both of the possibly bent props repaired and get us on our way. I am much more at ease after talking with him. Aqua Yacht is familiar with folks in our situation and does their best to accommodate them, keeping in mind that we live aboard our boat. We hope to avoid an insurance claim, but we'll do what we have to do.
  We were going to pull into Hales Bar to get some provisions but couldn't raise anyone on the radio. I attempted to pull into their harbor via the suggested channel, but it got too skinny as we approached the gas dock, so we aborted our plan and headed for the Nickajack Lock. I hailed the lock and found out that nothing was shaking down there and within a mile of the chamber they were already signaling us in. They dropped us down to Guntersville Lake in a jiffy and we set our compass for Burns Island, just downstream.
  After getting up so early we had already traveled for seven hours and were ready for lunch and a nap. We pulled off the channel behind Burns Island and did just that. After a brief nap, Rosie read her book and I installed new LED bulbs in four of our ceiling lights above the dinette and galley. They look really good and we'll get more as our budget permits. I also took some time to use some quick set 4200 adhesive to re-attach one of the stand off mounts on the dinghy that had been working loose.

  In the picture is one of many of these things that are floating by. We noticed them on our way up river and they look like a mussel without the shell and appear to be dead. They are about the size of a nickel or dime and taste funny. Being downstream from the dam, they could be something washed through there. Anyone have any ideas, outside of frying some up?
  We fired up the generator at 4:30 and cooled down the salon with only the one air conditioning unit. Rosie began grilling some pork steaks and I wrote yesterday's blog post. Hope you read it.
  I checked radar and there were tornado watches east of us and thunderstorms all around us and we could see lightening. We went to bed anyway figuring our hook was set and we'd wake up if it started raining or blowing. It did and we did. I was checking weather radar again and noticed the wind had pushed us downstream a couple of hundred feet. Rosie got up and in the dark we reeled in the anchor and moved back upstream to our original position, plus added some more yardage for insurance. By midnight our anchor was again solidly stuck and the storm had passed. After a little more reading we were back to sleep until 7 A.M. We didn't move an inch after re-deploying the anchor.
  We're taking our time this morning as we made good time yesterday with timely lockages. Our goal is just upstream from the  Guntersville Lock, about 75 miles away. We're giving ourselves two days to get there and we'll try to get provisions in Guntersville, and then meet some friends in Honeycomb Creek on Saturday. Things are looking up.


  1. Glad you're in better spirits.

    Agua Harbor will get your boat back in ship shape. Like you said, "all it takes is money." I just spent $1300 replacing $3.49 of flax packing. Isn't boat repair fun.

  2. These are beautiful pictures! I hope to get on that river someday for a little vacation!

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  4. Steve Wiersch aka cool changeAugust 4, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    sorry for the clamy mess we left in the water Mike. My wife and I were up by the damn with out kid just a few days befor you.

    great blog Mike This is steve from the Meramac.We talked brifly at the Lake Center party this spring.