Saturday, October 8, 2016

Knoxville Bound

I am typing under way on Chickamauga Lake, upriver from Chattanooga. There are two remarkable things about that statement, the first being that we are again under way for the first time in nearly two months, having arrived in Chattanooga on August 12. The second is that I could not seem to make time to blog much during my busy layover there, and time under way has become my best opportunity to update it.

This heron hung out with us every day. We dubbed him "Harvey." He can't read the "No Fishing" sign.

It's been two weeks since my last post, and once again I've collected a passel of photos and have a few events and projects to report. The biggest news, of course, being Louise's progress in physical therapy. She's not done yet, but has improved to the point where she and her therapist agreed to a week off, allowing us to make this quick getaway.

Approaching Chickamauga Lock and Dam this morning.

We've been getting massages weekly at our old standby, a 20 minute scooter ride from the dock. Both her physical therapist and her massage therapist noted a marked improvement just over the last week. We're hoping this breakthrough means she's turned the corner and improvement will come more rapidly moving forward.

Passing TVA's Sequoyah plant.

As it stands, she is scheduled to go back to PT a week from Monday, which gave us a nine-day window from her last appointment yesterday, just enough time for a round trip to Knoxville. Come next Sunday evening I expect we will be anchored in the river in downtown Chattanooga again. Once she's back to therapy for a session or two we will have a sense of when we can depart Chattanooga for good and head back downriver.

Chattanooga PD bomb squad on standby at the Ironman triathlon.

Picking up where I left off last post, that weekend was the Chattanooga Ironman Triathlon. Saturday was competitor check-in, practice, and vendor booths, and Ross's Landing had the air of a festival, including a stage with live music. We were still able to come and go as we pleased, albeit with a bit of dodging and weaving; even our normal shortcut through the massive city parking lot was closed as the lot quickly filled up with over 2,000 high-zoot race bikes.

They even brought the bomb disposal trailer.

Sunday morning the swim started a couple miles upriver from us at 7am. We had figured to sleep in and miss all but the final swimmers, but event radio traffic woke us up at the start of the race, and we headed to the aft deck, coffee in hand, to watch the proceedings. We were on deck before the first swimmers even arrived, with plenty of time to observe the overwhelming law enforcement presence on the water.

The only USCG boat in Tennessee.

We saw our first and only Coast Guard patrol boat since leaving Demopolis, trailered here from Paducah, Kentucky just for the event. Chattanooga PD had several boats, including one for the SWAT team, and the sheriff and Wildlife Resources were also represented. The river was closed to traffic for the duration of the swim, and our power was off at the dock for swimmer safety.

SWAT guys. We offered them coffee.

The race leaders, professionals competing for the purse, started arriving at the dock before 8:30, well ahead of the pack.  As the front of the pack approached, we could see an unbroken line of swimmers extending upriver around the corner, and we realized it extended some two miles almost to the starting line. The last swimmer, an amateur woman a full decade my senior, came out of the water at 10:30, just a few minutes after the cutoff time; she and one other swimmer, a young man who came in limping on the fireboat, were the only two disqualified during the swim.

Swimmers, all the way down.

Shortly afterwards our power was turned back on and the competitors had all disappeared into the 116-mile bicycle ride. The waterfront returned to a festival atmosphere, with spectators watching the progress on a jumbo screen brought in for the event, and hundreds of volunteers chowing down on Little Ceasar's pizza and Little Debbie snack cakes, two of the major sponsors (Irony Man?). Just after lunch the leaders returned from the bike ride and again passed us, this time on foot in running gear along the quay as they began the marathon run portion of the event.

Leading swimmers running towards their bikes, cheered on by the crowd. Green-shirted volunteers to the right would periodically run alongside unzipping wetsuits or swim skins.

I managed to stay up and about until 12:30am to watch the very last qualified finishers cross the line, to a small but jubilant crowd and an ever-cheerful announcer saying to each finisher "(participant's name), you are an Ironman." We were both surprised by how much we enjoyed watching this spectacle. Sadly, it was an unseasonably hot day, with mid-afternoon temperatures in the high 90s, and many competitors did not finish, disappointing after training for over a year and dropping a few thousand dollars to participate.

Locking through at Chickamauga this morning. A much smaller chamber than heretofore.

Chattanooga seems to have a waterfront event weekly throughout the summer and early fall, and last weekend was the Three Sisters bluegrass festival, as well as the Wine Over Water event on the pedestrian bridge. This festival is free and thus very popular, so much so that all the overnight docks had sold out months in advance. Consequently, we got thrown off our dock, and we spent three nights anchored in the river, right across from the park (map). We took the opportunity to again stop at the pumpout dock before dropping the hook.

Vector at anchor across from Ross's Landing.

On our way in to the pumpout dock the main engine quit, and there we were, headed straight for a marina full of boats with nothing but screaming alarms and no brakes. Fortunately, we had been well trained never, ever to approach a dock (or anything else) faster than we'd want to hit it. I scrubbed speed by swinging the bow around with the thruster and Louise got the anchor dropped well before we were close enough to anything to be dangerous.

Chickamauga Lake as the lock gates open.

In what can only be described as a bone-headed maneuver, I must have neglected to turn the fuel supply valve back on after servicing the filters. That was a full two weeks earlier, and everything tested fine, because the engine can run a long time on what's in the enormous filter housing before the vacuum is too great for the lift pump to overcome. We were able to maneuver away from our dock, which requires high RPM, and get the half mile downriver to the fuel dock before it finally quit. Lesson learned, and we're glad our reflexes and training were up to the task of dealing with an engine failure during maneuvering.

