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Sunday, October 9, 2011

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.

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