Friday, October 4, 2019

Hurry up and wait.

We are anchored in the tailwater of the Kentucky Dam (map), on the Tennessee River. It's a "lunch hook" while we wait for Kentucky Lock to lock up a "double" -- a tow so large they have to split in in half and lock each half up separately. We've been waiting two hours already, and I'm guessing we have at least another hour before they turn the lock around.

I wish I could say we had a quiet night Wednesday, anchored downriver of Angelo Towhead. And perhaps we might have if I had gotten tucked in a bit closer up the sand bar. But where we were, we ended up in 2-3 knots of current, and with the river running right over the training wall at the top of the chute, logs and other debris banged off the hull all night long.

Sunset (and soon moonset) over Angelo Towhead.

Nevertheless, we were comfortable, and the current was not enough to windmill the propeller. There was a little noise from the bridge, which seems to be exceeding its lifespan by a wide margin. A handful of tows passed us, but we were far enough from the channel that even the upbound ones did not disturb us.

Yesterday morning we weighed anchor a little before 8, and whizzed down the last mile of the Upper Mississippi at 11 knots before making the left into the Ohio. The difference between the two rivers is remarkable; as soon as we crossed the confluence line, the turbulence of the Mississippi disappeared and we were back in calm water. Even the color changes here.

This bow wake is at anchor, and the debris against the chain is pushing it against the bow. I cleared it with a boat pole several times, including one tree about 8'x1'.

We had less than a knot of current against us going up the Ohio, due in large part to the Mississippi rising and backing up into the Olmstead tailwater. Just across from Fort Defiance in Cairo we "crossed our wake" as I detailed in my last post. We got lucky making our way through the large fleeting areas at the end of the Ohio; very few linehaul boats were moving and even the fleeting tugs were not a problem. We ran the sailing line the whole way.

When we arrived at Olmstead Lock they took us right in on the "land side" chamber, even as they were working an upbound tow into the "river side" chamber. The last time we came through here the lock and dam were still under construction, and we were led through a different part of the dam by an escort boat. The dam is still not finished, but the lock is now operating. We had a lift of about six feet. The tailwater is so high that the floating bollards topped out before we finished our lift, and Louise had to pay out line as we went up.

Olmstead lock as we rise in the land-side chamber.

Immediately after leaving the lock we passed what little remains of Lock 53, with a number of excavators removing the last of it, now well below the surface. Lock 52, a bit further upriver, is in an earlier stage of demolition, but it, too, is well on its way to oblivion. Our last time through here we were locked through by Trump himself.

We arrived to Paducah, Kentucky around 3pm to find only one spot left on the Paducah Transient Dock (map). We had a reservation, made through the Dockwa website, but since there is no office or dock attendants, there is always a possibility that an unreserved boat will just show up and take your spot, leaving you with figuring out who the miscreant is.

Approaching Paducah. One spot left at the end of the dock. America is at the landing, where we beached the tender on our last visit.

We were very glad to see the open spot on the river side of the dock. The construction of the dock and its upriver protective dike have caused an enormous shoal to develop just downriver; where there was deep water on our last visit is now dry land. The shoal encroaches on the downriver end of the dock, and a couple of folks we spoke with said there was just 7' making the crossing to the inside. Somehow the city, who built the dock, is surprised by this.

By the time we were tied up the outside temps were in the mid 90s, and as soon as we were plugged in we fired up the air conditioning and settled in. Louise did start a couple of loads of laundry as long as we had power and water, and after cocktail hour I took the e-Bike into town in search of beer to replenish our supply. I came back empty-handed.

Passing what's left of Lock 53, all submerged except the house ashore.

Overnight the temperature plummeted, and this morning in 58° I rode the e-Bike three miles to the Kroger grocery store and back, stocking up on fruits, veggies, meat, some staples, and a case of OctoberFest. I rode almost the whole way on the very nice, well-paved, and flat Greenway Trail atop the levee system. When I returned there were just two boats left at the dock, and I think the other one was spending a second night.

We dropped lines right at the 11am check-out time and started up the Tennessee. This is new ground for us, since we diverted over to the Cumberland via Barkley Dam last time for our final leg to the Ohio. This closes another loop for us, and now we can say we have cruised every single mile of the Tennessee River. It's a shorter trip, at just 20 miles instead of 30.

Lock 52 still has parts of the chambers left. It, too, will be gone soon.

This sort of three hour (or more) wait at the lock for tows is precisely the reason we took the Barkley lock last time, which sees less traffic. But that lock is under repair right now and is closed daily from 6am to 6pm, so this was a better option on all fronts. In the nearly three hours we've already been here, two more pleasure craft have joined us in waiting.

Our plan after we exit the lock, whenever that may be, is to drop the hook in Kentucky Lake, not far from Lighthouse Landing Marine in Grand Rivers. They can't take a boat as large as Vector, but they have a courtesy dock where we can land the tender. Our mail is waiting for us at the Grand Rivers post office.

Sunrise over the Cairo Highway Bridge from our anchorage at Angelo Towhead.

Since our last visit here, the city of Grand Rivers has voted to permit alcohol sales by-the-drink in restaurants; previously it was dry like the surrounding county. We'll tender ashore tonight for dinner, and I'll return ashore first thing for the mail.

We've decided to take the ~300 mile side trip to Nashville and back. And while I thought we were done with scheduled lock closures for this trip, it turns out that Cheatham Lock, between here and Nashville, is closing for the week from Monday morning to Friday evening.  So this weekend we have two long days to make it to the lock by Sunday night, where we'll cross our fingers they can squeeze us in before the 6am closure on Monday.

Vector at the Paducah Dock. Most boats left before 8am.

We made a reservation for the downtown docks. Normally they want five days' notice for a cancellation refund, but we got them to agree that if the lock did not get us through, we could get a refund. It's a full day from the lock to Nashville, so that gives us four days in town. They're booting us off the dock Thursday for some Vanderbilt regatta event, so I am not sure where we'll spend that night.

Update: It's 6pm, and we've been here since 2:40. They are just lowering the lock now from the last lockage, with a helper boat. I expect the helper to clear out in maybe a half hour, and with any luck we'll have the hook down in the daylight.

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