Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Da Boys from Chicago and Wild Times at the Waterfall

Things started out peacefully on Saturday morning, but around noon Tena and Keith showed up with two of Keith’s “homeboys” from Chicago. We had met Tena and Keith, who live in this area, the previous weekend when everybody was pitching washers at the waterfall.

Now, when I use the term “homeboys” it is definitely a term of endearment. These guys (Paul “My Hubcap Man” and Mike) are brothers who grew up with Keith on the south side of Chicago. For those who don’t know what a “Hubcap Man” is (like us), we were told that it is someone who can get or find for you anything you would ever want or need. Did I mention that these two guys are very, very Italian - a.k.a. Paulie and Mikey? Did I mention that they arrived ready to cut loose? Did I mention that it got wet and wild? Did I mention that we pegged the fun-meter, perhaps even broke it???

Needless to say, the Captain hit it off with the boys from the moment they arrived on the beach and it didn’t take long for the Admiral to catch up. Well, the beer and Bloody Mary’s flowed stronger than the waterfall until about 4:00 p.m. when the storms they were predicting hit. Tena and the boys headed back home with the promise of seeing us in the morning with fresh supplies of ice, vodka, Bloody Mary mix, and plenty more cold beer.

After they left, we quickly set a second anchor to keep us from swinging into the shore because of the strong winds. It blew and rained for the next eighteen hours, and as the sun was coming back out, so did all our friends on Pickwick Lake, loaded with supplies, and Kelly and Melissa brought food for an army. Let the party continue! I’m not even going to try and talk about the day; I’ll let the photos speak for themselves The fun has begun!

L. to R. Roger (friend of Bud's from New Albany, MS), Paul (Chicago "Hubcab Man"), Cindy (wife of Steve, friends of Kelly's and Melissa's), Kelly, Melissa, Tena (wife of Keith), Steve (husband of Cindy, friends of Kelly's and Melissa's).

The girls built a fort while the grown-ups enjoyed the day. These girls are also responsible for all the face paint on the adults, it was our "warpaint"!

L. to R. Cindy, Carlin, Caroline, Hilary. Cindy and Hilary belong to Keith and Tena; Carlin belongs to Cindy and Steve; and Caroline belongs to Kelly and Melissa.

What are you looking at Melissa? Another nice pose Tena!

The Hubcap Man & The Captain... quite a team!

Just trying to enjoy ourselves!

L. to R. The Cap'n, Hubcap Man, Keith (Tena's husband) & Tena, and Mike (Paul's brother)

The Admiral gets in on the fun!

Are we having fun yet?


The Admiral & Kelly welcome Bo & Terri.

Da Boys from the South Side! Will we see you in Florida this winter?

Kelly gets sandwiched at the beach!

Is it Paulie or Bono?

Though we didn’t get any photos of this particular event, it is important to note that my homeboys and I did experience the 25-foot rope swing on Sunday, so the guys now have bragging rights back in the Windy City.

Since the boys from Chicago weren’t flying back until Tuesday we decided that we should shoot for three days in a row, but trust me when I tell you that Monday was a much shorter and somewhat more sober day at the waterfall. I do, however, think that Paulie wimped out just a little too soon on Monday as he spent most of the day napping... for such a stud he sure was a candy-a** that day (Paulie - you were never there for me, man ). By Monday, all the Hubcap Man could do was snore... lightweight! :-) However Mike was still going strong... like a true Chicago Italian!

Needless to say we have made two great new friends up north and we hope to see them next fall when we go through Chicago. That or perhaps in Florida this winter where we hope that some (or all) of our many friends in this area will come for a visit.

Tuesday was spent “drying out” and working on getting “Life’s2Short” washed and waxed in addition to changing oil and filters for the upcoming trip back down the Tenn-Tom to Mobile and points south. About 3:00 p.m. our fresh water pump sprang a leak so I spent the afternoon trying to get it fixed; however, this issue will have to wait until I have access to proper tools.

The Iceman stopped by late in the afternoon and plans have been made to possibly meet him in Memphis on our way back from Missouri. Speaking of Missouri, Kelly will be taking us to the rental car company tomorrow morning and we should arrive at Lake of the Ozarks late tomorrow afternoon. We will spend five days with the Admiral’s parents and then head to Springfield, arriving sometime Tuesday afternoon, October 3rd, for four nights. After that we will head back up to Lake of the Ozarks for a few more days before returning to “Life’s2Short” on October 11th or 12th.

