Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chattanooga and Chickamauga

On Thursday, July 14th, we left our anchorage at Little Cedar Mountain about 11:00 a.m. and arrived at Williams Island four hours later.  The water behind the island was generally in the vicinity of 30 feet deep but we finally found a spot with 15 feet at the upper end of the island, dropped the hook and promptly got in the water to cool off.

We caught this deer swimming across the lake shortly after leaving the anchorage.


This is TVA’s Raccoon Mountain pumped storage project.  Water from the river is pumped into a 520-acre lake on top of the 1,100-foot mountain.  Then, during times of peak demand, electricity is generated by allowing water to flow down the mountain through giant tubes and turbines.


This area is known as the “Grand Canyon of the Tennessee.”  In one section, the water is in excess of 135 feet deep as a result of an ancient fault line.


Shortly after we got in the water, a small flat-bottomed boat with three people in it started paddling upriver toward us, against a very strong current.  When they finally reached us, they asked if we had seen any activity along the shore as we were coming up behind the island to anchor.  Turns out they work for a local television station out of Chattanooga and had received a tip that the authorities were in the area searching for bodies that may have been buried there several years ago.  But we weren’t able to see any action from the river.

As I mentioned, it was very hot so we offered each of them a cold beer and chatted with them briefly before they headed back downriver in search of their story.  The Captain was kind of hoping they would do a personal interest story on “Life’s2Short” since their crime scene story wasn’t looking very promising, but no such luck!

Friday we took off at 10:00 a.m. (now in the Eastern Time Zone) for our final hour into Chattanooga.  It was a cloudy morning and turned out to be a very pleasant day with temperatures staying below 90 degrees for a change.  We had a nice lunch at Big River Grille and then walked around for a while before going to see a late afternoon movie (Larry Crowne starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts) at the downtown theater, the Majestic.

Approaching downtown Chattanooga – our favorite riverfront city!


These are the two aquariums, one saltwater and one freshwater.



The baseball stadium for the Chattanooga Outlooks.


After the movie, we made our way back to “Life’s2Short" where Todd met a local guy named Ken who was fishing off the dock near the boat.  So naturally they went off fishing together.  A few hours later, Todd came running back to the boat to get his camera.  Ken caught one of the biggest bass Todd has ever seen – and that’s saying something!

Very nice, Ken!


Notice the “No Fishing” sign in the background?


Saturday morning we had a late breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn, walked around town some more, cruised through the Farmers Market, stopped back by the boat to take care of some business, and then walked across the Market Street bridge to the north side of the river where we browsed in a few of the touristy shops and toured Coolidge Park.

Scenes from the beautiful riverfront park area below the aquariums.


This is called the Trail of Tears.




Looking back toward the aquariums from the Market Street bridge.  “Life’s2Short” is at the far right of the concrete pillars on the waterfront.


The Southern Belle does tours and dinner cruises on the river.


This is Coolidge Park.


What a beautiful carousel!




The Delta Queen riverboat is now permanently docked on the north side of the river and has been turned into a floating hotel.  Should be an interesting place to stay!


Looking back across the river at the Hunter Museum of American Art.


The ducks are a big tourist attraction.


We took the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge on the return trip and spent a couple of hours relaxing on “Life’s2Short” before walking up to The Blue Plate for a few drinks.  Then it was off to Sticky Fingers for dinner.  When we were taking our leftovers back to the boat, we saw Ken fishing off the dock again.  We said hello and then headed for the Outlooks stadium to watch the remainder of the ballgame.  As it turned out, we only caught the last couple of innings, but that was okay.  And there were fireworks after the game, which we always enjoy!



When we returned to the boat, we found Argil & Robin looking for us.  They had been out to dinner across the river and stopped by on their way home to say hello.  And Ken was still there fishing off the dock!  We met Argil & Robin by accident, literally, in the fall of 2006 when we first boated to Chattanooga.  Argil had recently purchased a 42-foot Sea Ray and had some difficultly trying to dock it and in the process, managed to ram into the side of “Life’s2Short!”  But everything turned out fine and we have maintained contact ever since.

It was great to see you guys, again!


Pete & Geneva drove over from Dayton late Sunday morning to pay us a visit.  After a mediocre lunch at Rio Picante, we went to the IMAX which was showing The Ultimate Wave – Tahiti in 3D.


We then had a cold one at The Blue Plate before getting into the car and taking a drive up Lookout Mountain, past Ruby Falls and Rock City, and then we stopped at the Incline Railway and Point Park, a Civil War memorial park.

The view from Lookout Mountain.  This is actually someone’s backyard view.



This is the Incline Railway that takes you from the base of Lookout Mountain to its top.  Would be fun to ride sometime!


The entrance to Point Park.


The canon is pointed toward the Tennessee River.



