Sunday, October 6, 2019

The last boat to Clarksville

We are under way upriver on the Cumberland in Tennessee, having left Kentucky behind yesterday. It's been a serene cruise, with Otto driving the whole way on a flat, still river. The trees are starting to turn here, but they are not the sort that show bright colors, mostly just shades of brown.

We finally entered the Kentucky Lock around 6:30 Friday evening, a full four hours after we arrived. By the time they locked us up it was after 7 and already dark. We rigged for night running while we were still in the chamber, and we ran the last couple of miles, past three waiting towboats, in the dark.

Finally tied up in the lock, just as the sun has set.

I had picked out an anchorage tucked between the buoy line and the shore, just upriver of Lighthouse Landing. It was too dark to see the buoys, but I picked them up on the radar and then Louise was able to get a spotlight on the correct one. We dropped the hook in a good spot (map) at 7:40 and had dinner aboard, having already given up on going ashore and trying the new joint in town, which, thankfully, is no longer dry.

The bottoms of these lakes are littered with inundated infrastructure: roads, rail lines, bridges, culverts, even buildings. Some areas that were not profitable to log before inundation consist of flooded timber. None of this shows on the official Corps of Engineers charts, but it's all on the Navioncs charts that we bought the first time we came up to the lakes. I had carefully chosen a spot away from the nearby flooded roadbed, complete with intact bridges, and we had no issues. The lake is at winter pool, some 5' lower than summer levels, and it was a tight squeeze.

Looking up 60' inside the guideway for the floating bollard.

With just two days to make it to the Cheatham Lock, we wasted no time Saturday morning. Our mail was waiting for us at the Grand Rivers post office, which opens at 8, so at 7:30 we tendered in to the courtesy dock at Lighthouse Landing for the short walk into town. We were early for the PO, so we had a quick breakfast burrito at the cafe inside the small market in town.

Long-time fixture and centerpiece of Grand Rivers, Patti's 1880's Settlement, where we'd eaten many times, burned to the ground a couple of years ago (we are not surprised; the place was a firetrap). We passed the replacement under construction and very nearly ready to open, from the looks of it. In the meantime the proprietors opened another place across the street, T. Lawson's, which sports (gulp) an actual bar.

We dodged and weaved our way through an exodus of sailboats headed for a regatta on our way out of the marina, returned to Vector, and had the tender decked and the anchor up by 8:45. We rounded the corner into the canal, passing a mastless sailboat, probably doing the loop, who was completely clueless about passing signals and very nearly hit us. Once we reached Lake Barkley and turned upriver there was no further drama, and we saw no other cruising boats.

Approaching the new US-68 Lake Barkley Bridge. They blew the old one up last year.

With the lake at winter pool, we're sticking to the sailing line. Here in the narrow part of the river there's not really any choice, but downriver in the wider parts of the lake, it's possible to shave off a few miles by straightening the curves. We used the Navionics bathymetry to do just that in one spot, and when we ended up in 8's where there should have been 12's we quickly decided it was not worth it.

As I wrote last time, several things had to align to make this cruise. Not only did we need to plan to be at Cheatham the night before the closure, we had to have the space booked in Nashville. Since being told by the marina about an event there on Friday and Saturday, I spent some time online yesterday researching it, and learned it is the Music City Head Race, and the entire river will be closed through downtown.

This Cypress speaks to changing lake levels.

With lots of time on our hands yesterday and working Internet most of the day, I spent a good deal of it trying to plan for Thursday and Friday nights. If we go upriver to Old Hickory that will add three more days. But downriver there are few options between downtown Nashville and the lock which will not re-open until Friday night. I called the two intervening marinas, both downriver of the closure, but neither has enough depth to get us in.

We'll see if that changes by Thursday, and also whether the lock appears to be on schedule for opening. But at this writing it looks like we'll spend both nights at anchor, somewhere between Nashville and the lock.

Passing the Kentucky State Penitentiary, looking straight out of the movies.

In a short while we will be passing Clarksville, where I would also like to stop. But with the lock schedule, that will have to wait until the return trip. It's been quite the challenge planning this whole excursion out on the fly.

We ended our day yesterday at a "chute" behind Dover Island, just upriver of Dover, Tennessee, where we had good depth and holding. A pair of loopers was already there, rafted together at the upriver end of the chute, so we dropped at the downriver end (map). We had the hook down at beer o'clock.

Sunset last night from our peaceful anchorage at Dover Island.

Water temperature there was 87°, and with the air temperature above that, I went for a swim, my first from the boat in a very long time, maybe since the Bahamas. By dinner it cooled off and we had a nice dinner on the aft deck, also our first in quite a while. It was a quiet night, with only a few tows going by just across the island from us.

This morning we passed the other two boats, still at anchor, on our way upstream out of the chute. Other than passing a couple of tows and dodging a patio boat fishing right on the sailing line, Otto has been driving. For the first half of the day, just as all day yesterday, we saw virtually no current and were doing full speed. As we caught up to the morning dam release our speed has dropped, and now just past Clarksville we have about a half knot against us. The plotter says we'll be at the dam before 4pm, and I expect we'll be the last pleasure craft through before the closure.

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