The nights have really begun to cool off and fall is definitely in the air. The water temps have also begun to drop so one now has to be careful of “shrinkage."  I want to end this session of the blog by letting everyone know how special it is in this part of the world. Not only is the scenery beautiful and the wildlife abundant (I’m not talking here about the people), but the quality of life around these parts is second to none.

Speaking of people, I don’t believe you can find better folks anywhere. As our friend Keith told me: “The type of people that live here would do anything for you at anytime, without hesitation ” It is this type of environment and attitude that is really going to be hard to leave; however, it will soon get cold here so we must continue our journey south and just look forward to getting back up this way sometime next year. I hope that all of you who are keeping up with our adventures are doing well and life is also treating you as good as it is us.  Live your dreams, Cap’n T
The Iceman Does Italian

Welcome faithful readers! It’s been another wonderful week aboard “Life’s2Short”. This past Thursday evening found us back over at Bud’s (Iceman’s) beautiful house for a home-cooked Italian meal that was out of this world! If I gave out his private recipes, I’m afraid we wouldn’t be invited back again... just trust me when I say that it was outstanding. We were also joined by Bud’s daughter, Sandy, who was visiting from Memphis. It was a late evening of cooking, vino, and stimulating conversation; we finally made it back to the boat about 11:30 p.m. where we found Buddy just about to burst, so a quick trip to the designated doggy area was in order.  Thanks again Iceman and Sandy - let’s do it again before we head south....please!!!

This is Chef Bud and daughter Sandy working in the kitchen.

Father and daughter cooking up a storm!

Bud's beautiful home on Pickwick Lake.

The point overlooking the lake behind Bud's house - what a view!!!

We woke up Friday morning to very windy conditions so we opted to leave “Life’s2Short” tied up to the dock and do a little local shopping for a few odds and ends. The wind finally laid down late in the afternoon so we untied and headed back over to Waterfall Cove for what turned out to be a very, very, very crazy weekend - so crazy that we couldn't get all the photos to load! As a result, a separate posting is in order. Stay tuned!!!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I know it has been a while since we updated the blog, but we haven't had Internet access since we got back to Pickwick Lake on September 13th. When we last posted, we were leaving Alred Marina in Guntersville Lake on September 10th. We traveled all of about six miles to an anchorage at Goat Island, just a few miles upriver from the Guntersville Lock.

While Todd was out fishing in the dinghy, he came across a very nice couple who wanted to look at the boat. Wade and Sue came on board and toured the boat and we visited with them for a while about what it's like to live on a boat. As with several people we've met, they want to become live-aboards some day and are always interested in looking at different types and styles of boats. They currently have a home on Guntersville Lake and invited us to join them for dinner next time we're in the area.

We continued downriver Monday morning, through the lock into Wheeler Lake, and anchored that evening in Goldfield Branch where we had stayed on our way to Chattanooga. Tuesday was forecast to be rainy and cool and we decided Goldfield would offer us adequate protection if strong winds accompanied the rain. We woke up Tuesday to a chilly, rainy day. By late afternoon, the rain seemed to have passed and we considered going a little further downriver but decided against it since the wind had picked up and the main lake was quite choppy.

We left Goldfield about 8:30 Wednesday morning planning to get through Wheeler Lock and at least get close to Wilson Lock before calling it a day. Wilson Lock is the one that is still under repair and we didn't know how long we would have to wait to go through the two-stage auxiliary lock. Somewhere around Decatur, AL we discovered that we had no fresh water. When we stopped to take a quick swim, Todd checked into it and found that a hose had come off the water pump and a good portion of our fresh water had drained into the bilge. We had just filled up at Alred Marina a few days ago and had 250 gallons on board at that time, but we didn't know how much had pumped out between the time the hose came loose and when Todd reattached it.

When we got near Wheeler Lock, we called the lockmaster who told us he was finishing up with a barge and would be ready for us in about 30 or 45 minutes. We told him we needed to stop in at Joe Wheeler State Park to get ice and refill our water tanks, and he said that was fine. Within a few minutes, he called us back on the radio and told us we needed to be down there by the time he finished with the current barge because he had another one coming upriver that needed to lock through. Since we didn't want to miss an opportunity to lock through ahead of the next barge, we quickly got ice at Joe Wheeler State Park and decided to deal with the water issue later.

