Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Shameless Self Promotion... for a good cause

Back in 2016, I started a book series. Two novels of series exist, and you can find them on Amazon under "Jax Daniels", my pen name. Due to life, I have only written the 2 books, but a third is now underway.

The first, The Dead Man's Deal, has recently gotten some interest. A promoter is putting together a "story bundles" -- 10 books that have the same kind of themes -- and my book got included.

This bundle's theme is "cozy fantasy," meaning nothing horror-y or gory, and when the story ends you feel good rather than traumatized or afraid-to-turn-out-the-lights.

If this is up your alley, I'd love for you to check out the bundle. It's tied to a charity -- when I know which one I'll let you know. Moreover, anything I make from the bundle will be donated as well. That will be to a charity of my choosing, either one for breast cancer (as I am a survivor) or multiple myeloma, (as my father suffers from it). Maybe both!

Anyway, if that sounds interesting, the bundle will comes out Oct 20, 2021, in about a month. If you are interested reply here and I'll keep you informed.

(If you want a sneak peak at the book you can go to the website WinkiWitherspoon.com or flip through the first few pages on Amazon.)

Monday, September 20, 2021

Terrace View to Lenoir City, marina

We also need water. But the only water at Terrace View was on their fuel dock and, well, it was icky. So we only stayed the one night and headed out to Fort Loudoun Marina, just above the lock.

After a wet dog walk and some lattes we headed out. It rained throughout the day sometimes drizzly, other times steady. Despite the weather the views continue to get better, from massive expanses in the lakes to narrow channels weaving between brush-covered rock walls.

We ate at Calhoun's here at the marina.
These ducks were begging for food.
Look close and you'll see fish doing the same.

As we traveled Russ called the marina. Many times. Future boaters note: There's this weird behavior with river marinas that they do not answer their phones. And if you can get a hold of them they'll give you instructions like, "Go to the fuel dock to get instructions." We have heard that a number of times.

This marina was no different. Russ called, left messages. Apparently they did call him back but we were in the lock at the time.

This is the last lock up for the season. It's also the last new lock. From now on we know all the lock from here to Longboat Key.

We hailed the lock on 13. We hailed the lock on 16. Finally we called the lock on our cell and got a response. As we were locking through someone else hailed on 16 -- he answered them right away! Such is our boating experience. The lock was another small chamber but a 72 foot lift! It was impressive.

This is from yesterdays lock, Watt's Bar. 48 feet high. 
You can see the water bubbling as the lock fills. 
Even if FF time, it took a while.

Docking was a bit of an adventure. We had to get instructions from the guy at the fuel dock (rolling my eyes). T5 was our slip number (T for "transient"). The way the marina is laid out it took a bit of wiggling, twisting, and maneuvering down a long fairway to get to the slips. They were, however, unmarked. One on the far side read A3, which make me think we were in the wrong spot. We started to back out when a local chatted with Russ, explaining, no, that was correct. We got docked with about 3 feet under the keel.

From Fort Loudoun Lock (which is a little bumpy) to
our slip in the marina.

We'll be here a couple of nights. Lots of laundry to do after our guest left.

...and I will get ready for a special announcement.

Total lock count: 60

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Grasshopper to Terrace View, marina

I got to say, one of the weirdest things about the rivers is getting packages. On the loop (or anywhere on the east coast) this isn't even a thought. If you need something you'd just look ahead a couple of days and pick a marina, then have Amazon ship there. True, Covid has impacted Amazon's ability to do reliable 2 or 3 day deliveries, but on the rivers there are many, many marinas that just won't let you ship stuff to them. This marina, Terrace View, wasn't on our "boy, we want to go there" list, but they did accept packages.

Additionally, after nearly 10 days of anchorages or walls, we seriously needed to pump out. 

The dinghy dock at Grasshopper.
Russ is in the tender, waiting for me.
We raised the anchor around 8:30 am. Grasshopper was another great anchorage; quiet neighbors, lots of water, easy in and out. Rainy day, all day, so it was nice being inside. 

