Nov 302021

We had a drivers meeting the night before we leave. Looks like 6 Looper boats are planning the departure in the wee morning hours to get through the Demopolis Lock together. The plan is to decide which side fenders go on for which boats, who is faster and should go into the lock first, and the designated time of 6:30 AM. The news of any alerts is also communicated.

This is a long day of 100 miles. We will go approximately 10 knts or more, even getting up to our comfortable 20 knts to get in during the daylight. There are no real anchorages for this size of boat. Smaller boats pull over just out of the channel but for us our depth and length make this not a safe option for if, and when, a tow and barges come through. Perhaps even a wind change would put us to shallow. So we must head to Bobby’s where we will our friends with the larger vessels. A long windy river with many, many hairpins. Scott calculated “the as the crow flies” mileage and it is 43 miles but by boat it is 100. There are lots of bald eagles flying overhead. I keep trying to get a close up but they are not taking my photo ops seriously.

It seems that there are more barges today. That would be number 5 and it is only 10:30. Water levels are finally at the levels as shown on our electronic charts. The current is running between 1 and 2 knots so we are getting a good push to help our long day seem shorter. The temperature changes swing here. Last night it was 0C or 32F. Today a high of almost 70F or over 20C. The swings in temperature are normal for this time of the year but rarely do they get snow and rarely does it stay at freezing for the day. They will shut off marina water for a couple weeks in January if needed.

Nov 292021

Waiting on the haulout for the Thanksgiving Holiday has been trying.  We wanted to get a haulout on Friday, yes Black Friday, but the marina gave their fellas an extra day off.  It has been extremely busy this fall with us Loopers coming in significantly more than past years.  So many so that not only was the marina completely booked but the bay was full of anchored vessels as well.  The fellas have been working non stop.  So we wait until Monday.

In the time we have til Monday Scott changes filters, gen oil, and gets ready for haulout.  When we haul out we will change out our fresh water mag anodes for zincs.  While she is in the sling Scott will change out the pod gear oil which is due.  She has been in the water since late April so she will get her booty scrubbed with the power washer to get off some of the grime before we head to the salt.  The job went so well that we were ready an hour before the fellas were so we had a quick lunch waiting to return to the water.  Then fuel up, pump out and get some water for the remaining river journey south to Mobile, AL. 

Satisfied Frog caught up to us as well.  We also met some folks going from a sailboat to a 46 Searay Sundancer called Highlander III.  Wine & Roses a 36 ft Catalina sailboat also are looping.  Corkscrew is waiting on some parts for a hydraulic hose and with us.  We also met some other Canadians aboard their new to them boat called My Girl.  They are from Vancouver, BC and will be continuing their loop later this week.  We are on the tail end of this journey.  I can’t imagine being on these rivers with the  mass that was here a few weeks ago, literally up til last week.  There were over 20 Looper boats here before we landed and it has been like that for weeks.

Kingfischer Marina is a well kept, clean facility.  There is a courtesy car, a Walmart nearby, full service yard with a large lift, laundry, showers and restrooms, and great owners.  The entrance is narrow but opens up into a fully protected bay.

Nov 252021

Boring but beautiful as we cruise south. There isn’t much change in the scenery. Every once in awhile a “home”, some damage from the floods or the wildlife shows up. A deer crossing the frigid waters (55F) in the morning sun to reach the other side. All we see is a cute nose and some antler buds sticking out of the water as it knowinly crosses our path. We always slow the speed for the critters. However, sometimes there are just some things that make you go “Huh?” Take the floating refrigerator. The person was cautious enough to remove the doors. That was nice of them. Then there are the places that is home for some while it is falling off the sand rocky bluff. Folks still living inside. The most picturesque beauty on this portion are the White Chalk Bluffs of Epes.

These white cliffs are located on the Tombigbee River at Epes, AL. They are part of the Selma Chalk formations which were deposited at about the same time as England’s famous White Cliffs of Dover. On the state’s western edge, an alabaster memento of central Alabama’s former underwater life rises 50 feet above the Tombigbee River. The White Cliffs of Epes, formed around the same time as their famous Dover cousins, are made up of microscopic algae shells that drifted to the seafloor around 80 million years ago to become a massive chalk formation that spans three states. To give you an idea of the size of these shells, a sugar-cube-sized piece of the chalk contains between 4 and 10 billion shells. The striking, 2-mile stretch in Epes offers visitors gorgeous photo ops and a scenic backdrop for boating. Find the best viewpoint on the bluff side of the Highway 11 bridge or push up your small boat to one of the river’s many popular sandbars along the opposite bank. The cliffs are not open to hikers. Access to these White Bluffs of Epes is very limited to a railroad bridge or being on the waterway.

We are now getting close to Demopolis. We had planned to be at another anchorage tonight but the winds coming in are not pleasureable. Again a narrow Ox Bow, as they are called, with a stern anchor and no space for error. We make the decision to head into the marina.

Nov 242021

There is nothing like the Tombigbee Waterway for stunning sunrise photo opps. The river has so many twists and turns that you are guaranteed to catch the morning mist from the steaming river rising like tornadoes anxious to find the morning light. Some of our most beautiful photos are from “The Tom” both this journey as well as our last. Quiet mornings along this waterway are seamless with virtually no tows and barges and very little human interference other than the carving of this waterway itself.

