Welcome to the blog of Fred and Julaine as we chronicle our adventures traveling the "Great Loop" on Boreas, our Carver 405.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Day 85 – Ditto Landing to Goose Pond Colony, Guntersville Lake - September 29, 2011

Everyone says that the further up the Tennessee River you go, the more beautiful the scenery.  We are finding that to be very true.  We are beginning to see more hills and higher rock cliffs and bluffs.

We had just one lock to go through today, but it was by far our longest wait from the time we first called the lockmaster to when we actually cleared the lock.  We waited just over two hours for a tow with barges to lock through before us, then another 45 minutes or so before we exited the lock into Guntersville Lake.  So, although we didn’t travel that many miles today, it still felt like a very long day.

            Miles: 47.4      Bridges: 1        Locks: 1
the view gets more beautiful the further we go up the Tennessee River

Painted Bluff - the abrupt end of Merrill Mountain

Painted Bluff
Guntersville Lock and Dam

The cave you can see at the waterline that is protected by a wire fence
is a sanctuary for the federally endangered gray bat.  The number
of gray bats living in the cave fluctuates annually but ranges
from 20,000 to 45,000 between April and September.

Day 84 – at Ditto Landing, Huntsville, AL - September 28, 2011

We rented a car today and with John and Rita from Brandy IV took in a few sights in Huntsville.  First we went to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center where we learned about Huntsville’s remarkable leadership in space exploration.  We toured the Davidson Center for Space Exploration which contains a Saturn V rocket, restored to its Apollo era readiness and we watched an IMAX movie about the Hubble Space Telescope.  This is an amazing movie with all the footage shot by NASA astronauts – a truly outstanding movie.  We also toured the outdoor displays in Rocket Park and the full size model of the Space Shuttle.  We then went to the Huntsville Botanical Garden.  Although it is the beginning of fall and the summer flowers are mostly gone, it is still a beautiful garden.  Finally we took a tour through downtown Huntsville and stopped at Harrison Brothers Hardware, virtually unchanged since its opening in 1879.  They now sell nostalgic hardware, gifts and local crafts using the original cash register to make change. 
            Miles: 0           Bridges: 0        Locks: 0

an American Bitten hangs out on the docks at Ditto Landing

at the entrance of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center

the Space Shuttle model
Huntsville Botanical Garden

Huntsville Botanical Garden

a butterfly enjoying the flowers in the Huntsville Botanical Garden
Rita and Julaine relaxing in the adirondack chairs at the Botanical Garden

in the Butterfly House at the Botanical Garden

a Box Turtle in the Butterfly House at the Botanical Garden

Day 83 – Joe Wheeler State Park to Ditto Landing, Huntsville, AL - September 27, 2011

Today we traveled most of the length of Lake Wheeler (also called the Joe Wheeler Reservoir) – the portion of the Tennessee River between Joe Wheeler Lock and Dam and the Guntersville Lock and Dam.

Some stretches of the river today were quite industrial, but we had a beautiful stretch through the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge where the water is deep from bank to bank and there are no buoys, towns or industry.  As we begin to approach Huntsville, we begin to see the southern end of the Cumberland Plateau that begins in eastern Kentucky and extends southwest through eastern Tennessee into northern Alabana.

            Miles: 60.7      Bridges: 4        Locks: 0

beginning to see hills in the distance

a neat arch in the rock wall (you can see the sun shining through)

beautiful rock bluffs

Days 81 & 82 – Florence Harbor Marina to Joe Wheeler State Park - September 25-26, 2011

We had a short travel day today, but we locked through the largest lock (from a vertical lift perspective) we will go through this entire trip.  Just two miles after leaving Florence Harbor Marina we arrived at the Wilson Lock and Dam.  The lock chamber itself is quite large – 600’ long by 110’ wide.  The largest lock part however comes from the fact that it lifts (or lowers) boats 93’ from Pickwick Lake to Wilson Lake.  After a quick trip across Wilson Lake, we arrive at Joe Wheeler Lock and Dam.  Joe Wheeler’s lock chamber is the same size as Wilson’s, but the lift on Joe Wheeler is only 48’.  We got through both of these locks very easily with virtually no waiting.  A few miles after the Wheeler Lock, we arrive at Joe Wheeler State Park.  This is the location of our AGLCA Rendezvous in late October.  Between now and then, we plan to travel as much of the Tennessee River as we can.