Watts Bar Lock is the only lock we did, which raised us another 59 feet. We happened to set up for a port side tie (so all the fenders were on the left side of the boat) which turned out to be a great call. There were 3 floating bollards on the port side, and only 1 on the starboard side, and it was right up front, which can be a little turbulent when the chamber fills. I noted it on our Quimby's guide for when we come back down.

Dreary day on the water.
We hailed the lock early, but at about a mile out the lockmaster realized he was prepping the chamber the wrong way. (I heard Russ tell him we were headed UP at least 3 times). So we had a small delay while he flipped it for us.

Watt Bar Lake is the most beautiful we've seen thus far. Lots of little islands and bays. We are jamming our way up to Knoxville, but we'll putter down and take advantage of this pretty anchorages. And watch the fall colors descend on the hills.

At least that the plan today.

Total lock count: 59

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Booker Washington Park to Grasshopper Recreational, anchor

Our guest left us in the late morning, late enough that we didn't want to put in a long day. We started engines around 11:30 and traveled to another anchorage, about 2 hours away.

We stayed in Booker Washington Park for 3 days, and cannot recommend the place enough. Very protected, convenient dinghy dock, nice (and clean) public bathrooms, and friendly people. Right there on the dinghy dock is a bait shop, which made it handy for Jesse to do some fishing.

After threats for rain for days, it finally happened. We traveled and set the anchor in rain. 

We don't mind. We like the sound of it on our roof.

inQuest on the little bay at BTW Park.

Pretty sunrise.

Roiling skies. Got no rain, though.

We spied deer on the bank one morning.

I call this one "Lone Heron."
Blue Herons are quite solitary. They do not 
flock or gaggle or group. Even if there is another
nearby, they are not "together". But...
they are everywhere. From Canada to Florida,
from the Altantic to the Mississippi,
just look around, and you'll see a Blue Heron.
PS. Not the prettiest sounding bird by any means.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Chattanooga to Booker T Washington Park, anchor

Jesse will be leaving us Saturday, flying out of Chattanooga. As a result, we don't want to travel too far so we can keep the Uber ride back simple.

But we did got through another lock. This one was a might confusing. It's very small, only 360 feet long and 60 feet wide, so most tows need to break down to get through. Which is why they are building a BIG chamber. All the construction, however, made navigating into and through the lock a bit of a challenge. 

Chattanooga is the starting point for the Trail
of Tears. This fountain marks the very start.
The running waters are the tears. It's also a water
fountain for kids and families. And Jesse, in this case.
Once on the other side we chose to anchor near the Booker T. Washington Park. It's sheltered and has a very handy dinghy dock. We think we'll stay here a couple of nights. It is quite peaceful. Besides, remnants of Nicola are headed this way.

While a short day we changed our recording rate from 1 frame 
every 5 seconds to 1 frame every second. 
As a result, this is the whole day, in 4 minutes.

The above video is interesting around 1:45 where we approach the lock. We were instructed to wait by the railroad bridge and he'd blow the horn when we could come in. Due to the construction it wasn't at all clear where the lock even was let alone how to get into it. I kept asking myself, "How do tows do this?"

Total lock count: 58

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Shellmound to Chattanooga, marina

We didn't try to get a crazy early start today. The next section of the Tennessee was called "The Gorge" and said to be very beautiful. So we wanted to see it, which would have been tough in the fog that started the day. Russ went for a run and we waited a couple of hours, having coffees and breakfast, before we headed out.

Gray misty, foggy morning
There were a couple of small tows we encountered. The only water "hazard" was The Suck. The Tennessee narrows considerably and deepens. We lost nearly a knot in the area and tracked over 125 feet of depth (by the time I got my camera out to shoot our reader is went up to 108). Historically, before this was Nickajack Lake, it was a serious problem. It caused a whirl that spun your boat, then sucked you into the rocks. This characteristic of the river was remarked on by Johnny Cash. For your listening enjoyment: 

Otherwise the focus of the day was on the Gorge. The hills soared into mountains with chiseled rock faces towering high above us. Lots of pics and movies to share.