We are leaving this morning with only Corkscrew. Satisfied Frog has some issues with leakage in the engine room that they noticed upon their evening checks. That being said they will be here in Columbus until a mechanic is available. This being the American Thanksgiving it may be a few days. Corkscrew runs about or speed so we will make good time to the anchorage. They plan on going through the last of the 3 locks while we will stay at an anchorage after the 2nd lock.

Twisting and turning in every direction on this river makes a few miles seem so long. I swear I could walk through the forest quicker and mee the boat on the downswing of the hairpin turn. We have noticed a lot of debris in the water. Looking at google it seems that there has been significant flooding here in June of 2021 and the last 3 years have had significant high water. A lot of water comes from the watershed to The Tom making its way to The Gulf. The leaves are mostly off the trees now but we are seeing lots of bird life and at night the cricket sounds. The days are running in the mid teens Celcius. For our standard friends thats in the 50s-60s. Nights are cold now ranging from 0-5C still (32-40F). Gotta keep pushing south which is not difficult being there is not a lot of places to see. This are a is in the middle of nowhere. Cell service is spotty as well.

On our way to Cook’s Anchorage after checking out Windham’s Bar. Windham’s is another good anchorage but with the winds we are in we keep drifting into shallow waters. We could put out the stern anchor however if a stronger wind comes in, not predicated, we would be onshore too quickly. So we abort this one and head on over to South Cook’s Bend anchorage where it is wider. With a larger boat we need some room for our booty. The larger size is a luxury and a curse however we feel very priviledged to call her home.

We do see a light at the end of the tunnel now. We are so close to the journey on the inner rivers ending within the next 10 days or so.

Nov 232021

We will pass into our 5th State of Mississippi today. Leaving Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Alabama behind us. Well, not Alabama actually. Mississippi and Alabama weave in and out of this waterway so we will pass back and forth between them before leaving Mississippi behind us and staying in Alabama until Florida. The Midway Marina is a family run marina who live on the property. There are lots of “liveaboards” here with their various styles of boats. Sail boats and houseboats are most common. In our opinion it is more of a scrapyard where old boats go to die. It is hard to believe that folks live on these.

The marina has a courtesy car to head to town for essentials. Gas and diesel are available and pumpouts at various stations on the docks. Not much around but a good place to run your pets. The long dock is mainly for the larger boats with covered slips available for the smaller one. No restaurant or extras available here. It is a good place to stay for the run to the next stop in Columbus, MI.

We are up early with our new friends from “Satisfied Frog”. A couple out of Englewood, FL who will complete their loop in the next few weeks. “Oceanus” does not get up early so they will not be traveling with us. Today the 2 vessels will travel through 4 more locks and cover 60 miles to Columbus Marina. No anchorages for our size girls so they too will stop at the marina.

This stretch has a bit more life but not much. We are able to see more herons and bald eagles. There is a resident heron on the last lock we pass through who watches for fish being stirred up by the lock. I was ready with the camera but he was not so lucky.

The Columbus Marina is difficult to get into. Contacting harbourmaster, Steve, is a good idea while you come into the long, narrow stretch toward the harbour. As you round into the harbour the fuel dock will be to starboard. There is a narrow channel marked by green straight markers to keep you off the shoaled area. Stay away from the port side as much as possible. This area is only 6 feet deep but opens up after the entrance to 8 feet. Dockage will be to your starboard. The restaurant has long since closed. There is a great walking path to the park of about 1.5 miles. Also a courtesy car is available and laundry.

We meet up with another Looper heading south “Corkskrew”. They will be traveling with Satisfied Frog and us in the morning as we travel to Demopolis, AL.

Nov 222021

The stretch from this point forward has little anchorages for us larger vessels. We will have to find what we can and drop the hook or stay in some interesting marinas with shallow depths.

The Tennessee–Tombigbee Waterway links commercial navigation from the nation’s midsection to the Gulf of Mexico. The waterway boast 10 locks and dams, 17 public ports and terminals, a 175-foot (53 m) deep cut between the Tombigbee River watershed and the Tennessee River watershed, and 234 miles of navigable channel. Over 88,000 acres of land were reserved for public recreational use and wildlife habitat. Construction was completed in twelve years by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and opened on December 1984.

The Tennessee–Tombigbee Waterway, often called the Tenn-Tom, is a 234-mile man-made waterway that extends from the Tennessee River to the Tombigbee River connecting major inland ports from Paducah, Kentucky to Knoxville, Tennessee and ultimately connects to the Black Warrior River to Mobile, AL on the Gulf of Mexico.

Earlier work of the Tennessee Valley Authority in improving navigation along the Tennessee River was instrumental in driving down the cost of the original project estimates. The outcome has been a system of navigation that serves multiple states and opens economic opportunities to rural river communities. The Carter Administration selected the Tennessee-Tombigbee as a national demonstration program of how large public works projects can favorably impact rural America.

The channel or canal as it is can be boring. As the canal weaves its way the scenery rarely changes. There seems to be no civilization along the banks and the barge traffic is minimal. We have been seeing some other Loopers and have met us with the vessel Oceanus. A much slower vessel than us however the lockmasters will not put us through with them on our tail. So we slow down to travel with them making our day an hour longer. We need a break in the mileage between locks to get ahead of them. We will do 3 locks today.

