Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pickwick Lake to Chattanooga

We had a busy day at Aqua Yacht on Tuesday, August 11th, getting chores done. Nasty storms rolled through mid-afternoon, about the time we were ready to leave, but we finally decided to bite the bullet and leave the dock at 5:45. We anchored in Whetstone an hour later in light rain with the sun starting to peek through the clouds.

What a cute Admiral!


After we got anchored, Todd noticed a strong diesel smell in the salon. When he checked the engine room, he found a broken fitting on the port engine that was spewing diesel. Since we didn’t have any phone service in Whetstone, Todd dinghied out into the lake to call Keith and ask him to bring the needed part to us on Wednesday when he and Tena came out to the waterfall. While Todd was out in the lake, he got a text message from the Iceman saying that he was on the way in his pontoon to bring us a care package. Bud arrived shortly thereafter with freshly fried chicken lizards (a.k.a. livers) and a jug of margaritas. What a treat!

Wednesday morning Todd cleaned up the diesel in the engine room and then we headed back to Waterfall Cove on one engine to meet up with Keith & Tena who arrived about 11:00 a.m. After Todd installed the new fitting, we spent the remainder of the day visiting and floating in the water to stay cool. Iceman came by mid-afternoon on his Sea-Doo and then went back home to get his pontoon. Tena & Keith left late afternoon/early evening and we visited with Bud until dusk before saying our good-byes.

We left the waterfall Thursday morning at 8:30 and could easily have been at the Wilson Lock, upriver from Florence, AL, by 1:30 but we knew there was some barge traffic waiting to lock up, so we slowed down and arrived at 2:00. Unfortunately, we still had to tie up to the lower wall of the old two-tier lock and wait for well over an hour to lock up. At 93 feet, Wilson Lock, named after Woodrow Wilson and once the world’s highest single lift lock, is currently the sixth highest lock in the United States.

Approaching Wilson Lock & Dam. The old two-tier lock is on the left.


Entering the main lock at Wilson.


We exited Wilson Lock at 3:30 and made it to Wheeler Lock, only 15 miles away, in less than two hours. Once again, however, we were held up by the same tow carrying a double load, which means that the barges have to be split up and locked through in two stages. Anyway, the lockmaster told us it would probably be at least 7:00 p.m. before we could lock through and suggested that we tie to the auxiliary lock wall.

This is the discharge area where Wheeler Lock & Dam empties its water back into the Tennessee River, the force of the water is amazing to watch!


While we were waiting, the Captain grilled pork chops for dinner. After two-and-a-half hours, we were finally on our way up at 8:00 p.m. Since it was basically dark by this time, we quickly made our way to an anchorage just outside the lock in Second Creek where it wasn’t long before we turned in for the night. We were on the water twelve hours, covered sixty miles, went through two locks and spent at least three-and-a-half hours waiting for locks. What a day!

Heading into Wheeler Lock & Dam as evening is upon us.



We got underway Friday between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m. with sixty more miles to go – no locks – destination, Ditto Landing Marina in Huntsville, AL. The lower part of Wheeler Lake is wide open and not especially scenic, but once you get past the industrial areas around Decatur, AL, the scenery improves considerably.


By 4:30 p.m., we were tied up at Ditto Landing and plugged in to air conditioning. For $22 per night ($0.55/foot) it was too good to pass up. That evening we ordered pizza and had it delivered to the boat. Perhaps we are easy to please, but between the AC and the pizza, we were happy!

Saturday, the Captain did a load of laundry, rinsed the gnats off the boat, etc., while I made banana nut bread. “Just Rosie” showed up about 4:30 and Todd went over to help them tie up. We had called Todd’s mom’s cousin, Brim, to let her know we were in the area and to say hello. She insisted on coming by and taking us to dinner.

Brim arrived about 5:30 and took us on a tour of Huntsville, including a trip up the mountain at the east edge of Huntsville to Monte Sano State Park. She then took us to a popular local establishment called The Po-Boy Factory where I had a tasty dinner of fried catfish and Todd enjoyed the etouffee. Brim also showed us part of the downtown area which included some very stately and beautiful southern homes. Thanks for a fun evening, Brim!