Wilson Lake is only about 15 miles long, so we called the lock when we were an hour away to see how long we would have to wait to lock through. We were told that they thought they would be able to get us through in about two hours, so we decided to maintain our current speed and stop at a marina near the lock to refill the water tanks. After having done that, we arrived at Wilson Lock 30 minutes ahead of schedule and were able to lock through about 45 minutes later. At this point, it was about 2:30 p.m. and we knew we would either have to stay at the marina in Florence or make it back to an anchorage on Pickwick before dark, which was going to be close since we still had 40 miles to go. But we elected to go for it and finally reached Waterfall Cove about 6:30 Wednesday evening after a very long (10-hour) day on the water.

Kelly showed up at the waterfall Thursday afternoon. Prospector Bill and his wife Nora who live aboard their boat at Aqua Yacht Harbor arrived in a pontoon a few hours later. Below is a picture of Kelly's two dogs: Harley (Rat Terrier) is on the left and Lucky (Jack Russell Terrier) is on the right. They love coming to Waterfall Cove!

This is a picture of Bill's and Kelly's pontoons parked next to us, along with a big catamaran that pulled in for a brief visit.

This is one of the many barges that regularly pass by the waterfall.

As evening approached, Kelly called his wife Melissa and asked her to order pizza for all of us, so we left the waterfall in Kelly's boat and followed Bill and Nora back to Aqua Yacht where they left their pontoon and came with us to pick up Melissa and Caroline (Kelly and Melissa's daughter) and, of course, the pizza. On the way, we were all jamming to Motown music and having a good ol' time, as you can see by the pictures Todd took along the way!

This is Prospector Bill who may love to fish even more than Todd!

Below is a picture of Bill, his wife Nora, Kelly and me.

This is Kelly, his wife Melissa and their 12-year-old daughter, Caroline.

Todd and Nora were rocking the boat while sitting in the Captain's chairs on the front of Kelly's pontoon.

Kelly came out again Friday morning and resupplied us with cubed ice. Bill also stopped by and brought us three blocks of ice after learning from Kelly that the local grocery store carried them. Bill and Todd then went out fishing for a while but came back empty-handed - what's up with that?!!!

Bill headed back to Aqua Yacht and we had a relatively mellow day visiting with Kelly and then rode with him to pick up Melissa and Caroline later that afternoon. Caroline did some wake boarding on the way back to the waterfall and then Kelly and Todd grilled hot dogs for all of us before they headed home for the evening.

After they left, Todd and I entertained ourselves by watching a group of guys throw "washers" on the gravel bar in front of our boat. Washers is a game similar to horseshoes, but instead of tossing horseshoes you toss big painted washers and try to land them either in a box or, preferably, in a cup in the center of the box. At any rate, they were a fun group of guys who entertained us until dark.

About 7:45 a.m. Saturday morning, one of the big rental house boats came into the cove and promptly began blasting us with some pretty obnoxious music. By noon, the cove was full of boats, which is unusual for this time of the year, but the Darrel Worley Tennessee River Run concert was that evening at Pickwick State Park, and many of the boats were apparently just hanging out at the waterfall until it was time to go to the concert, which began at 4:00 p.m.

About 3:30, there was a mass exodus of boats from the cove. We had been invited to raft up with Bo and Terri at the concert but decided we would just hang at the waterfall instead since we aren't country music afficiandos. Bud (the Iceman) was also going to the concert but he stopped by on his pontoon to tour through the cove before joining the other concert-goers and to bring Todd some Bloody Mary mix and Louisiana hot sauce to spice it up with.

Bill came by again Sunday morning and brought more Bloody Mary mix and block ice, but we were still in pretty good shape with the block ice he had brought us on Friday, especially since Bo and Terri were planning to bring us more cubed ice later that morning.  Several boats gradually made their way into the cove, but it was much quieter than it had been on Saturday. The big rental house boat had pulled out Saturday afternoon, presumably to go to the concert, came back Sunday morning for a while, left again, and then came back that afternoon. They ended up spending the night in the cove Sunday evening and pulled out early Monday morning, but they were pretty subdued by Sunday evening.