Lots of vistas

While over "The Suck". It was 125, but I couldn't
take the picture fast enough.

At Chattanooga. This bluff used to hold the foundry.

inQuest on the Tennessee at "Nooga!"

Mostly, ya'll get to see the infamous Jesse!

Passing a tow. Once done, the view gets amazing.

Docking in Chattanooga. So smooth.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Town Creek to Shellmound Campground, town dock

At the last minute we changed our plans to meet some looper friends in Chattanooga. As a result, we decided to put in a longer day today, and finish the trip there tomorrow.

The anchor came up easy and we headed out early, right after coffees. While the lock was only 54 miles away (and we planned on anchoring right next to it or just above it) there was a decent current against us that grow in strength the closer we got to the lock. Additionally, we lost an hour once we crossed into the Eastern time zone. So the 6 hour day turned into an 8 hour one.

The distant sun
Only one lock. Nickajack. I love saying that! The lockmaster was very happy to get the lock ready. I got the feeling it was a slow day, and he was thrilled to lock someone through. Jesse did the line handling under Russ's supervision there. Next lock I'm gonna let "the boys" handle it and go take a nap.

Bringing up the anchor, sun and fog.
I love the reflection in this shot.
Luckily the lock went smoothly and we docked on a free dock in the campground. We barely fit on the thing, which is about 40 feet long. We got 4 lines on just 2 cleats. Good there's not weather expected.

PS, we're also officially in Tennessee.

Total lock count: 57

inQuest on the Shellmound dock.
We barely fit.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Honeycomb to Gunterville to Town Creek, anchor

Two stops today. We liked the anchorage we were at but we were compelled to check out the free dock in Guntersville. 

The trip took around 45 minutes. We docked without issue, piled into the tender, then we all headed to a famous oyster house, Wintzell's. Jesse got the red fish while Russ and I shared a variety of oysters (raw, char-grilled, and Rockefeller) and fish tacos. All quite wonderful.

Misty mornin' sun
But the town dock wasn't all that exciting. It's right next to a busy road so it felt (and sounded) more like a truck stop. So, after some naps, we headed up river about another 45 minutes and got on the hook.

Much quieter, and a nicer view. Given there was no water or power at the dock, this was a way better choice.

inQuest at Guntersville.
Jesse is on the bow, Russ on the pier.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Huntsville to Honeycomb Camp Grounds, anchor

After 3 days of chores and adding a crew member we headed out this morning, heading east (although it looks south-ish on the map). Jesse will be with us for 9 days, so we'll meander our way to and through Chattanooga. 

The first task of the day was returning the rental. Jesse and Russ did that, taking the scooter with them. Then they rode back. It was nippy this morning, so both were chilled when they got back to the boat.

The scenery is getting amazing. Large cliffs line the Tennessee. Add pleasant weather on top of it and the trip was lovely.

Only one lock today. Then we immediately turned off sussed out a couple of anchorage locations. And picked one.

Recently Jesse has become and angler. He brought is poles. It will be interesting if we get any fresh fish in our diets this week.

Jesse and Russ bringing back Lizzie from her walk.

I posted that white geese do not have the prettiest honk.
I rest my case.

Total lock count: 56

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Decatur to Huntsville, marina

No drama or excitement today. Up early and on our way. The only hitch was a railroad bridge whose clearance is too low for us to get under. It spanned the Tennessee just outside the Decatur Landing. Russ hailed them even before we got onto the river. Of course there was a train. Thankfully, not long, so we didn't have to wait.

Almost right away the scenery changed. At this point on the Tennessee both banks have parks. So we were bounded by lush green trees and striking cliffs. The temps remain cooler in the morning, making the ride just perfect.

Leaving Decatur we turn right. You can seen the bridge and the train.
You can also see a tow boat zip in front of us.
Once up we head through. Then things get very pretty. 
Still waters, dramatic sky.

We got docked right around noon. We took some naps then got the scooters out and headed into town for some lunch. While the road from here to there is a busy highway, there's a handy greenbelt and meanders in the same direction, going in and out of forests and cute neighborhoods. That ride was one of the best ones we've had in a long while.

