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Section 12

Kentucky Lake and the Tennessee River.

(October 10 -24, 1999.)

Sunday, October 10, 1999.  Today we stay in port at Kentucky Dam Marina and work on updating the web, loading the photos, etc. We also do several loads of wash, and some routine cleaning. It is a pleasant break after several hard days of pushing down the rivers. We’re grateful to be in a quiet marina, too.

The Kentucky Dam Marina is a first-class facility.  It consists of a high breakwater closing off this finger of the lake from the greater lake itself.  The marina is configured mostly for seasonal boats.  On finger "5" where we're located at the end of the T, there are rows of huge houseboats, some more than 70' in length (see Current Photos).  These houseboats have everything from slides to satellite TV, to golf carts for land transportation.  Pretty civilized vacation homes that you can take cruising.

Monday, October 11, 1999.  We are  able to connect for e-mail today for the first time in a week; more than 50 messages to download! However, we’re once again having web upload problems. Verio isn’t much help, and we’ve just about used up our goodwill at the marina office. We will try again in the afternoon. It seems that something has happened to the laptop when the machine was upgraded at the office last time. Believe me, communications while on board is a far-from-adequately-developed science. It has been the source for the most problems we’ve had on this trip by far. I suspect we’ll see big improvements in technology in the future.

We remain in port again today to stage our arrival in Huntsville, Alabama, with our reservation. We need to be in Huntsville on Friday and it isn’t that far to go, so we have the luxury of another day off. Jan worked on the inside and planning for the new condo, and Bill gave a good scrubbing to the port side of Interlude.

I hope everyone appreciated the last web update—it took no less than six attempts to get it fully installed, but we never say die, and finally got it.

Tuesday, October 12, 1999.  A perfect travel day.  We depart from Kentucky Dam Marina at 7:15 AM and head south.  Kentucky Lake is huge--a hundred miles long, and from half a mile to several miles wide.  The water isn't as clear as the Great Lakes, but it looks much better than the other rivers we've been in. There isn't much to say  about the day except that the lake is beautiful, smooth and free of heavy traffic.  We pass a couple of tows, a half a dozen other pleasure boats, and perhaps several dozen fishing boats.  The banks are heavily wooded, sometimes with substantial cliffs.  All in all, it is very peaceful and such a pleasant contrast to the perpetual tension of the big rivers.

At about 3:30 we arrive at Cuba Landing in Waverly, Tennessee.  We would have come immediately to the fuel dock, except there is another Hatteras 74 there getting fuel.   He passed us a hour before, and indicated he knew Interlude when it was AM-FM.   He didn't even ask us if our boat was formerly AM-FM, he just knew it was because he was a previous captain of the boat.   And as we ran parallel for a few minutes he was able to identify almost all the changes we made (which were visible from the outside).  Pretty good eyes.  The boat he is currently running is the Knot Hours, and when we asked where he was home ported--he indicated that the boat is perpetually moving.  It's hailplate says the Cayman Islands.  We had the opportunity to talk with him for a few minutes once we docked, and he knows Interlude well.

Knot Hours is a 1998 Hatteras, and we're interested in the changes Hatteras has made to the boat in the last 10 years.  Some changes are rather subtle, others are more significant.  Knot Hours is a beautiful yacht.

Today is an important milestone--we've logged more than 5,000 miles on this trip.   Bob Birkenstock and Bill are talking about creating a special fraternity at the SPYC for those who have logged more than 5,000 miles by yacht.  Today, with 5,033 under our belts, we qualify!  Are you reading this Bob?

Wednesday, October 13, 1999.  Another prefect travel day.  We depart Cuba Landing at 6:40 AM and run almost without stop until we arrive at the Pickwick Dam and Lock at 3:30 in the afternoon.  The river is beautiful and we have almost no problems.

As we approached the lock we seemed to lose steering.  The indicator on the autopilot kept indicating the boat hard to port.  We overroad the autopilot with the manual hydraulic system, and were able to stabilize the boat into the lock (we mostly use just the engines anyway to steer at very slow speed.)  In the lock, Bill investigated the Hynautics steering equipment in the engine room and determined what appeared to be two problems--the pneumatic pressure on the master cylinder was low and the fluid in the master cylinder was low, too.  So he called Erik Rikensrud at Viking Boatworks in St. Petersburg and determined that the Hynautics can use Dextron III, the same as in the stabilizers. (By the way, if you are boaters, and if you ever need service in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, there is absolutely none better than Viking Boatworks.  Erik knows boats better than any other human being alive.)  We added nearly a quart of fluid to the master cylinder, then re-pressurized the system, and it brought control back to the steering system.  The autopilot still isn't working properly, but Erik suggested how to bleed the air out of the system, and we'll do that in the morning while at dock.

