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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Friday Oct. 7, 2011 - From Chattanooga back to Nickajack Dam

Chattanooga's Riverfront is beautiful on a peaceful fall morning!

The air was cool and the river looked liked like a sheet of glass when we woke this morning. We fired up the propane grill and put biscuits on to bake, then started another propane camping burner and boiled water for our coffee and hot chocolate. When we had plenty of boiling water we replaced the kettle with a frying pan and Marvin cooked bacon and eggs. It was a pleasant morning as we ate breakfast and watched the riverfront area wake up and come to life with boats, people and wildlife.
Marvin fries up the bacon in the "outdoor kitchen" of our yacht :).

Shortly after the dishes were washed and we were about ready leave, a marina employee came by and asked if we’d had any problems during the night. He said that another boat, docked behind us, was boarded by someone about 2:00am. He didn’t offer any more details, so I don’t know exactly what happened, but it is kind of scary to think about someone climbing aboard while you’re asleep.

About 8:30am we cast off the lines and made another pass to look at the “Delta Queen” before turning downstream for the trip back to Nickajack Dam. A strong breeze made this morning feel more like fall, and the morning sun was at our backs. This made the colors of the mountain trees stand out and appear brighter than they were yesterday morning when the sun was in our faces.
The historic Delta Queen, now docked and serving as a floating hotel.

As we rounded the bend where I-24 runs alongside the river, Marvin spotted a doe deer and two smaller deer on the right bank. When Glenda, Abby and I were here in June, there was construction being done on this bank – I assume for erosion control – and flowering plants had been placed at the top of the bank. The three deer were having a fine breakfast at the expense of those plants.
The Gorge has to be one of the most peaceful places on earth to cruise in a 6 mph boat!

This doe with two young were feeding on the recently landscaped riverbank directly across from I-24.

As we continued down the river at about 6½ miles per hour, we noticed quite a few more boats on the water than we’d seen the day before. Mid-morning we were surprised to see a group of about 7 or 8 small speedboats traveling at what appeared to be 90 mph or so, coming around the bend and headed toward us. Their engines screamed and as they passed, they skipped along the surface, often with only their prop in the water and nothing else touching. Over the next hour or so, we would see several more groups of these speedboats, all travelling toward Chattanooga at an extremely fast pace. We learned later that these were part of a loosely organized group that left Nickajack Dam boat ramp and raced to Chattanooga, ate lunch and raced back.
Since there are no shower facilities at the marina in Chattanooga, we had brought along two "solar showers" and placed them on the roof of the cabin before leaving this morning. The water was hot by mid-day. We were on a wide, remote part of the river, so we slowed down and Marvin drove while I changed into my bathing suit for a shower out back in the cockpit. Then we switched and Marvin got a shower while I drove.

The Gorge is 26 miles of one fantastic scene after another. It was hard to quit after only two days of cruising!
As we got closer to Nickajack Dam, most if not all of the speedboats that passed us earlier passed us again going downstream, and when we arrived at the ramp we realized we would have to wait awhile as the group of 40 or so speedboaters were all trying to trailer out at one time. In talking with some of them we learned that this is an annual event held on Friday before a weekend of professional dragboat racing. Most of the boats that passed us were running about 110 mph, but a few of them were “only” doing about 90. While I’m sure they had a great time, I guess I’m just not wired for living life at that speed.
We eventually got in line with my truck and trailer, and pulled the Knot-So-Fast out of the water and into the parking lot, ending our trip. Even at 6 mph or so, it seemed to go by way too fast! After packing things away and tying down fenders, antennas and such, we headed home. Marvin and I were both tired, but we agreed that this was a great trip. I hope we can do it again.

We stopped at Cracker Barrel in Ft. Payne to eat supper. When we got back to the truck there was a note on my windshield which read " If you want to sell the boat, call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX". While it's flattering to have someone admire the boat that I built, we're having way too much fun with it to think about selling it!

October 06, 2011. Another Cruise through the "Gorge" on the TN River

With the tugboat and truck full of gas and packed for the next adventure, I tried to sleep Wednesday night, but was too excited. I got up at 4:20am and pulled out of the driveway at 4:55, on my way to Jasper, TN for another cruise through “the Gorge” section of the Tennessee River. About 5:45 I exited I-459 at the Trussville exit and met my good friend Marvin Roye, who would accompany me on this cruise. We drove another 2 hours to the Nickajack Lock and Dam boat ramp, where we slid the Knot-So-Fast off her trailer and fired up the little 9.9 HP engine. The motor purred like a contented cat, as usual. After making a few entries in the log book and making sure the GPS and VHF radio were working, we pulled away from the ramp and headed upstream at 8:58 am. The weather could not have been any better – temperatures in the 70’s and not a cloud in the sky!
Entering the Gorge section of the Tennessee River

About 5 miles from the ramp we passed the old Hales Bar power generating plant and the  Hales Bar Marina, which was the site of the Glen-L boat  builders “Gathering” a few weeks ago.  I had missed this year’s get-together due to an issue with our dachshund Daisy.  Daisy severely injured her back (a common problem with dachshunds), and we were afraid we were going to have to put her to sleep. In fact, we had made arrangements to do just that, but thankfully we got a second opinion on her condition. To make a long story short, Daisy had surgery, and although she still has a long way to go, she is improving each day.