White geese! Sound very different from Canadian
geese. And by that I mean "terrible!"
Then we ate Mexican at El Herradura. Oh yeah, they had Camarrones al Mojo De Ajo. Decent, too. Not the best, but we recommend it.

Tomorrow Russ will pick up a rental car. We'll clean the boat, do laundry, get some shopping done. Thursday, Jesse joins us, and after Russ returns the rental, we hope to be Chattanooga bound.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Joe Wheeler to Decatur, town wall

After 3 days or so being on the hook we decided to make our way east. We brought up the anchor and stopped at the marina first to pump out, fuel up, and get more water. Then we headed out.

Being the last day of a 3 day holiday we weren't shocked by the traffic. Many pontoon boats, fishing boats, and Sea Doos were out and about enjoying the sunny yet cooler day. They all seemed to disappear about half way through our trip, which is right about when you reach a nuclear power plant. From that point to Decatur it's pretty industrial. Not the prettiest boating we've done.

Tender ride at sunset
This particular wall is more of a free dock than a town dock. It's huge, off the river, and pretty protected. It's close to town, relatively, about a 30 minute walk. We did seek out the Cross Eyed Owl (XEO) brewery after our late lunch. But being Monday AND a holiday, not much else was open. So we ate on the boat.

One of the reasons we stayed as long as we did in Joe Wheeler Park -- in addition to the quiet, given Labor Day boaters we were very surprised -- was Russ finished up the last of his autogen upgrade. It actually auto gens! 

Hey, I do stuff, too! I made these, for example.
Homemade ice cream sammiches. 
Everythin from scratch, including the ice cream.
When the batteries get to around 40% the generator turns on by itself. This is the easy part, it turns out. However, the generator needs to warm up a bit before it is loaded by the inverters that charge the batteries. So the generator starts, but a relay needs to wait before turning on the inverters. When the batteries reach 95% the reverse happens; the relays shuts off so the generator can cool down a bit before it also shuts off. 

All of this is way above my pay grade. But Russ has enjoyed this project. I told him when our boating days are done he can hire himself out as a handy man. He's done it all.

It certainly was a hoot.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Florence to Joe Wheeler, anchor

Shockingly, it all went like clockwork.

Up at 5 am. Called the lock -- we have liftoff! Knock on the neighbors door, they're ready and waiting. Feed and walk a dog. Engines on. Turn on running lights, turn on makeshift anchor light, and out we go. We had to wait about 5 minutes at the lock but the doors swung open. We 2 boats went in.

The land side lock at Wilson. You can see one
set of door beyond the lower set.
No wonder they don't like to use it.
Let me tell you a bit about the lock. Wilson is the highest lift in locks this side of the Rockies, over 90 feet. Approaching the doors felt like a scene from The Lord of the Rings, storming the gates of Mordor. The no-longer floating wall was built in 1959, and was the first of its kind. (I suspect the others are getting scheduled for an inspection.) It does have 2 chambers, but once there we realized why the smaller one "takes more manpower," a quote we didn't understand. It isn't 1 small chamber; it's 2. You go into the first and it lifts you half way, then you go into the second, and it lifts you the rest of the way. We did one on the Trent-Severn in Canada. 2 locks per direction take up and awful lot of time. Factor in breaking tows down to fit in each and, oh yeah, we get the "takes more manpower" thing. Lastly, and something we discovered while there, the doors on the lake side do not swing (90 feet! That would be a tremendous amount of force). It drops, sinking into the lock floor and out of your way.

