Saturday, October 15, 2016


We are under way in Watts Bar Lake on the Tennessee River, downbound for Watts Bar Dam. This morning found us in our own private cove near Martin Light, at river mile 548 (map). It was serene, and the cove was like glass overnight, reflecting the nearly full moon.

A bit of fall color on the Tennessee.

After my last post, we turned off our route near the Fort Loudoun Dam and proceeded through the short man-made canal to Tellico Lake. This lake was formed in 1979 by damming the Little Tennessee River, just upstream from where it enters the Tennessee. Rather than creating a separate lock system and powerhouse, the lake was simply joined to the much older Fort Loudoun Lake by this canal, forming a single large body of water.

Entering the canal to Tellico Lake.

We would have loved to go much further up the Little Tennessee and its tributary, the Tellico, but we only had time to go just a little over an hour upstream. We dropped the hook in 35' in a small cove near a state park (map). The cove was private and secluded, and we shared it only with a small herd of cattle in a nearby pasture, who came down to the lake to drink. As a bonus, we plucked a wayward fender from the lake just as we entered the cove.

Our new fender. You can see where the much-too-small line securing it had parted.

Houses along Tellico Lake are just as ostentatious as those along Fort Loudoun Lake, if not more so. In this case, we passed close enough to shore to capture a few in photographs. With a much newer lakefront, there are no waterfront homes here dating back to a time when river frontage was less prized.

Some representative homes. Tiny figures on the dock, center, give some scale.

The more recent inundation also makes for some interesting navigational hazards. We passed more than one cluster of concrete grain silos sticking up out of the lake. Presumably the TVA felt the cost of removing these non-submerged hazards to be unjustified.

Grain silos sticking out of the lake.

Yesterday morning we weighed anchor and steamed back to Fort Loudoun Lake, rejoining our route and locking down through the Fort Loudoun Lock. This is the first time we've locked down since entering the river system back in June. It's a very different experience from locking up, in several ways.

Sunset across the lake, from inside "cow cove."

For starters, approaching a dam from upstream it is much harder to see the lock, which looks little different from other gate structures on the dam. We had bread crumbs to follow, of course, but I needed to use glasses to pick out the lock structure from a little ahead of the arrival point.

I had to dodge this complete wheel on our way downriver yesterday. Someone's trailer must be one short...

Entering these tall locks from downstream, all wind dies as you pass the gates. From upstream. wind is definitely a factor for Vector when maneuvering to the lock wall to catch the bitt. These upper river locks have most of their bits on just one side, which turned out to be upwind on our arrival.

Cows drinking at our anchorage cove.

During up lockage, the lock wall is constantly trying to rip the fenders from the boat. We have them well tied to a sturdy rail, and while they get scuffed, they eventually slide along the rough aggregate of the lock wall. Going down, the fenders instead want to roll out from between the hull and the wall and land on deck. I needed to use the thruster periodically to "ease the squeeze" and let each fender drop back into place.

We caught this herd of deer swimming across Tellico lake. Too distant for a good photo.

Fort Loudoun is but the first of nine locks we must descend from our lofty position 812' above sea level on our way to the Ohio River. Unless we find time to make another side trip, say up the Cumberland to Nashville, it will be, as they say, all downhill from here. Our speed has also improved, from an average of less than 7mph upstream to around 8mph downstream.

Leaving our anchorage this morning, looking through the narrow cove entrance to the river.

While I started typing in Watts Bar Lake, we're now in Chickamauga Lake, having locked down just before lunch. We ended up waiting in the lock five minutes for a bass boat to catch up behind us. I'm sorry I didn't have the camera ready, because watching them tie up was comedic.

Some of the limestone cliffs that periodically line the river.

They managed to get the boat right next to the bitt shortly after entering, but they had no lines ready, and by the time the guy with the line was ready, the boat was ten feet from the wall. They ultimately put the trolling motor down to get back to the bit, but bow-on; once they had the first class string they were using for a line wrapped, they had to pull the rest of the boat alongside.

The fish are bitin' in Watts Bar Lock.

In much the same way as our cat grooms herself after making some kind of gaffe like missing a landing, after these guys were secure they took out their rods and started fishing, right there in the lock. Of course, all the fish were up by us, as it seems they always are when we lock through.

Those dirty nuke plants. Watts Bar lockmaster is at left, shooing some boats away from the discharge.

Today's cruise has been lovely, with bits of fall color here and there, and a different angle on some of the same spectacular scenery we passed upriver. Tonight we should be anchored somewhere in Chickamauga Lake, and tomorrow we'll lock through Chickamauga Dam and be back in the Chattanooga environs. Louise has a PT appointment Monday, and we need to be poised to offload a scooter in the morning.

Gratuitous foliage shot.


  1. You mentioned using the thruster to 'ease the squeeze'. Does that mean that the thruster is on the minimum equipment list to lock? What's the alternative?

    1. Hi Charles, thanks for commenting.

      No, a thruster is not required. I'm just lazy -- the simple alternative is to push the boat away from the lock wall manually, either with gloved (or ungloved?) hands, or with a boat pole. A 225k electric thruster is just so much easier :-)


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