Marvin and I swapped "wheel duty" throughout the day.

Anyway, Hales Bar Marina looked about the same as it did when we docked there in June, with the exception of six of the floating cabins that burned sometime around the first of September.  I told Marvin that Glenda and I had seen a bald eagle just upstream from the Marina when we were there last year, and I hoped we’d get to see one on this trip too. The river was quiet, and we passed only an occasional fishing boat as the bright sun warmed the cabin, eventually making us shed our long sleeve shirts.  Marvin said the trees were beginning to change colors, but other than a few yellow leaves (the only fall color I can see very well) I just had to take his word for it.

About 10 miles into our trip, as we entered the actual gorge, I spotted the first of three bald eagles we would see today. He (or she) appeared from behind us on the port side, between our boat and the riverbank, and flew ahead of us for about ¼ mile before we lost sight of him. I was able to get a couple of camera shots, but the quality wasn’t very good.
The first of three eagles we saw, this one almost got away before I could grab my camera!

Marvin and I took turns all morning at the wheel, and we didn’t stop as we ate sandwiches for lunch. We passed a couple of larger cruisers headed downstream, but for the most part we were still sharing the river with only a few small fishing boats. At 2:00 pm, I spotted another bald eagle fly out of the tree line and over the river some distance ahead of us. He made 3 passes from the trees out over the water and back, and on the third pass, was accompanied by another one. We were too far away and the passes out of the tree line were too quick for me to get a photo, but I still felt like a kid on Christmas morning when I saw them.

I called Marine Max, which operates the marina in downtown Chattanooga, by phone to make sure they had a slip available for us to stay in overnight. Since we don’t need electrical or water hookups, the truth is that we could anchor out, but I like the ability of having a steady dock where I can step off the boat and stretch my legs, set up a folding chair and take a break from the rocking motion of the little tug.

The Chattanooga Aquarium operates a tour boat that takes passengers on a two hour trip through the Gorge, and it passed us headed downstream at a fairly slow pace. A short time later, the captain radioed to “any concerned traffic” giving his location and that he was moving upstream. I realized his location was just downstream from us, and when I looked out the rear, saw him approaching us at a much higher speed. I moved over toward the right bank to give him all the room I could, and hopefully to avoid the worst of his wake. He slowed as he approached us, but his wake was still the biggest one we had to deal with during the trip. I turned our little boat into the wake as he passed, and crossed it almost head-on. We dipped and rolled, but with the exception of a spilled can of soda, we survived it unscathed.
I24 runs alongside the Tennessee River just downsteam of Chattanooga.

One of the Chattanooga Ducks, an amphibious tour vehicle.

We pulled into the marina’s fuel dock at Chattanooga at 4:15 and checked in. As we approached we saw one of the amphibious “Duck” tour boats, full of passengers, ending its water tour. We drifted along waiting to see it motor up to the ramp and then drive out of the water and up the ramp to the street. After paying the dock fee for the night, we untied and took a short ride past the old “Delta Queen” riverboat which has now been converted into a floating hotel. We then picked a spot on the “Bluff Dock” in front of five other cruisers and tied the Knot-So-Fast up for the night.

This beaver made his home along the rock bank at Bluff Dock in the heart of Chattanooga!

As usual the Knot-So-Fast was the smallest boat at the party!!

Marvin had taken care of all the food for the trip, and we fired up the propane grill where he cooked pork chops, baked beans and baked potatoes. We ate as the sun went down and watched a sculling team and several people on stand-up paddle boards taking advantage of the last few minutes of sunlight on the river.
Marvin cooking pork chops and potatoes. Our boat may have been small, but
we ate like we were on the biggest yacht around!

I'm told these are easy to master, but I have my doubts.

I had intended to make this post to the blog from Chattanooga, but couldn’t find a workable internet connection. The Bluff Dock is a busy place with lots of pedestrian traffic . We enjoyed talking to several people who stopped and asked about the tug. We were asked a couple of times “What year is it?”, as most people think it must be really old. Things quieted down and we were able to get to sleep by about 10:00.