She's Got A Phil'n, just when the waters
started to rise. You can see the crest line.
That green bit on the bow? That's Phil!
Eventually the doors opened but we waited; usually there's a horn or a green light that tells you to proceed. The lockmaster hailed us saying his horn was broken so come on in. We do. She's Got a Phil'n (pronounced "feelin'") took the port side, and us starboard. We both announced we're secured and they fill that puppy! It rose very fast. Once it crested we saw the door in front of us sink. It went underwater then hooooooonk! So, both of us untied and slowly started to move forward. The lockmaster hailed us, "Don't leave the lock yet. I haven't given you the go." "I'm so sorry!" I told him, taking inQuest out of gear, "We heard a horn!" "Yeah, sorry about that. We got a lot going' on over here." At that point She's Got A Phil'n hailed us, "We heard it too. Glad he said something, though. Don't want to run into that door."

Our buddy boat gets underway (Russ helped with their lines) then we do.
As the sun comes up we get to Wilson. Go in, go up quickly, watch the gate
go down... and us falsely start.

We did another lock about 12 miles later. With Phil'n leading the way we toodled through the waters. Sunny, cool, a little breezy. Even through sleepy eyes it was a great morning. Once through the second lock we parted ways. They are continuing to head home. We headed to Joe Wheeler State Park to drop the hook. 

We'll be on anchor for a fair bit of the holiday weekend. We think we'll stay here for a day, then explore another bay or two. Lots here to see.

Total lock count: 55

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

A Night in Florence

The month of August, down the Cumberland 
(which flows northeast) and up the Tennessee. 
As we came into the marina yesterday the dockmaster said, "Did you know your anchor light is on?" I answered, "All our running lights are on. It was a dreary day." "Nope," he said, "just the anchor light."

He of course was right. Running lights are the red and green lights on the sides of the vessel. They are key for dreary days and nights. As a result, one task of Russ's while here was to get the running light operating. Panels taken apart, volt meters out, bit and pieces of stuff everywhere, and in the end he had to reseat the lights. Both of them. Which is very odd, but, hey, he got them working.

However, now the anchor light doesn't work.

Snapped this photo when we sat down to 
eat at the marina's restaurant. inQuest is in the back
When we turn on our running lights (a toggle switch), the red, green, and anchor light all come on. Flip the toggle the other way and only the anchor (or "all around" light) comes on, which NEEDS to be on at anchor -- which we do quite a bit, and planned to do this holiday weekend.

Fellow boaters came in today, She's Got A Phil'n. We met them at Green Turtle Bay just over a week ago. They crossed their wake and are heading home to Chattanooga. Both of us want to get through this lock.

15 minutes later, this happened.

Russ called the lock master tonight asking when would be a good time. They already started to lock some of the tow traffic, but will only lock down river during the daylight. It's the down-side wall that sank, so there's nothing for a tow to tie or rest on to get into the lock. We don't know if tows are being busted apart or escorted in with other tows, but the process is now cumbersome and long. To avoid that the best time to show up is right at the crack of dawn. The plan is to get up at 5 am, call the lock to confirm, wake the neighbors, then head out around 5:30 am... when it's still kinda dark. Recall the anchor light situation?

Luckily, Phil (of She's Got A Phil'n) was happy to sell us a dinghy light which he no longer needs. Russ will strap that to our unworking anchor light to get us to and through the lock. 

Not sure how well this will work. Not sure how the rest of the weekend is going to turn out. I'm certainly not happy with how it's shaping up. It's always frinkin' something.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Pickwick Landing to Florence, marina

Have I got news for you.

Ida update #1: Ida went over us last night. We'd set out a bucket prior to act as a rain gauge. We had some wind wake us around 1:30 am when a cabinet on the stern had doors slam open. But otherwise no incident. The rainfall collected was about 3-4 inches. It was steady all night, heavy at times, but not the torrents we were expecting. Winds were sustained between 5-10 mph, with a single gust around 25. All good news.

Ida update #2: For those of you who do not know we have a condo in NOLA. I'm happy to report we still do! The property manage was in yesterday and said no windows were broken and no water intrusion. The roof still needs to be investigated, and we know some of the condos have issues since some HVAC units blew free (thankfully, none fell off the roof, which is astounding). We don't know if ours did. As for the city, it's in a bad state. A major tower that held the power lines for 5 NOLA boroughs fell. FIVE! Apparently the word "redundancy" doesn't exist in Entergy's lexicon. Anyway, current assessments are no power in NOLA for 6 weeks. Yikes!

