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.

THE RACE!
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

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