We spent most of Sunday afternoon visiting with several of the other boaters who were pulled up on the gravel bar beside us. Bo and Terri brought us ice about mid-morning on Sunday and then came back late that afternoon to hang out for a while. Bud also came by again in his pontoon, towing his Sea Doo, which he promptly untied and went to check out the boaters in Panther Cove just across the lake.  It was getting late when the other boats started to pull out, so we invited Bo and Terri to join us for dinner and spend the night on the boat.

We had a nice evening visiting with them and woke up to a cloudy Monday morning. Rain was forecast to move in early, so Bo and Terri headed back to Aqua Yacht around 8:00 a.m. just as it was starting to rain lightly. The rest of Monday stayed cloudy and rainy, and I spent the morning in the kitchen baking a loaf of banana nut bread and a loaf of regular bread and preparing homemade chicken and noodles for dinner. Todd read a little, napped a little and cleaned on the boat a little between rain showers. All-in-all, a pretty quiet day at the waterfall.

Over the past week, Todd also started cleaning what we call the "moustache" off the bow of the boat. The moustache is essentially a brown stain that develops at the water line on the bow, similar to a milk moustache on a person. He had to use hull cleaner to get it off, which also removes the wax, so after getting rid of the stain he had to wax it. This required quite a bit of time and effort, so he did half of it on Friday and finished up on Tuesday. Hopefully, the wax will keep the stain at bay for a while.

Although many people were swimming in the cove and swinging off the top of the waterfall this weekend, the water has become noticeably cooler since we were here three weeks ago. Todd and I both took a dip on Monday and even though it felt good, if a bit chilly, it won't be long before the chill will keep us out of the water altogether. The nights have also begun to cool down to the point of having to occasionally add a blanket to the bed. At this rate, it appears the fall weather may arrive before we make it very far south. In fact, it is forecast to be in the upper 40's by Tuesday evening!

Bill stopped by again Tuesday morning but the Aqua Yacht chase boat he was driving was promptly called back to the marina, so we only saw him for a few minutes. About noon, Kelly came out and then Bo and Terri showed up in her 19-foot Tahoe about an hour later with all kinds of food and goodies in tow. We spent the afternoon chatting on the sundeck and then I went with Kelly to pick up Melissa and Caroline who were bringing pizza for dinner again while Todd finished waxing the bow of the boat. Bo and Terri went back to Aqua Yacht to put her boat in dry storage and then they returned in Bo's 31-foot Sea Ray. We ate pizza and visited until dark and then everyone headed for home.

The 40's that had been forecast for Tuesday evening didn't materialize, but it did get down into the 50's again. Bud called and invited us to his house for dinner on Thursday, so we will take the boat to Grand Harbor tomorrow, pump out the holding tanks, do some laundry, update the blog, get a few things from town and then leave the boat there for the evening while we go to Bud's.

Kelly came out Wednesday afternoon and graciously brought us more ice. We enjoyed a beautiful, sunny afternoon and then went with Kelly to pick up Melissa after she got home from work. Shortly after we returned to the waterfall, a rental houseboat pulled up on the gravel bar and began collecting wood for a fire. Kelly and Melissa left before dark and the houseboat crew started their fire shortly after that. We were kind of hoping they would invite us to join them but they didn't, so we spent a quiet evening on the boat. The houseboaters told us they were only staying until midnight and, sure enough, they were gone when we woke up Thursday morning. This is a beautiful sunrise photo Todd took this morning at the waterfall.

As many of you know, we plan to leave the boat at Grand Harbor Marina around the middle of next week and go back to Missouri for a couple of weeks to visit family and friends. When we return to Pickwick, we will spend a few days saying our good-byes to the many wonderful friends we've made here and will then begin heading south. We hope to spend several days on Bay Springs Lake and then continue down the Tenn-Tom to our home away from home, Demopolis, AL, where we plan to meet Todd's parents and boat up the Black Warrior River before they continue their journey to Orlando, FL to spend Thanksgiving with Todd's sister, Jennifer, and her two girls, Shannon and Sarah. We will update the blog again while we are at Grand Harbor next week, before leaving for Missouri. Until then, we appreciate your patience with the infrequency of our blog updates!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Friday, September 1st
The pier at Ross's Landing in Chattanooga was full by Friday evening. We explored downtown and had a great appetizer (crab and artichoke asiago chesse dip with toasted baguettes) and top shelf margaritas at Big River Grille & Brewing Company, a very popular downtown destination with a great menu.

