Sunday, October 17, 2021

Wilson Lock to Florence, marina

Wheeler Lock gate. Beefy, aren't they?
(part 2 from last night)

Despite arriving at Wilson Lock around 2:30 yesterday, we didn't get locked down until 8 pm. Not the worst delay I've heard (that's closer to 24 hours) but it did give us a couple of firsts: first time locking in the dark, and first time docking in the dark.

Quick video of the loopers waiting to get thru Wheeler.

Getting dark. The light is the moon.
The lock was well lit so getting to and through it wasn't hard. There was a tow below waiting to lock up but he was small. Getting around him and over to the auxiliary lock wall wasn't at all difficult. Neither was tying up there. We had permission to bunk on it for the night. Although we were tired, it went very smoothly and ultimately we had a good night's sleep.

The next morning we were up early. As we had our coffee and breakfast we watched the crowd of looper boats gather to lock up, eight in total. That meant there should be plenty of space for us in the marina. Once the loopers headed into the lock we headed out and snagged a spot. We got the packages we'd ordered and did some provisioning. And ended the day with dinner at the restaurant.

On the aux wall at Wilson.
Now the whole lock story:

When we arrived nothing was happening. The lock was open (as if beckoning us to enter) but a red light meant it wasn't for us. Two tow boats were there, not moving. We hailed the lock, and we called the lock, and go no response. It felt like everyone was in a holding pattern for some reason. Since Russ had already received instructions to wait on the aux wall, that's what we did. 

Wilson is about 100'. 
Being in it at night was freaky.
Doors open, you can see the waiting 
tow on the left.
Listening to the radio we started to hear some chatter. The tow in the process of locking down (we'll call it Bradley) held up the show. He was a full tow, so he pushed 3x5 (so 15) barges. These are smaller locks so no way he'd fit without breaking up the tow, but add the lack of a wall, and that equals an insanely slow lock down. But Bradley already had 9 barges lowered. Everyone was in a holding pattern because, while pulling that bundle of barges out of the lock someone dropped a line and stuff started to drift (we didn't see this, only got a quick idea from chatter). The lock hailed another tow waiting to lock up to give a hand, which meant he had to drop his stuff to help out. Needless to say, lots of delay before anyone was ready for the next batch of barges.

Hours later, Bradley was given the 'go' to put the rest of his barges in the lock.

Here's how this has to go: No wall. Tows move really slow to get themselves into the lock. But no wall means there's a current pulling them into the dam. And no one wants that. The solution is another tow whose sole job is to be "the wall". I'll call him Wally. Given Wally isn't actually a wall he can only handle so much weight. Therefore, tows are only allowed to push 4 barges at a time, figuring between the pusher and Wally they could handle things if something happens.

Once in the lock because it's so big the lake
side door rises from the depths.

Off Bradley goes to get 2 more barges (9 already down, 6 to go). At this point we've figured out what station Bradley's working channel. The communication seems terrible among the crew. It takes a long time for Bradley to bring down the next 2 barges. They are secured to Wally and the first pin in the chamber. Apparently, they want to build the tow before they shove the thing in.

Bradley goes off and gets the next 4 barges, slowly brings them in. And the next few hours are spent connecting all six together. There's arguments, there's comedy, there's lack of communication. 

For example-

Setup: everyone is waiting for crewman2 to finish tying a line. After many, many minutes...

Crewman 1: Did you get that line tied?

Crewman 2: Oh. Yeah. 

You could almost hear the eye rolls and facepalms.

Here's another example (this was kinda funny)-

Crewman: Hey, can you hear me?

Captain: Yeah. Everything okay?

Crewman: Yeah. I think I just couldn't hear you.

Captain: Well, you hear me now, right?

Crewman: (hesitates) Nope.