Eddie, the dockmaster at Ditto Landing, was kind enough to offer the use of his personal vehicle, so we made a quick run to Wal-Mart Sunday morning before pulling away from the dock about 11:00. After pumping out the holding tanks we headed upriver, through Guntersville Lock, and in to Honeycomb Creek to anchor just off Wade & Sue Sadler’s boathouse at 3:00 p.m.


We met Wade & Sue when we were on our way back from Chattanooga in the fall of 2006 and they have been following our blog since. When they learned we were going to be in the area again, they invited us over for barbeque Sunday afternoon, along with fellow lake homeowners Charles & Elaine. We had a great time getting better acquainted with Wade & Sue and meeting Charles & Elaine.

Left to right: Charles, Wade, Sue, Brenda, and Elaine.


Thanks for a wonderful evening Wade & Sue; see you on the trip back down!


After dinner the six of us went out in Wade & Sue’s boat to watch the thousands of gray bats that exit a nearby cave every evening in search of their evening meal. The cave in the center photo below purportedly houses from 20,000 to 45,000 federally endangered gray bats between April and September.

View Bats

Can you see the bats eyes reflecting in the camera’s flash?


We left our anchorage in Honeycomb Creek around 9:30 Monday morning to continue the journey upriver. We stopped at Goose Pond Colony Marina about 1:00 p.m. where we took on 200 gallons of diesel fuel at $2.69 per gallon. We then anchored just a mile upriver from the marina where Todd wanted to spend some time fishing, which he enjoyed since he caught (and released) a number of bass.

I had been running a relatively high fever and feeling extremely tired, achy and miserably bloated since Sunday and things didn’t seem to be improving, so we went back to back to Goose Pond on Tuesday and used their courtesy car to go in to Scottsboro to a clinic. My flu test was negative but the doctor said I had an acute viral infection, gave me a couple of shots and prescribed a couple of medications. We returned to the marina early afternoon and spent the rest of the day reading and relaxing. Mostly, I slept.

By Wednesday morning I was feeling much better so we took off at 9:00 for Shellmound Recreation Area just inside the lock on Nickajack Lake, about 47 miles upriver. We were fighting some pretty strong current most of the way so it took us six hours to reach the lock and then we had to wait for another pleasure craft to lock down, but we were tied up to the dock at Shellmound shortly after 4:00 p.m. Along the way, not far below the lock, we said good-bye to Alabama (temporarily) as we crossed the Tennessee state line.

The Tennessee 156 bridge with a view of the Cumberland Plateau in the background. At 730 feet, this bridge has the widest navigational horizontal clearance of any bridge on the Tennessee River.


My fever returned overnight and the pressure in my abdomen was not lessening, so we left Shellmound at 6:30 Thursday morning to go to the hospital in Chattanooga. We got tied up to the wall at Ross’s Landing around 12:30 p.m. (Eastern time) and were at the emergency room by 1:00 p.m., courtesy of Mike, the General Manager for Marine Max who was kind enough to give us a ride. After doing blood work and a CT scan of my abdomen, they determined that I had a viral illness and gastritis. The doctor prescribed a couple of medications for the gastritis and sent us on our way.

Sunrise on Nickajack Lake.


One of the most beautiful parts of the Tennessee River, what they call the Grand Canyon of the Tennessee.


Nurse Mary and the Admiral, NOT an experience I want relive anytime soon…or ever for that matter!


Having taken some medication for my bloated abdomen and slept a solid thirteen hours, I felt like a new person Friday morning! I even had an appetite for the first time all week, so I fixed a nice breakfast and then we walked across the Market Street bridge to Walgreen’s. We came back by the boat for a while before taking off again to see the 4:00 p.m. showing of Under the Sea at the IMAX. After the show we spent some time reacquainting ourselves with the downtown area and then went in to the Big River Grille & Brewing Company for a few drinks and an appetizer.