When we got back to Chattanooga, Pete & Geneva came down to the boat and had a few beers with us before heading back to Dayton.  We decided to stay on board that evening and Todd walked into town to get a “take & bake” pizza from a local place called Lupi’s for dinner.

Monday we left Chattanooga about noon, went through the Chickamauga Lock and continued another hour upriver to Harrison Bay where we anchored in Dog Leg Slough by 3:00 p.m.  Two hours later we dinghied over to Island Cove Marina to meet Norm & Vicki on “Tide Hiker.”  They had just returned from a quick weekend trip to Columbus, Ohio, and were both tired but this was our only chance to see them again, at least until later this fall since we weren’t able to get a slip at Island Cove as we had planned.



After catching up over a few drinks on “Tide Hiker,” we got in their rental car and went to nearby Las Margaritas where we had some really good Mexican food and a couple of pitchers of exceptionally good top shelf margaritas.  Yummy!


We left Dog Leg Slough around 10:00 a.m. Tuesday and it was already hot!  We only had about 27 miles to go to the Bluewater Campground & Marina at Mile 504.5 but we needed to make a couple of stops along the way.  The first stop was at Shady Grove Harbor Marina to pump out the holding tanks and the second stop was at Sale Creek Marina (no pump out) to check out a possible slip for “Life’s2Short” while we go back to Missouri and Colorado.

So with all that, we didn’t get to Bluewater until almost 3:00 p.m.  And I need to clarify that Bluewater is not a marina, at least not yet.  They have plans to put one in but at this time they really just have a fuel dock with no power or water.  Nonetheless, Todd, the manager, who we became acquainted with in 2009, lets us tie up on the fuel dock and it works well for us because Pete & Geneva’s house is just a few miles away.

At any rate, Todd had arranged to fish a bass tournament that evening with Pete’s neighbor Matt.  So Matt picked Todd up at 5:30 and I stayed on the boat, reading and relaxing after another hot day of traveling.  Todd made it back about 1:30 a.m. after a very slow night of fishing and was more than ready to hit the sack!

Pete’s neighbor Matt and his fishing companion Pudge.


Wednesday was another scorcher from the time we got out of bed.  Pete picked us up at 1:30 to do a little shopping and then took us to the house where I did a couple of loads of laundry while we visited.  And Geneva arranged for Todd to get his hair cut that afternoon by a neighbor down the road a short distance.  Later we sat down to a nice dinner of deviled eggs, chicken pasta salad and cantaloupe with fresh blueberries.

A perfect meal on a hot day.  Nice job, Geneva!


Pete showing off his piano playing skills.


Pete & Geneva picked us up early Thursday afternoon and we went to Jacob Myers Deli for lunch.  Then we toured around Dayton for a little while before going back to Pete & Geneva’s.  Parts of the Dayton area experienced some rain, but even in the areas where it didn’t rain, the cloud cover helped to keep the temperature somewhat in check.  So we were able to comfortably sit on the back deck and enjoy the evening, especially after Pete brought out the box fan to generate a breeze.

Pete & Geneva and their kitty Jackson.


Nice flowers, Geneva!


Jackson, king of his domain!


Pete loves his kitty.


Pete is grilling brats for dinner in one of his favorite and obviously well-seasoned shirts.


Friday was a quiet morning aboard “Life’s2Short.”  We finally pulled away from Bluewater about 1:30 with the assistance of campground manager Todd and Pete who came by to see us off.  Thanks for everything, guys, we really appreciate it!


We only had about seven downriver miles to go to our anchorage in a small cove at Mile 498.  It was hot again but we had a decent breeze, which always helps.  Todd did some late afternoon fishing in the shady part of the cove and then we spent some time in the water cooling off before dinner.

Todd went fishing again early Saturday morning but that was the extent of our activity for the day.  It was too hot to do anything other than try to stay out of the sun.  About 4:30 we decided to move the boat downriver a few miles to the travel lift dock at Sale Creek Marina so Todd could have access to water to wash the boat.  The dock where we will be leaving “Life’s2Short” has power but no water and Todd wanted to give the boat a bath because we have an interested couple stopping by on Monday to look at it.

After we got tied up to the dock and figured out where the water spigot was, we sat on the bow in the shade for a while and then had to get in the water to cool off.  We are really getting tired of this stifling heat!

Sunday morning Todd got the boat washed before the sun made its way over the top of the trees and started heating things up.  We then moved over to the dock where “Life’s2Short” will be tied up for the next month and promptly plugged into power so we could turn the AC on.  Ah, finally some refuge from the heat!