Nov 212021

We are heading out from Florence and will be trying out the new battery system on anchor for the first time. After several checks we head south on the Tennessee River toward the Tombigbee River. The Tombigbee River was first considered by American settlers as a shortcut. Residents of Knox County, Tennessee first approached Congress in 1810 with a proposal to connect the two rivers, the Tombigbee and the Tennessee Rivers. The first survey was made by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1827. Serious consideration was delayed for more than 100 years because of the expansion of railroads. Construction of the Tenn-Tom Waterway was started in 1972 and completed in 1985. The waterway provides shallow draft boats and barges operating in some 16,000 miles of other navigable inland waterways with access to the Gulf of Mexico at Mobile, Alabama 412 river miles to the south of the Bay Springs Lock and Dam. The junction of the waterway at the Tennessee River is 47 miles north of lock and dam. The lock on the waterway is standard dimension, 110 feet wide and 600 feet long.

The Tennessee-Tombigee Waterway has three main parts – the largest section from Demopolis, Alabama north to Amory, Mississippi utilizes the Tombigbee River, howver it changes and shortens the existing channel with dams, locks and shortcuts. From Amory, a canal section using a chain of lakes construction extends to the Bay Springs Lock and Dam. The final section cuts deeply through high ground to the Tennessee River. Its total length is 234 miles with the river section being 149 miles, canal section 46 miles and divide cut section being 39 miles. The standard width is 300 feet. There are areas along this that you cannot stop for a marina or anchorage so planning your distances is important. Those areas are not more than 25 miles but getting caught in the dark would not be pleasant.

We will be stopping near the north side of the Tombigbee River at an anchorage south of Goat Island. We have heard rumours of there being wild goats that live here. Rain is in the forecast so we will be getting there early to have the time to see if indeed this is true.

We notice that the winter pool water level has made the waterline more prevalent. The colours of the leaves are mainly brown now with the evergreens taking over. The nights have been dropping to under 10C or mid 40sF, more rain and wind has also been the nemesis for keeping the leaves hanging on a little longer. The winds are out of the south for the day today however shifting to north, so we will anchor on the south of the island with a calm night for sleep. It’s choppy but we set the anchor with a good hold. The goats are already on the shore grazzing. I cut up some yellow and red peppers and an apple with a very ripe banana as well. We drop “Otter” and head to shore tying a rope to a tree. As we were in the process of getting the tender secured the goats start running along the beach to greet us. A steer, 2 mamas, 1 adolescent and 2 little ones. They are in good form so they must be getting fed with hay too. We try to offer them the veggies and they won’t take them. Poppa goat decides there is nothing to see here and leads the families away only to come back on his own and take what we have to offer. The banana was the biggest hit. Soon the dominant female and her adolescent are in on the frenzy. Poppa goat did not like Scott going up to his women and literally horned him in the leg then stood on his hind quarters. Scott backed away and the guy charged him. Scott made a swift jump to the left and it confused Poppa Goat. At this point all but the little ones were all over us. Poppa is getting snarly with his family so we are chucking the food pieces away from us while I jump in “Otter” and Scott unties the rope on the tree, pushes us out in the water while I keep throwing the food away from us. It was fun until Poppa got narly. If you come to this island to feed the goats, stay in the tender, do not let any of your kids out, and throw the food to the goats. The guy with the horns rules and he is always there in front of his women.

The rain rolls in so we download some movies and veg a bit before we get into our sundowners, but more like drizzle drinks with this rain.

Nov 202021

Arriving in Florence knowing batteries will be installed tomorrow is exciting. Even though it wasn’t expected we were talking about replacing them in the next couple years. Instead of the lithium we now have 8 new AGM’s that can be installed fairly easily. As lithium hopefully becomes less expensive in the future these will get us by for the next few years.

Scott gets to work as soon as he can but we must wait a day until the rain ends. Our engine hatch is not fully covered, it’s cold out and raining. So today we clean the boat inside. Top to bottom literally washing ceilings and floors, seat cushions and vacuuming. Not exciting at all but it needed a good tidy. Scott ordered some parts to be sent to our next major marina where we will lift her and have her booty power washed, anodes changed from magnesium to zinc in prep for the months in the salt water coming up. He will also be changing the pod gear oil so that has been ordered.

This marina is a major fishing spot. A tournament is underway and the lights from the waiting bass boats on the weekend mornings is a sight to see. These fellas are putting in boats literally all day and the end of the day it is a constant trailer battle at the ramp. A bunch of fishers just fish off the docks.

We have met some nice boaters here at the marina. Some are Loopers and some are locals. It is the main stop for those heading up to Chattanooga and Knoxville or those coming back. Very few miss this marina after a day of crusing and locks.

Nov 172021

Spending time in Chattanooga was worth the trip. We could have continued into Knoxville, TN for another 200 miles but that would have required at least another 7-10 days. We don’t have the time as we have to retrace our last 200 miles back to Florence, AL before heading south towards Mobile, AL.