We passed this Prevost camped at a boat ramp on our way to the lock this morning. Shades of our former life.

We were happy to leave the dock for a few days, especially in the nice cool fall weather where air conditioning is unnecessary. For one thing, Bluegrass is not really our thing, so being right next to the stage for two full days of it seemed excessive. For another, the boat needed the exercise, the generator needed the exercise, and we had not taken the tender off the deck in nearly three months. This latter item proved to be an issue; I needed to get Louise ashore for her Friday afternoon PT appointment, and it took me over an hour to get the tender going.

Yesterday a powerboat rally came in for a couple of hours, just before we shoved off. This is only half the boats.

Five minutes of that was fiddling with the pull starter to clear the carb and get the engine running, and the rest was disassembling the steering, which despite having been replaced in February, was again frozen to the old, corroded tube on the outboard. Louise postponed her appointment from 2pm to 4pm to give me time to finish and then clean everything up. The tender is once again running smoothly, and we'll be exercising the steering more often when it's stowed up on deck for extended periods.

Tennessee Valley Pride.

By Sunday afternoon our dock was again available, but we opted to stay in the river until Monday morning. The bluegrass festival ended Saturday night, but Sunday was the Chattanooga Pride festival. I like a good drag show as much as the next guy, but the music was loud and not our style. Still, I went ashore and walked around the festival for a bit; it was small compared to many other cities, and I would venture the LGBTQ community here maintains a relatively low profile.

It's not every day you see a floating dock pass you by.

This weekend is the Chatanooga Head Race rowing race downtown, along with the Swim The Suck swim event on Suck Creek downriver, part of a month-long outdoors celebration here. All week, city crews have been moving floating docks around to accommodate the rowing event, including taking away the one that connected us to shore at the water level, thus forcing us to go up and over the pier to get to the scooters. I took the recycling ashore in the tender, which we had left in the water when we returned to the dock.

Some big-name crews are here for the race. These skulls belong to Vanderbilt and Tulane.

The river was closed today for the race, starting at 7am, so yesterday after Louise finished PT we loaded the final scooter, dropped lines, and headed upriver past the event boundary as published in the Notices to Mariners. That turned out to be a good mile or so further than necessary, as they shortened the course due to weather. We dropped the hook (map), and tendered the mile and a half back to the Boathouse restaurant, one of our favorites, for a final dinner out. We towed the dinghy the three miles from downtown, and I'm very glad now to have a camera looking astern.

Vector at anchor upriver of "The Boathouse."

Our final evening on the dock was Thursday, which happened to be the free admission evening at the Hunter Museum. The art was sort of "meh" but I enjoyed walking through the buildings; Louise opted to save her limited feet for other things.

This art piece is a parabolic mirror of 121 elements. If you stand in just the right spot you get 121 selfies.

On the project front, the major accomplishment (and time sink) was the installation of the automatic fire suppression system in the engine room, the correctly-sized unit having arrived shortly after my last post. That project was big enough (and interesting enough to boat geeks) to warrant its own dedicated post, forthcoming, and so I will not bore you with it here.

Fire system installed.

This morning we weighed anchor and steamed the few miles to Chickamauga Lock. This lock is much smaller than any we've encountered thus far on these rivers, just large enough for a tug and single barge. The enormous 15-barge lashups that occasionally come this way have to stage, unlash, and come through one barge at a time, to be reassembled on the other side. With the river closed behind us, we locked through alone even on a normally busy holiday weekend.

The start of fall color along the river.

The lake and river here are quite lovely, and we are seeing the very beginning of fall color. I imagine it will be even more beautiful on our way back down in a week. With only nine days, we don't have time for many side trips along the bays and tributaries, but we're enjoying the main river very much. Tonight we'll be anchored somewhere along the river, and tomorrow we have yet another lock and dam.


  1. Glad to have you in East Tn. I'm in Morristown- NE of Knoxville. There'll probably be a lot of river traffic moving north behind you as the Alabama - Tenn football game is in Knoxville next weekend and many Bama fans go to the game by boat and arrive early and make a week of partying. The stadium is next to the river and partying begins early in the week on the dock nearby. You might find a space on the dock but by midweek it'll likely be very noisey there.

    Tim Lee

    1. Tim, thanks for the heads-up. There was, in fact, one space just big enough for us at the dock, but it looked too much like it might be party central, so we anchored in the river instead, between the Henley and Gay Street bridges. As it turned out, the boats were mostly dark last night, making me wonder if some are brought up ahead of time and just left here empty until game weekend. FWIW, it's a see of Vol orange; have not seen and Bama fans yet (or maybe they're keeping a low profile).

  2. Good morning from Knoxville Tennessee. I work in the huge building on the north side of the river from where you spent the night. I saw the boat before I got off yesterday and you are still there today. Hope you enjoy your stay and I certainly hope you saw the gorgeous sunrise this morning. Think it's very cool you have your motorcycles with you too. Best wishes Emily Dills

    1. Hi Emily, thanks for commenting.

      We're here one more night; we need to head back downriver in the morning in order to be back in Chattanooga Monday for Louise's next PT appointment.

      We actually wandered through the garage of your building yesterday, looking for an easier way to get up the hill than the world's steepest sidewalk, which is where the footbridge dumps you. Maybe you can needle your planning department head about making it a bit easier for boaters to see downtown :-)

      We enjoyed walking around Gay Street yesterday before dinner, and today I am headed to the Sun Sphere. This evening we might ride the trolley around town before dinner.


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