Late Sunday afternoon Pete & Geneva and Buell drove over to Sale Creek Marina to pick us up and we all went to dinner at Steve’s Landing Restaurant overlooking Pine Harbor Marina, about seven miles downriver from Sale Creek.  Buell is a fellow boater who we met in Demopolis in the fall of 2006, which is also where and when we met Pete & Geneva.  Buell is passing through Dayton on his way to North Carolina to visit family.  We also invited fellow boater David on “Moonstruck.”  David, who we haven’t seen since we were in Demopolis a few months ago, is currently at Island Cove and said he would love to join us.  The more, the merrier – right?!!!

When we arrived at the restaurant, it was very crowded and there was a long waiting list with virtually no place to wait.  So, we grabbed a cold beer and waited out on the patio.


Oh my, that poor motorcycle!


After an hour or more, we were finally seated.  Our orders ranged from ribs to fried seafood to blackened chicken and everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy their selection.  No wonder it’s such a popular place!


Today is Monday, July 25th, and even though I don’t have a good enough Internet signal at Sale Creek to post this update, this is where I am going to end it.  Later this afternoon, we have an interested couple coming by to look at “Life’s2Short” and we have much to do to prepare for our trips back to Missouri and Colorado.  The plan is to post this update at some point during our road trip back to Missouri.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

From Wheeler Lake to Nickajack Lake

On Sunday, July 3rd, we left our anchorage at Mile 276 near Joe Wheeler State Park about 8:15 a.m.  It was another hot, still day but we covered 57 miles to reach Ditto Landing Marina (and air conditioning!) about seven hours later.

The new transient and fuel docks at Ditto Landing are very nice!


Later that afternoon we noticed a flurry of activity surrounding a bass boat that had pulled in to the slip next to us.  The Captain went to investigate and saw that the boat was in the process of sinking!  Todd grabbed his hand pump and I threw them a bucket and they started bailing.


Todd finally gave up pumping and went to the source of the problem – a missing boat plug.  Once he got his finger in the hole where the plug should have been, they were able to make some progress.  We then provided a wooden plug to substitute for Todd’s finger until they could troll over to the loading ramp and get the boat up on its trailer.

Todd ran in to Ron Monday morning at the marina.  Ron has a boat at Ditto Landing and we originally met him in 2009 through our friends Don & Rosie on “Just Rosie.”  Anyway, Ron generously gave Todd the keys to his Prius for the day so Todd went in to Huntsville to run a few errands.  When he returned he got really industrious and changed the oil in the generator and both engines.

Ron’s Prius – looks like a toy. Thanks for letting us borrow it!


Lots of ducks to feed around the docks at Ditto Landing.


A colorful July 4th sunset.  Happy 75th birthday, mom!


Tuesday was a cloudy morning with drizzle and light rain through about 1:00 p.m.  When it finally stopped we pulled over to the fuel dock to pump out and take on some fuel.  The fuel was $4.00 per gallon but we got a free night of dockage for taking on 100 gallons, so that reduced the cost to $3.60 per gallon.  Not a bad deal these days.

It was sixteen miles from Ditto Landing to the Guntersville Lock where we had to wait about 30 minutes for a lift.  Once we were up into Guntersville Lake, we anchored in a cove on the port side just past the lock and Todd promptly took off fishing.  Guntersville is a great bass fishing lake and the Captain didn’t waste any time!

Painted Bluff, with its yellow and brown rock, is more than 350 feet high.  It is located about four miles below the Guntersville Lock.


The Captain’s first Guntersville bass – for 2011, that is.


Wednesday Todd was out fishing at daybreak and came back with a mess to give to Norm & Vicki on “Tide Hiker” when we catch up with them in Chattanooga.  After some reading and napping, there was more fishing and we even had fried bass for dinner.

The Captain got a morning shot of “Life’s2Short” while he was out fishing.


Just before dusk we took the dinghy around the corner to the bat cave on the main lake.  We had done this once before, in 2009, with friends Wade & Sue Sadler who live nearby on Guntersville Lake, but we’d never been there in the dinghy.  The cave is a sanctuary for the federally endangered gray bats and anywhere from 20,000 to 45,000 gray bats live in the cave between April and September.  At dusk, thousands of bats fly from the cave to feed on insects.  It is a known local attraction, so to speak, and several other boats had gathered to watch.

It is very difficult to catch the bats in a photo.


Thursday, July 7th, was my lovely niece’s 28th birthday and, unfortunately, she had to celebrate it in the hospital.  Jennifer was paralyzed in a diving accident on July 18th of last year and has had a rough first year.  She’s been through so much but she remains strong and is determined to make the best of her situation.  Keep hanging in there, Jennifer.  You know we’re cheering for you!

We left our anchorage at Mile 350 at 9:00 a.m. and traveled 30 miles to anchor about a mile upriver from Goose Pond Colony Marina, passing through the town of Guntersville along the way.