We spent a second relaxing day at Joe Wheeler State Park and caught up on some reading, some boating cleaning and some laundry.
            Miles: 20.8      Bridges: 4        Locks: 2

Wilson Lock - raising us 93' from Pickwick Lake to Wilson Lake
turbulent water inside Wilson Lock
a Great Blue Heron watches us lock through Wilson Lock

pleasure boats exiting Joe Wheeler Lock, just before we head in
to be locked up to Wheel Lake
Wheeler Lock filled with water - gates are about to open so we can exit

beautiful rock formations in Wheeler Lake

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Days 79 & 80 – Panther Creek to Florence Harbor Marina in Florence, Alabama - September 23-24, 2011

We left our anchorage under mostly cloudy skies and cool temperatures.  Fred was in jeans and his fleece lined jacket, I was toughing it out in shorts and a fleece top (by the time we arrived in Florence it was definitely shorts weather, so don’t feel too bad for us).  The river has been narrowing as we get closer to Florence and the next lock and dam.  The Tennessee River is a series of dams, so when you are going upstream, the river is quite narrow before you lock through and quite wide after you’ve cleared the lock.  You also get varying current depending on how close you are to a dam and how much water they are letting through.

For a long time, people have been trying to control the Tennessee River so that it can be used to transport people and goods.  We passed what is left of the old Riverton lock today which was part of a canal and lock system built more than 100 years ago.  The canal associated with the Riverton Lock extended over five miles upstream from the lock, bypassing rapids and shoals in the river.

We stayed two nights at the Florence Harbor Marina, so we had time to do a bit of exploring in Florence.  We walked to the Rosenbaum House, a Frank Lloyd Wright home built for Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum in 1939.  This home is an example of Wright’s Usonian design. A few years later, the Rosenbaum family included four boys, and they asked Wright to design an addition to the house which was completed in 1949.  The city of Florence purchased the home from the family in 1999 and had it restored and it is now a museum.  We very much enjoyed our tour.  Alden B. Dow, son of the founder of the Dow Chemical Company was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright and designed and built many homes in the Midland area.  In looking at the Rosenbaum House and comparing it to some of the Dow designed homes we have seen, the student/teacher relationship is very obvious.

             Miles: 39.8      Bridges: 1        Locks: 0
what is left of the old Riverton Lock

the shoreline continues to be beautiful

the Natches Trace Parkway bridge

just before turning into the Florence Harbor Marina, you can look up
the river and under the O'Neal Bridge and the railroad bridge and
see the Wilson Dam

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day 77 & 78 – Clifton Marina to Panther Creek, Alabama - September 21-22, 2011

We delayed our departure this morning by about 40 minutes to let some fog burn off.  Fog is one of the things during the fall season that can delay your departure (or cancel it altogether).  The water is still relatively warm and the cool night air can make some very heavy fog – it is not safe to travel when there is fog because of the barge traffic and the difficulty in seeing buoys.

We passed by the edge of Shiloh National Military Park today.  There is not much to see from the river, but this 4000 acre park contains 151 monuments, 217 cannons and more than 450 historic tablets that detail the Civil War’s first major battle in the western theater.  More than 103,000 Union and Confederate soldiers plus the Union gunboats TYLER and LEXINGTON were involved.  By the time the battle had ended, 23,000 men were dead and dying.

As we approached Pickwick Lock and Dam, the current in the river got progressively stronger.  We are going up river at this point and estimate that we were seeing 3 to 4 knots of current.  The TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) Reservoir website says they have been letting LOTS of water through the dam today, so that explains the current.

As we entered Pickwick Lake, the beauty of the lake is immediate.  The north shore is lined with huge homes on high bluffs of stone. As we proceeded upstream, the north shore becomes completely natural without any homes or industry – a truly stunning lake shore.  We are in a beautiful anchorage in Panther Creek on Pickwick Lake tonight and will be staying here tomorrow night as well.

We experienced some amazing wild life this today.  While on a dinghy ride in the late afternoon, we watched a hawk diving for his fish dinner.  He would circle the lake, find his prey, drop from a height of 40+ feet, go completely underwater and then fly away again.  A few seconds after he was flying, he would shake the water off his body, just like a dog shakes after getting wet.  We also heard what we assume was a coyote and her pups.  There were lots of yips and barks that sounded like puppies and then some howling. [note - apparently we assumed wrong about this noise - we understand from our friends on Brandy IV that there is an owl that makes these strange sounds - I'm on the hunt to verify this and to find out what type of owl]

We were awakened at dawn on Thursday morning by a series of gunshots.  They have a two week Canadian goose hunting season in this area, so we hope that’s what it was.  There were no bullet holes in Boreas, so I guess we’re OK.

            Miles: 69.5      Bridges: 3        Locks: 1
two goats playing on Swallow Bluff Island

a piece of the shoreline slides back into the river 

Cherry Mansion built in 1830.  General Ulysses S. Grant
was having breakfast here on April 6, 1862 when the Confederate
forces attacked his army at nearby Shiloh.  The house
served as his headquarters during the fierce two-day battle.

