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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday June 24, 2012, Back to Ditto Marina

We slept pretty good last night under the covered slip at Guntersville Marina. We were at the end of the pier and the slip beside us was empty. Directly in front of us was a trawler that was occupied, but we only saw the couple as they took their dog for a walk - we never even got to speak to them. There was some music playing from somewhere in the marina last night for awhile, but it was pleasant and not at all loud.

This morning we hung around the marina talking to the owner and several boat owners there. We really enjoyed talking with Ferrell (not sure about the spelling) Jones, an 86 year old WWII veteran.

This was the only vessel at the City Harbor Sunday morning.

We made a round through the marina looking at all the boats, especially those with "for sale" signs. There was a really pretty Nordic Tug named "Pilgrim", with a home port of Wilsonville, that made me drool a little. At about 10:00 the sun was beginning to heat up, so we left the marina, made a round through the City harbor, which was empty except for Fire/Rescue boat, then headed south toward Guntersville Lock and Dam, which was about 10 miles downstream. Just before the dam, we stopped to get a closer look at the fenced off cave we'd seen from a distance on the trip up yesterday. When we got close we saw the sign explaining that the cave is a brown bat habitat.

Brown bat cave just upstream from Guntersville Lock and Dam.

At noon we were within a few hundred yards of the entrance to the lock, so I radioed the operator and requested a lock downstream. The reply was not what we wanted to hear. They were waiting on the "Jack Walker", a tugboat with barges and would have to lock him through first, and our wait would be approximately 3 hours. The tug would have to break his group of ten barges and take some of the through the lock, then return and take the remainder through. The lock operator first told us that if there was room for us, we might be able to lock through with the tug on his second trip. That plan fell apart a few minutes later when he called again and said that they could only take four barges on the first lock through, meaning that on the second trip there would be the tug and remaining six barges, leaving no room for us. So we circled around while they uncoupled the group of barges, then we circled some more. Then we went across the river to a small cove where we saw a large houseboat, a pontoon boat, and large cruiser all rafted together. As we eased past them in the cove, we surprised a group of four ladies who were swimming at the rear of the boats. It was apparent that they were not expecting company, but after the initial looks of surprise, we got smiles and waves from the group.

The Jack Walker was pushing ten barges!!

Finally, just before 3:00 o'clock, the Jack Walker rejoined his pack of barges and exited the lock on the lower side. An Alabama Marine Police boat was waiting on the lower side to lock through upstream, and as soon as he entered the lock, the lockmaster radioed us that he was filling the chamber and would be ready for us  in a few minutes. We were ready too! At 3:25 we were in the lock, accompanied by 3 young men in an aluminum flat bottomed boat, ready for the 40+ foot descend to Wheeler Lake level. At 4:00 we were exiting the lock, and thanked the lockmaster for getting to as soon as he could, given the circumstances. He apologized for the delay, thanked us for our patience, and wished us a safe journey. Both the TVA and the Corps of Engineers lock employees have been courteous and helpful during every lock through the Knot-So-Fast has done. This is only the 2nd time we've had to wait for any real length of time at a lock.

This couple yelled to us that they'd trade boats with us. I declined their offer. Their's looked like too much work in the hot sun.

With the delay, I called Ditto Marina to let them know we'd be arriving late, and I was told the office was open til 8:00 pm. When we arrived at 6:40 pm, the office was locked up. We did find a marina worker, though, who gave us information about the showers and such, and said we could settle up on the slip rental in the morning.
We almost caught up with the Jack Walker just before we arrived at Ditto marina. His ten barge load made him even slower than the Knot-So-Fast! The marina entrance is just to the right of the rear of the tug.

Glenda and I took a quick showers, uncoupled the trailer and drove to get a bite of supper. When we arrived back at the marina it was almost dark, so I spent some time on the blog before going to bed.

Glenda Says:
I really enjoyed the morning.  We took our time leaving this morning and we had the opportunity to meet Mr. Ferrell Jones.  Mr. Jones is 86 years old and he came by to admire the boat.  Before long I discovered that Mr.Jones is one of our WWII veterans.  I really love getting to hear personal stories of our history.  That is the best way to learn history, from those who experienced it.  He fought in the final battles in Germany right at the end of WWII when he was just 18 years old.  I wish I had more time to spend with Mr. Jones. 

We thought we had a leisurely day planned out.  Only 30 short miles or so, arrive back at Ditto Marina, take a shower and use the truck to go to some nice place to eat.  But once again I had to hear Tom's favorite phrase "we have to be flexible you know".  We were stuck at the only lock we went through for 3 hours!  We managed just fine.  Explored a little into a couple of creeks and interrupted some senior citizens enjoying a dip. (truthfully they were probably not much older than us) 

Once we finally got through I had a hard time just enjoying the ride.  I was hot and tired, I'm afraid I'm not as tough as I used to be.  I did get a good picture of a little raccoon walking along the bank.  It was if he was posing for me.

Raccoon scavenging for a meal along the river bank.

We arrived back at Ditto a little before 7 and even though I hated "eating like heathens"  we showered before we went into town for a bite to eat.  I don't like tying up this close to the office.  The lights are bright and drawing bugs. ( I sure that has nothing to do with my ill humor at the moment)  But I'm game to be off on another adventure tomorrow. 

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