In the Pickway Lock, there were perhaps ten pleasure boats, and the sailboat ahead of us lost its line  (see Current Photos) and almost had a serious problem.   Fortunately, they were able to regain control, and got through the process okay.   We spoke with the people on board once we were tied up at the marina and they indicated they're new to locks.  So we shared what we know and hopefully they'll have better luck next time.  (Someone had advised them to hold the line attached to the bollard instead of cleating it down.)

We tied up at Pickwick's Tenn-Tom Marina about 4:30 PM.  This is a nice marina within the first mile of the Tenn-Tom waterway.  We'll back-track tomorrow and continue up the Tennessee River for another couple of hundred miles.  We don't want to get back to St. Petersburg too quickly--especially since we learned there is a tropical storm developing in the Caribbean.  So we'll spend another week or so in the Tennessee before starting down the Tenn-Tom waterway.

Thursday, October 14, 1999.  We learned last night that a hurricane is bearing down on St. Pete.  Glad we're still in the Tennessee River, but worried for our friends and employees back home.  We'll keep a sharp eye to the weather channel.

Took half an hour to bleed the air out of the steering system, and it seems to have restored full function to the system.  Thanks, Erik!

As we prepared to depart the marina at Cuba Landing, we observed the Niña at the fuel dock.  The Niña is a replica of the original Niña which sailed with Christopher Columbus.  Sure looks little.  See the Current Photo section for some shots of it.  They're headed to Florida, too.

About 40 miles into the trip today we came to the Wilson Lock which lifts us to Wilson Lake.  This lift is 93 feet--almost as high as a ten story building.  Wow!   What a piece of engineering, and some lift.  We took several photos--see the Current Photo page.  All in all, the lift required only about 20 minutes, and Bill calculates that a total of almost 50 million gallons of water were required to lift Interlude those 93 feet.  We went through alone, seems like a waste of energy, but it was exciting.

At 2:30 PM we tied up at Marina Mar on the Shoal Creek about two miles off Lake Wilson, near Florence, Alabama.  We overwhelm the place, and the dock attendant allowed as how he figured we were about the biggest "ship" he'd ever seen in the marina; heck, it was about the biggest ship he'd ever seen.  He's going to take a picture to show his friends.  Maybe we'll make the Florence newspaper!  Anyway, we're glad to be in this snug marina in a quiet creek (which is about as big as a major river anywhere else).  And it is another perfect day.

For dinner we walk across a long auto bridge across Shoal Creek clinging to a small curb while cars tear past us, and purchase two pizzas for dinner (2 for $8.99, such a deal). We take them back to Interlude and devour one as dinner and save the other for later.  This pizza joint is about the extent of the food service in the area.  And we had to risk life and limb at that.  Guess this is the boonies.

Friday, October 15, 1999.  We get an early start today and are under way by 7:00 AM.  However, since we're well east of where we've been the last week or so, it's already daylight, and we could have started earlier.  The morning is cool, and there is mist on the water since the water was much warmer than the air.

Ten miles into our total of 70 miles today, we encountered another of the huge Tennessee River locks--this one lifting us 50 feet, and its tended by a woman--a first!   Some adventure.

The rest of the day, until our arrival in Huntsville about 2:00 in the afternoon is without event--just pleasant river cruising--very easy. 

At Ditto Landing, we wash up Interlude trying to free it from it's collection of bugs--spiders again, plus a curious large flying ant which looks gruesome. 

Saturday, October 16, 1999.  We depart via taxi about 9:00 AM for the Huntsville airport and a quick trip to Columbus for Jan's board meeting.

Wednesday, October 20, 1999. We return to Interlude from Columbus with Bill's mother and her husband, Ed, in tow.  They will travel with us from Huntsville to Chattanooga.  We're delighted they can join us for some of this beautiful area.   On the way to the boat, we stop at a supermarket for restocking, then on to the Interlude.

When we reach the Ditto Landing marina, we discover the water level has dropped almost two feet.  We consult with the dockmaster about any problems this might give us regarding depth, but he plots our course out, and we have no problems.

Thursday, October 21, 1999.  We have a short trip from Ditto Landing in Huntsville to our next destination in Guntersville, Alabama.  The Signal Point Marina is pleasant and the office provides us with a courtesy car to visit a local restaurant for dinner.   If you're in the Guntersville area, try Adrian's Restaurant--very pleasant.

