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