The people from Marine Max, who manage the pier, came by Saturday morning to tell everyone they were going to have to move their boats so the Mississippi Queen would have room to dock when it arrived that evening. As I mentioned in the last blog update, the Mississippi Queen needs 400 feet of the 600-foot pier; fortunately we were docked in the first 200 feet of the pier and weren't required to move. But all of the boats behind us were forced to go somewhere else since the Mississippi Queen takes precedence over transient boaters, even though the transients had made advance reservations. Needless to say, many of them were unhappy about being asked to leave.

We left the boat around noon to go buy aquarium and IMAX tickets and decided to go to the IMAX Saturday evening and to the aquarium on Sunday. We then walked across the worldest longest pedestrian bridge to the other side of the river and poked around in the shops over there. Below is a picture we took coming back across the bridge. You can see the two aquarium buildings (with the geometric rooflines) in the background and our boat on the right, under the bridge.

We came back in time to catch the 6:00 p.m. IMAX, "Deep Sea" in 3D, which was really cool! After the movie, we went back to Big River for margaritas and free Diver's Dip (with IMAX ticket stub), a jalapeno spinach cheese dip served with tortilla chips. We then walked all over the downtown area again and stopped in at a little place called Buck Wild Saloon for a beer. The bar maid was covered with tatoos and body art and had on faded, torn, holey low-cut jeans with a tight black leather top that laced up the front with a 4-inch gap that afforded a nice view of her mid-section, from her belly button to her breasts. A few other employees showed up while we were there, and all were dressed similarly - pierced lips, tatoos, body art, etc. Interesting joint and staff!

When we got back to the boat we met Jason, one of the deck crew from the Mississippi Queen which was pulled in right behind us. We chatted with Jason for a while and Todd invited him over for a Bloody Mary Sunday morning. Jason came by for his Bloody Mary just as I was taking a shower. He then offered to take us on a quick tour of the Mississippi Queen since the passengers they brought to Chattanooga from Nashville had departed and the next group, which was going from Chattanooga to Memphis, hadn't yet arrived.

Below is a picture of me and Todd in the "staged" flybridge that passengers use to take pictures.

This is a picture of the main dining room.

Here is the Mississippi Queen tied up to the pier behind our "little" boat.

It was a cool boat and would be a fun way to spend a week on the river. About noon we left to go to "The River Journey," the first of the two aquarium buildings above the pier which houses the world's largest fresh water aquarium. There was a seahorse exhibit in the basement which was coolest exhibit in the entire building. Below are pictures of a few of these amazing creatures. This one is called a Weedy Seahorse.  There is also a Leafy Seahorse swimming behind it.

This is a better shot of the Leafy Seahorse, my personal favorite - like something out of a fairy tale!

We then went back to the boat to grab a bite to eat before going to the other building, called "The Ocean Journey." Jason came by and had a beer with us, and while he was there we saw a boat coming up alongside our boat to dock in front of us. Just as Todd was getting up to go out and help them dock, we realized that the boat had gotten caught in the strong current and was getting way too close to our boat. Todd yelled at the Captain to put the boat in reverse but he put it in forward instead and crashed into the rear port side of our boat with his anchor!

The boat, a beautiful 42-foot Sea Ray, then spun around in the current so that the stern was parallel to the pier behind us and the bow was facing out into the river. They somehow managed to get a line off the starboard stern to a guy standing on the pier, but the boat was essentially dead in the water behind our boat, wedged between us and the Mississippi Queen, being held in place on the port side by the huge ropes tied off the bow of the Mississippi Queen. In front of the Sea Ray was the Mississippi Queen's gang plank, which they raised as far as they could so that the Sea Ray could hopefully go under it and out into the river.

With some coaching from Todd and others on the pier, the Captain motored forward and the Sea Ray's flybridge cleared the Queen's gang plank by mere inches as it went under. We were all a little shook up by the incident, but fortunately the anchor hit our boat in the best possible place and we ended up with just a gash in the fiberglass. Had the anchor hit higher or lower, it would have made a huge hole in the side of our boat!