Made it to Florence.
Lovely, albeit nippy, day.
Finally, Bradley shoves his barges into the chamber and locks down. Now we just have to wait for him to reconnect the 6 to the original 9 before he leaves the chamber. Then, there are 2 rec boats locking up.... then we can lock down.

We didn't do a whole lot except wait. But it made for a long day and an interesting night.

Total lock count: 66

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Second Creek to Wilson Lock, wall

Thunderstorms came during the night, as predicted, and dropped temps by nearly 20 degrees. It's gonna be a nippy night. But that's not the interesting part of the day...

While at Second Creek we noticed a bunch of tows around (again!). Russ called Wheeler Lock around 8 am and was told to call back in 3 hours. He called at 11 am and we were told we'd be able to go in the next hour or so. We hoisted the anchor and headed out. The lockmaster gave us permission to tie up onto the auxiliary lock wall while we waited, and that we'd lock down with a small tow. 

Side note: From below Chattanooga all the locks have smaller chambers, or auxiliary locks. They just don't like to use them. We -- everyone -- must wait and go through the big chamber. 

In Wheeler Lock with a barge.
The day was blustery, probably the windiest we've had in months. It made getting onto the lock wall a little challenging, but we managed.

The tow entered the chamber. We got ready ourselves, getting off the wall, and standing station at the lock. Once he was secured we got the green light, and were instructed to pull ahead of him and tie on the port side. We would be out first. We were so close to the lock door Russ could have reached out and touched it when it opened.

It all worked well. When we pulled out we were greeted by 11 or 12 looper boats waiting to go up. They were headed to the Rendezvous.

AIS sigs of all the loopers waiting at Wheeler
The wind had made the Wilson Lake choppy, something we haven't experienced since we got on the rivers. We'd been really lucky. It was in no way the worst we'd ever been on but a reminder of what lies ahead in a couple of weeks once we get to Mobile Bay and the Gulf.

We arrived at Wilson Lock around 2:30 pm. The lockmaster was hopeful about locking us down tonight. All that had to happen was this tow (who was in progress of being broken down) had to get the rest of its barges in the lock, tie 'em together, lock down to his other barges, tie them together, then be on his way. Loopers down there would lock up, and we'd lock down. The process should have taken a couple of hours.

On the wall above the aux lock.
Those are the doors...
that's a little unnerving.
It's 4 hours in and the lower loopers still haven't gotten into the chamber. The current time is 6:30, and it's getting dark.

The plan: There still is no room for us at the marina. So, when we lock through, we're going to tie off on the lower auxiliary wall for the night. The trick there will be not to run into the tow that's also parked there.

So, yeah. Gone be an interesting night.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Huntsville to Second Creek, anchor

Second Creek doesn't sound very romantic, but the anchorage is lovely. We're very close to the Joe Wheeler Lock which we'll get through tomorrow. 

We've been planning the next few days to target Florence on Sunday. We can't be there sooner since they are chock full of loopers staging to get to the resort at Joe Wheeler for the big looper extravaganza called "The Rendezvous." It starts Monday, so folks will head there Sunday to get ready. They want to head up, and we want to head down.

That in and of itself is a staging problem for us. But the larger issue for everyone is Wilson Lock. Recall on our trip to Florence we heard the long wall of Wilson sunk. SUNK! As a result it takes a long time to get tows through and, well, "rec boats" are not going to make it if any commercial vessel is around. 

Dawn at Ditto Landing.
There is a loop hole. They are only locking tows down in the daylight hours. So if you show up early in the morning (as we did when we came up) or after the sun goes down, you'll probably get through without any hold ups. But... darkness.

Moreover, if we get through the lock early, there's no place to anchor near the Florence marina. None. So we have to do it on Sunday.

To recap, we have a reservation in Florence on Sunday. We'll get through the Wheeler lock tomorrow and anchor near-ish the Wilson Lock. We'll call the lock and see if there's a time we can squeak in but we may have to wait until darkness, Sunday night. Darkness...

