the ride from Chattanooga to Nickajack Lock was a feast for the senses.
The sun was setting as I approached the lock and I decided to idle into
the Shellmound Recreation area beside it and anchor out for the night.
It was a wonderfully quiet area with plenty of spots to hang out the line.
The next morning I again departed early and was able to again lock through without any wait. Things progressed amazing well with only one minor problem. Somewhere on the other side of Guntersville lock I ran into an overcast sky and a small rain shower. No big deal but about the same time I ran one of my tanks dry and needed to switch to the other and reset my fuel flow meter. I have been struggling with it trying to get it to read as accurately as I feel it should. So far it will read about a gallon off on a 15 gallon usage.
I was messing with the gauge and the looking at the manual. Finally had it set and fired up the engine. I had run about 3 miles when I came upon a channel marker - it was on the wrong side! What?…. Now usually when running rivers, especially narrows rivers, it is kind of hard to get lost. You know, you come from one way and you go the other. Not real tough. Plus I have a mapping GPS sitting right in front of me.
But somehow it appears I was lost. Yea, I would say going exactly the wrong way qualifies as lost. I guess while concentrating on the manual and gauge the wind had turned me around and I failed to notice it. Fortunately my wife wasn’t along. She is not a vindictive woman but this would have been just too good to pass up. I would never have heard the end of it.
About six o’clock I find myself looking at Pickwick Lock and Dam. I decide it is time to fill my personal tank and swing into Pickwick Landing State Park where I tie up at a courtesy dock and walk up to the lodge for dinner. This is a highly recommended boating activity as the buffet was superb – don’t miss the catfish!
I again waddled back to the boat. I decided that there was still probably enough daylight left to make the lock if there was no wait. A call on the radio netted me an affirmative answer and the lockmaster said she would have the gates open waiting for me. I locked through as darkness fell and found an out of the way spot to anchor on the lower side of the dam.
Looking back it was a very good day on the Tennessee River. I had covered 220 miles, cleared five locks without any wait and had a great meal. In river travel it just doesn’t get much better. But sometimes it seems that every silver lining has a cloud and my final day would prove the most trying of the trip.
I again departed early and enjoyed a smooth run for about the next 95 miles. But here the river once again becomes a lake. From the beginning I had some reservations about this final 75 mile run up Kentucky Lake. This is a big lake and with even a little wind it can get rough. The Cabin Skiff does a lot of things well but rough water is not one of it strong points. The 11 degrees of deadrise at the transom is still fairly flat and it tends to pound if it gets too choppy.
My thought was that this time of the year the odds were that if there was any wind it would be out of the south. Since I was north bound I would be traveling with the wind and the problem would be greatly reduced. Well that’s what I had hoped for anyway.
No such luck! As I hit the bottom of the lake I faced a 12 MPH wind and 2 ft waves right off the bow. I slowed down to about 16 MPH and added full trim tabs to force the bow down and try to smooth out the ride. It was still a rough ride. I plowed along for about 30 miles as conditions got worse. I had slowed to about 13 MPH but the wind was now at a solid 15 MPH and the waves about 3 feet. The CS is a solid craft but I began to worry about beating it to pieces. I tried dropping down to about 5 MPH but even that I still slapped hard over the top of each swell. I had enough! Time to seek shelter and wait it out.
I tucked in cove, shut off the engine and propped up my feet. I napped off and on as I watched the white caps in the main channel. Finally after about a 2 and a half hour break things seemed to calm down a little and I ventured back out. The waves were still at about too feet but manageable if I kept it slow. The final 60 miles weren’t a lot of fun but I managed to bring it back to the dock no worse for wear.
I eased it on to the trailer and shut off the engine finishing a trip I have anticipated for two years. I sat in the parking lot adding the trip to my log and was surprised when I the total came to exactly 3000 miles since my maiden voyage on July 22 of last year. Not to bad for less than 10 months.
With this trip I was on the water for five days and passed through 10 locks. I covered a total of 883 miles and burned 96 gallon of gas. The Cabin Skiff performed flawlessly and has met all my expectations as a long-range river cruiser. It kept me dry and provided a comfortable place to sleep. It cruised the majority of the time at 26 MPH and yielded and average of 9+ miles per gallon (the last 11 gallon burned at 7 MPG because of the full trim tabs). And the Honda 50 never missed a beat. Reasonably fast, comfortable and economical – that’s what I wanted and it has delivered.
You would think after 5 days on an 18’ boat I would have had enough.
But as I towed it home I passed by Rend Lake. The water was smooth and
inviting. I was actually heading home a day ahead of schedule and
I honestly thought about dropping it in for a little run around the lake.
But no, I guess almost 900 miles is good enough for this week. And
there’s always next week to think about.