Friday, October 22, 1999.  We depart by 6:45 AM for a 70 mile trip to Hales Bar Marina.  The day passes without event, we simply enjoy the scenery, although there isn't much color in this area.  Mom and Ed are getting their sealegs very quickly.

We pass the Nickajack Dam with no wait, but only thanks to a tow driver behind us that insisted the lock take us through before him.  Had we waited, there were three other tows coming behind him, and we might have been there for hours.  Nice guy, and public thanks to him.

Another lesson learned!  We read with some interest that approach to our marina was somewhat difficult.  There are two approaches, the short one with a strong turn to starboard opposite the gas dock (as viewed with binoculars).  The other requires entering a secondary channel about a mile south of the marina.  We understood that from water depth problems we would, without a doubt, enter via the secondary channel.   We called Hales Bar marina well before arrival and the individual acknowledged that we were new to the area and needed assistance to get to the dock. 

She recommended that we do the sharp right turn opposite the gas dock.  We were troubled (especially Jan) by the advice, but decided that the locals know best--and we didn't challenge the recommendation.  As we made the turn we quickly got a call from the marina office that because of our size we should probably make a quick 180 degree turn and go back and enter by the secondary channel (as we had planned to do from the travel guide we were using).  We went back and made it in without a problem.  When Bill checked in at the office, he found a very elderly person at the radio--someone who obviously was out of touch with what's going on--on the water.  Lesson:  ask questions; if you don't like the answer, ask it another way until you're sure you are both on the same wavelength.

And about Hales Bar--it is a marina that's not up to the standards of the others we've been to--no protection from the river, their pump-out system doesn't work, they don't have showers or restrooms, their electricity is inadequate, and their water system has so little pressure we couldn't even do an adequate wash-down.   And for this they charge four times as much as the last two marinas.  Market forces at their worst.

Saturday, October 23, 1999.  A spectacular day.  We got off at 8:00 AM and cruised the "Grand Canyon of the Tennessee" in brilliant sunlight and crystal clear cold air.  And it is a beautiful trip with foothills on both sides of the river, and cliffs at times that are more than 1000 feet high.

We tied up in downtown Chattanooga at the city dock (no charge for tying up during the day, but no overnight privileges.  We had a great lunch at "212 Market" and then toured the Tennessee Aquarium.  This is a wonderful facility--even Bill's mother, who has access to the aquarium at Monterey (California) and others of note, said it was exceptional.    Many of the tanks (some 60' tall!) feature fresh water fish--and it was really wonderful to see what we've cruised over for months.  This is a stop worth making.

About 3:00 PM we left for the marina and had about 10 miles to go to reach the Chickamauga Lock--we called the lockmaster from 5 miles away and he indicated they were filling the lock with pleasure boats in a couple of minutes and that if we missed that lock-up, it would be a couple of hours.  Bill put the pedal to the metal, and they reached the vicinity of the lock in minutes, and we called the lockmaster again.  He was under the mistaken impression that we were upriver and wanted to be locked down--but another boat understood the problem and clarified the issue with the lockmaster--and we went straight into the lock with several other pleasure boats and were locked up without any wait--our luck with locks continues...

As we reached Chickamauga Marina, we called for arrival instructions, and they suggested we come to the fuel dock and get a slip assignment.  We did so, and they sent us backwards to an end of tee that meant we approached the dock tying to port rather than our preferred starboard.  We approached the dock with 20k sidewinds that blew us onto the dock.  Unfortunately we still had the big ball fenders deployed on that side and made a somewhat less than elegant arrival..but no damage or other problems. 

The dock was littered with Canada geese droppings, and Bill had to wash down the entire end of tee before we could even finish tying up the Interlude--it hasn't been washed-down for months.  Next we found that the assigned power post was dead--no power, and after some discussion, they found us a single 30A 125v circuit--this represents about 1/20th the amount of power we really need.   But we'll get through the night and rethink the situation tomorrow.

Another lesson learned!  Chickamauga Marina was reluctant to take us--but because we wanted to be near an airport, we insisted, and upon our arrival we realize why they were hesitant--they don't really have facilities for a boat our size.  A curious dilemma: insist, and have a bad dock situation.  Don't insist, and how do we find our way to the airport to get the folks back home.

The day was redeemed by a wonderful Mexican dinner that Jan prepared.  Ed even asked Bill's mother to write down the recipe.  It was delicious.