My Dad asked for a nighttime pic, 
when the boat was all lit up.
I'm all aquiver with antici-pation!

No locks today. 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Guntersville to Huntsville, marina

Bad locking day, today. Well, no damage or danger or anything, just a long wait.

The day started lovely, sunny and warm. Even though our destination was only 2 1/2 hours away we thought we'd get an early start. As it turns out, it was about 30 minutes too late, and that cost us 4 hours of time.

Gorgeous start to the day
Russ had finished the engine checks and the engines were running when Lizzie and I returned from her morning walk. I happened to look up the channel and notice a tow heading down river, soon to be our direction. About 10 miles down is our next lock, Guntersville. But he's moving slow, about 4 knots, so we think, "no worries, we'll pass him, and be through before he even shows up." Then I happened to notice an AIS signature about 2 miles already ahead of us, we'll call him the Thompson. Odds are we wouldn't pass him before the lock. "Okay, just one tow, that's not so bad..." Then I noticed a third AIS signature, one coming out from Guntersville. Jared Phillips.

What we see with AIS,
his name, and his speed.
Thompson is about a mile
ahead at this point.
At this point I almost said, "We should bag this and try again in a few hours." But we pressed on. (Seriously, we haven't seen so many tows at one time since the Ohio, and that was because the lock was broken.)

The 4 knot tow slowed as the Jared Phillips pulled in front to make a sweeping turn down river to get under a bridge. We, too, slowed to let him get his move done, not wanting to crowd the bridge to pass him under it. The slow boat then turned up to Guntersville, so was no longer part of the story.

We hail the Jared Phillips, tell him we'd like to overtake, and asked if he preferred a side to do so. He said it didn't matter (he was polite about this). We picked the one-whistle, overtaking him on our port side, which kept us on the inside of the turn. It becomes clear, however, that this isn't happening. I mean, minutes and minutes go by and we're not overtaking. We increased our speed, so did Jared. Eventually we were going almost as fast as we can and we just can get by this guy. Neither of us have ever seen a tow go this fast. He had 7 barges, only 1 of which was full (we know this since they have to tell the lockmaster what they're pushing), which is a pretty light load, but man! He topped out over 10 knots. There's a tow ahead -- he ain't locking down first, anyway.

We gave up. Ultimately, we may have gotten ahead of him, but there's no way with a commercial vessel on our tail that the lock would take us down before him. We think that may have been the point. Jared didn't want to wait for us to lock down, so he made clear we would not.

By this time we both gained on the Thompson who was hailing the lock and getting the green light to enter. Russ called the lock on the phone and explained we're with 2 tows and we'll be standing by, ready if there's any space to lock with them. But that was not to be.

Once through the lock we got some lovey views.
We get it. "Rec boats" are not anyone's priority. We're 4th on the list, as a matter of fact, behind commercial vessels, power generation, and water management. But if way back at the bridge, when we hailed Jared, he said, "I'm in hurry and I'm about to put the spurs to her at 10 knots so if you can pass me, fine, if not you might stay clear," we would have backed off, or even turned around and gone back to the marina for a couple of hours.

I found the situation pretty frustrating. In the end we still got to the next marina around 1 pm. Just a frustrating day.

Total lock count: a bitter 64

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Shellmound to Guntersville, marina

We're in a yacht club, to be specific. One of the handy things about being in a yacht club (Longboat Key Club Moorings) is reciprocity. Typically, things like dockage and fuel are cheaper. So, woo hoo!

Up before dawn we noticed the fog -- patchy, but occasionally dense. We waited until there was some light only to discover that sometime after we last walked the dog (around 8 pm) another boat had joined us on the dock. Willing was the vessel name. It was a delivery and headed up river to Chattanooga. 

That's Willing, who docked in the night.
Our first task was to get through the Nickajack lock. We called, then as we approached we hailed. We only had to wait a few minutes for the doors, then we were on our way.