By this time I was pretty tired so we walked back to “Life’s2Short” and saw Argil sitting on his new 58-foot Meridian, which was parked behind us, talking on the phone to his wife Robin who is out of town this weekend for a wedding. We originally met Argil & Robin in September of 2006 when Argil inadvertently ran in to “Life’s2Short” with his 42-foot Sea Ray. Argil ended up asking us to join he & Robin and several of their friends for dinner at Hennen’s that evening where we had a wonderful time. When Argil saw us walking toward “Life’s2Short,” he invited us aboard his beautiful new boat and gave us a tour and then we visited for a while before Argil had to go home to take care of their dogs.

Sunset over Chattanooga, Argil & Robin’s new Meridian is on the left



When we made reservations for Ross’s Landing earlier this week, Saturday was already booked due to the 15th Annual Southern Brewers Festival so we had planned to only stay Thursday and Friday nights and go on upriver Saturday. However, due to my illness we hadn’t been able to get out and do much so we decided we would stay Saturday as well. We were hoping there would be a cancellation on the wall so we could stay where we were, but in the end we had to move to the Marine Max dock late Saturday morning.

We left the boat about 2:00 p.m. to check out the beer festival which featured 21 microbreweries from across the southeast. Since we hadn’t eaten lunch, we walked over to the Big River Grille, one of the event’s main sponsors, for a wonderful mid-afternoon meal and then wandered back to the beer festival.


View Beer Festival

About 6:30 p.m. we walked over to the downtown stadium where the Chattanooga Lookouts, a farm team for the Los Angeles Dodgers, were getting ready to play the Mississippi Braves, a farm team for the Atlanta Braves. For the $4 price of admission, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sit and relax for a while and watch a few innings of AA baseball.



A view of the beer festival from the stadium.


After a few hours relaxation we walked back to the beer festival where people were still lined up to come in. We made our way down to Argil’s boat to pay him a visit and spent a couple of hours chatting and meeting the many friends and acquaintances of his who stopped by to see him and the boat.

As the night wore on the musical entertainment improved and it seemed everyone was getting into the featured headliner, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, a New Orleans-originated artist famed for delivering a high-energy funk rock show. We finally decided to make our way back to the boat and crawled in to bed around midnight after a fun and eventful day!


Today is Sunday, August 23rd, and we are getting ready to depart Chattanooga to seek out new scenery and destinations. Since we have not been upriver from Chattanooga, everything between here and Knoxville will be a new experience. We are especially excited to explore Watts Bar and Telico Lakes as we have heard so many wonderful reports about both from friends and fellow cruisers. We promise to take lots of photos to share with our readers in the next blog update, so stay tuned!

As I close this post, I want to thank my loving husband for taking such good care of me this past week when I was feeling so badly. A girl couldn’t ask for a kinder or more compassionate mate and I am incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful and special man as my partner in life. Thanks, honey!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Jennifer Visits Pickwick Lake

Monday, August 3rd, found us anchored in Five Fingers on Bay Springs Lake. Jennifer, our niece, entertained herself for a while catching bluegill and minnows with a small butterfly net while the Captain relaxed on shore. Later that afternoon we spent a few hours going through part of The Book of Questions, a book of more than 200 introspective questions about all sorts of personal things. Don & Rosie stopped by in their dinghy and joined in for a while, but Don would never tell us about his worst experience with alcohol. Don, inquiring minds want to know!

Jennifer is having fun with her pet fishes.



We left Bay Springs for Pickwick Tuesday mid-morning and had a very warm trip through the Divide Cut. We anchored briefly in a little cove near Aqua Yacht Harbor, dinghied to the Sportsman’s One Stop dock and walked to the convenience store to get a few items. As we were cutting across the parking lot, Jim & Pam Shipp of “Silver Boots” pulled up in their car to say hello. We met Jim & Pam in the Exumas a few months ago and knew they were going to be on Pickwick this summer.

Jennifer tries to get a breeze and some shade as we head up the Divide Cut.


After our supply run, we anchored in Zippy Cove and got in the water to cool off. “Just Rosie” showed up within the hour, anchored nearby and also got in the water. That evening Todd and Jennifer both took short naps while I prepared dinner. Bud (known on Pickwick as “Iceman”) came by on his pontoon just as we were finishing dinner and visited until dark. Storms appeared to be moving into the area, which kept the Captain on watch all night, even though most of the actual storms thankfully bypassed us.