After making it back out into the river, the Captain took another shot at docking and all went well. Apparently, the Captain had originally planned to take the boat out for a cruise later that evening with some friends, but after the docking incident his wife, Robin, decided that wasn't going to happen! As we were leaving to go to "The Ocean Journey," the Captain, Argil, brought us a nice bottle of French white wine and offered to buy us dinner that evening at Hennen's, reportedly one of the nicest restaurants in town.

Below are some pictures from "The Ocean Journey." This colorful fish seemed to like us and stayed close to the window as we watched it.

There were lots of sharks like this one in the big aqaurium tank that spanned several of the building's floors.

These are some funky jellyfish that aren't nearly as impressive in a photo as they are in person.

We got back to the boat about 7:30 and joined Argil and Robin and several of their friends for dinner. The joke at the table was that Argil and Robin just happened to "run in to Todd and Brenda while in Chattanooga" and invited them to dinner! On top of that, a few of their friends commented that Todd reminded them of Mel Gibson. For those of you who used to work with Todd, you will recall that he has been told that before, usually by SOAR parents, and he of course felt compelled to gloat about it! It was a good time and a fun evening topped off with a visit to Ben and Jerry's with Argil and Robin for an after-dinner ice cream. They also insisted on paying for the damage to the boat, which was very gracious considering everything they had already done.

We visited with Argil and Robin some more Monday morning and headed out of Chattanooga shortly before noon. We wanted to go back to the Shell Mound Rec Area to spend a few days, which was only about 40 miles, so we weren't in any hurry to leave. Shortly before arriving at Shell Mound, we saw numerous boats heading upriver away from an approaching rainstorm. We hung out in front of Shell Mound until the rain lightened up and then docked for the evening. Todd promptly put the dinghy down and headed out to get some fishing in before the rain hit again. There was a 60% chance of rain all evening, so we figured it was just a matter of time until another batch of storms popped up.

We spent a quiet and somehwat cool day at Shell Mound on Tuesday and then made our way downriver on Wednesday, through the Nickajack Lock, about 45 miles to a nice little cove near Goose Pond Marina in Guntersville Lake. This turned out to be a popular bass fishing cove for the locals, and Todd spent quite a bit of time trying to entice the bass to come play with him, without much success. However, in talking with the locals who buzzed in and out of the cove all day Wednesday and Thursday, they weren't having much luck either.

Since we were out of ice by Thursday, we took the dinghy over to Goose Pond that afternoon to buy a couple of bags. While there, we saw a boat we had docked with at the marina in Columbus, MS, called "Kaos." Although Alan was in Peru on business, we chatted with Susan for a while and she spoke highly of both the marina and the restaurant at Goose Pond. After perusing the menu, we decided we would have to check it out next time we're in the neighborhood!

We left our anchorage Friday morning and arrived at Alred Marina, about 20 miles downriver, at 1:30 p.m. I spent the afternoon finishing dinner preparations, reading and getting cleaned up so we could make the dreaded restocking run to Wal-Mart after we ate; Todd, of course, had to check out the fishing - again!

This morning was spent doing laundry, so now all the chores are caught up for a while. We will leave Alred's in the morning (Sunday) and continue downriver, although we aren't sure how far we are going. There are a couple of anchorages we want to check out before we leave Guntersville Lake, so it may be a few days before we go through the lock to enter Wheeler Lake. We plan to be back on Pickwick by the latter part of next week and are looking forward to going back to Waterfall Cove and to seeing Kelly, Bud (Iceman) and Bo & Terri again.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Saturday, August 26th
We stayed at the Florence Marina Friday evening and enjoyed the seafood buffet at the marina restaurant. Todd and I consumed quite a pile of crab legs, among other things, and definitely got our money's worth! Todd started calling the lockmaster about 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning to see when we might be able to lock through. Three hours and several calls later, we were finally told that they would be ready for us in about 45 minutes. So, we promptly untied from the dock and headed that direction. We arrived 45 minutes later, as requested, and were told it would be another 45 minutes to an hour, so we tied up to the main lock wall and waited until they were ready for us, which was about an hour later.

The two-stage lock was interesting - and not in a good way! The more locks we go through, the more I dislike them.  So having to essentially go through two locks at the same time, one right after the other, was just double the pleasure, double the fun. Anyway, we finally got through the Wilson (Florence) auxiliary lock about 12:30 p.m. and continued through Wilson Lake to the Wheeler lock, about 15 miles upriver. Keep in mind that it takes us nearly two hours to boat 15 miles, especially running upriver against the current.