The last time we passed through here we docked on the free town dock, took a dinghy to a restaurant, then decided to move to an anchorage. The town dock was near a busy road. The experience was more like sitting in a rest area. Handy, but not a place you want to spend the night at (and, believe me, I have, so I know -- RV history).

Gray and dramatic. But lovely for boathing.
We wanted to stop here and catch up with Beth and Rip Tyler, who kindly let loopers like ourselves use their private dock off the Pamlico River in North Carolina. They sold that home and now do a combination of RVing and boating. And they're in Guntersville. However, we didn't want to do the town dock again. Russ found us this yacht club and made arrangements. We're thrilled. Here for $20 (!) and we fueled up and pumped out. All good.

Taken by the crew of Scout as we passed.
Thank you, Lisa and Ray!
Also, we're back in Central Time. So we gained an hour.

Total lock count: 63

Through the foggy morning, into a lovely day.

Chattanooga to Shellmound, park dock

We didn't get a bright and early start to the day. Because of the holiday (Indigenous People's Day -- there! I recognize that one!) the mail we expected to show up last Friday wasn't going to get here until today. But, no guarantees. So when it failed to turn up by 10:30 am, we decided to just have it "returned to sender" and we'll try to get it another time.

Fellow boater took this as they left Chattanooga.
Thank you, Kathleen!
With the current, which was racing, we bounced between 9.5 and 10.5 knots. You can see that from the Christmas-y color on our Nebo chart. We passed a couple of looper boats on the way. When we were nearly at Shellmound we were hailed by Spirit, who we met on Tellico Lake. They were waiting for the lock, to the dock would be ours.

Excellent little park, and while small equally excellent docks. We're go through the Nickajack lock first thing tomorrow.

Back in Shellmound, under a 
dramatic sky.

Monday, October 11, 2021

BTW park to Chattanooga

Been here a couple of days. Only just now realized I hadn't posted to the blog. DOH!

Last time we were in Chattanooga we were one of two boats on the Bluffs Dock. That dock was full of boats this time. Between the Columbus Day holiday and loopers, way more boats than we'd seen in months. But we did get a spot on the Commercial Dock, so all good.

On the Commercial Dock, used by tour boats, mostly.
We had to go through another lock, Chickamauga. We hailed him just as we left the park, and he had to doors open for us when we arrived. However, we were a little delayed since we waited for a boat to join us. 

Weather has been wonderful lately. Warm in the afternoons, cool at night. We've done a bunch of walking and enjoying of Chattanooga. Not the least of which was seeing the Chattanooga Choo Choo.

Opened in 1880 the Chattanooga Choo Choo ran from Cincinnati to Chattanooga, making it easy to get between the north and south. The station here was enormous. And beautiful. It's now a hotel.

Total lock count: 62

You've heard the song (albeit not lately...)

The train and the station is now a hotel

The cars are businesses and hotel rooms.

I'm glad they found a use for the glorious building.

Even the bathrooms were amazing.
Checkout the chandeliers!

The song was released in 1941, so you've had
plenty of time to learn the lyrics.
But, they're written on the sidewalks,
in case you've forgotten them.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Watts Bar Resort to BTW Park, anchor

We stayed in the Booker T. Washington Park with Jess for 3 nights. It's a perfect anchorage so we were happy to come back. Besides, it's a short run to Chattanooga tomorrow, and we'll be there for several days.

About a 5 1/2 hour trip today. Once we shoved off the dock we hailed the lock, who had the doors opening when we arrived. In the video you'll see once we got on the wall it's a while before the water drops. Russ and the lockmaster had a conversation. Once he zooms off in his "lock mobile" we got lowered.

The boat density has increased hugely. Suddenly there are boats everywhere. It's looper season and they are flocking. In fact, when we made the reservation in Chattanooga we were put on the commercial dock, because the others are full of boats. We were 1 of 2 boats there when we came up.