Due to our house batteries unable to charge anymore Scott spent some time finding 8 new AGM batteries to replace the lead acid ones that have prematurely died. He has disconnected the 2nd battery charger to allow the charger to not overcharge. That being said, after 3 years of overcharging the lead acid will no longer hold a charge. We must stay in marinas heading back to Florence. Our favourite part has been the nights at anchor but there are more to come. He has ordered 8 new ones from a reference from Florence Harbor Marina. They will have them by Friday and this is Monday. We were going to stay in Florence anyway so this will give Scott time to remove the old ones and replace.

We stayed at a free dock at Shellmound Campground located along the river and a park. A good spot for a hike and dog walk. The one T dock is about 45 feet and the smaller one is approx. 35 feet. No services. The depth at winter pool was over 12 feet. This is where we found out that the batteries would hold a charge. Sure we could keep the generator on to keep the charge but with no back up Scott does not like the situation. So marinas it is until the new batteries are installed.

Then it was off to Guntersville Marina. A sweet marina with courtesy car if needed. You cn hop in your tender for groceries. We dropped the tender, “Otter”, and headed across the small bay under a couple bridges of at least 8 feet height and popped over to Publix. A fabulous dock was available to tie with a cement path leading to the grocery store. This is the best tender dock we have ever encountered. We picked up some provisions, jumped back in Otter and headed back to the boat. I truly think this is quicker than taking the courtesy car, lugging all your wares down the docks to the boat.

We left fairly early this morning trying to get a bit of a jump on the day. It will be 76 degrees and we thought it would be nice to enjoy a walkabout once we do get to the marina. Heading along the river we thought we hit a fairly large log. There was a thud and the boat shook. Scott did a check on the engines and pods and checked for hull leaks. Seeing no damage we continued making our way. Then another larger thud. By this point we were wondering where these deadheads were. Nothing came out after we crossed over the area. Usually you will see something as the deadhead gets moved around before just sinking enough that you can’t see it again. I opened the main rear doors and there was a percussive explosion that hurt our bodies and left our head’s ringing. We thought something on the boat exploded. Then I saw smoke. Smoke billowing above the trees not far from the river. We realized it was an explosion. A big explosion on land. At this point even though we knew where the sound had come from it scared us both. We just wanted out of there. Then another blast. Neither of us have ever heard exposions like this before. Another blast of mushroom smoke. At this point the boat had shaken again with an immense thrust. I am not exaggerating. The blasts were so intense. Scott got us the hell out of there. I looked up explosive operations in the area on google to find that the ATF/HME – IED testing courses were held here for military, police and fire. Something should be posted for this area but there is no indication that this could happen. I have posted it in Waterway Guide for future boaters.

Continuing south we also stop back in Decatur but at a marina. The Riverwalk Marina is an older marina but very keen on helping out. Gas only and the office is fairly far away from the transient dock. The only thing available here is the local restaurant unless you wish to cross the very busy and long bridge to the city. I would recommend the free dock just south of this marina because of its better options to the city. The winter pool brings the water level down to 10 feet on entry to the marina, 5 feet within the marina and 4 feet directly at the dock. We keep our touche out in the 5 feet as we draft just over 4 feet. We are low on fuel, which will get us where we need to go, and 1 empty water tank so we are closer to 4 feet draft about 5 inches less than with full tanks.

Our last day of the trip back to Florence was originally to be a stop at a State Park. Scott suggested to contact the Wilson Lock as it has strict hours due to the collapse of a floating barge dock. To our surprise the lock has a tow that went through and then there will be divers looking at some maintenance. After the clearance from the divers there is no traffic whatsoever. We seize the opportunity to get through right to Florence today and bypass the State Park. It will gain us the rest of today and tomorrow and we got the call that the batteries are in and ready for pick up.

We barely waited at the Wheeler and Wilson Lock and landed in Florence Harbor at around 2:30. Again with the laundry. Scott researches more, pays some bills. It feels great to be back after heading out 2 weeks ago. Tomorrow will be a work day with taking out 8 heavy batteries and installing 8 new ones. Walmart run is also in our near future.

Nickajack Free dock

Guntersville Marina

Decatur Marina

Florence Marina

Nov 122021

The temperature today was to be in the mid 60’s so we thought it would be a great day to do some touristy attractions. There is an incline railway that will take you up 1 mile to Lookout Mountain that overlooks Chattanooga and , if the weather is right, you can see 7 states. It is 5 miles away. We had decided to take the Riverfront Path by bike to the base of the incline railway.

The Lookout Mountain Incline Railway (Incline No. 2) was opened on November 16, 1895 by the Chattanooga Incline and Lula Lake Railway and functions as a major mode of transportation to the top of the mountain. It was the second of two inclines constructed on Lookout Mountain; the first was the Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain Railway (Incline No. 1), which operated from 1886 to 1895 and dismantled in 1900. Service was disrupted twice by fires that destroyed the powerhouse, upper station and cars stored there overnight (the first fire occurring on December 13, 1896 and the second on March 24, 1919). Both fires put the railway temporarily out of service, substitute service being provided by the Chattanooga Railway and Light Company’s Lookout Mountain route. It was made as the only way to access the area at the top of the mountain. The Incline travels just under 10 mph. Near the top there is a 72.7% grade, making The Incline one of the steepest passenger railways in the world. The Incline has two cars that ride on the same single mile-long track. When the cars come close together, the track splits into two as a “passing loop” for both cars to pass one another. This single track, passing loop system, is used in funicular railways across the world. The railway was sold in the 1940s to Southern Coach Lines and is now operated by Chattanooga Transportation the area’s public transit agency.