When we arrived at Wheeler lock, they were bringing a barge down and we were told it would be an hour to an hour-and-a-half before we could go through, so we just shut off the engines and floated in the lake until we were given the go-ahead to enter the lock an hour later. The lock went smoothly and we continued another 10 miles before anchoring in Goldfield Branch near a houseboat that was supposedly spending the night. By then, it was around 5:30 p.m. and we were ready to kick back for the evening. Around dark, the houseboat pulled up anchor and left for some unknown reason, so we had the cove to ourselves.

Sunday, August 27th
About 7:00 a.m. a bass boat went zooming past the boat and woke me up, so we pulled up anchor and were on our way by 7:45. I told Todd I didn't care how far we went that day, as long as we didn't have to go through another lock! We didn't much care for the lower part of Wheeler Lake but after we went through Decatur, AL (the home of Meow Mix), the scenery started to improve.

We ended up going 58 miles before we tied up for the night in Paint Rock River, six miles below the Guntersville lock. Todd's parents had noted a beach on the navigation charts about a half mile up the river and we were able to pull up to the beach and use stern lines to secure the boat rather than dropping anchor. The downside of this method is that you generally have to tromp through weeds and brush to tie the stern lines to shore, and Todd managed to attract some chiggers in the process. Fortunately, he didn't get too many but he informed me that I was going to be the one to untie the ropes when we were ready to leave!

Monday, August 28th
It rained at some point during the night, so we had some cleaning up and drying out to deal with the next morning. Thankfully, the cabin windows were closed since we were running the air conditioner most of the night and only the flybridge and sundeck got wet. We weren't planning to go very far on Monday, so we took our time getting around and finally pulled out around 11:30 a.m. We got to the Guntersville lock 45 minutes later and had to wait about 15 minutes for the lock to empty so we could enter. The ride up was extremely smooth - the best we've had out of the 15 locks we've gone through since leaving Mobile.

Once we entered Guntersville Lake, we went about a half mile to Mill Hollow where we decided to anchor for the night. We dropped the anchor and Todd swam a rope to shore to secure the stern. However, it soon became apparent that the anchor wasn't holding, and each time the wind blew the anchor would drag and the stern would move closer to shore. We then decided to get the dinghy down and use it to try setting another anchor to supplement the main anchor off the front, but after several attempts it became obvious that the bottom was not conducive to anchoring.

We ended up tieing a rope off the front rather than trying to anchor, which worked fine, but we were also taking up the entire cove by being tied front-to-back across it. We didn't know what else to do, though, since neither anchor would hold. We tied some rags to our lines to alert anyone who might want to go past us into the back of the cove and kept our fingers crossed that no one would. Two hours after beginning the anchoring process, we were finally able to relax!

Tuesday, August 29th
Rain and possible thunderstorms were forecast for Tuesday afternoon, so we decided to untie mid-morning and head toward Alred Marina in Guntersville, about eight miles upriver. The primary reason we were going to Alred's was to deal with more engine issues, but we also knew we would be more secure tied to a dock if the storms actually materialized.

A few days ago, Todd had gone into the engine compartment for a routine check and found that the port transmission was leaking fluid. After making a few phone calls, the consensus seemed to be that the main seal needed to be replaced, so Todd ordered the seal and had it sent to Alred's. About a mile from Alred's, the starboard engine overheated and we limped in on one engine. It's amazing how many "issues" one can have with a boat! But, as a friend of ours told us, when you buy a boat that hasn't been used much and then you start using it on a regular basis, you can expect to have issues. His comparison was a person who does nothing but sit on the couch and watch television for a few years and then all of a sudden decides to go out and run a marathon - that person is going to have "issues!"

After pumping out the holding tanks and getting tied up for the night, we decided we would take the courtesy van into town to have Mexican food and margaritas. Discovering whatever caused the starboard engine to overheat would wait until morning. The storms that had been forecast did materialize but the line split and went around us at the marina, so we only got a little wind and a few sprinkles. We had a great meal at San Pedro and then stopped at a convenience store on the way back for an ice cream bar, which neither of us needed, but it sounded good at the time!

Wednesday, August 30th
Todd spent all day working on our latest engine issues. The overheating starboard engine turned out to be a split rubber fitting where the anti-freeze flows into the hot water heater and on into the engine. We had lost quite a bit of anti-freeze which resulted in the engine overheating. Thankfully, that was an easy fix.