We left Zippy Cove late Wednesday morning with plans to go through the Pickwick Lock and on downriver to Diamond Island to spend the night. However, we stopped along the way so that Jennifer could see the Iceman’s beautiful house and to borrow his vehicle for a quick supply run to Savannah, TN.

The Admiral, Iceman, and Jennifer with "Life's2Short" anchored off Iceman’s yard.

View Pickwick 1

While we were there Bud made us lunch using some of the smoked pork butt from his Fourth of July party. We all loved Bud’s butt, but I think Jennifer appreciated it more than anyone else! By the time we were ready to leave, the lockmaster told us it would be a three-hour wait to get through the lock, so we altered our plans and headed for Waterfall Cove. By 4:30 p.m. we were in “our spot” on the gravel bar enjoying the much-appreciated cooling breeze coming off the waterfall.

Chowing down on “Bud’s butt" and photos around Bud’s gorgeous home.

View Pickwick 2

Jennifer gets a look at her first tow and barges on the way to Waterfall Cove.


Bud showed up in his pontoon boat early that same evening and we sat on his boat visiting while eating chilled shrimp and cheese and crackers. About dark we decided to go for a ride on Bud’s pontoon to check out Grand Harbor’s new solar lights. We also ran by Zippy Cove and said hello to “Just Rosie.” We made a quick stop back at “Life’s2Short” and then took the pontoon out in the lake where we floated peacefully, enjoying a beautiful almost-full moon, before finally turning in around midnight.

Evening boat rides always produce lots of smiles!

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Tena & Keith arrived at the Waterfall Thursday morning at 11:00. Kelly arrived a short time later and we all sat around visiting and catching up. Tena & Keith left mid-afternoon to pick up their daughter, Sidney, from school. Bud came by on his Sea-Doo late afternoon with Kelli, a friend he was giving a ride to, and said he might come back later that evening on his pontoon to watch the lunar eclipse. We fixed dinner, watched the moon rise (didn’t see the lunar eclipse or Bud & Kelli again) and called it a night.

The Captain got up early Friday morning to change the oil in the generator. Shortly after that Bud & Kelli showed up with Bloody Mary’s, biscuits and sausage which set the stage for another fun-filled day at the Waterfall. Keith pulled up an hour or so later and hung out until mid-afternoon when it was time to pick up Tena and daughter Sidney from school and bring them back out.

Hanging at Waterfall Cove, good times with great friends!


View Pickwick 3

Kelli had to report for work Friday afternoon so Bud left about 1:00 p.m. to take her home but then showed up with her again later that evening, along with leftover ribeye steak and some very nice chilled shrimp to share for dinner. Kelli and Jennifer had become friendly by this time and Kelli invited Jennifer to go to Freddy T’s, a local club, with her Friday night. So Bud took them to Kelli’s car about dark and the Captain and I crashed shortly thereafter.

New friends Kelli and Jennifer.


Tena & Keith arrived around 10:30 Saturday morning with birthday girl Kathy (a friend of theirs) in tow. Tena had provided a table and made a couple of banners which Todd set up for her earlier that morning, and Tena, as well as friends Ed & Wendy, came loaded with all kinds of food and a birthday cake, ready to feed the masses!

The beautiful and wonderfully cold waterfall.


Jennifer called a little before noon looking for a ride back to the Waterfall from Grand Harbor. Bud, who was still relaxing at home, was gracious enough to pick her up in his pontoon and bring her out. She was a little worse for the wear after closing Freddy T’s down at 3:00 a.m. but mostly she was just hungry and a little worn out from dancing all night!

Just another Saturday at the waterfall.

View Pickwick 4

The Waterfall cleared out by early evening and we were left alone with Bud – well, almost alone. A straggler named Brandon was “abandoned” by his friends who were supposedly coming back to get him. We ate a little dinner and waited until dark but his friends didn’t show up. So Bud placed a strategically worded call to the guy’s father who was hanging out in Panther Cove across the lake and Brandon was picked up a short time later.