Shiloh National Military Park

as we approached Pickwick Lock and Dam the current
really started to increase
Pickwick Lock and Dam

looking out the back of Pickwick Lock before we begin
to lock up to Pickwick Lake

our anchorage in Panther Creek

interesting rock formations at the entrance to Panther Creek

Day 76 – Pebble Isle Marina to Clifton Marina, Clifton, KY - September 20, 2011

Today was a much better day for travel.  There was no forecast for heavy rain, but we did go through a couple of mist showers – just enough to give the boat a good rinse and require wiping down of the windows.  The shoreline is a combination of woods, rock cliffs and the occasional house.  There are a number of small marinas, generally for smaller boats, along this stretch of the river and a few islands you could anchor behind if you so desired.  Clifton is one of the marinas that have space for a few larger boats and a nice dock for transients.  There were two other current Loopers and one gold Looper (that is someone who has completed their Loop) on the dock with us overnight. We walked into Clifton, a small town with a well kept downtown area and home of T. S. Stribling, a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist.  Some of the sidewalks in town are made of large stones that were the first sidewalks in Clifton.

            Miles: 67.1      Bridges: 4        Locks: 0

cormorants move out of the channel to get out of the way of our
approaching boat

cypress trees at the end of an island

the beautiful shoreline continues
Lady Finger Bluff - legend has it that in pioneer days,
a lady chose to leap to her death from this bluff
rather than be caught by attacking Indians
the rocky shorline of the Tennessee River

we never get tired of looking at the beautiful shoreline

there are many smaller mainas along this section of the river -
this one happens to have the best name and the most unique sign

Monday, September 19, 2011

Day 75 – Pebble Isle Marina, New Johnsonville, KY - September 19, 2011

One of the best parts of being on the Loop instead of being on vacation is that you don’t have a schedule.  In fact, people who have completed the Loop say it is important not to have a specific schedule of where you will be and when you will be there.  Today is the perfect example.  We planned to move further up the Tennessee River today, but when we woke up it was pouring down rain and the forecast was for it to continue all day long – so we stayed where we are and enjoyed a relaxing day.  I went to the store with Jane from Bavarian Cream and Fred did some boat cleaning and engine room chores.  We were very happy to stay at the dock and not be on a schedule that required us to move today.
             Miles: 0           Bridges: 0        Locks: 0

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Day 73 & 74 – Duncan Bay to Pebble Isle Marina, New Johnsonville, KY - September 17-18, 2011

We continued south in Kentucky Lake today.  The shoreline is beautiful with rock outcroppings, small beaches and splendid trees.  There are of course no houses along the shore in the Land Between the Lakes area and very few houses everywhere else.  Occasionally we see homes high on the bluff overlooking the lake and sometimes groups of 5 or 6 houses along the shore, but mostly we see lots of people enjoying boating and fishing on this spectacular lake.

We are going to spend the next two nights at Pebble Isle Marina.  The have a very good price on diesel and they have a courtesy car for transient boaters to use – and best of all a Walmart Supercenter just ten miles away.  We have our shopping list ready and we are stocking up on things that are hard to find (or hard to carry) when you are relying on a local grocery store within walking distance.

             Miles: 63.3      Bridges: 2        Locks: 0
the rocky shore of Kentucky Lake

the beautiful shoreline of Kentucky Lake

more of the beautiful shoreline

these trees are growing on an island where Richland Creek flows
into Kentucky Lake - the island is just underwater! 

Pilot Knob rises over 200 feet above the river.  It served as a landmark for
early steamboat pilots.  It was also the site of a very unusual battle during the
Civil War fought in late October of 1864 by Confederate General Nathan
Bedford Forest - it was the only time in military history a cavalry force
defeated a naval force.

Day 72 – anchored in Duncan Bay on Kentucky Lake - September 16, 2011

We enjoyed our day and night in Duncan Bay so much that we decided to stay a second night.  This anchorage reminds us of anchoring in the North Channel – very quiet, very peaceful, very beautiful.  We were quite lazy today – just doing a bit of cleaning around the inside of the boat and catching up on the blog.
            Miles: 0           Bridges: 0        Locks: 0

Friday, September 16, 2011

Day 71 – Green Turtle Bay to Duncan Bay on Kentucky Lake - September 15, 2011

We departed this morning and headed through Barkley Canal and into Kentucky Lake.  For about the next 40 miles, the entire east side of Kentucky Lake is known as the Land Between The Lakes or LBL (the lakes are Barkley Lake and Kentucky Lake).  President Kennedy created the LBL in 1963 as a recreational and environmental education area.  Boaters love it because of the undeveloped shoreline, the secluded coves and the wildlife.  We picked up a LBL fall brochure while we were at Green Turtle Bay and the activities and events they have planned cover everything from visiting the planetarium, learning about the red wolves, taking an autumn color canoe trip, viewing elk and bison and learning about the bald eagle.

We have our anchorage in Duncan Bay to ourselves, although we do get visits from fishermen.  We have seen two bald eagles and last night while lying in bed, we heard what we assume were coyotes howling.

             Miles: 12.4      Bridges: 1        Locks: 0
the beautiful shoreline of the Land Between The Lakes

the shoreline of the LBL as we head toward Duncan Bay

it is easy to see why the LBL attracts so many people
a bald eagle watches over Duncan Bay

Duncan Bay

Boreas at anchor in Duncan Bay