The transmission seal came in about 11:00 a.m. and Todd spent a considerable amount of time trying to get the old seal out. He finally went to get the mechanic from the marina who was able to get it out and then Todd proceeded with the fix. He also changed the fluid in the new starboard transmission since we had put 50 hours on it and that's what the maintenance schedule recommends. So, a productive day but not a fun day for the Captain!

I fixed a meatloaf for dinner and we settled in to watch a DVD we had picked up at the Florence Marina book/movie exchange. For anyone who is considering watching "Open Water," don't waste your money or your time. The Captain said it would be more fun to watch paint dry!

Thursday, August 31st
We had planned to go about 60 miles to an anchorage five miles downriver from the Nickajack lock, but that didn't pan out. However, we got things ready to go and went to settle our bill with the marina as soon as they opened at 8:00 a.m. While there, we learned that if we put in at least 100 gallons of fuel we wouldn't have to pay for dockage ($80). Since we were going to have to get fuel before too long anyway, we decided that would work well for us. Todd also bartered with the manager to throw in the mechanic's time (another $50+) with the purchase of 200 gallons of fuel ($700) and we were on our way by 9:00 a.m. The people at Alred Marina were great and we look forward to stopping there again on our way back from Chattanooga.

We passed a few boats heading downriver throughout the day, but overall the trip was pretty uneventful. We did, however, see a small deer swimming across the river right in front of our boat, and the river was at least a half-mile wide at that point! About 6 1/2 hours into our day, we were able to see the Appalachian Mountains off to the east. To me they looked like a slightly larger version of the hills between Springfield and Branson, Missouri, but Todd disagreed with that observation. Since he was raised in Colorado mountain country, I suppose he's a better judge of what constitutes a mountain. I admit that they did get larger as we got closer to them.

We arrived at our anchorage around 5:00 p.m., but after two unsuccessful attempts at getting the anchor to hold in what appeared to be a very rocky bottom, we really had no choice but to go on to the Nickajack lock and lock through. We got to the lock about 5:45 and the second half of a two-part barge was on its way down. The barge finally pulled out about 7:00 p.m. and we were cleared to lock up. The lock went extremely smoothly and quickly and we were on our way again by about 7:15 p.m. Fortunately, the Shell Mound Rec Area was in sight once we exited the lock and we were able to tie up in a very nice area before it got totally dark. It was an extremely beautiful, highly maintained park area that we will definitely revisit on our way back downriver. A couple of pictures of the area are below.

Friday, September 1st
We continued the journey to Chattanooga Friday morning, boating through what is called the Grand Canyon of the Tennessee. We had about 40 remaining miles to go and the first 30 were very scenic with bluffs and mountains all around us. In one area, the water was 135-feet deep because the river runs along an old earthquake fault, and there were some really nice homes along the river with beautifully manicured lawns and mountains on both sides.

We finally arrived at the Chattanooga city dock around 2:00 p.m. (3:00 p.m. Chattanooga time - we crossed into the Eastern Time Zone between the lock and Chattanooga) and got tied up. The dock is just below Chattanooga's famous aquariums and is very scenic. Several boats were there when we arrived and more arrived within a few hours, so the dock was full by evening. Below are some pictures of the dock and surrounding area, including one of the two side-by-side aquarium buildings.

This is the city dock. Ours is the boat on the far right.

These are some water canons on the upriver side of the city dock.

These steps are behind the water canons and lead up to Chattanooga's downtown area.

This is one of the two aquarium buildings above us. One is called "The Ocean Journey" and the other is called "The River Journey."

We spent the evening exploring downtown Chattanooga and had a really good time. There are a number of nice restaurants and other fun places to explore, so we will spend the next couple of days seeing what else we can find. The aquarium is first on our list for Saturday (after I update the blog!). Apparently, the Mississippi Queen is due in Saturday evening and she takes up 400 of the 600 feet of dock space where we are tied, so several of the boats are going to be forced to find other accommodations. We're hoping we will be able to stay where we are, though, since the Mississippi Queen should have room to pull in behind us (we are in the first 200 feet of the dock). We'll let you know how that goes in our next update. We may have a huge paddlewheeler sitting behind us when we wake up Sunday morning!