Right after that, we were visited by a father and son who pulled up in a go-fast Fountain boat and joined us on Bud’s pontoon with a couple of cans of Budweiser and a bottle of Crown Royal. They were visiting from Nashville and Jennifer told them they sounded like NASCAR drivers. They were very entertaining and proceeded to amuse us with stories of a stripper they were trying to reform and a BUI encounter with law enforcement. And with that, we hit the sack. Just another fun-filled day at the waterfall!

Tena & Keith pulled up Sunday morning around 10:00 or so and Kelly & Melissa arrived a short time later with donuts and bananas. Bo was also there in his big trawler pulled up on the gravel bar near “Life’s2Short.” Bud rode up on his Sea-Doo mid-afternoon and hung with us when he wasn’t cruising other hot spots on the lake or giving women rides. By early evening everyone had gone home and we retired to the cabin to make dinner on our final night at Waterfall Cove.

The Iceman and his babes!


The “Babe-Magnet” himself!


Keith & Tena hanging at the waterfall.


Sunday began with breakfast enchiladas and mimosas. We left the Waterfall about 11:00 a.m. and made our way to Aqua Yacht Harbor to pump out the holding tanks before tying up to the transient dock.

Leaving Waterfall Cove on Jennifer’s last day aboard "Life's2Short." :-(


By 2:30 p.m. we were on our way to Memphis to take Jennifer to the Greyhound bus station. Before putting her on the bus, we walked to Beale Street where we had an early dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. Jennifer isn’t much of a city girl and Beale Street made her a bit nervous, so we didn’t linger. Todd & I made it back to “Life’s2Short” by 10:00 p.m. after stopping in Corinth for a few groceries. Jennifer, we enjoyed your stay with us and hope you have fond memories of it for many years to come!

Today is Tuesday, August 11th, and we have several projects to complete before pulling away from the dock this afternoon, one of which is updating the blog. We hope to go part-way to Florence this afternoon, anchor for the evening, go through Wilson lock mid-day tomorrow and continue upriver toward Chattanooga. Ultimately, our plan is to be in Knoxville by Labor Day, but as always our plans are in Jello!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Another Week on Bay Springs Lake

Sunday afternoon, July 26th, “Just Rosie” came in to Five Fingers to find a place to anchor. That evening we had Mo & Joe over for fresh fish which was really, really good! After dinner we took a little dinghy trip to say hello to “Just Rosie” who invited us over for a shrimp boil Monday evening. We then ran in to John & Sandy on his dinghy and followed them back to “ThatsMe” for a tour. It was dark by the time we returned to “Life’s2Short.”

Mo & Joe relaxing on the back of “MOTU” on a cool, cloudy Sunday afternoon.


The Admiral doing a little boat maintenance of her own – cleaning the fan.


Don & Rosie relaxing on the bow of “Just Rosie” on a peaceful Sunday evening in Five Fingers Cove.


Todd went fishing with John again early Monday morning (this is getting to be a habit!) and brought back enough fish to give both Mo & Joe and Don & Rosie a meal-sized package. Mo & Joe left the anchorage early Monday afternoon and headed back to Bay Springs Marina. “Daphne” locked through to Bay Springs Lake about mid-afternoon and also anchored in Five Fingers so the whole gang joined us for dinner on “Just Rosie.” Great food and a fun time was had by all!

John shows off his prize catch, the pull-top off a Vienna Sausage can he caught on a spinnerbait!


Rosie getting ready to serve the gang her awesome shrimp boil!


Just Rosie,” “Daphne,” “L2S” and “ThatsMe” getting ready to enjoy dinner.


It rained virtually all day on Tuesday but stopped long enough to dinghy over to “ThatsMe” for another fresh fish dinner. Frank & Joyce (“Daphne”) provided fresh catfish and potato salad; Don & Rosie (“Just Rosie”) brought baked beans; John & Sandy (“ThatsMe”) had more fresh fish (bluegill) and fried potatoes; and Todd & I were in charge of dessert: Irish cream brownies and coconut honey balls. I don’t think anyone went hungry!

Chef John cooking up the fresh bluegill and potatoes.


The gang getting ready to eat on the back of “ThatsMe”.

View ThatsMe

John has graduated from pull-top lids to monster catfish!