Not loopers, but we're not the only ones
at the park this time.
I predict a lot of anchoring out from here back to Longboat Key.

Largely about how the day turns quite lovely.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Lenoir City to Watts Bar Resort, wall

Technically, Watts Bar Resort is abandoned but the dock remains.

Longer day today, longer than we've had in a while. After all the 1 and 2 hour trips up and down Tellico Lake, the run down Watts Bar was tiring. But uneventful. 

Started our trip downward. Literally, down. Our elevations was 813 feet when we started the day, so now it's all getting back to sea level. 

We're on the left. We look petite
next to L'estique.
The dock we're on is more a remnant of the resort and slowly eroding. We wouldn't have picked it if a real blow were coming but, due to patchy rain, being on a dock makes walking the dog easy. Or so we thought. Once docked we realized there were a huge committee of turkey vultures in a nearby tree. In the water was a carcass of (what we think may have been) a deer. Russ scattered them off, then shoved the carcass deeper in the water with a board, attempting to make them stay away. Just not something you want hanging around while a small, geriatric pug does her business.

These guys were on the lock wall.
Not sure that's a good omen.
2 nights until we're at Chattanooga again, and we'll stay there a couple of days. Already loopers are descending on us. The only dock available for us to use was the commercial dock.

Total Lock Count: 61

The dinner out (left to right):
Kathleen, Michael, me, (my) Russ,
Carol, and (not my) Russ.

The month of September broken down into 3 trips:
1) Up the Tennessee River to Knoxville
2) Down from Knoxville to Tellico Lake
3) Tellico Lake back to the Tennessee

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Cow Pasture to Tellico Marina (marina) to Lenoir City, marina

I believe the trip from Cow Pasture Cove to the Tellico Marina was too short for our Nebo to track. It was only about 6 miles. But that is what we did yesterday. We met 2 other loopers there, the crews Spirit and Apres Sail. Michael had the idea that we spend a nice meal together, which is something none of us have done for a really long time.

While out at anchor in Cow Pasture I made the shocking discovery that we were running out of dog food. I counted out how many meals she had left (4, to be exact) which meant we needed food ASAP. Thus our final (seriously, final!) trip the the Fort Loudoun Marina, where we basically see our dockage fees as rental payment for the courtesy van. And, as usual, I'm taking the opportunity to get laundry done.

The cow pastures of Cow Pasture Cove
Both trips being short were drama free. Just how we like it. Tomorrow we'll say goodbye to Tellico Lake and start working our way back to FLA. Albeit, slowly. Hurricanes can still pop up and we do not want to deal with them.

We even dressed up a little.

Spirit, Apres Sail, and inQuest

Monday, October 4, 2021

Sequoya Museum to Cow Pasture Cove, bwo Ballplay Creek

subtitled: We can't live without internet.

It rained heavily on and off all through the night but stopped by the time we needed to walk the dog. 

We have plans to meet Apres Sail on Tuesday evening for dinner at a fancier restaurant called The Blue Heron. Once the weather broke Russ started looking for a different place to spend the night before heading up the lake to Tellico Marina, home of the Heron. An anchorage that got a lot of great reviews was Ballplay Creek. It was just 6 miles from the museum and had a nice boat ramp/dock. So, off we went.

On the plus side it was the prettiest ride so far. The river narrows, becomes very windy, and we were bounded by lots of hills and trees. The views were amazing.

We got to the anchorage then decided to head across the way to be closer to the dingy dock. We dropped the anchor, got it set ... and then realized we had absolutely no internet at all. We can receive 3 different network providers (AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile) and none of our devices worked.

It's a shame this didn't come out better.
The sunlight through the clouds made the
glow very odd.
Surely we can do this for one night! I could write, Russ could read... We made a 2nd breakfast (peanut butter oatmeal with bananas!), took a nap, then set out to entertain ourselves. While writing I needed to lookup a spelling for something but DOH! No internet. Russ wanted to know about the weather but DOH! On and on it went until we realized we were wimps that heavily rely on information being at our fingertips.