At the Top of the incline railway there are houses built from long ago. Only the wealthy lived at the top of the mountain while the workers lived at the bottom. Some of these homes have a history of more than a century. Along the ridge are new modern homes being built. Now vehicles can access the top of the mountain through a series of winding, twisting roads that do not offer much to the slight of heart. As you look down over the edges it is a sheer drop to oblivion.

At the far end of Lookout Point is where the “Battle above the Clouds” happened. Now a “Point Park” you can wander through and read about the battles that took place here and how the Union and Confederate soldiers won and lost their battles. Battle of Lookout Mountain, also called Battle Above The Clouds, in theAmerican Civil War one of the battles that ended the Confederate siege of Union troops at Chattanooga,TN.

It was lunchtime so we had heard that going to Rock City was a must. It was described to us as a hike through the forest but very touristy. Making our way over with an Uber we come to what we would call “overrated” hike. With nowhere to go and the day still young we pay the overpriced ticket and head out on “the Hike”. Paved paths, lights wrapped around trees, painted rocks, sculptures and music blasting through speakers awaits us. There were some beautiful views and photo opportunities that we did partake in. It took us about 1.5 hours slow walking through the paved sidewalks to complete the tour. Was it worth it? Not for us. We like nature having to entertain ourselves. However if you have kids or dogs, or do not like rough terrain on your hike, it would be a good afternoon.

Uber and Lyft was not easy to get up at Rock City. We had to pay a premium fare to order a cab. Just another reason to not go, unless you have a car. We do get back to the incline after an hour plus wait for the cab to catch one of the last trains down. The dusk will be upon us shortly so we grab our bikes and head back to the city again on the Riverfront Trail. The trail does not use roads but you do have to cross some. Mostly it is a 20 mile, wide cemented path that is easily used by walkers, bicycles and runner. Even a skateboard could be used as it is mainly flat.

Again we run back to pickleball for our last day. After a ride back from one of our new friends at pickleball we grab a quick lunch and cross over the river on the old railroad bridge that is now a pedestrian path. This bridge connects both sides of the city that is separated by the Tennessee River. The bridge has great views of the city, the river and the riverfront and worth the walk or bike ride.

Nov 112021

Upon arriving at The Bluffs Dock at Erwin Marina in Chattanooga, we are greeted by the welcoming staff. There is 1 other boat already docked. We hook up power and walk into the city to see some sights. It has warmed to 62 degrees so this late afternoon stroll will be enjoyable. The aquarium is located near the docks. It is the world’s largest fresh water aquarium which has won many awards for its displays. The aquarium also boosts a salt water tank and museum and an IMAX movie. We will not have time to enjoy this attraction but have heard it is amazing. At “The Bluffs” is a historical museum, many local shops, and a bakery that has the best whole grain bread we have ever had. After picking up some loaves we wander around finding artists sculptures, interesting pathways, cobblestone pathways and an outdoor climbing wall. The Bluffs area is a tour unto itself. Located just above the Bluff Dock within a short walking distance are paths that connect each other along the Riverfront. That evening it stays warm so we head over to the Mellow Mushroom for an artisan pizza on their patio. Inpromptu date nights are my favourite.

That night, while we were all snuggled in with power, our carbon monoxide sensor went off. We quickly grab some warm clothes and head outside. Scott heads down to the engine room. With no generator running and diesel as our fuel, Scott is wondering what is making it go off. Tools out, lights on in the boat, windows and ceiling panel open in the 40 degree night I check the inside of the boat. Scott is still in the engine room. He has shut down everything already. We notice a burning smell coming from the engine room. Scott checks the batteries. We have 8 house batteries plus a bunch more for the systems and engines. The batteries for the house are hot, too hot. We open and vent the engine and pod room and wait for them to cool before Scott disconnects and spends some time looking at them. For about an hour we vent the boat and put on our winter coats. The carbon monoxide sensor stops beeping and glows green again. Putting a fan into our master bedroom window we continue to vent our sleeping area. Scott disconnects the battery bank and disconnects the battery charger. We head back to bed. Note to anyone without a carbon monoxide sensor to get one.

First things first, check the situation from last night. Scott researches up on the battery chargers. We have 2. He looks at the factory wiring and is not impressed with the issue. Apparently they have been wired in a way that has created an overcharging to our batteries which in turn has made the battery life quite a bit shorter. He rewires the 1 battery charger to take the load of the remaining 3 banks, (6 batteries), and keeps the 1 remaining bank disconnected. Now we wait to see how these charge. After a couple hours Scott is comfortable with how they are charging. That being said we must now buy 8 new batteries. Timing is everything, they say, right? This past summer we bought a complete electrical monitoring system that Scott was going to install. With the busy summer that we had in 2021, he decided he would tackle the entire install in Florida where he would find parts and pieces readily available and buy the supplies he wanted rather than just buying what we could get. Now with us needing new batteries this old system is not set up for the lithium ions he wanted by buy. So now we have to buy batteries we don’t really want to have to fit into the old and the eventual new Victron system Scott will install. More research to follow for this Captain.

