Thursday, November 3, 2016

Fueled and ready on Kentucky Lake

We are under way on Kentucky Lake, after an unplanned two-night stop at Paris Landing State Park, near Buchanan, Tennessee (map). While we've technically been on Kentucky Lake since Saturday, when we locked down through Pickwick Landing Dam, the first hundred miles or so was much more river than lake, especially at these water levels. Here the lake is much wider, with many coves and bays; the old riverbed is some 50' below us.

Halloween proved to be one of our more interesting cruising days. The river continued to get deeper and wider, and when it was about 45' deep or so, we ironically passed a dredge. As we got closer we saw that the spoils were going into a sorting plant and being deposited on barges by size; a small tug was taking the barges upriver a few miles where we saw them being offloaded. I think the dredging was not for channel improvement but really just a way to collect clean Tennessee limestone gravel from the riverbed.

Dredge with on-board sorting plant.

Mid-afternoon we hit a milestone of sorts as we passed under the Interstate 40 bridge. While we came within spitting distance in Knoxville, and almost that close at the mouth of the Clinch River, this is the first time we've been north of "the big road" since leaving the east coast. When next we see it, we will be southbound on the Mississippi. We've crossed this spot in Odyssey numerous times.

Approaching the I-40 bridge.

We stopped for the night just downriver of a small island near the Duck River unit of the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge, near the industrial port of New Johnsonville (map). We could not see or hear the port, just a faint glow in the sky after dark, and it was a serene and scenic stop. We saw no trick-or-treaters.

Our cozy anchorage; the main river channel is out of frame to the left.

We did have a bit of excitement, though, as Louise spotted a young cat apparently in distress on the nearby shore while we were having cocktails on the deck. He kept trying, unsuccessfully, to scramble up the rock face to the forest above. I thought he was likely feral and beyond assistance, but we decided to try anyway. There were some scattered residences a short distance inland and we thought there was at least a chance this was a lost domestic cat.

We aired up our inflatable kayak and I paddled ashore, armed with a lap towel and some cat food. The tiny cat bolted downriver as soon as I got close, and the best I could do was put some food out for him on a flat rock. I paddled home and we stowed the still-inflated kayak on deck before dinner.

Failed rescue operation. The white dot above the gravel to the right is the cat.

Tuesday we got an early start, hoping to be at Paris Landing more than two hours before their 4pm closing time in order to take on fuel. At just $2.19 per gallon, this state-run marina has the lowest diesel price along our route from here to the gulf coast.

In an hour or so we were cruising past New Johnsonville and under the Louisville&Nashville Railroad bridge. Under most conditions, we'd have to request a lift, but with the water at minimum pool (the bridge tender said it was the lowest he'd ever seen), we were able to squeak under by lowering our tallest antennas.

Old L&N span, with new houses on the causeway. The Danville elevator rises from the lake at right.

Right around lunch time we passed the inundated remains of the historic town of Danville, Tennessee. The old grain elevator, the Danville transfer station, sticks up out of the lake, and just downriver, the causeway leading to the old L&N Danville railroad bridge is now dotted with lakefront homes. The one on the end has even built a structure on one of the old spans. The Benton-Houston Ferry operates across the river here, replacing the inundated section of the old Danville Road.

I had to slow for the ferry.

We pulled up to Paris Landing right around 1:30, inching our way into the basin with barely seven feet of depth in places. After tying alongside the fuel pier we learned that they had had a run on diesel fuel with the last of the loopers coming through, and the most they could sell us was 300 gallons, some 500+ gallons short of what we wanted. We cleaned them out, knowing we could get more a bit downriver at a higher price.

They had already called for a fuel delivery and were expecting the truck Wednesday, or at latest today, and they offered us half-price dockage if we were willing to wait. Considering the additional 500 gallons of fuel would cost us a minimum of $100 more at the next-cheapest place, it was no-brainer to spend the night for $25. They told us Wednesday night would be complimentary if the truck did not arrive.

After pumping out our holding tank, we moved over to the face dock for the night. Paris Landing is one of Tennessee's "resort" parks, and so in addition to the marina and a nice 41-space campground, there is also a lodge with a restaurant, and cabins. It was a half-mile walk to the lodge on the other side of the highway, and we partook of the Tuesday evening "crazy chicken" buffet. We were thankful that they also offered beer and wine. The food was fine, if uninspiring, and the price is hard to beat.