The weather was gray and cloudy but not windy nor very rainy so we decided to go to Florence. We had reservations there for tomorrow and Thursday, but packages we'd sent had already arrived. It's not too far, so we moved on.

Watch the skies...

Fellow boaters know that periodically the Coast Guard makes announcement about conditions on 22A
We always listen but given Ida we were quick to change the channel. These aren't the clearest announcements (sadly, radio is not stereo quality) but we picked up a mile marker and the words "lock closed." Um... what lock again? Checking maps we confirmed Wilson Lock. And its the one we have to go through right after leaving Florence. It doesn't impact today's plans, but in a couple...

As we understand it, no longer exists.
Russ called the Coast Guard on the phone. They said a long wall had collapsed. As the day unfolded we discovered that a floating long wall, well, doesn't float anymore. We don't know if Ida had anything to do with it but it sank and is covered by 75 feet of water. This is one of the walls commercial tows would tie up against while waiting for the lock to turn. 

Wilson lock has 2 chambers, but only used the big one. We were told the small chamber took "too much man power."

Luckily we planned on staying here a couple of nights. Hopefully we'll get word if the lock will open anytime soon. This might put the kybosh on the whole trip because, frankly, there is no other way to go up the river.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Wolf Island to Pickwick Landing State Park, anchor

The best thing about yesterday's long day was today was very short. It included a lock, too. When we got up we checked our AIS information to see if any tows were near or using the lock. It looked clear, so we quickly weighed anchor and headed out.

Still a slog. The closer we got to the lock and dam the slower we went. At times we traveled around 5.9 knots. 

We hailed the lockmaster about 2 miles out. They were still dumping the chamber when we arrived. There are 2 at Pickwick and, giving the raging rapids of the dam, I wanted us near a door and out of the current. But we only saw the signal for the large on. Russ hailed for confirmation of which chamber we'd be using. The big one! We hadn't heard that the small one was broken so we guessed they were trying to dump water so using the big one whenever they could. We had the large chamber all to ourselves.

Spotted a coyote on the bank.
Russ picked this anchorage, Pickwick Landing, for a number of reasons. First, it's small and should shield us well from any Ida remnants. Second, it's very near a marina, which makes walking a dog much easier.

So far the weather's been calm. Mostly misting rain, no down pours yet, and no wind to speak of. No lightning, no thunder. The weather apps all tell us it will be mostly tonight. We put out lots of rode, just in case.

While at the helm I spied some flotsam in the water,
which wasn't uncommon. When we passed it,
however, we realized it was a swimming deer!

That was so unusual Russ took a quick movie.

Total lock count: 53

Cuba Landing to Wolf Island, anchor

Someone is gonna realize that hurricane storm names need to sound more threatening: Doomwinds, Widowmaker, Stormageddon! Ida sounds like your least favorite great aunt.

Anyway, despite being a fair distance away Ida is impacting us. Not directly. But we're trying to get to Pickwick Lake (hoped to do that today) when, in an effort to lower the lake for a lot of water to come, they are pushing a bunch of water down. And right at us. We were lucky when we get 7 knots. 

Needless to say, we didn't make the lake. There's an anchorage by a state marina we're shooting for. We plan to get an early start at it tomorrow, with some luck at the lock, be anchored by noon. Tomorrow night we should see a fair bit of rain and winds around 25 mpg. Being tucked in a cove would help considerably.

Threatening skies all day long.
We said we wouldn't to it again, and yet, today was a loooooooooong day.

Took this picture at the marina. The
large round thing is our radar, when the 
mount is down to dock in covered slips.

We are not en route. This is while anchored. 
We're behind a little island
and the river is rushing, so lots 
of swirls and eddys that keep us swishin'!

Russ grabbed this image from our GoPro. Because
it records slowly (making fast movies) AND the copter 
was moving SO FAST it didn't show up in the vid.
We think they were practicing search and rescue.
He came by incredibly low... startled the heck out of us!