Since he is comfortable with the charging and battery system we find a group that plays pickleball. We grab an Uber and head over to East Ridge High School. Little did we know that we would find some amazing new friends in such a short amount of time. Too many to mention here but these folks are welcoming, kind and the hospitality shown by the Chattanooga Pickleball group will stay with us as a very fond memory. Thank you for making us part of your family.

Nov 102021

Approaching the Cumberland Mountains there is a definitive mountain range. The limestone bluffs with their natually painted beauty tower over us. Pictures do not do the beauty of this area justice. The colours are still in their autumn prime with a dab of green summer foliage peeking through. Homes and civilization can be seen along the river’s edge.

We will let these stunning photos speak for themselves.

Nov 092021

Leaving Decatur we continue the journey to Chattanooga, TN. Along this journey the Tennessee River has more turns and hairpin zigzags we have nicknamed this the “drunk river”. The river runs the path between the Cumberland Mountain Range and the Smoky Mountains further to the east. We have planned this trip to coincide with the colour changing trees on the high ridges of the Cumberland Mountains. We planned it perfectly. The colours of the mountains present their oranges, yellows and reds in full glory. There has been no wind to speak of so most of the leaves are hanging on waiting for the last breath of autumn.

The daily temperatures are hovering around 55 degrees (10C) for the most part. We have spells of high temps but they are short lived. We’ve doubled up the night blankets so we don’t run the generator all night as those temps fall into the 40’s or about 6C. Being at anchor for 3 nights, enjoying the solitude of nature, looking at the stars and the moon with no light pollution to distract the vastness of the sky, makes us take in all that an anchorage brings. We are able to see Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto on these nights. The moon is a crescent so little light penetrates through the sky making it easier to see the planets. We wake to bald eagles calling, while night presents crickets and ducks getting their last meal for the night. The fishers are out trying to catch bass until nightfall. Then it is just us and nature. This is what we love the most about boating. You can be a few miles from a large city yet be the only ones around just descending into the abyss of nightfall.

The current has been stronger than we anticipated. This part of the Tenn River is fairly narrow creating a current of up to 2.5 knts. We will be going against the current all the way to our destination. It does fluctuate to less than 1 knt however that is not the norm. At least the water level is at a normal level. We have seen accurate readings witht he chart and depth gauge. That is a comfort for a change. Cottages and homes are close to the water’s edge which is another indicator of not much flood occurances. There must not be much flooding along here so they don’t have to lower to winter levels. Winter here is a sprinkling of snow. When it snows it shuts down the city. It lasts for maybe 24 hours and it is gone. There is no salters, sanders, or plows so driving in snow or ice is not advisable for the locals.

We will pass through 2 more locks. Guntersville Lock and Dam and Nickajack Lock and Dam.

Guntersville Lock and Dam

The Guntersville Lock was constructed near the site of the Cherokee village of Tali.  In 1785, John Gunter, a Welshman, moved here from North Carolina to trade with the natives.  He took a Cherokee wife and collected a large fortune.
Gunter began operating a ferry across the Tennessee River in 1820, leading the area to be known as Gunter’s Landing.  Andrew Jackson once camped at Gunter’s Landing while fighting the Creek Indians.  He persuaded Dick Brown and Edward Gunter to recruit a group of Cherokee to aid him.  The resulting action served as the prelude to the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, where Jackson handed a final defeat to the Creek Nation.  Later, Jackson also built a wagon road to the area so he could transport supplies to Southern battles.  This later became known as the Jackson Trail and was the main travel artery to the southern region for more than a century.
In 1835, just a year before his death, John Gunter built the area’s first painted house.
Gunter’s Landing’s first educational facility was a Presbyterian mission school.  It was located on the old Creek Path used by the tribe to reach their hunting grounds.  Dick and Catherine Brown, half Cherokee, served as teachers at the school, and Dick even served as an interpreter for Sequoia, the developer of the Cherokee alphabet.
Louis Wyeth came to Guntersville, Alabama from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1837.  He made Guntersville the county seat and in 1847 had the town incorporated by the state legislature.  It’s location on the river made Guntersville a focal point during the Civil War.  Federal shelling partially burned the town, and troops on both sides passed through the city.
When the war was over, Guntersville was rebuilt, and it began growing.  The railroad came to the town in 1892.  The availability of both water and rail transport ensured commercial development could thrive.

Nickajack Lock and Dam

The name Nickajack is generally thought to come from a free African American man who was taken prisoner by a band of renegade Indians.  The band was a mix of Cherokee and Creek warriors, white fugitives, and some African Americans.  The band collectively took the name Chickamauga.  They settled in an area called the Five Lower Towns below present-day Chattanooga.
One African American named Jack Civil became a leader of the band, and one of the towns was given the name Nick-a-Jack.  Like other Chickamauga towns, Nick-a-Jack was located along a narrow and perilous stretch of the Tennessee River.  The river contained hazardous places with names like the Suck and the Whirl.  The towns were also protected by Lookout and Sand mountains.
Their strategic location allowed the Chickamauga band to pillage and murder parties of frontiersmen and settlers as they headed west.  A secret cave called Tecallassee (now called Nickajack Cave) was both a hiding place and a storage area for the band.
The natural hazards as well as the fierce Chickamauga prevented migration through the basin until 1794.  General James Robertson of Nashville sent an expedition that year to destroy the Five Lower Towns.  Ironically, the guide to Tecallassee was a young man named Joseph Brown.  Brown had been orphaned by the Chickamauga and reared in the tribe until he was ransomed.
Tecallassee also played a role in the Civil War.  More than 100 men mined saltpeter there as a source of the nitrate needed for gunpowder.