This pair of owls looks unhappy to be here.

I spent yesterday using the lightning-fast WiFi to update every computer, phone, tablet, and chartplotter on board. I also strolled the grounds, including walking through the campground. If the low water and nearly empty marina was not enough of a clue, the fact that there were only three RV's in the 41-site campground reveals how late in the season we are. The 20-odd space primitive campground was completely empty. Three wire cages near the park office held raptors; these rescued birds are part of an interpretive program.

This eagle was too skittish for me to get any closer for a photo.

Across the basin from the marina is the first Coast Guard facility we've seen since leaving Demopolis, Alabama. It's a maintenance facility for aids to navigation, and two large buoy tenders, really a pair of tugs coupled to purpose-built notch barges, were at the station. Their AIS transponders reported their status as "engaged in military operations," which seems rather grandiose for a buoy tender.

USCGC Chippewa and USCGC Cimmaron at the Coast Guard station.

Near the marina office, a concrete piling rises out of the lake, with three cross-pieces on it. These show the normal winter and summer water levels, and also the height of the dam gates. At 375', this level is well above the adjacent parking lots and other low-lying areas of the park; the lodge and campground are on higher ground. This also accounts for the number of soft-story structures we saw coming downriver; the TVA mandates all permanent structures be built at a level of 381' or above.

Winter and summer pool are the lower crossmembers -- the top one is the dam height.

Yesterday afternoon we had a surprise visit from our friend Bryce and his sister-in-law. Their family owns and operates a charter coach business not far from here; they were on their way back across the bridge from a charter when he spotted the boat and they decided to stop by. It was great to see them and catch up a bit.

The marina called me after 2:30 to say the fuel had been delivered. We figured by the time we got the boat moved back over to the fuel dock, it would be tight to get all the fuel on board before closing time, and since they were still offering, we took them up on the second night at no cost so we could fuel up this morning. We grilled burgers on deck for dinner, since we'd already done the on-site restaurant, and anything else would have meant lowering a scooter.

This morning we moved over to the fuel dock right after they opened at 8am. Bunkering (a fancy nautical term for taking on fuel) took over an hour and a half, and it was nearly 10am by the time we dropped lines. In total we took on 865 gallons here, which will get us all the way to Texas with room to spare.

Everyone is armed in TN. Many can afford $0.50 per round for ammo but not $0.25 apiece for targets.

Provisioning is another matter. There were no grocery stores even in reasonable scooter distance from Paris Landing. Instead we will continue with our original plan to stop at Green Turtle Bay in Grand Rivers, Kentucky, even though we just spent two nights in a marina. With the exception of Memphis, this is the very last place we can easily get ashore for provisioning from here to New Orleans, and we want to be well-stocked for the four-week journey.

We could easily be at Green Turtle this afternoon, but instead we will anchor tonight and head into the marina in the morning. This will give us more opportunity to borrow the courtesy car and make a couple of provisioning stops, as well as top up our water tank. Green Turtle also has a spa, and we've booked massages for Saturday morning.  We've spent plenty of time in Grand Rivers in Odyssey, so we probably will not spend more than the single night in the marina.


  1. Sean, Green Turtle Marina was where a friend of ours bought an 82' Somerset houseboat. We helped take it from there to Oklahoma via the Cumberland, Ohio, Mississippi, White and Arkansas rivers, ending at Applegate marina in Sallisaw. Be ready for a lot of tug traffic at the confluence of the Ohio & Mississippi at Cairo. We had a great time on our trip. Steve & Carol

    1. I remember you mentioning the giant houseboat a few times. Any pointers you can offer on the Mississippi are welcome.

      We're anchored at the confluence tonight, across from Fort Defiance Park. So far very little traffic here; by comparison, Paducah was chaotic.

  2. The dredging operation you passed is a commercial venture, probably Ingram Industries, that sell aggratate material such as river sand to cement plants. You will see many such operations on the Tenn., Cumberland and Ohio, as well as tows carrying the material to shore facilities. If you go to Nashville, the most frequent tows you will see are of this type. Ingram has its HQ in Nashville and a major yard just upstream of downtown. Hope you get to make that trip to our old stomping grounds.

    Bill, M/Y Travis McGee
    current in Islamorada, Fl Keys


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