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.
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.
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!