Nov 072021

As promised we are up with no sun and see the steam from the river drifting into the harbour lights. There is a slight fog starting. Scott starts up those engines, tests the spotlight and we are off into the abyss of the canal. With 4 miles to travel through the canal to the lock we keep an eye out for any tows and barges. Scott checks the AIS, (a GPS maritime system), us boaters use. Our AIS sends out our positions as well as receives the position of any other boat that has AIS on. The Tows do have the system and there are none in sight on this dark journey. The 4 miles takes us about a half hour as we carefully make our way toward the huge lock doors. We wait at Wilson Lock for another 20 minutes before heading into the deep cavernous lock.

The Wilson Lock’s original project was completed by the Corps  in 1927.  In 1959, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) completed the main single-lift lock, along with several related improvements, to replace the old and inadequate double-lift lockage system.  It began operating Nov. 10. 1959.  The modified auxiliary lock was reopened on Feb. 9, 1961.

The Wilson Dam was the largest hydroelectric installation in the world when construction began in 1918

Named for President Woodrow Wilson, located on the Tennessee River at Muscle Shoals, Al., was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide hydroelectric power for nearby nitrate plants, as well as to improve navigation for river traffic on the Tennessee River.

When construction began on the dam in 1918, it was the largest of its kind.  At its completion in 1926, the Wilson Dam was the largest hydroelectric installation in the world.  A test site for draft tube design, three different designs were incorporated in the first three turbines.

The dam is 137 feet high, 4,862 feet long and 105 feet thick at the base. The cost of the project was $119,000,000.

In addition to providing 630 megawatts of electricity, the Wilson Dam also serves as the basis for the Tennessee Valley flood control system.  The lock allows commercial and recreational traffic to flow up and down the river, while the 16-mile, 15,500-acre lake formed in the rear of the dam provides beauty and tourism to the area.

The design and engineering of the structures established two world records, one for the length of the dam and one for lock lift height.  The knowledge gained from ongoing studies of the ecology and environment surrounding the Wilson Dam may help to solve problems associated with most single large dams around the world.

Originally constructed with eight hydro generators, the Wilson Dam has been expanded to include 10 additional generators capable of generating 630 million watts of power per hour at full load, which is equal to or greater than many fossil power units built in the state or in the Tennessee Valley Authority system.  A new single-lift lock has replaced the original locks, increasing barge traffic and providing community and visitor access to recreational facilities up and down the river.

Even with these great engineering feats the problem with this lock is not the lock itself. From what we have heard is that there was a large floating dock wall, similar to the one in the pics of our journey from Costello Lock a few posts ago. The entire structure sank. The tows and barges would use this wall to tie up while waiting for the lock. Without that area there is no area for them to prepare to enter the lock. Along with this occurence happening just a couple weeks ago. the original chamber of flight locks has been shut down and under maintenance for the next 3 months. Traffic is now a problem and the lockmasters must schedule to keep the commerce moving

…and this is not the only lock. There is another about 10 miles down. Before we get there Wilson Lake presents some scenes of its own. The water seems clearer. The lake is still the Tennessee River but flooded with the dams many years ago so these open areas are said to be lakes within the river. On the charts there are again areas that were once structure but long since seen and likely decayed. Hills and valleys and the sun make for a great cruise to the lock

This is the Joe Wheeler Lock. Construction of the Wheeler Auxiliary Lock was started in 1933.  Although work continued on it until 1937, the lock was put into operation in 1934.  The main lock was begun in 1960.  It began operating May 8, 1963.  

The Wheeler Locks are named for a Confederate cavalry general named Joseph Wheeler.  One of his more famous encounters was a raid on the Federal forces as they moved from Nashville on Dec. 26,1862 on their way to attack the Confederate forces under General Bragg at Murfreesboro.  Wheeler skirted the Federal Union, destroying most of four wagon trains carrying Union supplies for the coming siege. 
Later, General Wheeler headed U.S. volunteers in the Spanish-American War.  He was eventually elected to Congress as well.  In 1898, he introduced a long series of bills proposing the Muscle Shoals be developed for navigation.  These bills eventually led to the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

It was an easy pass through with the lock waiting for us. It’s only 8:30 in the morning. We have decided to stay at a free dock at the City of Decatur, AL. It’s a long dock with approx 600 feet for cruisers. At this low winter stage water we notice that the charts are off at least 3 feet. The dock entrance shows 7 feet total depth. We’re good with a 4.3 ft draft. As we pass through the entrance it quickly elevates to 9 feet alongside the dock. There is 100 amp power but that is it. No water. Restrooms are a short walk at the adjacent park area. It’s fairly early so we head into the city. Walking we find a “Trails of Tears” that starts just after the community centre. It weaves throughout the city with historical plaques telling you the story of Decatur. For those interested read the next paragraph. We are able to view some of the old buildings, the downtown is very similar to the original in the late 1800’s.

