The radar is working well though and combined with the mapping GPS navigation is not a problem. I do encounter two commercial tows but give them wide berth and pass without difficulty. Still in the back of my mind is the floating junk in the water. Hadn’t hit anything yet but sure felt I was again pushing my luck - AGAIN.
I made the bridge with no evil logs taking a whack at the hull and idled into Standing Rock Creek looking for a little shelter from the activity of the main channel. I pulled deep into a narrow cut (the lights did help here) and dropped the hook. I tried to take in the stars for a little while but the mosquitoes drive me into the berth. Oh well, I fire up the portable 10” DVD player my wife gave me for Christmas and settled in for a movie. It was really bad – turned it off and went to sleep.
Next morning I pulled off the disappointing lights and stowed them in the berth. With the anchor up and secured I come up on plane while looking at the GPS for the calculated ETA to reach Pickwick Lock at MM 206. It tells me it will take about 6 hours and 5 minutes.
In my opinion, this is a typical situation where pre-programming detailed routes in the GPS is well worth the time. If rivers ran in straight lines this wouldn’t be necessary but this is seldom the case. More often they twist, turn and make 180-degree bends. Just dropping a waypoint at the destination is meaningless. It may be 50 miles as the crow flies but will take 80 river miles (or more!) to get there.
My normal procedure is to break up the trip into segments or individual “routes”. For me this is usually from lock to lock. In my mind this makes sense because you never know how long a lockage will take so an ETA past a lock is futile. I place waypoints at most river bends forcing the route to stay fairly true to the rivers course. This way I can just check the GPS at any point along the way and it will accurately tell me the remaining miles to the destination as well as the estimated time of arrival. I also can ignore the effect of current as the unit compensates automatically based on my actual forward progress. Works very well for me.
Once past the 115 MM the artificial lake disappears and the true Tennessee River emerges. Winding through tree-lined shores it seems to alternate between solitary forest and developed human habitat. Some are obviously weekend retreats while other are year around homes. Most all are well kept and I am impressed with how much new construction there has been along the river in the past year of so.
At the 162 MM a sign causes me to jerk back on the throttle. A new marina is advertising their gas prices and it is 8 cents less than I had paid at the convenience store in Paducah, KY! Last year I had passed here and saw a sign “Marina Coming Soon” but now Riverstone Marina is open for business and obviously trying to entice customers with a price 50 cents per gallon less than I had seen elsewhere on the water. It is a very
nice facility and the manager was extremely friendly. They had just opened the week before and I inquired if they had yet contacted Quimby’s Cruising Guide to have their listing added. She wasn’t familiar with it so I drug my copy out and she took the info needed to make contact with them. Pleasant place and I highly recommend it.
The time passes quickly and as I near Pickwick Lock I decide to delay my call to the lockmaster while I do a little investigating. A reader of my river rantings had inquired as if I had ever been to Bill Bellis Botel just downstream of the lock. He described it as an old barge converted to a motel and the chart confirmed its location. Although I had been past this point numerous times I just didn’t remember it. I decided to take a few minutes and see what I could find. At first I couldn’t figure out where it was. Just wasn’t anything there along the shore. Then I looked farther inland and realized that it wasn’t along the shore but 100 yards or so from the water. Shrubs and trees almost completely hid the barge structure it was sitting on.
As I was taking in the lay of the land I noticed three pleasure craft coming downstream. !8&*!$! The lock was just around the corner and out of sight and I knew what it meant – they had just locked them through and would be closing the gates. I dropped the throttle and reached for the radio at the same time. It took a couple of calls but the lockmaster came back with the bad news. She was very apologetic and said she was already filling the chamber so I would have to wait. But it was worse than just that! There was a commercial tow on the other side waiting and it would be a double – she advised there would be a 3 1/2 to 4 hour delay. She apologized again and said, “If you only had called 3 minutes earlier.”
And so goes travel on the river. Sometimes minutes can equal hours. You have to understand and accept the fact that the river knows no schedule. Your progress is completely at its discretion.
Early in my river travels this would upset me – “If only I had pressed a little harder I would have made the lockage,” I would scold. Now I have come to not only accept the layovers but enjoy them. I suffer from a character flaw (many actually!) that seems to inhibit relaxation. Some have called me a workaholic but I don’t see it that way. I just have a problem slowing down. There is always something that needs to be done and I have a hard time leaving it for tomorrow – I need to get it done today – right now. I’m not complaining it is just the way I am.
And I think that is why I look so forward to my river trips. Everything is at a slower pace and there is nothing I can do but accept it. When I am held up at a lock I am forced to just kick back and wait. I read. I nap. I watch the fisherman and other boats. I daydream. Fours hours of doing nothing. This would NEVER NEVER happen home. But the river forces me to unwind and seems the only respite from my driven lifestyle.
It takes a full four hours for the double and another half-hour for me to lock through. But I am again on my way towards the “big” lock – Wilson Lock at the 259 MM. In a little more than 2 hours I am setting at the bottom of the huge miter gates. With no commercial traffic on either side my only delay is for the lockmaster to empty the chamber. At about 92’ deep it takes about 20 minutes to dump it.
The lockage is uneventful and I am now on the way to Wheeler Lock that is 16 miles away. The wind has been next to nonexistent all day and the run across the lake is smooth and enjoyable. I approach Wheeler as the sun is nearing the horizon. There is a commercial tow finishing up a double and I have to wait about 45 minutes.
By the time I exit the lock it is dark but the radar and GPS help show the way. Wheeler State Park is about two miles away. There is a nice marina but on the top of my list is the Lodge that offers a decent restaurant - a nice break from the flat meat sandwiches out of my cooler. I cruise in and make my way towards the dinning room. There is a festive mood in the air as a wedding reception is being held under a large tent on the lawn. As I approach the restaurant entrance I notice the cashier is counting the days take. I look at the sign and it reflects closing time is 9:00pm. I look at my watch it is 9:10……… Oh well, another miss opportunity. Sandwich on board is on the menu tonight.
I decide to just hang on the dock and “enjoy” my meal. Even though it is fairly late the area is alive with activity. The reception is in full swing with music and dancing, lodge guest are on the dock fishing and boaters are milling around their crafts secure in their slips. It is all very pleasant but nowhere I want to spend the night. Give me the solitude of an isolated anchorage. After I finish my meal I push away from the dock and seek a more sedate location.
The Sunday morning seemed to come too soon so I slept in a little late. Even so, I decided to return to the lodge for the breakfast buffet. This time I successfully experienced a hot meal and board Therapy feeling vindicated for last nights eror in timing.