Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014

We Finally Made It!


Captain's Log: 21 July, 2014; Hour: 0740

I didn't think it was possible after a 4 1/2 hour wait at Watts Bar Lock, but we pulled into Knoxville right at hour 2100 yesterday. Our goal was to make it by nightfall on Sunday and we barely made it. I couldn't believe the journey was finally over.


I was told that some of the most beautiful scenery was from Nickajack Lake on and they weren't lying. As I stated in a previous blog, the scenery is very Swiss. The water has a deep green color that churns into a light green in your wake.



Along the Tennessee River near Chattanooga


On our all-nighter we were surprised by the Chickamauga Lock. We didn't expect it to be so close to downtown Chattanooga. When we reached it in the dark we weren't really sure what it was. Our chart plotter didn't show it. It just showed a railroad bridge. Captain Bob had insisted we carry paper charts as a backup and I'm glad he did. I pulled out the chart for our section of the river and there it was. A lock right in the middle of town.

Chickamauga Lock at night


We called the lock master and she said we'd have to wait for the Southern Belle to lock through. The Southern Belle is a riverboat that runs tourists up and down the river from downtown Chattanooga. What we found odd about that was it was midnight. It took Southern Belle about 30 minutes to lock through and by the time we locked through she was waiting to lock back through from the other direction. Hardly worth the time, if you ask me, but I didn't buy a ticket on that cruise.

The Southern Belle cruising the Tennessee River at Chattanooga


After the debacle at Watts Bar Lock, where we ended up waiting 4 1/2 hours to lock through, we thought there was no way to make it to Knoxville by sundown. We pushed those Detroit diesels as hard as we dared and headed for our last lock; Fort Loudoun Lock. Fortunately, we were locked through with another pleasure boat I had been talking to via VHF radio earlier in the day. Once we were in Fort Loudoun Lake we saw some of the most gorgeous houses of the entire trip. As far as tasteful development, we didn't see much else on our trip to match it.

A house on Fort Loudoun Lake


It was a fitting end to our journey. Alex, Carr and I enjoyed the view from the top deck of Yesterday as the sun faded below the trees. An hour ahead of schedule, Captain Bob announced that we were almost in Knoxville. What a welcome site that was.

Pulling into Knoxville

Yesterday pulled snugly into her new slip in Knoxville where she will be lovingly restored and enlisted in the Vol Navy

From start to finish, including the massive delay in Fort Pierce, it was a 33-day journey — 17 days of it on the water — that took us over the equivalent of about a fourth of the Great Loop. We saw gators and gulls. We saw bald eagles and dolphins. We saw a raging gulf we thought might swallow us whole. We encountered untold great people on the water, many of whom were following our journey on this blog. We saw adversity and overcame it. We met frustration and endured it. We pushed forward when we thought neither we nor our boat could take it, and we had an experience none of us will ever forget.

I would like to especially thank Captain Bob Buckland and First Mate Alex Plante. Their perseverance and ingenuity made it possible for us to overcome adversity and soldier on, despite conditions that would stop ordinary humans in their tracks. Their uncanny ability to take items already on the boat and put them to use to fix a mechanical problem was truly a wonder to behold. Their can-do attitude brought us through and I am eternally grateful they were on this trip.

Thanks to all of you who followed this blog for your encouragement. It didn't quite go as plan, but what does? That's what makes a simple trip a true adventure.









Sunday, July 20, 2014

These Lock People are Driving Me Mad!

Captain's Log: 20 July, 2014; Hour: 0740

So much for the all-nighter. We traveled all night from Nickajack Lake through Chattanooga all the way to Watts Bar Lock only to be told by the lock guy that it would be at least 3 hours before we could lock through. At least. Probably more like 5 hours.

I know I'm new to this locking business but I have to say as a citizen this is absolutely outrageous. I called the lock master on the phone to plead our case. He says he's locking through a ton of barges later this morning. I told him all he had to do was shoot us through before all this madness started. He's says regulations won't allow him to do that. Well, the frickin' regulations need to be changed. We have lost at least a day due to waiting on barges at locks. An hour here, three hours there, four hours there. And now we've traveled all night for absolutely nothing! We would've been much better off to stay at a marina overnight and leave this morning. There's no way we make Knoxville by nightfall so we'll have to stop again before we get there and stay overnight.

Oh, and it's been an hour and a half since we first talked to the lock guy and nothing has happened. Nothing has locked through. Here we sit with the nearest marina on our side 3 hours back the way we came. All we can do is anchor and wait. Our tax dollars at work.



Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mr. Scott. Full Power


Captain's Log: 19 July, 2014; Hour: 2333

The captain reconsidered my request for an all-nighter and we are on our way. We fueled up at Hales Bar Marina where they told our captain they had been following our adventure via our blog. A big shout out to Hales Bar Marina, named after one of the first hydroelectric dams, Hales Bar Dam, which was completed in 1913. We got some ice, coffee, candy bars and soft drinks and headed out.

The old Hales Bar hydroelectric plant


We hit Chattanooga about 2245 local time. It was nice to see it at night. We'll take shifts at the helm. Depending on the wait times at the locks, we should see Knoxville about 4 o'clock tomorrow afternoon. The biggest worry will be drift wood. The guy at the marina said they let a lot of water out upstream which usually leads to debris in the water.

Little cabins literally on the water for rent at Hales Bar Marina
Once we hit Nickajack Lake, Carr and I both turned to each other and said how much it looked like Switzerland. I had heard how beautiful it was and the reports turned out to be right.

Nickajack Lake

We're jacked up and ready for another fun night. Hopefully it won't be as eventful as the last all-nighter we pulled. The now infamous gulf crossing.




On the Home Stretch


Captain's Log: 19 July, 2014; Hour: 1612

We're sitting here at — where else? — a lock, which the lockmaster told us would be open in 15 minutes over 45 minutes ago. We stayed overnight in Huntsville. I docked the boat for the first time and there were no reported deaths or injuries.

This part of the trip has been gorgeous. Once we hit Guntersville Lake the scenery just opened up before us.



We're trying to make Knoxville by the end of the day Sunday but that's now looking unlikely because of all of the waits at the locks. I had a plan to run overnight with our newest crew member and my oldest son, Carr. I guess he'd be second mate. Or is that first-mate-once-removed. Anyway, Carr and I were going to do the overnight run while Captain Bob and Alex slept. I discussed it with the good captain and he reminded me that our 12-volt system needs to be charged nightly since the fine folks in Fort Pierce failed to fix our generator after waiting a frickin' week for the part, but I'm not bitter. Captain Bob was right, of course. We lose the 12-volt system and we lose the nav system and that would be bad with two novices on the bridge in the middle of the night.

More scenery from Guntersville Lake
As soon as we're through this confounded lock we'll fuel up at Nickajack Marina, which takes about an hour, then we'll go as far as we can until dark. I've only crossed over Nickajack Lake but I understand it's the most beautiful part of the trip. Looking forward to it.



Friday, July 18, 2014

The Lock Mess Monster

Captain's Log: 18 July, 2014; Hour: 1340

It took us nearly four hours to lock through Wheeler Lock today. Four hours! In the last 6 1/2 hours we've covered a whopping 18 miles. To make matters worse it's cold and raining and we have to be out on deck during the lock through to keep the boat off the lock wall. Did I tell you how much I hate these locks?

Pickwick Lake

We went through Pickwick Lake yesterday which is quite familiar to my family. My wife's sister and her family have a place there and we visit several times a year. Pickwick is one of the most scenic lakes on the Tennessee River.

"Anybody got a shoe horn?"
From the picture above you can see why it takes so long to get a barge through. I'm sure the barge maker gets all the width he can for the barge with only an inch to spare on either side. Some of these tugs are pushing 7 or 8 barges. Oftentimes they don't all fit in the lock in one trip so the tug has to lock through twice, which is really annoying. I know it's a tough job and all that, but doggone! This ain't the place to be if you have to be somewhere. And I hear around Chattanooga it's even more crowded. Marvelous.







Heading to Knoxville

Captain's Log: 18 July, 2014; Hour: 0503

We're in Florence, AL at the Florence Marina. Making good time and hope to be in Knoxville by Sunday. Allow me to backtrack just a moment. I promised to tell you more about Demopolis.

Demopolis Yacht Basin


After Bobby's Fish Camp, the next destination is another day's travel north to Demopolis. I didn't know what to expect. I was prepared for the worst. What a pleasant surprise. They have a new section for transient boaters. We tied up there and there was a golf cart waiting for us to travel over to the main marina and the restaurant. The restaurant was very good and they loaned us a car to make a much-needed trip for supplies. Back at our part of the marina, there was an awesome salt-water pool, laundry and shower facilities. It was definitely worth the stopover.

The white cliffs of Demopolis
I must say, locking through went a lot better yesterday. It's all a matter of timing. If you get caught in barge traffic you're going to wait. We waited some yesterday but not like the day before. Captain Bob stayed at the helm most of the day. I actually finished the galley flooring and it looks pretty darn awesome.


Birds ten-hut! Getting some respect as Yesterday passes by.

Another 12 or 13-hour day today, we hope. Looking forward to Decatur and Chattanooga up river.