Decatur, is on the Tennessee River. Sometimes known as “The River City,” Decatur has a rich and colorful history. A ferry crossing over the Tennessee River was established by Dr. Henry Rhodes around 1818. The community that developed around the ferry was known as Rhodes Ferry until 1823, when it was renamed Decatur for the U.S. naval officer Stephen Decatur. The City of Decatur was incorporated a few years later in 1826, by the Alabama Legislature. Its fertile river valley soil and relatively easy river access to other cities drew many settlers to the community at that time. In 1833, the State Bank of Alabama opened in Decatur, its building being an impressive edifice in pre-Greek Revival style. Decatur was a much disputed objective during the Civil War, with the result that the Old State Bank was one of only three or four buildings still standing. The Decatur Land and Development Company promoted a new city called New Decatur to the southeast of Decatur around 1886. The new city, named “Albany” was incorporated in 1887. In 1927, Albany merged with Decatur to become a single city. During the early 1900s, many new homes were built and civic improvements were made as the city focused on providing a better quality of life for its citizens. A livery stable was renovated to become the Princess Theater in 1919. Decatur is located on the banks of Wheeler Lake, which was created by the TVA when the agency dammed the Tennessee River with the dams.

Nov 062021

Leaving from the anchorage as the water steams and the sun comes up making the trees glow was a sight this morning. It was a cold night but we were toasty. Today we will make the left turn and follow the Tennessee River heading east instead of the usual confluence of the Tennessee and Tombigbee Rivers heading south. The bluffs along this area are beautiful, homes sitting atop high hill tops. We end up cruising with a couple other boats that came out of other anchorages. There are lots of osprey nests and a pack of white pelicans. It is the most we have seen together. We also were able to sneak a peak of a bald eagle grab a fish from just off the starboard side of the boat. He moved so fast we didn’t have the chance to catch a picture. It’s these moments that take your breath away.

The river narrows along the route to Florence, AL making for a bit more current against us. It is around 1 knt or so. The river weaves its way through the limestone and sand and remains around 35 feet deep on average. Nestled within Northwest Alabama on the banks of the Tennessee River, Florence is one of four cities that are collectively known as the Shoals, which technically is a shallow area of the river where once-plentiful mussels lured people for an easy harvest.

In this small corner of the South, the Shoals refer to the towns of Florence, Muscle Shoals, Tuscumbia, and Sheffield, which blend into each other nearly as seamlessly as the Tennessee River’s lazy current. Helen Keller was born here, and somewhere under Main Street, outlaw Mountain Tom Clark’s body is buried. Clark terrorized local citizens after the Civil War and confessed to at least 19 murders. He was hanged in 1872. If outlaw lore intrigues you, the legend of outlaw Tom Clark met his end in Florence after supposedly bragging that “no one could ever run over Tom Clark. After the townspeople  lynched the murderous outlaw, The Mayor ordered the bodies buried “in one of the old fields near our town.” A local myth says that one of the men burying the outlaw remembered that boastful statement and got the idea to bury Clark underneath East Tennessee Street so everyone would “run over” Tom Clark. The University of North Alabama in Florence boasts of the only city-dwelling lions, Leo III and Una. Frank Lloyd Wright built one of his most gorgeous creations here called the Rosembaum House a mid century Usonian prototype of which the Rosenbaum House is one of the purest examples. The Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum house was built in 1939 for the two newlyweds as one of only 26 Usonian houses in the United States. 

Heading out on a bike ride to see The American Queen Paddlewheel Cruise, as it was in town and its passengers returning after exploring Florence, she is quite a sight at 420 feet long. She is the largest steamboat ever built. The American Queen is gracious and elegant in her American ingenuity. Although filled with todays modern amenities, her rooms and accommodations display all the American Victorian era. Lacy filigree evokes memories of the many stately river steamers that preceded her and so inspired her designers.

We will be here a couple days as Scott does the 500 hour checks and maintenance on the engines. The marina has both fuels, laundry, showers and a restaurant called River Bottom. It’s a busy place and although we will not partake many of the folks we have chatted with love the food. Then there is Florence. We named the local Blue Heron Florence. She doesn’t mind people as long as you don’t interrupt her solitude. We have never been this close to a heron before as they are rather shy birds but Florence owns the dock. Scott greased up the pods as they were due. I went into town with the courtesy car to Walmart Grocery. After all the chores were done we were able to discover the area. We run out to play pickleball at Veteren’s Park. There are historic aircraft there and the sun through the trees and fog shows morning just waking up. After a few drills we head back for lunch then off on our bikes to the Wilson Lock and Dam to see what we are in for. We have been told that due to a problem at the lock that recreational craft heading upbound must be at the lock by 6:00 AM. That means that tonight, daylight savings time change, we not only lose an hour sleep but we must be up by 5:00 to get to the lock, in the dark. That’s new for us. We head out on the hilly terrain that tests our riding uphill skills. Although the hills are quite large we do okay for a couple old farts. We find the mile long bridge that overlooks the dam. We can now see what the channel offers us in the morning.