Solo to Nashville, TN

Page 4

Fortunately, I was able to stay on schedule and piloted my nasty looking boat to the city dock right at sunset. My evening visiting Nashville was pleasant if not short as I again would need to have an early morning.  I cast off a little before daylight and made the lock with no problem. From there I went back to Clarksville, TN for another meal and then spent the night. 

The return trip down Barkley Lake was uneventful – other than morning fog - and I arrived at State Park Lodge in time for another evening meal. (Have you noticed this “boating – restaurant”, “boating – restaurant” theme is very reoccurring in my cruising?)  It is noteworthy because of the current I made the run almost two hours faster than the same upstream leg two days before.  Although I had the time before eating, I decided not to load the boat on the trailer but spend another night on the hook.  I find sleeping on the water much more relaxing than the trailer on the parking lot. But that too proved to be ill advised.  I knew they were predicting strong winds the next day but ASSUMED it really wouldn’t kick in until later in the day - wrong! I allowed myself to sleep late and when I woke (I was in the same protected cove by the lodge) it was blowing 20 mph gusting to 30 at the unprotected ramp. Obviously, loading was going to be fun. 

Made my way to the dock and got the trailer backed in with no problem.  But pushing away from the dock was a trick since the wind was pinning me hard up against it.  But now I had to approach the trailer with the stiff breeze about 45 degrees of the bow.  Could have been worse but still this ain't good. AND did I mention once again someone fired a flare and it had attracted two guys in a bass boat.  And naturally they decided just to sit, wait and watch the show.  So great – I again have an audience and this has the potential to be much more embarrassing than the unloading! 

Over the past couple years I have occasionally loaded with some decent crosswind but nothing like this. Initially my attempts were to come at the trailer lined up straight only off to the windward side.  The idea was to have the wind move the boat sideways as I controlled the forward speed.  I have found this is normally a recipe for failure. Even IF it got the timing right (rarely) by the time the bow passed through the rear upright trailer guides it was blown off center of the trailer before it caught in the forward bunks.  The gut reaction was to crank the steering to the opposite side trying to align things only to overload the rear downwind guidepost usually bending it.  The combination of a lot of side area and a shallow draft allows a huge amount of sideways force to be generated by the wind, plus add in the push of the outboard trying to correct and something has to give. Another mistake I would commonly make with this procedure is to approach too fast to try to reduce the time the bow has to swing off center.  This often ended up with the boating hitting the trailer hard and bouncing it and the truck around. Again, not a good idea. 

I have learned the best approach is similar to what I had done in the lock. Come at the trailer at an angle with the bow into the wind while making a shallow arc. This allows me to approach at a slower speed (wind resistance) but with better control.  As I near the trailer I allow the bow to turn toward the center but still pass between the guidepost at a somewhat upwind angle. The wind then begins to blow the bow towards the trailer centerline and by controlling the forward speed I can time things so the bow aligns with the center just as it contacts the bunks.  It is still somewhat of a balancing act but far better than the straight on approach. The speeds are slower which allows more time to make corrections. Once the turn rate is set I rarely have to make anything but small directional adjustments with the wheel.  And if an error is made it is best to under correct and find the bow to far upwind as I can always slow and allow the wind to bring it on around – not the O/B.  Since using this method I have not bent the rear guidepost – but then again today might be a different story. Enough stalling - things weren’t going to get any better and my fan club was waiting so with somewhat sweaty palms I started my assault on the trailer.  

Well a couple things happened.  #1 - I like to think that experience kicked in. But #2 - I probably got incredibly lucky.  I hit the trailer dead on and loaded it like it was a totally calm day.  I have to admit I was more than a little pleased with myself and couldn’t help but look over at the two guys and smile.  With no acknowledgement they simply got in their bass boat and left.  Made my day……………………


The Numbers (as per GPS)

Total trip - 269 miles

Total time in route - 40 hrs 19 min

Maximum speed - 9.01 (passing a barge)

Average speed - 6.53 mph

Fuel burned 40.8 gallon 

Average mpg - 6.59 or 1 gallon per hour