We had more rain overnight and awoke to a mostly cloudy Wednesday morning. Todd went out fishing in his dinghy for a while and brought back a large catfish which he grudgingly filleted for me – thanks, honey! He went fishing again that afternoon but didn’t catch anything. The remainder of the day was spent reading and relaxing, primarily on the boat although we did go to the beach for a little while later in the afternoon to get some fresh air.

Thursday was also cool and cloudy with more chances of rain. Todd and John went fishing early but came back mid-morning empty-handed. Don & Rosie dinghied over about 2:30 to use our phone and computer to catch up on a little communication. We have a good signal here with AT&T but they don’t with Verizon.

Rosie communicates with the outside world from Five Fingers Cove.


After Don & Rosie left we decided to dinghy over to see where “Daphne” was anchored. John was out in his boat fishing nearby and Frank was also out checking his catfish jugs. We did a little exploring and then stopped by “Daphne” on the way back to “Life’s2Short” where Frank & Joyce were generous enough to give us a bag of catfish fillets. I smell another fish fry in our future!

Blessed with a beautiful evening rainbow.


We spent a quiet morning just hanging on the boat Friday and then went over to “Just Rosie” about noon to share mimosas with Don & Rosie and John & Sandy. “Daphne” had left the anchorage that morning headed for Pickwick Lake. It was a beautiful, calm day so we took our cooler to shore mid-afternoon to enjoy our ever- expanding beach (they seem to be letting a lot of water out of the lake and our beach keeps growing!).

We hauled anchor Saturday morning and pulled the bow of the boat up on the sandy beach so the Captain could finish cleaning the sides of the boat and get rid of our Tenn-Tom moustache. We then motored over to Bay Springs Marina to pump out the holding tanks before tying up to the dock behind our good friends Chuck & Pip aboard “Miss Pip” who had just returned to Bay Springs from Prizer Point on the Cumberland River.

My niece, Jennifer, was due to arrive from Missouri Saturday afternoon so we took the marina’s courtesy van to Tupelo to re-provision, which turned out to be quite a marathon event. Jennifer caught a ride to Bay Springs with our friend Phillis who had been visiting friends and family in Kansas City and was driving back home to Crystal River, FL, with a detour to Bay Springs Lake to see long-time friend Mo. We met Phillis and her husband Bob through Mo a few years ago and have since become good friends.

Anyway, we finally made it back to the marina sometime before 6:00 p.m. and began hauling our many purchases down to “Life’s2Short.” Phillis, Jennifer and Mo, who had been hanging out on “MOTU” for a couple of hours waiting for us to return, made their way over to “Life’s2Short” where we visited for a while before joining the Saturday evening dock party that was already in progress. It was a fun evening and a good time was had by all - welcome to the boating life, Jennifer!

Jennifer flanked by Mo & Phillis while the Admiral looks on.


Chuck & Pip catch up with Phillis and Mo while Honey keeps guard.


Dock party photos.

View Dock Party 1

The resident boaters on C-D dock at Bay Springs Marina welcome Chuck & Pip back with their very own cake!

View Dock Party 2

“Pelvis” serenades John & Sandy while Mo & Todd cut a rug.

View Dock Party 3

Sunday morning was spent doing laundry, putting away the rest of the groceries and taking care of a few boat projects such as hosing off the boat, removing and scrubbing the windshield cover and refilling our water tanks. We said our good-byes to Chuck & Pip and Mo and left the marina Sunday afternoon to return to Five Fingers where we once again anchored and tied our stern to shore.

Jennifer & Brenda enjoying the afternoon on Bay Springs Lake on our way to Five Fingers.


After we got settled we took our chairs to the beach for a little swimming and relaxation and then dinghied over to say hi to Don & Rosie who were still anchored in a nearby cove. That evening we grilled a big slab of salmon for dinner and ate on the bow of the boat, enjoying the view and the cooler air.

Today is Monday, August 3rd, and we will spend one more night at Five Fingers before making the 35-mile trip to Pickwick Lake. Jennifer is planning to stay with us through next Monday so we will post another blog update early next week covering the remainder of her trip. We’ll do our best to make sure she has a memorable time!