Apparently, parts of Guntersville suffered tornado damage along the river during Alabama’s severe outbreaks earlier this year.



Todd promptly dinghied over to the marina to get some ice as thunder rumbled to the north.  However, the rain bypassed us and Todd was off fishing again.  Late that afternoon he caught a big catfish but didn’t want to get it too close to the dinghy for fear its barbs would puncture it, so he got the attention of a couple in a bass boat and offered it to them.  He thought they were going to keep it but they ended up letting it go after freeing it from Todd’s rod and taking a few photos.

Now that’s a fish!


 Thanks for your help, Jeff & Rheba!  Hope you made it safely back to Louisiana!


Friday was cloudy and humid again.  Todd spent most the day  fishing while I hung on the boat and read.  It never did rain during the day but a line of storms moved through overnight.

Todd was out fishing at 5:30 Saturday morning and back by 8:00.  We headed to Goose Pond a few hours later and spent a quiet day on the boat in the air conditioning.

Coming in to Goose Pond Colony Marina.


That evening we walked over to The Docks, an on-site restaurant, where we had an early birthday dinner for the Captain, followed by some local live music.  Quite an enjoyable evening!


Even if you don’t stay at the marina, you can tie up to restaurant’s dock and have a meal.  The house specialty is shrimp & grits, one of the Captain’s favorites!


Sunday was the Captain’s 53rd birthday – Happy Birthday, honey!  I started the day off by getting caught up on laundry and then we borrowed the courtesy car and went in to Scottsboro to do a little shopping.  While we were in Wal-Mart, the skies opened up and we had quite a downpour, which at least cooled things off.  So, the Captain took off fishing again when we got back and “had a ball” catching several bass.

We planned to leave Goose Pond mid-morning on Monday but discovered a nasty mess when we got into our stash of Keystone Light 30-packs.  Several of the cans were leaking, and apparently had been for a while, and all six 30-packs were a moldy, wet mess.  So we spent a couple of hours cleaning, drying and repacking 180 beers, less the many leaking ones.  What a way to start the morning!

Keystone ordeal aside, it was a beautiful morning at Goose Pond.


Keystone will definitely hear about this!


After pumping out the holding tanks, we finally got away from the marina shortly after 11:00 and traveled 46 miles to Nickajack Lock where the lockmaster was ready and waiting for us.  It was another stifling day and we stopped for periodic swims along the way.  The water was generally a very pleasant 83 degrees but as we approached the Widows Creek power plant, the temperature increased dramatically, topping out at 91.6 degrees!


About eight miles below the Nickajack Lock we left Alabama and crossed into Tennessee for the first time this year, although we were very close to Counce, Tennessee, when we were at Aqua Yacht Harbor on Pickwick.  At any rate, by 6:00 p.m. we were anchored at Little Cedar Mountain, about two miles upriver from the lock, where we promptly got in the water and floated on our noodles for a good long time.

Tuesday was another quiet day at anchor with Todd fishing and me reading.  It was an extremely hot, muggy morning but the thunder started rumbling shortly after noon.  And even though we didn’t see much in the way of rain at the anchorage, it rained nearby which cooled things off nicely for the remainder of the day.  Unfortunately, the Captain hasn’t been having much luck finding the bass in this area and is becoming very frustrated!

While Todd was out fishing Wednesday morning, he dinghied over to the Shellmound Recreation Area, less than a mile above the lock, to get some ice.  A few years ago we discovered a campground near Shellmound that sells ice and, as hot as it’s been lately, ice doesn’t last more than a couple of days at best.  After dropping the ice off at the boat, Todd fished in the back of the cove where we were anchored and managed to snag a couple of nice ones, so his frustration level decreased significantly!

Looks like we’re having bass for dinner!


The remainder of Wednesday was spent relaxing and reading and trying to stay cool.  By late afternoon we were back in the water, floating on our noodles in the shade.

Today is Thursday, July 14th, and we plan to cover at least part of the 38 remaining miles to Chattanooga.  There is an anchorage about ten miles below Chattanooga at Williams Island that we’ve never tried so we’re going to check it out.  If it isn’t suitable, we will continue on to Chattanooga and pay for an extra night of dockage at Ross Landing.  We’ve already tried anchoring in and around downtown Chattanooga and weren’t even able to get a tentative hold, so that isn’t an option.

Regardless, our plan is to spend the weekend in Chattanooga revisiting some of our favorite venues and to also get together with Norm & Vicki (“Tide Hiker”) on Saturday.  “Tide Hiker” is at Island Cove Marina on Chickamauga Lake, which is where we will head after we leave Chattanooga.  And by next weekend, we should be on our way to Missouri and then to Colorado in early August before returning to Island Cove to continue this summer’s boating adventure.  Maybe it will have cooled off some by then!