So, around 3, we weighed anchor and headed back up the lake. It was about a 90 minute ride to Cow Pasture. The day had warmed and was mostly sunny.

Not a usual day but, all and all, a lovely one.

Between the clouds and the mountains, 
the trip was stunning.
Clouds and views.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Lenoir City to Sequoya Museum, anchor

Back out the Little Tennessee (Tellico Lake) we headed to the Sequoya Museum and its anchorage nearby. 

This little lake is the first that makes me understand the appeal of lake life. There are a number of restaurants, trails, and picnic areas, not to mention all the nifty little coves for fishing and swimming or a quiet overnight, all of which accessible by boat. If you want a house with a boat on the lake, this is the first time I see why. 

We did have a little excitement on the 2 hour trip out. Just past the bridge that marks your arrival onto Tellico Lake a number of speedy boats and jet skis were enjoying the Saturday. One of these boats had a group of people on it all out to wake board. This is a new (well, new to me) watersport, like water skiing where you use a line to pull you up and out of the water. But you stay close to the boat and ride it's wake, like a surf board, so you can ditch the line and keep up with the boat.

Loudoun Fort and the Smokies in the distance.
One of the boats sharing the lake was such a boat. We watched a bit as the rider got out and rode. He did well. The boat traveled just a little faster than us and made its way in front of us to cross to the other side, presumably. And just when they were right in our path, the wake boarder fell. I stopped our progress immediately and turned hard to the right to give them lots of room. We're not a fast boat by any means, but in their situation, neither were they. The maneuver was stupid on their part. Thankfully we were alert and had time to react.

We met the crew of Apres Sail at the museum. After a quick chat on radio they took the dock and we anchored. It's a quick tender ride to the dock to walk the dog. Then we met them at the museum, learned about Sequoya (a fascinating little story as he is the inventor of the Cherokee written word). From there we all piled into the tender and went to the Fort Loudoun, where we toured its museum then walked the grounds. A replica stands there now, but its complete with all the buildings. Also interesting. (Spoiler alert for both museums: settlers screwed the native peoples repeatedly and without remorse. Just sayin'.)

Michael and Kathleen of Apres Sail.
See, they do exist!
After the fort we headed to the Lakeside Grill (at the Sequoya Marina) for dinner around 4:30. We'd been told by a local today was the last day they'd be open for the season. Which was true... except they closed at 3 pm. So we meandered across the river to Rick's at the Tellico Marina and ate there. 

On the ride back we saw another looper boat, Spirit, who'd we chatted with on radio but Michael and Kathleen spent time with on their loop. As we passed Russ and Carol invited us aboard, and we chatted a bit, catching up on adventures and plans for the rest of the journey.

This was the most social we'd been since, well, last summer on the Chesapeake.

On the right is the wakeboard boat. 
They get in front of us and we have to stop
and go around because the rider fell off.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Harrison Island to Lenoir City (again), marina

Back at the Fort Loudoun Marina. Again.

The Harrison Island anchorage felt remote, but you were bounded by 2 minor highways. So that killed some of it's charm.

We wanted to anchor out again tonight, but we needed to pump out and tank up on water. We headed to the closest marina with such amenities, the Sequoia Marina. However, the pump-out didn't work. We got water then started the search for the next marina with one. Which was here. (Side note: it might be the best pump-out we've every used, for future reference).

The dinghy dock was a little rustic.
I had to thread the painter line through an eye bolt.
Despite making our way back to the bottom of the pool the trip wasn't that long. We got in around 2. So we took advantage of the courtesy van, did some shopping, and got laundry done. At least we made the best of it.

We'll head back up the Little Tennessee tomorrow. We have plans to meet Apres Sail somewhere up there.

Another nifty sunrise.